- How do you afford all of this traveling?
- Are you rich or something?
- Where do you work that allows so much time off?
- When are you going to settle down?
All reasonable questions and I am writing this blog to answer them. At times its hard to reply to all of these comments, messages, and emails that I get. So, instead of simply copying and pasting each reply I encourage everyone to read this blog and not only see the answers to my questions, but to take my advice given in the blog and if you have dreams of traveling branch out of your comfort zone and go for it.
A few disclaimers before I get started with this first. Yes, I still live at home for now (and I will cover more of that later in this blog) but for now that'll do. No, I am not where I want to be in life yet. Yes, I use all of my own money to travel. Not maxing out Credit Cards or going to the mommy and daddy fund. The tips and tricks I have learned over the years about traveling have been discovered on my own through my journeys with tips from others along the way.
Alright, lets get this started with the common question I get from literally every follower, and person I come across that I tell a few of my journeys to. "How do you afford all of this traveling?" and my answer is always simple. Minimalism. There are so many things in life that we think we need, and in reality they are all "wants". Not essentials. I have my own bills just like everyone else but by doing these simple sacrifices every year, it has allowed me to put back enough funds every year to continue to pursue my dreams. No, I don't have a mommy and daddy fund, and no I do not max out Credit Cards that I think will magically go away and destroy my credit in the process. Instead, every year I brainstorm ideas of what I can get rid of to save me a little bit of money and boy I tell you, after hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for 3 months having to carry whatever I felt was a need it really opened my eyes to what all I can live without.
The absolute biggest money savor for my travels is sleeping in my car (wait what? are you insane? What if someone robs you or messes with your car?) while that is a genuine concern 9 times out of 10 your odds of being robbed while walking down the street are probably higher and after doing it enough you don't even think twice about doing it. Park in a decently lit area, keep valuables out of site and you will be fine. By doing this I save myself thousands (yes you read that correctly) thousands every year. If you think about it, a cheap hotel averages to around 60 bucks per night. You take a week long trip and that's 420 dollars in sleeping expenses alone (before tax). Not including food or gas and if you're taking a family vacation, odds are you aren't staying in a 60 dollar hotel. To put that into perspective, I have taken trips to Oklahoma and back storm chasing for a couple days including gas and food there and back I spend less than 200 dollars for everything. Instead of spending an extra 120 dollars in hotels (and that's on the low end) I roll out my sleeping bag and sleep in the back of my car. Only thing I have to sacrifice is showering for a day or two. Most people you come across on that trip you likely won't see again so who cares what they think about you? If you really can't bare the thought of not showering for 2 or even 3 days pending your trip there are many options to take care of that. 1) Pilot Station showers which are some of the nicest showers I have ever used but come with a decently hefty price of 10 bucks. But you really do get what you paid for. 2) Buying a membership to Anytime Fitness (which is like 10 dollars a month) and if you think you can't afford that, then sacrifice something small. Instead of 4GB of data on your phone, drop it to 2GB. Or instead of having the super highspeed home internet, drop it down to something mid range. This location is offered in almost every state across the country and have showers in every building. You are also allowed to use any location in any state with your pass. 3) Many states have state parks and a majority of those state parks offer showers. Some are a small fee, some aren't.
Here are a couple options for those super adventurous people out there and this will likely only apply to people who travel alone like me. I myself hadn't thought of these until I talked to a fellow hiker about wanting to live out of a van that had done this before. 1) Find a city with a college campus, walk into said campus near where the shower area is and ask a student if you can borrow their key card as you forget yours in your dorm and when you play the part no question is asked. 2) Fill a 10 gallon bucket, find a spot nobody can see you, and bathe away. I did this several times on the PCT and really isn't as bad as it sounds. You can even go as far as to giving your hair a quick rinse in a bathroom sink.
Well, I have a family and traveling is more expensive. While true, there are plenty of ways to still save money on family road trips. The biggest one (pending your kids age obviously) is camping at campgrounds instead of hotels. If you take trips like my family and I used to do to say Florida there are plenty of campgrounds along the way. Most of which cost no more than 30 dollars. Split between you and your significant other that's only 15 dollars per person spent of a night of sleep. With today's technology camp gear can range anywhere from a simple tarp over your head, to a full size tent and a huge, very comfortable air mattress that fits the whole family (including the dog). Which might be a one time semi expensive investment but well worth it. I'm sure you've spent on something far less significant. Not to mention with how crazy technology runs wild now a days it'd do your kids some good to get off their phone or Ipad and take a breathe of fresh air and enjoy what's around them. Another great money saver for that family vacation is packing a cooler of lunch meat for sandwiches. Instead of feeling the need to go too a sit down restaurant for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Or feeding yourself fast food three times a day spend a dollar per pack of lunch meat, an additional 2 dollars for a pack of buns, and a few extra dollars for toppings and cheese. My dad and I did this on our trip to Maine and it saved us a few hundred dollars in food. That two week trip ended up only costing us each 500 dollars. Not bad considering toll roads, rental car, and gas. If you can pick up what I am throwing down here all of these things are small things that you would probably never think of to save money. Traveling is made out to be the big huge, expensive thing. When in reality, its as expensive as you really want to make it. If you want to stay in higher end, nice hotels. Or eat at sit down restaurants three times a day, and keep lots of things at home that will only serve a temporary use before they break or the next big thing comes out. Then yeah, its going to be expensive. Which brings me to my next popular question.
Are you rich or something? Where do you work?
Far from it. Rich in memories maybe from all of the incredible people and places I have gotten to see over my years of traveling. But, that's about it. I work at a movie theater and I sell my storm chasing videos to news media outlets. Both serve a huge purpose. My day job at the theater pays my bills, and the extra side income from the media money funds a lot of my trips. I also factor in this minimal income into my bills. Since I'm not rich, I can't afford to travel and buy a ton of luxury items. So, when I started car shopping for my first car I carefully researched vehicles that would suit my needs, all of which without breaking the bank. I don't need a car with heated seats, satellite radio, and 4x4. I need something with good MPG (miles per gallon), reliable, and something I can sleep in. Which proved to be slightly more difficult finding a balance between finding a car to sleep in and good MPG as most vehicles you can sleep in are gas guzzling SUV's or trucks. But, after doing some research I discovered the Chevy HHR. Which could be compared to PT Cruiser. But, in my opinion are a little more appealing visually. 30mpg, back seats fold down and not only have enough room for me to lay down without compressing my legs, but it has enough room to fit my freaking air mattress. Its as close to the van life as you can get without owning a van. That's another thing beautiful about being a minimalist. You really appreciate the little things more. Remember as kids when we were excited when our parents would take us to the exotic cars dealerships? Or take us into the Toy Store to look at toys? Or lets not forget when the parents would let us stay up "late" on school vacations. Finding this discovery was a lot like that. You wanna know the craziest part about me purchasing this car? My car payment a month is only 135 dollars thanks to my decent down payment, the mileage of the car (because I don't need nor do I want a brand new car), the lack of fancy gadgets that are all more things to break in my opinion, and it being a 2011. It may not be the coolest looking car, but I don't really care about what other people think about my car and neither should you. Why should you? It fits my needs and is the absolutely perfect travel car. I know of people who have some insane car payments of over 600 dollars. That alone is rent in some cheap studio apartments for a freaking vehicle. Some other money saving ideas I have are some of the stuff I mentioned earlier in this blog. Instead of the fastest, high speed internet I can buy, I bought something that was mid range that wouldn't be insanely slow to where I can't even upload a picture, but not pay an arm and a leg for internet speed to upload a video clip in 15 seconds. One more money savor for my bills as well is I control my data usage (which I will admit doesn't go as smoothly during chase season as I use much more data transferring video). But, the other 9 months out of the year its great. I allow myself 2GB of data a month. Instead of the "BUT FOR ONLY 20 DOLLARS MORE YOU CAN HAVE 4GB!" data plan only to be suckered into the 6GB data plan later. Working my job for as long as I have and taking these trips learning from other minimalist has really opened my eyes to just how much I can do with less. Why should I let having less stop me from doing something more?
Ah yes. The final question.
"When are you going to settle down?"
My answer to that is when the time is right. Everyone always tries to beat into your head that you can travel when you're older and when you retire. News flash and I will forever hold my opinion on this. The time is NOT when you are older. The time is NOW. Your early 20s and late teens are quite literally the prime time to travel. You don't have obligations or commitments yet, you are in good health, you have the time and hopefully money after reading this blog. What better of a time than now? Not to mention all of these places aren't even guaranteed to be here or look the same when we get old. The older we get time takes its toll on the body, and we aren't promised to have to be in good enough health to be physically be able to travel. Then you sit there, old, and retired wishing you would have traveled when you were younger. I know this from experience. Time and time again I run into older people on my journies and time and time again they tell me "I wish I would have done that when I was younger". If you were to take a poll if people regretted the things they did do, or the things they didn't do, the things they didn't do would be on top. Instead of sitting down wishing and wondering where something could have taken you in life, why not go for it and find out? Which you rather spend an entire life wondering where you could of gone? The places you could of seen? Something you could have invented? A job you could of possibly had? Or would you rather spend a life knowing you went for it even if you did fall on your face. The memories along the way will never go away and will shape you into a much better person instead of being eaten away day in and day out wondering what you could have done with your life instead of the one you're currently living.
I have had a life long dream to see all 50 states by the time I am 24 years old, and this year I am going to complete that goal with only 6 states left to visit. I have learned so much about life experience just by going out there and experiencing these different places and cultures. Things that can't be taught from a book. Things people who are older and wiser than me have learned from, things from people who are living or have lived it, ext. With a world we live in where everyone seems to think everyone is bad, traveling has really opened my eyes to how many good people are actually still out there. None of just take the time to see it. You could have more in common with a stranger that simply says "hi" to you than you realize. Or by sitting down and talking with someone about a problem they bring up to you as an obvious low key cry for help. You could in the long run end up saving their life just by taking the time to listen. So, I guess my answer is when the time comes to settle down I think I will know. But, I won't settle for less and neither should you. Find someone that shares your same passion or even better supports it. My ultimate goal of "settling down" anyway is buying a van and living out of it touring the country. While not ideal to most I can't think of a better way for me to personally live. Besides, who doesn't wanna view like this to go to bed too? ;) I also know life isn't fun and games forever and there will be a time I chill out on traveling. But, for now I am enjoying the time I have on this earth at a young age and crossing as many things off of my bucket list as I can while its possible.
Conclusion: I hope you get something from this article and I'm not telling you that you need to drop everything, pack your bags, and drive to California. Simply taking a family weekend trip to Hocking Hills will go the longest way. Just sit down one day and brainstorm some ideas on how you can save money. Put back 30 dollars every paycheck you get and take a family road trip every year. You'd be amazed by how much you can save by doing that. Even go as far as to make a coin jar and throw all your change over the year in it. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, so don't be afraid to step out of it. It'll give you that butterfly feeling at first, and you'll have doubt try and kill your dreams. But, once you overcome that, you don't regret it.