How do you afford all this travelling?
The short (and somewhat snappy) answer: I don’t have kids and I don’t own luxury items.
But it’s a bit more complex than that.
Let me start by saying that I don't like to be asked this question. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind talking about how much I pay for my flights or my vacation rentals. Then again, the question would be different.
The question assumes two things:
that travelling costs a lot of money. Granted, the notion of what’s a lot of money is relative. But if you are able—operating word—to save, plan and be very budget-oriented, it may not cost as much as you think. And
that, therefore, travellers are either rich or living above their means.
I also find it a bit intrusive. I get the curiosity. I do. But would you ask your acquaintances and friends how they afford their lifestyle? I bet the answer is no. Then, why would you ask people who travel?
Hubby and I have been asked that that question a few times. Here's the long answer.
We have a certain level of privilege
While we're several zeros away from being millionaires, we both have decent jobs. We also have side gigs. That extra income goes a long way. And this matters because travelling does have a cost if you’re not getting paid to do it. A cost that many people aren’t able to (or may not choose to) afford. Cheap travel still has a cost.
We both carry Canadian passport, which gives us another edge: no need to request a visa pre-travel for a lot of countries. The time and money it takes to apply for visas can be inconvenient and increase travel expenses.
We don’t have to worry about accessibility. We are also an heterosexual married couple. Consequently, we don’t have to deal with homophobia. Plus, we can show up and rent a room in most countries in the world. Yes, in some countries, unmarried couples cannot do so.
We’re also lucky to have friends who also enjoy travelling. Sharing the cost of accommodation, meals and transportation can help save on costs.
We don’t have kids
We lived in Ottawa for over 6 years. Do you know how much daycare costs in Ottawa? We’re talking about anything from $700 to $1,200 a month per kid. Yes, you get some of it back in your tax return. But, bruh, that’s the cost of airfare to just about anywhere!
We don’t have to worry about setting aside money for a college fund. No extra mouths to feed or bodies to clothe.
We have other responsibilities, though. Our mothers are retired; and you know that pitit se richès malere (Haitian saying that can be loosely translated to children are the poor’s wealth. This underlines the fact that we care for our parents. Unless you come from money, the meager pension they get, if they do, isn’t sufficient).
We travel on a budget
We travel coach, buy tickets ahead of time, avoid high season. We don’t splurge on accommodations and are big proponents of staycations. We’re always looking for free/low-cost activities.
We will splurge on what matters—that too is subjective. Our goal is always to create memories and amazing experiences. So food tours, city tours, museums and the likes are typically the things we’ll splurge on. And even at that!
We also avoid certain destinations and activities. If it’s not within our budget, we don’t even bother.
It’s our lifestyle
Travel is the only luxury we afford ourselves. We’ve organized our lives around it. And we’ve had to make certain concessions.
We save for the next trip like others save for their dream cars. We’ve even participated in a sòl* to go to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. We’ve become very conservative when it comes to spending for non-travel related items. We compare the cost of everything to airfare. True story, you tell us how much you spent for an item, we’ll answer with “that’s the cost of airfare to XYZ”. It’s annoying, I know. Honestly, though, what MK charges for a purse, I’ve used to pay airfare to Bogota.
We’re not big on shopping and have never really been brand-name oriented. With the exception of my affinity for TiSakSuk purses and Hubby’s obsession for Adidas shoes, we’re pretty good about saving. While I’m on the subject: how many pairs of Adidas shoes does a person need? I’m asking for a friend. No, seriously. The shoes all look alike to me. But I’ve been told numerous times that a Samba and a Gazelle do not serve the same purpose. I’ll never learn. And, no, I won’t expand on the purses.
So, there, I’ve given you the long answer. But note that I’ll most likely stick to the short version when asked face to face.
*sòl: [Why did I put myself in that situation? Explaining this term will be a pain.] In Haiti, and other countries—I’ve heard that there were equivalent in India, the Caribbean and parts of Africa—, it’s a means of saving (without interest) among a group of people. Example: a group of 10 people may decide that every month, for a period of 10 months, they’ll each contribute $500 to the pot. Each group member is assigned a month to receive the full amount of the pot, including their own share. Amounts, group sizes and frequency vary.