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How to Finance Traveling

I keep getting questions from readers and followers, which makes me really happy because with my public appearance I am mainly aiming to inspire others. There's one question, however, that I get particularly often: "How do you actually pay for all of this?" That's why I'd like to dedicate this post to the matter of money and give you a few insides on how I finance my travels.

8 Years of Being Everywhere and Nowhere

I left Germany more than six months ago and I have been traveling ever since. But am I really the one to give advice on this topic after just six months? I'd say so, because even though this is my first full-time-adventure, it is definitely not my first trip.

When I was 16, I spent a year abroad in England and after that I studied in Berlin and Vienna on an Erasmus program. A year ago, I was living and working in Israel for almost four months. In between, I spent almost all my school and semester breaks traveling, sometimes backpacking or interrailing, on the road for five weeks through south-western Europe or six weeks in the Balkans with the van. I wrote my bachelor's thesis on the beach in Fuerteventura and some of my term papers I finished on a camel farm in Austria. So for almost 8 years I've been everywhere and nowhere, rarely in the same place for more than a few months.

5 Tips on How to Finance Traveling

I am aware that I am writing this article from a very privileged perspective. For example, I don't have any illnesses  (yet), no family members in need of care (yet) and I receive an incredible support from my family, friends and others. Additionally, I have a German passport, no migrational background, I identify with my biological gender, etc.

The fact that I have no obligations is also due to the fact that I have repeatedly decided against obligations for years. Choosing freedom and exchanging it for security is not always easy, but of course not everyone has to take this rather hard path that I have chosen.

So the following five tips certainly won't work for everyone, but I would like to encourage everyone to get creative with their own path and shape it according to their own requirements, wishes and possibilities. So here are 5 tips that might help you to finance your travels.

1. Financial plans

Financial plans have always been crucial for my money management. I'm frequently analyzing my sources of income and my expenses, which I pay off straight away. How much, after all, can I save and perhaps even invest?

Here's a very simple form for your travel finances:

Financial Plan
Download PDF • 20KB

According to this, I choose my lifestyle, at least temporarily. Should I order a cappuccino with oat milk or maybe just an americano? Or should I attend a yoga class or rather go running for half an hour? However, it is always important for me to avoid abstaining wherever possible, as this is obviously no fun and not good for my mental health. So I don't usually choose between either-or-alternatives, but I set priorities and make sure I treat myself every now and then.

However, if I realize in the long run that my finances are restricting me too much or that I'm not reaching my savings goals, I use other strategies.

2. Work

I've worked for as long as I can remember and I've always wanted to work. I delivered newspapers when I was 14, started working as a waitress after my year abroad and then worked several part-time jobs at the same time while I was at school. It was partly from this money, which I put aside over the years, that I was finally able to buy my van.

After school, I decided to start studying straight away so that I would be able to travel with a higher salary after graduation and not need to work in temporary low-paid jobs, which is usually the deal for work&travel.

When I started studying German literature and social sciences, I quickly had to get used to running gags about my faculty, that we would have one main career prospect in the future: driving cabs. It was also jokes of this kind that contributed to the fact that I went through several existential crises and break-downs during my studies.

However, I can't complain about my career prospects at the moment, as I've managed to become a digital nomad thanks to internships and work experiences. I have been a freelance editor since 2021, offering editing and proofreading services for literature, academic papers and websites, and working as a content writer for various clients, using LinkedIn as a professional platform.

In my experience it makes sense to be creative with work according to your skills. Have you learned a craft that you can work with abroad? Can you imagine playing your instrument on the street? Or are you creative and artistically talented? Consider selling arts, prints etc. then.

3. Savings

I am currently traveling with my monthly income, but also with savings. But saving does not only mean that you put aside some money that you've earned, but that you minimize expenses too.

The majority of my expenses at home in recent years - and this is probably the case for most people - have been rent, vehicle costs, etc. There may also be individual expenses such as insurances, monthly fees or loans. A financial plan can therefore also help you to analyze your own expenses and, if possible, minimize them.

I myself have not only tried to avoid financial obligations in the past, but I have also always had a minimalist lifestyle. I generally lived in shared flats and sublet my rooms when I was traveling. I even rented out my van Fred once, when he was already converted, to a family who took him on a trip through Austria.

For this long-term journey right now, I reduced my car insurance and adapted other insurances to this trip, e. g. health, diving, mountaineering, accident and liability insurance.

While traveling, I often have to choose how I spend my money and where I can save it. Traveling on a low budget can be a lot of fun because it often gets you in touch with other people a lot more. Some travelers I've met, for example, travel entirely by public transportation or hitchhiking. I don't do this as a solo traveler, but I have also hitchhiked with friends in the past and have had many great experiences.

Hostels are usually a cheap option for a night, especially if you book directly instead of through third-party-sites, but it's also worth taking a look at couchsurfing. People in many cities around the world offer their sofa for free for a night. There is also a hangout option that allows you to network and meet up with other travelers for activities. For safety reasons, I recommend taking a closer look at the profiles and reviews of other Couchsurfing users before meeting up or staying over.

4. Volunteering

Working for food and accomodation is probably one of the best ways to travel cheaply and to get to know the country and its people. I myself made some of my best memories this year while volunteering, for example in Romania in June.

There are various platforms online for global exchange and there are some really cool opportunities like restoring sailing boats or even sailing along, working in goat stables or hostels or teaching children a language. There's definitely something for everyone and it's a great way to broaden your horizons and learn new skills. I myself use Workaway, but there are also other platforms such as wwoof (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and HelpX.

This year, through Workaway, I have worked with over 100 former stray dogs and 50 horses, I combed goats and built fences, cooked for almost 20 people and helped build a floor of wooden planks, while learning how to use different tools. I also met great, fascinating people on my travels.

5. Support

5.1. Family

As I already mentioned, I fortunately get very strong support from family, friends and others, not only mentally but also financially. For my birthday this year, for example, my mom gave me an emergency savings fund so that I could fly home whenever I wanted, and my grandma also contributes some money every month.

5.2. State funding and scholarships

I would also like to mention at this point that I received numerous grants for my studies, including German state funding and scholarships from Erasmus and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

These funding options are rather interesting for students, not only with a German citizenship, but also for European and sometimes even worldwide nationalities in some programs. While Erasmus and Erasmus+ support study semesters and internships in other European countries, the DAAD offers a wide range of fundings for all kinds of academic programs and projects. Also, other institutions with funding opportunities for students can be found. But there are also funded non-academic programs, such as the European Solidarity Corps for volunteer services.

While these programs are primarily intended for younger people, traveling as part of a sabbatical year can also be possible for people who are already established in professional life. I have been lucky enough to meet some inspiring people over the last few months who are in their 50s and are now traveling the world full of curiosity and with an open mind.

In my experience there is a funding possibility or an exchange program for almost every project. But if this is not the case, there is another option: you can simply set up your own funding!

5.3. Crowdfunding

As the saying goes: Every little helps. That's the idea behind crowdfunding: many small contributions can make a big difference. Online platforms such as GoFundMe can be used to set up projects for which donations can be made.

By the way, you can now use GoFundMe to support my travels too: With every donated Euro, I'll get 10 kilometers further. In order to travel from Tbilisi to Ulaanbataar in Mongolia, I have set up a funding project in which I am collecting fuel money for the next 15,000 kilometers. Click here for the campaign, I am very happy about every contribution!

Tip No. 6

Finally, I have one more tip that is perhaps the most important, even before setting up financial plans, working, saving, volunteering and getting support from others: courage. Every trip is preceded by a decision and everything else will happen, along the way at the latest.

"I would like to travel to Mongolia with my van." The first time I said this sentence out loud in front of other people, I actually wanted to hide inside because this trip sounded (and still sounds) so big to me. But my voice has become more confident and my posture more upright with each time I said it. And now here I am, almost halfway there.

If you liked this post or if you have any questions or suggestions, please write to me. Additionally, I would be very happy if you shared this post with other interested people.


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