Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How We Do it

The beauty of reaping the benefits of making travel a priority
One of the most frequent questions I am asked by friends and family of my nomadic lifestyle is "how do you do it?" Most people, save for a few who may have no cognizance of the slightly judgmental tone in their voice, are generally curious about how one becomes a nomad in the modern age. While I'm working on a larger, more in-depth piece about ditching the 9-5 for a more non-traditional lifestyle, the answer to this question can be found with ease. The first step, of course, is commitment to a goal.

When I left the states for my first extended travel in 2012, I had made travel a priority. I started saving and planning (which was more an exercise in excitement than actually creating a concrete itinerary) over a year out, and made decisions based on wanting to be abroad. Most of these decisions revolved around my personal budget. While I was willing to spend $800 on a TEFL certification (a source of travel income) I became less and less inclined to spend frivolously on nights out. Turning down happy hours, dinners, and bar crawls in your early twenties isn't always fun or easy, but the money saved each night-in equated to literal weeks in Chiang Mai where my daily budget was around $9-a-day. With any goal comes sacrifice, and part of that sacrifice is taking a hard look at your weekly expenditures, deciphering between necessity and excess. You can be as lax or as hardcore as you like, but 10, 20, $30 goes a long way in some of the most loved backpacking destinations.

At the start of my trip, I had saved between 7,000-8,000 USD. With my initial plan of only traveling for 6-months, and hopefully returning with a little fallback money, that gave me a budget of between $30-40 per day. Take out the $900 for my extremely cheap, extremely uncomfortable Eastern China Airline flight, and I was looking at closer to $25-30 per day. While this is more than sufficient to travel around SE Asia if youz a hustla (holla atcha boy), traveling with a small source of income can make a huge difference. Before my trip, I acquired a freelance writing job. It started out very humble, but by the end I was making close $225 a week. This was small potatoes in the states, but in Asia this allowed me to subsidize my trip, only dipping into my savings for things like travel, higher-priced activities, western indulgences, or the extended stint in Australia. Small injections of funds is the performance enhancing drugs of travel.

Leading high schoolers into the desert...while playing dress up. A job is a job!

Though writing was my PED, travelers have a slew of fancy tricks to continue their time abroad. The best way to do this is with passive income. If you are lucky enough to have a place to rent out, this extends travel. If you have a benefactor, sugar mama/daddy, know a good pyramid scheme or can procure a grant, this is gold too. For the less lucky, creativity is key. Travelers I've met have done anything from joining the Malaysian circus to teaching online TEFL classes to Brazilians while working under the table and living in Vietnam. I'm currently subsiding off of a mix of rent money, savings, and working as a guide for a travel company specializing in high school summer trips. Do any of these jobs pay well? No, in fact, it is sometimes a joke how many hours you put in for dismal pay, but what they don't offer in salary they make up for in subsidized experiences. If you have any talent, skill, or hobby you can translate into a good, you will be able to make money while abroad. It just takes a leap of faith.

While the preceding advice is important, the idea of a leap of faith may be the most necessary tool of becoming a nomad. Growing up in the states, I feel we are programmed to be constantly working towards a goal, a new position, a higher pay scale, etc. With this idea,  the idea of stepping out of line and reflecting seems ludicrous. We rarely take time off, so why devote a month, 6-months, or a year to travel or pursuit of something that doesn't necessarily equate to one of the proceeding goals? My answer? Because you can, and you should, and in many other developed countries it isn't an insane idea, it is something lauded. It also helps a society grow and progress. It's my personal view that Americans are too calculated. We need concrete evidence that something will work before we even begin to dream about it. With travel, doing before defining makes all the difference in the world. If you want to live in Spain, move to Spain. You can figure out the details when you get there. If you want to travel, buy your ticket and let the numbers and budget come to terms with all the new insights you will gain once abroad. On our money in the US it states "In God we Trust," yet I feel what we leave up to fate is truly minimal. To step outside of ones comfort zone, to step outside what we view as a normal way of life, one must truly take a leap of faith.

While I've existed on both sides of the faith fence, I can tell you that the most important thing I've learned from travel is believing that what you want can become a reality. While saving, creating multiple sources of income, and penny pinching can and will make travel a reality, nothing is as potent as being ready to take a leap of faith. Once you believe that your dream is possible and put yourself in position to pursue it, good things are bound to follow. It may not be instantaneous, but the will of the world works wonders for those willing to let it.

The beatiful stairs of Essaouria. One may not know what they are misssing when they stay put, but they will only find out if they take off

Photos courtesy of author and Wayfinderali

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