“I’m too broke to travel”: A Realistic Guide to Globe-Hopping

A lot of people automatically assume my family is hella rich or I lowkey earn side checks at Zanzibar because those are the only ways I could possibly afford to travel. As much as I’d prefer those presumptions to be true, there are many other ways I’m able to scrape a budget together.

Now, I’d like to officially call bullshit on finance being the only reason one puts off traveling. I think more than finance, I’ve always been more worried about getting my mom’s permission. Your age is actually just a number in an immigrant household even if you are 30. So here is a realistic plan to achieve your traveling dreams as a ‘broke’ student:

First and foremost, your mindset needs adjusting. You have to realize the difference between ‘traveling’ and ‘vacationing’. If you’re only into the idea of sitting beach side with a drink that costs more than my tuition (which is cool too), you need to get comfortable in your 9 to 5 and settle for the expensive winter holiday peak season tickets. Places like Cuba and Mexico also have beautiful cities to explore, not just beaches. But if you want to see the world and live locally, there are many options!

1. Make traveling a priority:

Only if traveling is on the top of your resolutions, you can take it seriously. Just as any hobby you love requires time and money, traveling should be treated in the exact same manner.

a. Money:

Instead of spending your bonus or savings on new rims for your mom’s old car or the latest Luis Vuitton bag you’ll use 5 times, put it aside in your travel account (which you should create asap, btw).

b. Time:

Invest time into looking for cheap/discounted tickets. Plan your trip, as much as we would like everything to happen to us spontaneously, there is no harm in creating a simple guide of expenses to break down the budget. Make a list of spendings: plane, food, living, tours/entrance costs, etc. When you know how much you need, you will know how much you have to save and how long it will take to earn it.

2. Work hard:

Because you have planned your trip and know your budget, you can now save accordingly. We have to work hard for everything we want, that’s reality. Take up a part-time job, or two, to your already full-time summer job. I’ve done it and as much as I hated my life for those three months, I was so much happier knowing I funded my own trip.

3. Take advantage of your student status and youth:

A lot of students hold off traveling till graduation, but the truth is that you’ll be so wrapped up in finding a job and paying off your tuition, that you won’t find the time. Which is why 4 mouths off in your school year is the perfect time to start ticking your bucket list. Not to mention, your post-secondary institution probably has many organizations and programs which cater to traveling while volunteering/on internships/co-op/studying/researching. This way you not only get to travel but have a purpose (or excuse to).

4. Plan ahead of time:

Start looking for flights a year in advance if you have to. Remember, you only need to get to a to b, even if you have to sit in front of a kicking kid or beside a snoring sleeper. Book hostels early and google everything from entrance ticket costs to taxi fairs so no one takes advantage of you being a total gringo.

5. Don’t follow your plan:

Sometimes cheap things happen by accident. I booked a hostel online and a local guy I met (also traveling) told me about a cheaper one near the subway station so I changed my route and saved a lot. If you meet a group randomly, they’ll probably be going to some of the same tourist attractions as you so opt for a group discount.

6. And last but not least; forget Europe,

well the expensive parts of it at least. Europe is a place I want to go to when I’m older with a little more cash flow. Europe is not the only place to travel, there are so many places just as beautiful, if not more, that are a lot cheaper and go underrated. Countries across Africa, South America, and Asia offer culture and natural beauty for which the Canadian dollar could get a bang for a buck.

Some extra tips include:

  • Settling for street food over pricey restaurants.
  • Carrying only a hand luggage so you don’t have to pay extra for luggage during check in
  • Spending on experiences and not shopping. Don’t even look at malls.
  • Free souvenirs like rocks and shells or street jewelry are so much more meaningful than designers.

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