Big Balling is Not My Hobby, but I still want to Travel

Great architecture in Barcelona City Center, which is close to where I stayed.

I have been traveling for many years now. For many people traveling to another country is just a way of life if they want more opportunities. Many reach those new homes and become citizens and seek to do more traveling beyond their homeland to gain perspective. I encourage this, since it is just as important for one’s growth personally as it is professionally. I think my firsthand knowledge of cultures beyond America allows me to be more mature and more globally minded and accepting of different cultures and backgrounds.

Well, how do you do this if you aren’t rich or from a rich a family? Your financial resources to travel may differ based on how old you are, if you are in undergraduate or graduate school, or working a job that affords you to save a little or a lot or if you are fortunate enough to have money passed down to you. The biggest factors in travel affordability include being a planner, a self-motivator, and an all-around-make-it happen type of person.

Since my traveling started formally with my growth in mind during undergraduate studies, I will tell you quite simply I banked more money while studying abroad than attending my home institution. The price of study abroad programs reflects the schooling of many countries, which happens to be cheaper than many American four-year degree programs. Interestingly enough, I may have gotten my biggest refunds from my college while studying abroad. I studied abroad through the American Institute for Foreign Studies (AIFS) and wholeheartedly enjoyed the way in which they planned so much of the experience. They even threw in round-trip Eurostar (high speed train) tickets to Paris and Brussels. To top it off, I applied for their diversity scholarship, and though I did not win, I got runner up and got even more money to study abroad. Initially, I signed up to study abroad for a semester, but the experience was so great that I signed up for another, and they made it easy and seamless to do yet another semester without turning in a lot of paperwork. By the second semester, I purchased my own plane ticket which cost much less than what AIFS would have charged me.

I began pinching a little bit more to travel  during graduate school as my attention had to be on schooling and developing my professional knowledge and skill set. Although there were programs to help graduate students go abroad, like applying for a Fulbright Scholarship, I was too busy working my graduate assistantships, which were like full-time jobs minus the benefits, but they paid for my entire schooling along with the fellowship I received through my graduate school. I used the longer winter and summer breaks to travel and planned out trips with other graduate students in my cohort. We basically split the cost of hotels, making it even less expensive. I also made really good friends in Europe, so it was ok to stay with one of them for part of the leg of my journey. For example, one winter break I flew into London and stayed with a good friend and then splurged a little bit more on hotels in Amsterdam and Brussels then returned to London to stay with my friend until my return flight to America. The biggest advantage of studying abroad when you are younger is that you make lifelong friends in many parts of the globe. Now, as an adult, with even more family, work, and financial responsibilities, planning is heavily required. Squaring away work schedules and travel schedules in advance helps me greatly. I literally try to plan my year of travel one year in advance now, and I’ve been doing this for the past three years very well. The key is being realistic and not over doing it. Plan a mix of big/costly trips and small or inexpensive ones to get more traveling done.

Got a great meal at a great price at the Marina near the old Olympic Grounds in Barcelona.

But this involves knowing that you are saving and planning at the same time, continually. So for my flight, I may use an airfare watch application like Hopper, which basically allows you to put your dates and destinations in and reveals to you the best possible moment to book is based on the cheapest flights available. For lodging, if you are on the Airbnb craze, then stick with that because the deals can be great (especially if you prepay), and the experience of staying with a host can make planning while you are abroad even more personalized. Also, look for boutique hotels instead of larger chain hotels as they sometimes provide just as many amenities at a lower cost. Last winter, my Airbnb host in Paris, France threw me a little welcome party with wine, champagne, desserts and a cheese spread.  We all sat around the living room conversing about politics  such as e.g. is this Donald Trump thing for real. Paying for your trips also depends on how creative you are.

For me I can teach an extra class for a semester or teach an online class over a break and still travel. I sometimes opt to take on more roles that lead to more pay.  Unlike some educators, I even teach for part of my summer break and put my earnings towards travel and savings.  Also, I can edit and charge a reasonable fee. Then there is always an opportunity to invest some money, and through applications like Acorns, its very easy. Acorns doesn’t generate a lot of money if you don’t put in something substantial to begin with, but if you invest a substantial amount it grows pretty quickly as they deduct the round up from every purchase and invest it into a mutual fund that can be easily withdrawn back into your bank account. I also have savings accounts which I devote for travel-related expenses such as airfare and spending money. I put in a certain amount every paycheck, and I never touch it until it’s time to book my trip or go on my trip, and even then, I budget what I plan to spend daily to avoid using more than I need.

My tour guide who has a PhD in art history and does private tours gave me a great historical overview of the artifacts in the Lourve Museum.

If you are fortunate to have friends and family who like gifting you things, then ask them to gift you an experience. This past Christmas many of my loved ones asked me what I wanted and I asked them to download the Viator app, sent them the excursions and day trips I was interested in and kindly asked them to gift me an excursion. The application basically filters attraction in many cities around the world and makes it easy to book attractions in an easy one stop shop account. You simply save your confirmation and follow the directions given at the end of booking. Considering I was visiting three countries in two weeks, this was a great way to show them that I wasn’t asking for much as the prices were fairly inexpensive, and I had paid for pretty much my whole trip and just wanted to see and experience as much as possible. You can skip Viator altogether, but the skip-the-line tickets were a no brainer and relieved the rest of the planning I had to do in advance, but be clear on where you are supposed to meet your tour guide or group. I had a hard time in Paris finding my guide, but I eventually found her.  Since I was the only one on the tour, I got a personalized tour of the Louvre Museum, and she had time to take me to everything worth seeing and gave in-depth knowledge on the historical significance of the artifact.

Lastly, even with all this, I still needed to find a way to make traveling work for me, and so I created Nomade en Noir  because there is a strong mission in mind and that is to promote the people and places that desperately need support to continue doing great work in the community.  With a passion that is true to who I am  I hope to garnish the support of loyal readers.

So, “big balling is not my hobby, but I still want to travel” and save towards retirement and live comfortably and not be at a loss in old age. I don’t just want to travel and slum it; having to stay in a hostel or worse be homeless on a vacation is not the move for a guy in his early thirties or any age for that matter.  I have learned to plan, and plan, and then plan some more, and now that I’m older I am able to plan more thoughtfully, so I get my money’s worth and do not shortchange myself on a great experience.

5 replies
  1. Suzyn
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