The honest truth – I never have the money I need to travel, but I buy the ticket anyway. I’ve realized that money comes and goes, but the more I make, the harder it is to part with it and weirdly, the less I have, the easier it becomes to budget.
I don’t do that saving account, checking account, travel account thing either. I am not rational. I am extreme. I want to travel and so I do. There is no in between. While I was working my first career job in public relations, I realized early on that it was going to take me forever to save all the money I would need to see the world. I come from a middle class family, I’m the middle child of five and I live in one of the most expensive places in America – Long Island, New York. I don’t have rich family members or know people that know people and I certainly can’t rely on inheritance to someday boost my dreams. So I focused on what I did have – a roof over my head, and the attitude that I can and will do anything I want.
… And I want to live around the world.
REWIND TO THAT PLACE IN TIME
I’m working seven days a week and I can’t even afford my own place yet. Five days at the PR firm and Saturdays and Sundays bar tending. For what? So I can slave away my 20s. Work 7 days a week to buy clothes for work and a $400 monthly train pass to get to work. I was literally working to afford working. And don’t get me wrong. I absolutely loved my job. I loved my clients, I loved my boss and I loved my interns. I was proud of where I was and where I was going, yet I still had something inside of me telling me that if I wanted to go all out for my career, I needed to give up that living around the world dream… and if I wanted to live somewhere else, I was going to need to give up my career.
And so the google search began. I have no money. But I want to travel for long periods of time. How do I do that?!
I’m going to need to work abroad.
Working while you travel is literally the smartest thing a person can do.
But you can’t do it forever. It’s only for the young. Sorry people. Not my rule. There are countries who will give you a year working visa but you have to be under 30. (Australia and New Zealand)
So with this information. It was now or never.
I mean, lets face it – If I moved into New York City when I was 24 years old, I’d be working to pay for my apartment. Once you leave the nest – rent till you die. Travel for me would not be likely for a very long time.
And even if I stayed home and kept working like I was – I wasn’t saving what I needed to get ahead. I was getting ahead in my career but financially, I was just getting by and some.
It was only when I thought about the life I was setting myself up for that I realized I was just fitting the mold, and the scariest part was that I liked it because I was used to it – it was the only life I had ever known.
If you tell people you work 7 days a week, they don’t see anything wrong with it. I didn’t. I was a champion. I was going places. If you tell them you work two jobs in one day, well then, you are a hard worker, a hustler, a person who is determined to succeed.
I hate that mindset now. Unless you know exactly what it is you are working for.
What’s up with our society that people are so proud to work so much just to get by? No. You are an adult. Working 40 hours should be enough to provide for your family and your home and everything you need. Especially if you are not working for your dreams. Working more should be an option. (You know for that iPad or pocketbook.) Not a must-do or you cant afford the rent. Or at least that’s how it should be. Kate for President, just saying.
Okay, but really – I understand that there are instances where you work a lot because you have a goal. Mine (at the time) was to afford an apartment in New York City so I could be closer to my job and break out of the nest. It was really exciting to think about – until I starting becoming excited thinking about where I would work on the weekends to afford this new life. Fall back. YOUR GOALS SHOULD NOT BE MATERIALISTIC. They should be focused on personal growth and just because your bank account is growing, it doesn’t mean you are. My mindset was all about money. Money for this, money for that. Bills, bills, bills, throw some money in the savings every month, go for drinks with friends, look for a husband – hey, everyone’s doing it – It’s called being responsible and having your head on straight. I can almost hear my parents sigh of relief when they thought I had lined myself up a successful future… but then I quit my career and crushed their dreams and I didn’t care because where was the room for my dreams? I had to break that mold.
Someone really tell me WHAT THE FUCK life is about? My generations economy sucks. Yet for some reason, everyone has nice things. A lot of us have two jobs, or are working overtime at our one job or even have three gigs going on – And if you don’t fill those categories – get off my page. (Just kidding, but really.)
SO I looked into it. PEOPLE DON’T HAVE MONEY FOR THE LIVES THEY ARE LIVING.
We finance almost everything. Your car, your house, your new big screen TV. OMG I am going to be poor for the rest of my life. But I won’t look poor. Because I’ll have credit cards.
Have you heard of 0% APR? Of course you have. Well it’s literally the only reason I can travel.
No I don’t have a rich family who funds my travels. Sorry to ruin your day.
When I moved to Australia on a Work and Holiday Visa I had $800 in my bank account. Crazy I know. I literally told my parents, ‘Okay I’m going to Australia. I only have $800 so if I don’t get a job in the first week, I’ll see you next Sunday.”
I was taking a risk I know. But what did I have to lose? Money? My whopping $800. Which is why having less money makes it easier to take chances. I was prepared and willing to fail for a dream I wasn’t sure would work. But lets be honest, I was NOT going to lose. I was on a goddamn mission and I don’t understand the word “no”.
UNITED MILEAGE PLUS EXPLORER CARD – They gave me 50,000 miles for signing up and 5000 for adding someone to the account (which I did) and miles after spending $1000 in the first month (which I did because I put my plane flight on the card.)
This means, I basically racked up enough points (and by basically I mean, I had enough points) for a free flight home. I’m A GENIUS — And yes, I planned that out.
[NOTE: They have slightly changed the card. Look for deals and offers.]
CITI THANK YOU PREFERRED CARD – Boom! 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 12 months and a fee of 3% of my transfer. (Which sucks but I needed to.)
ARE YOU FOLLOWING ME?
I transferred all of my credit card balances to the THANK YOU CARD and set up the minimum monthly payment to automatically come out of my checking account every month.
I also set up my student loan to automatically be deducted every month as well.
NO WORRIES MATE – remember, it’s just money. (And it’s for my dream – Not a sweater and shoes.)
FROM THERE… I put a weeks stay at World Square Hostel, in an 18 bed dorm room (the cheapest bed they had) on my credit card.
WHAT ABOUT FOOD?
PB and J my friends. Not even J, just PB and the cheapest loaf of bread I could find in Sydney (which was $1, SCORE).
AND REALLY THE REST IS HISTORY
I found a job within the first three days. Applied for a tax file number. Set up an Australian bank account and after my first Australian paycheck I never had to touch my American credit card ever again. I was making about $1000 a week in Australia and working 35 hours a week. My rent was $150 a week. Eventually I transferred some money over to my American account just to keep paying the minimum payment on my THANK YOU card. But that was the last I had to worry about my American bills. I ended up SAVING $10,000 in six months working in Australia. And I used that money to travel Australia with. Never having to touch an American dollar.
I used this same strategy when I moved to Thailand. Except I started with $2000 as my backup if I didn’t get a job. (But I did.)
I may just be a master budgeter but I’m pretty positive this tactic can work for anyone who is as ambitious and money savvy as me. Don’t just go get a credit card and put everything on there. And don’t spend more than you can make. The most I ever put on the card was $3000. The point is to use it as a little loan to help you pursue a dream you may not have the money for right now, while keeping some money in your bank account for emergencies.
Good luck and be smart. (but not too smart – leave some space for risks!)
OH! AND AS FOR MY DREAM – In case it’s unclear… I want to live and work around the world. I want to experience culture. I want to be a local. See what it’s like to be someone from somewhere else. It’s not just about money anymore. It’s about life and challenges and doing things I never thought were possible for me.
I don’t know why I was so lucky to have been born in America – to have all these opportunities – to not even be close to being the richest person in my town but to still have so frikken much. I don’t know why I got to be born here and not somewhere else, but I know I won’t take it for granted.
If you are in a country where you can read this – Please don’t take it for granted. xx
Next read: Australian Work and Holiday Visa: Do It Yourself Guide
Related: How to Make Over $18/hr Backpacking Australia
This is also my dream. I have been dying to do this. My uncle did this when he was younger and he loved it. I feel like people’s expectations sometimes hold me back because like you said, it’s the “norm” these days to work your fingers to the bone. I am not feeling this “trend” or whatever because I truly feel like we work so hard to just afford the necessitys. I live in a trailer right now and clearly do not have much but, I am fine living here if I get to experience the world. I feel no need to “keep up with the Jones’ “because clearly, I couldn’t give two shittts about them or who they are. They don’t impress me so who cares. I really need to research this more because I am so over allowing people to control my life and my decisions. When I look in the mirror, I don’t even see myself anymore. I want to see that person who would take risks and live life to the fullest. Thank you for the insight and great read. God Bless you!
Hahahha I love you for this! “Go ahead and sit there and tell me this isn’t possible .. Go research whatever the hell you want …. I’ll be living and shit” …… That’s exactly how I feel about those comments but I have never actually written it .. I start writing and then the same as you I think… Why am I wasting my time replying?! .. And then I delete it before I reply lol you hit his head on <3
what was your first job in Sydney??
thank you for taking the time to write this… it was very worth the read and it really helped inform me as I look to experience something similiar.. i’ve only just started by travelling around the US but this is really cool. thanks again.
This is exactly what I want to do! I’ve made plans several times with people to travel but they’ve all fallen through. Now I’m planning on going by myself. I’m pretty independent but going by myself without a job lined up is pretty nerve wracking. How did you find a job? Did you get an apartment or just travel between hostels and work different jobs? I’ve read this post several times now and am so encouraged that I can do it on my own. Thanks for sharing your story and I look forward to your reply!
You and I have the same mind…woah.
I don’t think I’ve ever commented on a site like this but seriously, well done👍 My plan is to take a trip around the world in 180 days and it’s so reassuring to see someone else do something similar and leave everything behind. That’s the dream. Thank you!
Kate, do you ever get lonely? Also do you ever wonder if your craving for a change of scenery is actually a cry for a change of self?
.. But traveling definitely changes you whether you meant it to or not :)
This comment thread is like a Twitter for travelers. I’m so glad I subscribed. My two cents: some people, and I’m not saying who, but some people fall in love when they’re traveling, get married and live happily ever after. And keep traveling. I’m just saying…
a lot of her USA attitudes she experienced are specific to NYC. ” rent till you die working 7 days a week. “
Hi Kate, thank you for sharing this awesome experience. You definitely nailed what I wanna do with my life. TRAVEL! I don’t wanna plan for my future, who knows what the future holds right? Lol I’m just happy that my ideas are not that crazy! Hope to meet you someday. I’m a fan now. Hahaha Keep inspiring! :)
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Last worked abroad at 65, now 78 setting off for six weeks of unscheduled rambling in hidden France. Age doesn’t set limits.
Thoreau said “traveling is a fool’s paradise,” but he did travel a fair amount. Travel can be a superficial high experience, but if you stay and work in a place…there’s chance for something deeper, to get to know a place, it ways and culture. Being afraid a little, cuz you don’t know the customs and laws, keeps you on your toes and your attention is heightened.
I love reading adventures like this! Amazing! :) You mentioned your rent was 150 per week, whereabouts did you live in Sydney? Also, what was your first job? I know Sydney is one of the most expensive cities to live in; did you find you still had money left over to do fun things and really experience the city?
Kate, thank you for your story. This is my dream!.. to travel and experience what the world has to offer in beautiful countries of the world, can we get in touch??? I have been to China working several times, but now onto more places. Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Keeping it reel FREEDOM
I don’t normally comment on these sites but I can vouch for Kate’s income. As a Brit I too took on waitressing work in Sydney having worked formally in PR (because the pay was so much better!) as for an upmarket restaurant it pays very well! On weekly full time hours (38) I was taking home $1000+ (including up to $100 a night in tips!)
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Great read to start up your adventures
Can you elaborate on your experiences job hunting in foreign lands.? frankly i’m
challenged finding decent work in the states, curious if it was easier, or…?
Wow… this is truely inspiring!
Thank you for this story, Kate!
Safe travels and loads of warm greetigs from Germany :)
Think is was just a credit card ad.
It’s an amazing story, but I have to say a slightly irresponsible one – if you hadn’t been as lucky as you were to have your plans work out, you’d make it back home, but fortunate enough to have a family to fall back on while you figured out your next plan, a luxury that not everyone has.
Doing something like this without a backup plan (in case things don’t work out as planned) that doesn’t include your parents bailing you out, is childish and stupid. Yes, travel, take risks and go on adventures, but take full responsibility for yourself.
No, your parents may not have financially funded your travels, but when you say “I’m going to Australia and if I don’t get a job in the first week I’ll se you Sunday.” Is incredibly self-centered. aka = ‘I’m gonna just take a huge gamble with all my money and if it doesn’t work out, i’ll just move back in with you guys okay?’
You said you wouldn’t take your lot in life for granted, but it honestly seems like you have. I’m sure my opinion is unpopular and I’ll be demonized for it, but you were pretty darn lucky and this story glamorizes your experience and makes it seem simple and easy which it wouldn’t have been if not for the privileges you were afforded by being born a white, middle class, american.
Wanna know how to be successful in life and achieve your dreams?.. Don’t make excuses for why others can do what they have done. Use what you have and create your own story . Good luck to you.
I wasn’t making excuses for why your story worked out and I am certainly not looking to you to give me advice on how to be successful and achieve my dreams. You’ve just painted the picture that the lifestyle you lead is attainable and relatively simple which is plainly untrue.
You’re trying to capitalize and glamorize your selfish endeavors. I hope someday you learn to think of others before yourself, realize that working hard to be able to give back to those who have given you so much is an important part of life.
You asked in your article what life was really about? (actually to quote your words, you said ‘Someone really tell me WHAT THE FUCK life is about?’) I hope your answer isn’t simply “To just do what I want and travel and see the world!” Can’t think of anything more myopic and self-absorbed.
Honestly the most inspiring thing I’ve read. Traveling has always been my dream, I’ve just been too scared. Scared to go alone, scared what will happen. After reading this I couldn’t stop thinking about it which led me to buy a one way ticket to Ireland, booked a hostel and will take it from there. Thank you is all I can really say! :)
Whoever said this is only relevant to NYC? I live in south TX and it’s the same attitude, work till you die in a 9 to 5, or have a bunch of kids as a stay-at-home MOM. It’s just the overall ‘American’ way of life. I do travel about 3 or 4 times per year, not as often as I want to, but I do it. I have never had over $1000 in my bank account in my entire life with bills, school, etc. And, I don’t have anyone to help me out, coming from a lower middle class family with 3 siblings. People always message me telling me they envy my life and they “wish they could travel like me.” I tell them they can if they truly want to but most people are scared of the leap. I work hard at my day job and pick up bartending shifts or random gigs throughout the town. I would be able to suffice on just my day job but my dreams are much bigger. In fact, I’m taking a crazy leap this year! I’m quitting my job on my birthday TWO weeks before I jet off to SE Asia for a few months. I don’t have enough money but I’ll make it work. I already bought my ticket, short-haul flight tickets, and accommodation (for places I couldn’t find couchsurfers to stay with) with my tax return money. When I get back in TX, I’m going to immediately move from San Antonio to Austin. I’ve been wanting to move to Austin for a while and traveling to Asia will be the kick in the butt I need to make it happen. I wish I could travel full time and I probably could but I need a home-base b/c I have a man of 5 years whom I love that has different dreams than my own so we compromise as much as possible. That just means that I go on many solo trips. :-)
Congratulations on educating your already uneducated population about how you take advantage in your government and banks benifits to not only move to it her countries and make a living when you aren’t in fact poor and in desperate need of a new life bit someone that thinks working I’ve more than 9-5 in the western world is not really loving. So let’s all just thanks advantage plus add whatever milage plus cards you get in the US cause you add mere such good spenders to earn your not so hard earned dollars. Good on you Americans for following in the league of your ancestors and living in 3 million or more of the words debt. Round of appause to you.
WoW.! What an adventure. It’s just look like . I look back to my life a few years ago. Different back ground but lot in common. Been living in Thailand, Australia, then now in USA. Moving from place to place. Persue my dream.
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This article touched my soul. I was on the brink of becoming such a free spirit. And I got scared. I went from working freelance, to traveling, and now all I think about is how I’m going to pay rent, and bills, and credit cards, and student loans.
But all I really want is to get on a plane with a carry on and see more of the world. I can’t wait to get back to this mind set.
Dear Katefromthestates you are absolutely right! you are so lucky to have been born in the states. I have a similar dream to yours but i was born in the opposite side of the continent. Boarders and the money situation is always so complicated to us. I am travelling to your country for the summer and just for the visa i have spent nearly $500!!! and the minimum wage here is arounf $400 so you get the picture. I hate boarders.
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I really wish I had been this ‘card savvy’ when I was younger. I’m about to turn 31. I’ve been living (just surviving) around the world since 2008 doing the same risky endeavor that you did but with a much lower profit margin. *Left for South Korea with a job waiting (school paid for ticket) and only $100 to my name* That job actually didn’t work out but others did and I was able to make a living and take long holidays in the Philippines and Thailand which I fell in love with. After I left Korea and the cozy paychecks (but not enjoying the lifestyle) I’ve been living on the edge.
I actually just made the decision to ‘give up’.
I came to Central America last July with $500 and a lot of connections in Costa Rica but it wasn’t enough to find work and I still hadn’t figured out how to work online. Fast forward and I’ve finally realized that I’m more stressed out than ever before, just ‘existing’ (BUT IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY! :D ) and now I’m finally ‘giving up’ and going to take a full time job in the States. Something I haven’t had since I was in college.
Do I regret the path I took? Not at all. I’ve had a hell of an adventure and learned a lot. But dang do I wish I could be a time traveller and used the same strategy as you and got my ass to Australia using credit card benefits! haha.
Thanks for the great post.
Thank you for the article and perspective, Kate! The single life with no attachments has so many benefits : ) To Heather who commented that she makes $500-$1000/day doing promo work, get real! I currently do promo work full time, and making over $300/day is awesome, but rarely happens. Also to all the naysayers out there, remind yourselves of the title of her blog post. Some people make enough income and are financially responsible to get an airline credit card (or two). If you aren’t happy making $11/hour, start networking
This is so inspiring!! You’ve made me reconsider my travelling plans…for the better!!!
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I have a question Kate. Being an American are you afraid of how you will be received by the locals in these countries, being how unpopular Americans have become in so many places? Have you had any bad experiences just because you are American? I am just curious about this because my daughter wants to do this and that is my biggest concern about it.
Kate I hope you are able to read this. I too have taken the same approach to life and dreams and obtaining the intangible things in life. Some are born to work others are born to wonderlust! I feel that we are the latter. I have been traveling the world for 4 summers now and the things I have seen have truly changed my life. You said in your article, “Someone tell me WHAT THE FUCK life is about?” Haha no one will ever be able to give you an answer for that. Only you can answer that. (But something tells me you already knew that) We may never meet each other or prolly never even speak but I know that actions speak volumes and I couldn’t agree more with everything you said in your article. I see that you teach English in Thailand and was curious how you got into that. I teach 5th grade math and would love to take everything I have leaned already and apply that somewhere else around the world. If you do read this please send me any information you can on how you did it. It would be most appreciated! I hope you find the answers to all your questions in life and that you adventures be plentiful. I will leave you with a quote that my leadership professor told me in my senior year of college and it really put things into a far greater perspective for me. “People that don’t get it, don’t get that they don’t get it and they never will.”
its nice article to be going to see this here.
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What a fantastic read! I feel inspired. I’m just about to go into my 2nd year of Uni but everyday I wish I was travelling the world.. I don’t have the funds but am working. I really want to stick out Uni but I’m 22 now and feel like by the time I’m 24 (which I will be at the end of my 3rd year) I want to have a stable job. I know I can’t have both. Wondering if you had any advice?
Very cool! Nice to have someone talking frankly about these issues and how to make the best out of the circumstances. Congrats!
I’m really not getting the point of this post:
Except for having found a way to get a free flight home in case things went amiss you basically just live and work abroad in places where you can earn enough money to save up for traveling..
Did I miss something?
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