Imagine a day at the office. It may not be hard to do, since you’re probably reading this at the office right now. You’re surrounded by the lifeless stone-gray walls of your cubicle, the buzz of the fluorescent lamps above you and the glow of your computer screen in front of you. If you’re lucky you can get out of there at five, sit through an hour of traffic and get home in time to make some dinner, watch some Office reruns and go to sleep so you can do it all over again tomorrow.
You’ve got an hour left so you take a break and click over to Facebook for a news feed full of Buzzfeed articles and pictures of friends’ weddings. Check that out, somebody you went to college with is on a beach in Thailand. That other guy from high school is posting pictures from Oktoberfest. On the other hand, the last trip you took was to Des Moines for work.
“I wish I traveled more”
I know the feeling. You’ve done the responsible thing and gotten a solid job out of college. You make okay money and you see your friends a few times a week for drinks. You save enough to make it out to Vegas twice a year and have a good time. Things are going okay, but it feels like something is missing. Isn’t there more to your 20s?
I don’t know about you, but I want to go out and see the world. I’m positive that there’s more out there than a cubicle and that I need to go experience it. There will be a time for kids and the suburbs, but there’s something out there I have to do first. Let’s get out of town and see what’s out there. Along the way we might end up being the person with the jealousy-inducing Facebook photos.
But I can’t be a nomad
Some people can pull off the life of traveling and island-hopping and working remotely on their side business. Matt’s story is awesome. Tim Ferriss and the Four Hour Work Week created an entire genre of lifestyle engineering. There are people out there who are professional nomads and they’re great at it. They live in whatever country they want, they work when they want and they have the ultimate freedom.
I’m all for it. That sounds amazing, but I’m not there yet. In reality I have a job to report to and they pay me in exchange for working. It’s not a bad place to be and I like what I do. I actually like living where I do, but I’d like to see the world outside my city from time to time.
Travel isn’t all-or-nothing. You can be a world traveler without being a nomad. You can be cultured without living in a different country every year. You can experience the world without using a trust fund or selling all of your worldly possessions and living out of a backpack.
It’s actually okay to vacation. If your dream vacation is a trip to an all-inclusive resort, great. If your dream vacation is backpacking Europe or scaling Kilimanjaro, own it.
Who am I?
My name is Max and I’m in your shoes. I grew up in Denver and went to school in Boulder and I work for a consulting firm.
I also make it a priority to see the world. In the three years since graduation I’ve been able to visit the beautiful Cinque Terre in Italy, snorkel reefs with sea turtles in Hawaii and fish for marlin in Mexico. I’ve visited clubs in Osaka and meditated the next day in Kyoto. I’ve been able to scuba dive and eat fresh fish in the Bahamas. All on an entry-level salary.
There’s a way to do it. There’s a system to use to plan and pay for trips around the world while you’re young. I’m going to break down the system and give you the four steps to follow.
Whatever your dream trip is, you won’t get there overnight. If you’re starting right now, it’s going to take months. Sure you’re riding a motivational high right now, but what do you do when that motivation disappears? While others will forget about their dream vacation next week, we’re going to make sure we carry our motivation through.
The key is to establish a cycle. You’ll use motivation, action and progress to put the fuel back in your tank and always see that goal getting closer and closer until you can reach out and grab it. You start with motivation so you take action. You take action so you see progress. Your visible progress helps to motivate you to keep going.
To start with, choose your dream destination. Get as specific as possible. It could be one beach you want to visit or the mountain you want to summit. Read books about it. Get a picture of it and hang it by your door so you see it on your way out every morning. You want little reminders in your world to keep you going.
Pro tip: always have your next destination in mind. That way the day you get back from your trip you can get started on your next one.
From Troubled to Takeoff
Yes, you will need to save some money to make your adventure happen. While others are going to tell you to “stick to a budget” and “stop spending on unnecessary things,” I’m not going to push any of that. Budgeting drains your willpower and relies on having something left over at the end of the month for you to put into savings. We’re going to do something different – pay ourselves first.
Instead of just hoping that we saved some money, we’re going to put money toward our adventure first. I’d recommend setting up automatic transfers from your checking account to a separate savings account a day or two after your paycheck hits. There are even certain banks that give you better interest rates and let you set up savings accounts for specific goals.
Once you transfer money into your savings, whatever else is in your checking is yours to spend. This is what Ramit Sethi calls “guilt-free spending” and it’s a great feeling to know that you’ve already saved for your dreams and now you can spend on yourself. Some for future-you, some for today-you.
Fast-Tracking your Trip
I’ll just come out with it. As a young professional, credit cards are hands down the best way to afford travel that might otherwise be out of your league. I don’t have any affiliate links here and I’m not trying to scam you – this stuff worked for me.
When I found out I’d be working in consulting, I dove in headfirst to learn what the pros knew about using credit cards for travel. I did all the hard work and figured out the system so that you don’t have to. Soon enough you’ll have friends asking you how you can afford to fly to the other side of the world.
It starts with understanding how rewards programs work. Then you decide which approach is best for your situation. Finally, you get to start racking up the points faster than everyone else because you knew how to start the right way. There’s plenty more detail on each of these three aspects here. The important thing is to get started because the points add up.
Ciao to the Cubicle
It’s time to finally book your trip.
There are lots of ways to make your dollars go further, but let’s first emphasize one thing. Decide what the goal of your adventure is. If you want to eat like a king, plan to spend money on that. If you want to see lots of countries, pony up for a rail pass. If you want to stay in five star hotels, get ready for the concierge. Whatever your preference, there are ways to save elsewhere and splurge on your vices.
- If you want to fly first class, save a few bucks by renting an apartment in your destination.
- If you’re traveling alone and want to meet new friends, find a popular hostel to meet new people every night of the week.
- If you want to eat the best food you can, find an awesome deal on your airfare with rewards points.
- If you want the curated experience with like-minded travelers, work with Under30Experiences for a professional itinerary.
There are plenty of other ways to travel hack and get the most out of your trip. In fact, Matt has already put together some great options.
Although it might be a dream to live abroad and travel the world forever, these tips should get you started down the path of adventure from where you’re sitting right now. You’re on your way and I hope you enjoy your trip! Let me know what your destination is and send me pictures when you get back – [email protected]
A gift for you
I spent years figuring this stuff out. I really do want everyone to be able to experience world travel like I’ve been able to so I’ve put together a free ebook for you that goes into far greater detail on these topics. In it you’ll learn about:
- The best savings accounts and automatic transfer techniques to save more money and not even miss it
- The specific credit cards I’ve used to earn free flights to Italy, Hawaii, Mexico and Japan on an entry-level salary. I’m convinced that these are the best travel cards for a young professional
- Extra techniques on finding airfare deals, booking the best hostels and even finding dirt cheap cruises
Max is the creator of Millennial Venture where he writes about improving the lives of young professionals with better finances, better careers and better travel. Reach out to him directly at [email protected].