The ‘desire’ to travel trumps the ‘plan’ to save for it

Nomadic Samuel taking photos of Machu Picchu, Peru.


Korea has been many things to me over the years. It’s the first ‘real’ destination I’ve visited abroad: (I don’t consider my trips to the US as a child and teenager as international travel although it technically is). It’s been the country where I’ve ‘Partied like it’s 1999′: the classic song from Prince. It’s also where I’ve been so reclusive that my lifestyle would demand dusting off the archaic moniker ‘The Hermit Kingdom’ at which one time Korea was unaffectionate referred to before it opened up to foreign influence.

It’s been one extreme to the other:

I’ve lived in the cities; I’ve lived in the countryside.

I’ve partied and spent money like it was growing on trees; I’ve made Scrooge appear wholeheartedly generous.

Nomadic Samuel visiting Ancient ruins in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

My first large scale backpacking trip to SE Asia in 2007 changed my life forever. I realized after that journey that I had not only caught the travel bug but that this was the kind of lifestyle I wanted to pursue. The freedom to encounter new cultures, exotic foods and the lack of structure, routine and ‘gawd awful’ alarms clocks that comprise the ‘typical life’ was something I completely relished. I knew once funds were depleted that I wanted to travel again and do a much grander trip.

I also realized that the two years I had spent in Korea prior to my first ‘real’ backpacking experience were mostly wasteful, frivolous and shallow compared to the moments I experienced with nothing more than a backpack, guidebook and sense of imagination.

I decided I wanted to partake in indefinite travel where my desires and imaginations could run wild all day long without restrictions. In order to accomplish this goal I formulated that I had to save up a lot of money. I could be the tortoise or the hare – living a balanced life and socking away a little money each month or pinching pennies with a miserly vice like grip. I decided prior to arrival that I wanted to save up as much money as I possibly could within the time-frame of one year.

Nomadic Samuel experiencing the grand scale of the Huacachina oasis desert in Peru.

I knew what I wanted to accomplish was going to require sacrifices. I knew what I wanted to accomplish was going to require discipline. I knew what I wanted to accomplish was going to require a carefully laid out strategic plan. What I could never have imagined at time was that by the end of the year I would have saved nearly 30,000 US dollars.

I’m going to outline clearly in an upcoming article exactly how I accomplished all of this; however, the most important aspect of all of this revolved around once basic concept:

I had a compelling reason to take action and a burning desire that would not flicker or be dampened even in the most challenging of times

I realize that a lot of people want to travel but feel it’s too expensive or that they can’t save up and afford to make it happen. Honestly, these are just excuses that need to be swept under the rug. The desire to make travel a priority is far greater than the details that naturally fall in place once a firm decision has been made. It’s only natural that one would think twice about having an expensive daily outing at the local cafe when they realize that’s cutting into their ‘dream vacation’ fund. Those minute little details regarding saving, planning and executing a strategy are nearly automatic once you’ve come to terms with the fact you truly want to hit the road long-term.

“The ‘desire’ to travel trumps the ‘plan’ to save for it.”

I realize that a lot of my readers who enjoy my travel blog dream of visiting many of the far off corners of the world that I’ve been fortunate to set foot in. In some cases, there may even be a touch of envy. My message is simply this: “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

I’m hoping that those who want to make a dream trip a reality will keep that vision burning brightly in their minds because that’s where all great journeys begin.

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{ 75 comments… read them below or add one }

Micamyx|Senyorita April 7, 2012 at 5:14 am

Very inspiring, Sam :) I don’t really save, but I live at the moment. For now, I cannot do long-term backpacking since I am not yet financially and emotionally ready for it. I won’t let the budget stop me from moving though. It is true when you mentioned that some are just making excuses of not making their dream come true. I think taking micro-vacations is ok and just live within your means. If there’s a will, there’s a way. Nice article :D

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:39 am

Thanks Mica,

Micro vacations area a great idea for anybody who can’t be on the road long-term.

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Bodlagz April 7, 2012 at 6:31 am

I admire your free spirit Sam, I remember saving my pennies, quitting my job and me a good friend setting off with backpacks filled with essentials.

The plan was to go as far we could for as long as we could, pick up some work here and there and move on again, and basically see what was out there in that big bad world.

First stop Thailand, only stop Thailand, met my wife, changed my career and 13 years later I’m still here, happily married with 2 sons. I regret not seeing more of the world and experiencing life on the road but in a big way, traveling did change my life.

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:38 am

Sounds like you hit it right on the first try :)

I think one always wonders what they could have done but I’m sure you’re very content in a lot of ways with your family life. I can think of a lot worse places to be stuck than Thailand :P

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Audrey | That Backpacker April 7, 2012 at 10:50 am

I find that I’m able to save more by asking myself questions that put my spending into perspective. “Hmm, nice dress – that costs 2 nights in Goa. Ooooh, pretty shoes – that’s a bus ride between Salta and Buenos Aires. A night at the pub – 5 meals in Mumbai!” It turns saving into a game. :D

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Cristina (@thetravolution) April 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Great tip! I use a similar trick! I love going out to dinner for Spanish food in my hometown but then I think how better the paella would be in Spain! Works every time!

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:26 am

Cristina, that’s great you have a method to talk yourself out of something. I’ve been trying to refine that for myself over the years.

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:37 am

How about $32 for an African dinner in Itaewon? LOL

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Bama April 7, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I can totally relate to this! Though I don’t think I can manage to save that much money like you did ($30,000 saving in a year? how did you do that???). But true like you you said, every time a friend asks me to dine in a fancy restaurant, I always think thrice! That amount of money can buy me a return ticket (or at least one way ticket) to any destination around Southeast Asia, or in my own country, Indonesia. Good article!

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:36 am

I was lucky to have a lot of dominoes fall my way that one year. The opportunities to earn overtime and living in an area outside of the city allowed me to sock away more than usual.

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Abby April 7, 2012 at 1:59 pm

When I was unemployed, spending five bucks on dinner gave me anxiety. But I always found money to travel. And it changed my life!

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:34 am

Travel does change your perspective on life. No doubt about that!

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Andrea April 7, 2012 at 5:19 pm

I think you also have to really want it, because having a large sum of money in the bank can make a person think twice about parting with it. We were just talking about this today – we don’t regret a cent we spent last year on our sabbatical but I can imagine someone saving that much money and then being too “scroogey” to part with it. It IS worth it though!

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:33 am

Andrea, that’s a great point. Especially when you think what that large sum of money can buy you. One certainly doesn’t have to save up 30K to hit the road. I know people who have done it with $500 or less.

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Laura April 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm

“Where there is a will, there is a way.” I love your advice. But 30.000USD to burn on the road is also quite a lot of money. Some will give in and when they have that kind of money, they will end up paying the first rate for a house, or spending it on a fancy car. So, indeed, where is a will there is a way… a strong will to travel.

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:32 am

That’s a great point you bring up Laura. I could have spent that on something else :)

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Lissie April 14, 2012 at 1:09 am

If they did that – they don’t really have the travel bug IMHO. I remember making the equivalent amount of money several times in the 80′s and spending it all on long trips. If anyone who’d suggested a house I would have thought they were mad – why the hell would I want a house – and what would I do with one when I was travelling?And where would I buy it anyway? In fact to this day the house I do now own was bought with an eye to its suitability for locking and leaving for a few months, and for renting!

I always had people say – you’re regret this when you’re older. Well maybe I’m lucky – I guess I’m now older – having just turned 50 – and I own investments and a house and have a fantastic partner. And I still travel, In fact I still wonder where home is – I don’t think its where I actually live.

Its all about priorities – I still wear clothes I’ve had for 8 years, the car is nothing special, we don’t big money on furniture or entertainment. We never had kids, and for me, that decision was partly economic. But we do spend money on travel – not by staying in fancy resorts, we travel cheap (though I don’t do dorms anymore) – we spend on a month long trip what many people would spend on a week – perhaps less.

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:42 am

Lissie, I completely agree with you – it’s all about priorities. I don’t know anybody who has done a big trip that has actually regretted it afterwards. I think only those who are not passionate about travel would ever feel that way.

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Angela April 7, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Well said Samuel, if we really want something there is always a way to get it.

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:32 am

There sure is :)

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Justin April 8, 2012 at 12:41 am

I’m essentially cashing in all my chips and and taking my family out on the road. I hear exactly what you’re saying.

Props to you for saving $30Gs in a year. That is strong.

I think for most people they see travel as a vacation, and the idea of dropping big money on it seems irresponsible. I, like you, can’t stop travel from pulling me. It’s a lifestyle thing. I am with you on this 100%!

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:31 am

Justin, that’s exactly where I’m at right now. Travel is far more than just an expensive hobby. It’s what I live for :)

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dtravelsround April 8, 2012 at 6:09 am

“where there is a will, there is a way.” AMEN. xx

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:31 am
Laurence April 8, 2012 at 9:15 am

If you really want something, you’ll find a way to make it happen. When people say to me that they “wish” they could travel as much as I have, I wonder what is really stopping them. We can all make the choices to live the life we want :D

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:31 am

Indeed, it’s not a ‘wish’ but a strong desire that makes it happen. I guess it’s the difference between someone saying they should and they will do something. One is much more likely to get it done if it is a must.

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Jarmo April 8, 2012 at 10:00 am

Well said Sam. I’ve always said it’s a matter of priorities. If you really want to travel, if that really is your first priority, then you won’t buy that fancy car, or that get that expensive mortgage, then you’ll live under your means in order to save. And it is indeed possible to save.

I had a sabbatical last year to travel around the world, and you know what, it wasn’t enough! ;)

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:30 am

Jarmo, it never is enough for a travel addict…LOL I’ve done over 3 years of backpacking and I’m itching for more :)

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ciki April 8, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I agree! I usually just get up and do it. No point saving till you forget the reason for travelling in the first place. My hubs says I’m too impulsive. I don’t care! LOL :P

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:29 am

That’s a great point! You could be waiting indefinitely if you do that :)

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Maria @latinAbroad April 8, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Every big dream requires sacrifices to be made in order to become reality. Working on mine right now! And Lord knows how hard is been…but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel :)

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:27 am

Maria, that’s the truth isn’t it. Anything worth pursuing involves a bit of discipline or sacrifice.

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Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures April 9, 2012 at 6:16 am

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. While I’ve never saved for indefinite travel or a RTW, I’ve saved for smaller trips (3 months) and what most people don’t realize is that traveling can take VERY little money, especially if you travel to places that are cheaper than where you live.

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:26 am

Aaron, that’s so true! It’s often much cheaper to travel than it is to just exist back home :)

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Kent @ NVR April 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Ah… so inspirational! A reminder of why we’re doing what we’re doing. A reminder of the joys of seeing the world. Thanks!

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:25 am

Thanks Kent, sometimes we do need those reminders :)

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Eugene April 10, 2012 at 7:17 am

This reminds me of something Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” People that travel don’t have more money than those that think they can’t – they just have a different mindset.
I bought our tickets to Thailand last September before I had enough cash for the rest of the trip. Having committed to the ticket meant that we had to save. We’re off on Saturday and I’m already thinking about the next trip.
Great article!

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:24 am

Thanks Eugene,

Whenever I finish a trip I’m always planning the next one!

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Sandra April 10, 2012 at 8:15 am

I am also one of those people who dream of being able to do some serious backpacking across several countries. Right now, it is still in the process; I still have to save a lot of money for it.

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:10 am

Best wishes with that Sandra! Keep your eye on the big picture and in no time you’ll be leaving your dreams.

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@wftristan April 10, 2012 at 8:20 am

I have always been good at desiring the things that i am not so good at saving for.

Tristan

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:09 am

LOL, I think we’re all a bit guilty of that :P

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Laurel April 10, 2012 at 11:01 am

That’s amazing how much money you could save Samuel! I only lived in S. Korea for 4 months, but found that it could be a great place to save money as well had I stayed for longer. But you’re right, it’s possible to save money regardless of where you’re living if you’re willing to make a few sacrifices along the way.

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 4:09 am

Hi Laurel,

I was really quite lucky because I had some unique opportunities to earn over-time and I was super frugal knowing that I wanted to take a 2 year trip :)

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tinafreysd April 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm

f you are making a meal plan to help budget your grocery money, you might want to start by checking your cupboards and freezer to see what you have on hand. Next check grocery store fliers to see what kinds of meat or other food is on sale. Then start planning your meals around what you have on hand and the best buys.

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 3:56 am

Great tips! I personally frequent 3-4 grocery stores in my area each week looking to buy things in bulk that are on special. The few dollars I save every week really adds up over the course of a year.

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Michelle April 11, 2012 at 4:12 am

That’s like me right now! I’ve been saving for almost a year for my move to Europe in the fall! I used to spend money pretty frivolously (especially in high school and first year uni) but now I’ve been pretty used to setting aside about 90% of every paycheck and putting it directly into my saving account…

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 3:53 am

Saving 90% of your paycheck is impressive! Whenever I want to buy something I remind myself of what it will cost me on the road and I often talk myself out of it.

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Amanda April 11, 2012 at 4:36 am

I totally agree – if you want something badly enough, you’ll figure out a way to get it/make it happen!

People often ask me how I (a poor graduate student) am able to travel so far and so often. The answer is simple – I’ve made travel a priority in my life, and save up every extra penny so that I can make that next dream trip a reality.

After you make the decision to shift traveling from being a dream to being a goal that you’re actively working towards, everything else just begins falling into place.

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 3:52 am

Hey Amanda,

I couldn’t agree with you more. Once a firm decision is in place a plan naturally follows :)

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Christy April 11, 2012 at 5:23 am

Yep. I’m one of those people who thinks I’m wasting money unless I’m spending it on travel. Unfortunately, my partner thinks travel is a waste of money. Sigh…

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Nomadic Samuel April 12, 2012 at 3:51 am

LOL, oh no! Maybe if you can meet each other half way it’s the best of both worlds :)

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Hogga April 12, 2012 at 7:15 pm

So true… probably why I’m heavy on desire but light on plans… ugh lol

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:51 am

LOL, yeah, I hear ya!

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Brian April 13, 2012 at 3:18 am

Desire can definitely be a good motivator. There are various reasons why I want save and the desire to travel is one of them especially after already deciding on a place to go to. It is not that easy to save, planning to save is easy though. Knowing what challenges and sacrifices lies ahead would help in achieving the desired budget.

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:50 am

I agree with you Brian. It’s not an easy task to save but it’s something well worth it in the end :)

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Reena Ganga April 17, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I love this because I definitely think that the “will” to travel is what eventually makes your ability to travel a reality. So many people think you have to be rich or have a high salary to save enough for a trip, but the funny thing is that it often costs less to travel than it does to *live* in a developed/Western country! It’s all about priorities – some people save for shoes, bags, cars, electronics or whatever else, and other save for travel.

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Krista April 23, 2012 at 11:03 pm

I really love this post, Samuel. :-) I’ve had people wonder how I manage to travel when they feel stuck at home. When I tell them how much I make a year they REALLY can’t fathom how I can travel. But when I tell them that I don’t go to movies (you can get them at the library for free!!) or buy designer clothes (thrift stores rock :-)) or go out to eat (cooking with friends is way more fun anyway) then they start to understand. You are right. Saying you can’t afford it is just an excuse. It’s a matter of priorities, planning, and self-control. And it’s worth every bit of it. :-)

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Nomadic Samuel April 25, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Krista,

That’s brilliant! I’ve actually found personally that I don’t end up missing out on things I used to enjoy spending my money on. I’m very content to just watch a movie at home as opposed to going to the theatre or drinking a green tea with a friend in my apartment as opposed to visiting a pricey cafe.

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Jeremy Branham April 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm

My first trip outside of the US (and like you, I don’t count Canada) was to Estonia. That trip completely changed my life and perspective. I discovered a passion and interest in culture and travel that I never knew I had.

For me, travel is a state of mind and not about how far you go or how much you spend. Some of my best travel experiences in the world were right here close to home. So for those that are overwhelmed by the savings and money aspect, dream big but you can start small.

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Nomadic Samuel April 25, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Hey Jeremy,

You bring up a great point that you don’t have to venture off far from home to have an amazing travel experience. I really enjoyed being back in Canada last fall for the first time in ages.

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Anni April 27, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Thank you so much for the motivational post Samuel! I’ve been on the road quite a few times before but planning to go away for a whole year beginning January 2013, and although I’m planning to work whilst travelling I’ll still want to be able to save a substantial amount before going away. Going to open a savings account tomorrow and get them pounds rolling in there every single pay day!

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Nomadic Samuel April 30, 2012 at 6:38 am

You’re very welcome Anni! Best wishes with your savings and future travels :)

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Izy Berry @ The Wrong Way Home May 3, 2012 at 2:04 am

I’ve learned recently that I don’t really like short, three or four day weekend trips. I much prefer the long term travel, where you have to budget and be tight in order to stretch it out. I like the freedom of traveling somewhere on a whim. Ah, I need to start saving again.

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Nomadic Samuel May 7, 2012 at 2:41 am

I agree with you Izy. I often save hard to go on extender rtw trips. I would rather do that than shorter trips.

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Roy Marvelous May 3, 2012 at 6:05 am

30K in 1 year?? Amazing!
I thought I was decent at budgeting but clearly I suck haha.

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Nomadic Samuel May 7, 2012 at 2:40 am

I don’t think I’ll ever repeat that experience again Roy :P I was literally too cheap for my own good.

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Sarah May 16, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Where there’s a will, there’s a way and it seems most people don’t want it badly enough. Nice post!

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Kurt June 14, 2012 at 12:36 am

Isn’t this the absolute truth.

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Curious Nomad July 20, 2012 at 7:36 am

Very inspiring story. While many dream of traveling and may be in the process of saving, planning can essentially be the first step. Researching on places to see and things to do on one’s journey can be done immediately and it only costs time.

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Shannon August 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm

So I have a quick question Sam. I’m in the process of wanting to get into more traveling. However, I have a home which is on the market, and other bills of which I have to pay (at least for the next 3 years). So what do you do when your money runs out? Do you work odd jobs in different countries? I’d love to backback and explore all over, but just need to understand the basics, but then maybe I’m over thinking it. What do you do for health insurance, or do you have any? I guess each person is different. But I’m curious to see what your take is on this. Any help from anyone is greatly appreciated.

Thanks and safe travels – Shannon

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Kyle September 4, 2012 at 3:37 am

That’s a great question Shannon and I’m wondering a lot of the same things. I’ve yet to embark on my true dream trip, a long term trip and while I’m at blessed at the moment to not be tied down to any huge commitments (don’t own a home, no family) there is that thought in the back of my mind “When I finally run out of money on the road…what happens?”

I know i’ve met people at hostels who have stayed in a location and worked for a while to continue their travels but was wondering how easy this is to do, and perhaps what countries is the prospect of this easiest? Surely, you cannot simply procure a job anywhere… I mean Americans can’t even get American jobs right now huh?

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Aaron Ballo October 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Truly inspirational! Thank you!

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Nomadic Samuel October 18, 2012 at 7:28 am

Thank you! Glad you found it inspirational :)

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Wends of Journeys and Travels November 20, 2012 at 9:06 am

a great post which is the guidepost of every traveler in us and so many reasons, I got mine listed down and blogged however, every time and moment we travel translates to our opportunity to give out inspirations which will keep us forever grounded and humbled.

thanks for this Samuel :)

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