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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  1. 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 πŸ™‚

  2. says: Shannon

    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

    1. says: Kyle

      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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. says: Anni

    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!

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. says: Krista

    I really love this post, Samuel. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

    1. 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.

  8. says: Reena Ganga

    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.

  9. says: Brian

    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.

  10. says: Christy

    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…

  11. says: Amanda

    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.

  12. says: Michelle

    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…

  13. says: tinafreysd

    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.

    1. 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.

  14. says: Eugene

    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!

  15. says: Laurel

    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.

  16. says: Sandra

    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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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 πŸ™‚

  19. says: ciki

    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 πŸ˜›

  20. says: Jarmo

    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! πŸ˜‰

  21. says: Laurence

    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 πŸ˜€

    1. 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.

  22. says: Justin

    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%!

  23. says: Laura

    β€œWhere 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.

    1. says: Lissie

      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.

      1. 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.

  24. says: Andrea

    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!

    1. 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.

  25. says: Bama

    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!

    1. 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.

  26. 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. πŸ˜€

  27. says: Bodlagz

    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.

    1. Sounds like you hit it right on the first try πŸ™‚

      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 πŸ˜›

  28. Very inspiring, Sam πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜€