“Quit your job to travel. Now.”
“Don’t worry about money. It’s OK. You won’t regret traveling.”
“Who cares about the future, you need to enjoy your present.”
Or, “It’s OK to spend all your money on traveling, says science,” according to the Huffington Post. (Hello, click bait! which I refuse to link to.)
Do these statements sound familiar?
I see motivational messages like this all the time. Sure, they are inspiring. They are motivating. But, they are also irresponsible.
Clearly, people who want to quit their job, to not worry about money, to live in the moment, find these statements appealing. After all, aren’t ideas like this speaking to us all on some level?
But, they are also dangerous.
Don’t Worry About Money, Go Travel = Horrible Advice
Words are powerful. Encouragement is powerful. And, there is a massive web presence which encourages exactly this. It comes in the form of bloggers selling a lifestyle that isn’t always honest (i.e. why you shouldn’t care about money, and just go travel now, now, now!), from online publications looking to get those extra clicks, and from inspirational quotes scattered on our Facebook and Twitter feeds and Pinterest boards.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t spend their money on travel. In fact, I don’t regret plowing through most of my savings to go travel solo (note: I didn’t go through my entire savings, and I had freelance jobs while I was traveling). But, cashing out that savings account, throwing caution to the wind and going (with nothing to return to), isn’t necessarily a good plan.
Travel — although many would like people to believe it is all-healing and all-powerful (and it can be), can be done without draining a bank account and hitting the open road.
Consider This Before You Drain Your Bank Account
I quit my job when I turned 30 to travel long-term. It was a decision I battled with for months before I actually booked my flight and gave notice to my job. It took a long time to make this decision because of one thing: money.
I had the money to travel long-term, but would I have the money to keep traveling or return home and start a new life back on American soil?
It’s an important question to ask before anyone takes the travel plunge. The truth of the matter is this: money is important.
If someone doesn’t have money, how can they actually pay for their travels? Sure, some people set up crowdsourcing campaigns to help them. Some dip into their savings (I know I did). But, what happens when that travel fund runs dry? When it’s time to call it? Without money, what can a person do to get themselves back on their feet?
Or, let’s say going home isn’t an option. Hey, I know travel is addicting and for some people, returning to a stationary life isn’t an option.
Again, that’s where having money comes in.
Fortunately, some travelers have skills they can fall back on to bring in a moderate income to fuel perpetual travelers. They work online. They are designers. They teach English. But, what about those who don’t?
Being able to travel the world is certainly a privilege and it is one I am extremely thankful I have the ability to do, but not everyone can do that.
Money is necessary.
I always recommend to readers not to travel without having money behind them, money in the bank for when they get home, and maybe even a little money to start them off on saving more to enable them to travel again. Not just that, but what if something catastrophic happens on a trip? Travel insurance is a necessity, and if someone doesn’t have it and the worst happens, they can be SOL. And fast.
Plus, even though most travelers don’t even let this cross their mind — there is also the issue of having money for when we get older. If someone is traveling, unless they are working for someone back home, chances are there isn’t a place where money is going for retirement or for later down the line when it is needed.
Yes, travel! But, do it smartly.
Remember, money is what makes the world go-round and the idea of a lifestyle that doesn’t include money (at least on some level) is not realistic.
Stay tuned for Money Matters, Part 2: How to Travel on a Budget
20 thoughts on “Money Matters: Why You Must Have Money to Travel”
I have no idea why people give this terrible advice. When I moved abroad to become an expat I had THOUSANDS saved up and I needed it because I ran into a lot of issues. I also have seen advice telling people to go into debt, charge travel on their credit cards, and other such nonsense! I also refused to sell my car and paid to have storage insurance to keep it at my mom’s. When I got back to the US, having that car helped me kickstart my life as a freelancer. To say traveling without money or putting yourself into debt for travel is insane.
Ugggghhhhhh. I agree, 100 percent. I spent SO much on my visa, and before that spent so much relocating twice in a year. But, I am so glad I did it. I wouldn’t have been able to if I hadn’t saved money. Instead, I would have been stuck and unhappy, and I much prefer to be happy! As for credit cards, I have one and I use it (hey, I want all the miles), but I always make sure I pay it off every month. If I don’t have the money behind me, I don’t spend it. When I got back from my long-term travel, I still have some money in savings, and I had my car, too. I ended up relocating across the country for a job, and that would not have been possible if I didn’t have that money in the bank. I haven’t been in debt for more than a decade, and it is a fantastic feeling. Once you hit that debt, it is so easy to simply keep getting deeper and deeper.
You’re right about needing to consider retirement someday, and taking time out of work to travel on our savings isn’t always wise but most 20-somethings I know will spend all they earn on frivolous nothings anyway.
Of course! I remember taking paychecks and going to Tower to spend the entire lot of it. (Yeah, I just aged myself). While most may spend their money on frivolous things, I think it is important to be realistic about making a decision like spending all of your money, or heading out into the world with none and thinking it will all work out.
Yes! As someone who is fairly new to the travel blogging community, I am bewildered by the number of “I quit my job to travel” stories. First, they’re not that interesting if ‘everyone’s’ doing it (no offense intended to those who have thought carefully about it and actually had the skills and resources to make it work, as it appears you have). It makes those of us who have ‘jobs’ feel as if we are being boring or unimaginative or uncreative, which just isn’t true. I work as a professional editor, online, and could be location independent but am not because my partner has a location dependent job, and I’d rather live with him 95% of the time and go off travelling when I can. I think this lifestyle enables me to be a better writer than I would be if I was always on the road and struggling to sell more mundane pieces just because I needed the money.
Thanks for writing what I had been feeling for a while 🙂
I’m so glad! I was one of those people who quit my job to travel, but I turned travel into a job (kind of). Traveling opened me up to opportunities I never though possible, like really pursuing freelance writing, as well as working in responsible tourism. But, when I quit my job to travel, it was with the idea that I would be coming back at some point and needed to have money behind me so I could re-start my life back home. I kept my car, and kept paying it off, put my stuff in storage, and had other bills, too. I think to each their own in terms of their lifestyle, but I agree — I would much rather have a lifestyle that enables me to be a better writer than working on the mundane. I firmly believe you have to love what you do, and so long as that is in play, it’s wonderful 🙂
Thank you for this post! It’s so true – while traveling is very enriching in its own way; you can’t actually travel without money. Although I love reading those articles that encourage travel, I’m happy to see that someone is countering the argument.
I love people who encourage travel … but who do so responsibly and without a hidden agenda (like something done for click bait, affiliate links, etc.). While some people can travel with a minimum budget, the reality is travel still COSTS money. I’d love to be able to cash out my savings and just go, but I also know that at some point, I would need more money, whether it would be to continue traveling or to return home and start/continue my life. Thanks for the support! 🙂
As I said on FB I agree with all of this SO much. I only moved abroad when I had a job to go to, and a mortgage back home being paid for by tenants. Some people might see this as all too conservative but if I hadn’t done that, then 6 years later when I moved back home to start a family, I would have ended up having to rent a place a million miles away because house prices had gone insane while I was gone, and I wouldn’t have had the quality of life I have now. I don’t see the point in becoming all enlightened and energised by travel to then someday come home and be in poverty!
Yes. When I traveled long-term, I made sure I had enough money in my bank account to handle the bills I had to continue paying while I was traveling and also to ensure that when I came home, I would be able to start a life, albeit a modest one. Having some money behind me is what has allowed me not only to travel, but to relocate two times in three years to foreign countries and live as an expat. As I have mentioned in previous comments, I am all for people traveling. I simply wanted to put it out there that the advice to not worry about money and go travel isn’t the wisest and provide my opinion on that. I personally was quite thankful when I returned home, and even now as an expat, that I am not constantly worried about money (although, let’s face it, life as a freelancer is hard and uncertain) and that should something happen, I have money behind me to help.
This article is completely subjective. You assume that ‘don’t worry about money’ implies that the person taking the advice doesn’t have any money saved at all. And, just how much money a person needs to travel depends specifically on that person. I need more money to travel now than I did 15 years ago when I was more willing to stay in hostels and eat ramen every day. I’m not advocating people going into debt over travel or leaving without any kind of formulated or back up plan at all. But, quite honestly, I would rather see people travel by any means than fall into the trap of a materialistic lifestyle at a young age. I’ve seen way more people buy cars that are too expensive, houses that are too big and accummulate a mountain of useless possessions on credit than those who got outside of the box and traveled. I’m cheering for the travelers.
Thanks for taking the time to comment! What I was saying is that the advice to travel and not worry about money is irresponsible, as is not worrying (at least a little) about spending all of your money can be dangerous to your future. You are right, the amount of money needed to travel varies per person, but the notion that you don’t need any money, or you should simply spend ALL of your money traveling now is a something I do not advocate. Yes, I think people should travel if they have the opportunity, and yes, I think money (and a chunk of it at that), should be spent exploring the world if the person has the ability to do so. But, the advice I have been reading lately is to throw caution and responsibility to the wind, without being realistic. If someone wants to spend all of their money on traveling, fine. But, I also think that the realities of what happens when a person does that need to be discussed, versus just saying, screw money, travel anyway. I agree, people do spend their money on the cars, houses, etc., but that is their choice. For someone, it means that is important to them versus traveling, and that is ok. Traveling isn’t for everyone. Of course, I’m cheering for the travelers, too, I wanted to provide a more accurate look at the realities of travel, however, and that money IS needed to travel.
I see what you are saying – and I totally agree! Money is necessary. I think the problem really lies in the current mentality of being instantly gratified. I want it now, so I will have it. It not only applies to travel, but to society (at least the American society) as a whole. So, I guess my point was that – not being able to change the tides – if someone wants to chuck all their money, I would rather see them doing it over something like travel that might have a lasting impression and open their eyes to differences, rather than on materialistic possessions. 😉
Yes! Absolutely. People definitely want instant gratification these days. When I started traveling, we had a group of us that were planning long-term traveling. Everyone was at the saving money point and Steph Yoder of 20-Something Travel even created a hashtag on Twitter, #rtwsoon, to motivate people and for everyone to support each other as we moved closer to our dreams. Six years ago, when that was created, there were a lot less people writing about travel and not really any who were suggesting people just go and not worry about money.
Thank you for addressing this! I see those posts about traveling pop up all the time and it concerns me to see a lack of clear planning.
There are so many unexpected expenses while traveling. I recently moved from America to Germany (for my husbands job) and our money was flowing freely there for a while. It’s a great experience but it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
There are a lot of unexpected expenses when traveling. If you get sick, that costs money. Hopefully, if someone is really sick, they have travel insurance to help them out, but if not, that can end up costing a lot. Plus, there are other little things to consider, like rates going up, schedules changing, luggage getting lost, etc. It is an amazing experience, but you are right, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I think it’s addictive and just feels more financially responsible than wasting money on things like rent and car insurance. Of course, without a steady stream of income you just dig yourself a little deeper into debt every trip.
I agree, I would rather spend my money on travel than other items. But, if those items like a car are needed pre- and post-travel, then what does a person do? Go into more debt, or save and pay for it? You’re right — without a steady stream of income, people do dig themselves deeper. Personally, I prefer being debt-free, or at least not having huge debts hanging over my head. It’s a lot less stressful to not worry about how to cover costs and can make a trip that much more enjoyable when you know there is at least a little money behind you versus being stuck.
Great post! Will certainly share this one around. “Whilst the just do it” message around traveling is great if it encourages but really the common sense of knowing you need more then a plane ticket to fully enjoy your experience should be a tag line under or something.
I’m all for not being scared to travel but having some backing is very important!
Will certainly share this post onwards and hopefully it will go as viral as those “you don’t need money” articles that go around.
Besides the struggle to save is half the learning lesson of travel I find.
YES. Having something is important! Thanks for sharing! I appreciate it! 🙂