In Rio Brazil

“How can you afford to travel?” is the first question anyone asks me when they find out where I have been travelling to or when I tell them about my next destination. As my parents immigrated, I did not come with a silver spoon or a trust fund. I have put myself through school by working in the mornings and going to university by night. And now, I work like most people 9 to 5 with only a couple of weeks of vacation a year. Unlike my European friends, who have almost two months off throughout the year. My salary is usually equivalent to the people who ask me about being able to afford travel, so in my mind there is no excuse why so many people do not travel.

I have spent years, defending my lifestyle and trying to explain to everyone that if you wanted to travel, you would be doing it. However, recently I have come to a conclusion why travel is considered a luxury to most people. Below is my explanation as to why people do not travel:

1) Time Off Work- I heard this excuse too often, if you go to Europe, you need a minimum of 2 weeks. Plus they take a few days before and after the trip to do laundry, pack/unpack, etc… Well, reality is, I met people who fly to Paris for a 4-5 day gateway. Most of my trips are 10 days long, I leave Thursday night straight from work, try to get away with a long weekend somewhere in the mix, which leaves me only taking one week off work. This way I can get 2 or 3 trips done.

2) Expensive– While there is not much you can do for airfare, especially for us poor people in Canada where our airport taxes are one of the highest in the world. You do have control over when you fly (Low season usually has cheaper airfare), and also where you stay, eat and transportation at the destination. I have heard of people spending 3-5 times more than the average hotel room in that city and saying it was cheap. They tend to stay at brand named hotels with services and amenities they are used to back home. While, if you really wanted to travel even the most basic hostel or hotel will do just fine, is the best source for hotels (in my opinion). After all, you only sleep there, not to mention for anyone who is travelling solo it is a great way to meet people.

3) Luggage– I am not sure what it is it with people and their luggage. But do you really need 3 pieces of luggage for only a week? What is it that you so badly need for a beach vacation?  I make it a point to travel only with a carry on if I am going for under 2 weeks. Backpackers have it right, they only carry with them what they can carry on their back. Not only does this make for faster travel but also much cheaper as you can take public transportation to and from the airport as opposed to paying high cab fares.

4) Destinations– Depending on where you want to travel the cost of every destination is not the same. A week in Norway for example, equals a couple of months of travel in Eastern Europe or other parts of the world. Therefore, when your budget is tight, choose to travel for a shorter period of time or plan to go elsewhere. For example, when I went to Switzerland, I stayed in France and Austria to make my trip more affordable.

5) Lifestyle back home– This is probably the biggest obstacle that people face which is stopping them from travelling. They spend their weeks and weekends going out, eating out, on shows, and other activities. This all adds up. I live a very modest lifestyle when I am in Toronto so I can afford to see the world. Instead of spending a lot of money on eating out, I cook. Instead of going to the movies, I watch them on Netflix. Instead of going to a restaurant with friends, I go to a local coffee shop instead. And instead of doing activities, I go hiking and rollerblading.

6) Shopping – When people go abroad, they spend a lot of money on souvenirs and other like items. I used to bring back gifts for everyone a keychain, sticker, small statue, etc… and buy souvenirs for myself. I have realized that all it does is collect dust. Since, I have began collecting postcard from every place I’ve been and this is not only time efficient when everyone else is going to the giftshops but also allows for a nice collection of photos of where you have been. Also, when you travel you may find it cheaper to buy local goods there then back home. For example: Italian leather, precious stones in South Africa, and dancing shoes in Argentina.

Therefore, if you really want to travel and I encourage this for everyone: Sit down and plan your next three months, budget for it ahead of time, research destinations and cost of airfares, get a passport and go… you will be surprised of what you will find and how much more fulfilling it is than watching a game at your local pub!