Saving for Long-Term Travel, Part One

Now that I’m back in North America, I get a lot of questions, both from close friends and random folks like the girl at the AT&T store, about how I afforded the last 10 months of travel. Did I earn enough money from my freelance work to support myself? I did work ,and I did earn more money than I expected I would in the third and fourth quarters of 2012, but I also spent a lot more than I earned. I earned next to nothing in the first quarter of 2013 and I’m earning slightly more than next to nothing in the ongoing second quarter. (It’s been a relaxing few months!)

When I talk about my travels, the truth comes out—I’m not quite the budget traveller I thought I would be. Organized tours don’t come cheap, and I went on two. A week in Dubai, visits to casinos, the most expensive hotel in Darjeeling, and the purchase of big-ticket items like Kashmiri carpets are not things that budget travellers usually do.

So, I’ve been a little cagey about my finances all along. But I’ve decided to confess to you now, on the eve of TBEX, that before I left Toronto in July of 2012, I had saved almost $30,000 (CDN).

That’s right, $30K. Even my father was shocked when I told him that. And it was he who suggested I write a blog post about how I did it. That was almost a year ago and I’ve been sitting on it (the blog post). I’ve spent most of it (the money) on travel and life expenses over the past 10 months (including my new Honda scooter, a riding safety course, and a year’s insurance).

Now that it’s gone, I’m going to share my “secrets” in a 5-part series about how I got it.

Coming Soon:

Part Two: Goals Schmoals and How to be a Passive Saver

Part Three: Developing My Saving Habit, Saving for the Big Trip, Stepping Up My Frugality

Part Four: A Look at the Numbers

Part Five: A Flashpacker’s Travel Expenses

Spoiler Alert: There’s nothing Earth-shattering contained in this series, so if you regularly read money-saving and personal finance blogs, you likely won’t get anything new from me. But, with any luck, my experience will help other would-be travellers decide to do what I’ve done. It’s not as hard as it seems.

Full disclosure: I’ve never really saved for anything before this, not even for the down payment on my house. I got some free and cheap money for university (undergrad and grad school) in the way of work study, US government loans, scholarships, and bursaries. I’ve also been the recipient of some modest inheritances and cash gifts in the last decade and a half, which defrayed some of the costs of being a student and a cash-poor twenty something. Because I’m careful with money, I was left with enough for a very small down payment on a house I bought with a friend in 2007. And other than my US student loan, which was relatively small and paid off quickly, I’ve never been in debt. It’s a lot easier to save when you start in the black.