How I’ve Financed My Travels: It’s Not All Pretty

financed my travels

One of the first things people ask when I tell them I am a travel writer is how I afford it. Traveling can be an expensive hobby if you tend to go all out—and I know some travelers who have taken to charging everything to their credit cards and mentioning they’ll pay it off when their journeys are over. While this can be one way to finance your travels, it can also cause a lot of stress after you’ve given up a nomadic life.

Here are some realities I’ve had to face while choosing to travel instead of permanently settle down.

Saving is mandatory

Which means, I’ve had to spend time NOT traveling. I’ve crashed in my parents’ home for a few months and lived in New York with my boyfriend’s family for a while. Both families have been incredibly gracious and kind—and it’s made it possible for me to save up enough money in order to see some new places. While it might be okay to put everything on your credit card if you know that you’ll be able to pay it back, I was never really comfortable with that idea.

Of course, we can’t all do this. Many of us don’t have a place to go back to if we need to make some cash. So I am very grateful to the people who have put up with me and shown me such love.

Working on the road

All this traveling isn’t a vacation. I was just laughing about tonight when Daniel and I got back from the desert, sweaty, tired, and a bit disgusting after a bout of food poisoning. Illness aside, it also means that much of my time on the road I am working as a freelance journalist. I have deadlines like any other job, and I spend just as many hours working, if not more, than walking around and seeing the places I am visiting.

Even then, it’s taken me years to build up a freelance cliental where I feel comfortable paying a little more for a quality experience. I’ve been working as a freelance writer for nearly five years and things are just starting to pan out where I am not worrying about my paycheck and the amount.

Traveling can be cheaper than you think

Rent in a major city, for a room of one’s own, can be at least $1200. I chose to live in Italy instead after graduating from college, where my rent was $300. Even if I decided to take a trip, I could Ryanair it from Pisa to Paris for 50 Euro. Granted, I didn’t stay at the Ritz, and it took a while to find places where I could find some cheap meals, but I overall probably ended up spending much less than I would have if I had decided to settle somewhere. Even with incidentals, my lifestyle traveling and living as an expat has cost me much less than others think it might.

Know which ways to build a business

Part of working on the road means you have to know your ins and outs of running a business. As a freelance writer, I know that I can write a certain amount off on my taxes if the expenses relate to travel. This means meals, flights, hotels, entertainment, computer repair, and a lot more. While I still have to lay out the money, knowing that this benefits me lessens the sting of paying the initial amount. I also have had to look to make cash in some interesting ways—not all of them pleasant (no, I’m not talking about anything relating to prostitution).

I’ve written encyclopedia articles, taught English lessons, edited articles about hotels in South East Asia, and commuted in and out of New York City for a few months in order to make enough cash to make the move to Spain. This blog is finally starting to make an income, but it took a long time to get there.

No big shopping trips

I used to be much more of a stuff girl, and I had a terrible coffee habit that required I go to the local shop at least once a day for a latte. After I started to learn that the money I was spending on things (like clothes, shoes, coffee) could be put toward my rent in Italy or to a plane ticket to Iceland, I started to care a lot less about what I was wearing and more what I was doing. For example, if I bought a coffee once a day for a year, it would amount to $1095—which is about the amount of a round trip ticket to Australia, or 3 round trip tickets to Europe (now that prices are low).

Every now and then, I think of how nice it would be to buy some unique items from the places I’ve been, but because I don’t have a place to put them, I do have more money to spend on travel.

Financing my travels hasn’t always been easy. There are times where I had cents in my bank account waiting for my next paycheck. I’ve had to stay at $12 a night hostels because that’s all I could afford at that time. Regardless, I wouldn’t change any of it, and it’s taught me to budget, think ahead, and consider what I want to spend my hard-earned cash on.

How do you finance your travels?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander


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  1. Staci

    Kudos for the reality check! I appreciate the peek behind the curtain. Do you have a blog post about how freelancing beginners can get started?

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  2. Leah Davis

    I’ve used many of these same methods to save for/pay for travel. I am also fortunate enough to have family that has let me stay with them for significant periods of time, saving me from draining my bank account to pay rent on a temporary place. I’m forever grateful to them.

  3. Jean

    It’s amazing how many people think your lifestyle is all cocktails and full inclusive resorts! Great article on the reality of being a digital nomad.

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  4. Lindz

    You hit the nail on the head! I couldn’t imagine putting it all on the credit card & then worrying about it later. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night!! I love using my credit card to get cash back to help fund my travels, but if I can’t afford it, I don’t spend it! Great article 🙂

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  5. Travlinmad

    People who love traveling – not just a vacation – generally don’t live a typical lifestyle with the usual kid/car/house expenses while they travel. It’s all about your priorities. Great post, Alex!! 😀

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