Guests of the Inner Sanctum

Oneika the Traveler: How I Afford to Travel

In Guatemala last summer


I travel. A lot. The last few years I make anywhere from 7 to 10 international trips a year.
I get a lot of people asking me how I manage to do it; no, I’m not rich, and yes, I fund my own travel. So how do I do it? The answer is multi-faceted, but REALLY SIMPLE: I have made travel a lifestyle and create opportunities to see the world using my abilities and resources.

I’ve decided to do a post resuming just how I can afford to travel so much and compiled some information that can hopefully help you to do the same.
  • Timing and planning
Timing and planning are SO important for me. I try to book my train/plane tickets way in advance while seats still tend to be cheaper. I avoid traveling during peak periods when I can, but since I am a teacher with fixed time off (during peak periods) this is often difficult. Instead, I use the inflexibility of my schedule to my advantage: since I know exactly when I’ll be on vacation, if I find cheap tickets, I just book them right away. No way I’m missing out on a deal!
When traveling in Europe and Asia I have used a variety of budget airlines and search engines to book my trips. I have listed a few below.
Asia: Air Asia, Dragon Air, Royal Brunei, Jet Star, Tiger Airways, Zuji
Europe:RyanAir, Easy Jet, Sky Europe, Edreams, Swoodoo
Some examples of deals I’ve gotten: I’ve flown between Dublin and Edinburgh for £16 including taxes on RyanAir. I’ve snagged train tickets from London to Brussels for £69 return. I only paid $600 USD for my ticket from Hong Kong to Seattle last summer.


  • Financial matters/ management

There’s no secret or gimmick: I am good with my money. In order to have enough money to travel I operate on a few basic principles:

a) I don’t buy anything I can’t afford to pay for IN CASH.

b) I rarely use my credit card; when I do, I pay the balance in full.

c) I pay all my bills first! After paying my fixed expenses (rent, phone bill etc), I put a set amount of money into a saving account and DON’T TOUCH IT.

d) After putting money into my savings account after every paycheck, I take out a set amount of cash that I’ll use as spending money between paychecks. I try to use only this cash for my entertainment, transportation, food, and miscellaneous items. I like using cash for everything because it’s easy to monitor how much I’m spending. Doing things this way also means that I don’t use my credit/debit cards very often.

e) I budget budget budget, and budget realistically! The last 7 months I haven’t been working so it was crucial that I was smart with my money. I did a rough plan of how much I wanted to spend per month (about $1200 USD) and tried not to stray from that.


  • Lifestyle

I don’t drink or smoke so I save a lot of money because of that. I cut down on transportation costs because I’ve lived in cities where I don’t need a car. I walk places when I can, which means that I save on bus and cab fare- my two feet are free! Apart from my camera, laptop, and iPod, I don’t own any fancy electronics. When I lived in Hong Kong and owned a TV, I only had basic cable. I am the queen of the pay as you go phone, and use Skype to call friends and family abroad: I can call a land line in Canada or the States for as little as $0.02 a minute. I spend a lot of money on clothes and am a bit of a clotheshorse, but tend to shop at affordable places like H&M. I don’t mind spending, say, $400 on a leather jacket, because it is a classic, good quality piece that will last me for a long time. The same goes for shoes. I spend more on footwear, but they are comfortable, timeless, and last long. I eat out quite a bit, but cut corners here and there by skipping appetizers and dessert and ordering tap water.

  • Career path and work abroad opportunities

People, in particular my newest readers, often think that I travel all the time, but I have a day job that gives me a lot of time off to travel. I’m a high school teacher who has taught English literature and French in international schools around the world. I chose this career path in part because I always knew I wanted to live abroad and have enough time to travel during my holidays, which are numerous. So far, I’ve taught in France, Mexico, and Hong Kong, and always extensively travel the regions that I temporarily call home. I now teach at a high school here in London, and have been taking advantage of my prime location in Europe to explore the rest of the continent.

To teach in an international school, you need a specialized degree/certificate that allows you to teach in public elementary and/or secondary schools in your home country. In Canada, this teaching degree is called a Bachelor of Education, which is typically an 8-month to 2 year program typically done after completing a 4-year university degree. In the UK, this degree is known as the PGCE, and in Hong Kong it is known as the PGDE. These programs can certify to teach basically any subject that is taught in schools, like Math, or Science, or Art. One can get a generalist certification to teach primary grades or kindergarten. I’ve always loved languages so I am certified to teach Grade 7 to 12 English lit and French.
Graduates of these programs can then apply to work in international schools. Recruiting agencies like Search Associates, Council of International Schools, and International Schools Services help qualified elementary/secondary teachers find jobs.

Teaching English as a Second (or Foreign) Language is also a great option to go abroad. There are lots and lots of jobs in Asia, in particular, and lots of programs to get a TEFL or TESL designation certifying you to teach. Dave’s ESL Cafe is a good start for info and job postings for ESL/EFL teaching.

If you are a university student, you can also teach English in France; I did this back in 2006. Click this link for more information.

Not into teaching? Why not see if your country allows you to apply for a working holiday visa so you can work in another field? Canadians under 35, for instance, can get a visa to work in France for up to a year. I have a working holiday visa for the UK, which allows me to work here for up to two years. For Americans, who get the short end of the stick when it comes to work visas for foreign countries, there are a number of programs run by BUNAC and AIESEC that help American nationals find work in different career fields abroad.

While I’ve chosen to focus on paid work opportunities, a number of volunteer and study abroad opportunities exist. A simple Google search will reveal them in their entirety.

Soooo, in conclusion…

With a few adjustments and considerations it’s possible to travel frequently. The secret to living out your travel dreams lies in two words: research and discipline.
How do you save up for travel? Do you employ any of these strategies?

Hit me up on Facebook if you have more questions!

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