You Are Never Too Broke to Travel

I am a firm believer that travelling to different countries is one of the most important things you can do to experience life at its fullest and grow as a human being. I was bitten by the travel bug at age 18 when I volunteered in The Gambia for two months, and when I came home everyone saw how much that trip had changed me.

It’s still hard to describe how that trip truly shaped the woman I am today, but I do remember being somewhat of an ungrateful brat before the trip and coming home with a completely different perspective on life. I was more open to the world around me, I was more thankful for growing up in Canada, and I was definitely more humble.

That being said, when I hear people talk about how they wish they could travel but they can’t afford it, it takes everything in me not to slap some sense into them! You are NEVER too broke to travel!

My trip to The Gambia cost $3,000 total, and besides holding a fundraiser to help me pay for part of the trip, I still had to shell out $2,000 of my own money to pay for it. How did I have so much money in the bank you ask? Especially when I had just finished my first year of university and was paying my own tuition at the same time? I worked and saved my a** off! It’s not rocket science people. If you really want something, you work hard then you save your f***ing money!

Moreover, travelling can cost you as little or as much as you want it to. If you fancy going to Paris, then be prepared to pay substantially more than if you were to fly to Chiang Mai.

Personally, I think visiting Europe when you’re young is a dumb idea. It’s incredibly expensive, and just putting it out there, you’d probably much rather explore Italy in your 50’s than India. Backpacking around Asia and South America is the perfect plan for any broke millennial.

When you’re young your standards are way more flexible, so it won’t be as big of a deal to have to lug around a huge backpack all day, sleep on dirt floors, or pee into a hole in the ground. I even noticed the change in my standards when I travelled to Thailand last January.

When I was in Africa, I got used to taking bucket showers, peeing in the bush, and eating questionable meat. It was exciting and different, and I couldn’t wait to tell everyone back home all the crazy stuff I did. I was fully prepared to rough it again in Thailand, but when I got there I just couldn’t do it! I realized that I was 26 not 18 anymore, and I needed an actual bed to sleep in, I needed air conditioning, and I needed to know what animal was on that skewer!

For any of you who are thinking “Yeah, but I’m in debt,” I totally understand why you would want to hold off on travelling until you are out of the red. If it was me, I would definitely wait until I paid off my debts before making any travel plans.

However, if you’ve got $50,000 in student loans to pay off and you know you won’t be able to pay it all down for another 10 years, I believe life is too short to put your life on hold for that long. I’m not saying you should get yourself into any further debt to pay for your trip, but if it means getting a second job for a bit or cutting some of your expenses so you can save up a few thousand dollars to visit Vietnam, then do it!

You’ll never regret jumping on a plane in search of adventure, but you will regret making excuses and missing out on some possibly life-changing experiences.

What do you think? Have you ever travelled while in debt or when you considered yourself broke?

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Showing 45 comments
  • Michelle
    Reply

    We have traveled a lot, and almost every single time we still had student loan debt. Did not stop us at all. We found ways to be frugal with our vacations!

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Exactly! I think it’s so important to travel, especially while your young and don’t have kids.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty
    Reply

    We didn’t travel when we were broke…mainly just because that wasn’t one of our interests at the time. I would much rather travel now that we have the money to afford it! =)

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      And with more money gives you more variety when choosing where to travel and how long you want to go. But still you really don’t need that much money to travel if that’s what you really want to do.

  • Jordann @ My Alternate Life
    Reply

    I don’t think that travelling while in debt is a good idea, but I definitely think that making travel a priority after debt is paid off, is a wise choice. I’m hoping to go on a trip this Spring, after my debt is paid off. Finally time to have some fun with my money!

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Awesome! Do you know where you plan on going yet?

  • Reply

    I travelled for7 months in Asia and 3 months in South America for free thanks to work. There are so many programs that will help cover your expenses if you put in a certain amount of hours. Definitely worth checking out.

    Asia is great cause it’s so cheap, but watch out for Singapore, it’s worse than NYC and I’ve heard Japan is pricey too.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Totally agree! I wanted to go to Singapore because you could seriously take a long tail boat there from where we were in the south of Thailand, but I heard from other travelers how expensive it was so we didn’t go.

      • eemusings
        Reply

        Singapore is expensive…and boring. It’s pretty dull really and has nothing particularly distinctive. You aren’t missing out on too much … so many other cooler places to explore.

        • Jessica Moorhouse
          Reply

          Good to know, good to know.

  • Budget and the Beach
    Reply

    I’m 50/50 on this one. I have traveled when in debt and/or broke and although most trips were great, it did come with a lot of buyers remorse after the trip when reality set it. I agree with the working hard to have money bit. I myself need to do this more because I won’t be in a tricky financial situation and travel anymore. Just not worth the financial stress. But then again I’m older and have done some traveling. I also agree with what you said that your standards WILL change as you get older too and it’s had to adjust to those weird traveling situations which make you uncomfortable. I’m all about the comforts of Europe now, although truthfully I have always been a bit picky. But maybe that’s because I didn’t go anywhere until I was 29.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Ya, that’s the thing when you get older, you like your creature comforts. And that’s the thing, I want to go to Europe so bad but I don’t know if I could stand sleeping in a hostel with a bunch of young 20 somethings. I think I might just wait til I’m older and have more money to afford hotels.

      • eemusings
        Reply

        If you plan it ahead (and I’m guessing you would be) you can definitely find cheap accomodation through Airbnb and private apartments and that kind of thing. Might be harder in prime season though. European hostels are pretty nice though! The 4 and 6 bed rooms are sweet. The more beds, the more iffy.

        • Jessica Moorhouse
          Reply

          Also good to know. I know my next trip I’m just gonna bombard you with questions!

  • Jake @ Ca$h Funny
    Reply

    I totally agree with you. I haven’t really traveled outside the US too much, but I definitely want to in the future. Money shouldn’t really be a hindrance. As long as you can afford to drive or fly, you can go just about anywhere.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      I’m telling you, go to Asia. It’s so cheap to travel there and if you monitor that flight price changes right, you can get a really good deal. We found a roundtrip flight to Bangkok for $800 last fall but because we waited too long it jumped to to about $1200 or whatever it was.

      • eemusings
        Reply

        Wow, that’s crazy cheap! Not much more than flights from NZ-SE Asia, and we’re a LOT closer to the region than you are.

        • Jessica Moorhouse
          Reply

          Weird, I thought they’d be really cheap coming from NZ or Australia.

  • Connie @ Savvy With Saving
    Reply

    I haven’t traveled much, with or without debt. But for me, I’d like to make it a priority in my life going forward. Your experience to The Gambia sounds amazing and I think traveling would give me a new perspective on life as well.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      I’m telling you, one trip to a foreign country will totally make you fall in love with traveling. So far my most memorable life experiences have been traveling to places I never expected to go.

  • moneystepper
    Reply

    We had some really interesting conversations with friends this weekend on how frugality when travelling actually makes the whole experience more fun. You tend to find better places, enjoy different cultures more and just matching a budget can actually be a fun challenge.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      That can definitely be true. I actually liked keeping a budget and tracking our spending when we were in Thailand ๐Ÿ™‚

    • eemusings
      Reply

      For sure – if you’re in a cocoon of hotels, resorts and tours, you’re not really going to get the full experience and a feel for the culture.

  • SammieK
    Reply

    Being Australian I’ve travelled to a lot of Asian countries b/c it’s so close and cheap (Bali to Aussies is what Cabo is to Los Angelians lol) but next month my partner and I are moving to Toronto for a year! I’ve always wanted to visit North America, we can’t wait. We’ve decided to do a week in Paris in Jan as it’s so much closer being in TO than flying from Melbourne to Paris (23 hours ew). I thought the same as you do about hostels, but then a friend suggested a private room in a hostel, and apparently it’s still really cheap but more hotel like – some even come with private bathrooms too. I’m going to eat my weight in pastries ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      You should come say hi when you arrive in Toronto, it’s my new hood! And ya I really, really want to see Paris as it’s way closer here than from Vancouver.

    • eemusings
      Reply

      I have to say I’ve never ever found a private room in a hostel that was cheaper than a budget hotel room. Because they still charge per person for the private rooms, they are pretty expensive overall… And sometimes hotels were even cheaper than two dorm beds, but depends on the dates and the cities (http://nzmuse.com/2013/08/do-hostels-really-save-you-money/).

      • Jessica Moorhouse
        Reply

        Nice, I’ll have to check out your post on it. Thanks!

  • Karen
    Reply

    I backpacked through Western Europe after graduation and had no regrets about it. It was one of the best trips of my life. You can be frugal in Europe, without always having to stay in hostels. A few times we stayed in budget hotels and an apartment.

    It’s all about priority. If you really wanted to travel, you’d make the necessary sacrifices. Thailand, New Zealand and Australia are a few places I’d like to visit in less than 5 years.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Australia and New Zealand are on my bucket list! But I also kind of want to go everywhere haha!

  • Mr Financial Debauchery
    Reply

    One of my biggest regrets is not traveling more when I was younger. I love it now, but like you, my standards for things like actually having a bed or running water do pose some restrictions.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Well at least you can travel now, and there’s no time like the present! My parents for instance are just starting to travel now and they’re loving it!

  • Dear Debt
    Reply

    I love traveling, and I’ve always been in debt. As I will be in debt for several years I can’t wait to be debt free to travel. It’s too much of a priority for me. That’s the thing, it’s all about priorities. Earlier this year, I went to Iceland and because of a crazy deal, I probably spent $1k for everything. I pay more than that for one month on my student loans! I am not traveling as much as I want (it kills me to know that I could be traveling every month in some way with how much I am paying in student loans), but I still travel. I also think life is too short, and my dreams of being debt free are not being significantly deferred because of this.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Oh Iceland! I would love to visit there. It looks beautiful!

  • CF
    Reply

    All my travelling has been done while I had student loan debt :p The travel itself was paid in cash, of course ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve gone to Europe for almost three weeks on $3k – had quite a bit of fun, and stayed in private rooms at nice hostels and B&Bs… Europe doesn’t have to be expensive!

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Well that’s good to know. I’ve just heard from other people that it can be super pricey, especially since the Euro is more than our dollar, whereas if you go to Asia our dollar is worth a lot more.

      • SammieK
        Reply

        I might just take you up on that offer, as I’ll be pretty friendless lol ๐Ÿ™‚

        • SammieK
          Reply

          Haha sorry I replied on the wrong one, blonde moment !

          • Jessica Moorhouse

            Haha whatever. Shoot me an email when you’re in town ๐Ÿ™‚

      • eemusings
        Reply

        The nice thing about Asia was getting so much local currency for our money. In the UK our dollar is only worth 50p and about 60 euro cents. It HURT withdrawing so much cash and getting so little for it out of the ATM. The USD is at about 82c thankfully. The NZD will always be weak in comparison to those currencies but it’s a lot better now than it has been in past years! It’s at a record high basically against the USD, and a few years ago it was 3 to 1 for the pound rather than 2 to 1, so actually a pretty good time for us to travel in the grand scheme of things.

  • Daniel @ Urban Departures
    Reply

    I must confess, I traveled with debt. You definitely hit the nail on the head: if you don’t ever travel, you’ll miss out on life changing experiences. We made it a priority and still save for our travel fund every month! Where do you plan on heading next?

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      I’d love to either go to Peru, Vietnam, India, or Greece. I just want to go everywhere!

  • Reply

    It’s really interesting to hear how much people enjoy traveling, but it’s one of those things I could never get into. Maybe it’s the homebody in me, but it just scares me a bit to leave everyone I know. There are some people who really think life should be enjoyed after debt, but it really won’t wait. There is always a cheap way to do everything also!

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      It’s true, I believe if there’s a will there’s a way, and if you want to travel you can figure out how to afford it.

  • cantaloupe
    Reply

    I agree with you somewhat since I’m going to be in debt for roughly forever… but I know a lot of teachers here (I’m teaching abroad) that travel every single break we get. Which is a lot of breaks. And there is such a thing as travelling too much for your finances. These are people who can’t afford a taxi home by the end of the month and have to borrow money so they don’t starve. And yet they still take every single holiday to travel. They need to build up a tiny safety net instead of travelling on one of their trips. So I disagree. You can be too broke to travel.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Ya, I definitely think there is a limit for everyone, and just blowing all of your income on traveling may not be the smartest idea that’s for sure.

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