You see it on Instagram and Facebook. There are plenty of twenty-somethings out there finding ways to travel the world during their college years. You scroll through social media looking at their incredible trips and adventures while making yourself a cheap bowl of Ramen. How on earth do they do it? While you’re using social media to post memes about how expensive college textbooks are, they’re documenting “once in a lifetime” experiences.
Though travel can be expensive and intimidating, it is possible. There really are college students who have learned how to make their wanderlust dreams come true before becoming financially stable full-time workers. You can do it today. Let’s talk about a couple of ways other people have found a way to do it as well as a couple of financial principles to consider applying not only for travel while in college but for a myriad of areas in your life.
How to Travel While in College
1) Check your spending habits.
How many times have you heard this one? Studies show that the number one factor in weight loss is to simply track your food. I wonder if we could also find ourselves with smaller expense lists if we were to take just a little bit of time to track our expenses. The neatest thing about tracking your expenses in our day and age is that you don’t even have to do it! Most banking and credit card apps already do it for you; all you have to do is take the time to review it once in a while. If you’re thinking this is a silly, impossible, useless tip, let’s look at a real world example.
USA Today ran an article about the cost of coffee for college students. Nancy Fellinger, a financial planner, ran a couple of numbers for your convenience. If you’re buying coffee from Starbucks every day, you’re spending approximately $21.00 a week. That’s $1,092 dollars a year. If you’re looking at backpacking, $1,000 will buy you 71 days in India including hostels and food. $1,000 will get you 15 days in Japan. If you want to see how far $1,000 get’s you in other countries, check out:
Of course, that’s not including a plane ticket, but it’s still pretty eye opening as to what you’re capable of after a year without one habit. Only spending $2.00 on a latte four days a week? Well you’re still in luck. Over the course of ten years, that’s almost $6,200. That’s at least five incredible trips you could treat yourself to. Also keep in mind that this is just one habit you’re looking at kicking. It’s possible. You just have to decide what matters more to you.
2) Check out a study abroad if you don’t want to take any time off from school.
A quick Google search shows that the average cost of a semester abroad hovers around $18,000. This may sound daunting, but consider that the average cost of going to a public, in-state tuition, four-year college is a couple hundred dollars short of $25,000. On top of this, $18,000 is a nice rounded, average number. Expenses in different countries at a study abroad can vary widely. A dollar in the U.S. gets you farther in some countries compared to the others.
3) Consider becoming a WWOOF Volunteer.
WWOOF is just a short acronym for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. You’ll find the official website at WWOOF.net. These travel adventures are diverse in the kinds of experiences they offer. You can be a wwoofer for a week or an entire season, and they off experiences on farms around the world. You could be living in a tent or in a private room depending on what you choose, but you can expect to work around four hours a day for room and board. Considering how cheap it is to live in some countries, you’ll find your $1,000 going even farther. You’ll leave with valuable knowledge about how to provide for yourself by growing your own food (hello even more savings and more travels!), and four hours is a small amount of time that allows for you to still see a lot of the country you choose to travel to.
4) If you’re looking for a slightly different experience than farming…
https://www.helpx.net holds a similar model to WWOOF but offers different kinds of volunteer work. You offer to help out your host for differing amounts of time and different kinds of work in exchange for room and board in a new place. You can find yourself in a regular home, on a ranch, or even out on a sailboat. And you can work as little as two hours a day (with the requirement that you cook your own food) or work up to six hours a day and find yourself with the adventures being provided for you (horseback riding, kayaking, sightseeing, etc.). Some hosts allow you to double up on hours and take a day off. While taking off a semester for an adventure like this might not seem plausible, there’s always your option of taking a summer for this kind of an adventure.
5) Become an international intern at https://www.international-internships.com.
This company pairs you with programs and host families to make traveling, educational goals, and career advancements possible all at the same time. They’ve got the resources and tips to help you get started paying for your international internship. This kind of format may appeal to some students who aren’t really interested in a WWOOF experience.
This one is less of a specific opportunity and more of a principle. When you’re planning out your finances, PLAN some of your money for travel, or plan to put some money into a travel fund. Budget it out. That way, instead of just saving your leftover money at the end of the month, you’ll have already set aside the money and it won’t get spent in the moment. Put it aside immediately just like you do with bills, regular charitable donations, or grocery money.
7) Know when to shop for flights and to travel.
This one is a pretty quick tip but useful nonetheless. The best day to shop for flights is on a Tuesday, and the best days to travel are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Try Airbnb or couchsurfing.com. Don’t be afraid to do some research and explore out of the box. My husband and I always do Airbnb, and our experiences have sometimes exceeded that of hotels.
8) Start a side hustle.
It’s always about the side hustle. My husband has been working as a full-time engineer for some time now and makes a fairly good salary. His side hustles (renting out our front room and basement, buying and selling cars, etc.) bring in far more money than his actual salary. Teach piano lessons, swim lessons, or tennis lessons. Here’s a quick tip: people don’t actually care if you’re certified; they only really care if you’re qualified. I’ve taught swim lessons and tennis lessons. I’m not technically certified in either, but I do have experience in both and it doesn’t take much to help a kid learn how to put his head under the water. Even if you’re not incredible at a skill, if you have more skill than a five-year-old, you can probably teach lessons. Another great suggestion is to be a tutor. They make tons of money, and most people are capable of elementary school math skills. It’s certainly not hard to brush up on them with a couple internet videos. It’s also easier now more than ever because you can post it on Facebook Marketplace.
9) Ask for gift cards for birthdays, special events, and holidays that can go towards traveling.
10) Don’t be afraid to go out with friends, but don’t be afraid to not spend while you’re doing it.
Do your friends like to drink? Make yourself a designated driver, estimate how much you would have spent on drinks, and put it into your travel fund. You’ll be shocked by how much you can save that way.
11) Rent out your place on Airbnb while you’re out traveling.
It’ll amaze you how much you can make by sharing your space a little bit.
12) If at all possible, avoid getting a car while traveling.
The rental prices may look enticing but after factoring in gas and other potential costs, you can probably find something much, much cheaper.
So there you go. A couple of principles and a couple of tips to help you get started on your own traveling adventures while in college. It always comes down to what your priorities are. There’s nothing wrong with making your social life a priority over travel in college. You can’t afford everything, but you CAN afford what’s most important to you. If travel is something important, you can make it happen.