Do you want to know how we have funded our 13-month round-the-world-trip and will fund our upcoming 15-month trip to Europe? Well, cause I like y'all so very much, I am going to let you in on our little secret.
Paul McCartney is my uncle.
Oh wait, you wanted to really know how we fund our travels and not some fantasy that I have about having the Wings crew showing up at my birthday parties to sing "Hey Jude?" Ahem. Well, then, sit back and hear me speak the truth. But, first, let's get a couple of things out of the way, namely how we don't fund our travels.
2. No lottery winnings. Despite my mild fascination with scratch-off lottery tickets, the most I have ever won was $9, which I immediately turned in for four more scratch-off lottery tickets, which resulted in a grand total of $0.
3. No credit cards. I like credit cards and think that they are essential to help manage money, control your assets, and keep yourself protected in case of monetary fraud (very important when traveling long-term). But, funding our whole trip via credit cards would be like adding a thick brick to our already-loaded backpack every month. More money leaves our bank account than enters when we are traveling and piling on debt would turn our fun, relaxing trip into a stress-ridden nightmare.
If you are thinking about funding your whole trip with credit cards, please slow down and think about alternate options: a shorter trip, more savings, or postponing the trip until you have enough saved up. Traveling is a dream for most of us and, like most dreams, does not have to be achieved all at once.
The internet has been all abuzz about how you can Quit Your Life, Blog A Bit, and Travel the World. There are lifestyle designers, travel bloggers, professional bloggers, and 4-hour-workweek-proponents who have been telling me that I can make hundreds of thousands of dollars by blogging, leading to the lifestyle that all the rest of us can only wish for in our wildest fantasies. Back in the day, there were the Avon ladies, pyramid schemes, and Tupperware parties; today, the new get-rich-quick-schemes are centered on SEO, pageviews, social networking, and ad space.
Look, there are people making real money on the internet and funding their round-the-world travels through their websites. I get that and I'm not envious in the least (okay, maybe I am just a little . . . . oh, what the heck, if they came over to my house, I might just try and plant bugs in their websites directing all their traffic to come to mine. Not really, though, cause I would never be that mean. Or, so they think.) Anyhow, if you're just starting out and planning a round-the-world trip and want to fund it through your website, will you please go around and count up the number of people actually doing this? There's Matt at Nomadic Matt, Kirsty at Nerdy Nomad, Dave at Go Backpacking, Baker at Man vs. Debt, Anil at FoxNomad, Chris at The Art of Nonconformity and I think that's it. Is there anyone else out there funding their travels via their website? [I know that a lot of people make *some* money for their trips through their website but these guys use their website(s) and website-related products as the sole source of income for their travels.]
By my count, that's six people, not even two handfuls, out of the thousands of travel bloggers out there. And, if you look at those six bloggers, they treat their blogs as full-time businesses, devoting a great deal of their days to writing, photographing, and video-creation. All have put out multiple e-books, have multiple websites, and Chris has even published a book. They are doing awesome things.
Kyoto Fushimi Inari shrine
But, here's my question for you: when you are in Kyoto, where the temples run into tiny gardens, geisha roam the streets, and the food is so dazzling that you wish you had the four stomachs of a cow, do you want to be holed up in your fluorescent-lit hostel room that smells like tatami mats and laundered sheets, leaning at a 75 degree angle in the furthest corner, so that your computer's antenna can reach the free WiFi that you need to publish that day's blog post? I don't.
And, because we aren't dependent on our blog for our source of income, I don't have to. I could put in the hours to build multiple websites, post more frequently to this one, and spend hours on the Internet to develop my social networking connections, but I don't because this blog is just a hobby for me. Last month, we made a grand total of $45 through advertisements and, last year, we made $3,000 in total from prizes, sponsorships, and minimal advertising. Sure, I'd love to make more money (who wouldn't?) but am I willing to put in the time to make this blog my business?
The answer is no. I don't want to be a professional blogger. Before we left, we made an agreement about this blog: we only blog as long as we enjoy doing it. Our blog is, first and foremost, for us. I want to write what I want, put out pictures that I love, and fiddle around with videography. This blog is our creative playground, not our business. So, we never expected or planned that this blog could make us money. We were frankly shocked when people started approaching us with advertising offers, giveaways, and sponsorships. We treat any money that we make from this site as a bonus, enough for a couple of nice dinners and hotel stays, but nothing that we can rely on.
If you're thinking that this is a stupid way to treat blogging, I don't disagree with you. Deciding that travel blogging is a hobby when there are so many others who can teach you to make money blogging seems an entirely wasted opportunity. I don't know what to say except that, because this is a hobby, we control what we write without worrying about what anyone else thinks or what we have to sell. That sort of artistic freedom is worth every penny that we lose in sales and advertising.
So, how do we fund our travels? I have a three step program that might just blow your mind with its revolutionariness (I think I just made up that word but I like the way it rolls off the tongue):
Wait, you've heard of this method before? This sounds kind of like what your Dad told you to do when you were a kid and wanted that pink sparkly princess Barbie doll that *all the other kids* had and, then, you finally saved up enough money for it and realized that it was lame and not nearly as cool as the Nintendo set that *all the other kids had* and the Barbie doll wound up in the back of your closet, to be later cleaned out by your Mom who gave it to Goodwill though you insisted that you really had liked it very much and wanted to keep it? [Oh, that was just me?]
We worked a lot before our trip, accumulating as much savings as we could. We sold our second car before we traveled and some of our furniture. We lived in a cheaper house and didn't eat out as much (though, of course, given our appetites, we didn't entirely quit dining out.) We did a whole lot to scrape up as much cash as we could ---- which I will tell y'all about in the next few weeks --- and, then, once we started traveling, we kept it up by continuing to budget, work, and save on the road.
Hopefully, your face is glued to this computer screen and you can't wait for me to tell you about budgets (YAY BUDGETS!) in the next few weeks. I won't blame you though if budgets put you to sleep, as they do most other functioning humans in the world, except for me because I have that rare love-budgets-love-accounting gene. Freaky, I know.
*How We (Don't) Fund Our Travels is the first post in the RTW Travel Planning in Retrospect Project, a weekly community project that seeks to gather insights and advice on round-the-world travel planning from those who have been in the metaphorical trenches. Stay tuned because, on Tuesday, some very fabulous travel bloggers will join in the discussion and reveal how they funded their trips (and they will very likely be less long-winded than me.)