I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been lucky and blessed to be raised by very financially stable parents who worked their asses off for every dollar they’ve made. My father is a Chinese immigrant who moved to D.C. at the impressionable age of 24 with only $25 to his name. He worked his butt off in restaurants as a busboy to get his start, went to college, graduated with a dual degree and started his own consulting business that is now extremely successful. My mother paid her own way through school, did night school when I was a girl, to get a dual master's degree while recovering from a massive brain injury and helped my father create and start his business. They are two of my biggest life influences and taught me the value of a dollar.
As an ‘only child’, I get judged/viewed as a spoiled brat, and for some of my adolescence I behaved as one, but my parents never gave in to my whims or tantrums. They made me work for everything. I started babysitting at 11 and had my first “real” job as soon as it was legal (14). I’ve worked every job from a grocery store clerk, pumpkin patch girl, spreadsheet master all the way to business development manager, general manager of multiple yoga studios, as well as currently starting and running my own business. I do whatever is necessary to make my life work, to create a life that is worth living to MY own standards. So while you may call me spoiled because I travel, know this, I use every dollar I earn to travel. I do whatever I need to do to live this life because it’s what matters most to me. Traveling and seeing the world will forever be the #1 thing on my bucket list. It’s the one thing that fuels the fire within to work my ass off, I will live my life so I can see every country on this great planet.
So to answer the age old questions: “How are you always traveling? How do you afford it?” my answer is simple. I only spend money on travel, I work my ass off, and I SCOUR the internet for deals. I’m the queen of joining rewards programs. There is no right way to travel, well, that may not be true, but I think as long as you’re getting out there that’s all that matters. There are pros and cons to the way I travel. I don’t always get to pick my travel dates. My travel dates get chosen by the price of the flight and some of those flights have crazy layovers all over the world, or four connections before your final destination, but to me it’s worth it. I see it as a challenge, a way to add in an extra city, and a way to see if I can make travel a full time lifestyle. The only way you’ll ever know is if you just go for it. Below are a selection of my favorite tricks and tips to making your dollar work for you.
Rewards/ Credit Card Programs: I took a page out of my father's playbook and signed up for every travel related rewards program possible. My advice is to sign up for everything, then figure out what works best for you. For example, I am a member of the airline clubs for Delta, Southwest, and American Airlines but found Delta to be my preferred rewards program. I’ve become brand loyal which has allowed me to hit Gold Medallion status (read: free upgrades, priority boarding and back check, free booze etc.). The more trips you take the more rewards (free flights etc.) you have for the future, so you have to think of travel as an investment. Put money in one year and reap the benefits the next. I built up my miles last year and this year I’m getting upgraded and at least three free flights.
- Chase Sapphire Rewards Credit Card: I’ve had this card for about 18 months and just booked a flight to Iceland on rewards as well as paid off $300 my balance using points! The travel team is easy to work with, there are NO blackout dates, and the point system is amazing. You get triple points when you use your card while traveling, making it a no brainer for travelers.
Hotels Tonight App: I won't lie, I am not a planner, I am a fly by the seat of your pants-er, so sometimes I need last minute hotels, flights, cars, etc. I love this app because it locates the best deals close to my location and the reviews are super honest. You can always get a good deal booking through them and it’s as easy as clicking a button. I’ve used this app in NYC, Amsterdam, Savannah, all over and get $300 rooms for $100 or less and most of them have FREE RIDES to/from the airport! I will be super honest, I don’t stay at hostels anymore unless I have too. I’ll be staying at one in Banff in a few weeks, but it was the most affordable way to do it. I’d rather pay the extra $30 for a private room and bathroom, but I’ve done enough of it and I work hard, why not enjoy a nicer room?
Lonely Planet: I don’t always buy the books because I'd rather save the $ for a meal in Morocco, wine tasting at a private vineyard in Oregon, a private room. I do however, 100% suggest at the very least checking out their website and doing basic research before traveling anywhere. It’s important to know what things usually cost so you know if you’re being had. They also do a great job of teaching you some basic words and cultural things that you’ll need to fully embrace wherever you are and to respect its people. *If you are going to go exploring in the backcountry, or anywhere you may not have wifi to connect I highly recommend getting the pocket book/ taking notes on your phone.*
Travel Inspiration: It's possible to find inspiration everywhere, but it's amazing to find it within others too. I got my original travel bug from my parents and I am forever grateful to them for my insatiable wanderlust, but I also have gathered inspiration from other people who have similar interests but potentially different insights. Here are a few of my favorite fellow travelers for inspiration, connection, great advice, and just a little bit of sass!
- How Not To Trave Like a Basic Bitch: Kiona just gets me! I love her honesty and her insight. She’s got a no BS approach to traveling and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. She’s also a badass HBIC who I can only hope to meet in person one day! Hopefully this fall at Austin City Limits?!
- Girls Love Travel: Awesome Facebook group filled with inspiring, loving, and compassionate women from ALL around the world and of all ages that come together to discuss travel, share information, and support each other in their desires to travel. JOIN US!
- Conde Nast Traveller: I've been reading this magazine as look as it's been coming out! I follow all of their social channels and my dream is to one day be offered a writing feature/ freelance/ any opportunity with them! What can I say? This girl dreams big!
- Fellow Travelers: So, yeah I know I said before I would rather not stay in a Hostel, and while that may be true, I know the best way to gather information about a place and to continue to remain excited about traveling it comes down to connecting with the people around you and in the world. Being open to chatting with others is the best way to find inspiration when you're in need! Surround yourself with like-minded individuals and your inspiration will just soar!
Also, to clarify I have no intentions of making money off of this blog - this is just to share some insight, make some people laugh, and potentially inspire you, my small but beautiful audience, to get out there more, to push yourself out of your comfort zone and to learn more about this big, bad ass world we live in. I mean if money comes in, I ain’t gonna turn it down, but I can promise you - THERE WILL NEVER BE ADS and if I get a to a point where I get commission off recommendations - I WILL TELL YOU STRAIGHT UP! I vow here and now to always be real with you, to always tell it like it is from my perspective and try my hardest, to give you the best of the best.
That’s all for now! I want to hear your feedback and thoughts, because that’s how I grow but if the only feedback you have for me is to 'go fuck myself' (thanks internet troll)- I’ll tell you right now I do it on the regular and it’s pretty good, I don’t need you to remind me to do it :).
Travel light, travel often,