Traveler's Financial Review: How Not to Go Broke While Traveling

Friday, May 24, 2013

This year, I have started to experiment with location independence and finding income streams while on the go. You know what I discovered? It's not as easy as I thought it would be. I've faced a lot of challenges while on the brink of going broke. Here are some of the mistakes I have made, what I've learned and what you can do to avoid them. 

Mistake #1 Poor Planning

Let's be honest here, I went into this quickly without thinking too far ahead. I have always been the "Let's Do This!" type of girl. And the challenge of making an income while on the road made me bullheaded. I did not have any plans on where to go, how much it would cost and how I would finance all the traveling I would do.

Wandersolution: Always do a reality check before you go vagabonding for a while. Ask yourself the following questions:

1 How much do I currently have? Future earnings don't count. Only calculate the money you have in the bank.

2 How much will it cost for me to travel to these places? Create a daily budget and see how far you can go on those funds.

3 How much should I set aside as a buffer in case I get sick/need to rush back home/get robbed etc? You always need to have money aside in case anything happens.

It also helps to create a financial excel file to asses how far your savings would go.

Broken Piggy Bank
Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012

Mistake #2 Lack of Savings

After celebrating my 2nd year of unemployment in January, I knew I was depleting my savings. I did not have a lot of money for more trips.

Wandersolution: Make sure you have some savings before embarking on a big trip. That's why you shouldn't quit your job just yet. Just imagine that you are working your way to your own freedom. But also have a specific target in mind. Once you reach your monetary goal, it's time to get moving. Waiting too long may keep you from realizing your travel dreams. Here are more ideas to add to your travel fund.

If you're wondering how I manage to travel until now with very little funds. Here are a few ways:

-I've been lucky enough to get sponsored trips through We Are Sole Sisters
-I have stayed longer in places (less moving around = less cost)
-I often ask for free accommodations in exchange for my services such as social media consultancy and managing resorts/hostels
-I hustle everyday by cutting down cost on food and finding more ways to travel cheap


Mistake #3 Spending More Than What I Earn

Oh boy, this was a BIG one. Since I have just started freelancing recently, I never really knew how much I earned. So I didn't realize it until it was too late that I was spending so much more than the money I made! I also made the decision to visit countries like South Korea and Hong Kong which require a different kind of travel budget altogether. So it's really important to keep track of your earnings and not just your spending.

Wandersolution: Try to keep a separate bank account mainly for your travel fund. Create an excel spreadsheet and write down how much you earn. There are only 2 ways to be better at your finances: spending less than what you earn, or making more than what you spend. Which leads me to..

Money Wallet
Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012

Mistake #4 Not Making Enough Income Streams

The challenge with location independence is finding ways to earn an income that does not require your presence. Last year, this is how I made money:

1 Advertising through the blog
2 Writing for magazines and other websites
3 Working as a social media consultant for various companies/brands
4 Public speaking gigs 
5 Passion Play retreats

Just by being nomadic, I had already eliminated more than half of my income streams (3-5). I couldn't meet with clients on a regular basis nor could I create a steady schedule for talks and retreats.

Wandersolution: Create more (creative) income streams! Lifestyle design and location independence will definitely get you out of your comfort zone. It forces you to question your beliefs about career and money. In the beginning, I was annoyed about money. Why can't we just live in a society where money does not exist? Why can't people just live off of their passions? But I'm left to work harder and think more creatively than most people, all from the remoteness of a computer screen. I began to see money as freedom. More so, simply as a measure of how good I have become in the way I chose to give value to the world.

If you're wondering how I make money now and what other unconventional ideas I have for making money while traveling, I will write about these soon. A few are still in the experimentation stage.

Mouang Ngoi, Laos

Mistake #5 Just Being Plain Lazy

It's hard not to feel like you're on vacation while you're on vacation. How can you face a computer when there are forests, mountains and islands to explore? True, being your own boss has its pitfalls. There's no one to kick your bum when it needs to be kicked. It's every freelancer's problem- the lack of motivation. Mine is simply called: surfing. If I spent as much time, effort and focus on making money as I do surfing, I'd be a billionaire by now. But no regrets, I feel as free to do as I please as any affluent person anyway.

Wandersolution: Have a routine and stick to it. Mine is simply this: If I surf in the morning, I work in the evening. If I work in the morning, I surf in the afternoon. So far, this is only true in theory.

I also create a list of goals that I stare at for a few minutes each day before I do any real work. It keeps me focused on what I need to take care of first. I try not to open facebook, twitter or instagram before emails. If all else fails, designate a few close friends to become your support group. Tell them to keep an eye on your progress and give you a swift kick in the bum if you aren't doing your job.

What are your financial mistakes as a traveler? What have you done to rectify them? Please make me feel better about my own downfalls by sharing your experiences in the comments section. I look forward to your stories and tips!

Starting to have a financial plan,
Sole Sister Lois
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5 sole trails

  1. Mistake #2 & #3! Awwwch! Hehehehe! =)

  2. #5 is like my biggest problem. If you need a support group Lois, let me know. Let's kick each other's asses! ;P

  3. Thanks Joni! It's nice you can relate. Oh well, we can do better :)

  4. We are already in each other's support group more than we know it DJ. Thanks for always giving me advice and for the people you connect me with!


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