How Broke College Students Pursued A Dream of Traveling: Working, Saving & Selling
I've been asked many times, "How can you travel for a year without working? Why would you want to live out of a car for that long? How do you even do that?" Well, grab a seat and I'll explain exactly how we pursued our dream and didn't let money get in our way.
Henrik and I were fortunate enough to be in a position in our lives where we could make a decision to do something wild and fun, so why not? With our second to last semester of college coming to an end, we made our minds up that we wanted to move to South Carolina. We each sent out multiple applications in the area for full time positions. With the stress of applications and the urgency of the school year coming to an end, the pressure to start a career was extremely heavy on both of our college student shoulders. However, we agreed when we first started dating that we wouldn't let our jobs be a priority over both our relationship and our passion for traveling. Jokingly, Henrik would always say "we can always just spend the next year traveling the world."
Though it seemed tempting, we usually dismissed it. It wasn't until we spoke to my parents, who encouraged the idea, that we seriously considered it. So we did some research about countries we both have always wanted to visit along with seeing what was feasible. We also discussed what countries we could potentially never spend another year in again. Why not go to the complete opposite side of the world? Well, go big or go home right?
We spent days researching how to obtain an Australia Visa, how to buy a car as a non-resident, if we could afford living in a completely different country and barely working, if the exchange rate was in our favor, the accessibility to natural wonders of the country via car, and how to balance everything we needed to take care of back in the States while being in a 15 hour time zone difference. In December, we made the decision to fight the norm of getting a steady job right out of school and pursue our dream of traveling.
Our plan was met with contempt and disbelief followed by dismissal by many of our friends and family when we first announced it, but we quickly changed our way of life in order to make it work. I began working +30 hours a week along with taking a 14 credit class load beginning the November before we left. Henrik also had a 12 credit work load along with working 20 hours a week at a local restaurant. Once we graduated in May, we both transitioned to a 45-50 hour work week up until August. Though we both worked in our fields of study, we made between $13-15 per hour, which is absolutely horrific for anyone to make a living off of let alone to save for a whole year. But even with horrendous wages, we were able to make it work.
We prioritized our spending to just groceries and gas which might seem a little apprehensive to some. Living in the middle of nowhere where going out is attending a bonfire and potluck at a friends house definitely helped with this. Most of our groceries we bought in bulk and we made bulk recipes to save both money and time due to our busy schedules.
We also sold many of our items we had in our apartment. Things like clothes, jewelry, pots/pans, decorations, winter gear we no longer used, camping gear, shoes, and extra water bottles left our presence. Though we didn't charge much for each item it added up to an extra $350 that we didn't have in our pockets before. Everything else we donated to get rid of as much stuff as we could. By the time we began packing up our apartment, we realized just how much we got rid of. It was good practice for living out of a car for a year.
What about both our cars in the States? Well, we sold our Jeep Wrangler Rosie mid-August. Ironically, it was the day after we moved out of our apartment which created an emotional weekend for both of us. As previously mentioned, I borrowed my parents car since my car's transmission blew in March making us not have to worry about selling it.
Due to our hard work and frugal way of living, we traveled to Australia with $17000 in our bank accounts. Because we wanted to get on the road so soon after arriving, we spent a good chunk of our money in the first month due to buying our truck and outfitting it. We continued leave on the cheap in order to purchase what we needed to help us in the harsh Outback Terrain.
Though we had enough to live off of for multiple months, we decided to find work in order to stay on top of our savings. However, we did it the backpacker way and are traveling while working. After arriving in Cairns, a friend we met hooked us up with a job at a boatyard. We spent 8-10 hours a day sanding, glassing, painting, and cleaning a boat. We learned new skills, made a fabulous new lifelong friend who we absolutely adore, and make $3500 in a week and half. After having some much needed time off, we began helping a neighbor at the boatyard on his own boat for some more income. Once this boat is done, we will be moving on from Cairns to our next leg of the journey. Though we don't know exactly where we will go after this, we are both fine with not knowing.
Obviously the money we have saved away won't last forever but we are completely fine with finding jobs as we travel across the country. After being here for three months, we've realized how hard it is to budget while traveling. However, it also has made me appreciate the experiences and things we do spend money on in a much deeper way than I ever have before.