The Dreaded Question.
Where do you get all of this money to travel? It's a question I've been asked quite a lot recently. And it's a question I dread. Because once it is asked, all I can see in my mind are lots of zeros. Zeros I've seen on a screen in front of me the past three years, just adding up. Student Loans. I've also held part-time jobs, at one point two jobs at a time, to maintain a cash inflow - I've even been paying off my loans (slowly, very, very slowly) since sophomore year using the money I make from work!
My Volunteer Trips.
Okay, so traveling to Indonesia and Kenya was still technically travel. However, in addition to my volunteer fee and airfare, all I had to pay for was my visa and souvenirs. For volunteer programs, you can fundraise your volunteer fee. And luckily, NYU Stern was kind enough to award me with a social impact stipend to help fund a portion of my trip to Kenya this past January.
I get that it may be hard for some people to fundraise money for these trips. This is where budgeting comes in. Always plan for the worst; if you think a trip might cost you $1000 (after fundraising), call it $1500 to be safe. This way, you have a savings goal and you know you will be able to afford your trip.
The majority of my college career, I've worked over 20 hours per week even with a full course-load, with the exception of my freshman fall (only 12 hours) and my two semesters abroad (although I'm hoping to work here in Oz). My junior fall, I juggled a paid internship AND a part-time job but luckily I realized how dumb that was and only kept the internship in the spring. It wasn't easy at all. But again, it allowed me to save and made me realize how precious money is. Not to mention I absolutely loved my internship and wouldn't have traded a minute of it for anything else.
Regardless, these volunteer trips were really important to me and there's rarely been a time in NYC where I've spent over $12 for a meal. I never really go out clubbing or drinking, either. That alone has allowed me to save heaps. Finding low-cost alternatives to dorms at NYU has also allowed me to save a lot. So with the extra money, I chose to further my education through traveling and helping people. It's something I really enjoy and something I know will be much more difficult for me to do when I enter the "real-world" next May.
Studying Abroad in London.
During my time in London I was really tight for cash. I had a bit saved up from working and I also was awarded a study abroad scholarship. I REALLY had to keep a tight budget. So using excel, I kept track of every single expenditure I made. You'll be shocked on how much I spent those 4 months, including my springbreak and weekend getaways. Ready for this?? $2701.56 . Yes, two-thousand seven-hundred and one dollars and fifty-six cents. Yes, obviously that doesn't include my housing, but it included everything else. In retrospect, were there things I missed out on? Definitely. Could I have done more culturally engaging things? Absolutely. Did I still get the full study abroad experience? Yes, I think so. I probably could've afforded to spend more, probably even $800 more. But I went about it the wrong way. I was more worried about spending as little as possible, rather than allotting a monthly spending amount and staying within that limit.
How did I do this? Well, in London I did a lot of grocery shopping, rarely ate out, took a Shakespeare theatre course (with free admission to different shows), kept entertainment expenditures low and took advantage of many of the free cultural shows and activities. You can still see plenty even when on a budget.
For my travels, I stayed in THE CHEAPEST hostels possible. And if you're looking to travel to a beautiful country for super low cost, Poland is a great choice. I think I spent about $5-$10 per night on a hostel in each city there. Also look into the possibility of night buses - buses, while they take forever, are super cheap. If you can sleep on a bus, it's worth taking a night bus, saving you time and money for a hostel.
It's a Learning Experience.
If I could go back to my semester in London, that would be one thing I'd change. However, there is a flip side to my story and those horror stories of people spending thousands over their planned budgets. Yeah, don't do that. That's not fun.
This time around, I'm giving myself $200 a week MAX to spend and whatever I don't use will go toward my trips. Luckily, this semester I have a little more leeway and more saved up, so I'm planning on $2500 for Melbourne (Though it will most likely be around $1500-$1750, leaving more for my trips) and $2500 for Uluru, Sydney, New Zealand, Cairns and Great Ocean Road.
When All is Said and Done.
So the short answer to the aforementioned, dreaded question is as follows. Thanks to scholarships, student loans, part-time jobs, and help from my parents when they can afford it, I have been blessed with these amazing opportunities to travel.
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