4 Things I Learned About Money From Travel

by Ann deBruyn

Although I’ve always had a desire to travel, I didn’t have a passport until shortly after I turned 23. Over the last 14 years, I’ve made up for lost time and visited over 55 countries on every continent except Antarctica (which I hope is soon to come).

At the same time, I’ve been laser-focused on becoming financially independent as I’m part of the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement . This financial lifestyle aims to save and invest as much as you can so that you can live off your savings as soon as possible.

While it may seem that wanderlust could get in the way of financial independence, throughout my travels, I have found ways to work towards both goals, including these money lessons learned while traveling around the world.

What I learned about money from travel

1. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have an amazing trip

If you look at social media for travel inspiration, you may fall into a trap thinking the only way to have an amazing trip is to fly Emirates first class to an overwater villa in the Maldives. While certainly enjoyable, you should remember that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have an amazing trip.

Even if an Emirates first-class trip to the Maldives is your dream adventure, you can find ways to go that don’t involve spending a lot of money, such as using points to book your Emirates first-class flight and for your villa in the Maldives . That said, you should keep in mind that you can have some truly incredible travel adventures that won’t break your budget. For instance, some of my favorite travel experiences include staying at hostels in Japan, Australia, and France, bus and train trips around Europe, and spending $20/night for a 2-story bungalow on a rice paddy in Bali.

2. Always be clear about travel budget before traveling with friends

When  traveling with friends , it’s always important to be clear about your travel budget upfront. For instance, you may be traveling with a friend who makes significantly more or less than you or who has an entirely different idea of how much they want to spend on the trip.

I’ve learned that it’s crucial to discuss travel budgets and expectations before booking trips with friends. Having this conversation before you commit to a trip can help you avoid ending up in an awkward situation and also help ensure that everyone enjoys their trip to the fullest.

3. Setting (and sticking to) an annual travel budget helps you enjoy your trips

I enjoy traveling while participating in the FIRE movement because I set — and do my best to stick to — an annual travel budget.

In creating such a budget, you should start with your income after taxes and deduct necessary expenses (like rent/mortgage, medical expenses, food and retirement savings). What you're left with is discretionary income. From your discretionary income, you should set aside the amount that you want to be dedicated solely to travel.

When traveling, you shouldn't have to worry about money if you stay committed to your travel budget and planning. Since no one wants to be poolside fretting over how much was spent on dinner the night before, budgeting is a great way to help you maximize enjoying your trip.

4. It’s OK to splurge if you plan on it

You absolutely can splurge on expensive trips, provided you plan for them in advance. For instance, let’s say your dream trip can’t easily be booked with points or miles. You can still make these trips happen either by setting aside part of your travel budget each year and putting that money into a travel fund towards these trips or by using your annual travel budget for that one epic trip.

What can you learn from a journey about money?

With a bit of effort, you can travel the world while still making financially intelligent decisions and setting yourself up to meet your financial goals. On top of that, having a travel budget in place that you stick to on your trips can help ensure that you aren’t worried about money when you travel, which will add to the enjoyment of your trip.

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