Why You Can’t Afford to Travel (And What to Do About It)

I can’t count the times that I’ve been asked, “how do you afford to travel so much?” or “how do you always have the time to travel?” At the same time, I also hear people complaining, “I don’t have the money to travel” or “I don’t have time.”

The truth is, consciously or unconsciously, the people who say they “don’t have the time or money to travel” simply made the choice not to travel more.

Traveling is a Decision

Believe me, I get that there are some people who can’t afford to travel for very legitimate reasons. There are people who struggle to make ends meet. There are people who work two or three or more jobs just to be able to pay the bills each month. Family, bills, schooling, all that stuff comes first.

Still, they made a choice. They made the (likely unconscious) decision to pay bills instead of buying a plane ticket. If it comes down to food on the table or buying a plane ticket, I would 100% be happy with my decision to put food on the table over buying a plane ticket and wouldn’t regret it for a second.

The key is to recognize that you are constantly deciding how you spend your time and money, whether you realize it or not. It’s for that reason that I started eliminating phrases like, “I don’t have the money to…” or “I don’t have the time to…” because the reality is that I do have time and money. I just chose to spend it on something else, and that’s okay.

Understanding Priorities

We make decisions based on what is a priority for us. In the above example, putting food on the table was a higher priority than traveling. For others, saving for a down-payment on an engagement ring might be a pretty high priority.

However, there are quite a few people who have made certain things a priority without even realizing it. Do you know what your priorities are? Are you confident in your answer? Have you every sat down and actually consciously decided what you want to be focusing on financially?

My friend is the perfect example of this. He often states that he would love to go to Japan, but doesn’t have the money. At the same time, he has hundreds of dollars worth of video games sitting on his shelf. Without even realizing it, he has made the decision to prioritize video games over travel. Again, that’s okay. The problem is just that he doesn’t realize he has chosen to prioritize one over the other, which leads to statements like, “I can’t afford it.”

Turning Unconscious Choices into Conscious Decisions

Since I caught the travel bug, I find myself looking closer at my expenses and how I spend my time. I’ve made an effort to look at the bigger picture of my financials instead of just, “do I have enough money in the bank to buy this right now?”

I find that I am asking myself, “Do I want to spend the $150 at the hair salon to dye my hair, or do I want to spend $150 for a night or two in a hotel somewhere cool?” Sometimes the answer is yes, I want to dye my hair because I’ve wanted to do this for a while or I just need a pick-me-up. However, I’ve found that more often than not, the answer is no, it’s just not that important to me.

I also started looking at how I’m spending my time. Sure, it’s nice to to take a Paid Time Off (PTO) day just to relax, but looking back, I typically wish I would have just went to work that day and saved the PTO day as an extra day to use for travel.

You need to pinpoint what’s important to you and what makes you happy. Sometimes they’re the same and sometimes they’re different (because paying bills is important but definitely doesn’t make me happy). Then, you can start using this knowledge as the basis for your decisions.

Affording to Travel

Through the mentality of making conscious purchases, I’ve been able to save a significant amount of money for travel, money that I used to spend elsewhere. It works because travel is high on my priority list.

I also found that changing my mentality of “I can’t afford that” to “I chose to prioritize something else” has overall made my life feel a little less stressed because I am content with what I have instead of being upset by what I don’t.

My Challenge to You

My challenge to you:

  1. Sit down and figure out what is most important to you or what you are most happy doing.
  2. Eliminate phrases like “I can’t afford to…” or “I don’t have time to…” from everyday speech and replace them with phrases like “I chose to do this instead.”

Once you’re done, let me know what you decided and how it’s going for you in the comments below!

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19 thoughts on “Why You Can’t Afford to Travel (And What to Do About It)”

  1. This is so true!! We sometimes spend money on things that will make us happy in the moment instead of spending money on things that will create memories of a lifetime.

  2. The idea of being intentional (I choose not to, as opposed to I can’t) is SO POWERFUL. I can see why it’s changed so much in the way you save for and afford travel. It’s a wonderful reminder – thank you!

    1. No problem! I’m not crazy into the “think positive thoughts and life will be better” mentality, but I believe it in this case. I don’t feel as upset when I don’t have the money for something, because I know that whatever I spent the money on was well worth it. Suddenly, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on things anymore.

  3. It’s so true, writing it down over a period of time very quickly makes you realise how much money you fritter away on pointless purchases. Why buy things when you can experience things I say 😊

    1. Yes! I am all for detailed budgeting! I started simply being keeping a list of expenditures and then reviewing it at the end of the month. It made me realize how much I bought on impulse, and I had considered myself to be quite conservative with money! Sometimes the first step to affording something is seeing where our money is really going.

  4. I love to travel! Who doesn’t? Unfortunately its not for everyone. Its not for someone who needs to keep their dayjobs to support their family. I still manage to go on quick getaways and roam Asia on long holidays. But I still dream on long term travel to roam Africa and South America when I reach 80!

  5. You bring up very good points in your article – a broader perspective for sure – It’s excuses but in the end, it is really about making choices. Of course, as travelers, we do know the many benefits and massive growth opportunity, but it isn’t for everyone either. Nice job.

    1. You’re right. At the end of the day, travel isn’t for everyone, but I think that some people don’t make that conscious choice and instead make excuses. I think seeing it as a a choice instead of a financial situation can be eye opening to possibilities not considered before.

    1. I definitely agree! I try to do this between some of my bigger trips. I get the itch to travel way more often than I can actually afford to travel, so then I turn to my own backyard to see what new and interesting things I can uncover!

  6. You’re preaching to the choir. This is so true! Ultimately, the choice is all ours on how we spend our disposable income. So if we spend it on something other than travel, then we simply weren’t prioritizing travel.

    1. I definitely think it’s a mental attitude more people should take. Even if people choose to prioritize something other than travel, I still think it helps keep things in a more positive light. Even if I can’t afford a new, nice car or something, I’m not stressed or disappointed, but I’m happy knowing I prioritized the cash on something I enjoyed – travel!

  7. Yes, yes, yes, yes! It doesn’t cost THAT much to travel. I have friends back home that say, “Oh, it must be nice to have the money to travel.” But the truth is even though I’ve had some amazing opportunities, I work really hard at making travel my priority. I don’t have the newest iPhone or designer clothes or a new car, but I have a life full of experiences that mean more to me than anything else in the world!

    1. It’s probably not the nicest thing to do, but if I’m annoyed enough and people make the “Oh, it must be nice to have the money to travel” comment, I tend to point out the numbers – how much my recent trips cost me, and things that they have/own that would overall amount to the same amount of money. Usually about the time I point out that their fancy new car would have allowed me to go to the summer olympics four times over, they usually stop making that comment, haha.

  8. Amen to making travel a priority. It really can be just that simple. I remember there was a time when I just booked my flights, and then did everything possible to save as much money as possible, including working 3 jobs!

    1. Working 3 jobs! That must have been so tough! Yet, when we set our minds on something, it’s amazing what we can accomplish, and I’m sure your trip was every bit worth all the hard work you put in!

    1. Definitely! Whenever I’m making my budgets, I almost always immediately set aside money for travel before everything else. Then at the end of my budget, I see if there is any wiggle room to see if I can put more money away for travel and other savings. Sometimes we just have to get creative!

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