How Does She Do It?!?!
We all feel financial pressures of today’s world. I often get asked “how are you still traveling????” People are completely baffled by how I have managed get my Bachelor’s degree and travel the world for years without a wealthy family or going into debt. Due to the frequency of being asked the same thing, I’ve written this article to tell my story. [Check out my other blogs for budgeting and other travel tips.]
The Logistics of Saving Enough to Travel for so Long
All throughout my school years, I was diligent about getting good grades so one day I could get into a college and get scholarships. During high school I worked for a year at Sonic and skated to deliver food because I could earn extra tips with skates and it was a fun challenge. At 16, I was making $9-11/hour. In 2007 that was good money! I put all of it into savings and after a year I had about $8,000 saved in addition to years of birthday/Christmas/holiday savings.
During my senior, determination to avoid finishing college with huge debts propelled me into hours of research on scholarships and other possibilities to pay for school. Unfortunately, my parents made too much to qualify for any government grants or financial support but not enough to pay for much toward my schooling. So, I was on my own to find a solution.
In my time I maintained a high grade point average, joined clubs, volunteered, and tried to figure out how I could go to college without the ungodly fees. From research, I learned the score I needed on the ACT to qualify for scholarships and joined a class designed to improve ACT scores.
After a couple of attempts, I earned the magic score necessary to qualify for a decent university. I applied to the University of Arkansas Mountain Home, a junior college to get all the basic requirements for every bachelor’s degree. This would also ensure that if I changed my major or schools, I wouldn’t lose or have to take any more basic credits.
Next I had to find housing! Although the school was a bit boring with few activities and many older students, I still made friends and had my high school love. He and I rented a two bedroom house just outside the city of my university and carpooled each day for the first year. The second year we saw we were going different directions and life and decided to split up. At the time, my parents were also going through a divorce so my mom decided to move into the spare room. She also brought my little brother. She paid for the rent so I was able to save a little bit that year at the cost of added stress with living with family and sharing that tiny place with two others. But I escaped through my work as a university tutor and focused all my energy on my studies and continuing to save.
While most Americans spend the first years of university partying, I worked hard and spent the whole time either studying, in class or working. I graduated with honors from my ASUMH and applied for a transfer scholarship to the University of Central Arkansas. I met requirement for the Academic Transfer Scholarship at UCA which covers all tuition and fees for two more years. EXCELLENT!!! All I had to do was keep a 3.0 gpa (4 is highest).
Next step, housing. For the summer classes, I stayed in a dorm and found out quickly that this was not an option. My roommate would come home every night at 3 a.m. and I had to get up and start studing for daily tests at 5 a.m. I still remember the sound of her slathering on her lotion every night as I was desperately trying to sleep. She didn’t talk either so it was just awkward sharing this tiny room with her when we had such opposite schedules.
In my classes, I made some study friends, one of whom also needed housing for the fall semester. Rather than living in expensive dorms, we looked at the apartments near our side of campus. BINGO! Two bedroom, two story little apartment just off campus nearly half the price and triple the size of the dorms.
When we moved in, we both slightly obsessive about keeping the electric bill down. At one point we made jokes that we didn’t need light, we could make our sandwiches with flashlights. I did some research and found a wifi extension so I could have free wifi from the campus. It was close enough to reach with a booster. TWO YEARS OF FREE WIFI.
I also found many campus clubs that had free food. I was making friends, having fun, and enjoying a (free) nice mea. In addition, there was a campus club just by our house that had free printing so the first year I went there most of the time when I had big projects to print. It was close, free, and another way to socialize while still prioritizing my studies.
After college, I retained the same lifestyle I had during college except I was actually making good money through personal training clients and working as a physical therapist technician.
I lived very simply –still shopped discounts, went to free events, didn’t drink often, and shopped at thrift stores or walmart if I needed something. After a few years I had almost $30,000 saved and no debt even after a 3 month trip to Europe in 2014!
For two years, I did a working holiday in New Zealand but majority of the time was spent traveling and even to this day, I am still traveling. Even if you don’t have savings and you have debt, you can still travel! Check out my other blogs to see how.
The Fight for my Dream
I didn’t have it easy as a kid living with the constant financial pressure and arguments between my parents. This painful part of my childhood developed the internal fear of being poor and a drive to work hard and always pay attention to my financial investments. For a long time I had the dream of travel but was also constantly told “only rich trust-fund kids travel”. Now I have proof that this is far from the truth!
My childhood taught me that I had to be careful always with finances. Even from the time I was getting money from the Tooth-fairy, I found ways to make the most of my dollar. If you start paying attention to why your money is disappearing, you can be on the right path towards making smarter investments and traveling the world too if it’s your dream.