“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta was, and still is considered one of the world’s greatest travelers and scholars — and that was in the 1300s. Since then, exploring the world has become easier, yet many people only see a small percent of what the world has to offer in their lifetimes.
Insider Advice: A Millennial’s Guide to Guilt-Free Travel
Millennials seem to especially crave travel and adventure, yet studies show that we are more than twice as likely to feel guilty about taking a vacation as our baby boomer colleagues. This means that we, as a generation, are nowhere near becoming even half the storyteller Battuta was, even though we live in an age of comfort and connectivity.
Why? Reasons include a hesitance to spend money, a lack of funds, fear of losing out on career prospects, and trepidation at the idea of traveling alone. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. If something is holding you back from your itch to explore, consider these guilt-free travel tips from one globetrotting millennial to (potentially) another. Trust me when I say that wanderlust doesn’t have to be expensive, and — with a little planning — you will be well on your way to a perfectly Instagram-able adventure.
Budgets and Income
Having an inconsistent income and a low budget are some of the greatest barriers to travel. In the ideal situation, you will have saved up enough vacation days and money to take a long break in some foreign, enchanting land. With most companies offering maybe 2-3 weeks of paid leave in a year (out of which some is used up for emergencies and spontaneous trips), it’s hard to go on a fully immersive trip and come back knowing you’ve truly experienced and understood a new culture. It’s even harder to save up enough cash for this sort of expensive trip.
What if the assumption that you couldn’t have an income while traveling went away?
In today’s ultra-connected world, it’s easier than ever to work remotely, as long as you have access to a reliable internet connection. This means that you could essentially be sitting in another country, working through the day, while enjoying some time away from home after work-hours.
In fact, a study by Report Linker shows that more than one in ten employees in the US have already joined what’s now known as “the gig economy.”
In terms of millennials, 45% would choose workplace flexibility over pay. Due to this, and because telecommuting actually saves businesses a significant amount of money, an increasing number of businesses today have started allowing employees to work remotely.
Jobs that allow you to work remotely are great ways to satiate the travel bug while making sure you have a source of income through your travel. If this isn’t an option for you, then consider what is known as a “working holiday.”
Depending on where you are from, and the visa requirements of your destination, you might be able to apply for a working holiday visa. This will enable you to move to a country for a period of time, get a job, and work as a temporary resident. It might not be how you envisioned your travel, but a working holiday is a great way to “live like the locals do” — and what better way to authentically experience a culture than just that!
Flights and Transport
As a millennial at the start of her career, I know full well the struggle of finding ways to get to the places I want to visit. Flights are by no means cheap, and gas prices can cause a real dent in your budget. However, there are certain hacks that can cut your transportation costs by a considerable amount. Rather than paying for flights, consider using miles or points to earn flights. One way of doing this is by signing up for an airline loyalty program; these will reward you each time you fly with them or partner airlines.
Another way to earn points is via credit cards. In my case, my credit card gives me one point for every dollar I spend. By paying for my usual expenses like groceries and rent on my credit card, I’m actually earning points that I can redeem on flights. You might be skeptical of getting a credit card because of all the misconceptions that surround credit — but with a little budgeting (and the willpower to not overspend), you’ll realize that signing up for a credit card can actually lead to your money working for you.
When you get to your destination, consider renting a bicycle or using public transport as opposed to renting a car. If you need to use a cab, local taxis are often easier on the pocket (albeit not as convenient) than options like Uber and Lyft.
With the rise of platforms like AirBnB and Couchsurfing, finding accommodations is one of the smallest hurdles to overcome when traveling. No matter where you go, you’re bound to find a relatively inexpensive place to stay, as long as you’re okay with living in basic conditions.
AirBnB allows you to filter properties by price, and the options are usually much cheaper than their hotel counterparts. If you don’t mind sharing your space, you can save even more by choosing shared accommodations, or try living dorm-style in hostels — which is also a great way to meet fellow travelers, backpackers, and maybe make some lifelong friends. Staying with a host family (if you intend to take a long trip) is a wonderful option, and will give you insight and experiences that you would never get by living in a hotel.
One of the best ways to save on sightseeing and more touristy activities is by finding the best deal possible. Signing up on websites such as Groupon, or even more local websites like Trusted Tours, allows you to be continuously notified of any new and exciting deals. You’re probably vigorously shaking your head, wondering why I bother to sign up on these websites, flooding my inbox with the inevitable bucketloads of emails that come with these free subscriptions.
Ask yourself this: wouldn’t you rather save 50 percent on doing something you love than have an empty inbox? Besides, you can easily combat spam by creating a separate and special email address that you use solely for subscriptions and finding deals. That way, your primary or work email address won’t turn into a black hole of unwanted messages.
Another way to save and truly experience a culture is to engage in activities the locals do. Befriend some locals, ask them for recommendations about cheap places to eat (maybe even street food), non-touristy nightlife, and their favorite spots. Try to visit these places. You might be the only outsider, but you’ll get an insider’s perspective on life in a given place.
As you can see, it’s very possible to experience guilt-free travel in a budget-friendly manner without sacrificing the quality of your trip.
As a millennial, there’s no better time than now to travel extensively, and see what lies beyond your doorstep. The experiences and memories gained from visiting different places, meeting new people, and being immersed in new cultures are ones that no price tag can be put on. So if you’re yearning for something more, then get out there and see what the world has to offer.