The last couple years of my life I traveled a lot for my previous employer. I started small and left Pennsylvania for Maryland (these states touch each other). I suddenly ended up in Washington state next, then Arizona, then Massachusetts (none of these states touch each other).
I let shit happen. I didn’t fight it with excuses like I used to. One of my closest friends and his fiance told me I’m adventurous. I don’t think of myself that way. I just want to see the world. Even if I start out seeing everything in the US, and eventually make my way on the international spectrum, I’m doing the thing I want to do. Write. Travel. And take some pictures. And all three things get better the more I practice.
Since I have been posting more frequently on here, and more of my canon work on instagram instead of the pictures I’ve taken with my phone, there’s been a small – but totally excited about it! – spike of people following and excited for me and it’s great. But also some private messages asking – how do you just go out there and do it? Especially since I’m still holding down a full time job. (Not always a financial perspective to the question, either.)
Here are some answers to that:
- I started out with close proximity stuff. Where I’m from in PA is quite in the middle of NYC and Philadelphia. I hop on a bus with a round trip ticket that costs ~$40 and spend the day in NYC. Also, local trails, museums, abandoned factories, etc.
- I reached out about going to new locations at work, and some offers came. I know that not everyone may have this option, but I did and put myself out there to be seen instead of hoping one day someone would read my mind. (And, on a financial note, if you’re moving for work, you can claim it in your taxes the next year if you do not receive a relocation package, but it also doesn’t hurt to ask your employer to provide some assistance.)
- I stopped going to the closest/more convenient movie theater. I would find one two hours away and while driving there, if I came across something (I usually did), I’d stop and explore. Be it old train stations, hiking trails, parks at a river I had never been to, I’d give it my attention. (The movie will be available through online streaming some day.)
- My extra income goes in a different direction now. I had a serious problem with credit cards at the age of 18 and I spent a lot of time slaving to pay them off. While still trying to buy stuff, and have all of these things, and then there’s more stuff. The stuff didn’t make me happy. The things that make me super happy that I have purchased: books, camera/camera lens/camera equipment/gopro, plane tickets. That’s it. AND THIS TOOK A LONG TIME, BUT: I slowly, slower than a sloth slowly, paid off the credit cards and stopped buying shit just because it was there. Moving as much as I did and realizing how irritating it was to move all of these things I don’t use/never use/had no reason to own, put a quick end to purchasing crap. And I got rid of a lot of stuff through donating, tossing appropriately, and giving things away to friends willy nilly. As I paid off my credit cards/student loans/insert financial responsibilities here, my income started to sit there. And I would pay for experiences. For the last couple of years, I shell out the ~$80 for the annual National Parks Pass. There are National Parks in all 50 states, but some wildlife refuges, lighthouses, preserved beaches, etc. etc. will honor the National Park Pass, and you won’t have to worry as much about entrance fees. Arizona example: The Grand Canyon is $30 per car to enter. (Differs for RV’s and other larger/camping vehicles.) Montezuma’s Castle was $20 per car (more than halfway there on the annual fee….). Casa Grande was a similar type of entry, and with the exception of the Grand Canyon being a hell of a drive away, a lot of the places I went to were 20 minutes to an hour and change of driving away from my apartment. I take the pass with me everywhere.
- The more you travel around and become more comfortable with it (whether as a group, couple, or individual), you meet more people and make more friends, and friends want to help you keep going. I have friends, from work, from traveling, from school, who are so elated to see that I’m doing the best I can to do the thing that I love, they are always an available option to crash on their couch/in a spare room (for free). While I’m certain my friends aren’t going to offer to pay for my plane tickets, it takes the pressure off a bit of plane ticket money plus lodging money.
- I cleaned up who I follow on social media. I got rid of a lot of people I don’t look up to, and I started heavily following people who inspire the shit out of me. Solo full time travelers, international charities having events coming up and they’re looking for volunteers to help, etc. The solo travelers I follow have blogs and document where they’re going, but they also share their tips to keep it cheap. I’m currently in Reno, NV, and I packed clothes I needed and know I’ll wear into a tiny carry-on, have my backpack of camera stuff, and I’m feeling proud not having to pay to check my bag. (This, too, took more than just a bit of practice.)
- I have met solo full time travelers who aren’t on social media, who don’t have blogs/websites, but still make a go of it. I ask them how they do it, too. This is a more vagabonding lifestyle. Instead of being paid to write travel articles, paid for pictures, etc. They’ll live in a certain place for a year and pick up a job teaching English, or help seasonally on farms, etc. They use their money to travel somewhere else again, budget it out for X amount of time, rinse and repeat.
Everyone will end up doing something different. But the starting ground for everyone is a little wobbly until you get going. This transition I’m in to get to that point is still not 100% off the ground yet. I don’t get paid for my time on my personal site talking about this stuff (yet). I don’t get paid for my time/my pictures (yet). What’s important is that I’m trying, and I feel great trying, because I’m out there doing and experiencing and meeting new people. And there’s the chance I won’t ever make a financial living out of this the way I’d like to; this is something I have already accepted. What I am no longer willing to accept, and haven’t for a while, is hiding behind excuses or ‘valid reasons’ why I really just shouldn’t go.
If anyone reading this is married/has children – much bigger family commitments than I do with my two adorable cats – I’ve met traveling families. They’ve had similar starts of it being a bumpy ride, but eventually fell into work that was “from home” that enabled them to travel. It requires a little more connectivity to the internet, but there are plenty of schools that offer online education from K – 12. And their education can be a little more tailored to children’s interests, too. It’s not for everyone, sure. But sometimes knowing that there are options to give a try has you click out of this post and search through some possibilities.
I hope it was helpful to read this. Feel free to comment with your own experiences/tips. I’d love to hear them.
Picture taken with Canon at Lake Tahoe.