How to travel when you are young (and broke)

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Let's face it: the world is big.
If your dream is to travel the world, it almost seems like you have to start young to have a chance of completing all the places you want to see at a comfortable pace. When you are 18, with a hunger for adventure, starry-eyed and with endless amount of energy... this is the best time to pick up your bags and explore the world. Maybe on your own. Maybe with your friends. I know the excuse "But I have no money. Travelling is expensive" way too well, I've said it and let it hold me back too many times. If you want to travel when you are young and broke, the first thing you need to tell yourself right now is: Travel can be cheap if you want it to be




It's the way you travel... use youth to your advantage.

In a journey, there are many choices to be made. From the offset, there are three main things that will determine the size of the budget you need - destination(s), plane tickets, accommodation.

Destination(s) - one of the most obvious things you will realize quick is that the further you are from your starting point, the more expensive it is. So distance is one factor. Another factor is the strength of the currency and the standard of living in that country which would determine how much you are going to spend for accommodation and food. My favourite travel destinations revolve around Asia for a precise reason that it is much cheaper to travel to, and spend in. A place that I would recommend is Ho Chi Minh city (more of the surrounding towns than the city itself) because daily spending will not exceed 25SGD for food and accommodation, and it does not mean living poorly, you get a decent place to stay and awesome local food to try out. The advantage of being young is that you are likely to be able to rough it out and still feel fresh as a daisy the next day (um, relatively), which means less developed destinations could still be a breeze to you.

Plane tickets - one of the travel resources I fall back on checking prices is Skyscanner, and you can always request for an email update in case prices fall within your budget. Alternatively, you can take note of the non-peak travel period for different countries and it would be cheaper during then. If you are waiting for uni to start, you have the advantage of travelling during non-holiday season.. it will be cheaper then for tickets across the board.

Accommodation - you can choose to stay in hotels that will set you back for SGD60 per pax a night, or go for the no-frills options of hostels that are approx. SGD15 per pax a night. Sure you have to share shower rooms and maybe endure a bit of snoring from other people, but you will be able to stretch your dollar for a lot more miles. I am not a fan of Airbnb when you have to be on budget, because most Airbnb places that are cheaper tend to be dodgy and far from the city centre (um, less safe). You will be better off in a hostel where there are more people and you get to save more, overall. Again, younger people suffer less from the ill-effects of bad sleep.

And then on the smaller things: you can save more if you do more research before jetting off. A quick checklist of things to know like how the transport system works, the local prices of things, knowing where tourist traps are, where the local food is - will go a long way in making your journey a smooth and budget-friendly one.



If you can't save... earn more.

The reality is that you can engage in free or super cheap activities which are aplenty in most places, but you are unlikely to stick to only those if you were to truly follow your heart. True story, yes?

As a fellow millennial who lives and breathes beautiful experiences that tend to come with a certain price tag, all I can say is... you can save on the big-ticket travel items, but if your weakness is having a good time going to night markets to shop, road trips, cafe-hopping expeditions, pub crawls, hikes... all these expenses ultimately add up. So if you can't save, earn more.

Part time jobs are definitely a good way for you to earn while you're still schooling, with a variety of options out there that are easy and do not require much technical skills. Most part time jobs for students pay around SGD5-10/hour depending on the type of work that you do. I would definitely encourage you to go for administrative jobs especially those requiring Photoshop or Excel skills that you can pick up quickly. These are also more rewarding in the long-run and pay decently.

Idealistic travel advice can be dangerous.

The sort of travel advice that tell you - you can make things work along the way, you actually don't need so much to really travel - can be dangerous. Here's why: these people mostly have the luxury of a decent bank account they can fall back on if anything goes awry.

When you travel, things are okay until it isn't okay. There are horror stories like missing a flight and having to pay for another plane ticket to get back, getting robbed, lost luggage, emergency hospitalization and all kinds of unforeseen circumstances. Sometimes you could be trapped in a situation where you do not have wifi to whatsapp someone to save you, nor do you have international credit to call home. There are certain things I always have on hand - an international bank card that I can tap into in case I need to deal with these things. A good buffer amount that I would say you should at least have is at least SGD2k. As an 18-year old, this amount, on top of your travelling budget, can be saved within 3-6 months of part-time work.

This is it from me - how to travel when you are young and broke. 

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I share interesting episodes in life revolving around food, lifestyle, travel and inspirational ideas. If you would like to stay in touch, follow me on my Instagram on @amie.hu and Facebook page!

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