The Finance of Travel: Talking about Money

Money. We think about it every waking minute (and most sleeping minutes too), yet we hate talking about it. We know what we would do if we had buckets of it, but most of us have little more than a trickle. And the process of managing this trickle of money to fulfill our truckload of dreams is the biggest challenge of life, the only challenge, one might say.

Travel is an expensive hobby: the most expensive, I’d say. Money is the most important aspect of any travel planning. Before I plan my travel, I don’t think about what I want to do or where I want to go, but what budget I have to work with. Only when the financial part is settled that I begin to think about the rest- itineraries, tickets, hotels and the rest.

Despite the importance money plays in traveling, it is surprising that very few travel blogs actually talk about the financial aspect of things. Some of my favorite travel bloggers (both Indian and international) are full-time travelers, and I’m curious about how they make ends meet. Sure, I know that most of their trips are sponsored, and they earn from freelance work, but how exactly does it all work out?

I have a number of goals in life, of which travel is certainly important, but it’s not the most important. Priority number one is being financially secure and stable, without ever needing my parents to sponsor anything. In India, it is common to look upon parents as a support system, a fallback mechanism, and I know some people who live the good life, knowing that they can rely on their inheritance (property, money etc) to help them sail through tough times. That is not the case for me.

I do wish to travel the world, but not at the cost of my financial stability. I don’t want to sell all my possessions and max out my cards to pay for my trips. I don’t want to see minimum balance in my account after a Switzerland trip. Neither do I want to live like a hermit, cutting out all entertainment and social interaction so that I can save for trips. I want to buy a house someday, I want to have good money in the bank, I want to go out with my friends once in a while and I want to travel as much as I want to. Is that possible?

I believe it is. I believe it will require some juggling, not just of time and resources but also of aspirations, but it can certainly be done. That is why I have started this series, to look at the financial aspects of travel. Here, I will give you my thoughts on how to travel safely on a shoestring budget and how I, as an Indian woman in my mid-twenties without any travel sponsors, manage it. And, since finance is meaningless without numbers, I’ll share with you breakdowns of my expenses, both for you to see and for me to keep track of my travel spending.

I don’t claim to be a guru at this; I’m just starting out, both in serious travel and in financial planning, and I may be more wrong than right. Hence, I would require your help and your expertise in helping me figure out the finer aspects. I would love it if you could share your stories with me, suggest discussion topics, give your opinion and help me look at things differently. I would like this series to be a good resource for all travelers, and I cannot do this without your input.

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