Broke? Travel Anyway!

I often get emails, and messages from people – asking the same question – “how do you afford travel? Are you from a rich family? Do you have connections? Did you get some crazy compensation deal – and have decided to blow it all on roaming the world rather than making sound investments?!” 

Well, no. No to all of those. I wish it was something as easy as being in a car accident – and getting free money, but it isn’t. It’s kind of like The Wizard of Oz…it looks like a spectacular vision until you see the cogs turning behind the curtain. Yes, the actual facts of the matter are a lot less glossy – and  whilst this may be hard to take for some…I actually work. 

Take my first major trip on my own, for example. My year abroad studying in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


For two years before that I worked at an electrical store, moving televisions around, and trying to sell people outdated SCART cables they didn’t want…taking overtime whenever I could, whilst also taking shifts at my Aunt’s pub on the weekend…all the while squirreling away money whenever possible. With no disrespect intended, I wasn’t like the others that were accepted on to the study abroad programme (Newcastle UK – Atlanta USA) there would be no money from my Mother, or Father…I’m one of five children, I would feel rude even asking.

But I made it – and before I knew it I was in the midst of my own travel scrapbook! Carving out new memories for myself…whether it be visa worries at passport control, attempting to make the transition to the different pace of American life, or dancing insane jigs with Waka Flocka, I had flew from the ordinary day-to-day, and was living out these once impossible fantasies!

Sounds dreamy, dreamy – I’m sure? But the truth was my budgeted money soon ran out, and there were a couple of very hairy months – I recall that after weeks of eating next to nothing I sent my parents a whimpering email explaining the situation…and I received something along the lines of – “you’ll figure it out.” And I felt it was harsh, but the fact is…you will…if you want it that badly – you will. (And I’m still alive, so I guess I did!)

Study abroad programmes can be a great way to get away, and experience a different culture first hand – there are often great schemes, and incentives – with mine I was actually reimbursed for any costs throughout the year. Which meant I had thousands to play with at the end of it all – long story short, two weeks in Greece with some of my best friends from back home. 

My second major trip came just after I graduated university- although I was recruited before I had even been given my degree…and a month after I flew out to Beijing, China.


Again I had saved, and saved working some terrible job – this time around it was a sportswear store, selling people trainers, and trying not to touch their sweaty feet as I assisted them with trying on their shoes. Not ideal – but a means to an end. This was just so I had some initial spends, as the programme actually flew me out at no cost, and many of the site-seeing trips, and other interesting adventures were paid for, or massively subsidised.

Either way, there I was again – in a totally foreign, and unknown environment…forced out of my comfort zone…but that’s what it’s all about…I was experiencing all of the weirdness, that was so different to anything the 9 to 5 version of myself would be encountering…whether it be bizarre disputes over taxi fares, relaxed views to public pooping, or trying to sample local dishes without being sick (such as dog) – I knew these were memories that would last a lifetime.

And thanks to the cheap day-to-day living China affords, I was able to save a little for the NEXT trip…you see, that is important – always have the next trip in mind. 

My third major trip to Scandinavia came unexpectedly…but was well worth it…


My sister – someone who has worked all over the world with nothing more than a can-do attitude, and flexibility – found a two month long  job in the Arctic Circle at a remote lodge…it was placed right between Sweden, and Finland. Did I fancy it? Well…OF COURSE I DID! There was a catch though, we had to fly out (again at their expense, so no worries) the following day! You see, sometimes the opportunity comes abruptly, and if you ponder over it too much, it will go to someone else – you sometimes just have to grab it, and say YES! 

And I certainly did. Before I knew it I was crashing snowmobiles in Sweden, experiencing The Shining effect first hand in Finland, and after I finished my contract – experiencing the raw natural beauty of the Norwegian Fjords first hand.

The work was often not pretty; six day weeks, with long hours – and if my boss was ever pissed off he would make me scrub toilets for an ungodly amount of time…but still…huski racing? The Northern Lights? Spending a night in an igloo? You can’t tell me that wasn’t worth it. 

For my next major trip, I was off to South Korea! I scraped together the last of my meager savings – put up with the horrendous visa process…and then went on my way!


And I couldn’t have asked for more! Yet again I was flown out at my employer’s expense, provided with a cosy home to stay in for free, and continue to live very comfortably – whilst also having an amazing time, with some amazing kids, in a truly amazing country! And, using Korea as a base, I have been able to save very efficiently, which allows for a great many adventures; including a  Christmas trip to Vietnam,  an interesting excursion to North Korea’s border, a heat-stricken jaunt to Nepal…back home to England, and Scotland – then on to Italy, Hungary, and Austriathen…well, you get the picture – the world suddenly doesn’t seem as hugely inaccessible as it once did!


You see it’s not difficult, you just make it difficult. If you really want to travel, like really, really want to…then be willing to work, and be willing to take every opportunity. Rich, or not – you’ll get there – so stop just posting random sunset photographs, with “W A N D E R L U S T” etched over them, and start planning that next trip…and start filling up your passport, and with it your little book of memories. 


Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!

Published by Storytime with John

Writer/Humorist/Comms Dude

98 thoughts on “Broke? Travel Anyway!

      1. Happy to do so. Love anything travel orientated. Grew up in a household were travel, and cultural differences were celebrated. I have a Scottish father, and Eurasian mother. My father has been a “wanderer” all his life and is still going abroad (though not so far as he used to) as he is now in his eighties!


  1. That clears things up. Sometimes I’ve wondered if you were a well-to-do trust-funder. But nope, you’re just a young man with pluck, and itchy feet. I feel impressed with how well you’ve made it work for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a five night NYC trip planned for July. Im going by myself and I am pretty excited about it! I decided that if I wait til I have more money or more time or someone to go with, then Ill never go…so, I booked a hotel and I have six months to save up!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this post–I was wondering how you did it, too! 🙂 I’m sure the fact that you’ve worked for it has made you appreciate it all the more. I know two people personally who are world travelers. One has travelled on “Daddy’s money,” and the other has worked her way around the world like you. The dude who went on Daddy’s dime would return from his trips with very little details or photos to share. The friend who worked her way, always has a plethora of adventures to tell about. Good for you!! 🙂


  4. I would love to travel ! I planned on it right after I left school, but then there were family problems and life’s obstacles in the way. Reading this actually made me realise, that even after all of those reasons for not leaving home were over, I still seemed to make excuses not to do it, like most people do. I think confidence in yourself plays a huge part in doing something so amazing ! I wish I had you self belief, self discipline and funloving attitude !
    Sometimes we just need someone like yourself to remind us that anything is possible when you put your mind to it 🙂


    1. It’s true things can get in the way, and yeah – that’s life! You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone though, well you do if you want to travel I think – there is so much telling you just to stay! But the experiences are always worth it 🙂 I have found anyway. It gets easier with every trip!

      Any questions, or if you need any bits of advice – I’m always here! Wishing you luck on your future travels! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! I’m impressed John. You have certain been around the world and back a bit 🙂 I admire your courage. To take opportunity, grab it and run with confidence where it takes you. That pic of you on the Great Wall of China is magnificent. And as for the huski racing! And Vietnam. And Nepal! Fantastic and motivating


  6. This is so true! People keep asking me the same thing over and over. It’s hard work, but it is so worth it! You just have to set your mind to a certain goal and then do it. Thank you for this post. It inspired me even more to keep working hard, save money, and most importantly travel!


  7. I think how you manage your travels sounds great. You grab the chances wherever given, always your dreams in at hands in order to invest in them. It is wonderful! You know what you want and what you work for. Most people don’t. You are so young and you achieved so much by yourself. You can be so proud of yourself. This is something I am trying to teach my daughter, which is a hard job.


    1. I’m sure you’re an amazing mother Erika, you’re kind – and thoughtful after all, which is everything in this often scary world! 🙂 It’s true most people don’t, if you want it that bad – then you just go for it…despite worries (of which I always have MANY! haha!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! That’s why you are such a successful blogger 😉 And because ot the “amazing mother” you would need to ask my kids…. but please wait until they have their own … 😀


      1. I know that much. But when I try to search gigs like this I only get scam links and sites asking for paid memberships for such jobs. Perhaps an article explaining how to search such deals online, with some helpful links to useful sites and forums where people post the job ads would be really helpful.


  8. Totally agree. My best trip happened when I had the least money. Ultimately my attempts at budgeting while overseas led me unto very untraveled paths which ended up being the best part of my trip. Travel when you are young and don’t fear your own mortality (or responsibilities)!


  9. Sick post! That’s the way I started off my travels, but lately its been harder to leave the country, as obligations always seem to pile up and be inescapable. You’re dead right though, I’ve just gotta plan the next adventure (or ten) and finish saving 🙂


    1. I can’t remember if I replied to this Tessa? Did I…maybe…probably…hmmm…anyway, you’re right about obligations, and all that – life doesn’t just stop after all, while I was in China one of my old school friend’s died but obviously I couldn’t get back – no teleport machine, which is a shame. Whilst in Korea my Grandma passed away, which was a shame too – but if you let things like that anchor you to a place, then you’ll never get anywhere – as they are just part, and parcel of life itself. I rambled. Oops. Sorry 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my, I’m sorry on both counts! You hit the nail on the head there – what’s stopped me from traveling much is my dad’s poor health, I’m terrified to lose him while I’m away. I suppose your’e right though, if I always let this keep me I’ll never go anywhere. That’s a scary thought.


  10. Reblogged this on Nothing Was Said and commented:
    I’ve only traveled a little myself, but it has always been with the understanding that with enough determination I’d be back for more. Storytime With John has written excellently on how one goes about lighting the fire under themselves to just get up and go. I encourage anyone interested in thrifty travel to take a look!


  11. Good for you John. It’s taken me my terminal cancer diagnosis to get me out of my comfort zone of saving my money and out doing the stuff I have always wanted to do. Live it up while you can because life has an expiration date.


  12. Wow, what a well traveled man you are!
    I worked at an electrical store when I left school too.
    Not a brilliant job, but it did allow me to travel a short distance, only my chosen mode of transport (and accommodation) was a coach that I lived in for nine glorious months.
    Should you be interested, the exploits of a bus-load of hippies is documented on my blog.
    Hardly as impressive as your globetrotting adventures, but a time in my life I shall always remember with enormous affection and amusement.


    1. I’ll check it out – that does interest me, strangely, haha! 😀 It doesn’t have to be a huge grand gesture, often the best memories I have are just sitting around with friends, and just enjoying life – that’s what it is all about after all! 🙂


  13. I think it is wonderful how you have managed to achieve what you want, through hard work and determination. I respect the fact that you made it happen for yourself, and did not ask your parents to fund your trips. More young people need to have the same attitude as you do. 🙂


  14. I cannot believe we didn’t meet while you were in Atlanta! So glad you were able to figure it out and stay in the USA for your exchange program. Awesome post, John!


  15. Great post! You’re so right, you’ll always figure it out, every situation is a new experience. And traveling cheap is so much easier now with for example couchsurfing or just staying at very cheap hostels.
    Where will you go next?


    1. Oh yeah! I mean I have friends who swear by couchsurfing, and if you do your research I’ve never been disappointed by hostels! Next…who knows, I’m in Korea now – I am thinking about a short trip to Japan soon, we shall see! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. You’re totally awesome. When I was really young, I got to travel. Then, I always figured, well, I won’t be able to travel that much, so I’ll just LIVE in those places. At one point I just got on a plane to San Francisco. I had all of maybe a thousand dollars saved, if that, and a suitcase. I went back to D.C. to care for my grandfather after four years, then after living in Baltimore, did the same thing and moved to NY on very little, got a job. The only thing is, I didn’t think I would have children and I did. I love them to death and am so glad I did have them, but traveling is good beforehand. It is also more life changing when you are young.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a fascinating story, I suppose you never know what life will throw at you but you just have to roll with the punches! Living in a place also affords greater chances for experiencing the actual culture which is a positive! 🙂


  17. I would say you worked for your travel. You so brave. I always wanted to travel but now…the world is in such unrest. I feel more comfortable staying home. BUT…that’s why we have you!! *S* I get to meet the people and see the places from your eyes. So HA! I have traveled.


      1. I am getting old….only have two neurons. And who knows, my uncle one the lottery so it can happen to you. That is if you play every freaking single day and spend quite a lot of money on it, I guess then the chances will probably increment and you be a millionaire, leave on you own private island, with a gorgeous model…man I could keep dreaming on and on 😉 Hey, dreaming it is free .


      2. Oh…you see I have put it on, literally, a couple of times in my life! haha! I suppose putting it on more times increases the chances!

        Sounds like a nice dream, cling on to that man – they can’t tax it 😉


  18. Thats very encouraging John especially at a time when I have quit my ‘day job’ and want to add to the 40 countries that I travelled to so far 🙂 Re-blogging this post!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: