Why travel isn’t really that expensive at all: an Internet wanker’s guide

I’m 26 (I wrote this a year ago ok!) I own a house, I paid off my student loan, and I somehow have made it around 50 countries. I’ve not had any help from family – but please, put down the pitchforks while I try to explain how it’s way easier than you think…

I’ve read one too many housing success stories.

You know, those ones that start with “I’m only fresh out of my mother’s womb and I already have a property portfolio worth $17 million”. Or something like that.

And you know what? Power to them. One can only congratulate someone who’s barely old enough to drink, drive or vote and has already lumped themselves with a mortgage some people work their whole lifetimes to lump themselves with.

My problem is not with what these people are achieving (I think).  It’s not some bitter tall poppy syndrome. But I think we’re championing them for all the wrong reasons.

Most stories of this calibre will feature, somewhere near the bottom, a tiny bit of maybe-you-missed-it sub-text about how the still-in-school-uniform teen was gifted all, or most of, his or her home deposit from a parent or relative. Either that or he’s bought in Winton or Waipukurau or Westport. Now, don’t get me wrong – I love all of these places. But they don’t exactly share the same price tag as a bungalow in Westmere now do they.

And again, power to them. If my Mum said ‘Here’s $50,000, get yourself something nice’, I’d definitely consider buying a property – or 80 Michael Kors handbags.

(….sorry. Where was I? Perhaps I’ve gone a bit off topic. But I’m getting there I promise.)

This bizarre cycle is seemingly only perpetuated by the media (aka me, soz) aiding such stories into the public repertoire; it’s like a fire, the more air it gets, the more it can grow. It became a real thing for a while there.

And if these wealthy, suddenly-landord teenagers are parables of the morals society strives for, what then for us, the prodigal sons who choose anywhere-but-New-Zealand-for-now over reaping the ripe soils of home ownership. For so long we’ve been told you can only have one or the other.

But I wanted both. And it’s absolutely possible.

I’m fully giving myself over to every troll on the internet in penning this, but so be it. If I’d have known how broke-back poor travelling would not make me, I might have started earlier.

I’ve traveled to 49 countries now. I live in Dubai. I’m 27, I paid off my student loan two years ago, and I own a house. I gave my parents a deposit for their house.  I have no credit card debt. I’m sorry I sound like an Internet wanker. If it helps, I’ve had this article sitting on my computer for quite a while and never pushed publish. I was scared of the trolls. Now I think trolls are funny. 

My friends call me stingy – behind my back, and to my face. I’d agree, within reason.

The under $400,000 white picket fenced dream

I paid off my student loan two years ago now, and just celebrated my three year anniversary of buying my first house. I bought in Christchurch (because, cheap), and put down a 20 per cent cash deposit. 

I come from a very working class background, and for that I have always been conscious of money and how much I spend on little things. I might’ve complained about it all through high school when I watched friends get cars and cool holidays and fancy clothes – but I’m grateful for it now. I think.

I’ve tried not to deny myself anything, though. If my friends ask me out to dinner, I go. If someone suggests a movie, I’m all for it. If someone asks whether I’d like to quit my job and take off for six months on a whirlwind trip around South America, I agree (this happened once. It’s not a recurring theme). I’ve somehow got around 49 countries on my own dime. All that traveling left me with over a year of no income. Not that my income has ever really been a source of saving grace, unfortunately, in journalism you’re resigned to a future frequenting Pak ‘n Save over New World. 

Without giving too much away, I was earning in the realms of what would be considered by a New Zealander to be a deliberately-decreased-salary-offered-up-as-a-ballpark-in-social-circumstances. 

We smile, because if we didn’t we’d cry [about our enormous debt]

But my frugality is well-ingrained. When I was in high school, with my fast food job savings (cue burger flipping jabs here), I gave my parents the deposit for their first home. I bought myself my first car. I put myself through university. I waitressed, taught English and absolutely hustled to pay for my one year university exchange in Tokyo.

My parents were just never in the position to help me financially – aside from a generous $1000 kickstarter for the year I enrolled at uni in Christchurch. I came out of those four years with a student loan of just over $40,000 – aided by a journalism scholarship for my final year, but no other financial assistance. My parents earned a meagre amount over the threshold to allow me a student allowance (despite the fact that many others’ parents were earning three times as much, and were funnelling their riches through their business to allow their children not only financial stability, but barely a dime of debt come graduation time. I’M NOT BITTER OKAY). I met one guy whose parents trotted him off to the bank three days after he graduated to pay off his loan in one lump sum. Still not bitter (I say, through a snarl, and gritted teeth). But I do know many others hustled way harder than I did under more difficult circumstances.

I don’t hold it against my parents, and while people always like to say I’m better for it, I’d hazard a guess that had someone suggested that a few years ago when I was toiling away over a deep fryer instead of downing vodkas at a toga party, I would have been armed with a pretty solid counter argument. But, I digress.

Journalism: where the rich and famous are rubbed in your nose all day, but you have to keep shopping at Kmart.

Frugality has at times been a point of grievance with some of my friends. Some of the girls I grew up with were incredibly lucky, their parents were in the position to help them out with rent, or petrol money, or a new car. While of course I would never hold that against them, I never had that luxury, so I was careful.

Where I do absolutely succeed is finding the cheapest price on just about everything. Sure, poring over deal websites and screening Skyscanner at regular intervals eats away at any priceless scrap of social life I have left, but I get this sick satisfaction from knowing I got something way cheaper than it should be.

However, let me be clear, there’s seemingly no silver bullet. My mantra was simple: do what you want, but forgo luxury. I bought coffee once a week instead of every day. I packed myself a homemade salad for work most days. I got a flight for $800 one-way to London through a bit of research (it may have been up there with the worst flight of my life, but what’s an overweight seat neighbour laying her bare feet over me for eight hours when you save $440?).

Things got significantly more difficult when my partner moved thousands of kilometres away for work, and our relationship was held together by expensive flights, hotel rooms and dinners out.

Machu Picchu: Another wonderful destination I dont regret dropping a small fortune on

Then there’s this new-age obsession with traveling. While spending months in Thailand, Bolivia, and jumping between friend’s couches in the US aren’t going to drain a bank account, the amount of times I up and left my job for months at a time with no other source of income (and booked flights for the wrong date) didn’t really lend itself to remaining financially stable. I know how to travel on the sniff of a shoestring though, and by the end of my six months in Europe I had finally discovered the secrets of CouchSurfing and hitchhiking. I wouldn’t endorse the latter (because it’s ‘irresponsible’), though it was incredibly fun, but the former is an absolute must for the budget conscious, and friend-seeking tourist.

I truly understand the frustration and angst felt by my peers on how hard it is to get ahead these days, and how daunting getting on the property ladder can seem. But I also think that while it’s easy to write it off as impossible, there are ways to get there – it’s just not going to be as easy as it might have been for those before us. That’s why I tried to muster up as many non-condescending tips as I can.

1. Be conscious.

It sounds ridiculous, but just realise what you’re buying and how much it costs. In that same vein, though, don’t become obsessed. If you’ve just driven across town because petrol is 1 cent cheaper at that specific station, you have a problem.B

 2. Treat yo’self

Don’t deny yourself anything (within reason. You probably don’t need a $60,000 Hilux if you’re feeling the pinch already). If your friends ask you out to the movies, go. If you’re craving a good steak at Speights, go. If your favourite artist is in town for a concert, by golly go. But also, the one thing I would say is it’s okay to say no. Just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean you have to too. Don’t become a slave to FOMO.

3. Moderate eating out

Just because it’s easier (and all around nicer, actually) doesn’t mean you need to eat takeaways/ go out for dinner every night. Think about it this way: if you’re spending $50 three times a week on a meal out, compared to $20 for a home-cooked meal three times a week, you’re parting with an extra almost $5000 a year. While I’m all for a good ribeye at a nice restaurant every now and then, I draw the line at more than once or twice a week (aside from special occasions). But, again, it’s all in moderation.

It’s just not worth forgoing a $12 meal at a local cafe with your friends to pick up a limp supermarket panini and eat it in your car, before rejoining their table and staring longingly at their steak sandwich. Don’t be that guy.

4. Know where to find the deals

Flights: Skyscanner or Google Flights. Commodities you don’t mind being second-hand: Trademe. Never use 1Day or the likes – cheap Chinese goods that break before they’re opened. Hotels: booking.com or Trivago.

See, not exactly an insider’s guide.

BRB, just going to mute all social media channels to stave off the vitriol headed my way. Sorry in advance for having an opinion on the Internet.

P.s. I’m just a girl, sitting in front of a computer, asking it to not turn me into a  scornful talkback radio segment. 

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *