If we would have got a penny for every time someone asked us how we can afford our trips, we’d probably be able to travel twice as much. Are we millionaires? Do we have wealthy parents? Or are we running some kind of illegal, secret business which covers the expenses? You name it and we have probably heard it, all crazy non-rational explanations on how we can pay our lifestyle. Today, we’re going to open up to you and share our secrets.
No, we don’t have some kind of magic potion to grow money on trees. Our secret is hard work, determination and planning. You are probably thinking ‘I have worked hard all my life, this is bullshit.’ Then ask yourself whether you have ever put up a strategic plan where you have taken every small detail into account, stuck to it no matter what obstacles you have to go through, and kept working hard to realise it knowing it’s not going to be fun at all? You don’t have to answer it. We’re just here to share our story with you on how we exactly did all of the above, to reach certain milestones we can happily look back to.
In August 2012, after months of discussions and contemplating about what we want to do in our younger years, we finally decided that we wanted to get married in two years and start our honeymoon with an open-end ticket. Now, in August 2016, this plan brought us a beautiful wedding, one year of travelling from Europe all the way to the eastern corners of Asia and we still had enough budget to start a new life in one of the most expensive countries on earth, Australia. How much did this cost us exactly?
€40.000,00 That’s the number you wanted to hear. Of this amount, about €10k we put aside for our wedding. This, together with the very generous contribution from our parents and wedding gifts from family and friends, was enough to cover the wedding expenses. Meaning we had €30k left for our travels. How did we save up this amount as two broke-ass students, who had about €0,00 on our savings when we made this ridiculous plan?
We started with a very strict rule for the both of us. Each of us had to save up about €750,- a month, no matter what, from September 2012 onwards. This way we could save up: 24 months * €750 * 2 awesome people = €36.000,-, We tried saving up the remaining €4000 extra in the course of two years whenever we had the chance (higher payroll, tax refund, birthdays, etc.). Now the real question comes, how did we manage to save up all of this?
First, you start by minimising your expenses to almost none. I decided to leave my student apartment and moved back to my parents’ house. Mursal was already living at her parents’ house. This way we could prevent having housing costs. This wasn’t easy at all. Because I was still studying in Amsterdam, I had to travel every day for about 4 hours door-to-door for two years on.
Next, we both cut back on any luxurious lifestyles. No more city trips, no more eating outside, no new phone, no new clothes, said goodbye to social activities, no more popcorn or drinks when going to the movies (this was probably the hardest of all since I love popcorn during movies). You have to save every penny you can. If we did do something fun, we only did it via some kind of coupon or whatever or it was budgeted long ahead. You’re walking in the city and you are thirsty or hungry? Man up, and spend your last bucks on the gift you have to buy for someone’s birthday the next day and eat at home. Oh, it’s your own birthday? Shamelessly ask for money. Without any further explanation, you might understand that this was a very, very frustrating process. But again, we had big plans and no pain, no gain right?
Next up was actually getting the money together. We mainly earned our money by working in the after hours with our side-jobs, since we were both full-time students. Mursal worked in an aged care home as a recreation assistant and I worked in retail stores as a sales rep. When I had to do a 6-months internship for my study, I immediately went after the one with the highest reimbursement. The extra euros we needed, we got through a student-loan. When I tell others about this amount of debt we have, they almost get a heart attack. But I was always very bluntly thinking in the following way about having a study loan: When I am old and grey, I will probably buy a car that is more expensive as the total amount of student debt I will generate by living my precious younger years to the fullest. With that loan, we financed part of our world trip, nobody is gonna take that away from us. So at the end, it will be damn worth it!
Next to all of this, we also had to buy lots of expensive gear. The most expensive were probably the Macbook laptops, Canon DSLR camera with lenses and the backpacks. These expenses weren’t even in the initial 40k budget. We had to get creative for this, meaning sell every damn thing we had, which we wouldn’t be needing during our trip. I had people coming over almost every week, selling the strangest and sometimes cheapest stuff. Every penny is a penny, so better damn sell it. At one point my mom got all depressed, thinking we were selling everything because we might never come back (which I made sure wasn’t the case). I just thought very simple; I am selling these worthless materials to buy awesome experiences.
Oh, and of course, there was also the wedding. Let’s just say that we brought a “Do-It-Yourself- Wedding” to a whole new level, meaning lots of stress and weight on our shoulders. We had to be creative again in every way possible to get as much with as little amount of resources. One moment I was ordering so much stuff online from overseas, the mailman knew my name and was screaming through the streets asking me not to leave the house before I would get my next badge of shipments. I am almost sure my neighbours got all kinds of suspicious ideas about me being a possible extremist plotting something evil. Anyway, we eventually got the wedding we wanted to have and were able not to touch the budgeted €30K for our trip.
Long story short, this wasn’t easy at all. First, it took lots of determination and creativity to get to the point we wanted to be. We endured lots of lesser periods where we had to say no for the zillionth time and miss out on good times with friends because it was just too expensive. My mom was complaining all the time that I looked like a vagabond (I’m so happy I could frame it like some kind of hipster look, while I was just really a guy out of money). Second, it brings lots of stress too; I remember three days before our wedding I heard I had failed for a class and had one day to redo an assignment otherwise I wouldn’t be able to graduate on time. At the same time, we had to make all kinds of appointments (visa, vaccinations, health insurance, etc.) to prepare for our trip. Eventually, after all the blood, sweat and tears we endured; on 5 September 2014, we were ready. Our backpacks were packed, €30k was shining on our bank accounts and we had booked our first flight. It was finally time to start our adventure. But don’t think it gets easier from then on. Our next challenge was to travel as long as possible with whatever we had. Some friends of mine spent €6000 as a couple travelling for 3 weeks. We travelled for 10 months, came back to Holland for 3 months and travelled back to Australia to start a new life. All with €30k for the both of us. How? I’ll tell you the secrets in our next blog 🙂