Hi, my name is Brooke, and I run a popular and long-standing travel blog known as Brooke vs. the World. Since late 2007, I have been traveling or living abroad, everywhere from Central America to Central Asia and now Australia. And guess what…
I’m not rich.
In fact, I’m still paying off my student loans while traipsing across the globe for several months of the year here in 2012!
While I know that it isn’t everyone’s dream to do what I do – I’ve foregone a lot of normal life luxuries in the process – I still thought it important to tell my story so that others can see the power of goals and putting what money you have (yes, even small amounts) towards achieving big things.
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It all started with $23,000.
In early 2006, I got the idea to travel on a big trip. Not a holiday; not a vacation. It was going to be a year or more out on the road, living on a budget, sleeping in hostels, and going cheap. I was, at the time, just 23 years old and had a job working full-time as a help desk agent at Caterpillar.
It was the best paying job I’d ever had, but at the moment I decided to go for this big goal, I wanted to do everything in my power to make it happen both faster and better. I wanted more money!
So, I did everything that Michelle does on this site, and maybe a little more (I probably became a little too obsessed). In addition to my full-time job and signing up for overtime whenever possible, I took up part-time jobs, recycled, downsized my apartment and lifestyle, went out less, and sold anything and everything I deemed unnecessary. There was a time that I would work at my day job from 7:30 am to 4 pm, and then head off to do some evening waitressing over at Denny’s from 5 to 10 pm.
I was motivated.
In my spare time, I did secret shopping, scored standardized tests online, and yes, I kept track of every penny (I dropped those off at the bank every few months and added it to my tally).
When it came to buying my travel gear, plane tickets, hostels, et cetera, I scrutinized over every decision until I knew I found the best value.
Before I knew it, about 1.5 years passed, and I had $23,000 in the bank along with a plane ticket to Spain where I spent a month doing an archaeological dig on the tiny island of Menorca.
Was it easy? Not all the time. But, in the end, I’m pretty sure that the 1.5 years I spent saving $23,000 for my travels taught me a thing or to, and ultimately changed my life.
What saving $23,000 for travel taught me:
It taught me that I could live on less, quite easily. Tiny indulges felt like luxuries, and I savored them.
It taught me that little things add up. By tallying up my savings, even the smallest of change over the course of 1.5 years, I saw how the little additions made a huge difference in the end – the difference between an extra month of travel or going home early.
It taught me the importance of focusing on small gains. Big goals – like $23,000 – can sometimes seem so unobtainable that people give up before they even get started. That, along with minor setbacks that are absolutely bound to happen, are a recipe for disaster. You MUST celebrate the small wins along the way.
It taught me about finances, budgeting, and value. I paid attention to prices, and I made decisions based on bang-for-buck thinking. I still do this today in order to maintain a life of overseas travel for several months of the year, and on a meager income, mind you.
It taught me how to travel for longer. I was extra careful with my spending since I knew I had worked so hard to save it. That ultimately meant I had more experiences abroad.
Most importantly: It taught me that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. Suddenly, things didn’t seem so unobtainable any more. I thought about when (or if) I’d put a down payment on a house. If that’s what I really want, then bam, I could whack that out in a matter of 1.5 years. Jump into a new line of work or start a small business? Not a problem. Just work your butt off and nothing will stop you!
Achieving big goals is definitely motivational.
And since then, I’ve gained the confidence to go after my dreams. I’ve traveled to crazy parts of the world, like Central Asia and Russia; learned Spanish in Guatemala; studied Russian in Kyrgyzstan; taught English in Ukraine and became an expat in Australia. I’ve based my entire working life around blogging and freelance travel writing (not an easy task in the least), and I’ve maintained a heavy level of focus on traveling overseas (and across Australia) every year.
I know that travel itself, that which my initial $23,000 afforded, has impacted my life in more ways than I can count, but I definitely look back to my crazy 1.5 years of saving and know that the realizations and lessons learned will also stay with me forever.
About the author: Brooke Schoenman is an independent, passionate blogger sharing her personal experiences and advice on emerging destinations and living abroad around the world. Catch stories from her travel life on Brooke vs. the World, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Michelle’s Comment: Thanks so much for reaching out and offering to post for me. I was truly amazed that you even had heard of my blog. I love reading yours and everyone knows that what you do is definitely a dream of mine one day.
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