How I Turned My Travel Goals Into A Win For My Finances

Today, I have a great article to share from a reader, Anna Barker. She will be talking about how she has visited over 55 countries and has actually used this as a way to improve her finances, including paying off $60,000 in debt. Enjoy! Hi, I’m Anna! I’ve had the chance to live in and…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 2, 2023

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Today, I have a great article to share from a reader, Anna Barker. She will be talking about how she has visited over 55 countries and has actually used this as a way to improve her finances, including paying off $60,000 in debt. Enjoy!

Hi, I’m Anna! I’ve had the chance to live in and travel throughout a bunch of places in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, while paying off all my debt and starting to invest (not to mention working on my personal finance site, LogicalDollar, on the side). Based on this, I’m convinced that you can actually see the world AND have it help your finances, with this article explaining exactly how I think you can do this too!How I Turned My Travel Goals Into A Win For My Finances

Do your financial goals include actually being able to go on that vacation you’ve always wanted to take – but just haven’t quite been able to afford yet?

Or have you told yourself that you’ll finally start ticking things off your bucket list when you eventually retire?

You absolutely wouldn’t be alone in either case. In fact, I can definitely relate to having the realization that all those places you’ve been dreaming of seeing take so much money to get to – not to mention the time needed to get there!

Let’s not even talk about finances for a moment.

For anyone working somewhere where you have a limited number of vacation days – assuming you have any at all – you could easily eat up your entire year’s worth just with one quick trip.

Money and time are two major reasons why a lot of people dream of seeing the world, but often don’t intend to do so until they retire. And while a financially secure retirement is certainly something to plan for, we all know that life can get in the way between now and then.

But what if I told you that there was a way that you could actually travel the world now…and that you could help your finances out by doing so?

Here’s how I’ve done exactly that.


How to travel and help your finances (at the same time)

For me, I’ve spent the last 10 years living and working in various cities throughout Europe and the Middle East. Moving to different countries – and different companies each time – has opened up a ton of new experiences, both on a professional and personal level. 

For instance, because of how quick and easy it is to get to new places from each country, I’ve managed to visit 55 countries and counting! (Well, until world events slowed down that plan…).

But it’s also given me the chance to broaden my career much more than I would have otherwise – including that I actually earn more than I would have at home. Safe to say, this has been great for my finances as it’s meant that I was able to pay off my student loans and start to invest far earlier than I could have otherwise.

(And given that starting to invest early is one of the best ways to earn as much compound interest through investments as possible, I’m pretty happy with the impact this has already had on securing my financial future!)

There’s also the added bonus that living so close to so many new places has made for much cheaper travel opportunities. Because of both the cost and the hours and hours of time needed to get anywhere, it really wouldn’t have been possible for me to see so many places while still working in my home city.

But being nearer to so many amazing corners of the globe has given me the chance to see places that I’d only ever dreamed of visiting, simply due to being within a couple of hours of them. And one of the main reasons for this, besides the fact that it’s much faster to get to them, is that it’s been a great way to save money on travel.

Of course, I’ve heard the arguments against this. And one of the main ones is basically scoffing “Sure, I’ll just jump on a plane with all my stuff. Easier said than done.” But although there are definitely things to consider, it’s not really as difficult as it first sounds. In fact, having done it myself a few times now, I’d say that while there will be some hurdles, you could very likely do the same.

And just think: want to go on a weekend beach escape to Sri Lanka or take an extra day off for the Maldives? How about hopping on a train on a Friday afternoon and, a few hours later, stepping on to a platform in Amsterdam or Paris?

I can tell you that these are all more than possible when you live in their general area. Trust me, I’ve tried them out.

And, safe to say, it’s certainly much easier (and cheaper!) to do this than getting on a plane and spending an eternity getting there from somewhere like New York or Sydney.

All this means that being willing to jump way out of my comfort zone and spend time living in these different countries has been great for my finances – and great for scratching my travel itch. 

And it’s something that I seriously recommend that others try too.


Any downsides?

Of course, it’s not always an amazing experience.

I’ve definitely had my fair share of frustration when you find yourself wandering around a foreign supermarket for what feels like hours, trying to find something that you know you could just grab straight away if you were at home.

And missing out on major events, like a close friend’s wedding or the birth of a new family member, can be seriously tough.

Nothing in life is without its challenges, of course, and I definitely took the time to weigh these up before jumping into this lifestyle. It’s also fair to want to reassess it every now and then.

For example, I’ve had friends who’ve lived in one country or even two for a few years, gotten the financial and travel boost that this offers and have then decided that’s enough – and that’s perfectly ok.

But those same challenges are also what can make doing this incredibly interesting – especially when you emerge from the other side with some seriously great stories of how you survived your first supermarket experience!


So this helps your finances by saving money?

Yes – but not only.

You see, we often hear about digital nomads moving overseas to live this kind of life. When photos appear on Instagram of someone with their laptop at a beach, it seems like the kind of idyllic life that’s pretty out of reach for most of us.

Well, apart from the fact that getting sand in your keyboard can make working on a beach not always as great as it sounds, that absolutely isn’t your only option to have these kinds of experiences.

Instead, there’s a very good chance that your current job is doable overseas. After all, if it’s needed in your country, why wouldn’t it be needed in another country too? 

Plus, there’s even a good chance that you could earn more abroad than you do at the moment.

And that’s exactly how I’ve done this. Specifically, I’ve managed to combine these moves with a number of really positive steps for my work. In fact, it actually means that I’ve made more money in my career than I would have if I’d stayed on a similar professional path at home.

This has meant I’ve been able to completely pay off my student loans and save for retirement…while not having to wait until retirement to start traveling.

And what I’m hoping to show others is that you don’t need to choose between your financial objectives and your overseas adventures. In fact, you can easily do both.


How you can do the same

Unfortunately, this isn’t quite a case of being able to pack your bags and book the next flight out. Some research will be needed first.

So here are a few things I’d suggest you keep in mind.


Check where your job can be done

When you talk about spending time abroad, most people automatically think of options like working as an au pair in France, pulling pints in the UK or teaching English in Japan. And while those are great things to do, you don’t have to limit yourself to them.

As mentioned, regardless of what work you do at home, someone else is likely doing the same thing in almost every country on the planet. It also implies that, at least theoretically, you might be able to do that job in another country as well.

Of course, this is over-simplifying things a bit. Some places may not recognize your education credentials, and there’s also the issue of language. This is why it’s a good idea to conduct some research first to see where you can actually work, since this may help you narrow down your list of prospective countries.

In my case, as a lawyer, my legal qualifications didn’t allow me to, say, represent clients in court in most countries without doing some sort of transfer exam.

But working for certain employers that tend to have offices in other countries has actually been far more doable for me, given that they don’t always need you to be qualified in the local jurisdiction.

Once I found that out, I realized that I actually had more options overseas than I first thought, allowing me to widen my net.


Check to see where you’re allowed to go

Welcome to the not-so-great world of visas (unless you’re lucky enough to have a second passport for your intended destination).

Put another way, it’s nice to wish you could live in a certain country, but you’ll need to confirm if they’ll let you in – and let you work.

It doesn’t have to be as difficult as it may first seem though. For example, if you’re working in some sort of field where you can make money online, various countries offer visas targeted primarily at digital nomads but that are basically for anyone who can work remotely.

Alternatively, in places like Australia, there’s actually a list of jobs that allow foreign workers to obtain a work visa more readily. There are a ton of options on this list, ranging from accountants to hairstylists to more niche ones like air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics. This means that there’s a decent probability that a job in your field is waiting for you on that list too.

Similarly, countries in the Gulf, such as the UAE, have a huge need for professionals from a wide range of fields, including doctors, engineers, and teachers.

If you’ve wanted to live in Dubai and other locations like it, this might be perfect for you. The main advantage of this is that the majority of those working in these professions are internationals.

This makes it very probable that your qualifications will be readily accepted here as well as that English is commonly spoken.

And while you should plan for a high cost of living (and unbelievably hot temperatures in the summer), salaries are tax-free, and most people say that they make considerably more there than they do back home.

So do your research and see what options are out there for you based on your nationality, your professional background and your other skills.

You could also do what I did and start by checking out job postings in countries you’re interested in moving to. They usually make it pretty clear whether they’re willing to hire people who don’t already have the right to work in the relevant country on the basis that it’s the employer who’ll handle the visa arrangements. That’s how it’s worked out for me a few times, which is much easier and less stressful than organizing a visa yourself, so if that’s also an option for you, grab it with both hands.


Double check your finances

Traveling is great but so is responsible money management. And while doing both is definitely possible, it’s important to keep an eye on your finances before diving into the overseas deep end.

In particular, it’s crucial to be realistic about the expenses involved in moving overseas to make sure it’s a good financial decision.

This isn’t just referring to the initial moving expenses. For instance, if your new employer doesn’t offer health insurance, that’s a cost to consider (given that purchasing this is often a requirement for you to keep your visa).

You may also want to factor in the occasional flight home and any variations in the cost of living in your new city versus where you’re coming from.

It’s also a good idea to create a budget, which should include a line on how much you’re willing to spend on travel expenses. While seeing as much as possible of your new home and its surroundings is an amazing experience (and I’m definitely a fan of prioritizing that as much as your finances allow!), it might quickly get out of hand if you think of everything as a treat.

Instead, tell yourself that you’ll be abroad for a while, not just a week or so like if it was a vacation. This means that it’s actually better to spread out your fun-related costs over time rather than spending everything now and wondering why you have no savings at the end of the month.

And, of course, just because you’re overseas doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be sticking to your budget. For example, when I lived in the UAE, I had to battle against the fact that it’s a country where overwhelming luxury seems to be around every corner. Having a fixed goal in mind definitely helped – in my case, that was saving and investing a certain percentage of my income each month – as it allowed me to keep my eye on that, even if I was tempted to splash out.

So much like when you’re at home, while following a budget can be tough, sticking to your limits is key for making sure your finances come out better on the other side.


Final thoughts

It’s completely natural to be a little nervous about moving far from everything you’re used to and everyone you know – but it’s also part of what makes it so fun!

And when you see that looking further afield than your own country has the benefit of boosting your financial position as well as your travel opportunities, you can probably see just why you should give this serious consideration.

After all, do you really want to wait until retirement to start ticking items off your bucket list? Instead of putting it off any longer, why not start those adventures today!

To be clear, it’s crucial to do your homework and consider your own personal circumstances, much like anything else in life.

But if you’ve ever found yourself talking about what you’ll do “one day” – that mythical day when you have the time and money to pursue any route of your choosing – this might be the answer to making that one day be right now.

Bio: Anna is the founder of personal finance site, LogicalDollar, where she shares the advice that helped her convert $60,000 in debt into a thriving investment portfolio. She’s also a lawyer who’s been able to work around the world, using this to both scratch her travel itch and to get her finances under control – and is now keen to show others how to do the same.

Are you interested in traveling more? Why or why not?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Traveling can pan out to be a lucrative side hustle that yields virtually unlimited passive income.

  2. Nice one, Anna.

    You’ve got an amazing experience traveling round the world.

    Being to 55 countries must have taught you about many cultures and traditions.

    That’s amazing.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    – Chidiebube

  3. I love reading these inspiring stories that you share – amazing! Being to 55 countries is incredible. Working and visiting countries simultaneously is an incredible way to finance travel while also making enough money to work on your future – that’s incredible. Thanks for sharing your story!