Thursday, June 13, 2013

If there is a will there is a way

A friend recently asked me why I manage to travel, so I thought I'd put together a little recipe for other full-time students like myself who constantly dream of traveling but find a lack of finances to be in the way. There are endless possibilities in the world for you to achieve your dreams, and even though it will require hard work, persistence, passion, and a great deal of ambition, there are so many people out there to help you reach your goals. Trust me, I wouldn't be traveling to 7 different countries this summer without the support of others and their generosity. But now on to the recipe: How to cook up a traveling adventure on your summer break:
A ton of hard work. 
I'm a very career-oriented person, as many members of my generation are. We are the generation who heard our high school teachers tell us that once we graduate there will be no jobs out there for us, and then saw revolutions erupt across the world with disillusionment over a failing world economy. I was determined not to put myself in that position. I've been working every summer since I got out of high school, jobs I got through countless emails to all my parents' friends and family and scouring numerous job sites. Most of the jobs I got was thanks to connections - so reach out to EVERYONE. Maybe they live and work in a different country, and you can get work experience and traveling in simultaenously that way. 
4 years of federal work-study or campus part-time jobs
For my first two years at college I tutored elementary school students on Tuesday and Thursday nights and Saturdays. I started applying to jobs the moment I was admitted, using the campus career network and trying to personally ask around at university institutions. For my junior year, I wanted something else, so I looked at the campus network and found a part-time job at a university institution requiring me to work 10-15 hours a week. You don't need to waitress to get through college. If that isn't your thing (it wasn't mine) than there are plenty of children to be tutored or papers to be filed. Fortunately, my part-time job let me stay on after my Federal Work-study period ran out, agreeing to pay me out of their main account for May and June. They are hiring me next semester too, giving me job security I don't find off campus.
Outside career development
While I take 17 credits each semester and have a part-time job, I also take on a part-time internship. Yes, I'm crazy, and yes I never have time for lunch, but it works out. Usually I don't go for the large and well-known internships, that often require a more more difficult application process. I look for smaller firms and organizations, where I am given a lot of responsibility and sometimes even a stipend or honorarium. Since I'm usually the only intern there, I am working directly with my supervisors and benefit from their expertise. They also usually allow me to cover flexible hours, and sometimes let me work from home.


I managed to find an ad for a babysitter that fit my busy work schedule, and that led to more options for babysitting as my name was circulated among the mothers. Soon I found myself most Friday and Saturday nights being paid for watching TV for a few hours, while the baby slept. It gave me time to do some course readings and prevented me from spending valuable travel money on nights out with friends.


I try and put as much money as possible in my savings account. I also try cook at home and try to refrain from buying expensive gadgets or more clothes or fancy meals in order to afford trips that have a much greater chance of significantly changing and shaping my life.


Then I also apply to as many scholarships as I possibly can. To study abroad in Jordan I applied to five different scholarships, and I was rewarded one for $4,500 that required me to do a follow-up project. I'm currently writing up the project report for that. To go to Israel this summer I applied to four different scholarships, and I was awarded two of them, $1000 each. To go to Jordan this summer, I got accepted to a program to help me write a thesis that gives me a $500 research grant. There are lots of places to look for scholarships or funding, and they often require you to just post a couple of blog posts, write up a report when you return, send a personal letter to donors, or pledge to do something like a project or a thesis.


Flight deal sites
Another thing I do is subscribe to flight deal sites, and look for cheap deals, then cheap accommodation (couch surfing, airbnb), then cheap transportation. My parents taught me that. We would grab last-minute  flight tickets to unusual destinations like Cambodia and The Dominican Republic, and traveled around on local transportation or bikes rather than air conditioned buses. It requires some flexibility, but if you check these sites at the right time, you might get lucky.


Visit family and friends
This summer, I am going to places, like Sweden and Germany and Jordan, where I have relatives (or my boyfriend) and friends and I know they will feed me and accommodate me when I'm there.
Prolonged layovers

I got to see Istanbul in September AND December by having two 24-hr layovers, and I actually saw a lot! Iceland this summer will also just be a prolonged layover, but I'll have time to see the most famous natural sites and attend the Reykjavik Jazz Festival. Turkish Air and Iceland Air, as well as other national airlines, make deals like that to promote tourism in their country.

Finally, I follow a bunch of travel blogs that constantly inspire me. Here are a couple of good ones: (also check out her "Blogs I love")
And my favorite travel website has lots of tips:

Other options could also be volunteering abroad. I went to Ecuador for 5 weeks and had a life-changing experience, thanks to a relatively cheap local volunteer organization. I was completely immersed in the local culture since there weren't any other volunteers from any of my countries (Sweden, USA, Malta) and learned so much about what I am capable of as an individual.

There is also World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms (WWOOF), which I've always wanted to try but haven't had the chance to do. You basically offer to work on a farm, anywhere in the world, for a certain amount of time, in exchange for food and accommodation.
I hope this helps anyone who struggles with finding enough finances to fund their dreams! Anything is possible, you just have to approach it from different angles.

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