The pink backpack Toronto tourism - CN tower



How to Afford Travel: the 7 Craziest things I’ve Done!

Ahhh, how to afford travel…an age old question. There is no doubting it, traveling is a freaking expensive addiction hobby. You’re probably wondering how the h*ll does a broke PhD student like me travel so much?!

How to afford travel is one of the most frequent questions I get! To be honest there, I don’t believe there is a magic answer or secret recipe on how to afford travel…However, with a little frugality and dedication to making travel a priority, I am living proof that it is possible! I’ve travelled to 25 countries alone just in the last 4 years while doing my PhD.

So I thought I would poke fun at myself and share 7 of the craziest (and embarrassing) things I have done to afford to travel.

How to Afford Travel: the 7 Craziest things I’ve Done!

1. I became a human guinea pig 

How convenient that I spend a lot of time on a university campus, where paid opportunities to participate in research studies are plentiful!

I’m that person who actually tears off the little contact bit from the bottom of a flyer (even if it pays as little as 10$).

Kind of pathetic, or kind of awesome – I’ll let you be the judge.

The craziest one I participated in involved getting electrodes taped to my head which monitored my brain activity while I slept (yes I got paid to nap…not too shabby).

I took a break from doing the studies after one put me through a series of highly stressful cognitive tests and measured my stress hormones via saliva samples (yep…that one was totally not worth the travel fund money).

In one month, I raked in an additional $250!

Equivalent travel experiences for $250:

-the cost of my 2 day/1 night solo dive trip to Tobermory, Ontario (includes the cost of 2 tank scuba dives, gear rental, one night at a camp site, food and gas).

2. I live in the stone age under a rock

As many semi-nomadic people, I tend to get restless and move around a lot. This means I don’t own a lot of permanent fixtures.  Naturally the next step was to sell my TV, cancel cable and Netflix. It might seem a little extreme but I save approx. 1130$ per year just by not having TV.

My 2017 Iceland trip cost around the same amount. Suddenly life without primetime is looking a little more appealing 😉

If you are wondering how to afford travel, consider all of your monthly bills (i.e. cable, home phone, gym membership) and what you could possibility live without in order to fund your travel!

Equivalent travel experiences for $1130:

10 day solo trip through Iceland (including airfare from Canada, car rental, accommodation and food).

3. I make other people’s trash my treasure  

I went through a phase where I would buy things at the thrift shop and then re-sell them for mo money.

How it works: I would wait until the thrift shop had on a storewide sale or I had a coupon (bonus if it was both) and then I would pick up items that I knew would re-sell on Ebay. Estimated earnings over a few months: $400.

Note: This is not a new concept. In fact, some people earn lucrative incomes by doing this on amazon or Ebay!

Equivalent travel experiences for around $400:

Scuba diving in blue hole in Belize (includes boat charter, equipment, 3 dives) ($450)

-Round trip airfare from Canada to Dublin ($430)

-One month backpacking India (300-500$)

-Cost of 2 day safari in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania ($400)

-Cost of 2 day chimpanzee tracking experience in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania ($400).

4. I’ve gone without “the comforts”

Alright, here’s an interesting one. I once backpacked India for 3 months and challenged myself to live off 15$ per day. To be honest, it’s not hard to do in India if you stay outside the tourist zones (one day, I spent just 3$). However, I learned the hard way that you get what you pay for.

For example, booking a $2.50 sleeper bus from Mumbai to Udaipur ….the bus ended up being one of those rickety transport trucks that hauls farm animals. You know, the ones with the metal holes in the side for ventilation that you can see pig tails poking out of off the highway? My bed (if you can even call it that) was legitimately a cage…it even had a sliding door with metal bars. I basically slept in a pig pen to save a few bucks. Tragic right?

Equivalent travel experience: 

Was it worth it? Well I travelled for 3 months for a total off 1500$ (not including flights), so that is $500 per month or roughly $16 a day. I’ll let you be the judge.

5. I slept in a car during a snowstorm  

One strategy on how to afford travel is to just travel on a budget. It sort of goes without saying that if you go to all of these extremes to afford travel, that you likely also travel on the cheap.

In Iceland, a country notorious for being expensive, I figured why pay for a hotel room when I have a perfectly good car? I’m a tiny person so I can easily fit in the backseat and I’ll be snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug in my sleeping bag. Well it seemed like a good idea until there was a freak snow storm during the night. Essentially I slept in subzero weather in a box on wheels #coldestnightoflife… Not sure if this should be considered a personal best in extreme budget travel or a whole new low for my dignity – but I did save a good chunk of moolah.

6. I am a closet hippy  

This year, I got really into sustainability and started trying to minimize my plastic consumption. Instead of packaged goods like bags of rice or boxed salad, I would bring my own jar to a bulk store to get the rice and purchase my produce from farmer’s markets.


I unexpectedly started saving so much money on all of my bills by not paying for the packaging of all of my items!! As a student with a travel addiction, this was so key! So of course, I took it #nextlevel, even going as far as making my own toothpaste and shaving cream. Call me crazy, but I’m reducing my environmental footprint and monthly bills.

Estimated monthly savings = $150 or an annual savings of = $1800 bucks!

Equivalent travel experience for $1800:

– 2 weeks in Mexico and Belize (including round trip airfare from Canada, bus tickets, ferry tickets, accommodation, food and scuba diving).

7. I work a lot

A the time of first writing this in 2017, I had 4 freelance jobs in addition to being a full-time PhD student, a teaching assistant and running this blog. One might say that I was completely nuts  busy. But to be honest, my side gigs are just bonus cash for me; money that I don’t necessarily need to live off of, but happily grind for so that I can afford to do the things that I want to do…which is to travel often.

Just like any freelance work, my income ranges month to month, varying from $200 to $2100 additional earnings a month. Well enough to fund my addiction travels.

Why am I telling you this? Because I work hard to achieve my goals and sustain the lifestyle I want to live, and I am proud of that. Also, I want you to know it’s always possible to travel (even as a broke student) if you make it your priority.

Equivalent travel experience for $2100: 

-The cost of multi-city round ticket flights from Canada to Tanzania with stop-overs in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Johannesburg.

Want to start your own travel blog? | Here’s how!

Like it? | CLICK this image to PIN it!

Related post:

How I Hacked a FREE Flight to Iceland

What are your thoughts?

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

Blaine said:
4 part-time jobs and a PhD... hats off to you!
October 21, 2017 at 7:32 pm
Jenna said:
Wow, that's so neat! I'm sure the memories you have from traveling far surpass the sacrifices you've made along the way!
October 8, 2017 at 3:11 pm
Crystal said:
Great idea for a post and definitely made me think of all the things I've gone without to be able to afford to travel. Mainly furniture and healthy food... (2-minute noodles have been my staple since uni... this isn't a good thing...)
October 7, 2017 at 1:08 pm
Tina said:
Haha! These are hilarious! I may have done one or two myself. Even if I haven't...I understand!
October 7, 2017 at 1:05 pm
Global Brunch said:
Love the open and honest approach of your post. Some things might not be everyone's cup of tea, but a great way to show that it's possible to save money for travel even on a small budget. I've changed my lifestyle a lot as well in order to make travel a priority.
October 7, 2017 at 11:49 am
Alexandra said:
Your dedication is really impressive. I know many people who save a lot but you are one of a kind :)
October 7, 2017 at 11:27 am
This Epic World said:
Haha! What a fun read! Some ideas are definitely brilliant and this post makes me see just how much money we spend on things that aren't really necessary!
October 7, 2017 at 11:02 am
Claudi said:
Really nice post. I traveled Malawi and we run out of money. One day we ended up having only $1. Most people would go crazy cause how are you going to eat, where are you going to sleep. Everything no problem. One day we did wild camping on the beach, we showered and did laundry in Lake Malawi. The second day we got invited to stay at locals homes and we even got food. The Malawians are awesome and one thing 1 have learned: Even if you don´t have money somehow it´s gonna work out. Thanks for sharing your posts. Sometimes we think we need a lot but only experiencing thing shows us that we don´t actually need a lot.
October 7, 2017 at 9:34 am
Pinelopi said:
The "Gone without comforts" is one thing I am still struggling with :) 4 part-time jobs??? oh, girl, you nailed it!!
October 7, 2017 at 6:05 am
Lucy said:
There are some great tips here - some of which I've definitely employed myself. I couldn't care less around TV and am always happy to forgo creature comforts in favour on more travel! xx
October 7, 2017 at 4:51 am
Daphne said:
Nice to read all the things you have done to save some money! Never would have thought that you can save approx. $1130 just by selling your tv and netflix membership. You inspired me to live with less comfort, to save more, and finally travel more! Thanks girl! =)
October 7, 2017 at 4:48 am