How Do You Afford It? – An Answer to the Single Most Invasive Question

Ahh, the age-old question every traveller is sick and tired of hearing.

Easily, one of the most common yet most invasive questions people tend to ask. Before, during or after your travels. It will undoubtedly pop up. And even if it doesn’t, you can tell with those judging eyes that its burning their souls to keep the question in.

“How do you afford to travel so much?
Are you rich?
Oh, you’re not, so you’re boyfriend must be rich.
Oh, he’s not.
You’re not saving for the future?
So really, how do you do it?”


Why does it have to be that progression of interrogation?

Why is it that to travel you must be rich, inherited a truckload of money, are dating royalty, sold your soul? Could it be that different people have different priorities? Could it be that there is no “right” set of priorities to have? COULD IT BE?!

I look at my friends attending grad/law School, getting married, having kids, buying a new car, buying a new house. All of which realistically costs WAY more than backpacking, travelling & holidaying does. Yet, I don’t feel the need to interrogate my friends on the impending doom of debt they chose. Even if it will “pay itself back” with an uncertain promise of a job. Honestly, how would you feel if one of your friends asked you quite blankly, how on earth you’re going to afford pursuing your dream to be XYZ profession? It’d be pretty rude, am I right?

No one questions people who continue to live conventional lives – even if that conventional life leaves them in thousands of dollars of debt. But when someone leads an unconventional, yet extremely fiscally aware life, people seem to freak out, and worst of all, judge.

See, when you’re on the road, you’re more aware of your expenses more than anything. When I was traveling in Europe, I tracked every single cost incurred with every purchase, categorised each cost and tracked it all in the end. In my four years of university, I’ve never done such extensive budgeting.

Traveling is more than just spending money to post “sick pics” on Insta. It’s a way of looking at the world. It’s a mindset – an open one at that. To most travellers, it’s an investment in themselves – mentally, physically, emotionally. Travel in itself is its own form of Graduate School , an alternative higher learning. I like to think of it as a Universal Education – coined by the legend himself,  Papa Schwan.

A Universal Education teaches you lessons from courses that costs hundreds of dollars in tuition and fees. A degree in travel would include: economics, finance, sociology, history, psychology, health, hospitality,  linguistics,  geography, international relations, business, politics. With particular lessons in budgeting, problem-solving, currency exchange, resourcing, social and cultural awareness, frugality, verbal and non-verbal communication cues, sense of direction, sense of self…

Lessons you learn through real-life, hands-on experience. Experience that isn’t as daunting as sitting for an exam or writing a 2,000 word paper, and experience that you’ll actually remember more than just a few weeks later. And the most important thing travel gives you that sitting in a classroom or reading a textbook doesn’t:


Once you’ve traveled you’ll never look at the world the same again. You solve problems more efficiently. And subsequently, you solve financial problems more effectively. So to look at someone who travels or has settled in another country and to ask about their financial situation is ludicrous to me.

But it’s not just travelers who are prejudiced against.

I’m to blame as well. I see friends who are getting married right out of college and think, “What the hell? That’s nuts.” Or friends who went straight into Grad School without working in their chosen field first,  and I think it’s crazy as well. The same way people look at me and other travelers who take off to a new country to live and think it’s ridiculous.

The point is whether you decided to take the year (or the rest of your life) to travel the world, or to pursue our dreams of becoming a lawyer and attend Law School or to marry your High School Sweetheart right out of college and have kids, it’s your decision. And it’s nobody’s business to get into your financial business.

Let’s support one another, sans interrogation of each other’s bank accounts. Then we can all breathe easy and live.

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  • Reply Chasing the Donkey (@chaseTHEdonkey) November 3, 2014 at 1:16 am

    Amen sister! I am sharing this on my wall now as I know a few ‘friends’ who need to see this.

    • Reply kellyschwantes November 3, 2014 at 8:23 am

      Glad you enjoyed it! As I get older, the question is asked more and more. Thanks for the share 🙂

  • Reply How Do You Afford It – Travel the KP Way | November 7, 2014 at 9:53 am

    […] you haven’t read my original post – How Do You Afford It? – you can check it out, […]

  • Reply Dylan Basile March 4, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    Really great read, totally agree. To each their own. Traveling is so much more than Insta pics; it’s the perspective gained. There are tons of sacrifices made when traveling, as there is tons of sacrifices made to not travel.

    • Reply KP Schwan March 4, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks Dylan! Love what you said – so many sacrifices are made that people don’t even know about!

  • Reply Henar March 12, 2015 at 6:13 am

    Nicely put, beautifully written! Thanks 🙂

    • Reply KP Schwan March 12, 2015 at 2:11 pm

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply Claire March 20, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Awesome post.

    People are always amazed when I break down what I spend travelling versus what I spent when I lived at home in London. Somehow everyone has this idea that being abroad is hugely expensive and this is probably because they only see the world when they holiday – a much pricier affair!

    Glad you’re helping to set everyone straight! 🙂

    • Reply KP Schwan March 22, 2015 at 2:51 am

      So true! I always end up living so much more frugally when I’m living abroad or traveling. I saved more in my year in Australia than I have my whole life! So happy you liked this 🙂

  • Reply Goni May 2, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    This is so true… We all know the questions. Thanks for the article! You forgot “do your parents pay?” haha. I get that pretty often too. I will go visit family and friends pretty soon and I will make sure to read your article again shortly before that 😉
    Yes, it’s savings, yes I had a good job without buying a house, a car and a new TV every 3 months…

    • Reply KP Schwan May 6, 2015 at 9:57 pm

      Do your parents pay is probably one of the most common! Even if they did, who cares! Glad you enjoyed reading my post 🙂

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