Time and Money for Travel

How Do People Pay for Adventure?


It doesn’t take a lot of money to travel. That’s a fallacy, a mistaken belief that diminishes your imagination for adventure. In fact, people with less money are more likely to travel. I see a lot more working class people on the road than executive management and their families.

Rich people don’t travel. They have money but they don’t have time; they’re too busy working and collecting more money. They work weekends and, if they take vacations, their faces are in their phones. Maybe they travel for work but it’s work, not recreation or adventure.

And if you’re waiting until you retire to travel, well… consider the numbers. One road trip each year between the ages of 30 and 65; that’s a lot of adventure. And you want to wait? You can earn more money but not more time. A person shouldn’t wait to travel until they’re rich or retired. In fact, everyone should have some adventure planned right now.

Adventure with Todd Nelson in the Frank Church Wilderness (November 2020)

My good friend and adventure buddy has strong opinions on this topic. He pursues happiness in every clime and place. Not limited to any one hobby, Todd indulges his imagination for adventure. He hunts, fishes, pilots whitewater, rebuilds motorcycles, and he’s out-of-town every year. But he’s not rich; Todd is a hard-working man. He finances his adventures by following his own advice…

“Drink coffee at home, make your lunch,
save the ten dollars you waste every day.
$300 a month… don’t tell me you can’t travel.”

Those little pleasures and conveniences are consumed and forgotten, but the adventures those dollars might finance make memories that last forever. It’s a truth that’s easily forgotten when we’re in a comfortable rut.

Like Todd, I make time and money for adventure. With friends, family, or alone… it doesn’t matter, as long as there is more to life than work. Any unusual or exciting activity qualifies as adventure; it doesn’t have to be extreme or expensive. It’s a standard component of my Cost of Living. I would rather not spend my days without productive distractions from the requirements of living.

Dying men never say,
‘I wish I made more time for work’.

As a young man, I thought about, dreamed about, made plans to travel the world and discover its best-kept secrets. It was the coolest lifestyle I could imagine; having a passport and a briefcase and an office that was usually empty, speaking foreign languages, eating exotic foods, and partying in places reserved for daring and dangerous men. I couldn’t pay for it, so I found a job that involved world travel.

It was a great solution for me, but probably not for everyone. But if you’re young, especially if you have a trade, it might be the best way to travel. The business world cares less now than ever about where productive employees live, so it’s possible to see the world and get paid for it. Relocate to a region of interest for a year or two and explore all its adventure opportunities, and relocate again. You probably have to start out alone unless you have a partner or spouse who shares the same interest in travel. Spending a year or two learning a trade when you’re young can pay big dividends if travel is in your future. I worked my way overseas in the oilfield.

Working at Ministry of Petroleum, China (1986)

Pluses and minuses are factors, of course, and each individual’s equation is different. Becoming an expat is not for casual adventurers, but it’s a solution that works for people with big appetites for travel. When I weighed the factors for working overseas, I calculated a positive result; as long as I had enough time-off to explore, I would work anywhere in the world. Hard work paid better and there were fewer people competing for hard work, so I gravitated in that direction.

The oilfield offered exactly that opportunity. It met my requirement for time-off; expats worked weeks-on/weeks-off rotations (6/2 or 8/3) which gave me plenty of time for adventure. And I planned adventures in the areas where I worked. When I was employed offshore in the North Sea, I explored Europe. When I logged wells in the Middle East, I explored Asia. It was as easy as flying to another state. The minuses? Rough living conditions and hard work; doing things no one likes to do. It was extra hard but extra great; for me, it was a dream come true – to get paid for travel and adventure.

Playing on the Great Wall of China (1986)

Then I got married and the ‘do it alone’ phase ended. For twenty years, about the only thing I could do alone was go to the toilet. No more solo expeditions, or activities too risky or difficult for children. But kids love adventure and are easily recruited; in truth, almost anything done with enthusiasm was an adventure for my kids. We travelled often but not too far. Places I’d seen before looked more interesting through my children’s eyes. Kids don’t remember their best day on a game console, but they never forget great road trips. And they cost about as much as a weekend at Walmart and the movies. A road trip now and then was a priority for us and we budgeted accordingly. Like Todd says, just about everyone can afford to travel if it’s important to them.

Later in life when I looked down the road at retirement, I recalculated. My pension was fixed, and my travel and adventure expenses were not. At least, I did not want them to be fixed. From time-to-time in retirement, I might feel a little frisky and need more than a long weekend on the road. I was debt-free but not rich; healthy and ready to live an active retirement, but mindful of my financial limitations. I think most of my peers have the same thoughts and parse through the same options… get rich quick or get another job. And I’m not a believer in getting rich quick.

In retirement, you can supplement your pension and pay for adventures by doing the things you enjoy as a side hustle. You’re smart; probably accumulated a lot of know-how in your work life. And with just a little extra training and research, you can probably find a way to add a second stream of revenue to your cash flow, increase your margin in the process, and maintain the freedom you need to travel and adventure. It doesn’t have to be a big business; sell something you make at the flea market on the weekends. A few hundred dollars won’t pay all the bills, but it will pay for adventure.

Texas Yeti Books booth at Cody Arts Festival, Wyoming

That is how I started writing. It had always been a hobby; I kept journals all my life. And digital self-publishing made it possible to print and sell small quantities of books. I didn’t get rich quick; I didn’t get rich at all… but I sell a few books every month and my hobby helps pay for travel and adventure in retirement.

There is always time and money for travel for those who understand its value. Take yourself and the family camping a couple times a year and supplement that with a few road trips. If it’s only once a quarter, you get four Great Memories each year… paid for with money that would otherwise be written off in Incidental Expenses. We’re leaving tomorrow for Warsaw with a busload of people; some we know, some we don’t. I’m pretty sure we’re all looking for fun and we will certainly make great memories.


One comment

  1. You proved that traveling does not require a lot of money, only creativity and courage. Bravo.

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