You’re dreaming of it, right? You want to lie on the beaches of Thailand, skydive over the mountains of New Zealand, picnic next to the waterfalls of Iceland, and camp under the stars of California.

You see the photos on Instagram, you read the articles online, and you pin it to your “one-day” board on Pinterest thinking maybe sometime you’ll save enough to go.

Well, I’ve got some news for you. That time is now.

I don’t want to hear excuses. I don’t care if you’re stuck in corporate America, I don’t care if you’re barely scraping by, I don’t care that you’ve got a family of 5. Travel now and be happier.

4 years ago today I got home from my first big adventure: Australia (hence the #TBT Sydney photo). I can't believe it's been 4 years, but then again it feels just like yesterday.

I was like you once. I had an empty bank account and a mind a million miles away. I worked a sucky store clerk job, attended a community college to attempt to go somewhere in life, and wanted nothing more than to buy a one-way ticket, then write “peace out suckas” as my classiest Facebook post. I get it. I get what you want to do.

This isn’t a post to become a long-term traveler, or how to quit your job to see the world. This is a post for all of you who want to start with the baby step. Those who dream of being the one to leave your dinky town behind for a bigger life ahead. It is for those interested in traveling, and those who have yet to do so.

So how do you save for your first big adventure?




Set a goal

You can take an epic trip on $1,000 or less. Before you begin, know how much you want. Saving money is more successful when you have a goal. If wanting to go abroad, I’d save $1,300. Domestic, I’d save $900. This budget is for those who don’t need a 5-star resort but also don’t plan on sleeping in a car every night. Think hostels, couchsurfing, cheap pizza, AirBnB, and camping.

Be consistent

If you have 1 year to save $1,000, that’s $20 a week to put into your savings. The beginning of 2016 is the perfect time to start your goal. Keep track of that $20, and make sure you don’t spend it. That money is equal to dining out with friends one night a week, buying that fifth of alcohol, or purchasing a shirt online. Giving up the little items you don’t actually need accumulates to a massive trip you will never forget. Be smart, create a savings schedule, and be frugal.




Be willing to learn

Many times, those looking to travel are curious about the world. They want to learn and grow through experiences. I know I did. Taking the steps towards a big adventure is all about learning. Learning how to save, research, travel on a budget, obtain needed documents, find cheap flights, apply for a passport, etc.

Work hard

You will never make it out if you don’t work for it. Those who sit around and wait to win $1,000 on a scratch off ticket will most likely never leave the ground. Those who travel young often work 2-3 jobs.

Do you have any hobbies you can make into a side job? I take any side job offered to me, whether it’s house-sitting, taking senior photos, or tutoring. I wish I could say traveling doesn’t cost money, but it does.



Don’t listen to the haters

People are going to question your actions or have little faith in your success. It is frustrating. Don’t let your friends talk you into a night out spending your savings, and don’t let people convince you travel is for retirement. The travel community welcomes you with warm arms, and we understand your craziness.

Calculate your expenses

income – expenses = amount of extra money a month

If you make $800/month and you have monthly expenses of $550 including rent, groceries, phone bills, etc. you have $250 extra dollars a month. $20/week for savings = $80/month. You now have $170 on whatever else you would like. Budgeting may seem hard, but the formula is actually quite easy!




Don’t rely on others

As much as you wish everyone around you will share the same passion for exploration, most of them won’t or can’t take it seriously. When the time comes for the adventure, you’d be surprised at how hard it will be to find someone to come along. But when one door closes, another opens. Taking a big trip solo is one of the biggest learning experiences a person could have. Don’t be afraid to go alone. You’ve worked hard to save for this, so go for it!

Choose your adventure wisely

We’re young, and we aren’t going to be able to afford a luxurious ocean hut in Tahiti for two weeks. It’s time we take advantage of the things we can do. We are able to climb to the top of a mountain and sleep under the stars, we can stay in hostels and still sleep like the dead, and we can be spontaneous in every endeavor. Choose a place that is going to make you genuinely happy. Where have you always wanted to go? What have you always wanted to do? Find your place, and go.


  1. Lara on January 6, 2016 at 7:38 PM

    Excellent! One can always find a way to travel, it’s sad that so many blame the expense. There are inexpensive ways to travel. I’d like to suggest another way to find a big trip location – pick a type of food you like and go to that country or area. My husband and I leave for Honduras (affordable!) in 10 days that started because we like the food.

    • Shalee on January 6, 2016 at 7:42 PM

      That. is. awesome. I’ve never thought about doing that! Looks like I’m headed to Italy 🙂

  2. dee on January 6, 2016 at 8:28 PM

    I didn’t get married or have children or pets. I worked to travel. Being a teacher years ago, I had summers off. Never left the USA. There are so many gorgeous places to see ,feel, taste, smell…The Southwest captured me. For 30 years, I worked and lived in Arizona. Life there was adventurous. Criss crossing the country every year was required to see family . Camping all the way! Fly-fishing on our way back through the Rockies was stupendous! So. I definitely agree. Work hard and enjoy something other than malls and whatever else sucks your money away. The best things in life are the memories you get to take into old age!

  3. Rachel on March 7, 2019 at 8:53 PM

    I spent the last 20 years going to college, fixing up 2 homes, having 4 children, working far too hard and yet living pay check to pay check. At 37 years old, I have only been to MI and NC. I did a quick trip to Maryland and DC and was stressed to the max. My heart longs for adventure – and mountains.

    As such, we sold our home and are using the proceeds to travel to the place of my dreams…NEW ZEALAND. Not only does the solitude and scenery call to me, but so does anything Lord of the Rings : )

    I do not want to keep my family of 6 (6 yrs to 13 yrs) in a 2 bedroom apartment forever. Do you have any money saving tips for our trip in November, so that we do not blow through all of our house money? All I have is our tickets (which cost a fortune!). Thank you in advance!

    P.S. I am all about camping or hiking, I just do not know where to get the supplies while there etc.

    • Shalee Wanders on March 8, 2019 at 1:33 PM

      LOVE this Rachel! Good for you going to your dream destination. New Zealand will truly inspire you.

      In terms of budget, I really recommended planning on renting AirBnb’s with kitchens and preparing meals instead of eating out. A lot of times accommodation (if booked far enough in advance) is cheaper than hotels. Eating out quickly becomes the biggest expense of traveling, which is why I always recommend saving for one nice meal out to experience cultural food, but cook a majority of meals. By cooking your meals you also get a unique take on a location by shopping at local supermarkets and getting a taste of local culture.

      Also, a great thing to always keep in mind: the best memories are pictures. Buy you and your kids one souvenir each. Beyond that, whatever else you buy will eventually just become stuff.

      I hope this helps! Happy travels!

  4. Rachel on March 8, 2019 at 2:33 PM

    Those were all things that I planned to do — WONDERFUL! Thank you so much for your reply <3

    Is there a camera that you would recommend to truly capture NZ's beauty? What do you use?

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