This article was published on Rappler on January 31, 2016 🙂
When I graduated from university in 2011, I chose to pursue my passion for research. I went on working for a rice research institute, then for a community development agency. These were definitely good experiences as I had the opportunity to do grassroots research, travel and live in areas I would never dream of even visiting, and meet amazing people full of wisdom in facing the threats of climate and global changes. My research job allowed me to pursue things I’m passionate about, and I couldn’t be happier with the opportunities.
However in time, it dawned on me the reality that on the field, without a law or medical degree, or money to boot, the desire to help was not enough. If desire couldn’t get off as something that can be held, felt or tasted, it will forever be a promise that was meant to be broken.
I kept my day job as I planned for things I wanted to do so I can save more. As someone who rarely shops and eats out, being left with just a tiny bit at the end of every month is really telling of my small income not going in tide with the increasing costs of living and the goals I have for myself. I choose to live a simple life and it remains to be so up to this day; however, I know that by getting out of my comfort zone I could try to solve the frustrations I see in this world: inequality, poverty, hunger, greed for money and power, sense of entitlement, and lack of accountability.
Now let me put into context as to why I started this entry with this introduction. You’ll see, that the transformation in my life has contributed heavily to painting the whole picture: from a seriously idealistic fresh graduate, to a more “in the now” person who wants to see and feel the ideals I’ve always believed in. When it comes to earning and saving, it moved from “I will do all that I can to help people by having this job” to “I will do my best so I can provide jobs”. This shift was one of the important turning points in my life and albeit I’ve significantly decreased the time I have for my family and friends, working towards this goal has taught me a lot of things I will definitely keep for life.
So to answer the question of how I sustainably fund my travels, it all boils down to changes within. Thanks to this transformation, I’ve since viewed travelling as a part and parcel of living and learning– not as a getaway, nor a holiday.
This perspective made me more comfortable with the idea of traveling without a plan, or of not researching about the destination beforehand. I’ve tried setting foot on places not knowing where to go, walking aimlessly with my luggage in hand until I find a place that “looks safe” (your gut will tell you). I’ve tried stepping on buses and trains not knowing where I’d stop, or getting off when the view looks nice (again, your gut will tell you).
If we are on the same page, now let me share the ways of how I sustainably fund my travels:
- Invest in long-term plans
I didn’t start getting serious with investments not until I turned 24. I know it can be a bit late but it’s never too late to start– the important thing is to start when you feel you are totally ready! As I wasn’t too savvy with all things Wall Streetsy, I’ve decided to invest in equities and bonds which are more conservative but are more stable in the long run. I’m not certified at all and it is illegal for me to give financial advice.
If you are interested, you can contact Ms. Sigrid Sadiarin (contact no: +63 917 201 4272), the best financial planner I’ve ever met thus far. She is so supportive and patient, taking time to explain all the foundations that make investments work. She never fails to offer her advice in times of need. You can contact her at the number provided but please send her a message first and do not give her a cold call (no one likes accepting these types of calls!).
How to harness it: DO NOT use these funds. These are not for your everyday and travel needs. Reap the benefits when the funds are mature enough and this will take you at least 10 years.
- Find what frustrates you and work around that
This is where the buzz on start-ups comes in. As a start-up, you start small and keep everything small even though it is so tempting to splurge all you can to be “that next big thing.” I’ve learned that doing it the hard way like investing time and energy instead of money, are the sure-fire ways of building a good foundation in a small business. Money can buy convenience, but it cannot buy the endurance that sustains the seed that was carefully planted.
My only aim when I started my small business, RSA Business Solutions, was to address my frustrations on the lack of good employment opportunities for Filipinos. It’s either staff are grossly underpaid and/or denied of their benefits. I started it without a business plan other than a list of things I wanted to solve as I built my way through this.
Although this is not the tried-and-tested way to do it, based on this experience, it worked for me as I focused my energy on the very few things that we really excelled in. I eventually phased off services we weren’t the best at. I said no to opportunities that came my way if accepting them meant my calendar will be overloaded with appointments, or I would have to please people just to get done with a deal. Quality over quantity is what really matters.
With the digital age it is getting easier to get things done more efficiently. Even when overseas, it’s possible to manage a business as long as the tools are correctly set up before leaving. Thank you to all the scientists, researchers and geeks of the world who truly made this possible!
How to harness it: Give yourself a monthly “salary”. What I do is I take just 5% of what I earn monthly and the rest, I put on bonds. The 5% I add up to my travel fund.
- Keep a day job
It doesn’t matter if it’s full-time or part-time. The main thing to consider is, a day job gives you structure and a schedule. It also keeps the funds running in the midst of investment losses that we sometimes cannot avoid.
When I was planning for entrepreneurial things, I kept my day job. On the first few months of managing my start-up, I didn’t have time for other things so I focused on just this one. When I was slowly getting the hang of things and with people to work with this time, I applied for a part-time online English teaching job. This I do every day except for Sundays, from 5AM – 8AM. I enjoy every bit of it and it drives me to wake up at 4:20AM every day (except for Sundays, of course!), which is a really good thing for the mind and body. I never fail to work for this job wherever I am in the world, so I make sure I have access to stable internet whenever I travel. I also try my best to plan my itinerary around it.
To know more about the flexible opportunities at where I work for, please visit Rarejob’s official recruitment site. I highly recommend this company!
How to harness it: This is my most liquid asset. I use my earnings from my day job for my everyday needs and if there’s a little extra, I add up to my travel fund.
- Be proactively open to opportunities
It’s true that we cannot say “yes” to every opportunity that comes our way; however, we should give justice to each opportunity and at least give it our full attention as we try to assess and listen to what it has to offer.
As long as it’s not a trap where I have to cover for so many things, I’ve participated in scholarship programs and research opportunities overseas where I am given the chance to harness my skills and build my network. Usually the stipend covers all living, local transportation and participation costs, and once in a while airfare is also included. It’s one of the best ways to travel for free– almost!
The key here is to be true to yourself so the selection panel will also see the real you. There is no point trying to be a better version of yourself when in reality you’re trying to be someone else’s better version of yourself. The selection panel is trained enough to see this, so save yourself up for further embarrassment by doing just one thing: be yourself!
How to harness it: Take advantage of your free trip by traveling to nearby countries! The opportunity may only come once so make the most of it.
Saving is a way of life– it should not be about towards buying “that big thing” or taking “that big trip.” Saving is an everyday endeavour that includes buying only the things that you really need and can afford, and ultimately being content with what you have.
I now see travels as investments in learning more about the world: how every person, culture, and area adapts to the changes of this life; and how our differences make this world a more colorful one to live in. We can choose on which tapestry we want to be woven on– and hopefully it’s on the piece we really want our mark for the rest of our lives.