Many of my readers and some friends/relatives believe I have unlimited supply of money and time to keep traveling all the time. They feel so because of continuous posting of travel photos and articles. I feel I should clarify how I operate-work, live and blog, both to avoid having to explain to everyone individually and to keep my readers and well-wishers informed.
This is a rather personal post, explaining answers to some of the questions I am being asked frequently.
Q:How do you manage to keep traveling all the time?
A: Answer is that I don’t travel all time. Just that I travel once and then keep writing about it over a period of time. Once I am back from a trip, I don’t dump all the photos into a facebook album. I split the trip, places visited and experiences into smaller topic and keep writing about it over time. To a reader, it may give an impression that I am continuously traveling, but I don’t. The 5 day road trip in North India that I had early this month has provided me with enough content to keep writing all through the month. Rest of the 25 days I go to office like everyone else, but every day manage to pull out 30-60 mins for blogging related activities.
I don’t travel as much as some of my friends, fellow bloggers do. Last year, Sankara Subramanian spent 300+ days touring South East Asia- covering Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonasia and so on, five months into New year, I know few bloggers and travelers who’ve already completed 4-5 international trips. So my travel- which is just a few days every month, is nothing.
Tripadvisor says I’ve only explored 7% of the world. I still have 93% pending to be explored.
If you feel my travel is too much, you're not really following enough (or right) travel bloggers.
Q: How do you get so many leaves?
A: Answer to this is also related to above answer. Most of my trips are on weekend, for which I don’t need leave. Occasionally there’re longer trips, which are either planned around a long weekend (Example: May 1st being holiday, took 2 more days leave to get 5 day off) or planned well in advance. Like any other office going employee I am entitled to a small number of leaves every year, which I am utilizing for my travel. I still have good amount of leave left. Additionally people at work have been considerate enough not to deny the requests, which is a bonus.
Q Do you get everything sponsored or pay from your pocket?
A: Most of my trips and adventures are self-funded. Yes, occasionally I do get invites and sponsored trips, but they are very few and far in between. Some top bloggers do get lots of invites all through the year, but I think I have a few levels to climb before reaching there.
Q: Do you make money from your travel?
A: Unfortunately no. But this should be the objective- to earn some money by writing about it etc.
Q: What motivates you to keep traveling? Don’t you feel like resting?
A: Driving and seeing places keeps me energetic and refreshed. Everyone have their way of relaxing/spending time- some enjoy partying and getting drunk, others enjoy simply sleeping, few play games/work out when time permits, others go on long bike rides. Time spent on some of these activities usually goes unnoticed, as people may not publicize some of these information online. I spend most of the month without much action and when time and situation permit, I take up travel to compensate for it.
Q: What do your family members say?
A: It is a bit personal question, so I prefer not to answer it in detail. I do get required support from family members and friends. I often take them along whenever situation permits.
Q: How do you manage your expenses?
A: Like everyone else I’ve a fixed salary, which I’ve to spend on day to day expenses, future savings and occasional big spends. I try to cut day to day expense as much as possible and I must admit I’ve compromised a bit on future saving, so that I can use it for my travel, driving and adventures.
Not buying a car yet
Many of my friends, colleagues and peers have already bought a car. While they enjoy the luxury of their own wheels, they are spending several thousand every month on EMI, insurance, maintenance etc. I’ve been resisting the idea of buying a car [Read: Buying vs Renting a car] and on need basis, am renting a car. This has been saving me the thousands otherwise spent on EMI, insurance and maintenance. I use this money to rent cars (often big cars) when I need it, where I need it. Because my need for a car is only few days a month, this has been working out very well for me so far. Of course, 5 years down the line my friends will stop paying EMIs and will be proud and full owners of their cars (which is now old and worth one third of the amount spent on it), while I risk end up looking like an idiot still feeding rental agencies, but I am fine with that. I will buy a car when I really feel the need.
Saving other expenses
When I am not traveling, I have a fairly normal, boring and low profile life. Going to office, coming back home and resting. Our spend on eating out, movies, house hold luxuries etc is very low. I don’t consume alcohol or smoke. All these small expenses add up to several thousand every month and money not spent is money earned (I hope Govt doesn’t start taxing money NOT spent). Once in few months all these savings go into coffers of a rental agency that has latest luxury car on self-drive rental! I drive around to my heart’s content, come back refreshed and energized.
Experiencing life NOW vs saving for future
My saving for future is not as much compared to my friends and peers. This is because I’ve been diverting a portion of savings to indulge in adventures and activities deemed expensive. Activities like skydiving, scuba diving, balloon ride, renting luxury cars like BMW etc did cost me lots of money. If I’d skipped them I would probably be richer by several thousand now, but there’s no guarantee that we can enjoy the same activity when we get old. Either the cost of such activities will be many times more OR our health and age won’t permit indulging in adventure. I will probably live without lots of money, but don’t want to live with lots of regrets.
When touring with friends, our expenses are generally shared. So though we’re renting a big car and driving around for days, per head expense usually comes to few thousand rupees which is affordable to all. This may not always be true if touring with family though. I am thankful to all the friends who’ve shared the trip with me.
Planning in advance
Most of my trips are planned months in advance- often planned around a low fare air ticket I managed to grab or a long weekend/holiday which is coming up. This advance planning enables cut travel and stay part of the expenses which get expensive closer to travel date.
While traditional travel packages involve leisurely itinerary, my trips are often optimized to the max. I try to keep all non-productive things (like long drive) in the night, use day time optimally (Identify which tourist place is open at 6AM, cover it first) in right sequence (that cuts unnecessary travel). To give an example, a traditional 3 Night/4 day itinerary involves only arrival on Day 1, Departure on Day 4 and only 2 days of active site seeing/activities in between. But my 4 day trip starts from Day 0 evening and ends on Day 5 morning, with Day 1 to Day 4 fully packed with action. Not having to rely on public transport or a 3rd party operator/organizer often gives me the flexibility to plan and execute exactly as per our wish. This might feel hectic to many, but is the only way how I can cover more for less. I’d have loved to spend long stretch of time at a place, in a relaxed way to explore the destination, but so far, I’ve not had the luxury of time to do that.