How to Live A Life of Travel

Learn how to live a life of travel by traveling to experience instead of to relax by Let's Eat Grandpa

I was thirteen the first time I left the country. I went to the UK with a student exchange organization. I spent two weeks exploring England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Without my parents. When I was fifteen my parents took our family to India, with a stop in Bangkok. I saw the Taj Mahal at fifteen! I spent seven spring breaks in Mexico with my church. I went to Taiwan in college, to New Zealand with friends in 2008, back to the UK with friends in 2010, to Italy with my mom in 2011, twice to Canada in 2012, and to eight countries in Europe on our honeymoon. We’re planning a trip to Bhutan later this year. I’ve also been all over the US, starting with a road trip from California to Indiana when I was two weeks old.

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Needless to say, I love to travel. I was born for it and I have my travel-loving parents to thank (they’re headed to Africa later this year for a month!).

I get a lot of questions about how and why we travel the way we do. So I thought I’d share a bit about my philosophy of travel, as well as some of the nitty gritty about how we make travel a part of our lives. I hope that some of these tips and tricks will help you plan better, save money, and live a life of travel.

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Make Travel a Priority

Most people have some expendable income once they shelter and feed themselves. Here are a few ways I’ve saved for travel:

  • I automatically pull money from my paycheck and put it into savings.
  • I haven’t had cable or even network TV for years.
  • Most of my books come from the library.
  • I don’t buy expensive personal care products or makeup.
  • I don’t have a gym membership.
  • Up until recently, I’ve shopped for clothes on the cheap (but read why I’m changing my ways).
  • Our mortgage is small and we do not live an extravagant life at home.

Learn how to live a life of travel by traveling to experience instead of to relax by Let's Eat Grandpa

We also budget our vacation time for travel (or at least I did when I was working, and Ryan still does). Fortunately, our family is all in the area so we can use our vacation time to actually travel, as opposed to spending time visiting family for the holidays.

Travel to Experience, Not to Relax

Both Ryan and I would go stir crazy if we took a vacation to a place where our only option was to sit by a beach or a pool for a week. We love to see the sights, experience the culture, walk around a city all day, take a long hike, eat a local meal, or enjoy the natural beauty of a country (especially from the seat of a motorcycle!).

Learn how to live a life of travel by traveling to experience instead of to relax by Let's Eat Grandpa

Traveling to experience can be expensive in its own way, but we don’t spend a lot of money on accommodations or amenities. On most of my recent trips, our nights were at bed and breakfasts (a great option because it usually has a kitchen so you can cook and eat on the cheap), small hotels, or hostels. We spend most of our time out and about, seeing the sights, experiencing the culture. Which meant that a hotel really only needs two things — a place to sleep and a hot shower, with occasional laundry. We don’t have an expectation of luxury — we’d rather spend a little on a hotel and a lot on seeing the sights.

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While we do spend some time relaxing here and there, traveling to experience is much more rewarding for us.

Take Advantage of Opportunities

My parents had friends in Dunedin, New Zealand, so we added it to our itinerary and got a free room board for two nights as well as the opportunity to be shown around by a local. We needed a car so we bought a Volvo through the Overseas Delivery program and were able to use it to travel around Europe without having to rent a car. The only reason Bhutan is even on our radar is because we have friends who can get us in without having to pay the standard $250-a-day visa fee. My parents have Marriott points so we were able to score some hotel nights from them on our honeymoon. Some friends on Twitter helped me decipher the Norwegian ferry system.

Learn how to live a life of travel by traveling to experience instead of to relax by Let's Eat Grandpa

Find out if you have any connections in a place — staying with a trusted friend of a friend is a great option. Reach out on social media where people can help you find great deals in cities you’ll be visiting, as well as help you figure out what to see while you’re there. If you are traveling for work, see if you can tack on a bit of personal time to the beginning or end of your trip. Go on a service trip with your church. If you have friends in some weird place on this big Earth, go there!

Pack Light

For my last few trips, I’ve traveled with only a backpack I could carry on to the plane (like this one by Osprey). My post about packing light is one of the top posts on my blog and has lots of great tips for traveling without excess (plus Justin Beiber jokes, just for fun). Packing light is not just less of a physical burden, but an emotional burden as well. I have found that heavy luggage made me feel guilty, frustrated, and regretful. Let it go.

Learn how to live a life of travel by traveling to experience instead of to relax by Let's Eat Grandpa

It’s cheaper and easier to travel unburdened. No checked bag or overweight luggage fees, and you can walk off the plane with all your belongings without having to wait at the luggage carousel—and you will never lose your bags if you’re carrying them yourself!

And as far as souvenirs go, buy as few as possible. Memories and photos are the best souvenirs. If you do want a little something to bring home with you, Christmas ornaments, jewelry, and bookmarks are easy to stow away and don’t take up much space.

Roll with It

Don’t expect things to go perfectly all the time. They never ever do. Our flight to Italy was canceled (after we sat on the runway for two hours), but we made it to Italy after we were rebooked. I got a migraine on our last night in London. Our hot air balloon ride got canceled due to weather in New Zealand. Our first few days in Norway were incredibly wet and miserable, but we pushed through those days and ended up seeing some the most incredible natural beauty on Earth. Any of these things could have been cause for anger and resentment, but why go through all that?

Learn how to live a life of travel by traveling to experience instead of to relax by Let's Eat Grandpa

Instead, don’t get your heart set on anything and roll with the punches. Change your outlook from seeing these things as challenges to looking at them as adventures. The times when your trip doesn’t go as planned often make the best stories!

I hope that this might give you some ideas on how to travel more and get the most out of your trip. If you’re a seasoned traveler, what are some of the ways you live a life of travel?


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  1. says

    I couldn’t agree more about traveling for the experiences. I go NUTS on beachy trips! Two years ago, the women in my family took a girls’ trip to Mexico. I was worried it would be all pool-sitting, but we swam in two cenotes, saw the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, went ziplining, and went snorkeling through a cave. Just goes to show that there are experiences to be had even in the most relaxing places!

    Though I will say, cruises aren’t my thing. We went on an Alaskan cruise several years ago, and while it was fun, the days we were at sea and didn’t dock anywhere got boring pretty quick. Not to mention how expensive their excursions are!
    Ashley Brooks recently posted..Coffee Talk: MarginMy Profile

    • says

      We actually have a week in Cabo to use (long story, but we got it after we had some bad customer service) — good thing to know there are things to do there!!

      I’d like to try a smaller cruise, like maybe on a river or a smaller boat to Alaska. I like the idea of traveling to a bunch of places but only having to unpack once!

  2. says

    There are times when you just want to veg out and have someone cater to you — there’s a place for resorts like that — I think that’s maybe 5-10% though of our travel choices.

    I love getting — even for a little bit — the sense of a place. So we always try to stay in small local places and have more recently been renting apartments.. I love the flexibility that gives you — you don’t have to eat EVERY meal at a hotel or restaurant. Saves money too — and makes you figure out how to buy coffee.

    And I completely agree the best attitude is one where you can roll with it. We’re not list-box-checkers and so often set out with a few ideas of what we might do on a trip, but those are just that — ideas. Other things may pop up that you didn’t know about. Weather may dictate certain choices. Just have fun with the experience.

    Great suggestions. :)

    • says

      I used to schedule every moment of the day when I traveled, but I’m finding that just planning hotels and maybe one or two must-sees makes it a lot easier to roll with the punches!

  3. says

    When kids come along it complicates things. This year I have tried to focus on things that we are closer by. We have hit a few state parks and next year we are going to the Grand Canyon. Thanks for sharing your suggestions.

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