What Happens When You go Broke From Traveling

April 7, 2016

I spent all of my money traveling. Well, I suppose that ALL of it is a bit dramatic. I checked my bank account today and $402 is all that’s in it. Even less now that I bought a can of beans and a pepper for dinner.

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Actually, I think that this is the least amount of money I’ve ever had in my whole life. I mean, even before I started on the babysitting hustle at age 12 (yup, people let a 12 year old watch their kids!) I remember that my parents had a bank account for me with at least $1,000 in it.

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With my current balance, I won’t even have enough cash to pay my student loans this month. I’m not writing this for you all to feel bad for me. Honestly, I don’t even feel bad for myself.

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While I’m resorting to skipping breakfast and eating peanut butter sandwiches for dinner, I can’t even be angry because I know that it is my fault. Luckily for me, all my flights and accommodation for the rest of my Hawaii trip are already paid for and I’m staying with friends in Seattle and Colorado leading up until I secure a job.

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For the past 2 years I haven’t lived based on a budget, I’ve been spending more than I make and have felt too worried or anxious to consistently check my bank account because I felt that I couldn’t handle knowing the damage. Sounds ridiculous right? Well, it should because it totally is.

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Part of me wants to blame it on living in Asia for so long. Since I moved to China back in 2013, I had a high paying job, very little bills and was dealing with prices so low that you wouldn’t even believe it. I was living this high roller sort of life, going out for drinks and fancy dinners, visiting cafes almost every day and scooting up to the VIP seats in the club.

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I took taxis everywhere, bought whatever clothing items looked good and traveled to other countries and cities nearly every month. I went from worrying about money all of the time to never worrying about it at all. And you know what? I got really damn used to it.

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Is this an excuse for my absolute appalling effort at keeping track of my finances? No, not really. But, it seems like the reverse culture shock of being back in expensive countries kind of tripped me up a bit. I mean, to be fair, I did work along the way but things got out of hand and I couldn’t keep the bank book balanced.

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When I think about it though, I really don’t regret it. I’ve been living an absolute dream life and have seen and done so many things that I would never undo just to have a cushy bank account again.

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So, my new reality is less than $400 in the bank, over $300 of monthly student loan bills and no stable job. What am I going to do now you ask? Am I going to be OK, you’re wondering.

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The answer is…I really don’t know. What I do know however is that I have a strong support system of family and friends, a knack for quickly adapting to change, some skills I picked up while traveling and a loose plan.

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With my certification in teaching and my writing resume that I built while traveling, I am going to make as much money as I can right from my lap top. Out goes my evenings of beer, wine and restaurant meals and in comes days of putting my cooking skills to work.

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Paid tours and activities can wait until future days and free, outdoor adventures are what will fill my time. I’m going to change up my methods, work my ass off and get back on my feet. This little blip is not going to ruin my life because I won’t let it and I won’t let the idea of travel be tainted by memories of a fading bank account.

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So why am I telling you this you wonder? Isn’t it a bit personal to be telling the world about all of my finances? Yeah, maybe, but I think you should know. I think you should know, not about my personal lack of money management but that it’s OK to lose everything you have and then keep on going for the sake of your passions and dreams.

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It’s OK to take risks, to try out a new lifestyle and to fail at it miserably before you get it right. For you, it may not be travel like it is for me. Maybe it’s a move to another city, a change in your career or a relationship– something that seems too risky to ever leave your comfort zone.

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You’re worried that you might make a mistake, dig yourself into a hole or make a decision you will regret. And you know what? All of those things could happen, but it’s possible that they won’t.

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Even if they do, you need to know that if it happens, you can pick up the pieces and move on to the next great adventure. Because when you pick up those little shards of life off the floor and grab a stick of glue, you never know what sort of masterpiece will come from it.

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10 Comments

  • Reply Katarina April 8, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    $300 in student loans! What did you go to school for? Definitely doesn’t sound all that worth it to me, especially since after that payment you’ll have less than $100 in the bank.

    –future beauty school student–

    • Reply Livesabroad April 9, 2016 at 6:14 am

      Yupp $300 a month for me. Actually, that is actually a lot lower than some of my friends. It’s crazy. I went to school to study politics and since I ended up not wanting to go into the politics field, it really wasn’t worth it. What would have been worth it would have been studying something I was interested in!

      -Shannon

  • Reply Sammi April 8, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    I’ve always kind of worried about the same thing happening when I move back to Aus next year after 4 years in Indonesia. But then I almost went broke last year when I had to go home with no notice due to a family emergency but I survived it. Now, just 4 months later I’m back on track. I’m sure you will be fine and be able to find the solution. It’s worth it really for the memories. Good luck with the next few months :).

    • Reply Livesabroad April 9, 2016 at 6:12 am

      Thanks Sammi! It’s nice to know that it only took you four months to get back on track. I’m sure that if you did it before, you will be able to do it again once you get to OZ. You’re right, the memories will always be worth more than having the money! Thanks for sharing !

      -Shannon

  • Reply Daniel Innovate April 8, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    Shannon! I absolutely love your transparency – how many people really know how much their best friends have in their bank account?

    I’ve been traveling a lot too and your stories always inspire me and help me move forward.

    You are awesome – safe travels! Enjoy Hawaii!

    • Reply Livesabroad April 9, 2016 at 6:11 am

      Thanks for reading Dan! I love to hear that my stories are helping you travel more! That’s the goal! I’m liking Hawaii so far and I hope you are enjoying it too! We will catch up soon!

      -Shannon

  • Reply fizza May 13, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    inspiring:)

    • Reply Livesabroad May 15, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      Thank you! Nice to see!

  • Reply Pooja Rajendraprasad January 4, 2017 at 2:40 am

    Hi Shannon, Thanks for sharing your story. So transparent of you to be sharing such a touchy subject of finances! My favorite line in the article had to be this: It’s OK to take risks, to try out a new lifestyle and to fail at it miserably before you get it right. For you, it may not be travel like it is for me. Maybe it’s a move to another city, a change in your career or a relationship– something that seems too risky to ever leave your comfort zone.

    I feel I have never really moved out of my comfort zone, too lazy, scared or I don’t know what, but I hope to take baby steps on that front. Thank you 🙂 Have a great year ahead!

    • Reply Livesabroad January 9, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      Hey! Thanks for reaching out and reading the article! That’s awesome that you are planning on taking some action to get out of your comfort zone! It can be sooo confusing right?! Sometimes I just want to stay in mine and I don’t even know why. Habits can be hard to break but I’m glad you are going to do something about it!

      -Shannon

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