Photo: Nick Starichenko/Shutterstock

15 Millennials Talk About How They Pay for Travel

Student Work
by Emma Thieme Oct 21, 2014

The millennial generation is attracting a lot of attention. Some reports claim that we lack the necessary attitude for “job success.” We struggle with work ethic. We’re not motivated. These claims aren’t exactly groundbreaking — older generations have been criticizing younger generations since the beginning of mankind — but they do speak to our ability to shake things up. Especially when it comes to living the life we want, uninhibited by the typical 9-to-5 work schedule.

A survey conducted by Expedia found that millennials travel for leisure more than any other generational group. So how are we able to do it? According to these millennial-age MatadorU students and faculty, travel and work don’t have to be two separate things.


“On a long meandering route southward from Alaska, I worked with a rag-tag band of women hawking massaging pillows and cheese graters to pay for gas money. I’d spend 12-hour days working alongside a 65-year-old whose dietary intake consisted of a cocktail of psychotropic drugs and lukewarm cans of Coca Cola. Even still, the home and gift shows were spread out across the West coast, and in between, I was free to camp amongst the redwoods of Northern California, explore the breweries of Denver, and soak in the hot springs of New Mexico. Selling Chinese-made crap certainly didn’t feel glamorous, but it got me to my next destination, and that was all I really wanted.” Carleen Krug


“I work a six weeks on and three weeks off rotation as a field engineer on an oil rig in the Gulf of Guinea (West Africa). Those six weeks on are long 12-hour days for seven days a week, but those three weeks off are mine. They come with a plane ticket anywhere I want to go. It’s just a matter of deciding where I am going next.” Jennifer Melroy


“I work for a company that does scientific research in different countries around the world. We work with volunteers together, train and conduct research relevant to each area. So far I have worked in Thailand, Ecuador and Costa Rica with them. While working, they cover room and board in very basic accommodations and though they don’t pay a lot, it’s enough to jump to the next place!” Sateesh Venkatesh


“My boyfriend and I decided to make travel a priority about three-ish years ago. At the time we were doing the cubicle thing full-time in Seattle and we weren’t too happy with our future options. We each had jobs that we didn’t love, so our options were to either (a) just deal and keep going, or (b) find new jobs. So, we made a third option for ourselves: travel. It took us about 1.5 years of working and saving to amass enough money that could sustain us for at least a year. Then we quit our jobs and took off. While traveling, we volunteered through HelpX and Workaway as a way to keep costs down, and we always looked for hostels with kitchens so that we could cook as much as possible.

“Basically, we’re kind of back where we were three years ago. Travel is still very much a priority, but we need to save up a bit more before we can take off again. So, I’m temping (ugh) and working on building my writing portfolio for freelancing gigs. He’s working a part-time graphic design gig and also building his portfolio. I’m also trolling the “Etc.” section of Craigslist, looking for the odd one-off job or marketing survey (I once made $75 for just trying on some jeans!). We’re also looking for regular jobs as a way to make more money faster, but looking for jobs is tough when you’re not so sure how long you’ll be around. We’re very much in a transitional period right now, but travel is our motivation and the light at the end of the tunnel.” Gina Corsiglia


“Before packing my life into a backpack and taking trains around the United States for two and a half months, I nannied full-time for six months to earn my travel money. While on the road, I wrote for Listverse, which pays $100 per article and can be about pretty much anything you want. They’re easy to write and, as most of you know, getting out and traveling is one of the best sources for information, so the ideas came relatively easy to me. I rarely ate out and cooked mostly in the kitchens provided by hostels and my hosts from Couchsurfing, which was one of the best experiences of the whole trip. Getting to meet fellow travelers who are generous enough to let you sleep on their couch? Amazing props to humanity for that one.” Shannon Gadberry


“I teach English in South Korea and do private English lessons online. I also blog and do a ton of freelance writing to help pay for my trips.” Meg Ten Eyck


“My earliest trips were funded by amazing family/friends/church as I did lots of volunteering, mostly with Habitat for Humanity. Then I realized if you lead the team, your flight is covered. So when I turned 25 (the age required) I did the Habitat for Humanity training. My husband and I have led teams with them since, covering nearly all our costs and fundraising just a little bit of what isn’t. Some people scoff that the leader’s flights are provided from the funds of the team but the truth is – planning, executing, and physically leading a team is exhausting. All the volunteering and team leading is part of what led me to my position now, at The Giving Lens, planning, executing, and often leading international travel photography workshops (with a humanitarian focus). And because I can work from anywhere — not only with The Giving Lens, but also Matador Network, MatadorU, and as a freelancer (which really just means I have about 6 jobs) — I don’t necessarily have to go home. It’s an exhausting but pretty excellent set-up.” Kate Siobhan Mulligan


“This summer I traveled to Macedonia for a month, and I was able to survive because I worked night shifts in a hostel. It was a great deal. In addition to all the people I met working there, I had free accommodation and breakfast, and also every type of delicious fruit the hostel garden provided. I could say this was my first big trip, and even if I didn’t become richer, I’m proud to think I became a little bit wiser. Right now, I am in my country again, ready to study to be a Spanish language teacher. Hopefully in the future, between the hostel opportunities, the Spanish classes, and the freelance writing, the travels will keep coming.” Marco Delgado


“Currently, I’m driving for Uber in my free time. It’s an exciting way to make money because I’m with new people in an intimate setting about every 10-15 minutes. It’s completely random, always a little nerve-wracking, and usually enjoyable. The people that I meet are either really caring and friendly and try to have conversations with me, or they are completely unaware that I’m in the vehicle and proceed on to conversations with their fellow passengers. The things I’ve heard and learned are crazy/laughable/shocking but always allow me a unique perspective to take home for the night.” Tanner Saunders


“In the past I’ve taught English in South Korea, and currently I’m living in Canada and working. I tend to live frugally and save as much as I can while working in one place, and then leave to travel for several months. I’m working on coming up with a solution that allows me to live and work independent of location.” Marie King


“In the past, I traveled a lot thanks to my parents. My mother was a travel agent for quite a large part of my life so she knew the tricks of the trade. In addition, my parents funded a few of my trips with People to People Student Ambassadors — which is a group of students traveling to learn about other cultures and to promote peace (P2PSA was founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower). With People to People I traveled to Asia, Southeast Asia, and Antarctica. After graduating from high school, I decided to move abroad and go to university in Spain for four years, where I studied, worked in a library, and taught English/babysat. In my free time, I traveled around Spain and went to Italy and Morocco. Sometimes I had a class that required me to travel to Brussels or to southern Spain (Cordoba, Granada). Furthermore, during my last year at uni, I asked to be a class photographer so I went on day trips from my school for free, in exchange of pictures to be used on their website.

“In each of these experiences, I’ve met amazing people whose friendship is going to last me a lifetime. And the best part is they’re from all over the world, so if I ever travel to their cities, we can grab coffee. Now I’m working at a bank, trying to save money for emergencies and for future trips.” Adrienne Bednarz


“I had a full-time job and I was always traveling for work. Every time I had to go somewhere, I took some extra days off to explore the area. Apart from the travel trips, I was allowed to have a month off per year so I would travel twice a year for 15 days each trip.” Ana Gusso


“I’ve usually paid for travel by trying to overlap it with my job or school. In college, I studied abroad in Stockholm, since it was the same cost as staying at my home institution, and I explored Europe cheaply from there via trains and RyanAir/EasyJet. I was in a PhD program in Leipzig, Germany for a couple years, which allowed me to explore Germany and Europe, and as a field biologist, I got to spend a few months in Ethiopia collecting samples for my PhD research project. Now that I’m back in the States, I plan visits to friends I’ve made during my travels, which eliminates hotel costs, and I try to attend conferences in interesting places (since school or work will often offset some of the attendances costs). If I have to pay for lodging, I stay in a hostel or camp. I’m currently in medical school and have a strong interest in global health, so I hope that my job will continue to take me to new and interesting places.” Vanessa Van Doren


“The summer before I moved to France to teach English last year, I nannied full-time to earn extra travel money. Once I was working in France, I received a monthly stipend and tutored in my free time. Plus, I cooked all my own meals, walked everywhere, and cut down on café stops or nights out to save money. At the end of my 7-month contract, I had enough money saved to travel for another two months in the south of France with a very comfortable budget. Workaway is also a great travel resource that I’ve looked into but haven’t personally experienced yet. The site sets you up with free accommodations all over the world in exchange for part-time work!” Paige Smith


“I made travel a priority. It would come down to something like this: “Hmmm, for the price of a Coach bag, I could fly to Charleston and visit my friend” or “This week I’ll cook for myself so that the $100 I save in groceries can go towards dining out in London.” It was a total psychological thing but I knew that the only way I’d get anywhere was if I paid for it myself!” Katka Lapelosová

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