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Posted by on Jan 6, 2013 in Feature, Most Popular, Scholarships, Study Abroad, Teach Abroad, Travel, Travel Planning, Work Abroad |

Nine Ways to Fund Travel

I hear so many people say, “Oh I wish I could travel” without realizing that most people actually can. Travel requires an investment of time, money and energy, but so does buying a new car or throwing a party. Most of the nine topics below will be covered in-depth in the coming weeks, but what better time to start thinking about funding travel than the new year?

Crowdfund (Fundraise)

Crowdfunding travel puts a new spin on an old concept (fundraising) and gives anyone who wants to travel with a purpose a new tool to garner support (financial and otherwise) from their community and social networks. Travel crowdfunding websites like Project Travel, Fund My Travel, and Volunteer Forever are available to anyone who wants to travel to study, intern, volunteer, or teach. More general crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo allow you to crowdfund even a vacation or personal journey. Check out these travel crowdfunding websites, read the FAQs, and set up a travel campaign page to get started.

Tip! Most of us have at least two gift-giving holidays per year. Why not ask those near and dear to consider contributing to your travel campaign rather than purchasing a more traditional gift?

Scholarships & Fellowships

Scholarships helped me get a college education, study abroad, and earn my master’s degree overseas. I think everyone should apply for a scholarship or tell a friend! Each scholarship carries with it specific eligibility criteria and application requirements and it is typically available to high school, college, or graduate students to study, intern, or volunteer in another country.

A fellowship is like a scholarship but supports professionals and scholars who have been active in their careers for a number of years or who are specializing in a particular area. Many fellowships are offered by foundations and NGO’s for the purpose of building capacities and human capital within a given field or world region.

Some of the best resources to search scholarships and fellowships (in addition to your local university’s international office):

Financial Aid

Financial aid is only available to undergraduate students enrolled full time at a college or university who want to study abroad, but for those who fit into that category, it is a heavy-hitting option. Financial aid is money given by the federal and state government to a students who completed the annual FAFSA application. Many colleges allow their students to apply financial aid towards a study abroad program because the student is still earning credits that will apply to his or her degree. It pays (literally) to be informed about your options, so students should visit their financial aid and international offices to learn more about eligibility and the process of applying financial aid towards a study abroad program.

Join the Peace Corps

Ever since the Peace Corps was officially established in 1961, well over 200,000 US citizens have lived and volunteered in countries around the world. Peace Corps volunteers typically commit to a two-year term. The experience is funded by the US government and volunteers who complete a placement are eligible to have their master’s degree tuition paid for in the United States upon return. Volunteers live like locals, which creates a deeper rapport with the host community but also means foregoing some of the comforts of home. If you just want someone to pay for you to live abroad than the Peace Corps is not the way to go! However, if you are interested in serving others and opening up to an incredible learning experience this may be the right fit for you. To explore the topic of international volunteering a bit further, see 5 Reasons to Volunteer (And 5 Reasons Not To).

Teach English Abroad

For native English speakers, teaching English abroad is an excellent way to see the world and share your native tongue. That said, just because you speak English does not mean that you can (or should) teach it. However, if you participate through a reputable organization training is available. Some teaching English gigs are not paid and are geared towards those interested in volunteering for a shorter period of time. However, schools, universities and even foreign governments are interested in paying native English speakers a decent wage on a renewable or longer-term contract. A few organizations and resources for interested teachers:

Working and Traveling

This is the category where people get creative and what I mean by that is there are a lot of different ways to earn money while traveling (including ways not listed here). Budget travelers have often seized on the opportunity to fund or prolong their travels by spending very little for starters, but also working.

Another trend that has recently gained a lot of traction is location independence. The age of the internet made a location independent lifestyle possible but authors like Timothy Ferris (The Four-Hour Work Week) made this idea popular. Location independence simply means being able to support yourself from anywhere in the world by earning income online (passive or otherwise). This group of travelers is not in the ‘budget traveler’ category, but has made a lifestyle and career out of making money and traveling. Here are a few great blogs to follow if you want to explore this as an option:

International Career: Work with Built-In Travel

If you are convinced that the ex-pat life is for you, longer term thinking is clearly in order. Many people return from a study, work, teaching, or volunteer experience abroad and rearrange their life to be able to live, work and travel internationally on a regular basis. The resources below favor those looking for jobs in international education, non-profits, or the US government but many corporations, science and engineering firms, and obviously the tourism industry have international offices or positions that require frequent international travel. Start asking leaders in your profession what is available in your field internationally.


Entering contests is perhaps the most random and least reliable method of planning for travel, nonetheless, someone has to win them! Some contests function like the lottery, but many contests are based on an application that involves story telling, video, and photography which means in theory, the best wo(man) wins! I recommend entering contests as a find aside to the other 8 methods listed here. Here are a few organizations or travel networks that periodically offer travel contests:

Good Planning

Last but perhaps most important in funding travel of any kind by any means is good planning. If you have a mortgage, kids, and a full-time job with regular hours, your planning period may be significantly longer than your DINK or SINK (Double/Single-Income No-Kids) friends, but again, it is possible. Good planning involves many steps, but take these three steps in the next three months and you will be better positioned to afford travel:

  1. Create or revise your monthly budget to identify where your money is going each month (utilizing free online tools such as Mint can help you get organized and even set goals!)
  2. Identify how much money is available after paying for bills and cost of living
  3. Set a goal to put aside a percentage of that money each month towards your travel fund (name this something fun to capture the spirit of your goal…how about “Fly Somewhere and Do Something Great”?)

When you are ready to take the next step, create a budget for your international journey. Download a free step-by-step guide on creating an international budget.

Tip! Talk to your bank to see if they have an account that will automatically deposit $1 into a new savings account every time you make a purchase (or round up every purchase to the nearest dollar). This means you ‘save as you spend’ and the dollars add up over time without a whole lot of effort!

Samantha is the founder of The Traveling Advisor. She has lived, worked and studied in the United States, Europe and South America and traveled to many other countries. She enjoys adventures of many kinds…travel, the outdoors, good conversation, and silence.