The most common question I am asked when I travel is "how do you afford it?" And this is often asked, sardonically, "are you rich?" Simply: no. I don't have time to explain my whole "system" of getting around, but here is a quick look at a few principles.
- I didn't spend much money during my last semester of grad school. The best way to describe this is to say that I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch everyday, though once a week I'd go out to eat. Part of this was choice, part was chance—my closest friends from school left a year before me, so I went out to Murphy's Pub fewer times that last semester.
- I volunteer at conferences. This allowed me to get into events and reduced rates or free.
- When possible, I find sponsorship from organizations to attend conferences or, currently, ISU.
- When I travel, I usually stay with friends or family. This is the principle that is the most uncomfortable—I don't want to be a freeloader. Without this help I would have fewer stories to tell. What do I bring to my hosts? Very little, except another person to look after, and when you consider that I have done this in India, not just Toronto or Virginia, the task of taking care of me is a significant task. Granted, I am not just traveling to travel—I'm traveling to visit friends or for business. The only thing I can offer is that anyone is welcome in my house, which, in central Illinois, is off the beaten path, but I'll move on to a more central place soon. And you should visit.
- I could use some new clothes, glasses, and contact lenses, but I've put that off until I get a career job (soon).
Of course, none of this is magic. It's quite mundane. There are a few tricks like how to eat on the road without going broke (19 days from Mojave to Illinois spending ~$40 on food, for example), but there is nothing complex. The underlying idea is that to get where I want to go, I accept that I must make some sacrifices where I am.