5 reasons why I’m grateful to be broke

5 reasonsI had a long discussion with some friends last night about another friend  or ours who is studying abroad in Europe. She traveled to a different country almost every other weekend during her semester and now that her classes are finished, she’s traveling around Europe. We kept asking ourselves, “How is she affording all of this??” I mean, she is seriously living out my dream of traveling all throughout Europe – but the only way I could do that is by working long hours and saving up for it for months.

Turns out, my friend’s family is paying for her trip. She is traveling at ease while I’m at home working 30 hours per week on top of a being a full-time student just to be able to spend 3 weeks in Europe this summer. And while our conversation about this friend could have turn into a jealous rant, my friend Rachel, who is paying for her study abroad trip to France, said something that completely changed the conversation. “Yeah, it’d be more luxurious doing it her way, but the gratitude level is much different for us.”

And I thought about that for a spell. She was so right. I’m grateful that my parents, who are definitely not poor, decided they wouldn’t pay for my travels (or food, or clothes…) because they wanted me to know what it’s like to have to live on a budget. And there are 5 reasons why I’m so grateful for that:

  1. I know the value of money.

There’s nothing like working every moment you’re not sleeping, eating or in class that makes you appreciate money. My hard work put every dollar in my bank account. I don’t buy things frivolously because I want to put my hard-earned money to good use. Instead of spending $300 on a designer purse, I’d rather spend that money on a plane ticket to somewhere I’ve never been before.  I know what money is worth and I’ll make sure I’ll extract every ounce of its value.

  1. I know how to earn my way.

Now this might turn into a bit of a rant. I know too many people who haven’t worked a day in their lives. Or they have, but just for fun because their parents still pay for everything. We all wish someone would just hand us money – but what is the good in that? Once I graduate college, I’ll know how to save up for a house, a car, groceries, etc., because I know how to earn money. I can be a functioning part of society, making an honest living, and do so because I know how to independently earn my way. I will never wait for someone just to hand me something.

  1. I appreciate things so much more.

Ever notice how a meal tastes so much better when you make it from scratch rather than buying it at a restaurant? Or how the cabinets in your kitchen look so much better when you build them by hand than when you buy them at the store? It’s because you worked hard on them. You exerted some sort of effort into making them what they are, so when you eat that meal or see those cabinets, you are also reminded of the fruits of your labor.

And that’s how I feel about everything I pay for. When I get to Europe this summer, I’ll be reminded of how many hours I worked to pay to be there. And every meal or souvenir I buy abroad will be memorabilia of not only the trip, but also of every time I had to say no to something because it was too expensive and I had to save money. I appreciate everything I have so much because I earned it.

  1. I’m more connected with the real world.

At least 80 percent of humanity lives on less than 10 USD a day, according to GlobalIssues.org. Out of the 2.2 billion children in the world, 1 billion live in poverty. And 1.6 billion people — a quarter of humanity — live without electricity.

In most of the world, people’s parents can’t afford to send them off to travel Europe. In fact, they can barely afford food for the week, or sometimes not at all. I know my friend who’s abroad is aware of these things, but there are so many other people in the U.S. who live in complete ignorance that other people are struggling out there just to stay alive. They’re completely disconnected from what’s happening to the other 80 percent of the world.

I’m unbelievably fortunate that I can shower, change my clothes, eat three meals and watch TV every day.  And with that, I should also say that I am so fortunate to even have a job – and three at that. At least I can earn money (even it if takes a while), whereas most people in the world can’t say that. I’m extraordinarily blessed.

  1. I’m a better person.

Because I’m broke, I’m a hard worker. I’m independent, and I know how to persevere. I know what it means to have to work for what I have. And know how fortunate I am to have what I do.

My friend who is abroad is not a bad person. She is really a sweet girl with a great heart, and has been blessed with amazing opportunities. I don’t mean for this post to be a negative rant about her. This post is a reflection about how she helped me realize that I should never be jealous of what other people have; instead, I should be more appreciative of everything I have. I want people to read this and realize how lucky they are, too. If you’re reading this, it means you are literate and have access to the internet. At least half of the world doesn’t have what you do. Think about it.

I’m going to Europe!

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Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m young, and I’m broke. As a 20-year-old college student, though, what else would you expect?

But the thing is, I am dying to travel.

I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain last summer, through a program with my school, and the experience undoubtedly changed my life forever. Leaving the States for the first time, I was not prepared for the awakening the trip would spring upon me. The ensuing wanderlust when I returned has been so extraordinary that it is almost unbearable. Each night before I sleep, I browse through pictures of Santorini, Prague, Mahcu Picchu, Granada, Johannesburg, Nice, Zurich, Buenos Aires, Lagos, Dublin and every other beautiful city abroad. I have dreamed of returning the Europe since the day my plane touched down in at Newark Liberty International Airport.

So I started planning. I spent the rest of my summer working part time during the day and researching at night. I looked for every possible opportunity to return to Europe. I searched for other study abroad opportunities, teaching English abroad programs, volunteer trips and international conferences. Every single one though, cost thousands of dollars and was completely out of my budget.

I left for Spain with about $1,500 in my bank account after purchasing my $1,450 round trip plane ticket to Madrid. I returned with $100. I had to beg my parents for rent money, and the thoughts of buying new clothes, going to concerts or eating out for the rest for the summer were completely out of the question. Albeit, every penny I spent in Spain was completely and utterly worth it. I just did not know how I could ever afford to travel again while still a student.

By some strange, twisted stroke of luck, however, I received two part-time job offers at the start of the new semester. I already had one job, but the thought of increasing my weekly salary was enticing. I now work about 27 hours per week along with classes, but I would not change anything for the world. I happen to love all of my jobs and am using them all to boost my resume — the most significant benefit, though, is that now I can afford to travel again!

I found a trip through Contiki Holidays, a company planning trips for those aged 18 – 35, which is a 15-day camping trip this summer through four European countries: England, France, Italy and Spain. Sure, we will be hitting the most toursity destinations, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum, but those spots were on my bucket list anyway. Reasonably priced at $1,650 plus taxes, the trip was something I could afford. I have to pay for the flight to and from London, plus food and souvenirs once I get there, but if I start saving now, I should be fine.

And now my head is bursting with excitement, anxiety, and above all else, anticipation .Consequently, I created this blog for organizing my thoughts, plans and ideas for the trip.  I plan to post my research and discoveries on this site in hopes to help and inspire other young, broke travelers.

Stick with me kids, and you’ll go far.