Expert Interview with Alana Morgan on Affordable World Travel for Mint

If you dream of living abroad or traveling long term, stop just thinking about it and commit already, says Alana Morgan, founder of travel blog Paper Planes.

The freelance writer says she knows plenty of people who have this dream and have the means and resources to make it come true, but never actually follow through because they're too comfortable in their current lives.

"There are so many places to see, and so many ways to make money around the world, that you can probably find something to work for you," she says. "No one will help you do it, however; you have to figure it out for yourself and make it happen!"

Visiting site's like Alana's is a great way to find inspiration for your travel aspirations, too. Here, Alana discusses how she budgets for her travels and offers advice on saving money at any destination. Read on:

Tell us the story behind Paper Planes ...

Originally from Seattle, I left home in 2011 and moved to Thailand by myself to live and travel though Southeast Asia. After a year, I realized I wanted to stay abroad longer and that it was easier to do than I had initially expected. I started my site, Paper Planes, to show others - particularly younger women who wanted to travel but didn't have anyone to go with - that it can be done.

What sparked your passion for travel?

I can't remember an actual moment or event that got me thinking about traveling - since I was young, I've been fascinated with other places, culture and people and flew for the first time when I was two weeks old. I guess I always assumed I would travel if that was something I really wanted to do.

How has traveling the world shaped your perception of money and how you spend and/or save it?

This is a great question ... and a complicated one. I quit a good-paying job in the U.S. to go to Thailand and make $700 a month working 45-plus hour weeks. I've always been a natural saver and conscientious about what I spent my money on, but traveling long term and living in a region where the wages and cost of living was so much lower than what I grew up with helped me realize I could survive just fine on relatively little.

Now I feel like I value money more than many people I know; I'm not careless with it, but I also don't let it dictate how I choose to live my life.

How do you budget for your travels? What do you plan to spend more on? Where do you try to save money?

I started by simply trying to save as much money as I could. I'm not usually a big spender and don't like to buy things, preferring to spend on experiences instead, but when I'm planning a trip I'm even more careful about saving anything I can - every little bit helps! My budget is different for every trip depending on the destination, length of trip, main mode of transportation and general costs in the area I'm visiting - what I've spent on a hostel dorm in Venice for one night could have paid for 10-12 days in a guesthouse in northern Thailand - it just depends.

Regardless of the region, I am always aware of my budget and spending since what I save in Southeast Asia can then be spent in Europe or vice versa. On a general level, I usually try to save on accommodation and transportation, like by taking local buses and subways instead of taxis or tour buses. In places where food is more expensive, I'll buy snacks and basic items from grocery stores or markets instead of always eating out, but I do like to experience the local dining and restaurant scene.

How do you fund your travels?

I limit my expenses and save everything I can. I lived at home after college, saving up to move abroad, and even while I've been working abroad or freelancing, I try to curb common monthly expenses like cell phone plans, etc. I don't purchase large data plans at home, for example, or use a mobile phone while traveling and don't buy anything that I will need to make monthly payments on. When I first left home, I taught English as a foreign language, but found it just wasn't for me. Currently, I'm working as a freelance writer and content creator to keep some money coming in while I continue to travel.

What have been some of the most affordable destinations you've visited so far?

I've spent most of the past three years traveling and living in Southeast Asia, which is incredibly cheap compared to most Western countries. In Europe, I've found Greece and Spain to be very affordable and offer good value for money on almost everything from food to accommodation.

What are some of your go-to methods for pinching pennies on ...

... Air travel: As soon as you know you'll be visiting a place and need plane tickets, start monitoring price comparison sites and set alerts for fare drops ... finding good flight deals takes time and a bit of luck! Also familiarize yourself with the local budget carriers of the region you're visiting.

... Lodging: I rarely stay in hotels and tend to go for hostels instead. I think people who haven't stayed in hostels before would be surprised by many of the newer ones and the amenities they offer - especially in private rooms - you're usually getting the equivalent of a "regular" hotel room for a cheaper price. Many travelers I know also swear by Airbnb.

... Food: Avoid restaurants geared toward tourists - they're more expensive with cheaper food. Even by moving just one street away from a major tourist center, you can often find better deals and better quality. Also, shoot for having one main meal a day while taking advantage of free breakfast at your accommodation or snacking on grocery store finds.

... Entertainment: Think ahead to what you really want to see or do in a place and what you wouldn't mind skipping. If you want to do something above your budget, then go ahead and do it, but cut back in another area to balance things out. When visiting Rome by myself, I splurged on an expensive, personalized Vespa tour but never ate in a restaurant, choosing bakeries and sandwich shops instead.

... Transportation: Public transportation - you need to do a little more thinking and planning than taking a cab, but it's usually worth it.

During your years of traveling, what have been some of the most unexpected or surprising costs you've come across?

I've never understood why fancier, more expensive hotels charge separately for so many amenities, like WiFi, that are included in the room cost at cheaper places. Why would you choose to stay there?? Visa costs can also be surprisingly high for some places and are usually something you first think about before planning a trip.

What's the last place you visited, and what would you recommend our readers check out there?

I just left Greece and know I will be going back - the people are some of the most welcoming and generous I've ever been around and the country has it all, from ancient history to modern art, tiny islands to big cities. The food is incredible too!

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