I want to share with you a story that in almost no way will you be able to replicate. That’s the beauty of life. Every one finds different opportunities if they keep their eyes and mind open. And I wanted to share this with you because when I was 13 and planning to travel in Europe, these weren’t a standard option. They aren’t really an option at all. Except that I did it.
Even if your early retirement plan is rather vanilla aka: earn a lot, spend less, save the difference. It will still take a big pile of creativity and optimism to get there. Whether it is finding an affordable housing option, cooking less expensive meals, or in this case travel.
And here the tale begins. My little sister came over to visit me one summer while we were living in Europe. It was her 17th birthday and I wanted to plan something special. Dave Matthews Band was going to be playing in Paris, and what teenage girl doesn’t want to see Paris? A friend had told me about this car ride service, similar to couch surfing, except you plug your itinerary into the website and people offer money to carpool with you. You have reviews, they have reviews. It’s a little weird carpooling with people you don’t know, but probably less weird than sleeping on their couch. So we found one guy heading to Paris and a couple to come back from Paris with us. The thing is they paid really well. Like really well. We got very lost trying to find the metro stop to pick up the couple in Paris, which they felt bad about. So they gave us even more money for not ditching them.
The parking is crazy expensive in Paris, like 30 Euros a day. But for 30 Euros, I found a campsite near a metro stop. (with a room for our car) I bought two concert tickets for DMB. We went to Versailles, which was really amazing. We had packed some food and ate picnic style. We wandered around Paris for 3 days and saw every sight. We took silly pictures with a bean bag chicken she had brought. Walked enough to make up for the many crepes we ate. Had a blast!
By the end of the trip I realized that we came out over $50 ahead! The ride share money we earned covered every expense for our trip plus some. It was another frugal YOLO trip to remember. Now this might sound like a truly horrible trip to you. Riding with strangers, camping, using public transit, DMB, picnics. And maybe it would be. But we had a wonderful time!
Here are all the ways this won’t work for you
- You won’t be living overseas
- You won’t have a car there
- You won’t get American prices on gas in Germany
- You won’t be able to car share
- You won’t have camping gear
- You won’t want to sing along to DMB till you lose your voice
- You won’t like French cheese and bread (only if you’re a robot, because it’s AMAZING!)
I don’t know, there are probably 10 more reasons it won’t work. The point is, if you really want to get to the place where work is optional, where you can just up and take a year off, or pay cash for a house, then you might need to exercise some creativity. Personally, that was the most fun $50 I have ever made (plus it counted as my little sister’s birthday gift!). Often when we look back on memories, the “bad” parts end up being the most fun to reminisce about. When my sister and I tell the story of that trip, we rarely talk about the gardens at Versailles (which are a work of art). Instead we laugh about the young French couple that rode with us and spent 90% of the time “French” kissing in the back seat. And we spent the same 90% of the ride laughing about it.
We all have unique opportunities, we just need to look around a bit to see them.