True Story: Single mother from Bushwick, Brooklyn, funds long-term trip without having to sell a kidney

Morocco (pic by MoroccoExcursions)

This summer I’ll be traveling for two months with my daughter to the following places:

  • Reykjavik, Iceland (three days)
  • Paris/Chartres/Annecy, France (nine days in the heart of the Latin Quarter)
  • Carouge/Geneva, Switzerland (five days)
  • Rimini/Venice/Rome, Italy (ten days)
  • Lisbon/Porto, Portugal (15 days)
  • Marrakech (and beyond!), Morocco (11 days)
  • Madrid, Spain (five days)

Sounds like a trip for either an heiress or a student backpacker, doesn’t it? 

I assure you, I am not wealthy.  I do not have a rich husband (or an alimony) to support my travels. Nor am I a backpacking student. Ha! Far from it. In fact, I am a single mother (who doesn’t receive child support!) living in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Brooklyn!

So, you might wonder, how is this happening? Here’s a short list of the steps I took:

  • Promised my daughter we’d be making a trip.
  • Told everyone in my life that we’d be making a trip.
  • Started keeping this blog to announce to the world that we’d be making a trip.
  • Downsized (moved from a huge loft in a great neighborhood to a (still) huge loft in a less desirable area).
  • Worked my ass off to develop my own business that would enable me both an income and time to travel.
  • Cut expenses (rarely went out to eat, served my kid a lot of beans and rice, stopped buying new clothes, walked instead of took the subway, and only took a car service if it was late at night and I didn’t feel like getting mugged in my ‘hood or on the train).
  • Made monthly deposits into an online savings account (I used SmartyPig) that was kept completely separate from my other accounts.
  • Contacted old roommates, friends and family from around the world to see if we might stay with them for a spell.
  • Used AirBnB to find apartments in areas where we don’t have friends and family (I’ve rented beautiful apartments in Iceland, France and Portugal).
  • Connected with travelers via social media and on networks such as CouchSurfers.

Yep, that’s it. I wanted to change my life, and I wanted to travel with my kid around the world, so I shifted my world view. Honestly, telling people I’d be doing it and setting a date really helped. With friends, family and even naysayers asking me when I would be departing, it would have been humiliating to not follow through. 

Annecy, France (photo by mzarzar)

In the beginning of my trip planning, I thought I’d take my kiddo to somewhere in South America or to Thailand- somewhere inexpensive where I could get the biggest bang for my bucks. But my girl was clear where she wanted to go: Italy. Then I realized that I could really use some time in Paris to do the research for my next book. And then I thought, how perfect, we’ll be sort-of-kind-of close to Morocco, a country I’ve always wanted to see. The rest of the trip evolved from there, and it looks very different from the relatively inexpensive trip I had first imagined.

Is the trip going to be expensive? Yes. I won’t pretend that I’ll be making it happen on a dime. That said, my accommodations will be $450 less than if I had stayed in New York. This was accomplished by renting out my apartment and taking WEEKS (yes, weeks) to do research on the places I rented in other countries. Amazingly, for very little, I booked a gorgeous apartment in my favorite neighborhood in Paris with a 250 square foot private terrace, and secured an out-of-this-world home in Iceland  with breakfast provided and a guide who will take us caving and to hot springs that are off-the-beaten-path. Oh- and the place in Portugal? It’s not a luxury apartment, but it’s HUGE, very clean, filled with art, and, for two weeks, it cost me only $200.

Our first view of Iceland will probably look a lot like this… (photo by Sarah Ackerman)

It’s really only the flights and spending money that I’ve needed to come up with. And, even then, in looking at the budget of what I would’ve spent had I stayed in NY, I’m only over by about $2500 for the entire summer (this is after I include all the various museum tickets/admissions /meals/trains/etc). That comes out to about $1250 a month to travel (in the way I want to travel). In my world this is still a lot of money, but I’m happy to say that I’ve worked really hard to make it happen. Do I still have some debt? Yep. And I’m working hard to take care of it before I leave for the summer. But if I’m not able, I know I’ll be able to cover it when I return in the autumn. If I continued to wait until I was completely debt-free before I took my daughter on a trip, we’d forever stay in Brooklyn. See, life has a funny way of throwing single mothers expenses that two-parent homes and single people simply don’t incur. Therefore, I’ll continue to do what I can, when I can. And in the meanwhile, I WILL go on this trip. I think my daughter has been waiting long enough.

For years I thought that being a single mother meant I couldn’t travel with a kid. I said that it would be impossible. I was jealous of my single friends who showed me their travel pictures. By re-prioritizing and taking some risks, I will now be able to whip out some amazing albums of photos. The best part? Unlike my single friends, I’ll be taking this trip with my heart and soul- my little girl. Somehow, looking at the trips others have taken, I’m no longer envious. 

So… it IS happening. The apartments are booked and so are (some of) our flights. The trip is coming up so quickly, I can almost taste it.

My advice to anyone out there who thinks he or she can’t travel? Well, if you want it badly enough (you have to want it!), then pick a day, today, for instance, and send an email to everyone you’ve ever met announcing that you’ll be traveling the world. Tell your kids, tell your parents, tell the people who own the bodegas in your ‘hood. Then figure out a few key steps that will make it happen. For me the steps were clear- downsize, restructure my work life, quit spending and network with others who had made it happen.

If I can do it, anyone can. I swear. 

Need more convincing? My post was written as part of a writing project with a group of traveling families. Read how others are making it work (below)!! But first, make sure to friend me on Facebook so that you can keep up with my travels!

Only the Very Special, Lucky, Rich, and Perfect (Like Me) Can Travel by Gabi

Anyone can travel by Mary at Bohemian Travelers

Diet shouldn’t stop you from traveling by Amy at livin’ on the road

If Anyone Can Travel Why Don’t You? by Keryn at Walkingon Travels

Anyone can do this! – Kate at Experiential Family

Not Everyone Can Travel – by Living Outside of the Box

You Have to Be Special Like Us if You Want an Awesome Life – Discover Share Inspire

Anyone Can Travel, Just Let Go by Diya at a Minor Diversion

Don’t Be Jealous of Our Travels! Be Happy for Us and Know That You Can Make it Happen Too! - Susan V. and family

Anyone Can Travel…Just Find Your Way by Kate at Experiential Family

Pity, Envy, and why anyone can travel — Clark Vandeventer of FamilyTrek

Travel – Possible? by Wandering Photographer

Even Solo Mamas on Government Handouts Can Travel by Jody

A Family Travel Lifestyle by Loreena at Little Aussie Travelers

Anyone can travel, can’t they? by New Life on the Road

Our Path to becoming Lucky enough to Travel by A King’s Life

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31 Responses to True Story: Single mother from Bushwick, Brooklyn, funds long-term trip without having to sell a kidney

  1. Pingback: Only the Very Special, Lucky, Rich, and Perfect (Like Me) Can Travel | The Nomadic Family

  2. Pingback: Our Path to Becoming Lucky Enough to Travel | A King's Life

  3. Pingback: Anyone Can Travel…Just Find Your Way - Experiential Family » Experiential Family

  4. Pingback: If Anyone Can Travel Why Don’t You? | walkingon travels

  5. So glad that you did not have to sell a kidney ( or donate blood for a price ) ! : ) New York City can be a hard place to try and save up money. But as the saying goes ” If you can make there, you’d make it.. anywhere !” Sounds like this trip with your trip with daughter is about to be real ! I just posted my article about traveling with one of our daughters. Can’t wait to hear all about this incredible summer you both will have !
    Susan

    • Melissa says:

      I’m holding onto my kidneys, blood/plasma, etc., for as long as I’m able! Yep- it’s going to happen! We have our flights overseas… I just don’t have them yet to come home. Uh oh! Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures, too:)

  6. Pingback: Living On The Road with Four Kids

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Good luck! Hope you have a great trip. I grew up near Geneva and can probably help if there’s something specific you want to see (a zoo, art museum, etc) – but it sounds like you’re staying with friends who will have many great ideas, I’m sure.

    My top tip is to look out for the little beaches – there are lovely ones all along the lake, from the centre of Geneva out. Most cost very little / nothing to get in and many have a restaurant (decent, reasonably priced food) plus a pool (open air) and some games (table tennis, volleyball type thing). The lake is lovely to swim in!

    For news / events in English, I recommend http://www.genevalunch.com which covers the whole region.

    • Melissa says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth! Yes, we’ll be staying with family. I remember going to a huge pool in Geneva as well as the lake- I have a feeling we’ll stay a few days around the city and will then venture out to the mountains:) I just checked out the link- looks like a great resource- again, thanks! If there is any place in particular you think we should check out, please let me know!

  8. Pingback: Pity, Envy, and why anyone can travel | Family Trek

  9. Pingback: Anyone Can Travel, Just Let Go | a minor diversion

  10. Pingback: Even Solo Mamas on Government Handouts Can Travel « Solo Mama Travels

  11. Mary says:

    Good for you!! So happy to see your dreams will be coming true. It takes so much more work than people can even imagine doesn’t it! It has nothing to do with luck and if it does it’s because we make our own luck!

    • Melissa says:

      Thanks, Mary! It’s pretty darn exciting to have it all come together. You’re right… We make our own luck!!

  12. Awesome! Way to go on making it happen. I applaud your determination and willingness to ‘sacrifice’ to make your dream come true!

    • Melissa says:

      Thank you!!! I get the feeling you have an understanding of what it’s like to make sacrifices (if we can truly call them that?) to make life wonderful!

  13. Pingback: You Have to Be Special Like Us If You Want An Awesome Life (And Have Lots of Money) | Discover Share Inspire

  14. Lisa Wood says:

    Good on you for letting everyone know that you were determined to travel, and for putting into steps to make that happen.
    If there is a will there is a way – its that simple!
    I love how you have looked at all of your travel options, and have found places where you and your Daughter can stay.

    Looking forward to hearing about your journey.
    Cheers
    Lisa

    • Melissa says:

      Thanks, Lisa! You’re absolutely right- if there’s a will, there’s a way! I can’t wait to share more about our trip:)

  15. Pingback: Anyone Can Travel Cant They | New Life On The Road

  16. CONGRATULATIONS! You are an inspiration to all single moms – moms – people, period! Can’t wait to read about your travels. Blessings on your path, lady!

  17. Lee says:

    Hi Melissa, I chanced upon your blog recently and ended up doing a read-through of almost the whole thing. (I love your wallpaper by the way). I’m not a single parent usually, but my husband is working stateside while I and my three young ones (4,6,8)are tending to his hospitalized father in Puerto Rico. So, for now I am a single mom and I think that is why I love your blog. I read it and I feel your strength and can’t help but think, “Go, girl!” or “Women are awesome”. You are making it happen when so many with more support can’t even begin to wrap their heads around it. Your daughter is so fortunate to have your example. I wish you the best. P.S. I am taking a break from my over-extended duties here this summer and taking the kids to Portugal, Spain and Morocco as well for 2-3 months. I’m looking forward to reading your travel notes before I set out. All the best.

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Lee! Thanks for reading. Being a single mama, even for a short spell, is humbling AND wonderful! Sounds like you have a lot on your plate right now. I’d love to hear more about your travel plans. Maybe our paths will be able to cross!

      • Lee says:

        Hi again, Melissa. Since I last left a comment on your post I have purchased our tickets to Portugal. We leave mid-May and have no set plans beyond the leaving, and probably skipping through Spain and Morocco a bit. It’s me with three little ones so my plan is to be slow and flexible. I would love to hear more about your $200 place in Portugal, if you don’t mind. Should you have a chance, could you drop me an email. I would love to see if our itineraries cross.

        • Melissa says:

          Sorry it took so long for me to reply! I don’t have comments go directly to my email, as the spam gets a little overwhelming! I’ll definitely shoot you an email!

        • Melissa says:

          I shot you an email- check your spam in case it doesn’t go to your in-box. Hopefully I haven’t missed you before you and your little ones leave on your adventure!

  18. Marilia says:

    Nice to know about your plans, this is so exciting for you both. What a beautiful trip. Congratulations for making it happen.

  19. Your story gave me chills because this is exactly what I am doing! I have a four year old son who is my world!My plan is January or February and i am trying to learn all that I can. Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated. Single moms are amazing in what they can accomplish!

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Brittany! I’d love to hear more about your plan! Single moms ARE amazing… We can take on the WORLD (and give it to our kids:).

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