There are two things I’m passionate about in life: creating and traveling. I love to draw, write, and take photos. And there’s no other way I’d rather spend my time than exploring the world and experiencing new places.
But I had no doubt that life as a writer and a world traveler was not a lucrative proposition. In fact, it was probably a downright expensive proposition as I had no idea how to make money as a professional writer or traveler when I first started out in the real world on my own.
I had bills to pay. I had savings to shore up. I had a real career to think about. I didn’t want my parents footing the bill for me as an adult when I should be making my own money. And I knew that believing in some woo-woo idea that I’d magically be okay living as a nomad with no financial safety net was not a sustainable way to live life.
Building financial stability was important to me. I realized that, without a firm financial footing, it would be so much harder to make my dream of being a full-time traveler getting paid to write come true. But I also wasn’t willing to live life without my passions.
So I made a deal with myself: I’d do what I could to pursue my passion while also building financial security so that one day, I’d be able to write and travel and be truly free of money worries.
Here’s how I managed it:
I Didn’t Quit My Day Job (Immediately)
I hated my old day job. It was boring, unfulfilling, and low paying. It wasn’t challenging me and it certainly wasn’t what I had spent 17 years of my life receiving formal education to do for a living.
Although it was tempting to just quit and try to make something sustainable out of a dream, I stuck with that job for almost three years. I understood that it paid the bills and that without any kind of financial foundation there was no way I could successfully pursue something I was passionate about.
That didn’t mean I slogged away day after day in a job that I hated and did nothing else. But I did change the way I spent my free time. Instead of browsing through Pinterest or watching TV for hours, I started looking for ways to pursue my passions on the side.
I took free online courses to boost my skills. I started venturing out to try my hand at various creative endeavors: I borrowed a DSLR camera to try photography, I spent time drawing and painting, and I read books to learn more about graphic design.
Eventually, I fired up my own blog as an outlet for writing. That served as a springboard into my first success as a professional writer. My blog helped me land paid writing gigs. I worked these gigs as my side hustle and banked every bit of money I earned from them.
Yes, it was more work to do this on the side of my full-time job. But it was also accelerating my progress to my ultimate goal of financial stability and independence while also allowing me to develop my path to professional writing.
I Focused on Creating a Career that Offered Freedom and Flexibility
As I picked up more and more writing work, I started thinking I could really make this my full-time career one day. I started strategizing about how to develop work that was location-independent, which meant I could work from anywhere. I started planning on how I could take this work that I loved and make it my full-time job.
Part of that was growing and expanding work on the side. I wanted to ensure it would be sustainable, and I wanted to experiment with what was rapidly becoming a side business while I still had a full-time job complete with paycheck.
It was a lot of work. And that’s really the key to pursuing a passion while creating sound financial groundwork at the same time: Work.
You have to be willing to hustle and to push yourself to do more with less time. You may think that working on a dream is easy or fun — and it is fun, and fulfilling. But it is not easy. And your success won’t come overnight. It is work.
Is it hard? Yes. Is it worth it? More than. Although I worked 80 and 90 hour weeks for a month or two, after that period I was able to quit that old day job and transition into working for myself in a career that offered freedom and flexibility.
I Got Passionate About Finances and Educated Myself
The main way I pursued my passion while building financial security was working a side hustle, then developing a side business that I transitioned into full-time work for myself. I didn’t just quit my job to experiment and see if I could make a living off what I loved to do. I stuck with it and worked hard.
But I also learned how to leverage my money to do more with it.
After all, nothing says what you’re passionate about has to be mutually exclusive from building financial security. In fact, if you want to chase a dream while securing a strong financial foundation, I suggest diving into the world of personal finance and getting excited about money.
It may sound dry and boring, but financial education is actually fascinating. Whatever your personal opinions are on money, you can’t deny it makes our modern world go ‘round. Why not take advantage of the wealth of free information available on the Internet and learn more about finances?
By doing so, you’re helping yourself in several ways. You can educate yourself on how to use money wisely to both build that financial foundation faster — which means accelerating your progress towards that stability and independence you need to pursue your passions without worrying so much about money.
And you can also learn about ways to leverage what you already have in order to simultaneously build your wealth and enjoy something that means a lot to you. Again, my passion is travel. But I don’t have the financial resources to take all the trips I want to enjoy. When I started learning about finances, I also started learning about how people just like me do more with their money by travel hacking.
“Travel hacking” is the act of leveraging reward systems and brand loyalty programs to amass points that you can exchange instead of dollars for airfare and hotel accommodations.
Becoming a travel hacker is like falling down a rabbit hole, and I’m still a beginner. But since I started actively travel hacking this year, I saved nearly a thousand dollars on a spring trip to Ireland and Scotland and I enjoyed 3 round trip domestic flights on Southwest. I’m currently planning ahead for a trip to Peru next year, and I’m challenging myself to save even more on this adventure.
I would have never known about things like financial independence, early retirement, travel hacking, and other ways to leverage your finances to enjoy what you’re passionate about — while still working to build up financial security — had I not added “money” to my list of passions to pursue.
Educating myself has allowed me to live a best-of-both-worlds scenario. I don’t have to deprive myself of what I love most, but I’m still getting to create that strong financial foundation at the same time.
About the author: Kali Hawlk is the founder of Common Sense Millennial, a resource for members of Gen Y who want to do more with their money. She works as a writer and content manager, and is passionate about personal finance and business. You can connect with her on Twitter @KaliHawlk.