Two years ago, I saw some images of Patagonia—a place I’d never even thought about going to. A place with snowcapped mountains that sloped down to crystalline lakes, scattered with trees of green, brown, and orange. For me, the landscape defined “Land Before Time,” relatively untouched by the modern world. Soon after, I came across the word Gaucho, the Argentine Cowboy who cultivates and experiences the land via horseback.
That did it for me. I HAD to go to this place and to experience it in true Gaucho style.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever said this:
“Oh, I’d love to do that, but I can’t afford it.”
That’s exactly where I was. Not only did I realize the cost to ride horses in Patagonia for 10 nights was $2,420, but Patagonia was 6,000 miles away. I had zero connections to anyone in Patagonia. Zero horse-riding experience. And definitely nowhere close to the amount of dispensable money I needed.
But here’s the end of the story. I went to Patagonia for 2.5 months, wrangled horses and cattle alongside real Gauchos, swam in crystal clear Patagonia lakes hundreds of miles from the nearest road, and scaled mountain ranges via horseback. I rode river rapids through the majestic Patagonia canyons. I trekked through mountain passes. And the whole time I was there, nowhere close to $2,420 left my pocket.
When you think you can’t afford something, even if you have absolutely zero cash to spend, your thinking isn’t entirely true.
And here’s why.
Because in addition to money, you have two other, more valuable, currencies.
What other currencies do you have?
You know the phrase “time is money”? In most cases, it’s true. Time is a limited resource, and each person only has so much.
Let’s say somebody (we’ll call him John) needs to finish a project, and John knows it’ll take him about 100 hours—but he can only work on it about 20 hours a week. John could do it all by himself, and finish in 5 weeks…or he could get you to donate some of your time, and he can finish it faster.
The possibilities are endless. Your time can be used to:
- research topics and summarize them
- set up an organizational system
- do physical labor
- gather data John’s been meaning to gather for ages (how many trees on his property are actually being watered?)
- cook meals
- do general household chores
Imagine yourself as an employee. How can you help? How can anybody with time and a can-do attitude help? John’s project will get done sooner when you give your time. That has value to John.
Apart from time, you’ve also got an asset that’s very specific to you—knowledge. What are you knowledgeable about? Maybe you’re a proficient:
- Art historian
- Personal trainer
- Life coach
- PR manager
- Chemistry enthusiast
They don’t even have to be real “trades,” as long as it’s something you generally know about and are truly good at. In addition to your job skills, you have knowledge acquired from your passions and hobbies! Don’t short-change yourself! Are you good at listening to your friends and giving advice? Can you navigate new places like you’ve lived there your whole life? When you learn new things, can you pick them up in a flash? These skills can be valuable to someone else!
Besides figuring out what anyone can bring to the table, figure out what you specifically can bring to the table. This is where you can really add value.
HOW I DID IT
I started to look for volunteering opportunities. Opportunities where I could exchange my time for my dream. And I found so many opportunities–but I couldn’t find many places that were willing to exchange such a specific, high cost experience, simply for me giving them my time. Instead, they needed specific skills.
Then, I found a place called Ranquilco. It is a 100K acre Estancia deep in Northern Patagonia, and they were looking for skilled workers who knew about construction, horticulture, blacksmithing, culinary arts, or woodworking.
Lucky me—I had construction knowledge to trade on! At the time, I was working at UC San Diego, where my job was to construct buildings, break them down with an earthquake simulator, and then rebuild.
And so I struck a deal with the Estancia owner. I would work construction on the ranch 4 days a week for 2 months and help him build a Jacuzzi–and in exchange, I would be able to take a horse out on the weekends to explore the beautiful Patagonian landscape.
In the end, it was a win-win! I got to live out my dream, and he got his Jacuzzi. I paid with my time and knowledge. We cut out the middleman–money.
And in case you’re going “Okay, yeah, but that was probably a fluke,” I’ve got another story to prove it wasn’t. With no gear and no scuba-diving experience, I was able to dive a total of five times over the course of two weeks with not a dime coming out of my pocket. (That’s an $800 value!) You can read the story of how that went down here.
The only reason why I didn’t dive more was because I left to go to Patagonia.
HOW YOU CAN DO IT
Do you have a dream of doing something you know you don’t have the money for? Here’s how you can make it happen, like I did.
- Know what you have to offer.
If you don’t really think about everything you have to offer, how are you going to know what currencies you have to bargain with?
Sit down, get comfortable, and make a list of everything you can do well—things that other people could benefit from. Are you an excellent gardener? A killer hip-hop dancer? A speech coach? Write it all down—you never know what’ll come in handy!
- Actively look for opportunities.
You can find just about anything on the internet—but not always immediately. Set aside fifteen minutes a day for dedicated Google searching and opportunity-combing. If you want to make this happen, you have to set aside time to look!
- Keep your ears open, and tell everyone you meet what you want to do.
Obviously, if it makes no sense in the context of the conversation, you’re free to leave it out. But you never know when someone will respond with, “Hey, I actually know someone from (insert place here) who’s looking for help with (insert skill here)!”
- Use this script when you find the person that can help you.
“What do YOU need help with? My dream is to (insert dream here), and I don’t have the money to do it. But I do know about (insert skill here), and I’m also willing to volunteer my time to achieve this dream. Can my time and knowledge help you?”
INVEST YOUR TIME IN YOUR SKILL SETS
“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
― Benjamin Franklin
The Way to Wealth: Ben Franklin on Money and Success
You know all that time you spend scrolling through your Facebook feed?
Why not donate your time to somebody in exchange for private flight lessons—or invest it in developing useful skill sets?
Maybe baking is your hobby, but you haven’t dedicated much time to trying out new recipes. I say, dive into that passion! Start practicing new pies, cakes, and other sweet treats, and maybe you’ll be able to exchange some tasty goodies for lodging in an unfamiliar place.
But if you never spend time developing your baking skills (or any other skills you’ve been playing around with for a while), you’ll never be able to make it happen.
More positives—aside from being able to trade on your skill sets, Bruce Harpham talks about the benefits of lifelong learning here.
Take this information into account next time you say you can’t afford something, because you’re MASSIVELY short-changing yourself.
Want to only eat organic produce, but don’t have the money to pay for it? Go to your local farmer’s market and ask the people at the stands if they need an extra hand (time), or if they are in need of your knowledge or skill sets.
Maybe you’re an accountant, and they need help with their taxes. Or you’re good with computers, and they need some technical help. You could be a yoga instructor and exchange free private lessons for some good grub! The list goes on and on!
Don’t let money limit you–it’s not your only currency. And, honestly, it can be your least valuable currency. Use your knowledge and time to get and do things you want. If you don’t have the time or the knowledge, then use your money as your final option!
Now that you know these things, it’s up to you to chase your dreams. No excuses!
Sonny Hughey – Energetic, living in new experiences, attracting others and sharing success. Sonny holds a degree in Physics, captained his collegiate baseball team to a Conference Championship, has touched down in 3 continents, 11 countries, and 40 of the 50 states. He owns his own business ShoobyUSA and works as a Test Engineer for MTS Systems. Sonny is 25 years old.