Travel Funding Myths and Misconceptions
The next challenge that often deters would-be grant recipients comes from a misguided belief. Specifically, questions of eligibility frequently halt their progress. Many people never question their preconceived notions about eligibility for travel-related grant funds. According to Beckford, one of the most common myths about winning travel scholarships, grants, and other program funding is that you must be a student.
“I did the same as I had the same assumption for so long,” Beckford said. “The first thing that made me realize that you don’t have to be a student — and that there are funded travel opportunities for all ages — was when I graduated college. I started an engineering job, and I worked nine to five — very standard. Then, one day, I came across this online cultural exchange to South Korea, and I think the age cap was 30 years old.”
Beckford’s first thought was that the program must be for graduate students.
“It ended up being open, and it was sponsored by a cultural exchange company,” Beckford said. “Their goal was to get people to exchange foreign and South Korean cultures and promote goodwill amongst different nationalities. So, I looked into it, and the program had a scholarship, and I was like, ‘Okay, they are telling me I can kind of study abroad.’ It was a one-week-long program, and there is a scholarship to do it: completely paid-for flights, hotels, activities and food.”
Although skeptical, Beckford applied anyway, won, and found the program legitimate.
“I was 24 years old, and I had been working full-time for a year at that point,” Beckford said. “And I don’t think anyone else was a student; it was a range of people from 18 to 32. There was a mom of two who was there on scholarship as well.”
Beckford studied abroad in college, but once she found non-student travel funding opportunities, her horizons began to expand.
“Soon after that, I found a travel contest for an outdoor adventure magazine, and they’re like, ‘Hey, we’ll take you to Fiji for ten days,’” Beckford said. “I was like, ‘Okay, well, I already know insane things can happen, so I might as well apply to that.’ And I won that too.
To some, it could seem like Beckford is just lucky or applying to everything she finds, but Beckford recommends combining hard work with smart work.
“Blindly applying to everything you find is probably not a good use of time,” Beckford said. “It’s a numbers game balanced with being really intentional with your application. It’s really all storytelling. Why should you go? Why should you take this trip?”
Beckford said a great way to get started looking for paid travel opportunities (PTO) is on her site, Packs Light.
“I have a whole dashboard that is just list-upon-list that we update every single week with new ones that we find — different ways to travel professionally, just for fun or school,” Beckford said. “There are just so many opportunities out there.”