Kali Hawlk

Financial Writer

Would You Ever Ask Your Network to Fund Your Travels?

handoutHave you heard of crowdfunding? It’s becoming an increasingly popular way for an individual or small group of individuals to raise funds to achieve a goal. The financing comes from, as the name suggests, an entire crowd of people who each make small contributions. The idea is that a member of the crowd only needs to finance a tiny fraction of the overall project if the whole crowd is made up of a mass amount of people.

This, of course, is why the Internet makes the ideal crowdfunding platform. Anyone who wants to finance an idea, goal, or initiative can harness the giving power of millions, billions of people via a crowdfunding site.

Kickstarter is an amazing example of great crowdfunding at work. This platform has the specific mission of bringing creative endeavors to life. The crowd – in this case, the average web user – has the power to search through a multitude of campaigns, and they can donate to fund the ones that appeal to them.

And then there are platforms like GoFundMe, which is pretty much totally free of restrictions and is donation-based. This site brands itself as the crowdfunding platform for “everyone,” and they take that mission statement seriously. Anyone, for just about any reason, can set up a campaign on GoFundMe and ask for donations to finance their cause – even if that cause is themselves.

And that donation based part? It means that funders are simply making a donation to a cause of their choice. They don’t get anything tangible in return (whereas on Kickstarter, funders receive various products or services that the creative campaign is looking to launch, based on the amount of their donation). While this is fine and par-for-the-course for charitable organizations, it starts getting interesting when you start looking at individuals who have set up campaigns on the platform who are exactly that – individuals.

You can head over to GoFundMe right now and set up a campaign to finance yourself. As in, you get set up, present your case as to why you need funds, people choose to donate, and if someone does, that is cash in your pocket. And that’s exactly what someone I know recently did.

Using GoFundMe for Personal Expenses

This individual set up an account for the purpose of financing travel expenses. According to their GoFundMe campaign info, they are wanting to travel to various countries because they want to do so while they are young and before “life gets in the way.”

To add some clarity to the situation, this individual is in good health, has a college degree and a full-time job, and regularly enjoys spending time with friends at various events and engaging in all sorts of exciting activities. This person recently went on a week-long cruise, as well.

There is absolutely nothing wrong or illegal with using GoFundMe to seek donations to fund your travels or other personal expenses. It’s up to the crowd to decide if the campaign organizer has a cause that is worthy of a donation. The platform even allows users to submit questions to the founder if further information is needed before a donation is submitted.

GoFundMe is not some sort of scam site that rips people off – and I don’t think my acquaintance who is using the platform is conning anyone, either. The platform is clear about the fact that they welcome everyone with various needs for financing to use the site. My acquaintance has also been extremely clear about their intentions and why they are requesting donations.

Asking Others to Fund Your Travels – or Asking for Handouts?

But to me, that doesn’t make it “right.” I know there’s nothing wrong with using the tools that are available to you to get what you want – but to me, this is simply asking for a handout.

To me, you’re asking for a handout when you have the ability to handle something yourself.. but you’d rather let someone else do the hard work to make it happen, and then hand you the fruits of their labor. I have absolutely no problem with helping someone who is truly in need. But I look at this situation and I roll my eyes. And then I get mad.

This is another example of a Millennial and a need for instant gratification. The campaign’s goal is $1,000. How on earth could you feel good about asking other people for their money to fund your travel experiences, when you could save $100 a month and have the amount you’re asking for in less than a year? Or save $250 by cutting trips to the bars, brunches on Sunday, going to events with costly ticket prices, and other expenses that must seem frivolous compared to the adventure that is awaiting you in your travels, and it would only take you four months until you have the amount you need.

Am I just bitter? Maybe. Would I be jealous if this campaign actually gets funded, and this individual is handed $1,000 just for asking for money from their network? Sure.

I worked extremely hard to save up enough money to take our recent big trip overseas. Because we had multiple financial goals we were working toward – building an emergency fund, investing, traveling – it took us three years to get to the point where we felt comfortable with where we were financially to take a big trip abroad.

We live frugally so that we can make our big goals into realities. We don’t buy everything we want when we want it – and then expect someone else to finance a goal or idea when the cost is greater than what we have between paychecks.

Maybe this is simply a difference in taste and philosophy. What I find tacky may be perfectly acceptable to other people. What I find acceptable may be completely classless to someone else.

But then again, maybe I’m not nuts. Maybe I have a point.

The campaign set up by my acquaintance for the purpose of raising money to fund a trip around the world has been up for weeks now. $0 has been donated.

What do you think – would you ever turn to your network to fund your travels or other personal expenses? Is this a brilliant way to leverage tools available to you, or is this simply a new way of asking for handouts?


  1. Ugh no way. I’m all for asking for contributions to a honeymoon fund, say, but that is just tacky and I would never do that.

    • I agree that something like a honeymoon fund is fine – people generally want to give presents to newly wedded couples, so to request gifts that you find useful and practical makes sense.

  2. A facebook friend of mine had done something similar a few years back. She held a fundraising social to send herself on a two-week voluntourism trip, to help cover the cost of her flights and the program. At least in this case she would spend one week volunteering, and the next week traveling, but I had looked into that same program and I never once expected others to fund me for it. It would only be right if she donates the proceeds directly to the organization that she is volunteering for..

    • I would feel a little bit more comfortable with that – but I don’t think she should have asked people to help her with the “travel” part of it at all. She could save up for extra traveling she wanted to do in conjunction with her volunteerism.

  3. At least no one has donated anything yet! I agree with you, it sounds like your acquaintance is asking for handouts when they have a full-time job and are perfectly capable of paying themselves. It seems selfish to think, “Hey, I need a vacation. Let me ask other people to fund it for me!” I think it could be a good tool for those who actually need the donations, for a cause/charity, but asking for a vacation is pretty lame.

    • Exactly. Crowdfunding is an excellent way to raise money for something, but I feel like it needs to be like you said, for a cause or a charity – or at least ask for funding for something where you’re going to turn around and be productive with it, where you can add value back into the world in exchange for this money people gave you. I would feel less “ugh” about this situation if my acquaintance wanted to travel for six months so they could write a travel book, or take photos for an exhibition, something like that. Definitely something more than “hey, I want to take this trip sooooo.. give me money?”

  4. I don’t agree with those who do this. It just puts a sour taste in my mouth.

  5. No way!!! I would say if this person traded some goods and services for certain amounts like, “for a $50 donation I will clean your house for two hours,” or for $20 I will dogsit for a day. Something like that could be a very creative way to get a little extra cash for travel, but work for it at the same time. But this person just seems lazy, and I would never feel good about myself doing it.

    • I totally agree Tonya! That is a great idea and I would be completely fine with people raising money in exchange for some sort of value that they were offering the people that were funding the trip. Just asking and not expecting to do anything for others in return puts me off, though.

  6. Something about this just feels really uncool. An able-bodied and healthy person should save up for their vacations like the rest of us.

    • I feel the same, Addison. Especially as this person just recently went on a big cruise.. I feel like they’re explicitly trying to avoid doing the hard work of saving up money on their own as they want what they want, now.

  7. I don’t have the gall to do it but I wish I did. Remember there was that girl with $200,000 of student loan debt asking for help? She got thousands of dollars in donations! I’m all about doing what you can but I agree it’s totally asking for a handout.

    That said, while it’s not for me I don’t have a lot of criticism because these people can ask all they want but at the end of the day it’s up to the donor. If I don’t believe in their cause, I simply choose not to donate to it — I have no say over whether or not other people do!

    • That’s absolutely right, Bridget – in the end, it’s up to the donors of these types of projects. You make a good point that we need to keep in mind when we come across things like this that don’t necessarily sit well with our own personal opinions and beliefs but aren’t actually breaking any “rules” or laws. Like I said, I don’t think it’s necessarily “wrong,” because both the platform and the person using it has been very clear about their intentions and how they want to use any funds donated. It just rubs me the wrong way and from where I’m standing I can’t imagine how people work up the nerve to ask for stuff like this!

  8. I set up a fund on fundanything.com last year to help pay off my husband’s student loans. We only had $10,000 left and I thought ‘Hey, why not? If no one gives, oh well and if a few do, then we’re that much closer to paying off debt.’ I posted in it about how my husband pursued a degree in youth ministry and is working at a church while also volunteering at the local fire department. I felt akwark sharing it with anyone I knew, but I posted it once on twitter. I didn’t end up getting any money, so I don’t know if it was my lack of effort, or because it was a personal request. We are still slowly but surely hacking away at the loans and will be debt free in a few years though. :)

    • I can certainly understand it from the “why not” perspective. The platform is there for that purpose and there’s nothing wrong with using the tools at your disposal. As Bridget mentioned, people have used crowdfunding to help pay off things like student loan debt. I’m not sure how I feel about that – I do think it’s a little different than asking for money to pay for a personal trip – but I do absolutely appreciate you sharing an experience from the other side of this perspective. Thank you for taking the time to comment, and I am super happy to hear you’re progressing toward debt freedom! That is awesome and I wish you the best of luck in making it happen according to plan.

  9. Yeah, I’m torn on this one. Personally it’s NOT something I would ever do and I find it incredibly tacky to ask for this type of handout. That being said, if someone actually wants to donate to their ’cause’, who am I to stop them?

    • Exactly. I know it’s not “wrong” of anyone to use the crowdfunding platforms for these purposes – it’s expressly allowed and it is 100% up to donors what they choose to spend their money on. It just doesn’t sit well with me on a personal level, and I’m sure that’s because I was raised to believe the only “right” way to acquire money is to bust your tail for it. I can definitely admit I have my biases based on experience, and I was really interested to hear what others thought about the situation. Again, I think you’re totally right – if someone wants to donate to a campaign like this, there’s nothing much for me to say about that. It’s their choice and they are free to make it.

  10. I wouldn’t personally do it or donate, but I’ll be curious to know if anyone eventually donates. It just seem pretty brazen since the person seems pretty capable to accomplish this on his/her own.

    • Agreed, Anna – I don’t think it would bug me if there was some reason this person could not handle the situation on their own, but it seems like they’re just trying to get out of actually having to do the work that comes with saving up a large chunk of change.

  11. My sister in law once hit us up to find a trip she was planning to italy. It was to help her pay for some work she was doing through her church (apparently people in italy need to know more about religion????) It left a really bad taste in our mouth. Were paying so you can go to italy? No thanks….

    • Yeah, I have the same sort of feelings about that stuff. I don’t mind helping out people who are truly in need, but I worked hard for my money – and so can able-bodied, educated people who have a full time job and little responsibility (no house, no kids), who are wanting to travel and go on vacations.

  12. I would never ever ask someone to help fund my travel. That just seems tacky. I would only ask for help in an extreme emergency like a health crisis or job loss. I wouldn’t go to the bank for a loan to travel either. If I couldn’t fund it myself, I’d stay home.

    • I hear ya! I feel the same way. I do think it’s different if you were in crisis mode – you do what you can to survive and get back on your feet. But asking for people to give you money so you can go on a trip, when you’re young, healthy, employed, and just went on a big vacation..? Uh, no.

  13. I think it’s hilarious. Good for him (or her) I guess. I wouldn’t donate, of course, but in some ways this person is doing the right thing from an economics standpoint. It only costs the individual a tiny bit of time, and maybe some social capital. But the rewards are possibly significant.

    • Hey, can’t argue with that! I fully recognize they’re just using the tools available to them, and that trying to gather up funding for a trip this way is a personal preference. As long as it’s not illegal, and no one is trying to deceive people or trick them into donating (which they’re not), then I can’t complain. But I can still think it’s a lame way to try and get things done financially. What can I say, I’m a worker bee and I support doing things that way ;)

  14. I think you’re right on here! Tacky (capital T). I would never ask my friends and family to fund my travel. I’m an adult with a job and an income, if I couldn’t afford to travel I would (and have!) stay at home.

    • Exactly! I don’t think anyone is entitled to big-time travel. If that’s your dream, I think that’s awesome – but I fully expect you to make it happen on your own, not by relying on other people to make it happen for you.

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