How Can You Afford to Travel? Let's Talk Money

Tuesday, May 17, 2011  at 7:34 PM
 Tree in Basel Switzerland
Sadly, we do not have a money tree...

Whenever I tell people that I will be traveling indefinitely, I usually get one of two responses.

1. "Oh, you have loads of money saved up in the bank?  Lucky."

2. "What job do you have that lets you travel?  Don't tell me, you scored a job as a travel writer."

How Much Money We Have Now (and how we got it)

Let me address both of these assumptions right now.  I work in education and Chris worked in retail/at a hospital desk job.  We graduated college with a ton of student debt, we did not win the lottery, no one left us a surprise inheritance.  What we did do was work.  A lot.  We didn't kill ourselves working, but we both kept two jobs, working more than full-time, for between one and two years. However, almost all of this money went directly towards student loans.  The payments are all paid off until mid-2013 and, thankfully, they are no longer of mountain-like proportions. This means that we did not save up all of our money, putting every penny aside for travel for months and months.

What we also did was sell quite a bit of what we own.  Two cars, a motorcycle, our main computers, all of our big-ticket items are sold.  What this left us with was a little bit of money.  This is nowhere near a large chunk of change (not even close to $20,000, what many nomads estimate as the bare minimum for a year of travel for a single person), but with our estimates, what we have should be enough to keep us afloat for at least a year.

Finally, jobs.  Aside from HelpX and WWOOF, which we plan to use frequently, our only income will come in the form of a small online tutoring job that I will be keeping while we travel.  This is only a few hours a week, but hopefully will offset the cost of groceries and perhaps a bit of travel.

How Much We Plan to Spend When Traveling Nomadically

I can hear the questions already.  How will you live--how will you eat!--when earning practically no money and with little money in the bank?  Chris and I plan to work through HelpX and WWOOF (exchanging several hours of work a day for room and board at many places around the world), doing house-sitting and Couchsurfing when possible or necessary.  This already cuts out the cost of lodging, usually the bulk of travel expenses.

Food will be included when we work through HelpX or WWOOF, and when food is not provided Chris and I love shopping at local markets and grocery stores.  We go out to eat very occasionally, and we see it as an experience, not as a regular dining option.

Travel costs, of course, are hard to eliminate, but by using local or discounted transportation (buses, trains, bikes, our feet, discount plane tickets) we can bring those costs down to a minimum. 

Finally, the last sector of common costs: incidental, or entertainment.  We love interacting with the local culture, which usually means low- or no-cost entertainment.  Occasionally we will treat ourselves to something more exciting (elephant rides for the win!) but we always weigh the pros (exciting adventures!) with the cons (we are cheapies).  We are prepared for un-foreseen travel expenses, but we avoid or minimize them when we can!

In a nutshell, this is our financial plan for our upcoming life as nomads.  We have lived like this before, for short periods of time, and we think that it is sustainable on a longer scale.  After all, if it doesn't work then we can always apply like crazy to online jobs or find an actual, paying job wherever we are!
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