How We Afford Long-Term Travel
March 26, 2018
Close family and friends often ask us how we have afforded all of our travels.
Some people ask us if we worked at any point in the last 1.5 years, and when we say “no”, they seem confused.
For those who don’t know, Dan and I quit our jobs in October 2016. Since then we went to seven countries in South America, five countries in Central America, backpacked in Mexico as well as stayed in a resort for a friend’s wedding, spent 6 weeks in Canada, visited Hong Kong, explored Western Australia, and now (March 2018) we are in New Zealand.
No, we didn’t win the lottery or inherit any money. But we do live and travel in a certain way that allows us to travel for long periods of time.
Full disclosure here, I’m going to reveal exactly how we have been able to afford our traveling.
How to save for travel
Dan and I are not big spenders to begin with. We cautiously spend our money, and the majority of our money is spent on experiences, not things.
First of all, we don’t have anywhere to put “stuff” so shopping is out of the question. We really only buy things when we need them or to replace something else.
I don’t go shopping. Most of my clothes I have had for years. In fact, my favorite pair of denim shorts I’ve had for more than five years.
By not wasting money on needless things regularly (as most people in western society do) we are able to reduce our spending. Living this way consistently for a long period of time really makes a difference in a person’s overall financial situation.
Before our big Latin American trip, Dan and I saved as much as humanly possible for one year straight.
We both worked 6 days a week, and besides making more money by working more hours, when we worked so much we needed to spend our free time relaxing.
Even when we were settled in an apartment and working full=time we still lived minimally. We spent money as if we were living pay cheque to pay cheque when in reality we were saving 70-80% of our pay cheques.
The hardest thing about saving is staying on track. Staying on a financial budget is similar to staying on a diet plan, it takes commitment and can easily be broken. For me, my motivation came from knowing that I was going traveling, this kept me on my saving plan. I knew that spending $30 out at dinner would be an entire day’s budget overseas, so it just wasn’t worth it when I thought about it like that.
That’s not to say we didn’t do anything fun for a year. We often went camping on weekends which was a cheap way to have fun. We also took a week-long holiday to Bali which was also a very affordable trip.
There needs to be some sense of balance, but in order to save for a long trip, it is important to get into a routine with a saving plan that is significantly larger than normal.
It’s about making more money but not spending more.
How to travel long-term
This is my favorite thing about how we travel.
Sure, sometimes traveling on a tight budget means taking long buses, sleeping on the worst mattresses, or eating unappetizing food. Sometimes it means snoring backpackers in a dorm room or getting bitten by bed bugs.
But the good outweighs the bad hands down!
The best thing about traveling cheaply is the authentic experience you get to have. Instead of having locals serve you in hotels, they are the people you talk to on the bus or in shops. You learn more, see more, understand more, and it makes the experience so much more fulfilling.
But how cheap is cheap?
Of course, budgets change depending on the country. In some countries, we were living on $15 a day whereas in others we would spend $70 a day each.
But let’s do the math for a second. If you spent $70 a day for a year that’s only $25,550. And that amount is largely exaggerated. In Southeast Asia, we were sometimes spending less than $10 a day!
Many people spend $2,000-$3,000 on a couple week-long holiday each year anyway. That money would last me months the way I travel.
Sometimes it is hard to always be on such a tight budget so we do have what we call “blowouts.” This is when we decide to splurge. Usually, it would be for dinner and drinks on a night out. Having these little splurges kept us on track the majority of other times.
Just like saving, traveling cheaply is something that becomes normal and a routine. And besides, it’s more fun anyways!
The Blog and Social Media
This is another question we are asked all the time, “do you make money on your blog?”
The answer at this point is, well, kind of.
During our time in Latin America, we didn’t make any money. On the last half of the trip, however, we did negotiate deals will hostels/hotels and tour companies.
What this means is that businesses in areas in which we were traveling would offer us their service for free or at a discount in exchange for our advertising on our blog or social media accounts. This was a huge help for us in terms of keeping our spending down as accommodation and tours which are the biggest budget breakers.
Now, we are slowly making a small income from the blog and social media. By no means is it enough to support us traveling full-time long term, but it helps!
Is our travel life sustainable?
Honestly, at this point, no. We are both going to work for a few months here in New Zealand. While these jobs will allow us to take small trips frequently, we won’t be living in a hostel and checking out a new place every couple of days.
That being said, if we can save properly for the next little bit we will be off work again for another year or two (or forever if this blog keeps growing!)
So while we can’t travel forever at this moment, we are able to travel a lot more than most people and that is due mostly to our spending and saving habits. Many people have the ability to travel as much as we do if they just put their minds to it and made the sacrifices.
Do you travel often, what are your secrets to affording this kind of lifestyle? Tell us in the comments below!