When I announced to my friends that I was leaving full-time work to travel the world, the first thing I was usually asked was ‘for how long?’. My answer: ‘hopefully permanently, or at least as long as I want to’. I would instantly see the confusion on their faces. When I tell a stranger that I am travelling non-stop, I can see the same burning question. Most people are too shy to ask what they really want to know – how do you afford to travel the world?
Ok, we’ve won the lottery
A simple answer! I wish it were true but, unfortunately, it isn’t. I’ve been asked a number of times (as have my family) if Gil and I have won a chunk of money. I did once win a holiday and, since then, have been labelled exceptionally lucky. We haven’t won the lottery though, we haven’t been given money from our parents, we haven’t inherited a fortune or got lucky in stocks. In fact, I would go as far as to say that most of our friends are probably financially better off than us.
So how do we afford it?
It’s cheaper to travel the world than you think
Firstly, you need to know that travelling doesn’t have to cost lots and taking on adventures is even cheaper. When I was living in London, my share of the monthly expenses came to around $1800. While I was hiking 1000km across Israel, my monthly expenses, including flights, came to under $600. My budget in Tanzania and in Central America is about $700 a month. Basically, by travelling my monthly expenses are about a third than what they were when I was staying in one place.
I don’t travel the world on the tightest budget. I’m doing lots of fun activities, choosing more expensive flights that are more comfortable and condensing my travelling to see more in less time. I do, however, cut costs by visiting cheaper countries, shopping for food in local markets and staying in budget accommodation (or, even better, camping for free under the stars). There are some things I’m happy to cut costs on and some things I don’t want to compromise on. Now I’m older I’m a bit fussier.
My point is that it is possible to travel the world on an even smaller budget than mine. Head to Thailand or India, slow travel and cut out the tourists activities and you can survive on just a few hundred dollars a month.
If you’re looking to specifically get into adventuring, check out my blog on funding adventures. There are so many grants and ways to keep costs down that it really is easier than you think.
It’s just about thinking outside the box
If we had gone for a big white wedding, brought a car or put a deposit down on a house, I don’t think anyone would have questioned our finances or how we are able to afford it. Society tells us we should do these things. But these are all massive expenses. I did get married but my wedding cost a 5th of the countries average wedding. Instead of buying a car, I’ve saved hundreds by using public transport. It’d be great to have a place of my own but by not chasing the housing market, I have put away thousands.
We don’t grow up believing that quitting everything to travel the world is a good or sensible thing to do. So naturally, people question our lifestyle. How much do you think I have budgeted travelling 18months non-stop?……$10,000. That’s all. It pays for flights, insurance and includes our long distance hike, visiting Tanzania, Central America, a cycling adventure and leaves a chunk left over for whatever we decide to do after summer 2017.
That amount wouldn’t of even pay for fees on a new house. $10,000 could have disappeared in insurance fees and petrol costs in a matter of years. Some people spend this amount buying a coffee a day in Starbucks over 4 years.
For the same cost, I get to travel the world every single day for 18 months. Without working.
Ask yourself what’s worth your money
Sure, I have some advantages. I have the blog which helps with costs (more on that later). I’m married, so can share expenses, and we both had full time paid jobs that allowed us to live beyond just a basic existence (something I didn’t have when I first moved to London and will never take for granted).
I was also fortunate to have a mum, sister and brother-in-law who are supportive of my ambitions. I have a place to stay in between trips where I pay a fraction of rent as I would otherwise. I always have the knowledge that if everything went terribly wrong, I would ultimately have a roof over my head and would be fed until I was back on my feet. It’s a safety net which probably provides me with more confidence than I am willing to admit. I can imagine the decision I made would be a lot harder for someone who doesn’t have this luxury. For a lot of people though, my lifestyle really isn’t out of reach.
This money might seem like a lot, but, I saved this amount in less than 2 years. I could have done it in a year if I had moved back in with flatmates. But, I had time on my hands and liked living in my studio flat too much. The number 1 way to save your money is simple….. stop spending.
I started practising minimalism which led to a detachment of material things. I soon found that not only did I no longer want to buy ’stuff’ but I actually detested having things as it made me feel cluttered and stressed. Each year I only buy a handful of clothes and usually only when replacing an item that is too worn. I don’t drink coffee and cut back on alcohol. I didn’t have cable TV, a gym membership or a fancy phone. Getting savvy with deals meant I could eat out and go to events for a fraction of the cost.
It might sound like a lot of work but, actually, it wasn’t. It never felt like a sacrifice and I loved my life and not being materialistic. I appreciated things, was busy, saw loads and did loads. It just required being a bit more creative.
I will still work
For anyone reading this who doesn’t know me, they probably think I’m really lazy and that my main aim was to take time off without having to work. It’s just not the case though. I just couldn’t get on with a regular 9 to 5 job, going day in day out to the same place. It drove me mad. I hated working for other people and office politics. Each year the long winters would sap my energy and spirit leaving me feeling exhausted, fed up and miserable. It was an annual routine that I let go on too long.
I want to work. But, I want to be my own boss and to spend my time doing something that I love. I want to choose when I wake up in the morning, where I work, when I take a break and how I spend my days.
Earning money on the road
I was fortunate to discover blogging and I absolutely love it. Writing, sharing and inspiring – it combines all the things I love. I can do it from anywhere and, thanks to occasional sponsorship (reduced or free services in exchange for exposure on my blog), it also helps me travel the world and go on adventures and cuts my monthly costs.
My hope is that I can make a living from blogging and writing (yes…you can earn money from it!). Remember, to support this lifestyle, I only need to earn $700 a month – a very achievable income!
As well as blogging, I’ve also got other ways to supplement my income, like giving talks on my adventures. Plus some freelance work as an expedition leader, something which I am able to do now that I have passed my Mountain Leader qualification. I basically get paid to look after a group of young people as they take on adventure expeditions overseas. It’s not easy but I enjoy the work and it has to be up there with one of the coolest jobs you can do in the world. 2 weeks working as an expedition leader funds up to 2 months of travel.
Update: Read how I make a living as an adventurer for a breakdown of my income
These are just 3 examples of jobs you can do on the road. There are hundreds of ways that you can earn a living while you travel the world. I meet a lot of people earning a flexible living on the road.
It’s a lifestyle choice
My decision to quit my old life and become a nomad was not a temporary one. I saw it as a lifestyle choice. I tried regular living and it wasn’t for me. I’m after something different.
As long as I keep my monthly costs low, I’m confident it is something that I can maintain for as long as I like. Of course, there are sacrifices I will have to make which come as part of the deal. Unless I become hugely successful and earn a fortune, I will never be a home owner in my favourite place in the world, London. Being away lots means I will miss out on important things like weddings and birthdays and, even worse, the smaller things, like coffee catch ups and taking my nephew and niece to the park. Time apart will naturally mean I will drift away from some.
But, the things I get to see, the people I get to meet, the flexibility, the work and just having freedom with my life. It makes it all so right. I’m not anything special and have not done anything special to make this lifestyle happen. It’s all about making a choice and taking a leap of faith in the direction you want to go.
If it’s really what you want, dedcide, commit and be determined to make it happen.