When I announced to my friends that I was leaving full-time work and my life in London 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 as they wondered – how do you afford to travel the world full-time?
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.
We haven’t won the lottery, 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?
#1 We changed our lifestyle
When I look back at the journey before quitting our jobs to travel full-time, it began about a year before we actually left. I discovered an amazing blog called The Minimalists and began devouring their articles and watching their documentary.
Minimalism is cutting down on possessions and non-essentials in your life. Doing this leaves space for the most important things in life – like time with loved ones and experiences to be remembered.
We began the process of becoming minimalists by…
…sorting through all our stuff and donating or selling anything that wasn’t essential so we were left with the bare minimum
…getting out of the habit of buying ‘things’ all the time
…allowing time for non-material things in our life such as learning new skills, spending quality time together
Embracing minimalism was key in becoming full-time travellers for 2 reasons. The first was it allowed us to save a lot of money (more on that below). But also it meant we began embracing a travellers lifestyle before we’d even left. Travelling full-time comes with many challenges and one of them is learning to live with very few possessions on the road, as well as having to spend more consciously and not buy souvenirs or things as you move.
You are basically living the life of a minimalist!
#2 Started thinking outside the box
If we had gone for a big white wedding, bought a car or put a deposit down on the 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 costs 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 choices.
We all have choices – usually more than we think. You’ve got to ask yourself what is really important to you. Where are you happy to spend your money and time and what sacrifices are you happy to make?
#3 Built a decent safety net
Having savings was key to making our plan work. We spent a solid year scrimping and saving every penny we could. By the time we caught our flight, we’d saved over £8,000….find out exactly how we did that here.
Having savings was key to making our plans a success because it gave us a really valuable asset. Time! Time to travel and time to work out how to make the travelling sustainably so we could do it long term.
#4 Traveled on the cheap
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 £1500. While I was hiking 1000km across Israel, my expenses for 2 months, including flights, came to under £600.
My budget in Tanzania and in Central America following the hike worked out as an average of £600 a month.
By travelling, my monthly expenses are about a third than what they were when I was staying in the UK.
I don’t travel the world on the tightest budget. I’m doing lots of fun activities and striking a balance. Like 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.
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.
#5 Focused on sustainability, starting with exchanges
While we had enough savings to keep us going for about a year of travelling, we were aiming to get ourselves into a position where we could travel full-time, or more specifically, as long as we wanted to.
That meant one simple thing. We needed to make our travel sustainable. Or in other words, I needed to earn £500 a month to cover the expenses we had on the road.
So how did I do that?
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 this is where I started. I worked very hard, most days, working on growing a blog, writing posts and building my online presence. This quickly led me to tap into a great blog resource – sponsorship.
In exchange for writing and sharing my experience on my blog and social media platforms (and therefore providing advertising and exposure), companies would give me services, products, tours and hotel stays free of charge. This was huge in my goal of travelling full-time as it saved me a lot of money.
If you are planning to launch a blog or grow a following, check out:
- How to build a website in 10 minutes
- How I reached 20,000 followers in a year
- Everything I know about how to become a successful blogger
#6 Started earning money
As my blog grew, so did opportunities to earn money. I began giving talks on my adventures and writing the occasional paid-for the article. I also picked up some freelance work as an expedition leader, something which I am able to do now that I have passed my Mountain Leader qualification. This would mostly involve leading groups of students on overseas expeditions. 2 weeks working as an expedition leader funds up to 2 months of travel.
Over the years, my income has evolved and my biggest focus now is Love Her Wild, the women’s adventure community I founded. As well as having Patreon support, I organise a number of expeditions and events each year.
This has provided a stable with enough income that in 2019 we made the decision to stop travelling full-time after 3 years on the road and to have a base again in the UK. We still do lots of travelling and adventures, but having a base means we are able to have a better work/life balance and not miss out on things like having a community and friends around us.
You can read how I make a living as an adventurer for a full honest breakdown of my income.
This was my journey to earning a living as a digital nomad but there are so many other options out there including teaching online, freelance writing, being a remote PA, proofreading, building websites or managing social media accounts for companies, etc. Check out Working Nomads for other jobs you can do from anywhere.
A few final thoughts
Travelling for 3 years non-stop was the best experience of my life. As was building a career and business for myself that allows me so many benefits including…..working for myself, doing the things I love most in life, working the hours I choose and having the flexibility to work from everywhere.
Although I now have a base in the UK, I still aim to spend about half of the year travelling or on the road. Having a flexible career means I can just go whenever the mood takes me. I love it! I get the best of both worlds – a home and a community which I love but also the excitement of adventure and travel.
If you are planning to build a flexible career for yourself, you may also want to read my messy career path to adventurer for more of an insight into how I achieved this.
And one final thought, going back to minimalism. Although I have a base now, minimalism is still very much a huge part of my life and is key to helping me maintain the life I’ve built. It keeps costs low but also keeps my head and space decluttered. It makes me a more efficient worker and keeps me away from the clutches of society where freedom of movement can very easily be lost.
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