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 watched their documentary.
The concept of 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 the process of 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 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 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 sustainable 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 travelling 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.
Got a question? Ask in the comments box below.
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*Any women reading this?* I founded a women’s adventure community called Love Her Wild. Check out our private Facebook page and see what adventures we have coming up.
Really interesting, well-written and honest! Another key factor is the ability to recognise and take opportunities when they arise, something that you have done very well. Bravo!! Greetings from Luxembourg
Thanks Jonny 🙂
You are right. Grabbing opportunities is so important. As is making them happen (an idea for a post brewing there!).
All the way from Luxembourg? I’ve been thinking about visiting this year so will look for inspiration on your blog.
Thanks for the great post and insight! Just curious – are you and your husband traveling full time together? Did you know when you met – that you were both interested in this potential lifestyle change? My partner and I are currently living in DK- where I have the opportunity to travel 12-13 weeks a year while still working full time – so convincing my bf to drop everything is a bit challenging 🙂 All the best in your adventures 🙂
Yes, we both travel full time together. It helps that we both met while travelling but we do also both have the same interests for pursuing a different lifestyle.
It’s not always easy and we have both made compromises. A big part of us making it work though is being happy for the other one to go off and do their own thing. I do lots of travelling and adventures on my own. I think it’s important to making sure you can both pursue things you are interested in but also keeps the relationship healthy so you don’t go mad with each others company 24/7 🙂
Hi Bex! Just a follow up to my previous comment from earlier this year – what kind of reactions did you receive from others when mentioning that you wanted to change your lifestyle and drop the 9-5 routine? I have now tried a few times (unsuccessfully) to talk about my desire to leave the 9-5 behind and it seems that people react like I am a bit crazy for wanting something different then the ‘norm’ – replying with things like ‘you don’t live in reality’ ‘ this is just the way life is’ ‘everyone has to have some kind of routine’ ‘ you can’t make full time travel/adventure your life’ etc etc…- just wondering if you had any similar responses? I kinda feel like I need to defend myself constantly and what I want – and then start to question if what I really want is so crazy after all?!! Would be great to hear a bit about your experiences 🙂
I was really surprised when I set about to quit my 9-5 life that a lot of people weren’t very supportive. I wrote about it a bit in this blog: https://www.theordinaryadventurer.com/inspiration/packing-up-my-life-surprising-lows/
I’ve been told many a time ‘when are you going to get a real job’ which seems ironic as I’m working harder now and deem myself more successful than I ever have been in my life.
A lot of my friends and family don’t fully ‘get’ my life now and I think a lot of the things they say (or rather don’t say) that feels unkind is actually just down to them not understanding. For most people, the 9-5 lifestyle works and provides what they need to be happy. We’re just a little different.
I’ve found a happy place now where instead of trying to defend or justify my life, I just don’t talk about it. Instead, I find common ground and talk about things that I do have in common with loved ones and it feels ok. As long as YOU know why you are doing it and what you want from your life then that is all that matters.
Thanks for the additional insight! It is great that you share the interest for pursing a different type of lifestyle – and that you still have time to do things on your own! Best of luck
I loved reading this! You go! Someday I would love to do this…for now my three teenagers keep me grounded in one place. But I could identify with so many things you said. For me…working a 9-5 monday through friday job where someone else dictates when I pee and eat, isn’t my idea of living life! Right now I am a college professor and my schedule allows for adventures mixed in with work, but I love my students and have a passion for what I teach so I don’t look at it as work! In the meantime I started my own company Bucket List Adventure Company Ohio on the side… to allow me to start planning for an adventuresome life after teens but to allow me to still seek adventure throughout the year! Best wishes for safe travels to you and congrats on living life to the fullest! It’s awesome!
Thank you Brandi! Your Bucket List Adventure Company sounds amazing. You’ve found the perfect way to inject adventure into your life which is always the first step on a big journey. Who knows where that will take you in the future?! I never imagined what would grow out of starting Love Her Wild.
I look forward to watching how you will grow your group.
So I just did this. Friday is my last full day at my career. I am frugal by nature – with the exception of outdoor gear…but I’m still a pretty good bargain hunter with those items. I agree with how you saved, it’s totally doable. I get very frustrated at people who look at me and say “must be nice.” My usual reply is, you can do it too if you want it bad enough, and I can show you how.
Although I do have a home, it is very cheap and I have a very old car so no payments. If I ever decide to leave full time I can rent my house. I managed to save a year’s worth of income in 5 years. I think the big difference for me is I don’t want to be a full-time nomad. My boyfriend isn’t interested in it (yet) and I spent such a long time setting down roots and building a home here. I also have a dog. But what I do want is the flexibility to work wherever and however I want. Working for a company has been a struggle since day one. For a VERY long time I thought I was alone and all of the people who ditched that world were lucky. They did it when they were young, and my time had passed. That was “beyond reach” for me.
Then I woke up. I realized that I’m in charge of what I want out of life and if I want freedom then go chase it. If I want adventure, build a life that supports that. When you want it bad enough there is no sacrifice.
It’s been difficult to try to navigate the push and pulls of a relationship in the mix. But like you the BF doesn’t really mind me going off on my own – we both need our alone time. We are independent people who enjoy the same things if that makes sense. We will see how everything pans out in the coming months. My hope is to be able to take a solo trip this fall, after I’m used to finding my own clients and getting freelance work. Thanks for the daily dose of inspiration!
What an amazing story and good on you for making the leap and leaving your work. Now I am on ‘the other side’ it seems complete madness to me that I stayed so long in jobs working for other people. I really believe that some people just don’t fit the structure of 9-5 living, the same way some children just can’t get on with the school system. It is not always easy working for yourself but you will no doubt feel that absolute blissful realisation that you no longer have to fit into other people’s expectations. It was a beautiful moment for me!
One thing that I miss so much as a nomad is that familiarity of home, with friends and family close by. For me, nomadic doesn’t mean that you have to be on the go all the time, it’s just about having the freedom to carve the life you want. My long term plan is to find somewhere to settle and have it as a base, but continue to have the freedom to leave and grab adventures whenever I want. So when the winter gets too long, I can go somewhere hot for a couple of months, just because I can!
I think you have a huge advantage starting out later and already having your base in the world. You have the building blocks to make what you want of it. I wish you all the luck in the world, really!! 🙂
This was a really interesting read, and one of the few “how to travel full-time” posts that I can actually resonate with 🙂 Everything you’ve said is so true, and it’s the first time I’ve heard someone else say/admit that they have a safety net of a family home to go back to. I do the same, although with seasonal work and living abroad, but coming home is one of my favourite parts. Knowing that if everything went wrong that I’d still be able to have shelter and be fed is something I’ll never take for granted.
I’ll never be a full-time traveller but I aspire to have a job I love with enough time off to go adventuring, and a home to always come back to. The familiarity of home is just as good as the unknown of travels.
Thanks Ellie! A lot of people think that travelling full time is this amazing thing with no downsides, without realising that there are great things that come with having a long term home too. I also love going home and have appreciated the small things more than ever before.
I think you’re aspirations are spot on!
Great post Bex. Although I’m not a full-time traveller it totally resonates with me as I’ve had similar questions and comments about how I’m able to ‘afford’ to home educate my son. And as you say it’s about thinking outside the box and understanding your priorities. We’re happy to rent a small place to live (rather than aspire to a bigger family home), drive an old car and happy to go without TV, gadgets, home improvements, fancy clothes, lots of toys and eating out in order to make it work for us. Not as a sacrifice but a way of honouring what’s important to us as a family. But still lots of people just don’t get it. Oh and I’m so not suited to a 9-5 lifestyle structure either 😉
Yes, it’s exactly the same principle. Most, it all comes down to ‘stop spending’. What I love about this lifestyle is we are also helping the planet in the process.
Why doesn’t it surprise me that you aren’t much of a 9-5 person either… ?
I found your website today, it is an interesting read. £500 per month in Tanzania does that include the costs of the flights ? You are doing what I love, which is to travel, but funded via a different method.
Yes, that was including flights. We managed to get a really cheap deal as we booked in advance. Thanks for reading!