Right after “Where are you going to go?” this is definitely the most common question we’re asked. There is definitely a strong idea that to travel long term, to leave it all behind and hit the road with a mobile lifestyle, you need a ton of money.
I guess that might be true, if you were taking a 52-week vacation. Can you imagine that? Leaving regular life behind just like you do for vacation but instead of 2 weeks of hotels, ferries, rentals, eating out all the time, sightseeing tours, and scam cab rides… what if you did that for 52 weeks? Ha!
That’d cost a fortune. We’re definitely not doing that.
We’re not staying in hotels. Well, maybe once in a while we’ll break down and spring for one; air conditioning at just the right time can feel like a little bit of heaven. But really, as a rule, no hotels.
So then people who haven’t done long-term travel are wondering – where do you stay?
You could camp, which we’re not doing. Our travel plan is pretty loose, to give us some flexibility in where we go so we can stay where we want, leave when we don’t, and adjust while we’re in motion. This means we haven’t made a lot of ( really, any ) solid plans for where we’re staying before we get there. Sounds like madness, I know. But there’s a way to do this.
We get to an area we want to say in, say Galway Ireland. On the recommendation of friends and social media, we find a hostel for those first few days. This isn’t icky; there are plenty of non-stabby hostels that are clean and great to stay at, and we find one of those. If we’re staying more than a few days, that means we’re staying 2-3 weeks, so we use those couple days to find a place on AirBnB. A place there for that amount of time isn’t expensive; you could pay a lot, but you definitely don’t have to. $300 for 2 weeks? Sounds great.
So, not going at the where-you’re-staying thing like you’re on vacation helps. Like, a lot. You can follow that thinking pretty far – cook some meals, make some lunches. Almost all of the places we’re going are not laid out like big American cities; you can walk to a market, walk to your place, walk or public transport anywhere. So this also saves on gas.
You make up your mind to do walking tours, take pictures, and be smart about what you pay for, you can not only save a lot of money, but your cost of living – what you pay out day to day for just existing in our world – goes down.
You also save money. Just like for the vacation, but maybe more so. You go out to eat less. You have no-spend-Saturdays. You watch Netflix instead of renting something that streams. You have to be at least kind of serious about this, and you have to be consistent. If you’re in the 98% and can’t put money aside somehow, long term traveling is not going to be a viable option for you.
You also stop paying for things that are normal at home. Phone service. Car insurance. Health insurance. The list goes on and on… but there are plenty of things you don’t need to pay on when you’re not going to be home for a year. This also adds up.
A third serious way to make your money go further is to travel where your money works very hard. You could go to Stockholm, Tokyo, or Tahiti… but why not think about going to Prague, Hanoi, or Nicaragua? In these places, a world-class meal can be had for $10 US or less. Your money goes a long way, and the surfing in Nicaragua is at least as sweet as it is in Tahiti.
It all adds up
It’s work. Before you travel, you need to figure it out. But saving, adjusting what you’re paying for, learning to be happy without spending as much, and going to places where your money goes much further all make long term world travel possible for most of us. If you can do remote work during this period… so much the better.