It is the most asked question for sure! About a 10 times a week I get messages from random strangers through my Social Media asking me all the same question: How do you afford to travel for so long?
In 2008 it all started for me when I left my home country to take a leap of faith. Back then all I knew was I wanted to dive in the deep blue hole in Belize and I wanted to learn Spanish. I quitted my job and left Holland to chase my dreams. It took me exactly one year to travel through Central America, South America, Australia and South-East Asia collecting stamps of 22 different countries. With a bag full of experiences I returned home and knew one thing for sure: I will do this again!
Years past by and I made several trips to Asia, USA, Middle East, Africa and around Europe but a holiday is nothing quite like a big trip! The urge to start exploring became bigger and bigger and eventually the time was there to say goodbye again. Since December 2012 I have been on the road, apart from the summer months of 2015 where I spent some quality time with family and friends back in Holland.
Travelling is not a holiday
First of all I want to make clear that spending time abroad is not always a vacation, so when people think I am on a holiday they are wrong. A holiday is far from my reality and there are some huge differences between travelling and being on a holiday. A traveller’s life is not always as excited as it seems. There are days that I don’t do anything. When I post a picture on my social media (@traveltomtom for Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) that doesn’t mean that I am right there at that moment. It happens that it is raining as hell and I post a picture from two days ago when it was beautiful weather. Displaying a more realistic travellers lifestyle is my Snapchat account: traveltomtom in where you can see the normal life of a traveler. Taking the cheapest crappy flights, sleeping on airports (Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi, etc.), saving money on food eating tuna cans, buying the cheapest bottle of wine. Just like a real traveler should: save money so you can travel more!
I often joke about the fact that I became a master in spending money wisely, but actually I really think I am. I think it is the key to success in the long term travel industry. You can only spend money once, so when you are travelling you constantly gotta ask yourself the question: is this worth it? My rule is simple: does it make you happy without regretting it later then you should totally go for it! Traveling to Seychelles on a budget? Everything is possible, read it here!
The more you travel the more experience you will gain in the field of spending money wisely. For sure I did some stupid things, but I learned from it. It is like trial and error. Obviously I don’t ask myself the question if the money is worth it anymore, it now all comes down to a feeling! I know what makes me happy without having regrets and on top of that I know what is NOT worth spending money on. Souvenirs for example! LOL
How I afford to travel long term
A good example is spending money on food. When you travel alone you are going to meet loads of people and you will end up in restaurants for dinner all together. This is great fun, but when these restaurants all are double the price of the ones down the road what are you going to do? Are these fellow travellers worth spending double the price on a meal? I often disappoint a lot of people by telling them I pass and I will grab my own food. It sometimes can be even bananas, bread, tomatoes and a can of tuna from the supermarket. It sounds pretty boring and sometimes arrogant, but I am willing to stay on the road for as long as possible and I can only spend my money once. I simply don’t want to spend it on meet ups with people I probably wont see anymore in my life anyway. The same applies for going out and drinking alcohol, which consumes most of the travel costs for an average traveller. Be smart, think twice before going out! Is it really worth it or is it only cool once you are drunk? Back home you are not going out every other day either, so why would you do that while travelling around the world!?
I always say it’s a dangerous combination if travellers meet up with friends on a holiday. I am always having the best time whenever my best friends decide to come on over and I cant wait for the next encounter. My friends for example came to Thailand for a about 23 days. In total we spend about $1,800, where an average month travelling solo in Thailand costs me only half of it! Your bank account won’t be happy with these meetings, unless you make your friends aware of the difference between travelling and a vacation!
Different parts of the world obviously require different types travel lifestyles. Image yourself in Scandinavia. You think you will go out eating 3 times a day? You can try it, but you will probably not be away for that long. Though in Asia, where you can find meals for about $2 you most likely will never cook yourself. Here in Asia I go out eating 4 times a day at simple places or I grab street food. Life in cheap countries is good, but even there you will find places to splurge. A good decent restaurant will cost you only about $8 and for most people that is cheap as hell! For most travellers it is not a question if they can afford it, the question is are they willing to afford it!
Travel on a budget
A lot of travellers set sail and they know precisely what’s their budget per day. They are trying to stick to that and it is of course not a bad idea to keep your travels within proportion. Though it is not my style! I think budgets limit travellers. Travelling is about freedom and if you limit yourself you are not free to do what you want. When it comes down to spending money I think you should do what you feel like doing at that moment, regardless your budget! What I mean is that if I want to go to out in an expensive sky bar in Bangkok (10 favorite things to do in Bangkok) I know I am going to spend a lot of money. But I wont stop myself from doing it if I really want it. The key lies in the days after! If you just make sure you are going to have simple and cheap days in the week after, it shouldn’t be a problem. Travellers mostly have a lot of time and these cheap days are vital to survive. Watch movies, stroll around the city or spend time on the beach. Just do something that does not cost money!
So do I have a set budget? No I never even thought about it to be honest. I do know what I am spending on average over a longer time! Only roughly though, because I don’t want to think about money that much when I am travelling!
I have been trekking in the Himalayas in Nepal where I spent about US$180 in 15 days or a homestay in Guatemala for 7 days spending only US$55. But on the contrary I went to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil where I spent about US$4,000 in 5 weeks or 5 days Hawaii, which cost me nearly US$1,000. Was it worth it? Hell yeah!!!!!
My secret to travel long term
To most people sending me messages over the last years I already revealed my secret. It is seriously very boring and I will probably disappoint you with my answer. I am not the one who holds the secret to travel for as long as you want to. I think it all comes down what you are willing to sacrifice and in my case that is a lot! I simply saved up a lot of money and reduced my costs to a minimum.
For how long you are going to stay out there definitely depends on how much money you have. But that is not the only thing! If you want to make a trip around the world then expect to have a lot of transportation expenses. But do you decide to stay in one continent, suddenly the lifespan of your trip doubles. You could decide to stay only in Asia where life is cheap and travel costs are reduced to a minimum. Flying around in Asia is pretty cheap with plenty of cheap flight for the grab. Staying in the same place for a longer time also helps you not spending that much money. At the moment for example I am staying in Koh Tao, a little island in Thailand. I rented a nice apartment for one month, I go out eating every day about 4 times, I stroll down to the beach whenever I want to, I hike around so now and then and go to the gym mostly every day. What such a month cost me? I am probably exaggerating when I tell you I will spend US$800 this month!
Travel to cheap countries
Thailand is a cheap country, but not as cheap as it used to be. Nowadays there are cheaper countries in Asia like for example India and Nepal. But imagine you are able to save up to US$20,000. Regarding the above stated example that would make you stay on the road for about 20 months! That is more than 1,5 years. I met people who were travelling around the world for one year spending not more than US$500 a month. How is that possible you think? But imagine cycling through Vietnam for 4 weeks, staying overnight in a tent, using couchsurfing or sleep on the ground in local homes. It will probably be hard to spend more than US$10 a day!
As I said before it all comes down what you want and what you are willing to sacrifice. Do you really want to eat a tuna can and a piece of bread for lunch? Or want to sleep in hostels and noisy dorms? Travelling is not all glitter and glamour!
Working while traveling
There are many opportunities to gain some extra income while travelling. I don’t need to tell you that working while traveling can keep you on the road for a long time. Work for free accommodation or for free partying (read: alcohol) is common as well. It is very common among young travellers, but I never did anything like this; I have not worked a single time while being on the road! I did some volunteer work in for example Costa Rica where I spent a couple weeks away from the real world helping to protect sea turtles, but that is the only thing that comes close to working abroad. This is one of the experiences I listed in my blog 30 things I only experienced because I traveled.
Lately though travel blogging (read my article: life of a travel blogger) became a thing and I do make some money with this. Making money being a travel blogger seems like the best thing ever. But that is not reality! If you have to survive from your travel blogging income you will most likely end up sleeping in the streets. Hours and hours I am spending behind my Macbook and on Instagram. For what? I don't know yet, may be it is all effort that will never pay off! Take a look at my popular article 'how to become popular on Instagram'. But some day I still hope to make a living from my blog. Living in Asia is cheap and I like a simple life. There is not much needed to make me smile. Lets see where this adventure ends!
My story is simple I saved enough money to travel around for years! I never really thought about where to go and what to do. To me it was just a matter of leaving my comfort zone and looking for an adventure, which was making me happy and still does!
Are you interested in working while traveling? A really popular option is to teach English abroad? Is this not your native language don't worry. There are international standards and if you complete a TEFL course, you will most likely find a job anywhere around the world? What does TEFL mean? Teaching English as a Foreign Language. It is an amazing opportunity to work abroad and make good money. May be China is not your favorite country, but what if you can make up to $50 per hour? If you really want to explore the world there are a lot of options, you just gotta be a little braver than you think you are! To inspire you I teamed up with Global Language Training and I am able to give you guys 30% discount on all courses! Click on the link to read more about it...
Several adventures came my way and loads of them were not planned. I met hundreds of people along the road and made loads of friends. It has been a roller coaster ride ever since and it seems there is no end to it in the near future! Spending my money wisely and spending it in such a way that it makes me a happy traveller being away from the corporate life is my secret. It is the key to stay on the road for a long time!
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I really hope my travels inspire you and if that’s the case let me know! Im really happy to interact with my followers for as much as I can! Let me fuel your wanderlust by sending you to my blog 30 things I only experienced because I traveled. In this list I sum up to most amazing things I did while being on the road. From hot air ballooning to world wonders and from chasing the worlds biggest waterfalls to learning foreign languages.
For all of my adventurous in Asia click here!
Safe travels and keep on exploring!