We’ve been travelling full-time for over 4 years now, without a full-time traditional job between us and loving our new non-conventional life. Raising the money to travel was hard work initially, we weren’t rich, didn’t win the lottery and for the preceding 5 years we only had 1 income, my husband’s chef’s salary. I was a busy stay-at-home mum with babies and kids in those days and we had a mortgage, but no other debts. That put us in a good starting position to start our new travel lifestyle. We had to raise a lump sum to get the ball rolling and fund our first year but as we’ve travelled we’ve had time to figure out an online income and get everything in place to be self-sustaining. The money now flows to us without having to save or scrimp. This is how we did it, no woo, just hard graft.
How did we raise the money to travel as a lifestyle choice for four years plus ?
We had around $30,000 in the bank on the day we left ( US $ and Au $ were 1:1 back then), we saved that sum in 12 months using every trick in the book to save, economise and sell. That money lasted for a full year, 4 continents, 12 countries and 2 cruises. For our subsequent years we’ve supplement our finances with a diverse patchwork of online and real-life income streams.
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Taking the jump to freedom and travel from a regular working lifestyle may look daunting, but the 2 things to remember are:
Traveling is Cheaper than Staying at Home
Own Less, Live More
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That’s not to say that travel is the only way to make a lifestyle shift, but some mode of downsizing financial needs is necessary and for us travel was the easiest and most fulfilling way. The driving force behind our adventure was always giving the kids an amazing education and just enjoyment of life and family. The new income and way of living was the gravy on the chips.
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Travel is Cheaper Than Staying Home
In our experience travel is way cheaper than staying at home and the longer and slower you travel, the cheaper it gets and the more financial freedom you gain. Your new life starts with making your decision to go and then sticking with it. Mark a date on your calendar and tell the world so that there will be no going back on your dreams. You will feel different almost straight away.
My husband taught me that if you want to go to the moon, you buy a ticket.
You CAN find a way to get out of the rat race and live more for less.
We recommend this book, work less, live more, join the new rich. There are many more books but this one is a classic on lifestyle design. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated)
The First Time We Travelled for a Year, Second Time, Indefinitely
We’ve done this thing twice, the first time we saved enough money to travel for 12 months without working, pre-kids and had an amazing year that we never forgot. It’s not easy to save like that or everyone would do it. You can’t just carry on with your normal lifestyle, you have to make sacrifices, cut your spending, work hard and adapt to the (conventional perception) of a lower standard of living. That first time we didn’t have the vision to change our lifestyle completely, so sadly we slotted back into normal when our year was up.
Second time around it was even harder to raise the cash, there were 4 of us and we need a higher standard of transport and accommodation to make us comfortable with taking the children on our family lifestyle adventure. No rooftop bus travel this time, which is a shame, it was fun.
How We Raised The Money to Travel Full Time, As a Family
Start by working out how much you actually spend
Take your salary, take out the tax and any bills such as car repayments, mortgage, utility bills, school fees etc. See how much you actually spend in a month. It’s not that much is it?
In Asia, Eastern Europe or Central and South America I can guarantee you will spend way less, unless you go into holiday mode and dine out in the fanciest restaurants and buy heaps of souvenirs, even then you’d struggle to spend more.
We once traveled around India for 3 months on $5/ day each. And that included accommodation, transport and beer. We’ll never be able to travel that cheap again but it gives you an idea doesn’t it?
Looking at what you actually spend, it suddenly becomes achievable to save up enough money to travel for a year. It does for us, anyway. Obviously you need to pay off any loans, if you are in debt you’ve got a problem, sell the car, find a way to pay your mortgage and bills while you are away ( rent or sell). If you are a renter it’s easy, move out. Then you just need to start saving.
Make money with your house
You could rent a room or section of your house to travelers through Airbnb ( sign up with our link for a cash bonus for new hosts). It’s free to join and list your property, I listed a room and had a booking within 24 hours. Money in the bank! You set your price and what facilities are available to your house guests.
Similar is Couch Surfing. You can’t make money out of this, but if you build up a reputation as a good Couch Surfing host now, you can get payback in free accommodation in other people’s homes when you travel. Families can couch surf too.
Move out of your house into a smaller apartment, or even a tent, for a few months while you rent out your whole house. You will pay much less on utilities this way too. You could even move to a cheaper house in another country if you create a remote income.
You can rent your house while you travel, we do this and it’s worked out fine. We use a local agent and they take care of everything for us.
Sell your stuff
You could use E Bay, I prefer to use local Facebook buy and sell sites, that way you avoid postage costs and people are more likely to buy. If there isn’t one in your area, start one, it’s easy. Recruit all your friends and family and start listing all your stuff. Money exchange happens face to face, no need to set that up online.
We had the mother of all garage sales, raised thousands and lived a simpler, more minimalist lifestyle. We’ve never missed anything we sold.
The more stuff you can get rid of the better, paid storage is expensive.
I switched to temping before we went on our first 12 month trip, I found it paid better and came with tax breaks. I was a hospital scientist so don’t think temping is just for office workers. Job security stops being a priority once you have decided to leave.
Make extra money through your hobbies, sell produce from your garden, make jewelry or fabric wotnots to sell at a local market. How about face painting? It’s easy to teach yourself how to do it from the internet ( I did). Offer your services as a handyman, seamstress or baby sitter. Anything that brings in extra cash, it all adds up.
Sometimes I did a bit of face painting to help people out, there was no cash involved, but I received wine, chocolates and cinema tickets as gifts. You can’t put them in the bank, but when you are working hard raising money to travel, treats make life so much happier!
Start a blog! ( find out how here) Be prepared for a long haul and hard work, but it pays off in the end if you have the drive. Read here How to make your first $1000 with Amazon Affiliates. Affiliate schemes, along with advertising, are basically how bloggers make a living.
There are so many ways to economise. My favorite is to fix a weekly budget. Take that amount of cash out on a fixed day of the week and only spend what you have in your wallet. I find it easier to stick to a weekly budget than a monthly one.
Charts, plans and spreadsheets help a lot. As you graph your progress and see the money building up it feels good.
The trick is, to not feel like you are suffering too much, if every day is a struggle you’ll soon get sick of going without. I looked forward to getting that cash on a Thursday and having a mini splurge on wine and cake.
Don’t buy stuff. We all buy too much crap in the perceived need to make our homes and ourselves more attractive. Just stop, completely. Then start selling all the non-essential items cluttering up your house. Once you start selling stuff you get a big kick out of it, it takes the place of the buzz you get from buying something new.
Use up all the stores in your cupboards. You could probably feed the family for a week on all the food sitting on the shelves. Get it used, you’ll save money and you’ll have a nice uncluttered kitchen. Same goes for clothes, use what you’ve got, if you can’t use it, sell it.
Use reward schemes, special offers and coupons wisely. If it’s something you use and need, buy in bulk when the price is right. If it’s a ploy to make you spend more, stay away. A couple of times my weekly shop was totally covered by points on the supermarket reward card. The money I didn’t spend went in the bank.
I’ll also mention here that travel rewards ( travel hacking, Airmiles and so on) can be your best friend. We recently had a week of free hotels in Thailand thanks to Agoda reward points ( see how here).
Slow Travel Is Cheaper Travel and Other Ways to Travel for Less
Not overall, but in terms of time/dollar slow travel comes in at far better value. We can get months of travel out of one big flight and then we can overland using buses, trains and boats.
We are not huge fans of slow travel, in all honesty it bores us. You get more time for your dollar but not more experiences and for us it’s all about the latter. We intersperse our travels with slow periods, sure, we need to or life would be too intense and we’d never get anything done, but long-term slow travel isn’t for us. We certainly travel slower than the tourists and 2 week holiday makers, but we don’t enjoy private rentals and months in one spot.
The usual arguments for slow travel are as follows:
If you turn up in a town ready to stay longer you can get a better room rate. Self catering becomes possible ( self catering is NOT cheaper in many parts of Asia where a meal costs $1), local markets are normally dirt cheap. You really get a feel for a place, get to know it well, rather than rushing around tourist hot-spots You can relax.
It may be possible for you to find work as you travel, if you are under 30, this is usually easy, we, over 30s, can’t get working holiday visas, so it may be tricky. We have a post about travelling for free, including volunteering and working options. Some people do it this way, we don’t, we pay our way about 99% of the time.
It may seem like a huge task to save all that money, but it is possible. Nothing worth doing is ever easy.
When The Savings Ran Out How Did We Continue Travelling?
We still travel extensively in recent years we’ve enjoyed skiing in the Balkans, spent a month in Sri Lanka, 6 months in Hoi An,Vietnam, Christmas in Singapore ( a very expensive destination!), 2 weeks in Dubai and a month trekking in Nepal along with long stints in a very special village in Romania and London with European road trips in between.
My husband has been tempting occasionally over the years, at a lower position than normal because it pays better. It’s all above-board, he pays tax and worked at a top London hotel for a few weeks at a time. He used to be an executive chef, these days he’s happy to be a casual. Currently he has no plans to work in kitchens again as our online income more than covers us.
I’ve worked hard on the blogs, learning the trade and how to make them pay. We’re doing well now but it took time. That’s something I could help you with. If you go to our blogging section ( here) you can read more about that but it’s not something I’m trying to sell, everyone could do it, but not everyone has the drive and dedication to do it.
We still own our house in Australia and still have tenants covering all costs there plus a little extra. We overpay on that mortgage, we always have, so we have a cash buffer for any emergency or big purchases. That is our pension plan.
We get more travel for our dollar because, as bloggers, we get free perks and stays, although you’d be surprised by how rarely we accept those. I like to be up-front about that so that we all know that does happen and there’s no harm in it. I love that my know how, point of view and the audience I reach is valuable to the travel industry.
We’re glad you found us and hope we can help you live your dreams and maybe travel more. We’ll help you if we can through this website, sign up in the side bar to stay in touch.