For most of us, traveling the world for years seems as easy as starting the next Facebook. However, it’s surprisingly doable once you hack out the mechanics.There are five steps:
1. Slash your pre-trip expenses:
Most of us have a habit of raising our expenses to match our income. Instead, live like a monk. Pretend you’re making just above the poverty wage (say, $15,000). This will force you to slash spending faster than we’re slashing forests in the Amazon. Downsize your car, home, and social spending. If you’re making $30,000, then within a year, you’ll have about $15,000 saved. If you’re making $50,000, then pocket over $30,000.Keep in mind, you definitely don’t need to save that much money before you go traveling. That’s really only if you don’t want to worry about running out of funds anytime soon. For those who tend to just ‘wing it’ and travel on a whim, they can also get by just fine if they are resourceful enough. (Also keep in mind, thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to make money online and travel while working too.)2. Chop your travel lodging costs:
Make hostels your luxury spot. I’ve stayed in many hostels, in many countries, and I’ve loved most of them. You meet incredible people from all over the world, and you interact with people much more than you ever would while staying at a hotel. Even better, you can use organizations like Workaway
(if you don’t know what they are, CHECK THEM OUT ASAP!) half the time and try camping the other half. You’ll spend less than $300 a month of lodging. It’s crazy to think that some travelers blow $300 in one night on a hotel room!
Oh, and if you think it’s hard to stealth camp in a city, you should know that it’s really not that difficult. Most have major parks next to the city where you can find a discreet spot. As long as you setup your camp at dusk and get out at dawn, it’s unlikely that anyone will find you. I’ve even camped in a secluded spot in Rome!
Just remember to bring a gift to each Couchsurfing host, and to leave no trace when you camp.
3. Eat simply: Skip restaurants. Cook for your couchsurfing host. Buy from street vendors. Support local farmers by buying fruits and veggies. Remember, when you’re volunteering for a Workaway host, your room and board are covered, so that can really save you a fortune too.
Although sampling the local cuisine is an essential part of travel, most locals don’t eat at fancy restaurants, which often have modified menus geared to the tourist palate, not the local one. Eat like a local – it’s cheaper.
Cooking at your hostel, at your host’s house, or at your campsite might also be healthier than eating out, especially if you buy health food!
4. Travel slowly: Expensive transport (like taxis and rented cars) destroy your budget. Instead, hitchhike, because it’s easier and safer than you think. If not, take mass transit to meet the locals—that’s one reason you’re traveling, right? For the record, I’ve hitchhiked many times in my travels, even all by myself, in countries like Germany where I could hardly understand a word of the native language. Every time, it went flawlessly well. Just remember to trust your instincts, and don’t get in a car if you don’t feel 100% about the person stopping to assist.
If you’re going a long distance, sometimes it is cheaper to fly thanks to budget airlines, so sometimes traveling fast is paradoxically cheaper than traveling slow.
5. Minimize discretionary spending. It’s stunning how fast some tourists blow through their money on going to every museum, boat tour, and souvenir shop. Before you go to the $50 festival, remind yourself that you could travel for three more days with that.
A few more tips:
You don’t need to take all these steps, but the more you take, the longer (and farther) you can travel. You can travel for around $1,000 month, although some vagabonds do it for much less. Don’t buy the $30,000 sports car or remodel your bathroom. Instead, use that cash to travel nonstop for up to three years! Experiences are worth far more than objects.
On the other hand, don’t be a stingy bastard. Too many cheap travelers skip going to the Louvre, don’t give their couchsurfing host a gift, and never offer to pay the gas to someone who picks them while hitchhiking. Be frugal, but not selfish or foolish.
You don’t need to be rich to travel for years. In fact, most who do it aren’t rich: they’re people in their 20s who have mastered living simply to have rich, unforgettable experiences. For some, that’s a sweet deal.
What about travel insurance?
I had Kaiser Medical insurance (a California HMO). It covers you overseas. If something go bad, then you pay out-of-pocket, save the receipts, and then submit it when you return home to get reimbursed. I’m now looking into special travel insurance since I’m on the road all the time. They’re a bit more expensive, but they specialize in travelers. They can cost around $200-300 for a healthy 40-year-old.
Another strategy is to just roll the dice. Medical care in other parts of the world is MUCH cheaper than the US. So if you’re mainly worried about breaking bones, then you can get them fixed for $1,000 in many countries. That’s how much you’ll spend in a few months of insurance. Dental care is cheaper too, so no insurance need. Even Americans will go overseas to work on their teeth or bodies, because their out-of-pocket expenses are lower. In America, so people pay insurance and then find it’s still cheaper to pay full price overseas rather than to do a co-pay in the US. So a risky, but perhaps more economic strategy, is to not have insurance at all. I’ve done that too.
Be safe, and happy travels everyone!