As full-time travelers, my husband and I get asked this question all the time, “How do you afford it?” Simple answer, we do it on a budget. When we decided that we wanted to travel around the world, at our own pace, whether this would take two years or 10, the first thing we did was look at our finances.
We are not independently wealthy, and we definitely fall into the “budget traveler” category. Since we both retired early, and are not yet collecting Social Security, we do not have a monthly income to rely on, so we had to make a realistic budget we could stick to using our savings dividends until that time.
For many years, we made small sacrifices that helped us save money to travel with. Luckily, we have also discovered that we spend less money per month traveling the world than we did staying at home.
As our list of all the places we want to visit grew longer and longer, it became clear that it would be detrimental to our finances if we continually had to fly back to the U.S. just to check up on something that we had no sentimental attachment to.
We had only been in our house about five years, so it was not a generational family home that everyone gathers to for holidays and reunions. Our family is scattered across the U.S., and it has always been easier for us to take trips to visit them.
We could have turned our house into a rental or an Air BnB, these are very viable options many people use to help fund their travels. Frankly, we just didn’t want the hassle. By selling our house we were able to put that equity into our travel fund. This eliminated a monthly house payment, homeowners’ insurance, taxes, utilities, and maintenance.
We also eliminated car insurance, gasoline, and mindless shopping for items that we don’t need or really even want. So, for us it was a no-brainer. I actually felt a weight lift off me as one by one, we got rid of our cars, furniture, and all the things that take up space in a house.
I felt new possibilities and adventure just around the corner every time another item was gone. Of course, we do have a closet size storage unit for our sentimental items. There are a few things we just can’t part with.
We have always lived debt free (outside of our mortgage). Paying our credit card bill monthly and not having any extraneous loans made planning our travel budget easier. Of course, this number will be different for everyone depending on the individual set of circumstances.
Are you drawing a monthly retirement, using your 401(k), have you started collecting Social Security yet, or do you want to sell your house or use it for income, etc.
We set a daily budget for ourselves that includes travel insurance, accommodation, food, transportation, cell phone, the cost of our storage unit, plus a small portion for miscellaneous. Some days we are under budget, which means we can splurge a little and be over budget in the coming days because we always find a nice restaurant we want to go to or a sight-seeing tour we want to get in on.
We also spend less time in really expensive areas and slow down in the budget friendly places. This is what is so nice about slow travel. You can pace yourself, see new places, have fun, and still be able to manage your money. Please check out our YouTube Travel channel, Over the Hill and Far Away to see where we’ve been so far.
Places to stay can vary greatly depending on your taste and budget. We use Air BnB for our longer stays as this allows us to book a house or apartment that has a kitchen and a washing machine. Preparing one meal a day ourselves and doing our own laundry are both money savers. If we are only going to be in a place 10 days or less, we’ll usually book a hotel with good reviews.
This is another thing that can vary greatly. It is also one of the fun parts of travel, discovering new foods and flavors. We always read up on what the local dishes are when going to a new place. There are always Western food options available, but they do cost more than the local cuisine.
We ate in local and western style restaurants until we became comfortable eating street food and learned what to look for. Just like at home, gravitate to the places that are very busy. This means they are local and a tourist favorite and when a restaurant, food truck, or stall has a steady string of customers throughout the day their ingredients are sure to be fresh.
Don’t be afraid to try something new! There are some street food stalls that have earned Michelin Stars! Eating local food has been a huge money saver for us, and we’ve discovered great cuisine. Taking a cooking class to learn to make local dishes has become one of our favorite things to do in a new place. It can also be a great introduction to the local cuisine.
When we stay in an accommodation with a kitchen, we usually fix our own breakfasts of oatmeal and fruit. Not only does this save us a lot of money it also helps us stay healthy. The longer we stay in a place, the cheaper our food costs become as we discover the best places to eat and to shop for food.
Currently, we are in Cambodia and are staying in the capital, Phnom Penh, for a month. A few years ago, we took a sabbatical and lived here, which means we know where to shop and eat, and where to stay. This makes our stay here much less expensive. That’s one reason we’re staying a whole month, to slow down and spend a little less money.
We have found that we need so much less now that we only have to meet our daily needs and not maintain a house and vehicles. There was a lot of planning before we started off on our around the world adventure.
It’s not just a one-time thing either, we constantly make tweaks and adjustments to our plans. Is it worth all this planning and budgeting? Totally! We are so happy, and so blessed, to be having the adventure of a lifetime. Although we are living our dream, we’re not special, if we can do it so can you. Whether it’s across your state or across the ocean, if travel is your dream, plan a budget and see how far it takes you!
Have you ever budgeted for travel or something else major? Do you have any budgeting tips that may be useful to others? Do you think you will feel comfortable to slow-travel? Let me know your thoughts or ideas.
How do you address Healthcare? From a budgeting AND planning standpoint?
I think that what you are doing is great and so inspiring. Hooray for you! What are your plans moving forward…where or if you will settle somewhere to live? Housing prospects?
Thanks for your question. We have really enjoyed so many of the places that we have been, but Mexico remains at the top of the list for places to possibly settle in. We actually do not want the hassle of owning a home again. An apartment or condo would fit us best. Thank you for your comment.
The elephant in the room is health issues and finding expert medical care. Most of us over 60 have experienced serious medical issues such as cancer and heart ailments. I can’t imagine what would have happened if my husband’s heart attack and subsequent need for a stent had occurred in one of these “budget friendly” (meaning remote) areas of the world. He also experienced a deadly form of melanoma and it was only the expert eye of his trusted dermatologist and surgery and a year of immunotherapy that kept the cancer from metastasizing. I found it odd that the article mentions the positive aspects of continuous travel but doesn’t mention the downside.
I’m with you there! It’s always one of our concerns when we travel outside the US. I have a history of lung cancer and my husband has heart issues. I think we will commit ourselves to short trips of a month or less!
Thank you for your thought provoking comment. Even though my husband and I have no medical issues currently, it is something we take into consideration. Great medical care can be found in big cities, but as you stated less so in remote areas. I have had dental work and dermatological issues taken care of in Mexico, an upper respiratory infection in South Africa, and my husband had lasik on his eyes in Bangkok. But nothing life threatening. Unfortunately not everyone is in a situation that permits travel. I wish you and your husband the best. You might check out an earlier article on Sixty and Me titled “How Even a Simple Getaway Can Bring a Welcome Shift” by Marcia Smaller, published June 20, 2021. You can find it under the travel tab.
Carolyn, I’m curious to know what your plan is when you decide to stop traveling or must for medical reasons. You have no home to return to. Have you thought or planned that far ahead?
Yes, as we travel we are always looking for places that meet our criteria to live permanently, or at least the better part of a year. All countries have requirements you must meet to be a resident. Mexico has been and remains at the top of the list. Thank you for your question.
My husband and I have been nomads since 2017. After retirement in 2016, we got rid of most of our stuff, sold our house, and hit the road in our Toyota Camry. We stay in vacation rentals through VRBO.com. The only thing I miss is having pets. We solved that by joining TrustedHousesitters.com, living in homes and caring for pets rent free while the owners travel. Here’s our travel blog: http://www.travels-with-charlie-and-carrie.com
I checked out your site and I love it. I will be watching for new posts from you. We have talked several times about doing house sitting after we are done with our around the world adventure. Especially since you can find opportunities to do this in many different countries. It is a very appealing consideration. Happy house sitting & traveling!