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How We Paid For A Year Of Travel

Location Independent Professional

Working at the Beach in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Perhaps you are expecting me to reveal a secret formula or quick way to make money that gives you the means to travel round the world for a year.  I’m sorry, we do not have one.

You might also enjoy reading… Can Blogging Pay for My Travels?

It’s similar to asking a trainer or nutritionist what’s the best way to loose weight and their response is always, “eat healthy and exercise,” uh, what a bummer.  Who wants to do that!  We never want to do the work we just want to bask in the results.

Budget Travel Secrets

Now, I’m definitely not an expert on financial planning or round the world trip planning for that matter.  But, I am going to share with you the personal details of how Jason and I were able to pay for the $15,000 USD each for our year of travel in Latin America.  Unfortunately, my answer for how we saved money is probably worse than eating healthy and exercising.  It’s financial responsibility.  Gasp!

Aracely’s Financial History

World Currency

Currency We Have Collected During Our Trip

I am from a single parent home and have worked since the age of 14.  My mother has never had the means to save much money and always lived from paycheck to paycheck.  That meant I had to work for what I wanted.  I rushed through college because I knew I had to hurry up and help my mother and younger brother financially.  I paid for it all with financial aid, scholarships, grants and working up to three jobs at one time.  Oh, and I never had any credit card debt, ever.

After college I was hired by Mercedes-Benz where I worked for a little less than 5 years.  With my salary, I paid for my own apartment, car, bills and helped my mother.  This meant I too lived paycheck to paycheck during that time.  Then in 2007, at the age of 25, I landed a job with a Fortune 500 Company.  The move gave me a much needed 50% salary increase.   When this happened, I did not purchase a new car or get a bigger apartment as most Americans have the habit of doing.  In fact, I reduced my spending by getting rid of my leased vehicle, since I  could now take The Path (NJ-NY public train system) to work everyday.  This enabled me to save a lot of money over 1.5 years.

Chile Currency

5,000 Chilean Pesos

When we decided to travel for an entire year we began to run the numbers and calculated that we needed $15,000 USD each.  This does not include any of our gear expense.  In my case, I also had to make sure there was enough money to continue to help my mother during the time we were traveling.  That was an additional $6,000 dollars for the year.  Upon our return, I wanted to make sure that I had enough savings left to feel financially safe for emergencies.

Once I knew all of the above was feasible, from only 1.5 years of savings, I gave my boss my resignation notice.

Jason’s Financial History

Guatemala Currency

1 Guatemalan Quetzal

This is probably the only time I will consider my age an advantage.  I had never planned on long term travel before, therefor I have never saved money for it.  But, I have been working since 1997 and was able to begin saving money after I paid off my debt in 2003.  My debt was the result of owning a high maintenance car and some small graduate school loans.  From 2003 to 2009 I had saved enough money for a down payment on a home, my highest priority at the time.  I own a vehicle that is paid off and have no existing debt.  It was the perfect time to move forward on a home considering the housing market had tanked.

Argentinan Currency

5 Argentinan Pesos

Unexpectedly to both us, we suddenly made a decision to travel long term.  The good thing was, I had the money.  The bad thing was, I would be spending the down payment of a house.  We look back now with no regrets.  I don’t see us buying a house anytime soon, it would hinder our traveling significantly and eliminate many freedoms we have today.

I didn’t necessarily save or budget for this trip, I saved for the sake of saving.  I saved for a house, financial freedom, an active social life and fun vacations.  Saving includes eliminating credit card debt.  If you are saving money, but at the same time increasing your credit card debt or taking out loans for cars, you aren’t saving.  It’s a concept that the United States struggles with, including our government.  Debt takes away your freedoms.

I quite my job and am now traveling and running a travel blog on my many years of savings.

Travel Budget Review

Bolivian Currency

10 Bolivian Bolivianos

We rationed our travel budget at $1,333 USD each per month for a total of $2,666, of which $1,000 was allocated towards adventure and the rest for day-to-day living expenses.  The actual expenses varied from month to month and country to country.  After 11 months of budget travel we had already exceeded the $30,000 mark  by $1,500 dollars.  At this point we had not purchased our tickets home and had one more month of backpacking expenses left.  We both agree that we could have stayed within our original budget if we didn’t have friends visiting from home.  That’s not to say we didn’t want our friends visiting.

When friends visit us, it’s a vacation for them.  They have 2 weeks to see and do as much as possible.  That usually means flying places and eating at fancy restaurants.  If we eliminate the flights and fancy restaurants we ate at during our friends’ visits we would have made our budget.  During our last month in Quito, Ecuador, we ate in all the time, saving money.  It wasn’t enough to break even, but it helped.

Travel Budget Advice

There you have it.  I’m sorry again for not being able to provide a secret formula.  The only secret is financial responsibility.  Even though we already had the money  saved before we decided to do long term travel, I think the same behaviors apply regardless of what you are saving for.  You must have discipline and patience.  These characteristics are important for more than just saving money.

, ,

Great post. We have hit the road full time since our youngest (of 3) went to college three years ago and often are asked how we afford it. We followed your same basic principles, even while raising a family. Amazing how much you can save if you don’t buy into the latest fads. One big thing, we never bought a new car. Let someone else take the loss. We are living in a 1982 motorhome now… it still runs good… knock on wood.
-David & Veronica

Jason says:

That sounds great! I would love to own a motorhome someday and travel the States.

doi says:

financial responsibility is kinda difficult to follow but with hard work and discipline, you’ll definitely be able to reach your end goal, which is travelling. i’m also faced with this dilemma and am trying hard to focus on my goal to earn more so that i can pursue my passion for travelling. Thanks for sharing this! =)

Planning and fiscal responsibility are a must when you travel. Actually it’s a must for life in my opinion. Every time I take a trip I make sure to plan my activities, food, shopping, etc so that I know what the true cost is. Many times I will search for deals, coupons or buy tickets to events in advance. People think it’s so expensive to travel but if you plan it right and search for deals you can go on the trip of a lifetime without breaking the bank.

Ermin Mistica says:

Hi Aracely! Thanks for sharing. I always keep a lookout for websites like these to find ways to travel on the cheap!

Sally says:

You Americans are hilarious! Or is it just a Gen Y thing? I travelled Asia and Europe 1986-1990 and returned to Australia with double the money I left with. Credit is the devil, equity in a home will give financial freedom. PS I am currently spending a month in Vietnam with 2 of my kids.

Jason says:

We are too old for Gen Y, but thanks for the compliment!

Traveling to Western Europe is financially challenging coming from the United States due to the US Dollar against the Euro or Pound, although it’s getting better. When I visited the UK in 2008, the Dollar was worth half the Pound.

It also depends on what type of traveling you are doing. If you are working and traveling, then of course, you can probably get away without spending your savings. However, our trip was not that kind of trip. This trip involved no work on the road and only lasted a year.

Everyone’s trip or travel is for different reasons, different lengths of time and involves different activities. With that understanding, we can’t fit everyone into a mold that we think travel should be. That wouldn’t be fair.

Dave and Deb says:

Good planning guys. It goes to show, anyone can do it. People always think that around the world travel is unaffordable, but with a few cut back and tightening the belt, it is possible to save for a trip. And what a trip you had! Here’s to 2011!

Jason says:

Thanks guys. It is absolutely doable. We are spending a lot of time with family in 2011, so no long term trips, but we will find a way to escape on some short adventures.

Same story for us. No one seems to believe how cheap it is to travel and how easy it can be to save the money if you’re dedicated. So many people have asked for our ‘secrets’ that we’ve given up on telling the truth (which is in plain view on our site) and instead built a new financial site (doughhound.com) to help them do it themselves…

Jason says:

We enjoyed reading your financial tips prior to our journey. It’s the reason we opened our Schwab Account.

Amaya says:

I just discovered your blog and love its frank style.

You are absolutely right–the key to long-term travel is financial responsibility. We’ve been on the road for more than 4 years and have hardly touched our savings.

We worked hard, lived simply and invested in a couple of small studio apartments which we now rent. This is enough to live on and travel indefinitely.
We’re cycling which also keeps the budget down. Around $600 per month is enough for the two of us to travel comfortably.
.

Jason says:

Wow, that is incredibly cheap! Excellent blog of your biking travels. Nice job.

It’s awesome to read this posting–I was really curious how much it would cost to travel for a year. I mentioned to my parents that I thought that I could live off 8k for 6 months in Costa Rica and they rolled their eyes and don’t believe me. I think I’ll just have to prove it to them! Thanks 🙂

Jason says:

You can absolutely do it. Costa Rica is a bit more expensive then the other Central American countries, but it’s still very feasible to do it on 8k for 6 months. And if you are not traveling beyond Costa Rica, that will also cut down on costs. Do it!

Well, the deal is that I would be traveling beyond Costa Rica–but primarily stationed there. Visa requirements state that you have to leave the country every 3 months. I really want to see the rest of Central and South America, and I can see it being a whole lot cheaper if I am in Costa Rica.

Tristi Dian says:

It is a nice article. I am start to do that. I prefer to see other country culture and see a good thing from their country rather than spend my money to unnecessary thing. I will be nice if I can meet you someday. Thank you for inspire me 🙂 safe travel for you

Jason says:

Thanks for writing Tristi. We all have different styles of living, and I think it’s most important for us to live the way we dream if it is at all possible.

Tristi Dian says:

I will remind your word: “It is important to live the way we dream” and I believe that it is possible. Do traveling make me excited

David Webb says:

I agree – it’s not your income that makes you wealthy, it’s your spending habits. Kudos to you for using your money so wisely!

Labham says:

Thats the right guide. I have been working for an year, and living paycheck by paycheck. But after reading your post, I now realize “there are no free lunches in this world” Thanks guys. I hope some day I will also be able to travel that far…that way..

Elias says:

Great story about your live. Sounds in some points familiar to mine. Starting in Sep for a 3 1/2 months trip to SEA and may do some video blogging as well. Which editing software do you use?

Jason says:

Elias, all our current videos have been edited with Final Cut Express, but I am making all the new videos with Final Cut Pro, a much more expensive software package. What’s most important is deciding what type of videos you want to produce and then deciding on the software. Good luck!

SHABL says:

Cool, I am higher then that but did Canada, US, Asia and a really egregious stint in Europe. However similar ball park considering locations. I hear of these ridiculously low sums and figure these people well I dunno.

Thanks for sharing, great blog, just became a facebook fan and look forward to further updates.

Jason says:

Thanks Shabl. I have heard and seen some people do it for amazingly cheap costs. We met Jonny from Germany that hitch hiked and worked his way through traveling. It’s possible. Also, depending on where you travel, will impact your costs. The US, Canada, Western Europe, New Zealand and Australia will boost your costs.

Thanks so much for sharing a great blog.. We will consider these tips and ideas when we plan traveling next year.. WE are currently trying to get our blog up and running and hope to share our adventure!

backpackers says:

A great way of getting money for a long backpacker trip is to work in a country that has a higher exchange rate to the one you would be travelling. ie – working in London, UK for one month (and saving!) would easily afford you three months in sunny South Africa.

Eura says:

Hi Aracely and Jason!

I’ve been reading over your blog posts and they’ve been very interesting and helpful! A group of friends and I are planning on backpacking through Europe for about 5-6 weeks next year – a very expensive trip for sure – but we’ve already started saving up and thinking of extra odd jobs we’ll be able to do for money. This entry has really helped to motivate me to keep a tight hold on what I’ve earned so that I’ll be able to enjoy it abroad 🙂

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, even though you have traveled in different regions!

Philip says:

So simple, yet so difficult to wrap our heads around sometimes. If it weren’t for my dream of world travel motivating me to financial responsibility, I’d probably be still living paycheck to paycheck.
Dreams have an uncanny power to motivate!

Adam says:

It’s so great to read an honest post on how to save for travel. I was pretty much doing the same thing as Jason—saving for savings’ sake—until I decided to spend it on my trip. It’s a good philosophy.

And financial responsibility is important. Not enough people pay attention. And too many people think a year of travel isn’t financially responsible, when it in fact can be. Great write-up!

Hi guys, just found your site from another blogger who recommended it. My partner and I have been traveling for a year now and if we were to write an article on how we did it financially it wouldn’t be much different from this. I was a student and Katherine a social worker when we were saving for travel so not exactly pulling in the big bucks!

The biggest difference in how we did it is that we house-sat for a total of 11 months so didn’t pay rent for that whole time! That saved us a small fortune! We still could’ve done it without house-sitting, it just would have taken longer or we would have left with less.

At the end of the day, travel doesn’t have to cost as much as people think. In fact, we’re saving money by traveling! The way the housing market is back in Australia right now we’d be paying a fortune in rent – much more than what we pay for accommodation on the road!

Looking forward to following you on your travels and soaking up the travel wisdom 🙂

Millie says:

Great advice! I’m planning on my RTW trip – planning with a first stop in Guatemala – which I’ve been to twice already -but have friends to visit. I plan on then going to South America – and then who knows from there. I’m hoping for a longer trip of course – pretty much save as much as I can – and I hope/plan to leave by Nov 2011 to embark on my trip. This site has been great in helping me plan! Thanks so much for make such a site!

Taylor says:

Bueno!
My girlfriend and I have just started our year of travel. We did it the same way. Saving up for a small budget of 1200/month each, with a similar cushion for when we get back to find jobs as we have both left them to follow additional passions (which everyone should work towards).

Great work!
Taylor

Aracely says:

Best of luck Taylor, where are you guys and where are you planning to go? Safe Travels!

Keith says:

I think it’s important to convey that these amazing year-long trips aren’t a result of trust funds or old money. Thank you for helping to dispel that nasty thought and show it can be done through elbow grease. It’s how I’m doing it, too.

Aracely says:

I agree Keith, people often say to me “You’re so lucky” to be doing this…luck has nothing to do with it. It’s hard work and dedication that drives us.

Michael says:

Agreed! Nice round-up.

Laura says:

Hey Aracely,

I often get the ‘you’re so lucky’ comment as well. I paid for my trip the same way many people have: I worked and I saved. When friends were buying cute new clothes and dining at expensive restaurants, I was trying to stash money away to quit my job and travel. Thanks for sharing!

Claire says:

Definitely agree with the no nonsense tone of this post-even if a person is not saving for a huge trip, it’s still a good reminder that credit card debt is a killer. With a couple weeks left, how are you feeling about your return home?

Aracely says:

We are excited to see our family and friends back home. Time has flown by I can’t believe the time has come to head back. We have tons of amazing memories, pictures and hours of video footage that we need to go back and edit to share with our audience. I’m not sure how I will feel being back and how soon will I get wanderlust again. We shall see. 🙂

Shawn says:

That is really good for the two of you, I have read single people spending over $60,000. In the last 2.5 years I have only went through 35,000. So traveling slow and spending responsibly is the trick.

Now I am eating more Raw Food and my food expense has dramatically decreased.

Aracely says:

Do you know where they were traveling? I guess I can see someone spending close to that if traveling in more expensive countries like western Europe, US or Australia for example.

Traveling slow is a great way to cut cost as well as eating in..although I like to try local restaurants which usually are much cheaper than the touristic spots. Safe travels!

Shawn says:

Most were doing the common routes, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, India, southeast asia and down under. The common RWT.

But everyone has different styles of travel, I of course have local food, but the home cooking is the best, my friends mothers in Bulgaria know how to cook. Yet, when I am going from place to place I eat mostly Raw food, keeps my energy high.

Akila says:

Best of luck on your last month. I agree – working and traveling at the same time makes the budget so much easier to manage. And, the only way to save enough money is to be financially responsible. It’s hard to say but true.

jon says:

Best of luck on your last month.. I keep looking in your posts for Ecuador? Did you spend a lot of time here?

Aracely says:

We spent a month back in Dec/Jan and we are currently in Quito for two months. We did post one of Ecuador so far: http://2backpackers.com/2237/south-america/more-to-ecuador-than-galapagos/

and have others coming up soon.

Anthony says:

What a great opportunity to travel and work at the same time. I agree it all comes down to budgeting on a daily basis, but also giving yourself treats to enjoy the adventurous things.

Aracely says:

Yes, there has to be room for fun. I can let go of the other stuff like eating fancy and prefer to experience new adventures.

Audrey says:

I like the straightforward nature of this post – there isn’t a magical formula, just financial responsibility and being able to live with less. Dan and I went through a similar process to be able to move to Prague and then through saving in Prague by living in a simple apartment and eating in a lot instead of spending everything on an apartment (what many of our friends were doing) or cars. This is what allowed us to get started on our journey. Like you two, no regrets 🙂

Shariq says:

Thanks for the advice! I’m glad you guys aren’t way too over budget. I always wondered how yall were able to make this trip!

Aracely says:

Yes Shariq, many others were asking us how we did this. This is why we wrote the post. 🙂

Erin says:

Yep, there’s no magic formula. In our case we were able to save 75% of our combined income (on average/below average salaries in the UK) for travel buy stopping spending money on unnecessary things. We have never had the need for fancy cars and always got a cheap old car instead. We pretty much gave up drinking and stopped buying ‘stuff’. Now we are travelling indefinitely and it’s all worth it.

Aracely says:

Congrats! That’s very inspirational as well!

Dave says:

Aracely – that’s cool that you were able to work while traveling AND it was enough to cover your expenses.

Vince says:

Aracely / Jason,

I enjoyed this post and the idea of saving for what makes you happy or saving for savings sake are two good rules of thumb when it comes to personal finance.

I put together a list of my top ten money tips, mostly drawn from my experience as a first generation Italian American:
http://www.scordo.com/2010/04/on-what-italian-americans-immigrant-personal-finance-tips.html

Aracely says:

Thanks Vince, glad you enjoyed the article. It’s been a while! I hope all is well with you!

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