Since we’ve returned home there has been a consistent theme of questioning along the lines of “how on earth could you afford to travel for that long?” “You must be loaded?” “Did you win the lottery and not tell anyone?” Now this topic has been covered by tons of other travel bloggers but since the same questions are being asked we thought the info could bear a repeat visit. So, if you’re interested in how we did it, are contemplating travelling long term or if you just want to start taking more trips read on!
First off – we’re in our 30s, own our own home with a hefty mortgage and we were earning decent salaries by UK standards before we left. We weren’t loaded but we weren’t struggling, much like many of the people who have asked us about this. We had some commitments at home but nothing that would genuinely stop us from leaving. We asked ourselves a series of questions before we left, some of them massively life changing but all of which enabled us to make a choice.
Are you married? If so, did you have a big wedding with all of your friends and family there? We didn’t and if the average UK wedding cost is anything to go by we saved about £16,500 doing it our own way. I completely understand that to some people their wedding is the best day of their life but to us all we saw was enough money to keep us on the road for nearly 7 months. It’s a choice to be made and we made the right one for us.
Do you have children? People travel with children all the time and we know a lot of people doing this very successfully. However, I’d wager that the average person wouldn’t want to do this and this includes us. At this moment in time we’ve decided that we don’t want the emotional, financial and physical ties that having a child brings. This means that for now we’re missing out on what many people call the greatest thing they’ve ever done. For us though, the last 18 months have been exactly that for us.
The questions are not just the major things:
Do you enjoy the latest tech?
Must have a new or fancy car?
Have a thing for designer handbags?
An expensive hobby?
Bucket loads of shoes?
Live music or the cinema?
Have a latte every morning on the way to work?
Love eating out at restaurants?
If you answer yes to some of these questions then good for you, spend your money on what makes you happy. But understand this, unless you really do win the lottery you’re unlikely to be able to afford everything at once and if you’re not happy then maybe you’re spending your money in the wrong places. Unless you’re willing to divert a lot of your funds to savings or find a way to make money on the road then a life of travel is unlikely. I would really like to start renovating our house but for the moment my dream of visiting Alaska this year is more important, you have to make a choice.
I’ve mentioned before that Paul and I cut our expenses massively in the year pre-travel but I don’t think it’s hit home what that means, after we paid our bills and had a weekly grocery budget we cut ALL discretionary spending. We didn’t buy each other Christmas presents, I had to go cold turkey on a pretty serious and unnecessary shopping habit, we haggled with all of our utilities suppliers. Paul had some existing savings but we saved 3/4 of our funds for the trip in just one year. We were able to save 50% of our salaries just by cutting out the crap that you fritter away money on. Now it may take a lot longer to save depending on what you earn, it may take less time. The point is that nothing worth having comes easy and you have to graft to make a dream like that come true.
The best example I can think of for this is Hannah from Further Bound. A few years ago Hannah decided that she wanted to completely reboot her life, she worked 4 jobs (count them!) and managed to get herself out of £15K of debt. She then went on to save a further £15K to enable her to start her new life. This year she will celebrate two years of slow travel along with having developed her own design business which will continue to fund her adventures. Did it come easy? No. Does Hannah think it was worth every minute of work at those 4 jobs? Absolutely.
You have to become good at managing finances. I was terrible before I met Paul but even on the pittance salary I was earning when we first got together he taught me how to carefully manage my money. Everything I mentioned in this post is done without thinking, we automatically put money aside every month into savings and we’re very careful with whatever money we have. The best tip I can give is to write down every single thing you spend money on for one month, I guarantee you will be shocked at how much goes on completely unnecessary crap. If you’re in debt focus all of your efforts on paying it off. We have a mortgage and I have a student loan but apart from that we have a policy of never buying anything on long term credit, if we don’t have the money then we don’t have the money.
Would you be willing to sell your home, your car and most of your possessions? You don’t have to, we kept our house and a locker full of stuff, but a large number of the travellers I know did just that. It takes real balls to walk away from your life with just a backpack. There is no magical answer so before you envy those who travel long term just think about how hard they had to work to save for it and if you would be prepared to do the same. If you have that absolute desire then there is nothing to stop you, there is no greater motivator than such an enormous goal. Trust me.
Of course there are places in the world where travel really is a pipe dream, whether it’s due to travel restrictions or because people can barely afford to feed their families let alone pay for an international airfare. There are also some circumstances that really do mean travel may not be possible for you at this time, you might have a dependent relative or your own health problems… But, for the average Joe earning an average salary which counts as pretty much everyone who asks us about this, if you really wanted it you could have it.
I’m working on posting our full budget for the entire trip soon which will give you a real idea of cost per country, you will probably be surprised at what you can get by on in certain places. I’m also going to compare how much we spent travelling to what our monthly outgoings are now we’re back in the UK, I’m pretty sure our bills and expenses add up to a fair chunk of our travel budget but without the fun of travelling! The important thing to take away is that long term travel isn’t just for the wealthy, funding it is all about priorities and the only person that can make those choices is you.
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