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.

 

Wedding bands

The only things we spent any real money on for our wedding

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?

Gym bunny?

 

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.

 

mansions in Newport, RI

You don’t need to own a house like this to be able to travel the world – Newport, RI

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.

 

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai

This experience alone was worth all of those “you can’t buy that it’s a day on the road” moments we had pre-trip

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.

 

Easy Street, Washington

No magic formula, it’s as easy as making a choice

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.

 

Terrible hostel, Iguazu Falls

Me in the worst hostel we stayed in – electrocution, freezing water & no heating in winter. We stayed in places like this to enable us to experience the wonders that lay outside the door

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.

 

If you enjoyed this post please let us know by clicking on the little heart below. It would also be great to hear your thoughts on affording travel in the comments below.

 

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21 Responses

  1. Kellie

    Couldn’t agree more Maddie. We certainly were not rich when lived in the UK and we didn’t win the lottery either. We simply made travelling our priority and cut out all or un necessary expenses. Its amazing what you waste money on!We also sold most of our possessions. Do I regret any of it? No way!
    Kellie recently posted..Losing it! The intensity of solitude.My Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      I think it’s very easy to envy people without actually knowing the ins and outs of something, when I’ve explained to people how we cut our spending most have admitted that they couldn’t do it. When you want something that badly it just comes naturally, I don’t regret a second of it.

      Reply
    • Maddie

      Exactly, most people seem to think that you carry on living life just the same and magically find a pot of money to travel with. It’s as simple as making a choice and that’s something that comes so naturally to us now.

      Reply
    • Maddie

      You gave up cake?! Now that is true sacrifice. I bizarrely really enjoyed the crunch of cost cutting, it became almost a game of how much we could save on certain things. It was a real high seeing the savings pot get bigger every month, I’m such a sad git!

      Reply
    • Maddie

      It definitely gets harder the more responsibility you have but we found it surprisingly easy to travel with a mortgage, once we had tenants the whole thing pretty much looked after itself. I still personally wouldn’t want to travel with kids though, I found it hard enough getting myself around on the various night buses etc!

      Reply
  2. Lucy

    Great article – I get this one a lot too, I think people are hoping for a secret answer of how to do it without all the work! Sadly not though, it is just as basic as working a lot and not spending very much. My travels tend to be broken up through the year but the same principles apply, before I buy anything I always think what that money could translate to in terms if travel instead!
    Lucy recently posted..In pictures: Fishing boats in Essaouira harbourMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Thanks Lucy. Now that we’re back in the UK we are following the same principles as yourself, I’m so glad that need to save and real awareness of where we spend our money has stayed with us.

      Reply
  3. Philip Deaton

    I lived with Mrs Dayton for 18 months, so I could save. I deserved my trip 🙂

    Another option for many people is to work online as you travel. For example you could teach English online with flexible hours and easily make enough money to travel at the same time. I know another person who set up a ‘wellness’ website and travels off the proceeds.

    Where there is a will there is a way.

    Anyone who moans that someone else is ‘lucky to travel’ is full of sh!t. Even people with little or no money can do it. Hitch hike, couchsurf, camp, eat bread and cheese etc. Whatever it takes. It all comes down to your personal comfort zone. Are you willing to hike 10kms uphill to save on a really expensive taxi fare?? Are you willing to sleep in a bus station or flea ridden hotel because the only other hotel in the city costs $100? Or whatever you comparatively have to do to make ends meet and make your trip work. That’s where you can tell those who really want it, in my opinion.

    Reply
    • Maddie

      You certainly did deserve your trip!! Most of our travel friends who’ve decided to extend their travel have developed online incomes, the options are endless if you want to live that lifestyle.

      For us, our need to travel was combined with the desire not to have to slum it every single day, we just wouldn’t have enjoyed it that way. It didn’t mean we wanted it any less but it did mean we had to save longer to fund it. The point is that you have to work, whether it’s before or during or by sacrificing comfort.

      Reply
  4. Philip Deaton

    I agree, that was also my point, akthough I didn’t put it very well. You have to earn what you get. If you have no money and want to travel whatever the situation, you must be willing to do whatever it takes (i.e. slum it). If you want to travel with a modicum of comfort, then you have to save before the trip by sacrificing things, like you guys did. Or work and travel simultaneously. The thing is, whether rich, poor or somewhere in between, there is always the possibility for travel. If you want it enough, you can find a way. But people have to understand that usually there is some form of sacrifice involved.

    Looking forward to the next blog!

    Reply
  5. Amy

    Looking forward to seeing your full trip budget Maddie. I totally agree that the best thing to do when saving for a trip is to write down everything you spend and then cut out all the unnecessary stuff. My boyfriend and I spent around two years saving for our trip, although we put aside a bit of ‘entertainment’ cash the first year so we could still go out for the odd drink or meal. Saving is tough, no doubt about it but you’re right, travel is so worth it.
    Amy recently posted..Cruising Halong Bay and Turning 30My Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Thanks Amy, I’m trying to prettify the budget at the moment to highlight some key figures. Saving is tough but once you get into the routine it’s so great to watch your savings grow. Like you say, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom and people can set aside budgets to do fun stuff to.

      Reply
  6. Carmel

    By the end of our time saving, we were definitely saving at least half of our income. HALF! I find it hilarious that we were ever living paycheck to paycheck. What did I buy??

    We did have a wedding and didn’t cut any corners on stuff we wanted, but we also didn’t stray from what we WANTED for our wedding. There’s a lot of crap that people buy into for the occasion and it’s mostly unnecessary. Almost everything we bought for the wedding had the question “will this be something I remember years later?” attached to it. If we’d forget that we ever did it, it didn’t happen. Kept things simple and it was perfect. We also didn’t ask for physical wedding gifts and instead told people they could contribute toward our goal. We walked away with a nice start to our savings, which we promptly put away in a 2 year CD so we couldn’t touch it!
    Carmel recently posted..ANGKOR WAT IN PHOTOSMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Isn’t it a crazy number?! I genuinely have no idea what I used to spend my money on before we started saving properly. Asking people to contribute to your goal as a wedding gift is such a great idea, it must be great for your guests seeing you doing something so amazing with their gifts.

      Reply
  7. Chuck And Lori

    Awesome post Maddie! We haven’t even left on our first long-term adventure and we’re getting all the same questions. We say over and over, “we’re not going on vacation/holiday, we’re simply working on the road.” So many traveling couples do indeed sell everything, but like you guys we’ve opted instead to rent–though after this first round of long-term travel we are open-minded to downsizing. But our idea is to downsize to a condo in a destination area where we could rent it or exchange it, plus it will feel like we’re indeed on vacation when we are home 🙂 Love the blog, keep it up!
    Chuck And Lori recently posted..Styles of TravelMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Thanks for the comment guys and best of luck with your adventures! Love the idea of buying somewhere in a destination area, if you have a mobile income it’s a great way to maintain a home base but have that freedom we all crave. Thanks for stopping by, I’ll head over and check out your blog.

      Reply
    • Maddie

      Thanks Danielle 🙂 We did a RTW trip of 18 months during which time we visited 18 countries consecutively. We budgeted per day and had a ‘cheap countries’ number and an ‘expensive countries’ number, this was nearly a year ago so things may have changed but… we budgeted $60 per day for cheap countries and $160 a day for the expensive ones – for 2 people.

      Reply

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