Planning Long-Term Travel Series: This weekly series breaks down the steps we have taken to plan our long-term travel. This helped make the process less daunting. We hope you find it useful in getting your long-term travel goals off the ground. Keep a look out for a new post each week. Check out the first post in the series: Get Inspired.
After telling a close friend that we were about to go travel the world he asked, “Did you win the lottery?” I just laughed, because to me that was absurd. Do most people honestly believe you have to be rich to travel for a year? Or do they not really understand the difference between long-term travel and vacations? Long-term travel can arguably be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. It really just depends what you are comfortable with.
However, regardless of how frugal you are, money is unfortunately a requirement for long-term travel and at times it’s the most intimidating part. If you got your hands on one of those silver spoons or have in fact won the lottery, that’s awesome and I kind of hate you, but most of us aren’t so fortunate. For us, it probably took 3 years of intense saving, but looking back it wasn’t that difficult. What really adds to the time it takes to save enough money is that you have to account for extra funds to live off of when the trip is over. You’ll probably want a place to live and food to eat unless you have a job and apartment waiting for you back home. We decided to give up our apartment and almost everything in it. Paying to store our belongings for a year didn’t make sense to us.
Over the last few years we have learned a lot about ourselves and a lot about saving up for a goal. Below are a few things to think about when saving up for long term travel
Approximate a Budget
This is where understanding your travel style comes into play. A trip can easily be done on the cheap, but you might not want to sleep on couches or eat Top Ramen every day. If the cost of the trip you want to take is just out of reach, trim down your trip’s scope. Be realistic about how much you can save and what you can actually do with that amount. Some costs to make sure to consider: Transportation (to and from destinations as well as within the destination), Accommodations, Food & Drink, Activities, Communication (data plans, calling / texting), Travel Insurance, Gear and Monthly Bills (yeah, you’ll have to continue paying these while you are away).
Save More Than You Need
Remember that you need a safety net and some funds for when your trip is over. Again, just be honest with yourself about how good you are about budgeting and what you are comfortable living off of when you return. We probably saved 5% more than we think we’ll actually need for the trip to cover any unexpected costs. One way of staying on track is to pay yourself first. After paying our bills each month and setting money aside for groceries, any extra money went into our savings account.
One Less of Everything
This was a principle we followed to help us save up over the years. Do you eat out 2 times a week? Cut it down to 1 time or go with cheaper options rather than fancy sit-down restaurants. We cut down on expensive dinners, nights out drinking, and buying coffee (that shit adds up). We also cut back on activities like going out to the movies, but we still took a mini vacation once a year (it’s not all sacrifice).
We came up with an arguably childish technique to help us assess expenses. Every non-essential purchase was equated to something we could do on our trip. For instance, a nice meal at a restaurant became 2 nights accommodations in Buenos Aires. It really helped us put everything into perspective, cut out unnecessary expenses, and save quite a bit of money over a short amount of time.
In case you haven’t noticed we’ve purposefully left out how much we have saved. That is because it’s irrelevant (we created a budget based on how we want to travel) and at this point in our trip, we could be completely off. We don’t know if we’ve saved too little or if we have grossly overestimated what we need and we don’t want to steer anyone wrong. What we are doing is sharing our average daily expenses for each destination we visit and when we are all done, we’ll share how accurate our assessment was.