23 Sep How we can afford to travel full time
I remember sitting in my London office back in 2012, reading travel blogs and trying to figure out just how people could afford to travel full time for years on end, it seemed so unachievable. Now I occasionally get a little shock when I realise that it’s been two and a half years since Andrew and I left the UK and we’re still travelling and unbelievably, we’re not broke!
We are definitely not rich by Western standards and we never have been. We don’t own a property or have lots of possessions and gadgets. We’ve never won the lottery and we don’t have rich parents who’ve paid for our life of travel. We’ve never earned a fortune and for much of our trip we haven’t worked at all, but we’ve still managed to travel for two and a half years, entirely with our own money. So, how can we afford our incredible life of non-stop travel?
Saving Money to Travel Full Time
The first step in any new venture is usually the hardest and that was certainly true for us. It took three years of working, saving and dreaming for us to finally build up the courage, and the money, to leave the UK. During that time we were both working full time and earning a joint income of over £55,000 before tax per year while living in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Despite this, we managed to save £30,000 in three years and still enjoy our London lifestyle by:
Reducing our outgoings
We paid off our debts and moved to a cheaper part of London, then adjusted our lifestyle to cut down on day-to-day costs like lunches, phone insurance and transport costs.
Selling our possessions
We made over £2,200 by selling everything we wouldn’t need while we were travelling, from a car and bike to books and dvds, laptops and electronics, kitchen equipment and furniture. We mostly used eBay and Gumtree for this but we also sold items to our landlord and family.
Increasing our earnings
As well as making money by selling our possessions, in the last six months before we left the UK I took on freelance projects to boost our earnings.
Tracking our spending
We drew up a spreadsheet detailing our monthly income and tracking all of our outgoings, which is something we’ve done ever since.
Using high-interest accounts
We shopped around for high-interest saving accounts and set up direct debits to them, in the two years before we left the UK we made £850 in interest.
Here are some posts which provide more detail about how we managed to save £30,000 before we left the UK:
Earning while we Travel
Since we started travelling in 2013 we’ve supplemented our savings by earning £28,200 in the following ways:
Freelance work: £3,290
When we lived in London I had a full time job as a writer and content manager for an online business; through work contacts I left the UK with three freelance writing jobs which I completed during the first six months of our trip. My initial plan was to continue freelancing while we travelled but I found working online hard to balance with travel and I wasn’t particularly enjoying it, so I put this plan on the back-burner. I have continued to write a few freelance travel and teaching articles for magazines and websites since then and this is something I want to build on in the future.
This blog is definitely a labour of love and I have put hundreds of hours into it over the last three years just because I like to write and I want to keep a record of our journey and perhaps inspire others to travel. The blog has also enabled us to connect with so many amazing people all over the world and it’s earned us a small amount of money in affiliate sales, side-bar ads and other advertising. Although we’ve never intentionally tried to monetise the blog and I think it will always be a small, personal site, accepting a few advertising proposals from travel companies we trust has boosted our earnings, allowing us to travel for longer, so I’m grateful for that.
Summer work: £427
During the summer of 2014 when we were visiting the UK Andrew did some casual work for his father’s business.
Bank interest: £703
During our first year of travel we made £253 in bank interest and another £450 during our second year using high-interest saving accounts.
Teaching English: £21,000
We spent nine months teaching English to children in Hanoi, Vietnam and we earned an impressive amount doing so. Since our living costs were so low in Vietnam we were also able to save most of our earnings to fund this next stage of our adventure.
We will continue to earn money through these kind of avenues as we travel; we plan to settle in Spain for a while next year where we’ll hopefully work and add to our savings. Here are more details on how we manage and make our money while we travel:
Keeping Travel Costs Down
One of the biggest reasons we can afford to travel full time is that we’re pretty frugal. We always try to travel as cheaply as we can while still staying comfortable, healthy and happy with our experiences. Here are some ways we minimise spending while we travel:
Choosing cheaper accommodation
While it’s cheap to stay in guesthouses and hotels in Asia, we go for cheaper options in more expensive places like Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand. We use Airbnb a lot and we absolutely love it because we get to meet some amazing hosts who can give us tips on the local area; staying in a home also feels nicer and we often get to use the kitchen and laundry. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can get £20 free credit to spend on the site if you sign up using this link.
We’ve also saved money by house sitting in London, Couchsurfing in Taiwan, staying in hostels in Australia and New Zealand and volunteering in the Philippines and Thailand. We are extremely fortunate to have generous friends and family in the UK who have hosted us for free during our summer trips home, which has saved us lots of money.
Travelling in less expensive countries
Spending almost two years in Asia really helped keep our travel costs down. On average, travelling in Asia cost us just over £1,000 a month, which is less than half what we used to spend in a month just living and working in London. This has balanced out the more expensive trips we’ve taken in Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and the three-month trip we’re currently taking in America.
Booking ahead and planning
If you’re organised and plan ahead you can save a lot of money while you travel. We book flights as far in advance as possible to get cheap rates, we do the same with accommodation in expensive countries and some activities.
Reducing day-to-day costs
We try to keep our daily costs down by scouring discount sites for cheap tickets to attractions, taking advantage of free activities while we travel, using public transport, cooking meals where possible and generally not spending money on things we don’t need. We also avoid bank fees abroad by using fee-free credit and debit cards.
Tracking all of our spending
We track our spending meticulously while we travel and this allows us to keep a tight eye on our money and recognise when we’re spending too much.
These posts breakdown our travel costs and explain in more detail how we travel frugally:
See how much we spent in each country we’ve visited in our detailed cost posts
Our complete pre-trip cost breakdown
Flight prices for 15 months of travel
How much did 15 months of travel cost?
What’s the cost of living in Vietnam?
The cost of living in Chiang Mai for one month
Living costs in London compared with Chiang Mai
The travel budget fanatics
Couchsurfing for the first time in Taipei
Our first experiences of house sitting in London
Cat sitting in London
After the storm – volunteering in the Philippines
Our week at the dog rescue project in Thailand
You can Travel too!
So there you have it, that’s how we afford our life of travel, with plenty of hard work and a determined, flexible attitude. Yes, there is plenty of fear and some risk involved in this kind of lifestyle choice but we can’t imagine a more fulfilling, exciting life for ourselves right now. If, like us, you’re lucky enough to have been born in a developed country with access to work and education, I firmly believe that you can afford a life of travel too – that is if you really want it.
Do you have any questions about how we can afford to travel? Ask away in the comments below.