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:
Tips for saving money to travel
Sell your stuff and boost your travel fund
Savings account comparison
What’s the best debit card to use abroad?
Choosing a travel credit card
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:
How much can you earn from teaching English in Vietnam?
Managing finances while you travel
Teaching English in Vietnam – pay, visas and finding a job
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.
JeniaPosted at 01:58h, 24 September
Nice breakdown! It’s always great to see numbers, because it really helps to visualize how pretty much anyone who is committed to making long term travel a reality can do it. There are pretty much endless possibilities, but it’s also not as easy as one two three. Keep doing what you are doing!
AmyPosted at 02:13h, 24 September
Thanks Jenia, you’re right, there are endless possibilities out there and I’m sure we’ll try a few more of them while we travel 🙂
PattiPosted at 02:32h, 24 September
Very informative post, Amy and Andrew, thank you for sharing. I’m going to share with our readers.
AmyPosted at 14:41h, 25 September
Thanks Patti, I hope people find it useful.
Stefan ArestisPosted at 08:33h, 25 September
Extremely fascinating- but cutting the accommodation budget has been the big money saver for us. How’s the US trip treating the purse strings guys? Kisses from us in the Gili islands. Xx
AmyPosted at 14:49h, 25 September
Hi Stefan, the US has been good, we’re probably spending about £85 a day for both us, everything included. It’s certainly working out cheaper than Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Petrol is really cheap, a quarter of the price that it is in the UK, about 30-40p a litre, so road trips are a good option here. We’re using Airbnb for all our accommodation and that’s working out at about £35 a day; food is fairly cheap and you get huge portions so you can share. Kisses to you guys too, enjoy the beautiful Gili Islands!
MattPosted at 13:48h, 25 September
Great post. I love all the details on topics like this, they make it seem a lot more real and achievable!
I’m curious – have you guys had any ideas for other sources or types of income that you have tried and that haven’t worked out (yet) or any that you want to try but haven’t had the chance yet?
AmyPosted at 14:51h, 25 September
Thanks Matt. We haven’t tried any other avenues yet, but Andrew intends to do some GCSE exam marking online next summer which can be quite lucrative (a family member did the same this year) and we’ve both thought about TEFL teaching online. When we have some time house sitting after Christmas we’ll look into this more and possible other avenues too.
MattPosted at 19:26h, 27 September
Nice – I know exam marking is a great one from family/friends who have done it (albeit they didn’t manage to combine with travelling the world at the same time). I didn’t know you could do TEFL teaching online though – that would be interesting (I still need to get around to booking my first course in just in case I want to try teaching in Asia). Looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with anyway especially in Spain (we’d LOVE to be based there or Portugal/Italy one day ourselves).
AmyPosted at 20:53h, 27 September
We don’t know much about the online TEFL teaching yet, but Andrew will be looking into that soon as it might be something to do while we house sit next year. You should definitely take a look at Groupon to get a deal on an online TEFL course, Andrew’s cost just £50!
KatiePosted at 12:03h, 27 September
I’ve always admired how good you guys seem to be at managing your money – it’s also really interesting to see the different ways to make money before and during travel and definitely inspiring!
Hope you guys are having fun in the US!
AmyPosted at 15:27h, 27 September
Thanks Katie, we are having a great time in the US so far. I hope people planning to travel will find this useful, I know I always wondered about the money side of things when I was planning our trip.
Jenny @ Till the Money Runs OutPosted at 17:29h, 27 September
Great post! How we afford our life of travel is the #1 question people ask us, usually within moments of finding out that we have been traveling ful time for almost 5 years. I have to chime in and agree about tracking expenses. I think that is the absolute best thing anyone can do to save money, and then learn to live life while spending very little. We use the Trail Wallet app made my Simon and Erin of Never Ending Voyage and totally recommend it – you can definitely tell it is made my full-time travelers!
AmyPosted at 18:00h, 27 September
Hi Jenny, we are Trail Wallet fans too, using it has definitely helped us to keep our budget under control 🙂
Gilda BaxterPosted at 20:42h, 28 September
I have been following your journey from the beginning and have enjoyed your honest, authentic, informative and inspiring blog posts. Brian and I have been organising and devising our own financial plan for the past few years and we hope to be able to start our travels some time in 2017. Thanks for sharing 🙂
AmyPosted at 02:23h, 29 September
Thanks so much for your kind words Gilda 🙂 I hope your plan is coming together, sounds exciting!
[email protected] The British BerlinerPosted at 06:57h, 29 September
A lovely post guys. I’ve been following you for a little over a year now (I think) and you’ve done extremely well. People are always curious and even nosey at how travelling is done, so it’s great to share. I love the fact that you break down the cost so that non-travellers can see that it’s not as difficult as people think as long as you do a bit of long-term saving, reduce your spending and earn a little bit more before you go.
Before I became an expat in the Czech Republic and Germany, I used to live in London and had a corporate job. I saved up for a year. It was terrible as I couldn’t go out or go shopping. But I kept all my bonuses, and moved house and it was totally worth it. All the money I saved actually lasted me 10 years LOL!
AmyPosted at 14:58h, 29 September
Hi Victoria, I am one of those nosy people who love to read about how people fund their trips, so I hope this is interesting for people planning a trip. You’re right, it can be a bit painful saving money in London but we’ve found that travel is totally worth it. You have done amazingly with you savings by turning your travels into an expat lifestyle 🙂
KimPosted at 12:12h, 03 October
Really enjoyed reading this, I love how you guys were able to save so much money whilst living in London (that’s a fantastic achievement itself!)
I’m currently looking into freelance writing assignments and TEFL options so I can plan my movements next year; I’d love to teach in Japan however it’d be more for the experience as the cost of living is higher.
Hope you’re both enjoying the travel adventures across the US!
AmyPosted at 01:23h, 04 October
Hi Kim, thanks for your comment 🙂 Teaching in Japan would be amazing, the wages look pretty high there so I’m sure you’d be able to save some money, even if the living costs are a bit higher. We are loving our time in the US so far!
Louisa KlimentosPosted at 05:41h, 11 October
You really know how to manage your money Amy.Good for you and Andrew
AmyPosted at 13:47h, 11 October
Thanks Louisa, the trick is tracking our spending, it has helped us so much.
thunderballPosted at 08:00h, 17 October
Being in a wheelchair means not travelling. I have yet to find, on the face of this earth, affordable overnight accomendations that were handicap accessible. Could translation work pay for, say, four months of hotels at 150 euros per night?
AmyPosted at 23:38h, 18 October
I can imagine that would be a challenge, especially in Asia, which isn’t the most wheelchair-friendly place. Have you tried looking at Airb&b for apartments, maybe there would be some suitable options on there? It may take more planning and saving but hopefully you can find a way to travel; I imagine translation work could be quite lucrative and easy to do while on the road.
Simon SkellonPosted at 16:30h, 04 December
Amy! Hello and what a life you are leading! I’ve just got back from travelling around the world too! (actually been 2 months since we landed in the UK, but feels like yesterday)… I came across your blog looking at your LinkedIn profile, wondering what my uni pals were up to and I can’t believe you’ve been away that long and still going (I meet an Asian chap in the States and he’d been travelling for 7 years!! So keep going! Lol. My girlfriend and I were so keen to get back home after the ten month mark… but now I’m trying to make it as a freelance journalist.Your blog is EPIC! Keep it up ! : )
AmyPosted at 12:02h, 05 December
Hi Simon! Great to hear from you, I just took a quick look at your blog (will read more later) and it sounds like you’ve been on an amazing journey too! We haven’t been to South America yet but we hope to get over there in the next couple of years. Good luck with the freelancing, it’s a bit of a hard life but I’m sure you’ll be fine 🙂 Sell some of those travel stories! Are you still in Bournemouth, or London now?
Simon SkellonPosted at 13:58h, 25 February
Amy, I just found your reply! I hope Spain is working out for you guys.. One phase I’ll never forget in South America was ‘donde es el bano?’. Very useful lol You must go there! I’m actually moving to Exeter in March, freelance is picking up but slowly! (I’m hoping to write for more photography and Photoshop mags over the coming months). All the best to you and Andrew with wherever the wind takes you next.. look forward to your next posts.
AmyPosted at 22:46h, 25 February
Hi Simon, Spain is good so far, my Spanish is coming along slowly 🙂 We definitely want to go to South America at some point so any language skills I can learn now will be useful. Good luck with the freelancing, it sounds like you’re on the road to success. I have actually very recently decided to go back to my writing roots and concentrate on freelancing for the next few months rather than teaching, I hope I have as much success as you 🙂