How We Afford to Travel & You Can Too!
If you dream of traveling full time but are wondering how the heck people afford it, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve been traveling and living around the world for the last 5 years while paying (lots!) of student loans at the same time.
And no; we don’t come from wealthy families, we’re not drug dealers & we didn’t win the lottery. (All legitimate assumptions.)
People ask us all the time how we are able to afford this lifestyle. So, how do we do it?
The thing is it’s not a simple answer that can be summed up in a few sentences.
We’re so grateful for the freedom we have created for ourselves, but it’s not magic. It has taken hard work, planning and dedication.
But don’t worry, we’re not going to leave you with some sort of vague, bullshit answer. We are letting you in, and explaining step by step how we have afforded to travel and live overseas for 5 years.
We’re sharing tons of hacks and tricks that have helped us travel longer and cheaper while earning money along the way. And YOU can use these too.
Grab a cup of coffee and a notebook, because this article is packed full of practical tips that will help you afford the travels and lifestyle of your dreams. No fluff. No bullshit. Just real, honest, helpful information.
Tip for using this guide: Be sure to click through the links in this article, because the tips are described in much further detail on many articles throughout our site.
1. We worked hard to SAVE money for travel
Before we were jet setting travel bloggers, we were living a relatively “normal” life. You can read more about our story on our About Us page, but here’s the gist: Ben was working as a manufacturing engineer and Katie was working as a graphic designer (with a touch of advertising, marketing and photography!).
We lived in a cute apartment in a great area and generally liked our lives. But decided that we wanted to have an “adventure” before really settling down.
So we made the decision to work our a$$es off to save money.
We had nights in with friends instead of going to the bars as often. We cooked most of our meals. We took on side jobs. We cut all our non-necessary expenses (like cable TV). We thought about every purchase, and I said goodbye to shopping sprees. (in all honestly, I haven’t missed them at all!)
Keep Reading: This is the EXACT plan we followed to save up enough money to pay for our wedding, pay our loans and feel comfortable quitting our jobs to travel. The best part is it didn’t take all that long to save a LOT of money!
So we started seeing our bank account grow, and grow and grow. The money we saved went to our wedding, our honeymoon (in Banff!), our student loans (grrrrr...) and into a fund for, you guessed it: Traveling!
As soon as that travel fund reached the $10,000 mark, we set off on a 3-month backpacking trip in South America. But during that trip, we realized we weren’t going to just “get travel out of our system”. The little taste we had only made us want it more.
But our travel fund was now dwindling, and it wouldn’t keep us going much longer.
So we sat down and came up with a plan. A plan to keep going indefinitely. And that little plan of ours has brought us through the next 5 years.
We’re going to share all the aspects of that plan so you can replicate it or take bits and pieces and make it your own.
Because one thing is for certain: You can spend years saving up money, but that isn’t going to be sustainable. At some point, that travel fund is going to run out.
So what did we do next...?
2. We taught English Overseas
Teaching English in Korea was one of the best decisions we ever made. We made life-long friends, had the rare opportunity to be fully immersed in a culture different than our own and we had the adventure of a lifetime.
Oh, and have I mentioned that we were EACH able to save $22,000 in just one year?! Yeah, that’s $44,000 between the two of us.
We’re not sharing this to brag, but instead to illustrate just how amazing an opportunity teaching English can be. Learn how you can save that much money too!
There is no way we would have been able to afford to travel around the world for a year (that’s right, traveling straight for one YEAR!) had we not taught English overseas. So essentially, we owe many of our travels to our year in Korea.
If teaching abroad is of any interest to you, we have put together a super detailed guide that will walk you through everything you need to know to get started. It is literally one of the best ways to save lots of money fast (while having an adventure of a lifetime!). We couldn’t recommend it more.
Related: Before you sign up for a TEFL course, download our e-book that explains everything you need to know before teaching overseas. It’s the stuff that no other bloggers tell you, but it’s suuuuper important. Oh, and the e-book is free! We just genuinely want you to feel prepared and equipped with the right information.
3. We travel on a budget
When we first set off on that 3-month trip in South America, $10,000 seemed like a lot. At first it was tempting to splurge on $100 a night hotel rooms, fancy cocktails and frivolous excursions.
But we figured that our $10,000 could be gone pretty quickly if we did that. Instead, we decided to travel frugally for the most part. This would allow us to travel longer and further. And sometimes “roughing it” leads to the best adventures.
But we also decided early on that we didn’t want our tight budget to hold us back from once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We also wanted to be sure we were supporting companies that were doing good things for the environment and their communities, even if they cost more. The key to enjoying your travels while also sticking to a budget is BALANCE.
Splurges are fine when they are balanced out with days with little spending.
Read our top 22 cheap travel hacks that we used to travel on less than $75 a day (between two of us!). These tips are what allowed us to travel around the world for a year while still paying student loans. And we didn’t come home completely broke.
4. We find cheap flights
If I’m totally honest, I think most travel bloggers make way too big a deal about finding cheap flights. I means, just because you find a $200 flight to Paris doesn’t mean you can afford a trip there.
I think learning how to travel cheaply is much more beneficial in the long run. But for people who fly as often as we do, it does help to know some strategies for finding cheap flights.
And there is something pretty satisfying with getting a great deal. It was a super cheap flight to Colombia, after all, that convinced us to quit our jobs and take the plunge. (Well, a cheap flight AND a bottle of wine!)
We’ve bought round-trip flights to Thailand for just over $600. And we’ve flown to Europe for just a couple hundred bucks. So how do we do it?
Here ya go: These are our top tips for finding cheap flights around the world.
5. We have taken jobs all over the world
We don’t like the idea of running our savings account dry. We always want a cushion, and we want to be earning more than we spend. So we have found ways to work while traveling.
Ben teaches English via video chat, and earns good money! And the best part is he has done it all around the world: from a hostel in Vietnam to the drivers seat of our campervan. I used to take on freelance writing jobs that I could do in my own time – like after a day of exploring.
We’ve also done volunteer work in exchange for room and board, which has allowed us to travel longer. We have had some really wonderful experiences working on organic farms we found through WWOOF or WorkAway.
And when we needed to save up a bit more, we took jobs at a ski resort in Washington state where we got to have “fun jobs” while slowing down for a bit.
6. We live simply
It sounds cliché, but traveling has taught us that less is more. We rarely buy new clothes or “things”. We think about each purchase, and make sure that it’s something we really need.
One of our happiest times of our lives was when we lived the simplest. We spent 3 months living in a campervan we built with our own 2 hands (well, technically 4 hands, because there are two of us!).
We slept in the woods and cooked outside and spent the evenings by campfires. It was magical. And it was cheap.
What many people don’t know is that travel can actually be cheaper than living at home. Yep, you read that correctly.
Take away the monthly rent (or mortgage), cable, Internet, gym membership, car payments, car and rental insurance, and all the other stuff that comes along with living in one place, and you’ll find that you really don’t need much to be happy.
7. We keep track of EVERYTHING
Anyone can make a budget, but not everyone sticks to it.
The only way we have been able to stick to a (pretty tight!) budget all these years is by keeping track of everything. Yes, EVERYTHING.
Any time we make a purchase or pay a bill, we record it.
There are lots of apps or programs out there, but we love Trail Wallet because it’s super easy to categorize expenses and keep track of your goals. Plus, it was created by travelers, so it works seamlessly when switching between currencies.
It took us a little while to make this a habit, but it was so worthwhile. We now know how much we have spent every single day for the last 5 years, which has allowed us to be totally in control of our spending and savings.
8. We are determined AF
The only way that we have kept this up for 5 years is because we genuinely LOVE our lifestyle. If we didn’t, we would have given up years ago.
It hasn’t always been easy, and there have been months where our savings is dangerously low. But we saw a path and we were determined enough to make a plan. And we were passionate enough to stick to that plan.
Whatever it is that you’re saving for – whether it be travel, starting your own business or providing for your family – your reason for saving needs to be something you are passionate about. Otherwise your savings will fade along with your motivation.
9. We make sure we’re always covered
We have always, ALWAYS had travel insurance. We’ve missed flights, had medical issues and had valuables stolen, and are so thankful that these things have not become a financial burden.
Travel insurance isn’t as expensive as you’d think. And don’t let the thought of it overwhelm you: we’re here to help.
We’ve created an article that answers all your questions about travel insurance and lets you in on which policies we actually use.
10. We make money on this blog
What started as a passion project is now our full-time job and income.
We used to read this exact same phrase on other blogs, but never thought we’d be able to say it too.
Being able to work on something that we built out of passion is something that we will be eternally grateful for. And the fact that we make money on it – our full income – is still mind-boggling to us.
But it hasn’t been easy. It has taken thousands of hours of hard work, tears, arguments and conversations about quitting. We have made countless mistakes that have cost us time and money. But we have pressed on and outlasted the statistics. (Technically, only 20% of blogs ever make money.)
If you are at all interested in travel blogging, listen up...
We are currently working on creating content about how we make money from this blog and how YOU can too.
If you want to be the first to see these resources, enter your email below. Trust me, it will be worth the wait...
More Budget Tips
Want to learn more about our budget tips and hacks? We have poured our hearts and souls into writing tons of content on this exact subject.
We passionately believe that travel shouldn’t only be for the rich. And we want to help you plan the travels of your dreams (even if you have debt!).
Are you going on a road trip soon? After converting our own campervan in one week we hit the road for 3 months exploring the Western United States. Check how we built our campervan and saved money on the road.
Do you want to live in another country? We have tons of tips on how to save money while living as an expat teaching English or working as a digital nomad.
We want to hear from you!
Have thoughts or questions on this subject? We’ve love to hear from you in the comments below.