How To Really Afford Long Term Travel (hint: not donuts)
This week, I’ve commenced my third year of full-time travel. One regular conversation I have, revolves around questions on how I afford this dream lifestyle. People wonder how it’s possible, financially, to travel long term. British folks tend to assume that I must have been born into a wealthy family. Americans guess that I don’t have any kids. Australians back home tell me “listen, mate, there’s no way the world has more than twenty countries, ya bloody wanker”. Everyone assumes different things, but not many see the obvious reality. What follows, is my entire financial story. It’s short.
My lucky break came, when I was born a healthy white male, in a wealthy country. It didn’t take long before a societal combination of white privilege and sexism taught me that pretty much anything I decided to do in life was possible. I received an education, worked as a regular schlep for a couple of decades, saved, and made a few investments. About five years ago, I realised that with a relatively small amount of money (for a white male in a rich country) I could end my life of working for one narcissistic prescription-drug-taking boss after another, and move to a tropical island in South East Asia, spend my days exploring socialist-era decay in Eastern Europe, or maybe just take photos of the mean streets all around the world.
This all sounded a lot more interesting than a 9-5, and I knew that I should at least give it a shot. My maths told me, based upon my savings and investments, I wouldn’t have to work for a very long time. Possibly, never again, if I lived beneath my means.
And that, is the entire framework my life is now based upon.
Currently, I’m dipping my toe into a perma-travelling lifestyle that’s three years deep. On my journey, I’ve met long term travellers from all walks of life. Solo travellers, couples, families, blacks (chocolates), whites (vanillas), Asians (noodles), Jews (falafels), Muslims (I’ll stop), young, old, from rich countries and poor countries, born into wealth, and born with nothing. They have several things in common. They’re happy, they hardly know what day of the week it is, a statistically significant number of them believe that money isn’t real, and they’re well aware of one of life’s most important absolute truths – when you’re dead, you’re dead.
I just mentioned to Phillipa I was writing an article, and told her it would be about how we continue to afford travelling long term.
She said “tell them we travel on love”. Then, she blushed. I asked her if she knew how to make donuts. I’m easily distracted.
In any case, I don’t even know what “travelling on love” means, but I smiled, and laughed as realised that as always, somehow, she’s absolutely right.
These days, when people always ask me how I afford this long term travelling lifestyle, I’ve taken to answering “secretly, I’m a millionaire”.
It’s just easier.
Really, I hate talking about money.
But I love travel, and as I enter my third year, I’m just getting started.
PS, I really want to thank all the people that have been reading Yomadic, it genuinely means a lot to me.
PPS, at the end of this month I’m leaving Belgrade Serbia, and kicking off my third year of travel with a journey that will keep me on the roads of two continents. There will be a whole bunch of new countries, and I’ll be returning to the worlds number one un-touristed destination.
39 thoughts on “How To Really Afford Long Term Travel (hint: not donuts)”
great to read this. i get asked similar questions and i dont even travel close to full-time. ive been asked if i was born into an oil wealthy family from texas before (no joke). obviously people dont realize i base many of my destinations off of the website pintprice.com to see where the cheapest beer is and travel there. im just going to start telling them im secretly a millionaire as well ;)
Megan I always assumed, based on the prices of a pint in Norway, that you must have been from a wealthy Texan oil family ;)
Great website, I hadn’t come across it before. Tajikistan looks like the business!
So nice to read a post by someone who realises how lucky they were to be born where they were. We get asked as well and when I tell them what we live on per day they seem surprised it is cheaper than Perth in many countries. I hope we can continue travelling like you do time will tell in that one…
Hey Michele… good luck to you and your travelling goals. And we both know, there’s not many place on this planet that are more expensive than Perth!
Congrats on the 3 year anniversary Nate!
Oh Phillipa. Brought tears to my eyes!
So glad, proud, unsurprised, and anticipating the next leg and haul of snaps.
Happy anniversary you guyses x x x
She’s a keeper, that Phillipa. Nat, I look forward to seeing you again one day, I’m sure I’ll have tears in my eyes when I do ;)
Happy anniversary! Keep writing please! :D
Wassssup Dan! Cheers, I will keep writing, it’s in my blood. Keep your podcasts going too!
But, Nate, I am a millionaire…in frequent flyer miles and hotel points lol. Six more years of picking our travels before 2nd kid is out of the house and I will run into you guys one day. Told my boss to stick it up where the sun doesn’t shine 15 years ago…I better stop there before I get myself into trouble, I don’t like to talk about finances (cough).
Hope you don’t go to this place I am featuring tomorrow: It’s an island. Off Yemen. Please don’t do it. Albania is fine!
Yo G! haha… I know exactly what island you’re talking about, Phillipa and I were checking it out just a few days ago (looks incredible). No plans to go there in the immediate future, I’ll save it for a joint TBB/Yomadic trip ;) You’re the man, keep doing what you’re doing, and good luck with that 2nd kid!
If only people realised how little money it actually took to be happy. It really is that simple.
So true, Paul. The more people that realise this, the better the world becomes (in my opinion).
Well done Nate on reaching three years of travel. I have enjoyed reading your posts. I see you as a inspiration. Have a drink on me.
Thanks Steve! That means a lot to me. And yes, I will have a drink.
A great little read indeed.
I’ve been following for some time now (since my mate Sally Yang passed your website on to me), and have found it amusing of late, to see some of your work popping up months later on News Limited websites back home.
Happy travels, and keep the tales coming.
P.S. Have you made any trips to Timor-Leste? If not, I think you’d love it!
Hey Chris… Sally! She’s great! And yes, I was surprised to receive a contact from News Limited!
I’ve not been to Timor-Leste, but I did meet some people once who lived there, and I’m totally intrigued. So I’ve just added it to the list. Thanks for the good wishes, and right back at ya.
Come home you wanker
I will be coming to your home. So fire up your BBQ.
Hey Nate! This is really inspiring although I know, being born non-white and female from a third world country, our storylines are not exactly alike. But I meant to ask if you have children. If not, did you plan on having any or planned against it due to the life you chose to lead? It’s a thought that’s been playing in my mind lately as I consider extending my ‘unsettled’ lifestyle. And happy anniversary! :)
Hi Jizelle, I don’t have any children, but as I’ve mentioned, I have seen a few travelling families – so it’s possible – and the kids are incredibly intelligent, well adjusted, and, well, they’re still kids! I think it would be a great lifestyle for a child – especially a young one.
So, yes, you may have to stop for a couple of years or so if you decide to have a child, but there’s no reason you couldn’t then start again. In fact, based upon my experience – I would encourage anyone to take their child on such a journey.
Thanks, and happy travels.
Nate…happy that your a travel type and enjoying it. So what happens when you get news from your Drs that you have a illness? What do you pay Drs in the lands your in? How do you pay for Meds? Food? I have been living a great life in the Mountains for 14 years now. I live on $1,500.00 a month. I have three kids all in College and am Divorced many years now. Don’t own a car since that money is wasted when I can walk or use public transport. I( don’t see anything in what you wrote` about how to deal with these issues.
My plan for illness is either to return to my country, where health care is free (Australia). If it was an emergency, I would either have to pay for the service, or go to one of the countries that has an arrangement with Australia – there are several European countries for example, where Australian’s can use the health care system (in return for allowing residents of those countries to use the Australian health care system). I don’t require any regular medications in my life (or Phillipa’s) – we are both healthy.
As for food and other expenses – I explained it in the article.
As for you, $1500 is a decent amount to live, in many places on the planet, and I’m intrigued about your life in the mountains!
All the best!
Not many travel blogs make me laugh out loud.
Yours never fails to.
Awww thanks Sparky! Makes me smile just to know you’re still reading my words.
I am also living this vagabond life, but because it was a spontaneous decision to leave my job as a lawyer, I had failed to accumulate any savings. So I do have to work, but the combination of living in cheap/affordable places (which are often the most beautiful and interesting places) and doing freelance work for clients in richer countries who pay regular prices means that i don’t need to work too much to get by. I am poorer than I use to be, but I am so much happier, mostly because I have more time for myself and there are weeks when my phone doesn’t ring.
Hi Andreas, yes, you have the right idea (in my humble opinion). I once heard a saying “make your money in a rich country, and spend it in a poor country”. Of course, as you rightly point out – the definition of rich and poor becomes blurred, when you realise that life can be much happier, even with less money. In that case, which countries are truly rich, and which ones are poor? I’d take happiness over money and working the grind, any day.
LOL, I forget how much I enjoy reading your blog– I’m still laughing. Love that in the midst of humor, there is truth in it too.
I didn’t have that white privelege thing going on (you lucky bastard), just a shiny blue passport and what Internet trolls think, asian parents’ trust funds stashed somewhere. :)
Hey Kieu! Great to hear from you again, and glad I gave you a few laughs ;) Congratulations on the marriage as well, the honeymoon looks like a blast and must be a great feeling to be “back on the road” so to speak. You guys, I hope I bump into you one of these days.
People always think that is all about money but since I have been travelling myself I realized how little we need to be happy, to enjoy life and to do what we want. Nice post Nate and happy anniversary! :)
Thanks Franca… yes, we know that money can help, but it’s definitely not what travel is all about. Being happy is the main thing!
Hey Nate, great post. It reminded me of one of my friends, Peruvian, travels quite a bit. Not a millionaire. Every time he came to visit Los Angeles, he would be questioned, interrogated by immigration officials. Why do you travel so much, sir? What is your purpose of visiting yet again the United States? Etc.
He would answer patiently until one day he simply said: why, because I’m a millionaire, goddammit! :)
Hold on, let me get this right. You’re not a millionaire?
Great post, thoughtful yet funny about a subject that often gets mentioned to longterm travellers.
We must have a secret after all.
Cheer Jonas. Yes, I’m not a millionaire. Unless a million dollars is measured in Serbian Dinar, then possibly. Actually, no, not even in Serbian Dinar. ;)
Congratulations on three years! We seem to go in spurts, this last one has been the longest at 7 months now. I never know what to answer when people ask us how we manage to travel so much. The truth of the matter is, it costs less than having a job, house, car etc… but people still think we’re sitting on a mountain of cash.
Cheers! Technically, I’m into my third year, it hasn’t been three full years yet. However, it’s coming – I’m passing the 2.5 year mark right about now… :)
I just stumbled upon your blog and must say you are a good writer if you ask me. I am a long/indefinate traveler like yourself and entering my fourth year in a few months. Unlike you I wasn’t so lucky concerning finances so I left for a low paid (but no cost of living) job abroad and i am still out there. I haven’t felt really free but more a pilgrim who sometimes lost it all and more. It has been hard but now I am back on my feet. At least for this year i will be fine.
Nice inspiration to read your blog. Thanks
You’re welcome, La Gavita. I hope you have a great year – and four years is something to be very thankful for.