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Some people are practically most of the time traveling, from country to country, for a very long periods and sometimes even years.

How could one be able to travel for a long period of time, over several countries around the world, without being wealthy?

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What about the other impacts of long-term travel like keeping your job (or do you just say adios, and hope you can find a new one when you get home) and paying your rent (or do you put all your stuff in your mom's basement and try to find a new place to live when you get back), etc? –  Doktor J Oct 17 '11 at 7:58
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@DoktorJ: Including all this questions in one would result in a too wide question. But asking each one separately can be great. –  MichaelS Oct 17 '11 at 8:09
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Bah don't think too hard - your current method is fine - it's the same one I use. Other than that I budget time vs money based on past travel experience. –  hippietrail Mar 2 '12 at 14:31
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8 Answers

up vote 40 down vote accepted

I recently travelled for 6 months through Asia. During this time I met many travellers who were travelling for much longer periods, some for several years.

Most people like myself had simply worked and saved hard for a year or more then travelled through counties where it is cheap. I also met a couple of people who were working on their travels, a writer and an entrepreneur.

In South America and Asia you can travel very cheaply ($30USD or less). As long as you are willing to live frugally and save a good amount before you go you can go for a long time.

When you travel on a long trip like this you have 3 main costs.

  • Living costs. Food and accommodation. Every country is different but in places like India, Cambodia, etc this can be very low.
  • Site seeing. Prominent historic sites often have high fees. Especially if you are visiting multiple locations every day. Choosing to only see the most prominent and the cheapest can decrease costs.
  • Internal Travel. Flights and trains from one city to another can often be expensive. These can be mitigated by staying in each place for longer.

So if someone saves say 10,000USD they could easily travel Asia for a year. Of Course that's a lot of money, but if you don't have children, a mortgage etc, and save aggressively it is very possible. The long term travellers I met came from all works of life, writers, programmers, nurses, students, factory workers.

A final note is that if you're alone your costs are higher. A couple can halve their accommodation costs as well as taxi/tuk tuk hire.

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Agreed. And usually you have to go seriously low budget - forget about hotels with any number of stars next to the name, internal flights etc. –  Grzenio Oct 16 '11 at 19:41
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Right Grzenio. I can't imagine doing this in Europe or North America without living in a van, or Couch Surfing. –  Robert Anton Reese Oct 16 '11 at 19:47
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@RobertAntonReese: I'm doing it in Europe without living in a van or couch surfing right now (-: –  hippietrail Oct 16 '11 at 20:39
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@hippietrail I'd love to hear more about this, do you keep a blog or other description of how you are doing this? –  Robert Anton Reese Oct 16 '11 at 23:19
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@Ginamin, when traveling costs are always higher than when staying put. Accommodation is always cheaper with long-term rentals, and local knowledge can save money as well. –  dbkk Nov 20 '11 at 16:20
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Well they travel as cheaply as possible. There are lots of tricks and lots of levels.

No matter how cheaply you do it you always meet people in comparison to whom your expenses seem ridiculously extravagant!

The main three factors in a trip are 1) accommodation 2) transport 3) food

You can save on all these at multiple levels depending on your sense of adventure and your comfort level.

  1. Cheap accommodation: camping
  2. Cheap transport: hitchhiking
  3. Cheap food: cook for yourself

Being able to get work in at least some places on your trip can also be a big help. Even work in exchange for food or accommodation rather than being paid.

There are literally thousands of tips to keep things cheap for different things in different situations in different places of different countries so these are just some examples. Please ask more specific questions and we can give you more specific answers.

(I've been on many long trips in the past twenty years and usually on a lower budget each time, but I've never lasted more than one year so far)

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Totally agree with the lower budget comment - every trip I've done I've learnt more tricks to saving and being smarter with my money. Plus I get ripped off less by taxi drivers now ;) –  Mark Mayo Oct 16 '11 at 22:20
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As was said before, the main sources of costs are accommodation, transport and food.

What I want to add for accommodation: There are several hospitality services. Essentially, these are social networks using which people offer places to stay, all around the globe. The most popular I'm aware of are Couchsurfing, Hospitality Club and be welcome.

Didn't experience it myself, but apart from that travellers told me that in many countries people are so welcome that they would just invite you to stay with them once you get in touch with them in the street.

For transport, I met many people who were using alternate means of getting around. Apart from hitchhiking, that is mainly using the strength of your body, i.e., riding a bike or just walking. Admittedly, not everybody's cup of tea, but cheap it is.

For food ... particularly when you are using on of the aforementioned hospitality services, you will often be invited for lunch by your hosts. Otherwise, buying stuff on the budget and preparing it yourself will definitely contribute to saving money as well.

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This has been reduced to an art form by Paul TerHorst and his wife Vicki.

http://www.worldlyphilosophers.com/sept24_terhorst.htm

I would recommend any of their books and articles.

Also "The Investment Biker" by Jim Rogers, who took his girlfriends (one of whom became his wife) around the world on a motorcycle. Except that he's wealthy.

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Hi Tom, any idea what happened to this page? It´s not on (well most of it isn´t). –  Pixie Feb 18 at 15:46
    
@Pixie: I guess the original page was replaced. –  Tom Au Feb 18 at 18:00
    
...and you would know where to find it? –  Pixie Feb 19 at 8:27
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I have done a 25 months trip (Around the world but mostly in South East Asia) and a 22 months one (Latin America). I spent about 22,000 Euros each which I saved before or between the trips.

Important points:

I did not have any regular expenses back home, no health insurance, mortgage, storage fees, family. But I also did not have any income either.

I do not travel as cheap as possible. I use public transport, stay in dorms in good hostels (not the cheapest one, no couch surfing), but also in hotel rooms that are one or two levels up from the cheapest in town. I always eat out to taste the local food. Many backpackers cook for themselves to save money.

I don't take taxis, just public transport but mostly I walk, so make sure you can carry your backpack for 10 miles or more.

Many people take night buses or night trains so they don't have to pay for accommodation. I like to see the country I am visiting so don't travel in the dark unless there is absolutely no other option.

I've met many people who spent half their budget on booze and going out. I do that sometimes but not that often. Long term travelling is different from vacation.

When not travelling I try to live cheaply and save the money I make for the next trip. On two occasions I made enough money in 12 months to travel for 24 months afterwards.

I never worked for money. Sometimes I fix computers or networks at hostels, especially removing viruses and get a free night in exchange. This only works if you can convince the owner that an infected computer is actually a problem.

So my point is, it doesn't have to be the absolutely cheapest way to travel. In the end it all depends on how much money you can save before.

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If I ever had 22,000 euro I would consider myself wealthy (-: Of course I would then spend my wealth on a nice long trip (-: –  hippietrail Dec 20 '11 at 7:12
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For me it works quite well to try to estimate a daily budget for a given country/region. Of course you will spend more in cities than trekking in wilderness, but still the average gives a decent indication. Then you obviously multiply the daily budget times the number of days and you are done.

The easiest way to get a daily budget is to find it in a guide book. E.g. in (most) Lonely Planet guides, at the beginning you have a small section "Costs and Money" in "Getting Started" where they discuss exactly this thing (depending on your preferences).

Alternatively you might try to google people's detailed travel reports. These are usually fairly boring things, detailing every single thing they did and every penny they spent - but you can take a look at summary and see how much they have spent.

And of course you can do it the hard way - go through the guide book, estimate average hotel price, food prices, all the other prices etc.

It is much easier than trying to estimate the cost for the whole trip at one - especially if you don't want to plan it all ahead!

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Looking at the other side of the income-expense equation of traveling there are many ways to make income while you travel. I make more than I spend per day by running my business remotely via skype and email. I have met other travelers who can cover their travel costs indefinitely by travel writing, selling photos, teaching English, doing import-export of local handy crafts or working in local tourism businesses.

Even if you don't make enough to completely cover all your expenses it can let you travel for longer than you could just on savings. Some of the travelers I have met work 8-16 hours per week to cover the week's expenses because they are paying expenses in a low cost country like Peru and earning money remotely in a high pay/high expense country like the US or Europe.

Another approach is the "4 hour work week" (Tim Ferris) one of working for a few months then taking a 3 month mini-retirement of traveling. Rinse and repeat indefinitely. His book and website also have lots of info on starting your own online business or negotiating to work remotely. I have met some Australian miners who earn enough in a year to travel for two years without working. I have also read of some miners in Australia who work 14 days straight and then take off 14 days living in Bali and traveling in SE Asia - again they do this indefinitely.

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I just wanted to add the work for food and shelter method, briefly touched by some people in the thread.

I was in Australia, really angry with the cost of everything and found out about WWOOFers (http://wwoofinternational.org/).

Since then I use it all the time!

Every case of people there is different and you might even ending up with a "real" job if that is what you look for.

Endless possibilities!

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