So many of us spend our lunch breaks scrolling through our Instagram feeds sighing over how we want to incorporate travel into our lives more, and rack our brains on how these travel influencers can afford their lifestyles. Once upon a time, we were just like you! Living a life where we watched other people chase their dreams while we could only imagine chasing ours.
Let’s face it, one of the biggest barriers to traveling full-time or long periods of time is the financial obstacle. But like with most things in life, with a little creative thinking and a lot of ambition, there’s nothing holding you back, except your own fears. We know the concept of quitting your job and booking one way tickets is scary (and your wallet has probably checked itself into a mental facility at the mere mention), but there are steps you can take to make the transition into a location independent lifestyle smooth from a financial perspective, and we’re here to help.
OKAY BUT HOW MUCH MONEY DOES IT REALLY COST?
We’re not going to delve into our finances in this article, but to be totally transparent, how much money you need in the bank truly depends on the person. We’ve met people who travel on next to nothing and stay in the $1 hostels in India (something we so desperately avoided) and others who spend $10,000 on a week long vacation (YEESH). No matter who your are, there are some start up costs associated for planning a year abroad, so we would recommend having some savings and an emergency fund. For us, AT LEAST 1,000 in our bank accounts at all times in case of emergency, which is an all around good life rule.
We’ve detailed five of our favorite tips to help get you started!
1. INVEST IN A TRAVEL CREDIT CARD
There’s a lot of travel credit cards out there, and they each come with a long list of benefits. You should definitely do your own research to figure out which one is best suited for your needs, but we personally love the Chase Sapphire Preferred travel card. It’s a great card for all travelers because it’s so easy to rack up points on everything you buy (2X the points on travel and dining related purchases). It’s the younger sibling to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, but it still has a very robust laundry list of benefits without the $550 price tag. Upon getting approved for the card, and after spending a rather daunting $4,000 in the first three months (which is less daunting for anyone who has planned long-term travel), you get 60,000 points to travel on any airline. To translate this into dollars, these points allowed Rachel to visit home for the holidays while we were in Bali basically FOR FREE.
Some tips to help you meet that discouraging $4,000 amount:
- tell your friends that you need to meet a $$$ amount to help get you mega points. When you go out, put all food and drinks on your card and have your besties Venmo you!
- talk to your family. Ask them if they are willing to pay for larger household expenses with your credit card, and then pay you back.
- While you’re planning your upcoming travel, book everything with your new credit card. If you're like us and planning for some long term travel, there are a lot of overhead costs that could be used on this card. Accommodations and travel always add up faster than you think.
Not only are the travel benefits of this card pretty incredible, it also offers rental car insurance. Say whaaat?? Yes, you heard us right. Never sign the damage collision waiver again! (However, the card does not include liability insurance).
The Chase Ultimate Rewards Center has also helped us get full refunds for all the flights we booked through Chase Travel and had to cancel due to ‘rona. It took a little persistence and long hours on hold, but hey, a refund is a refund.
If you’d like to dive deeper into the world of travel credit cards, check out this article from the Points Guys for the most up-to-date comparisons of all things travel credit cards.
2. MONTHLY AIRBNBS INSTEAD OF HOTELS
One of our biggest money savers while traveling abroad was booking through Airbnb. Travel hack: when you book a month-long stay through Airbnb, most hosts offer insane discounts on the nightly rate. We’ve paid less than half of the nightly rate for our month-long stays and were able to spend more money on things like wine, fun excursions, our diving certs, more wine… When browsing properties, make sure to select your dates for at least 30 days, this will allow you to see the discounted total prices. All our Airbnb's were less than what we would've paid in rent in the US. Most of the time by half, which is also a ~game changer~ for long term travelers.
We also like monthly Airbnbs because we prefer a slower pace of travel. When you spend a month somewhere, you can create a routine, and it really starts to feel like home.
3. SAVE MONEY AND SELL DEPRECIABLE ASSETS
Most long term travelers are experts at stretching a dollar, and there’s no way to sugar-coat it: for most of us, extravagance is not an option in a travel lifestyle. Before embarking on your trip, have a heart-to-heart with yourself; where can you cut spending? Walk instead of taking ubers, buy generic products when you can, only buy things on sale (any thrifters out there?), yes you will survive without those new $200 boots. Consider your new minimalistic lifestyle as practice for your life abroad. A few bucks don’t seem like a lot in the moment, but boy do they add up!
Before you plan a long term trip, calculate what you think you would spend in a month and start creating spending goals to build-up some savings. If you plan on getting a location independent job, you don't need to have ALL of the money saved, but we recommend having at least some money to cover overhead costs and your emergency fund.
You can also get some extra cash by selling your depreciable assets. For example, before we left, Rachel sold her car. Assets like cars only depreciate in value over the course of a year, unlike other assets like houses. If you’re not going to be using it for a year+, then you’re probably better off selling it (not to mention bye-bye car insurance payments!). If you do own property, we recommend renting it out to get some steady cash flow while you’re gone.
4 TRAVEL TO CHEAP COUNTRIES
When you plan a long-term trip, we’re not saying you can’t go to expensive countries, but we did spend longer amounts of time in cheaper countries which helped our finances a lot. However, a bit of a ~warning~, don’t fall into the Cheap Country Trap©. The Cheap Country Trap© is a term we’re copywriting because of the amount of times we’ve fallen for it. Just because you can get a 5 star hotel for $200/night doesn’t mean you should get it. Beyond hotels, when it’s only $3 for lunch, $2 for a coffee, and you decide to spring for a $10 manicure, it all seems so cheap to us, but it does eventually add up. We actually spent more money in Bali than our first two months in Europe because of this. But if you stick to your savvy spending habits, cheap countries can be a game changer for your finances.
5. GET A LOCATION INDEPENDENT JOB
Saving the best for last! This is probably the most valuable piece of advice we can give. We knew going into the decision to travel that it wasn’t going to be a one-off; we wanted to find a way to make this lifestyle sustainable for us. There are a lot of people who work, save a bunch of money, and then take off to travel for long periods of time until they run out of money, rinse, and repeat.
While there is no “right” or “wrong” way to travel (everyone has their own style), we knew that the cyclical nature of that approach wasn’t going to work for us long-term. We agreed on 20 hour work weeks which gave us a sense of routine (which ended up doing wonders for our mental health) and allowed us little luxuries. We knew that we would never have to say “no” to really valuable or fun experiences just because of the price tag, because we had dependable incomes every month. That's not to say we didn’t pinch a few pennies, but we were able to maintain a financial safety net.
Lauren works as a marketing freelancer; she started building a network of clients when she knew she wanted a location indie lifestyle and sometimes has more work than she knows what to do with (learning how to say “no” to people is another important lesson). Rachel teaches English online, which allowed us a wide range of flexibility while traveling. All jobs come with their pros and cons, but the important thing to remember is the entire world is at your fingertips; there are endless opportunities out there, and you’ll never know if something is right for you unless you try!
The corona virus has changed a lot in the world of job stability. So finding remote work may not be as instantaneous as you would like it to be, but things will mellow eventually. The right opportunity will emerge.
When we first announced that we were leaving everything to travel the world, we were met with a lot of mixed emotions, as you would expect. Some people said things like “you’re wasting your youthful energy and industry” (yes, that’s an actual quote, rather Victorian we think), some people were worried for our safety and finances (natural concerns, nice to know people care about you), and others were excited for us, wishing that they had done something like this once upon a time. Don’t let financial worry keep you from following your dreams; you don’t want to live with the existential “what if?” There’s a way to mix your inner sense of carpe diem and your financial/life goals. We find that financial apprehension is often a scapegoat for deeper anxieties of breaking from societal norms and taking a leap of faith. Admittedly, scary stuff! We truly believe the hardest part of this entire journey is making the decision to take that first step, but once you make it, we promise things will begin to fall into place! And as we always say, “There are no rules!” Live your life unapologetically to the beat of your own drum!