The Finances of Traveling

People assume things all the time.  It seems to be part of human nature to look at a small piece of information and make the most logical assumptions.  I get that, and I do it too.  But I have learned over the past decade to look deeper and reserve judgement until I have a deeper knowledge of the full picture.

We live a pretty alternative lifestyle that I think is hard for people to wrap their heads around at times.  How we are able to afford travel is one of those things.  One thing that we get asked about a lot is our finances.  Some people assume we are independently wealthy or living off of someone else to make this travel dream work.  I can assure you we are NOT! In fact of all the traveling families I know not a single one is wealthy OR living off some one else.

We also did not win the lottery when we first set off, another thing people guess about us.  The one thing we did have that gave us a leg up was the good fortune to have grown up in households where we were taught that whatever we wanted in life was within our reach.  I think it may be one the the greatest gifts being American has given us.  That and the freedom to be able to travel, to walk in and out of most countries with very few questions asked.  I know, now more than ever, that travel really is not possible for everyone worldwide, being American immediately makes it easier.

So just how did we store up enough money to leave the US and start a life of travel??

Well I think you have to step away from the financial side briefly to understand fully how we did it.  The first step of any big process like this is making the decision.  We started there and from that point each day started to make positive movements in the direction of where we saw ourselves in a year.  Then we asked ourselves the big financial questions:
  • How much money do we need to start?
  • How can we generate an income flow so we can enjoy more freedom in our travels?
  • How do we plan to actually travel budget wise?

What we did was first to simplify our lives.  We sold our home, luckily just in time so we made a profit before the market crashed.  Sold most of our possessions and then we took 6 months and lived in a very small cabin, far less expensive then our home was.  This provided enough for us to get to Central America, get started in a house, and live for nearly a year.

Probably the best thing we did was to change the way we spent money overall.  In the beginning it was tough, since for years I was frivolous with what I bought, but over time it became a state of mind and this helped us save money, something we are admittedly not very good at.  More importantly this also helped us spend more conservatively when we started to travel.  Simplifying our lives has been one of the greatest things we ever decided to do, after having our boys of course!

The next thing we needed to do after deciding to go, and beginning to save money is to come up with a way to earn more money as we moved around.  After leaving the US we arrived in Costa Rica where we stayed for a while.  We had another baby, made a business, left that business, and started a new business that was remote so we could have an income stream.  Without an ongoing income the journey would have ended as soon as the savings ran out.  If you want more freedom in your travels then having a career that can be mobile may be a necessity.

What we do is blog and freelance write but there are many, many ways to work remotely.  Get creative, find something you love and then find a way to bring it to the world and monetize it.  Companies are also opening up to the idea of digital nomads so the company you work for now may even be open to continuing your job while you travel around.  Thank goodness for the Internet!

Something we did not utilize, but that could also help you save money is to make investments.  I believe investing in life insurance is a great option.  There are some accounts that can act as a type of personal bank.  You can borrow against it and pay yourself back earning all the interest.  I do not know a whole lot about it but investing can be a really beneficial way to start saving even if only a small amount today to help you reach the goal you are trying to attain in the next few years.

Other ways to help save money; make a budget and stick to it, track your expenses and trim the fat where ever you can.  Sometimes the things that seem necessary quickly become a priority of the past when a new desire takes shape.  There are also many ways to actually travel.  You can work while you go stopping long enough to teach English, surfing, or scuba diving so you can save more to start travel again.  Many people do this and other creative things to keep the travel going.

Also consider the way in which you will travel.  A travel lifestyle is NOT the same thing as a vacation.  One of the biggest mistakes is spending like you are on a vacation, which is easy to do as it oftentimes feels like you are on one.  Choose countries that match your budget and spend conservatively to help your money go farther.

Focus on the long term priorities, save as much as you can, simplify, and find a portable income stream and you'll quickly see just how possible it is to travel! 

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