How Long-Term Travel Saved Me More Money Than Staying Home

Globe-trotting paid off for this woman in more ways than one.

Today, I work remotely and spend more time abroad than I do in my hometown of Los Angeles. However, a few years ago, this wasn’t the case. I lived and worked in the city, and watched as my expenses continued to rise year after year. That, combined with limited time off, spurred me to embark on a career path of remote work to have the flexibility to travel while still earning an income.

Many people are under the impression that to be a full-time traveler, you need to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, but this is certainly not the case. In fact, I currently earn less than I did when I worked in Los Angeles and still manage to save. Here’s how I do it.

Click to read more about the ultimate guide to spending your money abroad.

Evaluating My Expenses

In 2015, I decided to leave behind my life in Los Angeles to travel the world and haven’t stopped since. The first step I took to achieve this was to evaluate my cost of living. My monthly expenses averaged $2,300. This amount only included the essentials: somewhat affordable rent in a studio apartment, basic utilities, transportation with associated expenses and groceries. Although I wasn’t living as frugally as humanly possible, I wasn’t splurging by any means and my nonessential costs were kept to a minimum.

Choosing Where to Travel

When I considered the cost of long-term travel, I knew I wanted to spend several months in various destinations, basing myself in one spot and traveling from there, rather than visiting a new city every three or four days. I researched the cost of living in different destinations using websites such as Expatistan, Nomadlist and Numbeo. I used travel blogs to calculate the average cost of traveling in a variety of cities as well.

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The Travel Approach

There’s a difference between long-term travel and short vacations. Short vacations can be costly because of the attitude associated with them: eating out for every meal, saying yes to all the tourist experiences and staying at upscale hotels. When traveling long-term, I ate some meals at home and some meals out, stayed in apartments and budget hotels, and did a mix of free and paid activities.

Having a Home Base

For many people, long-term travel isn’t a lifestyle but rather a specified, extended period of time to explore. For me, long-term travel became my lifestyle, so I didn’t feel rushed to visit as many places as possible in an allotted amount of time. Rather, I chose to travel slowly. Usually, that meant renting a room or apartment for a month or two and taking trips from there.

It was always my dream to live and travel in Spain, so I spent six months based in Madrid and Valencia, taking trips all around the continent during that time. My monthly rent (including utilities) in Madrid cost me just $450 ($300 in Valencia) — a fraction of my rent in Los Angeles. Additionally, traveling in Spain is relatively inexpensive, thanks to cheap buses, trains and budget airlines, and the overall low cost of accommodation and food. While in Spain, I also traveled to several other countries in Europe but having a home base in between longer trips helped me enjoy the experience that much more.

If you’re planning on visiting a new city every few days, be sure to factor in occasional extended periods in a city to avoid travel burnout. Strategically choose to housesit for free accommodation or choose somewhere relatively inexpensive, depending on the region of the world you’re exploring.

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Financing Long-Term Travel

There are two ways to finance long-term travel: save beforehand or work on the road. I’m a firm believer in always having money saved, even if you choose to work. You can save before your trip by downsizing your housing and car, selling items you don’t use and limiting your unnecessary expenses. While on the road, make your money stretch further by participating in work exchanges (such as WWOOF), working online and choosing alternative accommodations, like caravans, camping and housesitting.

Six months traveling in Europe cost me $7,000 — less than it would have cost me to live in Los Angeles for three months. Not only did I have an apartment during this time but I also traveled to seven countries, as well as extensively in Spain.

The most important thing to remember when financing long-term travel is that it isn’t a long luxury vacation but rather a lifestyle for however long you choose to do it. With this in mind, the world can be your oyster without breaking the bank.

Click through to read more about the financial risks and rewards of retiring abroad.

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