How to Travel the World for Less Than it Costs to be Poor in America
If you have ever wished that you could travel the world then this post is for you. Here is a no B.S. guide to your first major travel experience. Would anybody argue that the man in this photograph would feel pretty silly if he knew that for the amount of change he gets panhandling in a day he could live a comfortable life on a beach across the world? If only he was taught the importance of savings as a kid.
It is a lot easier than you might think. For me it was like having sex: after I did it the first time I thought, “Why the hell did I wait so long? This rocks!”
Except… it’s better than that. I mean anyone can have sex, and most people do at least once in their lifetime. Less than 1% of people will ever truly experience traveling around the world.
See you on the other side.
Step One: Get ready to get ready
Before you can even start planning your new adventure you have to assassinate everything that will stop you.
Don’t have a passport? Get One! (Call your mom every day until she sends you your damn birth certificate.)
Don’t have any money? Be glad, money is just gonna get in the way. I will show you how to finance your dream lifestyle in separate entries (See: Bottom Line).
Have other commitments? That’s fine. Turn them into assets. If you have a job, use it to save the amount of money you need and then quit. If it’s a job worth keeping, it will be available in the future, and this self-investment will make you a much stronger asset to any company. Have kids? Bring them with you, home school them if you have to, and give them a life experience that you could never buy them, just by traveling.
Step Two: Pre-trip planning
This is where you make all of those arrangements, get your gear in order, say good-bye to your girlfriend, and so on and so forth, right? Wrong!
There are two substeps in pre-trip planning. You decide where you want to go and you book the ticket. How far in advance you book the ticket is up to you. If it’s international and you don’t have a passport yet, book it two months in advance. If you are pretty much ready to go and have some loose ends, book it a week in advance. Guesstimate and leave yourself enough time to settle your affairs before you leave.
Here is why. When you commit yourself by forking out $500-$1,000 cash for a nonrefundable plane ticket, you just jumped off a cliff and there’s no turning back. I promise you will find a way to work everything out in the interim and it will all turn out ok. Life has a funny way of eventually working out when you follow your dreams.
Step Three: Live it up
It’s as simple as those two steps. A lot of people can even skip Step One. Just overcommit yourself, and you’ll quickly work out what absolutely must be worked out. The rest is unimportant. If you can do that, the world is yours for the taking. Here is a sample budget of 30 days in paradise (Koh Samui, Thailand):
30 Day Budget
You can rent an open air loft on the beach in Koh Samui, Thailand for 150 baht per day ($5). Negotiate staying for one month and get it for 3,000 baht. See Dave at Acoustic Cafe in Lamai. Have him cook you a delicious burger and discuss the loft.
Eat a lot of Thai food. It’s tasty. Buying food from the places where the locals eat will save you lots of money. You can get a filling Thai meal for around three bucks really easily from a lot of different places. For dessert try a Banana Pancake from a street vendor and see what Jack Johnson was talking about.
As glamorous as, “retiring to a tropical island and living on a beach” sounds, it’s actually only fun for the first day or so. Traveling is meant to be fun and by living ultra-cheap you can have some extra money to enjoy yourself with. At bars you will be overcharged and may pay as much as (gasp) $3/beer. The less touristy the bar, the cheaper the drinks will be. $2/beer is a safe guess. So in a month, if all you like to do is drink, you can drink 10 beers a night every other night. Note: Buying the same beer from the grocery store will cost about 1/4 as much per beer. Assuming you buy local beer, not Heineken.
The cheapest/best entertainment options are to rent a motorbike ($5/day) and ride it all over the island sightseeing; buy a used book for $1 and read it in a hammock by the ocean; spend a few hours walking around a local open-air market for free; go play soccer.
This covers bug spray, sun block, soap, etc.
Total Monthly Budget: $640 US
I am not talking about roughing it that bad even. Sure, Acoustic Cafe’s loft might not be as well appointed as the Westin. You will survive. You’ll learn to love the local food. And you will, no shit, be living in one of the nicest places on the planet.
Understand that you could also stay here and spend $5,000/month without even trying. If you have that money, go for it.
A lot of people don’t, and they let the false belief that any kind of traveling is “expensive” keep them stuck at home. They will spend $2,000 a month to live someplace they hate, instead of spending $700 or less in paradise. Yikes!
Personally, I don’t live on $640/month because I am an extremely lucky person who is able to scrape together a few extra bucks for some upgrades. If my income dried up, I would move to that loft, and eat exclusively cheap local food in a heartbeat. Because that’s what it would take.
This doesn’t only apply to Koh Samui, Thailand. You could make it happen in a lot of places in Asia and South America and there are places in both those continents that would be a heck of a lot cheaper than Koh Samui. But I think we’re getting down to splitting hairs when we talk Sub $700/month lifestyles.
Moral of the story: Paying for it is easy. Taking the leap to do it is hard. Believe me, I know. But you will not regret it.
See you over there?