On the road, we’re frequently asked “Where are you from?” and “How long are you staying.” But back home, people are dying to know “How the heck can you afford to quit your job and spend a whole year bouncing around the globe?”
Between flights, lodging, food, drink, entertainment, internet, shopping trips and extras, we’ve estimated about $15,000 to hit more than a dozen countries around the world.
That figure might seem exorbitant -until you consider it’s the same amount as our yearly rent in overpriced Manhattan.
As our pals in Gotham are struggling to save enough for a summer share or a single coveted pair of Jimmy Choos, they wonder how we managed to sock away that kind of cash.
First, let’s put two popular notions rest: No, we’re not trust fund babies and we don’t have sugar daddies.
The short answer is that it’s actually much cheaper to travel for a year than it is to maintain our cost of living back in the United States. Seriously!
So, exactly how does one save for a trip like ours?
Since everyone seems to want a peek at our bank balances and checkbook registers, we’ll just lay it all out. Here are five ways we’ve turned ourselves into our own travelin’ sugar mamas…
1. Spend Less, Save More
While this mantra is probably the only piece of advice less fun than “eat less, exercise more” the resulting nest egg accounts for the bulk of our travel budget.
Jen’s parents invested in a bond for her when she was young, and she’s chosen to cash part of it in order to hopscotch the globe with her friends. Once Holly got a job that paid more than starvation wages, she started depositing a portion of her salary into a savings account automatically, every single month.
As for me, I worked a full-time editing gig at Shape magazine and kept up my freelancing for the five months leading up the trip. It was a lot of work – but I nearly doubled my savings and will hopefully have enough to move back to NYC once this year is up.
2. Take Your Work With You
As media gals, our jobs didn’t exactly stop the second we took off…in fact, our experience in magazines and television enabled us to score cool assignments with publications like For Me magazine, Car & Travel, inWedding (a Hong Kong based publication) and Fodors.com.
Yes, it can suck trying to write articles when there’s a gorgeous white sand beach beckoning, but the cash we make for these pieces goes way further in a developing country than it does in crazy-expensive Manhattan.
Depending on the word rate, one piece might cover our cost of living for two weeks, one month…or more!
3. Pick A Cheap Destination
One of the fastest ways to run out of cash? Travel to countries where the local currency is strong-and the dollar is weak. Right now, that’s almost anywhere in Europe.
Since the three of us have already hopped the pond and hit France, Spain and Italy in our early 20s, we decided to go a bit more exotic and visit some of the world’s most popular “alternative” destinations.
In countries such as Brazil and Turkey, a good night’s sleep (plus everything listed above) will set us back about $35 per day, but we’ll “subsidize” that cost by spending the rest of our trip in $15- and $25-a-day nations such as Bolivia, India and Vietnam.
Besides flights, our only major expense will be paying for secure volunteer programs in Kenya and Tanzania-a charity opportunity we feel is well worth the cost. Australia, our final stop, will be more expensive but we’re hoping to get work visas so we can…
4. Score Unexpected assignments
Every travel writer dreams of the day when she’ll check her email and find an assignment to cover a far-flung destination for an upscale magazine.
When you get one-as I did within the first few weeks of arriving in Peru-you jump for joy, because the assignment almost always “requires” spending a couple nights in a fancy-shmancy hotel.
For budget-travelers such as ourselves, crashing in a dreamy hotel not only gives our wallets a bit of a break, but allows us to recover from the other 360 nights that we’re spending in dorm rooms with no heat, privacy or running water.
We know travel writing this isn’t an option for everyone, but it’s nice work if you can get it!
Finally, if all else fails…
5. Take A Temporary Job
Getting a job on the road is one of the best ways to know stop being a tourist and get to know a place for real. (Plus replenish your depleted coffers).
Since the land Down Under is somewhat pricey, we’re hoping to fulfill our collective ambitions to tend the bar at some beachfront pub or secure a part time gig at a hostel.
The hardest part is just doing it.
If that seems too good to be true, consider that young Aussies, Brits, Israelis and the Irish all find a way to take gap year-it’s not considered a luxury, but a required right-of-passage into adulthood.