As we’ve started our travels, we’ve noticed people saying things like “Wow! How are you doing this? Did you win the lottery?” or “You must be rich to be able to travel as much as you do!” And sadly, neither one is true. We did not win the lottery and we certainly aren’t rich. In fact, it’s a bit comical to us because literally anyone can do what we’ve done. All it takes is a game plan.
As with every plan – it started with an idea. After taking short-lived vacations and traveling here and there, we knew we loved traveling. We’d always come home from these one or two week jaunts wishing we didn’t have to get back to the grind. So we started thinking – how can we figure out a way to travel indefinitely? So our plan began.
We started with the idea that we wanted to travel for 1-year straight – so how can we do this? We knew we’d need a significant amount of money saved up to pay for all of our expenses: flight tickets, hotel/hostel stays, food, outings, any bills we still had to pay at home, etc. So we came up with a figure (if you want to know our exact amount, I’d be happy to share that with you if you want to email us directly.) Now we had a goal. Let’s save up “X” amount of money and go!
Now, how do we get this amount of money? Step 2. Rent was by far our biggest expense every month. Kile and I both had jobs that paid an average middle-class salary (again, happy to divulge if you want to email us) but rent was eating up most of this money. We were living in a 2-bedroom apartment and hardly utilized the 2nd bedroom at all, if ever (we did have a roommate at one point.) The easiest way we could put a few extra hundred dollars into a travel savings account was to downsize and reduce our rent. So we did just that. And we downsized big time. We went from around 850 sq ft to 325 sq ft. Of course, this came with getting rid of a lot of our belongings – which, we knew we’d have to do anyway if we wanted to leave for an entire year.
So here we were in our tiny little studio – much much smaller but still very doable. With this move alone we were able to put an extra $250-$300 into our travel savings account every month. But this wasn’t going to get us to our goal as quickly as we wanted – so on to step 3. Sacrifices.
Having a greater goal in mind makes it easier to sacrifice things “right now.” So we started to think about things we need versus things we want. Turns out, we didn’t need much. We canceled our cable subscription, stopped eating and drinking out as much (plus cooking at home is so much healthier), stopped doing frivolous things like hair appointments, shopping, etc. By doing these things, we could easily save an additional $200 (at least, a month.)
When we needed to buy new clothes or something, we still would – we’d just do it at Goodwill now. Or if I wanted my nails done – I’d just do it myself. Things like this started to not matter much to us anymore. We were so looking forward to dwindling our lives into our backpacks that these once “important” things seemed so silly now.
We definitely didn’t cut ourselves off completely – I mean, we still like to have fun and go out with friends. We just became more picky about how often and when we’d do these types of things. Picking up a $3 bottle of wine at Trader Joe’s and hangin’ at a friend’s house is always fun too.
It was amazing how quickly we realized how much we were able to save just by eliminating a few things like this here and there. The next biggest thing was getting rid of debt, specifically – student loans. I still owed a lot of money on my student loans (happy to give the amount if you’re curious) and we wanted to minimize the payments as much as possible, if not eliminate them completely. So with the extra money we were saving each month, we decided to take about $200 of that and add it on top of the monthly payment we were already making to the loans. Basically, utilizing the snowball effect.
This was our plan. We knew it would take some time and planned on living like this for the next 2 years – which we did. It wasn’t easy and again, it took a lot of sacrifice and patience to make it happen. Another factor that I need to mention is that I/we are extremely lucky in one regard. I was able to get a second job about 6 months before our departure date. Not only was that additional income to add into our savings account every month to exponentially speed up the process – but it was/is a job I can take anywhere. I still have this job and still work around 30 hours a week while we’re traveling. The bonus is that I can do it anywhere in the world.
Another thing I want to stress is that now that we’re traveling – we are not living like we’re on vacation. At all. We always try and find the cheapest (but still livable) accommodations. We still eat and drink frugally (often cooking in our apartment and buying beer/liquor to drink at home.) And we keep activities to a minimum. We take local transportation (if not walk everywhere!) Our goal wasn’t for us to travel like it was a vacation – it was to travel to see the world. For us – this means to live within the culture. Eating, drinking and living like the locals of that area do.
So although there’s some “luck” involved (although I thoroughly believe if you want to find a telecommuting job that works for you, you can!) it was mostly just dedication and a lot of hard work. The amazing thing is – we’re traveling in places that are much cheaper and the cost of living is much lower than in the United States. Now, the income we’re making (in addition to the money we had saved) is more than enough to live off of while we’re gone.
Our plan that we put in place over 2 years ago is finally happening and it’s beyond rewarding. It’s even better than we had ever imagined given the new job. In fact, we have almost zero belongings to our names. Our backpacks (and about 3 plastic bins stored at Kile’s sister’s house) is all we own. Our student loans are officially paid off. And once we sell my car in June – we will literally have zero bills to our name. It’s so exhilarating to know that when we do come home – we won’t have any burdens whatsoever.
Living in a tiny space and giving up luxuries, like eating out and cable channels, isn’t for everyone. Nor is what we’re doing even interesting to some people! We totally get that. This was definitely a decision based on us and what we wanted out of our lives.
So – no, we certainly did not win the lottery. But it definitely feels like we did. Feel free to get in touch with us if you want to know more or have any questions that we might have left unanswered! We’d love to hear from you.