How to finance long term travel (with advice from many bloggers)

The 4 P's of Living your dreamHow to finance long term travel? It all comes down to priorities.

international moneyThe other day I was talking with a friend. “I would love to travel like you do,” she said, “but there is no way I could afford it.”

She was decked out in designer clothes and Coach handbag and I knew she drives an expensive SUV. Those items shouted her priorities loud and clear. She obviously was not budgeting for travel.

I have nothing against designer clothes, fancy handbags, or schmancy cars. I don’t fault someone for buying a gorgeous leather couch or big screen TV for their living room. The latest and greatest laptop. The newest version of PlayStation for the kids. Iphones and Ipods and Ipads. It’s all fine…

…if you’ve made a conscious decision to buy it.

What really drives me crazy are the people who say one thing with their mouths, yet totally another with their bank account.

every accomplishment starts with the decision to tryFor us, a travel lifestyle was a huge priority in our lives. We made other decisions based on that. We didn’t buy great big fancy cars; we bought a small old used one. We bought our clothes at thrift stores. Our furniture was all hand-me-downs or things we picked up at yard sales.

We’re not independently wealthy (both my husband and I are TEACHERS!) but we’ve made it work. We’ve made it work by being very consciously aware of our priorities and always living beneath our means.

On our teacher salaries, we weren’t raking in the dough, yet we still managed to live on one salary and save the other. We did that by eating at home rather than restaurants, by being satisfied with a small home, and being frugal in our overall lifestyle. We were able to finance long term travel by making tough choices.

If you want a travel lifestyle, you’ll need to make choices. You can choose your Manolo Blahnik stilletos, Versace gown, and 5000-square foot home, or you can choose to travel. It’s up to you.

OK, so I may be exaggerating a bit here, but it’s the idea that counts. We make those decisions with our pocketbook. If we make conscious decisions about where we spend every penny, then we’re actively choosing what’s highest on our priority list.

If you’re not happy with what you’re seeing, change the list. It’s that simple.

family cycling in New Mexico

Traveling on bikes was important enough for us to make it a priority

Here are some posts I’ve written throughout the years about how to finance long term travel:

Need help saving the cold hard cash you need to live your dream?

How we afford long-term family travel

How can you live your dreams?

A traveling lifestyle: The result of luck or wise choices?

How do we pay for our extended family travels?

Details on what our 3-year family bike tour cost

I’ve spent hours combing travel blogs looking for posts showing how various people made it happen. We are all very different and have very unique situations, but I think seeing how others made it happen may be able to spark a thought for us. So – here are oodles and oodles of posts from people of every age and background on how THEY made the dream come true. Enjoy!

So Many Places: Patience! Patience and persistence. We just met our savings goal after THREE YEARS of saving and sacrificing.  They also have a whole page on saving money with lots of articles.

The Nomadic Family: We took a deep breath and said we’d go for it. Cut almost all extras from our lives and learned to live on half of our income. We saved the rest, and on that, our dream happily floats. Here’s their post on Voluntary Frugality.  They also compiled a wonderful post with information from ten traveling families on how they made the travel dream happen.  

Budget Travel Adventures: How I do it? I can be a bit frugal and I manage money well so those work well together. Putting together a budget spreadsheet is my way of trying to save money with a tangible, simple way of tracking what they spend. Here’s his post on Using a Budget Spreadsheet

The Dropout Diaries: The first hurdle was getting my husband to believe that a traveling lifestyle was possible. Once he was on board, it was a matter of researching, planning and working my butt off with a second job that paid for the camera and laptop I needed to work while on the move. The second job vanished when the company folded just before we left Singapore, but somehow another offer landed in my lap a few days later! It IS hard work to work and travel (and be a mum) but I think the effort is worthwhile. I see much more of my daughter now than I did when I had a “real” job.   Here’s Barbara’s Funding a Dropout post

Europe for Visitors: Writing practical advice for people who are researching where to go, what to do, and how to spend their money.

Leave your Daily Hell: How to travel if you’re young and middle class

Katie Going Global: How I financed my career break

Twenty-Something Travel: How I saved $20K in less than 2 years

This Battered Suitcase: Tips for saving money

Open Travel Info: The 8 best tips to afford long term travel

Nomadic Matt: The secret to long term traveling

Around the world in easy ways: Turning our travel dream into a reality

WorldSchool Adventures: Decide. Commit.

LL World Tour: How could you afford to travel around the world?

Life Without Pants: How to prepare for a vagabonding adventure

Get Rich Slowly: How I save money while traveling

Adventure Sauce: How to sleep for free

Moneyland: How I saved for my dream vacation

Great Family Escape: Travel Budgets from various bloggers and  Even an idiot can save for travel  and Saving and making money while traveling

Family Trek: Making work work for you and Achieving the family travel lifestyle with patchwork income

Around the World “L”: Loot to Scoot: Strange Secrets to Save Travel Money

Pearce on Earth: Entrepreneurship

Living Outside of the Box: How we made it happen

Pick the Brain: 7 steps to making your dream come true

Around the World in Easy Ways: How many rupees will you need?

Legal Nomads: An FAQ page with tons of info on the financial side of travel

QiRanger Adventures told me:  Korea is an amazing and diverse country, where you can literally travel from one end to the other in under three hours for less than the price of a night out. Every week, we choose a destination and explore the city and sights, keeping our budget low. During the semester breaks, we take advantage of cheap flights out of Korea to nearby countries for extended vacations. How to we pay for all this? We actively save in preparation for our travels and try to secure paid writing or video assignments to cover portions of the cost.

The Minimalists: How to find your freedom

Professional Hobo: Travel fulltime for less than $14K per year

Never Ending Voyage: How we saved 75% of our income for travel

Travels of Adam: How far will $20,000 take you?$20,000 gave me the chance to let loose and have fun, to have a boyfriend for the first time, to learn to speak with strangers, to sometimes trust people and to sometimes not. It gave me the chance to learn and to experience. To cook. To take care of myself. To get lost. Twenty thousand dollars gave me the chance to see the world, to experience the world. To do what I wanted when I wanted, for whatever reasons I wanted. It was the best money I ever spent on myself.   Adam also wrote This is My Grad School – it’s all about priorities.

With 2 Kids in Tow, It’s Backpacking We Go: How much did our year on the road cost?

Suitcases and Sippycups: How to afford long-term family travel

Discover. Share. Inspire: Landing in the lap of luxury and Nine ways we earn money to fund our travel lifestyle

InBed.Me: Budgeting advice for travelers taking an extended trip

Voluntourista: Balance, Blogging, Money & Saving the World

World Biking: How can you afford to cycle around the world?

Solitary Wanderer: Five (Simple) ways to build your travel fund

Escape Artistes: Help! I’m Location Independent

1 Dad 1 Kid: How I find our family travel

You CAN finance long term travel – it’s easier than you think!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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56 Responses to How to finance long term travel (with advice from many bloggers)

  1. Kim March 1, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    Yes! Amazing to see all of these different resources. Unless you are independently wealth (who is?) it is all about priorities and sacrifice. You can get there if you are willing to work, wait, and make a few sacrifices to get where you want to go. I also think that the harder you work, the sweeter it feels to reach your goal.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Kim, That’s very true. I love hearing from people who finally managed to pay off their debt or they reached their saving goal. What a sweet moment!

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  2. Susan March 1, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    Part of has to start with being honest with ourselves. The gal you were talking to wasn’t honest with herself. YES…she could “afford” to travel, but she thinks she can’t and doesn’t want to deny herself the little or big luxuries that make travel more challenging.

    Anytime we think “we can’t” do something, it’s usually because we haven’t made it a priority. Travel, or rather immersing our family in different cultures, IS, so we let go of lots of things gaining the world.

    And I must say that I like the pic with Costa Rican colones and US dollars. 7 months ago I never would have recognized the 5mil bill! LOL!

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    Nancy Reply:

    @Susan, It’s also hard when society tells us we “need” a million dollars or some such figure in order to retire so people feel they have to do that. It’s really hard to realize that maybe, just maybe, you can do things differently from what “they” tell us we need to do.

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  3. Roy Marvelous March 1, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    Totally agree. It’s a lifestyle decision and matter of priorities. I don’t need nice things so I save money there and splash out on travel. When I’m in expensive cities I’m frugal but enjoy myself in cheaper places.

    Also, I always try to work and travel. It’s a great feeling knowing that you’re somewhere new but not depleting your savings.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Roy Marvelous, There are so many ways of doing it. Some people prefer to save up for a few years so they don’t have to worry about working while traveling; others prefer to work and travel at the same time. There is no right or wrong, but it IS very doable no matter which way works for you.

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  4. Ian [EagerExistence] March 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    “I would love to travel like you do,” she said, “but there is no way I could afford it.”

    — the number of times I have heard that one *sigh*

    But some people, no matter how many times we tell them its possible, they just keep on saying it …”oh, you’re just so lucky”.

    I just came back from a year long trip in Europe (yes, expensive) and it costed $23,000. Wow! Thats a lot. But how much do you spend sitting at home, on your couch every night? A damn-sight lot more I’m guessing. Travelling can be cheaper than staying at home.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Ian [EagerExistence], Very true. I think most people spend more than $23K per year staying at home. But you’re right – I think they don’t WANT to realize they can travel. They want it to remain some unreachable dream.

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  5. gabi klaf March 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    Nancy,
    As usual you bring together our community with your light and clarity. We are two weeks shy of year one of world travel, and guess what? we’ve gotten so good at living the life and saving money, that we’ve just realized we have enough money left to travel for twice as long as we anticipated. We’ll be leaving South America and heading for the Far East soon, living on so little money, it’s not even funny.
    Thanks for another great post!
    Gabi

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @gabi klaf, Keep telling people that Gabi! I really think if people knew what you know, more of them would be out traveling.

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  6. Bethany ~ twoOregonians March 1, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    And the beautiful thing about learning to spend wisely and prioritize saving well at home is that it’s become so much easier to travel lightly now that we’re on the road. It’s easier to resist thoughtless spending (oh, the souvenirs I used to buy when I was younger!) – and to now intentionally open our wallets and trade our hard earned and hard saved dollars on joyful experiences we’ve so long anticipated…

    Great round up of posts!

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Bethany ~ twoOregonians, That’s very true. While saving you’re learning good habits for continue to save.

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  7. reycroxas March 2, 2012 at 12:50 am #

    Great blog, I have been reading a lot about how to spend money wisely, and your site is very informative. My wife and I really like to travel. Your ideas and advise really is very helpful. Thank you.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @reycroxas, I think we get so caught up with the “keep up with the Jones'” stuff that we lose track of what’s really important to US. It really needs to be a conscious decision.

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  8. Yvette March 2, 2012 at 3:31 am #

    There was a study done a few years ago that stated how people when asked how much money they’d need to make to live comfortably and be “well off”/ able to be independently wealthy pretty much always say twice the amount that they are making right then. So if you make $30k you think you’ll be a high roller at $60k, if you make $1million you think $2million would make the real difference, etc.

    I guess what it comes down to is people LIKE to think that if they had “that kind of money” they’d only increase their standards of living a smidgen and save the rest (or heaven help you, go in the other direction and save a lot of what you have now!), very few people do because people tend to spend as much as they have. Sort of like how lottery winners usually don’t stay wealthy for the rest of their days I guess.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Yvette, That’s so very true. It’s kind of like how we tend to fill whatever space we have. We have a 1000-sq-foot home, we’ll fill it. If we have 5000 sq feet, we’ll fill that too.

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  9. Natalia March 2, 2012 at 5:05 am #

    Fantastic post, not just in terms of resources (so many! so great!) but also the attitude. We get the ‘you are so lucky …’ thing a lot too. But we made the decision to move half way around the world and permanently relocate partly so we would be able to more easily travel to the places that interest us. We don’t have a new car. We prioritise travel (often short -term and local, but still it is giving up our time and resources to do that rather than spend weekends at home). It’s not luck. It’s not that we are wealthy – we are a household living on one reasonable wage and living debt free. It’s that we made the decision and stuck by it.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Natalia, Absolutely. Make the decision and then stick to it. That’s the way to do it.

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  10. Iain Montgomery March 2, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    I’ve just thought when I’m spending money, “do I really need or want this”. If the answer is no, I put that amount of money into my travel kitty!

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Iain Montgomery, That’s the way to do it for sure. So hard to do…

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  11. Adam Mayfield March 2, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Great post! I spent a portion of 2011 traveling and it was my first out of the US and it was nothing shy of amazing. Prior to that thought I spent almost two years saving and selling everything I owned. It took some time but was worth it. This year (2012) won’t contain much travel for me but it is the start of something I hope will allow me to work on the road and from anywhere I can snag some internet.

    Keep traveling!

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Adam Mayfield, It’s all about setting your priorities, knowing what you want to do, and working for it! Sounds like that’s exactly what you’re doing!

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  12. Cam @ Traveling Canucks March 2, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    I think the big takeaway from all of these articles is that “IT CAN BE DONE!”
    Not having enough money to travel is simply an excuse. If you’re passionate about traveling and it’s important to you, there are manys ways to make it a reality

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Cam @ Traveling Canucks, Ain’t that the truth! Many people use the finance angle as an excuse.

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  13. Gavin Merritt March 2, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Great post enjoyed it. When we first made the decision to make travel a lifestyle people always asked us where are you going to get the money for that. At that time we had no real idea, however as with everything with this lifestyle when you make the decision the opportunities abound.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Gavin Merritt, Love that – had no idea where the money would come from, but trusted it would!

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  14. jen March 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    Great resources. I can’t wait to go through them all!

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @jen, There really are some good ones in there. Hopefully people will be inspired to follow their dreams!

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  15. Tracy ~ @TravelFit March 3, 2012 at 6:00 am #

    Another great post and resources. Like lots of travelers you mentioned, this is the number one questions we all get. One thing about when you do ‘get away’ is that it makes it helps clarify what you want your priorities to be.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Tracy ~ @TravelFit, It’s always so hard to see the possibilities, but once you see them there’s no holding back!

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  16. Nicholas March 3, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    Thanks for the useful tips. I think I like my job too much to drop everything to travel the world. But i will definately be looking into a family vacation at the end of the year.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Nicholas, It’s such a personal thing. Whatever your dream is, it’s important that you make it happen!

    [Reply]

  17. Robert Schrader March 4, 2012 at 2:27 am #

    Thanks so much for including me on the list! I know other travelers of modest means reading this will soon able to travel as much as all of us travel bloggers!

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Robert Schrader, I hope so! I love how there are so many posts out there about how normal people made it happen.

    [Reply]

  18. This Battered Suitcase March 4, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    Thank you very much for including me on the list! I am constantly learning new ways of saving money to travel, and it’s great to have so many resources all in one article. Thanks again!

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @This Battered Suitcase, What I love is that every single one of us made it happen OUR way. I may be able to take inspiration from you, but ultimately it’ll happen my way. That’s what I love about all these posts – it shows us there are many, many ways to get there.

    [Reply]

  19. lisa Shusterman March 5, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    Nancy, I like your “cold hard truth” approach to financing long-term travel. As a previous financial planner, I can say that while I made money with investments, it was always the “lack of spending” that made me more! Beautiful collection of blog posts – thanks for including both of mine from Around the World in Easy Ways.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @lisa Shusterman, For sure. That lack of spending will always save more than living above your means.

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  20. Spencer March 5, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    Great tips! I am always looking for ways to finance my travels.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Spencer, I think it’s good to see how others made it happen and draw inspiration from them. It’s different for everybody, but we can certainly take ideas from others!

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  21. Bryce March 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    I have learned why you shouldn’t dream too big. Because it will never come true…

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Bryce, I respectfully disagree. It can come true if you make it come true.

    [Reply]

  22. Josephine Abisia March 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Excellent post Nancy! And +1 on your comment about dreams coming true!

    Thanks so much Vogel Family for sharing with us your remarkable life! Your effort centralizing invaluable resources is much appreciated! Your family inspires the world of possibilities (: Last year our family of 2, my husband I, made the decision to make our dream a reality and are travelling the world!

    We’ve been living on the road for nearly 12 months, and are enjoying our nomadic lifestyle!

    We still feel excited butterflies in our stomachs plus we’ve learned more than ever the power to fear less, live more, and act now!

    Very happy and safe travels! Our hope is we cross paths in our amazing world – our common home.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Josephine Abisia, YAY! You did it! It’s hard to overcome the fears and make it happen, but it’s possible – as you and so many others are proving.

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  23. Gev March 21, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    Our friends are always asking us how we can afford to travel so much and we often wondered why they couldn’t! It turns out not being homeowners or either of us driving has saved us a lot of money. We place great value on travel and are happy to get around without a car (especially a nice bike ride).

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Gev, There are so many ways to cut a little big off the budget if you really want to. It all comes down to priorities.

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  24. Mary April 6, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    My dream is to travel the world. I really wished I listened to my instincts and saved money then going to school and taking out student loans. School was a waste and I’m now stuck with debt. All I want to do is travel.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Mary, that’s a hard one. I can say with absolute certainty that my college degree has opened many doors and getting it was one of the best decisions in my life. Incurring tons of debt for a degree may not be worth it, but it’s hard to know.

    What I did to feed my travel bug was work overseas. I spent a total of 14 years working in other countries – jobs that I never would have gotten without my college degree. Could you maybe figure out something like that – something that will marry the two?

    [Reply]

  25. Adam Sommer September 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Love this post! One of the best I’ve read in awhile! “Priorities” is the key I think….if you make travel a priority, like anything else in life, you’ll make it happen!

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Adam Sommer, It really is all about priorities. Decide what you most want to do, then make it happen.

    [Reply]

  26. Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com January 5, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    Thanks for this resource, Nancy. It’d be very helpful to my readers, whose common question includes: how can I fund my travels? :) Sharing this on my page and through Twitter!

    [Reply]

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com, I think that is one of the most common all of us travel bloggers get :) That’s why I put this list together. Hope it helps!

    [Reply]

  27. GoingPlaces.sg January 8, 2013 at 1:49 am #

    I took the road less travelled two years back. While at times, I’m still wondering ‘where the hell am I now?”, I’m glad I had the courage to try our something different. When friends & ex-colleagues say they envy my lifestyle, I merely smile, but deep inside I wanna to say: ” You could have done it too.”

    [Reply]

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @GoingPlaces.sg, Ain’t that the truth? So many say they want to do it, but don’t make it a priority in life. There is nothing wrong with a stationary path through life, but it’s all about knowing which choice we’re making.

    [Reply]

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