My Cost of Full-Time Travel in 2010 (less than you may think)

by Nora Dunn on February 21, 2011

working away in France

In 2010, I set foot in nine different countries and had dozens of varied experiences. (Click here for a video and summary of my 2010 travel adventures). Since I claim to travel in a financially sustainable manner, it’s only fair that I accurately record – and share – my actual cost of travel with you.

Although for years I’ve kept track of expenses for accounting purposes, it hasn’t been a fully comprehensive record of what I spend, since not everything I buy is tax-deductible. So last year, I took on the task of recording every single dollar/peso/yuan/bhat/whatever I spend. Although it’s a touch pedantic, I also find it rewarding and am continuing to do it this year as well.

Recording my actual expenses has been an interesting exercise in reaffirming that if you’re careful about how you spend your money, the full-time travel lifestyle costs less than living “conventionally”. Even though I spent most of the year in countries with a fairly high cost of living, my average daily expenses were as low as $9/day, and never (truly) higher than $70/day (including long-haul business class flights). And I had a bloody good time.



Here are my 2010 expenses, month by month:

(At the end of this post, you’ll find a country-by-county breakdown).

Note: All expenses have been converted from local currencies into Canadian Dollars.


January: $1,685

(Australia)

January was largely sedentary, as I was still in the throes of living a “homely” life with my (former) boyfriend Kelly. So the bulk of these expenses went to things like rent, utilities, car expenses, insurance, etc. The good news is that they were also shared with Kelly, which kept my actual personal costs lower.


February: $1,543

(Australia)

In February I branched out a little bit more, and Kelly took over many of the “home” expenses. So my cost of living above is largely one of travel: to Sydney, Canberra, and New Zealand. Among other erroneous costs, I incurred some unfortunate medical expenses, and hired somebody to clean up my website. This cost also includes return flights to New Zealand.


March: $1,480

(Australia: $1,090, New Zealand: $390)

March was spent finishing up my press trip to New Zealand, returning to Australia for a few weeks to pack my bags, and retracing my steps back to New Zealand to embark on the rest of the year’s adventures. Larger expenses for the month included some residual utilities from my place in Australia, airfare to New Zealand, and the purchase of an iTouch.


April: $137

(New Zealand)

Yup, you read it right. I spent a whopping $137 during the entire month of April. This was because I was volunteering in trade for my accommodation and meals at Mana Retreat, and there was simply nothing to spend my money on! The majority of the month’s expenses were incurred towards the end of April, when I moved on from Mana and hopped on a bus to Rotorua to visit some friends.


May: $1,279

(New Zealand)

Back to the “real world”! I spent a good portion of May staying with friends (aka: free accommodation), so my money was largely spent on living expenses like food, some side trips that I made around the North Island, and some major purchases (like a good pair of hiking shoes and some computer gear) in preparation for my trip to Europe.


June: $758

(New Zealand: $138, Spain: $620)

After saying goodbye (for now) to New Zealand (a country I’ve fallen in love with, and from where I’m writing this post), I hopped on an incredibly long series of flights to Spain, where I spent the rest of the month traveling around and volunteering. The cost of these flights has been worked into my monthly expenses, believe it or not.


July: $1,346

(Spain: $94, Germany: $371, France: $665, England: $216

I was on the move in July! Though I only spent two days of the month in Spain, the relatively high cost was one of transportation as I moved on to Germany to visit a friend for a week. In turn, most of my expenses in Germany were spent on transportation and refreshing my wardrobe with some new clothes.

In France, my biggest cost came in the form of accommodation (in Paris, which for once wasn’t with friends or in exchange for volunteer hours), food (ah…those patisseries!), and a few “splash-outs” given that I was traveling with my Mum and her partner who had made the trip over from Canada to spend some time with me.

Then, it was over to England, where I spent a few days with a friend in London (going to a show, eating out, and getting fleeced by the cost of local transportation), before heading to Hampshire to begin my house-sitting gig.


August: $2,016

(UK: $1,678, Ireland: $338)

Although the first few weeks of August were pretty inexpensive given that I was house-sitting, my expenses quickly escalated after moving on from that gig, and August became my biggest spending month of the year. The majority of this money was spent while traveling around Scotland with a friend; and at the height of the tourist season, we were renting cars, staying in hostels, and seeing the sights.

The last week of August was spent in Ireland, and most of my money went to transportation, and some birthday celebrations (aka: a few pints of Guinness).


September: $2,551

(Ireland: $635, France & Nepal: $1,837, Australia: $79)

Although this month may seem like my biggest month of the year, it is an inflated number, since over $1,600 of expenses (from France & Nepal) was actually an unrelated purchase of frequent flyer miles for future travel. Thus my actual travel expenses for September are realistically less than $1,000.

The biggest portion of the month’s spending happened in Ireland, and came from traveling to and attending a large music festival near Dublin. The remainder of my expenses for the rest of the month was covered by a travel television series I was filming the pilot episode with. So although I was traipsing all around the world, it was on somebody else’s dime! (Lucky me).


October: $1,319

(Australia)

I settled back into a familiar life in Australia staying mostly with friends, going out a few times, and venturing about to ride The Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide.


November: $1,844

(Australia)

In addition to continuing to spend time with my friends in Victoria, I also hit the road; re-visiting mates in Canberra and Sydney, as well as doing my epic train journey across the country and back on the Indian Pacific, riding over 11,000 kms of Australia’s rail system in just over 11 days in an attempt to see if I could become bored on a train.

Although you’d think that most of my expenses for the month would have been invested in this trip, it is actually a fallacy. Over $1,200 of November’s expenses went to my annual health insurance bill.


December: $632

(Australia: $497, New Zealand: $135)

In the first half of December I said goodbye to my Aussie mates, and hello (again) to New Zealand; a country I’ve come to feel quite at home in. Again between staying with friends and volunteering for accommodation, my expenses were quite low.



2010 Expenses by Country:


AUSTRALIA (January 1 – March 24): $4,318

(Avg Cost/Day: $53)


 


NEW ZEALAND (March 24 – June 10): $1,944

Average Cost/Day: $25

 


SPAIN (June 11 – July 2): $714

Average Cost/Day: $32


GERMANY (July 3-8): $371

Average Cost/Day: $62

 


FRANCE (July 8-25): $665

Average Cost/Day: $39


UK (July 26-Aug 25): $1,894

Average Cost/Day: $61


IRELAND (Aug 25-Sep 7): $973

Average Cost/Day: $69


FRANCE & NEPAL (Sept 7-28): $1,837

(over $1,600 was unrelated spending)

Average Cost/Day: $88 (without $1,600 expense: $11)


AUSTRALIA (Sept 28-Dec 15): $3,740

($1,200 was unrelated spending)

Average Cost/Day: $47 (without $1,200 expense: $32)


NEW ZEALAND (Dec 15-31): $135

Average Cost/Day: $9


MISCELLANEOUS RECURRING EXPENSES

$80: Paypal Fees (for receipt of funds)

$600: Life & Critical Illness Insurance


TOTAL EXPENDITURES FOR 2010: $17,271



As I touched upon earlier, I was no scrooge; I didn’t want for anything in 2010. I spent money when I wanted to spend money, I bought new clothes, I ate dinners out, and I enjoyed the company of friends in a number of scenarios – from drinking to hiking to sightseeing to attending festivals.

But in keeping my overall costs low by staying with friends volunteering, and employing some clever travel hacks, my cost of full-time travel was considerably less any full year I spent living a conventional life in Canada. And my location independent income as a writer more than covered my living expenses.


Fellow full-time travelers and armchair travelers alike: How does this compare to your own cost of living in 2010?

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Deb February 21, 2011 at 7:34 am

I always wondered what it would cost to travel full time. Your break down really helps put it in perspective. Thank you for sharing.

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Irina Sazonova February 21, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Honestly, that would be a bit much for me. Of course it should be taken into consideration that flying from Australia to pretty much anywhere is expensive, but nevertheless I think it really depends on what standard of life you have and what your relationship with money is.

However, I always think it’s a good idea to keep track of how much you spend. I’ve doing it for a couple of years and it surely lets me have a tighter grip on my wallet. You don’t really realize how much you spend until you see it written/typed in front of you.

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theprofessionalhobo February 21, 2011 at 6:46 pm

@Irina – You have a great point about how keeping track of expenses can be quite illuminating.
And remember – I could easily have traveled in 2010 for much less than this amount…but since I have enough income to support a more “lavish” lifestyle, I spend accordingly.
Having said that, you won’t likely find me at a bar, spending huge amounts on round after round of drinks; something that (in some countries) can be a bankrupting exercise. I choose my spending battles! :-)

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theprofessionalhobo February 21, 2011 at 6:49 pm

PS – Here’s a story of how a number of different people chose to spend their money on Taco Tuesday. It shows how we all make different choices when we travel.
http://www.wisebread.com/taco-tuesday-the-inner-mechanics-of-budgeting-on-vacation

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John Twohig February 22, 2011 at 10:08 am

Very impressive you really were able to control your spend. It looked a very interesting year and I am a little jealous. Your blog those show what can be achieved if you put your mind to a problem and plan well. JT

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theprofessionalhobo February 22, 2011 at 7:06 pm

@John – Thanks! It’s a little less about “controlling” what I spend, and a little more about being “conscious” about what I spend based on what’s important. It means I make sure that if I spend money, it’s for something I really want to do/own/eat/etc!

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Michael Hodson February 23, 2011 at 5:36 am

I am seriously impressed. I wish I could manage this sort of budgeting… or even keeping track anywhere near this fully. Well done.

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Kieron February 23, 2011 at 5:46 am

Great round-up – it’s awesome to know that you can do a year of traveling for that amount of money (and probably could have done it cheaper!). Gives us a lot of optimism for our upcoming travels!

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theprofessionalhobo February 25, 2011 at 1:40 am

@Michael – There are some good tools out there to help you estimate/budget/track your expenses. I was using budgetyourtrip.com for a while – it’s pretty good!
Here’s a review of it:
http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-budget-and-track-expenses-for-your-next-vacation

The trick is to find a method that’s easy for you to incorporate into your daily life, be it a notebook, iphone app, spreadsheet, or whatever. With a little bit of discipline, it can become a habit without too much grief.

@Kieron – Awesome….so I guess I’ll see you on the road soon! :-)

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Sunny February 26, 2011 at 2:01 pm

That’s pretty good!

When reading about your trip in Australia, my first taught was: it must cost her a fortune! But not.

Hope you’ll be able to continue to travel or do as wanted in 2011 and beyond.

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theprofessionalhobo February 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm

@Sunny – It helped in Australia to have a gaggle of friends to stay with, and that I received a complimentary train pass from GSR (Great Southern Rail).
But with the connections you can make online, it’s not that difficult to find free (or almost free) places to stay all over the world, and with cheap train passes, the world can be our oyster!

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Nomadic Matt February 28, 2011 at 11:11 am

I have issues with some of your numbers. If you didn’t stay with friends and went shopping, how was France only 39 dollars a day? That’s about 30 euros. A hostel alone is at least half that.

Also, does this list include flights? You bounced around a lot and there must have been a lot of money on flights.

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theprofessionalhobo March 1, 2011 at 4:50 pm

@Matt – You have “issues” – LOL! :-)

Okay, my time in France was 3 weeks, of which 5 days was spent in Paris where I spent money on accommodation. The rest of the time I stayed with friends, which is what lowered my average cost. I’m sorry I wasn’t more explicit about that. :-)

And yes, flights are included. Yay for frequent flyer miles! :-)

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Dani | Globetrottergirls March 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Wow, for being in a lot of ‘expensive’ countries, you kept your costs really low! And all the flights – wow! Amazing on how little money you can live. Our first year of travel will come to an end soon, and I will sit down and look at our total expenses too. I hope it’ll come to as little as you spent ;)

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theprofessionalhobo March 4, 2011 at 5:28 pm

@Dani – It would be great if you would share your own 2010 tally here when you’ve done it…I’m curious how much it costs others to travel full-time/long-term!

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Nomadic Matt March 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm

@nora ok that makes more sense now.

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lana March 22, 2013 at 1:29 am

What is the main airline you keep frequent flier miles?

I would like to hear what you do to keep busy while house sitting other
than the menial tasks.

How can you sustain a boyfriend while doing so much traveling?

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theprofessionalhobo March 22, 2013 at 11:17 am

Hi Iana,
Good questions.
I try to accumulate frequent flyer miles with one airline from each major alliance if I can.
Here are some strategies for you:
http://community.careonecredit.com/b/straight_talk_on_debt/archive/2013/02/14/fly-for-free-13-frequent-flyer-mile-strategies.aspx

Keeping busy while house-sitting isn’t difficult for me at all, since I run a business from my computer and require hours each day to work. In fact all the free time that house-sitting affords is perfect for giving me time and space to work! When I’m not working, I venture outside the house and explore what’s on my doorstep.
This is why I travel slowly…I’m generally living my way around the world rather than traveling through it.
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2012/07/traveling-without-moving-in-switzerland/

As for sustaining a boyfriend, I’ve had a few varying kicks at the can with that: I had one who traveled full-time with me for a few years; I had a failed relationship (or three) due to differing travel desires; and I currently have a partner who has a home base (and I with him), but who has flexibility to travel with me for at least part of the time I’m on the road. So far, it’s the best of both worlds!

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