A reader who is planning an upcoming long-term travel adventure recently wrote me with the following question:
My idea is to do long-term work exchange, maximum 2-3 different places, possibly not too far from each other and only the ones which offer accommodation and food. My goal is to spend no more than $6,000/year. Is this totally unrealistic?
This is a great question. You could probably keep your travel budget that low, providing you do a few things:
1) Don’t travel internationally (stay on your continent). The farther you go, the more you’ll pay to get there (and back). A return flight from North America to Asia or Australasia is $1,000 – $1,500 – that’s up to 25% of your annual budget right there.
(See also: International Train Travel: An Evangelist’s Rant)
2) Volunteer at places that provide both accommodation and meals. These tend to be out-of-the-way locations, often quite rural, so you don’t really have a chance to spend money on anything other than food and accommodation – which is covered. (In my experience if I’m in a city, I spend more money).
3) Travel slooooooooowly. A minimum of 2-3 months in each destination is good, and like you say, if they’re pretty close to together you’ll save further travel expenses.
If you are volunteering in exchange for food/accommodation, your only expenses will be toiletries and personal effects, extras like drinks or trips into town (depending on where you are), and – this one’s a biggie – the travel expenses you incur between volunteer gigs. This is where you’ll rack up accommodation, food, and transportation expenses that can easily get out of hand, especially if you are coming out of 2-3 months of rural life and are suddenly in a city trying to recoup, restock, and rejig.
My cost of full-time travel is certainly not the same as other people’s costs, and this reader was not the first person to ask me if it can be done for under $10,000. It’s a matter of personal priorities, travel goals, and lifestyle choices. (We’ll talk about this more on Monday).
Check out the down-and-dirty details of my exact cost of full-time travel over the last couple of years: