Financially Sustainable Travel: My Cost of Full-Time Travel in 2012

by Nora on February 18, 2013

rural Caribbean sunset

 

For the last few years I’ve published my cost of full-time travel. When you employ creative slow-travel strategies, full-time travel just doesn’t have to be that expensive. I’ve consistently spent less money to travel full-time than I ever did to live in one place.

 

Here’s my cost of full-time travel in 2010.

Here’s the bottom line for 2011.

 

What I Did in 2012

The quick-and-dirty summary of my 2012 travels includes the following:

 

Here’s the more detailed version of the 8 countries and 20,000 miles I traversed in 2012.

 

Price Tag for 2012

Drum Roll, Please…

My total cost of full-time travel in 2012 was $28,032.

 

Now, some of you might be saying “Whoa. Nora. That’s not cheap”.

And you’d be right.

Scroll down for a monthly breakdown of my travel (and life) expenses, and an explanation for the increasing trend. Remember: Financially Sustainable Travel doesn’t have to be synonymous with bargain basement travel. (Although often, it begins that way).

 

Monthly Breakdown

St Martin Beach

January

Grenada, St Martin

$671 USD 

Starting in Grenada, I flew to St Martin and spent most of the month volunteering informally on a boat and acclimatizing to the nautical way of life.

Breakdown

Food & Drink: $337

Personal Effects: $80

Phone: $25

Entertainment: $117

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $62

 

 

February

St Martin, BVIs

$1,425 USD

Partway through the month, I “jumped ship” and sailed to the BVIs on another boat, then hopped on a wee little plane back to St Martin.

Breakdown

Food & Drink: $443

Transportation : $335

Phone: $10

Personal Effects: $226

Entertainment: $100

Gifts: $108

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $153

 

30AMarch

St Martin, USA

$1,625 USD

After a short spell back in St Martin, I flew to Florida to visit some friends around the state, including Hollywood and the Gulf Coast.

Breakdown

Food & Drink: $142

Transportation: $593

Groceries: $410

Phone: $46

Personal Effects: $25

Gifts: $173

Medical: $163

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $23

 

April

Grenada

$740 USD

I flew back to Grenada for my second round of house-sitting in a beautiful spot on the island, checking out Easter Sunday celebrations and learning to “lime”.

Breakdown

Food & Drink: $218

Transportation: $162

Groceries: $178

Phone: $29

Personal Effects: $14

Gifts: $52

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $37

 

 

Grenada beachMay

Grenada

$995 USD

My house-sitting gig continued through May, with a few exploratory journeys to Sulphur Springs and turtle watching.

Breakdown

Food & Drink: $395

Transportation: $125

Groceries: $302

Phone: $15

Personal Effects: $19

Medical: $20

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $69

 

 

June

Grenada, Switzerland

$3,023 USD

I left my house-sitting gig in Grenada and headed straight to Switzerland for a few months of house-sitting in the land of all things Swiss.

The high cost of transportation includes a return flight from Grenada to Switzerland, as well as local transportation and fuel in Switzerland. The erroneous phone bill was largely due to extensive long-distance calls for a variety of reasons.

Breakdown

Food & Drink: $421

Transportation: $1,516

Groceries: $251

Phone: $205

Personal Effects: $315

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $265

 

 

Swiss village in the AlpsJuly

Switzerland, France

$2,853 USD

I enjoyed the luxuries of my accommodation in Switzerland, explored Lucerne and Zurich, and climbed a mountain or two.

I also took the train to Paris for a long weekend (hence the Transportation costs), and my annual bill for property insurance came due. The larger expenditures in the Food & Drink and Groceries categories are from having a few house guests over the course of the month.

Breakdown

Food & Drink: $441

Transportation: $601

Groceries: $678

Phone: $45

Personal Effects: $479

Medical: $233

Gifts: $122

Insurance: $218

Business & Banking: $36

 

 

August

Switzerland, England

$3,342 USD

I capped off my house-sitting gig in Switzerland with quite a few heartwarming adventures, before flying to London for a couple of weeks. London ain’t cheap (hence the Food & Drink and Groceries totals), and the large Business & Banking costs were due to me treating myself to an iPhone.

Breakdown

Food & Drink: $780

Transportation: $510

Groceries: $617

Phone: $84

Personal Effects: $337

Gifts: $156

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $808

 

 

the view from my bathroom and bedroomSeptember

Grenada

$5,482 USD

I returned to Grenada, this time to set up a home base and “shack up” with my partner. The high cost of transportation came from buying a scooter, which would pay for itself in less than a year of the household riding the bus.

The large business expense reflects the deposit paid for my website redesign, and the insurance expense is my annual premium for expat insurance. You’ll also see a new category: Housing.

Breakdown

Food & Drink: $81

Transportation: $2,255

Groceries: $513

Phone: $11

Personal Effects: $90

Medical: $19

Insurance: $1,263

Business & Banking: $834

Housing: $416

 

 

October

Grenada

$3,453 USD

I lay low in October, enjoying the quirks and surprises Grenada has to offer, while also launching my newly designed site and the popular free series How to Travel Full-Time in a Financially Sustainable Way.

Housing and Grocery/Food expenses were erratic from October through December; with two income-earners in the house, some months I pay for more than others.

Breakdown

Food & Drink: $549

Transportation: $214

Groceries: $663

Phone: $20

Medical: $9

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $993

Housing: $955

 

 

Toronto skyline at nightNovember

Grenada, Canada

$3,045 USD

November was largely uneventful, save for a trip to Toronto to visit my family and friends, do a little Christmas shopping for Grenada (thus the Transportation and Personal Effects expenses), and take care of some business.

Breakdown

Food & Drink: $436

Transportation: $790

Groceries: $351

Phone: $34

Personal Effects: $624

Medical: $12

Gifts: $300

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $158

Housing: $290

 

 

December

Grenada

$1,378 USD

December was a quiet month in Grenada, sharing good company and many laughs with friends – both local and visiting from abroad.

Breakdown

Food & Drink: $469

Transportation: $65

Groceries: $544

Phone: $79

Personal Effects: $92

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $22

Housing: $57

 

 

Expenses are way up! What happened?

My expenses for 2012 were more than $10,000 higher than the the previous few years of full-time travels. There are a few reasons for this:

  • I took quite a few flights this year, some of which were uncharacteristically short trips for me (such as my week-long trip from Grenada to Toronto).
  • I invested into my business with site redesigns and new ventures.
  • I spent time in urban areas like Zurich, Paris, London, and Toronto – which always means I spend more money.
  • I incorporated my life with that of a partner. This has meant a bit of extra spending in the throes of heady love.
  • I’ve always maintained that “living” in one place is more expensive than traveling full-time, and the increased housing and food expenses in the last few months of 2012 have proven that to be true.

 

Lastly, as you saw in my post detailing my 2012 Income, you’ll see that my income also made a big jump in 2012. Thus, I felt quite at liberty to treat myself to spending more money in tandem. I bought high-quality groceries (and Switzerland was a hot-bed for wonderful food), treated myself to clothes and personal effects, and heck – if I wanted lobster (and the price was right), I had lobster.

 

No Apologies

 

I won’t apologize for not keeping my spending in the “budget traveler” range. This site is about financially sustainable travel; in the first few years of traveling and building my business I didn’t have much income, so I had to get creative in keeping my travel expenses within my income range.

And I did.

But now, with more income coming in, I am reaping the benefits of the blood, sweat, and tears I’ve poured into my freelance writing career, and I’m rewarding myself for it.

I’m still spending within my means, hence I’m financially sustainable. “Financially sustainable” doesn’t need to mean “cheap”.

 

My travel style has changed with establishing a home base in Grenada, but it doesn’t mean I’ll stop traveling – and you can almost always bet I’ll still be doing it in a creative and low-cost way.

And life happens while we’re busy making plans; who knows what the future will bring. Grenada is home for now, but may not be home forever; my partner has a similar travel bug, and we’ve already got a few long-term travel opportunities planned for this year.

Let’s see what happens!

 

Fellow long-term and full-time travelers: what was your cost of travel in 2012? 

 

 

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tiffany February 18, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Thanks for such a detailed 2012 break down. Glad you are able to enjoy good food and setting a such a great example for sustainable travel.

Reply

2 theprofessionalhobo February 19, 2013 at 10:27 am

Thanks, Tiffany! Happy travels….

Reply

3 Kim Olson February 19, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Terrific post! I think it’s great that you were able to do all that traveling for that amount. I realize some wouldn’t consider that “budget,” but like you said above, you “consistently spent less money to travel full-time than I ever did to live in one place.” How awesome is it that you were able to have all those new experiences for less than when you were rooted.

Reply

4 theprofessionalhobo February 20, 2013 at 11:03 am

Hey Kim – Indeed! And for travelers who want to see how it can be done for less – way less – check out my cost of full-time travel for 2011 and 2010, which were both about 10k cheaper….

Reply

5 suki February 21, 2013 at 3:02 am

It’s nice to see what sustainable travel vs budget travel looks like b/c as one who only goes when I have PTO, I’m willing to splurge just a little bit for that short period of time… It ends up being mostly transportation or food…

Reply

6 theprofessionalhobo February 21, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Splurging (as long as it’s in your financial means) is totally okay! And when you can choose and plan for your splurges, it’s all the more fun. I too love splurging on good food….yummy!

Reply

7 The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) February 21, 2013 at 4:38 am

That’s a really good run-down of your expenses and I hope it encourages people to travel more as they see it doesn’t cost nearly as much as they probably think that it does.

Do you publish a similar break-down for your monthly earnings vs. your spending? I’m always looking for bloggers to publish the results of how much they earn compared to what they spend. I think if people saw that you could actually save money while traveling more would be inclined to pack up and go nomadic.

Reply

8 theprofessionalhobo February 21, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Hi Ellen – Here’s my post about how much I earned in 2012 (although I didn’t break it down monthly, it was pretty even throughout the year).
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2013/01/financially-sustainable-travel-my-2012-income/
And yes – I actually earned quite a bit more than I spent – over $10,000 more! So it’s very possible to save money on the road.

Reply

9 Hannah @ Getting Stamped February 21, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Great detail! We plan on listing what we spend each month and then by country on our upcoming RTW trip! You did a lot of this year, and your figure to me looks great! Keep up the good work!

Reply

10 theprofessionalhobo February 21, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Good stuff Hannah! Although it’s a bit of a chore I actually get a lot of satisfaction out of tracking my expenses and seeing just how much I spend to travel full-time.
Good luck in your own expense-tracking endeavours….and happy travels. Please do report back here on what your expenses end up being…

Reply

11 Turner February 21, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Nice summary. About to say, some of those months were pretty expensive, much more than I usually spend stateside.

Reply

12 theprofessionalhobo February 21, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Thanks, Turner! Yep, no getting around the fact that some months were pretty pricey. But those months also usually entailed large lump sum expenses like web redesigns or annual premiums for medical insurance. Take out those larger items, and I still think my average monthly expenditures are still relatively reasonable. No?

Reply

13 Kim February 22, 2013 at 2:30 am

Thanks for sharing this. It always helps when us travelers are transparent about costs.

Reply

14 theprofessionalhobo February 22, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Thanks Kim! How does this compare to your own traveling figures since you started traveling full-time?

Reply

15 kyle February 22, 2013 at 3:18 am

Lately i have been considsering being a travelling house sitter.My background in Property Management should help.Any suggestions as to how to start before joining any specific site?
THANK YOU,
btw-this blog has been very informative.

Reply

16 theprofessionalhobo February 22, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Hey Kyle,
I too have experience in Property Management, but my experience is more commercial and apartment buildings, so I found it only marginally helpful.
Here’s some good info for you on house-sitting:
http://www.wisebread.com/10-tips-for-landing-the-perfect-house-sitting-gig
and
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2012/05/house-sitting-nice-work-heres-how-to-get-it/

Reply

17 Claudia February 22, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Oh, it was absolutely interesting to read about average expenses this time, and highly motivational since it demonstrates that a hobo career can earn you not only a life on a shoestring but also a slightly better off one! well done, Nora!

Reply

18 theprofessionalhobo February 22, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Thanks, Claudia! Indeed….being a hobo doesn’t necessarily mean being “homeless” in the I-live-in-a-cardboard-box-and-eat-spam sense….unless it’s a personal choice…(smiles)

Reply

19 Bethaney - Flashpacker Family February 22, 2013 at 4:45 pm

This is brilliant Nora! Given what you did throughout the year, the price tag isn’t too shabby at all. I really admire your ability to keep track of your expenses so diligently. I try to do that when I travel but I get lazy and lose track of things after a few weeks. Any tips?

Reply

20 theprofessionalhobo February 22, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Hi Bethaney – Admittedly, tracking expenses requires some commitment, but it’s also the first step to creating a realistic budget (while traveling or at home) and then stick to it. And once you get used to tracking your expenses for a while the habit is formed and it’s not terribly onerous.
I tend to use a mobile app to make it easy to enter expenses as I incur them, and my current app of choice is Trail Wallet (I’ll be reviewing it soon).
Also, a big motivation to track expenses is my (self-imposed) obligation to illustrate the cost of full-time travel – both for this site and for my own sense of curiosity.

Here’s a primer on tracking expenses:
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2012/04/financial-travel-tip-23-budgeting-and-tracking-travel-expenses/

Reply

21 Nicole @ Suitcase Stories February 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Thank for sharing these details Nora. We are a little like yourself; While we don’t go crazy, we also don’t travel to a very low budget. We worked very hard in our ‘old life’ and now, in our new nomadic life, we want to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

We don’t go crazy of course (we want to live this lifestyle for some time so we still need to be watchful) but Im at an age and time in my life where I don’t want to live in hostels and constantly eat street food and 2 minute noodles!

No one should ever have to apologize for how they choose to travel! There are many ways to travel from low budget to 5 star and everything in between. It doesn’t matter HOW we travel, just that we do.

Reply

22 theprofessionalhobo February 22, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Great point Nicole; travel styles, goals, and preferences are very unique decisions to each traveler – each with their own unique price tag.
When I realized the big jump I’d made in my travel expenses in 2012 (over the previous couple of years), I felt a need to justify it, since in the past I really made a splash with articles like “How to Travel Full-Time for $17,000/Year or Less”….
http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-travel-full-time-for-17000-a-year-or-less

So thank you for your support in having a larger travel budget, and like you, I think it’s time to enjoy some of the rewards from hard work done in years past and present.

Reply

23 kyle February 23, 2013 at 12:05 am

LOL!
Thats exactly the experience i have.
thanks for the info.
be well

Reply

24 theprofessionalhobo February 23, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Hi Kyle – Do you mean that your own cost of full-time travel is similar?
I’m glad you enjoyed the info!

Reply

25 kyle February 23, 2013 at 2:18 pm

no-
that i am experienced in both commercial and residential aspects of management.
would love to see myself somewhere interesting in a month or two.lol.
one concern though is i’ve noticed so far there are no ethnic house sitters.
it wouldnt at all be surprising about “reservations/stigmas”,but such is life.
thanks a bunch

Reply

26 theprofessionalhobo February 23, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Kyle – Well, it depends on your definition of “ethnic”, which I’m guessing you mean as being a visible minority. It depends on the home owners, their preferences and their neighbourhood, and the location of the home. I’ve seen lots of opportunities in latin america, for example, where speaking Spanish and being of latin american descent would be ideal.

Also, don’t give up or take it personally if you find it tough to score a house-sitting gig. I have applied for dozens of opportunities and never even heard a word back. There’s a lot of competition, and often it boils down to how quickly you respond to the listing.

Reply

27 Steve February 24, 2013 at 11:54 am

GREAT info Nora. Now the next BIG question is which deserves a part 2 article or follow up is–How much did you make and how?? Its great to see that 28k for decent to great living is all it takes but just as important to see where the income is to pay that debt!

Reply

28 theprofessionalhobo February 24, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Hi Steve,
I actually wrote about my 2012 income a few weeks ago and linked to it in this post, but apparently not overtly enough! 🙂

Here it is:
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2013/01/financially-sustainable-travel-my-2012-income/

And if you’re still curious: my 2011 income:
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2012/03/financially-sustainable-travel-part-1-my-2011-income/

And my 2011 Expenses:
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2012/01/my-cost-of-full-time-travel-in-2011/

And just to reiterate, for the previous two years I’ve spent about $17,000/year to travel and live full-time. This year my income jumped, so up my expenses went too – largely by choice.

Reply

29 Ron | Active Planet Travels March 3, 2013 at 11:39 am

Fantastic breakdown! Most of it isn’t really in an extreme budget travelers range but then again just like you said “budget travel” isn’t the same as “sustainable travel”. Keep up the great work with your site, it definitely shows! 😀

Reply

30 theprofessionalhobo March 4, 2013 at 7:18 am

Thanks, Ron – I’m so glad you like my site, and that you appreciate my breakdowns! Happy travels….

Reply

31 Jessica | Independent Travel Cats November 30, 2013 at 9:57 pm

I just found your website and love the transparency about your living/travel expenses and income! These are really helpful breakdowns and I hope someday I am able to do financially sustainable travel full time.

Reply

32 theprofessionalhobo December 1, 2013 at 9:39 am

Thanks, Jessica – and happy travel planning! 🙂

Reply

33 Jeff June 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm

You mentioned house sitting in your financial breakdown for 2012.
How does one find/qualify for a house sitting gig in Europe?
Geezer and Spring Chicken are piqued with interest.
Thank you.

Reply

34 Nora Dunn June 20, 2014 at 11:02 am

Hi Jeff,
Here’s some more information on house-sitting:
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2013/05/financial-travel-tip-81-free-accommodation-with-house-sitting/

And if you’re interested in house-sitting as well as other forms of free accommodation, check this out:
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/travel-tips-resources/get-free-accommodation-around-world/

Reply

35 Wanda February 23, 2015 at 5:12 am

omg. I am amazed at the high sums involved. Yes really! I live, pay rent, pay taxes, utility bills, food, and all the necessaries for life, on £15,000 (uk) per annum. I don’t like it, because I subsist at the lower end of society, but that is my world, and for many reasons (my health, age, etc) I have no opportunity to increase my standard of living. What I would give to live “sustainably” on $28,000 whilst simultaneously travelling the world. What I would give……..

Reply

36 Nora Dunn February 23, 2015 at 7:05 pm

Wanda,
If you look at my cost of full-time travel in 2010 and 2011 (links at the beginning of this post), you’ll see that my cost is $17,000 – which is 11,000GBP – much LESS than you’re currently living on in what appears to be relative misery.

Reply

37 Wanda February 23, 2015 at 7:27 pm

Your reference to your 2010-2011 costs would not be a true comparison – it’s not like-for-like. That was four or five years ago, and at that period my income was far lower than what it is today – so my point would have been the same even back then. Not that I’m sure what my point was. I think I was jealous of you, that’s what I meant by my phrase “What I would give…”
I enjoy your writings.

Reply

38 Nora Dunn February 24, 2015 at 11:13 am

Hi Wanda,
I understand you feel trapped by your lifestyle and income restrictions, and I feel for you. Even if you do nothing about it, I encourage you to look at it a different way. Inflation between 2010 and now doesn’t account for the change of my travel expenses, which as the years have gone by, have gone up not because the cost of living in general has, but because I’ve made different choices (such as starting to pay for accommodation instead of volunteering and house-sitting, or living in more expensive countries). If I wanted to go back to living and traveling full-time for less than $20,000 year, now, I could.
I’m a realist – and sometimes the things we want to do aren’t possible. But I also believe that more often than not we are our own worst enemies and restricting forces.
Thank you for your support, and I hope you manage to design the life you truly want.

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: