Financially Sustainable Travel: My Cost of Full Time Travel in 2015

by Nora on February 15, 2016

Since 2010, I’ve published my cost of full time travel; an uncensored breakdown of all my expenses for the year, demonstrating that full time travel is much more achievable than most people think. (At the end of this article you’ll find links to cost breakdowns for previous years).

cost of full-time travel

 

What I Did in 2015

Here’s a quick summary of what 2015 held for me: (See Also: 6 Countries and 35,000 miles: This Was 2015)

  • 3 weeks in Peru
  • 2 weeks in Colombia
  • 1 week in Florida
  • 2 weeks in Colorado
  • 2 weeks in Costa Rica
  • 1 week in Florida
  • 4+ months in Peru (including a month in the jungle)
  • 2 weeks in Canada
  • 1 week in Bolivia
  • 1 month in Peru
  • 1 month in Canada
  • 2 months in Peru

Price Tag for 2015: $25,288

 

expense summary chart

 

Monthly Breakdown

All amounts have been converted to US Dollars for ease of comparison.

JANUARY (Peru, Colombia)

$1,296

Most of the month was spent in my little home in Peru. Transportation expenses are my flights to Colombia towards the end of January.

Accommodation: $482

Transportation: $326

Food & Drink: $148

Groceries: $91

Personal: $115

Business/Banking: $105

Tours/Activities: $19

Education: $10

 

FEBRUARY (Colombia, USA)

$2,596

Although I saved money on accommodation this month by staying with locals in Bogota, Florida, and Colorado, my other expenses more than made up for it. Transportation included flights from Colombia to Florida to Colorado, as well as flights to Costa Rica that I used at the very end of February. Food and drink expenses are up due to being in the States, as are my personal expenses in accumulating a few things and indulging in fancy hair appointments and pedicures. The hefty tour/activities expense is a day of skiing in Colorado (which wasn’t cheap, but was fun).

Accommodation: $0

Transportation: $603

Food & Drink: $523

Groceries: $294

Phone/Internet: $20

Personal: $519

Business/Banking: $162

Medical: $168

Gifts: $52

Tours/Activities: $255

MARCH (Costa Rica, USA, Peru)

$2,125

Given that Costa Rica isn’t the world’s cheapest place to travel to, I did pretty well (and lived very well) in March. Transportation includes flights from Costa Rica back to Peru (via Florida), and accommodation includes three weeks staying at a friend’s resort in Costa Rica (which included most meals).

Accommodation: $698

Transportation: $721

Food & Drink: $261

Groceries: $122

Phone/Internet: $97

Personal: $63

Business/Banking: $68

Gifts: $40

Tours/Activities: $55

APRIL (Peru)

$1,596

Settling back into my life in Peru, my expenses also went back down. Even so, I had multiple massages and healing sessions (in the “personal” category), and participated in a 2-week san pedro retreat with my teacher, to help further my experience with plant medicine as part of my apprenticeship. Education expenses in Peru include regular private Spanish classes.

Accommodation: $463

Transportation: $20

Food & Drink: $94

Groceries: $180

Phone/Internet: $58

Personal: $159

Business/Banking: $114

Tours/Activities: $479

Education: $29

MAY (Peru)

$1,662

May’s expenses are a bit inflated for what I actually did, in that there’s a hefty transportation expense that represents my flights to and from the jungle – where I spent most of June. The tour expense was a trek to Lares Hot Springs; something I did the year prior and loved so much I did it again.

Accommodation: $408

Transportation: $432

Food & Drink: $176

Groceries: $130

Phone/Internet: $54

Personal: $140

Business/Banking: $155

Medical: $47

Tours/Activities: $101

Education: $19

 

JUNE (Peru)

$2,400

I spent most of June in the jungles of Peru near Iquitos, studying with my teacher’s teacher and doing a plant diet. This accounts for the accommodation expense, which also included meals. The business/banking expenses this month include the annual fee for one of my credit cards.

Accommodation: $1,895

Transportation: $26

Food & Drink: $103

Groceries: $97

Phone/Internet: $50

Personal: $16

Business/Banking: $202

Gifts: $11

 

JULY (Peru)

$1,677

It seems that my basic cost of living in Peru is about $1,200/month (and that includes eating out etc). But I always seem to exceed it for one reason or another. This month it was in spending almost $500 on another 2-week plant medicine retreat. These expenses come back to me tenfold however, in that it helps me to not only experience amazing personal growth and transformation, but also is training for working with my teacher and assisting in ceremonies (which I am paid for).

Accommodation: $524

Transportation: $1

Food & Drink: $130

Groceries: $107

Phone/Internet: $50

Personal: $148

Business/Banking: $102

Gifts: $119

Tours/Activities: $496

 

AUGUST (Peru, Canada)

$2,625

Considering I flew return from Peru to Canada (something that costs a bare minimum of $1,500), I hope you’re impressed with my transportation expenses which were under $400. If I told you I flew in business class, then would you be impressed? Good. Because I did. (Here’s how).

But, being back in Canada, I had a huge list of things to get and bring back down to Peru, and thus my personal expenses skyrocketed. As did my food & drink expenses, in going out with family and friends and enjoying social time. Business expenses included annual dues for my Zenfolio account (a very useful photo storage/hosting application), and the purchase of a new adaptor for my laptop.

Accommodation: $578

Transportation: $373

Food & Drink: $277

Groceries: $192

Phone/Internet: $77

Personal: $674

Business/Banking: $231

Gifts: $31

Medical: $100

Tours/Activities: $92

SEPTEMBER (Peru, Bolivia)

$4,005

This was my biggest spending month of the year – September usually is, since it’s when I pay my annual dues for expat insurance, and my web hosting fees. Expenses are also high due to a last-minute trip I had to make back to Canada again at the very end of the month (hence the transportation expense; I wasn’t so lucky this time around with frequent flyer mile availability). Accommodation is a bit higher than normal due to a quick trip to Bolivia with a friend.

Accommodation: $636

Transportation: $1,118

Food & Drink: $160

Groceries: $138

Phone/Internet: $77

Personal: $235

Business/Banking: $228

Gifts: $28

Insurance: $1,381

Tours/Activities: $4

OCTOBER (Canada)

$2,072

Given that I spent most of October in Canada, my expenses are up and down. My business expenses are a bit high due to the purchase of some handy equipment, but my accommodation expense is lower because my landlord in Peru allowed me to just pay half the rent given my absence. Transportation represents my (business class) flights back to Peru which is pretty reasonable given that the same flight in economy would be double the price. But of course, because I was back in Canada, my personal expenses were high; this seems to be unavoidable for me.

Accommodation: $256

Transportation: $414

Food & Drink: $170

Groceries: $255

Phone/Internet: $49

Personal: $416

Business/Banking: $328

Gifts: $184

NOVEMBER (Peru)

$1,217

Finally – a month in Peru where little more than the basic living expenses were expected of me! Even so, I spent almost $170 in medical expenses, which included healing sessions and weekly massages to try and heal a chronic hip injury I’m sick of living with.

Accommodation: $552

Transportation: $35

Food & Drink: $69

Groceries: $143

Phone/Internet: $51

Business/Banking: $71

Medical: $169

Gifts: $36

Tours/Activities: $91

DECEMBER (Peru)

$2,017

I spent most of December doing another shamanic plant diet (similar to what I did in the jungle in June, except from the comforts of home this time). Thus I spent a bit more on food and drink because I paid for my meals to be prepared, since energy levels can be very low during a plant dieta. The dieta also accounts for my tours/activities expense.

Accommodation: $535

Transportation: $16

Food & Drink: $298

Groceries: $100

Phone/Internet: $49

Personal: $132

Business/Banking: $124

Medical: $117

Gifts: $116

Tours/Activities: $530

 

Summary Notes

With a home base in Peru, I was curious to see how my expenses would change in 2015. Over the years I’ve maintained that full-time travel is cheaper than living in one place; one reason for that is because even when you travel, you continue to have the expenses of maintaining your home. On that front I was lucky in 2015, because most of time I traveled, I was able to sublet or get a break on the rent from my landlord (who is also a friend). And my rent is pretty cheap to begin with; I pay about $500/month for a fully furnished three-bedroom house on a large property. But $500/month is still $6,000/year more than I paid when I got free accommodation all year round in the early years of my full-time travels.

But overall, I’ve found that my annual expenses are trending back down. In 2014 I spent $3,000 more, which in turn was down significantly from a ridiculous year of unanticipated expensive emergencies in 2013. 2012 was comparable to 2014, but it all pales in comparison to my annual expenditures of just $17,000 in 2011 and 2010.

I also spent a fair bit of money on my shamanic plant medicine studies this year (about $3,000, including my trip to the jungle) – an investment that is paying off not only in the form of personal transformation, but also in acquiring the skills that allow me to assist my teacher with his ceremonies – and get paid for it.

How much do I care that I’m spending more now than I did five years ago? Not so much. I’m also earning more than I did back then, so I can afford to spend more.

I track and publish my annual expenses and income not because I’m trying to live on a shoestring budget, but rather because I like to live and travel in a financially sustainable way, and I’m committed to making that happen, and helping others to do the same.

When I want lobster – I eat lobster. I’m living a very good life in Peru (and around the world), with the added benefit of currency arbitrage on my side. I’m not afraid to spend money on the things I love, which is why my personal expenses skyrocketed every time I went back to Canada and bought any number of things that would make my life in Peru comfortable, if not luxurious.

How much did you spend in 2015? Was it a surprise in any way?

 

For previous annual reviews of my cost of full-time travel, check these posts out:

My Cost of Full Time Travel for 2014

My Cost of Full Time Travel for 2013

My Cost of Full Time Travel for 2012

My Cost of Full Time Travel for 2011

Ditto for 2010

 

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Conni Biesalski February 15, 2016 at 8:47 pm

Hi Nora

Thanks a lot for your insights!

Do you still track your expenses with Trail Wallet? And do you really do it every single day or do you write down expenses and then bulk record them in the app?

And where or with whom are you doing the shamanic plant medicine studies?

Love from New Zealand
Conni.

Reply

2 Nora February 15, 2016 at 9:30 pm

Hey Conni,
Unfortunately I don’t have an iPhone any more, so I don’t use Trail Wallet (which I dearly miss)…and yes, I track all expenses as I incur them each day. (I use a spreadsheet app on my phone and organize my expenses on my computer at the end of each month).
As for my plant medicine studies, my teacher is Javier at http://www.ayaruna.com in Peru. More on that here: http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2015/05/becoming-a-shaman/

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3 Ilja February 16, 2016 at 7:46 am

Hi Nora.

Your costs are low, accomodation and Transportation very very low. What are those business/banking costs, that seems very much each month. I would be so great if I could make and spent that much. I’m a nummers guy and I can’t het it to work for me. Mostly because i have no income if i quite working this temp.job.

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4 Nora February 16, 2016 at 11:42 am

Hi Ilja,
If you think my accommodation expense was low in 2015, you should see my 2011 accommodation expenses – which was $173 for the ENTIRE year! I did this by getting Free Accommodation (and here’s how you can do it too: http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/travel-tips-resources/get-free-accommodation-around-world/).
My business/banking costs include monthly fees for my newsletter service (Aweber – $50/month), as well as web hosting, sales platforms for my books, Paypal fees, etc. All in all, as the cost of running a business, I think it’s reasonable.

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5 Sheila February 16, 2016 at 4:14 pm

Great to see the breakdown. What i am interested in is if you also save money for later years. Eg living in your 70s or if you have a major medical emmergency such as a broken ankle etc. Living in peru seems to be relatively cheap. It would be good to see expenses as well as the bucket left over. E.g by month. Eg jan income was 2000 and expences were 1700. April income was 2000 and expences 2300 because of a flight to canada. Etc I like the fact that you did invest in skills that then gave you an income. An article on this would be good.

Reply

6 Nora February 17, 2016 at 10:46 am

Hi Sheila,
Although I don’t do a side-by-side comparison of my income versus expenses month by month, I do also publish my annual income and its sources. I don’t bother comparing month by month, because the life of any freelancer/entrepreneur is one of varied income. Thus, some months are up, and some are down. It’s all part of the game to do the bookkeeping accordingly; stash away savings on plush months, and use it as needed on lean months.
I have written a few times about saving for retirement as well: http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2015/03/financial-travel-tip-124-saving-for-retirement-while-traveling/

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7 Lisa February 17, 2016 at 3:46 am

Well, I haven’t really been one to diligently track expenses. I only have a ballpark of the expenses I incur on my trips. After reading this, I think it’s time I start doing that as well.

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8 Nora February 17, 2016 at 11:23 am

Hey Lisa,
I started tracking all my expenses a number of years ago, and I found it to be a very illuminating experience! Even when I’m not traveling – it’s a great way to see where money goes, and to me, it’s the most effective first step to creating a budget.

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9 marge February 18, 2016 at 9:27 pm

Thanks so much for sharing all of your info. It’s great to see how much it costs you to live as a traveler!

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10 Nora February 19, 2016 at 4:43 pm

Thanks, Marge!

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11 Cest La Vibe February 22, 2016 at 1:26 am

Wow! You certainly are good at keeping your costs down!

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12 Nora February 22, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Thanks! And to think I wasn’t even really trying to… 😉

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13 sopddeca February 26, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Transportation included flights from Colombia to Florida to Colorado, as well as flights to Costa Rica that I used at the very end of February. Where is this information?

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14 Nora February 27, 2016 at 10:32 am

Hi Sop,
I don’t understand what you’re looking for. Did you want to know what airlines I used?

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15 Sharon July 6, 2016 at 3:48 am

Hi Nora,
I wish you well. I am considering this awesome lifestyle but I have a small dog and I am a diabetic. How would I start this new lifestyle with my medical and pet needs? Thanks, Sharon

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16 Nora July 6, 2016 at 11:25 am

Hi Sharon,
It’s not impossible by any stretch!
Here’s an article I wrote a couple of years ago about traveling with pets, where I interviewed some nomadic travelers who manage this way: http://www.wisebread.com/23-tips-for-traveling-with-pets
As for traveling with medication, whenever I’ve had long-term prescriptions, I’ve filled them as much as I could before leaving, and had my doctor write a few refill prescriptions that I could fulfil in any pharmacy. Beyond that, you can usually contact your doctor from abroad with the details of a nearby pharmacy, and they can place the order directly with the pharmacy.
Hope this helps!

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17 Luis September 24, 2016 at 7:57 am

Hi, Nora

Thanks for share your information. Hope next year I can travel to Thailand to start my life as indie writer full time. So far I am using other job to pay my expenses and at the same time get income thanks to my books.

I am writing to you because I am surprised how expensive is eating and drinking on Peru. In April is almost 300$! How is that possible?? In Spain for my self I spend 140€.

If I have to make a decision weather quit my job and travel, or stay as I am doing now waiting to get more income using your expenses as a reference I would be depress. My goal is to spend 500€ per month living on Thailand or Manila or New Zealand. No way I can spend 1500-2000$ per month.

If you can give your point of view would be great.

Thanks!!

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18 Nora September 24, 2016 at 10:53 am

Hi Luis,
Ha ha – And April was one of my lower months for my spending on Groceries + Food & Drink!
You bring up a great point about budgets and spending choices. I’m don’t live like I’m on a budget, because I don’t need to. I have nothing to prove to anybody about how little money I can survive on. I’ve done it when I’ve needed to. But at the moment, I have enough income to spend more money on healthy groceries and eating out whenever I choose, and so I do.
If you can get by in Spain spending 140Euros on Groceries and Meals and Drinks out, then good for you! You’ll surely be able to live on a similar budget in other countries, and a much smaller budget in places like Thailand or Manila where the cost of living is much lower. (The cost of living in New Zealand is not lower, however, so if you need to live on a severe budget, you may want to wait to go there until you have more income, unless you have a free place to stay – like I did).
I don’t know how easy it would be to survive on 500Euros/month in Thailand, but I guess if you’re willing to live a very basic lifestyle and you’re creative about your expenses, then you might be able to get by.
Hope this helps!

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19 Luis September 25, 2016 at 4:58 am

Somehow I understood that the spirit of the freelance who likes travel is take care of the budget, but I see I was wrong in your case. Good for you that you can do whatever you like.
Thanks for the tip about New Zealand, maybe I will stay one month instead of three, still I have to work out my travel project. After check some webs I realized some countries need a visa or/and you have to show the airplane tickets with date of departure. Is not big a problem, but for sure will be more expensive moving from a country to another to get one more month of visa, for example Indonesia.

One of my biggest fears is to know if I will be able to write while I am travelling. Now I am writing at home, but not quite sure if I will find the conditions to write on Indonesia or Manila. That will be a challenge.

Well, thanks for your message. Happy travel

Reply

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