My Cost of Full-Time Travel in 2011

by Nora on January 23, 2012

Every year I summarize my cost of full-time travel. It’s a great exercise in travel budgeting and expense tracking. And believe it or not, with the creative travel strategies I use to get free accommodation, travel slowly, and fly for pennies on the dollar, my cost of full-time travel is less than staying in one place.


Click here to see my cost of full-time travel in 2010.



What I Did in 2011

My full-time travels in 2011 had a lot of variety. The first five months was spent recovering from 2010(!) in New Zealand, then I had five months of hectic travels through North America, Europe, and Asia (including the Ultimate Train Challenge which spanned 10 countries on 29 trains in 30 days), and I finished off the year catching my breath once again on the Caribbean island of Grenada.


All in all I traversed 13 countries and 73,000kms in 2011. (Click here for a more detailed summary and video of my 2011 full-time travel adventures).



Price Tag for 2011

I was surprised to discover that my total expenses in 2011 were almost exactly what my full-time travel expenses were for 2010 (within $400)! This was far from intentional, and even a little surprising given some big-ticket purchases I had to make in 2011.


Drum Roll, Please…

My total cost of full-time travel in 2011 was $17,615.

All in. 


If you were to follow in my footsteps, you might have spent more, or you might have spent less. Travel is so very different for everybody (hence the popularity of my week-in-the-life series), and we tend to spend money on the things that are important to us and make adjustments in other areas that aren’t.


I could have spent less. But the end-goal for me is not to spend as little as possible; rather to simply spend within my means. (Which I do).


Because I specialize in finding free accommodation and flying for (almost) free, I am able to keep my overall expenses low enough that I don’t need to earn a lot of money in order to financially sustain my full-time travels.


Something must be working, because it has been five years and counting….




Following is a breakdown of my 2011 expenses, month by month. I’ve converted expenses from native currencies to US Dollars for ease of comprehension and comparison.




New Zealand

$524 USD


New Zealand


I started off the new year in New Zealand. January saw me traveling around the North Island, from Rotorua to Keri Keri. But I was exhausted from an incredibly busy 2010, and a desire to slow down the pace of my travel brought me back to my favourite haunt of Mana Retreat.


(I don’t have a specific breakdown of expenses for January, as I didn’t start recording my expenses in full detail until February. The month’s expenditures was largely a function of bus travel, food and drink, and gifts for hosts that I stayed with).





New Zealand

$725 USD

New Zealand at Mana Retreat


I volunteered in trade for accommodation and food at Mana Retreat for the month of February. Most of my expenses were discretionary and entertainment-related, with the exception of some banking fees, and $100 to extend my New Zealand visa.


February Breakdown

Food & Drink $177

Transportation $99

Phone $33

Personal Effects $74

Entertainment $133

Visa $109

Bank Fees $100




New Zealand

$467 USD

March in New Zealand

March was a relatively quiet month, spent largely at Mana Retreat, enjoying the views, the hikes, and the people. I also took a course in Reiki that makes up almost half the month’s expenses.


March Breakdown

Transportation $54

Personal Effects $55

Food & Drink $128

Bank Fees $35

Extras (Reiki course) $195





New Zealand

$604 USD

April in New Zealand


In April I continued to recover from travel fatigue at Mana Retreat, as well as making a few weekend trips to Auckland to “splash out” from my rural routine as well as to strut my vocal cords at a few performances.


$130 of the transportation cost was my plane ticket from New Zealand to Canada (where I would be heading for the summer – North American summer, that is).


Yes. I paid $130 to fly half-way around the world – and in business class no less. (Click here to see how I did it).


April Breakdown

Transportation $238

Personal Effects $40

Entertainment $98

Food $223

Bank Fees $5




New Zealand

$1294 USD

May in New Zealand


By my fifth month of living relatively rurally one place in New Zealand, I realized it was soon time to get moving again. My itchy feet resulted in me “splashing out” whenever I went into town! (I always spend more money in urban vs rural settings). My food & drink allocation is testament to said splashing out.


I also took a gospel singing workshop (that accounts for $130 of my entertainment expenses) at Mana Retreat that I count as one of the year’s highlights.


May Breakdown

Transportation $100

Food & Drink $453

Business Equipment $142

Entertainment $410

Personal Effects $173

Phone $16





Canada, USA

$1,641 USD

Enjoying business class

I’m on the move! With the onset of summer in Canada, I made the shift from southern hemisphere to northern (on my permanent mission to avoid winter). Most of June was spent in Toronto visiting family and friends. At the end of the month I took a quick trip to Florida (accounting for most of the transportation expenses) to visit a friend as part of the No Baggage Challenge.


You’ll see my food & drink allocation shot up, partly because I was no longer getting free meals (as I did at Mana Retreat), and also because I’ve consistently found that visits “home” end up involving lots of social calls, which in turn means lots of restaurants and cafes.


June Breakdown

Transportation $432

Food & Drink $747

Passport Renewal $117

Business $12

Entertainment $176

Personal Effects $157






$2,301 USD

sporting a new look in Quebec

I took a quick train trip to Quebec City on another No Baggage Challenge experiment, then spent most of the rest of the month in northern Ontario’s cottage country with family.


The high cost of transportation is made up of train tickets to/from Quebec (over $200), renting a car for the cottage ($300), and visa applications for China, Mongolia, Russia, and Vietnam in anticipation of the upcoming Ultimate Train Challenge in September.


I also got a nasty case of bronchitis (who gets bronchitis at the height of summer, you ask? Me. I do.) which cost me a few hundred dollars in doctor’s visits and pricey antibiotics.


July Breakdown

Transportation $1266

Food & Drink $502

Entertainment $244

Medical $289





Canada, Sweden, Portugal

$4,863 USD

August in Sweden


August was my most expensive month by far, for a few reasons:

  • I bought a new laptop and a pile of related business accessories
  • I traveled to Sweden for the last half of the month (which, between airfare and cost of living, wasn’t a cheap proposition)
  • I flew from Sweden to Portugal in preparation for the Ultimate Train Challenge start date of September 1st
  • My trusty wheeled backpack luggage finally gave up on me after almost four years of full-time travel abuse. I was in northern Sweden at the time with very few shopping options and no time to order anything online. Luckily I found an expensive but great replacement in my new Osprey wheeled backpack


August Breakdown

Transportation $1217

Personal Effects $297

Food & Drink $290

Business $2260

Accommodation $173

Luggage $288

Gifts for hosts $338


Note: Notice a new expense category? August was the only month I spent anything on accommodation! I splurged with a few nights in a hotel in Stockholm.




The Ultimate Train Challenge: Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Russia, China, Vietnam

$2,148 USD

September in Spain


Sorting out expenses this month involved converting and reconciling expenditures in nine different currencies! With the fast and furious Ultimate Train Challenge, September’s costs were largely transportation (train reservations with the Eurail pass) and food-related.


September also marks the annual renewal of my expat medical insurance, which provides global coverage in the event of a medical emergency. (Stay tuned for a detailed post about this in the near future).


All in all given the sheer amount of territory I covered, September was a pretty reasonable month. Of course, I had lots of help through Ultimate Train Challenge sponsors like HostelBookers, Eurail, Real Russia, China Odyssey Tours, and more. This is one of the benefits of long-term travel blogging; with a reputable blog and social media outreach, travel expenses can be offset with strategic partnerships.


September Breakdown

Food & Drink $455

Transportation $400

Phone $47

Entertainment $10

Medical Insurance $1128

Gifts for hosts $78

Personal Effects $30





Vietnam, Grenada

$1,901 USD

Vietnam in October


After a little recovery time in Vietnam (where I rode motorcycles, drank coffee, and ate as much as I could), I counter-intuitively backtracked across Europe and across the Atlantic ocean to the southern Caribbean island of Grenada.


And despite the cost of transportation to get there, it was a worthwhile trek across the world, as I discovered a paradise in Grenada in a house-sitting/dog-minding gig that kept my expenses nice and low for the rest of the year.

October Breakdown

Transportation $1193

Food & Drink $260

Personal Effects $51

Entertainment $42

Business $320

Gifts $35






$538 USD

November in Grenada


I spent much of November settling into the relaxing pace of Caribbean life in Grenada, and really enjoyed having my own space, with a kitchen to cook in, beach to walk on, use of a car, and time to just be.

November Breakdown

Transportation $41

Food & Drink $385

Personal Effects $67

Entertainment $11

Business $34






$609 USD

Waterfall in Grenada

Despite a slow start in Grenada, by December I had a nice routine and a great group of friends to ring in the holiday season. I had time to reflect on my year covering over 73,000kms and 13 countries, and to plan a few more adventures for 2012. (Hint: I’ll be in the Caribbean for a while, and trying out some travel adventures of the watery persuasion).


December Breakdown

Transportation $100

Food & Drink $328

Phone $18

Entertainment $118

Gifts $45




Summary: Financial Choices

How we choose to spend our money – full-time travel or not – varies dramatically from person to person, dependent largely on our respective dreams, priorities, and income.


I used to be a skydiver, spending every weekend and vacation on a drop zone, jumping up to 10 times per day. Skydiving is a very expensive sport. And yet, I managed to sustain this lifestyle for many years with my entry-level income and meagre savings. How? I made conscious choices about how I spent my money so that I could budget for the things I really wanted to do.


Full-time travel is no different. I don’t make a lot of money with my location independent career as a writer, but I also don’t need to – and frankly I don’t want to either. I make up for the small income with creative travel strategies and a slow travel style that keeps costs low.


I am financially sustaining my life-long dream of full-time travel; living around the the world. For this, I feel so grateful – almost incredulously so – every day.


On to the next adventure!




{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

1 despina January 23, 2012 at 10:31 am

Hey N.
I don’t think I had the chance to wish you a happy, creative and beautiful new year.
Got back from London last night and have a new post on my (very belated) resolution for this year. 😉

hugs and hugs



2 Candy Treft January 23, 2012 at 10:35 am

I am intrigued….amazing and unbelievable numbers!


3 Mid-Life Cruising! January 23, 2012 at 11:21 am

Just found your site and love it! We’re following along a similar path .. working to sell our home and everything with it so we can live and cruise on our 30 ft sailboat. We also don’t have a lot of money, but we know we can do it!


4 theprofessionalhobo January 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm

@despina – Happy New Year to you as well! Glad London treated you well.

@Candy – Unbelievable….but true nonetheless! Every cent of it!

@Mid-Life Cruising – Welcome! What an amazing life path you’ve chosen! I’m learning that cruising on a boat can be a very sustainable – and exciting, and satisfying – way of life, so good for you! Woot woot!


5 AK January 23, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Thank you so much for talking about how much you spent in such a detail, it’s so handy to see how other people are doing it and helps us in our own planning.


6 nod 'n' smile January 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm

I’m amazed by how smart and resourceful your approach to travel is. In addition to demonstrating how possible it is to travel with limited monetary resources, it’s also a nice testament to some of the skills that can be acquired from a life of travel.


7 Becky January 23, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Great wrap up, totally inspiring. Plus I bet it’s kind of nice to sit down and review your year.

And your right about different people spending money on different things. I don’t buy clothes or stuff, but I can’t help but splurge on tea. It’s my total downfall! Ha ha!


8 Peggy McPartland January 23, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Impressive, Nora! Thanks so much for sharing and breaking it down in such detail. It really helps me believe I can do the same.


9 Christy January 23, 2012 at 11:51 pm

I completely agree! It’s all about your priorities. I still think it is amazing that you only spent $17K for the entire year of traveling. Great job!


10 Ryan January 24, 2012 at 12:00 am

Hey Nora,
Great post, shows me I really need to start recording expenses! Any tips you recommend that help keep track?

Btw, someone that is very close to me, like family, is a level 3 (I think ) Raiki healer, that practice is fascinating and I’ve seen it work in person!

I am in New Zealand for a year, well another 10 months, where is that Mana retreat? Looks magical. I am just starting to understand the art of sponsored trips and travel hacking, and I’ll definitely have to start following you more!

Awesome travels!


11 Heidi Reyes January 24, 2012 at 12:11 am

I’d love to do something like this! I’ll have to think of a way to do it. Thanks for the inspiration!


12 Kim January 24, 2012 at 12:30 am

Wow, I’m impressed and inspired by your expenses. Definitely cheaper (and way more fun) to travel as you do instead of working 9 to 5 to pay for an overpriced apartment!


13 theprofessionalhobo January 24, 2012 at 6:52 am

Thank you for all your support and enthusiasm, people! I’m thrilled that this post has struck a chord.

I’ve spent the last two years officially tracking my expenses (prior to that I only recorded my deductible expenses), and I find it quite illuminating – even empowering.

@Ryan – I have a financial travel tip coming up shortly about tracking expenses with a few suggestions on how to do it. Right now I’m using my iTouch to do it, and I use Travel Pocket (an inexpensive app that tracks different currencies and exports as a .csv file for further analysis etc).

As for Reiki, I have my Level II now, and it’s quite rewarding. It’s great for both self-healing as well as helping others.

And lastly, Mana Retreat is on the North Island of New Zealand, near Coromandel. Totally worth a visit! But there’s usually quite a waiting list of volunteers, so you’d best send in an application sooner than later!


14 Marsha January 24, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I’m so impressed. Way to go on making your dream a reality. And a hearty Amen! on making your priorities a priority. It’s a basic concept that many people have trouble grasping.


15 John January 24, 2012 at 7:02 pm

I’ve been keeping up with your blog for a while now and love some of your posts. But this post is great! It feels like a foundation post for a lot of the other themes in this blog. It makes the goal of travel for extended periods so much more attainable after seeing how you do it 🙂

Great work!


16 Baron's January 25, 2012 at 2:49 am

great post in as much as it reveals what it takes $$ wise to do it…..question is how did you raise the income to do it


17 Bonnie January 25, 2012 at 10:14 am

Thanks for the informative and inspirational post. I love how you presented the info, especially the changing image of you as you changed location.


18 theprofessionalhobo January 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm

@Marsha – “Making your priorities a priority” – now THAT’S prioritizing! 🙂

@John – I’m planning on doing more “how to” style posts in addition to my roundups, week-in-the-life posts, and random tales of my adventures. My weekly financial travel tips are a start, but you’ll see even more in the near future – like how I got started, what insurance I use, etc. Stay tuned!

@Baron’s – As you should know(!), I make a location independent living as a writer. You know my semi-monthly Roundups? They’re chock full of articles I write that are published around the web (and some in print) each week. Have a look!

@Bonnie – Glad you liked the pics. I inadvertently noticed a lot of ocean pictures…something I’m even more keenly aware of now that I’m living on sailboats…


19 Nomadic Matt January 27, 2012 at 5:21 am

A couple of questions:

1. How did you get free accommodation outside of your friends and family and the retreat? Did you couchsurf all the time?

2. Flights – how did you get them for free for a whole year? Canadians don’t get as many credit cards with free points as we americans do.


20 theprofessionalhobo January 27, 2012 at 7:13 pm

@Nomadic Matt – Great questions!

I didn’t couchsurf even once in 2011! I volunteered at Mana Retreat for the first 6 months, then stayed with friends in Auckland, Toronto (with two quick house-sitting stints in Toronto as well), Florida, Quebec, and Sweden, and during the Ultimate Train Challenge I either slept on trains or in hostels courtesy of HostelBookers. Then, I finished off the year house-sitting in Grenada. That’s it!

I didn’t have free flights – not even close! In fact, I spent more on flights (labelled as “transportation” in my breakdowns) in 2011 than I have in previous years. My most expensive flight, however – from Auckland to Toronto (in business class no less) – only cost just over $100 because of my frequent flier miles.
But I paid cash from Toronto-Sweden, Sweden-Portugal, and Vietnam -Grenada.

And Canadians don’t get as many credit cards with bonus points as Americans, but I usually collect my frequent flier miles in other more creative ways.
More info on that here:


21 Eric February 1, 2012 at 4:14 am

“Full-time travel is no different. I don’t make a lot of money with my location independent career as a writer, but I also don’t need to – and frankly I don’t want to either. I make up for the small income with creative travel strategies and a slow travel style that keeps costs low.”

Which really means traveling is actually very expensive. It’s good that it’s possible to keep the costs lower by more resourceful tactics. Still, if location independent income is hard to come by, then no wonder most people stay domestic with their location-dependent jobs. And honestly, I do believe that the era of cheap travel is on its last legs: very very cheap plane tickets are now harder to come by than during the previous decade. Then again, with all these crises like sustainability issues, environmental degradation and energy decline, we might have a drastically different picture within next 50 years, if we manage to survive past that point at all.


22 Chris in South Korea February 1, 2012 at 4:49 am

As a fellow travel blogger, I’m delighted to read this post – $17,000 is still a lot of money, of course, but far less than I would’ve expected to spend. May I ask if you have any plans to post on where your incomes come from? It goes without saying the expenses are at least partially balanced out by the income generated from that traveling – I guess I’m curious on how and where that comes from. Cheers!


23 theprofessionalhobo February 1, 2012 at 6:56 pm

@Eric – I think you may have misunderstood some of my statements. First of all, I don’t believe location independent income is hard to come by – not any harder than starting any business or landing any telecommuting job is. Skill sets can be acquired; ultimately it’s a matter of desire.
I don’t work full-time hours because I have designed my life that way – not because there’s not enough work to be had. Yes, I’ve worked hard to get where I am, but that’s the case with any entrepreneurial venture. And when there’s passion involved, it rarely feels like work.

As far as traveling being expensive – as with all lifestyle choices and things we spend our money on; it is what you make of it. I eat lobster when I want to eat lobster. So I could spend less. Then again, I could choose to take luxury cruises and spend more. It’s all in the decisions we make and what “travel” means to us as individuals.

Where I agree with you is in the idea that we may need to adjust our way of life and approach to travel in the coming years. However I might have a little more ultimate hope for the human race! 🙂

@Chris – Just today I considered writing a post on my income sources, and I may well detail that in the near future. For a general summary, my income is derived from freelance writing, affiliate sales, and advertising on my site. Oh – and the occasional donation from a grateful reader! 😉 (and no, that’s not a hint!)


24 Nomadic Matt February 6, 2012 at 9:09 am

I admire your discipline in staying with couchsurfers and volunteering and with friends so much. i would want some space after awhile.

I still don’t see the flights though. I’ve seen the other stuff and the piont bonuses are still not that large.


25 theprofessionalhobo February 6, 2012 at 9:43 am

@Nomadic Matt – Yes, personal space has become an issue in recent years, which is why I’m putting much more emphasis on house-sitting. I get my personal space, free accommodation, and an ability to sample local life around the world! So far, it’s working out quite well.

As for flights, I’m not sure what to tell you. Don’t fly as much, and you won’t spend as much money on flights!
And by taking advantage of the occasional big bonus deals for point accumulation, and long-haul flights are covered. I’m not lying about my cost of airfare; and there’s no magic to it…..just some research and willingness to put some dollars on the line to accumulate big miles when the opportunities arise (which are once in a blue moon).


26 Alison@streetfood February 9, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Hi Nora

I’m intrigued like @Nomadic Matt -Is it because you spent the money to get points in 2010 it doesn’t add to your costs in 2011? I’m curious because I’m trying to use some points hacking principles in Australia where the deals aren’t as great, and $100 is surely something to aim for!


27 theprofessionalhobo February 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

@Allison – I’m constantly accumulating points with various promotions and sign-ups, so it’s difficult (almost impossible) to properly account for what miles I paid for and when in conjunction with how and when I used them.
So my expense tracking is “actual” and not “accrual”; when I spend the money, I record the expense.
Having said that, in 2010 my cost of full-time travel was also around $17,000, and that included some big long-haul flights as well….so maybe we can just call it a wash….

As for points hacking in Australia, you don’t get quite the same deals on credit cards and such, but I’ve still seen a number of worldwide deals come through that you can take advantage of, slowly but surely!


28 Matthew Karsten February 15, 2012 at 8:34 am

Love this post Nora! I’ve been thinking of putting one together as well, but I’m dreading all the calculations… 🙂

Very impressed with your numbers.


29 Fabian February 15, 2012 at 11:14 am

That´s a great post!
As you are very familiar with a lot of prices in these countries I wanted to suggest you to enter some prices on

We are collecting prices from around the world to help travellers to estimate their expenses. It´s like a wiki for prices.

Read about it here or just visit eardex.

It would be great to welcome you on our site! 🙂



30 Alison February 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Thanks for the extra tips and clarification Nora – looking forward to a similar report on your income streams, which I think is kind of the holy grail to crack in order to travel indefinately.

You’ve inspired me to record my everday expenses so I can better track my budget. From little things big things grow…


31 theprofessionalhobo February 19, 2012 at 12:55 pm

@Matthew – It’s a bit of a project to track expenses, then analyze and compile them at the end of the year for this report (especially when contending with a million different currencies!), but then again I’m also always quite excited and curious to see how it unfolds. It’s an excellent exercise!

@Fabian – What a great resource! I wouldn’t want to put my numbers up on the site however, since my own “cost of living” is skewed, given my plight for free accommodation and budget-business-class flights. But it’s a great way for travelers to gauge what they’ll need to visit different places in the world!

@Allison – I don’t think the amount of income I’ve made is the holy grail….suffice it to say that I make enough to live on, but I’m also good a living within my means. I think the holy grail is in finding your own stream of income that you can earn location independently….


32 Fabian February 20, 2012 at 6:56 am

Thanks for visiting Maybe you can put some objective numbers from your new destinations in our database…

All the best and good luck!



33 Rain | Destination: Everywhere April 2, 2012 at 12:03 am

Whoa! I am impressed at how you spent too little in New Zealand. I am from Auckland and I can hardly travel to the south due to budget constraints. You inspire me. looks like I have to take that tramping trip I’ve long been lusting after all.

Thank you! <3


34 theprofessionalhobo April 2, 2012 at 9:22 am

@Rain – I must say that despite spending many months in New Zealand, I haven’t been to the south island yet! (I’ve covered a lot of the north island, though).
That’s the thing with slow travel, and traveling for opportunities (like volunteering and house-sitting and visiting friends) as opposed to traveling for a destination’s sake; my costs are low, but sometimes where I actually go is a little random or counter-intuitive!

Here’s a little bit more about my style of travel (for better or worse!):

Having said that, if you own the gear, tramping can be reasonable – and the south island is reputedly one of the best places in the world to do it!


35 Casey Camilleri April 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I absolutely love all the tips and how you’ve spent your money!


36 Benay April 15, 2012 at 9:40 am

I love the way you are living your dream life. Totally inspiring. Thank you.


37 theprofessionalhobo April 15, 2012 at 10:33 am

@Casey and @Benay – Cheers! I’ve always chosen to spend my money in odd ways….I guess it’s just a matter of priorities. I may spend like a pauper, but I feel like the richest woman alive! 🙂


38 Sunny April 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Hey, I just noticed that you didn’t incur any accommodation costs in some months. I wonder where you lived during those periods.


39 theprofessionalhobo April 16, 2012 at 9:58 am

@Sunny – You’ve missed the underlying theme of my travels: free accommodation! In fact, you may notice that my ONLY accommodation cost for the entire year was for 2 nights at the Hilton in Stockholm!
The rest of the time I volunteer in trade for my accommodation, house-sit, or stay with friends. In a few cases I received free accommodation in hostels through various sponsorships (for example during the Ultimate Train Challenge).


40 Sunny April 17, 2012 at 12:45 am

Amazing and impressed that you managed to find free accommodation in so many parts of the world. I estimate that accommodation would take up a substantial proportion of traveling costs. At averagely US$20/day, it can cost US$7300.

I just wonder how much you would have spent if you didn’t enjoy free accommodation but, instead, stayed in hostels (at the cal rates) in all those places that you visited. It’d provide help info to those who don’t feel confident that they can, like you had, find free accommodation all around the world.


41 theprofessionalhobo April 17, 2012 at 8:47 am

@Sunny – How much would I have spent if I wasn’t enjoying free accommodation? Likely a lot more than just the cost of accommodation! When you stay in hostels, you rack up additional costs in terms of food and excursions (and I always tend to spend more when I’m in cities too), and truth be told, staying in hostels constantly (“actively backpacking”, I guess we’ll call it) is a totally different form of travel – I’m not even sure there’s a reasonable comparison.

Remember – I actually travel TO places BECAUSE of the volunteer opportunity. I don’t just land in a random destination and THEN try to find free accommodation. My focus is on free accommodation – period. The only time I tend to pay for accommodation is between my free gigs, as I’m traveling to and fro.

Anybody can do this. It doesn’t require confidence – just intention, and some planning!


42 Sunny April 17, 2012 at 11:36 am

An interesting concept for globetrotters: go where the free accommodations are. But that means you’d be traveling but not retired, because you need to exchange your time for the accommodation.

Given a choice, I’d plan for financial freedom before traveling full-time so that I have the luxury of doing what I want all the time or to not do anything at all. Of course, that means an additional US$7300/year for accommodation costs, so I’d need about US$200k more in my nest egg just to produce this amount of passive income assuming a yield of 4%.

Assuming again that the costs of full-time traveling excluding accommodation cost is US$12k/year and the same yield, I’d need about US$300k to produce this passive income. Altogether, it means I’d need about US$500k to really become a globetrotter with financial freedom to not work if I choose not to.


43 theprofessionalhobo April 17, 2012 at 12:34 pm

@Sunny – One of the big questions you have to ask yourself is exactly WHAT you plan to do with your days. Because I have a writing career that takes up 15-30 hours per week, and sometimes a volunteer gig or house-sitting responsibilities that take up more time yet, I don’t have much of a chance to spend a lot of money, and my days are filled with enriching activities.

But if you’re planning to “retire” and – as you say – have the luxury of doing whatever you want, you may need to budget A LOT more money for just that. With all that time on your hands, you’re likely to be more actively moving around ($$$), exploring tourist attractions more frequently ($$$), and finding stuff to do ($$$).

This begs the question of why you want to travel and what’s important to you. For me, it’s about experiencing daily life around the world, and understanding the subtle (and not so subtle) differences that exist between cultures. This is why long-term stays and volunteer/house-sitting gigs suit me so well.

It’s also why I’ve found a way to earn money to sustain my travels….because I was unwilling to put in the years of saving a big pile of money to kick off the passive income required for me to eventually live out my dreams. I ended up finding a more enriching way to live my dreams….now, not later.

But everybody is different. That’s one of the things I love about travel; our motivations and incantations of a dream trip is different for everybody. Enjoy creating your own travel dreams!


44 Bethers April 25, 2012 at 2:52 am

Thank you so much for being so honest with this information! My best friend and I are planning an extended Round the World trip and have been looking for info such as this! This is such incredible help! Thank you!


45 theprofessionalhobo April 25, 2012 at 12:45 pm

@Bethers – Everybody’s style of travel and spending preferences is unique, but I hope this gives you a nice baseline for what’s possible. Enjoy your trip!


46 Sunny April 26, 2012 at 1:35 am

Personally, I’d prefer not to opt for the work-for-accommodation arrangement, because I want freedom on the Where, When, What and How of traveling. But if what you like is to volunteer for work and experience the life of locals, and to realize the dream of becoming a hobo asap, then your plan is very good. As you said, this arrangement can drastically cut the cost of hobo lifestyle, which means one can save up enough to do it much younger.

I have a question. As of now, what’s your plan for golden years (after you become 60, 70 or older)? Do you plan to:
1) Continue traveling until you can’t even do so with a walking stick
2) Settle down in Canada, traveling occasionally only or not at all, at your home country-if so at what age?
3) Settle down in another country than Canada, traveling occasionally only or not at all-if so at what age, where, and why?

It’d be good to share our ideas on how hobo can include their plans for their later years. From there, we can really see how little time we have to travel actively, and hence how important it is to start packing and becoming a hobo younger!


47 theprofessionalhobo April 26, 2012 at 11:08 am

@Sunny – Great minds think alike: I have an upcoming Financial Travel Tip that addresses planning for retirement with a lifestyle like mine. (In short, I’ve already financially taken care of my “golden years” so that I can – if I choose to – continue traveling until I drop)!

The short answer to all your questions is: I don’t know. And I like it that way. I’m open to what the future will bring!


48 Sunny April 26, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I’m looking forward to that article. Personally, I feel that there are a few things to do:
1) Annual health screening-detect and treat illnesses early
2) Carry along a portable air purifier and water filter. Many third world countries are polluted and don’t have clean water supply. We can minimize intake of contaminants by using a cheap and reliable filter such as British Berkey. We can breathe in fresher air while sleeping (we spend 1/3 of time sleeping) by purifying indoor air. An ionizer is lightweight (e.g. USB forest anion)
3) Buying enough insurance on Long Term Care, Travel and Hospitalisation
4) Obtain a permanent or long-term visa in a country offering low-cost and quality medical and retirement facilities (e.g. Philippines, Malaysia or China)
5) Have a nest egg/rental property that provides passive income to cover costs of retirement there.


49 theprofessionalhobo April 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm

@Sunny – It strikes me given the criteria above (especially points 4 and 5) that what you’re looking for is less of an active traveling lifestyle, and more a retirement lifestyle that involves moving to live somewhere abroad. Is that right?

As for #2 and 3, I used to worry about water and air quality a lot more. I have a water bottle with a kick-butt built in filter that I use just about everywhere, but that’s about it. I recently got rid of my SteriPen because I found even in developing countries it wasn’t necessary with a prevalence of places to safely fill my water bottles. And if the weight of a little steripen was too much for me to handle, I can guarantee an ionizer is entirely too much to fit into a bag housing all my belongings! (The weight of your pack is directly proportionate to your misery on the road – trust me!)
Nevertheless I applaud your commitment to healthy living and concerns about it abroad. Maybe I’ve become complacent about it.

And to your medical questions, I’m certainly a proponent of getting travel or expat insurance, as evidenced in these articles:


50 Sunny April 26, 2012 at 2:27 pm

My point is that we should do the above in order to prolong our active lifestyle. Of course, we want to be healthy for as long as we can, so that we can be traveling actively till as old as we can. But it’s good to also make plans for the years when our health doesn’t permit so, hence point #4. As for point #5, it’s a way to produce income to sustain both our active traveling or retirement at a nursing home if/when we require it.

There are certain products that are ideal for travelers. For example, a water bottle that incorporates a filter and a light air-purifer that had won an award as travelers’ choice. I own a piece of the air-purifier. It is about the size of a small lighter and costs only US$25. I usually plug it into my laptop’s USB port.


51 Sunny April 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Regarding your mention of steripen, there’s a difference between sterilization and filtration. Steripen uses UV light to sterilize water, killing harmful germs. But it doesn’t remove contaminants such as heavy metals (e.g. from industrial pollution and piping). On the other hand, filtration removes contaminants physically from the water. I’d think that filtration should work better on tap water which is usually sterilized using chemicals like chlorine & fluorine, but may still contain heavy metals or other nasty contaminants.


52 theprofessionalhobo April 27, 2012 at 10:52 am

@Sunny – I’m with you all the way. Thanks for the links!


53 Carlos May 31, 2012 at 9:33 am

Sleeping at friend’s houses 300+ days out of the year because you can’t afford your own accomodation is pathetic, in my opinion. I’m glad you think that is so awesome you even gave yourself a drumroll.


54 Carlos May 31, 2012 at 9:36 am

Living within your means? You can’t even afford to put a roof above your head without favors from others.


55 theprofessionalhobo May 31, 2012 at 10:39 am

@Carlos – Thank you for driving your point home not once, but twice! I’m not sure I got it the first time.
Who says I can’t afford to put a roof over my head? You obviously haven’t read my 2011 income post yet. (Don’t bother – I’m sure you’ll find it to be equally pathetic).
And if you read a little more carefully (which is usually a good idea before you leave a scathing comment – or two – on somebody’s site), you’ll see that I spend the majority of my time WORKING in trade for my accommodation – either by volunteering or house-sitting.
So drumroll for you my friend….you pay for your own accommodation with cash. Wow.


56 Sunny June 3, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I’m shocked at Carlos’s comments. There is a difference between being unable to afford something and choosing not to do it for a better alternative. I think the point Nora was making is that–even though she could afford to pay for her own accommodation– she chose not to do so, because it’s more fun (to her) to work in different capacities and countries. There is also some financial sense in saving money that could be saved so that it could grow by the compounding effect instead of be depleted. As long as Nora is not doing anything illegal or cheating to get her free accommodation, I don’t see what’s morally wrong with her getting accommodation by exchanging for it with her labour. She was not even begging for free things when she could afford them. She’s providing a service, contributing to the economy.


57 theprofessionalhobo June 4, 2012 at 9:14 am

@Sunny – Thanks for going to bat for me! It all boils down to the life choices we make, and the more unconventional the choice, the more backlash can be expected borne of a sheer lack of understanding of what it’s about. I’m glad you “get it”! 🙂


58 Peggy October 2, 2012 at 1:47 am

That last paragraph really resonated with me – life comes down to the choices you make. So true!

I try to explain to the people around me that I’m not “lucky” that I get to travel more than them – I just don’t have a plasma tv or a smart phone contract, and when I travel, I look for ways to cut costs like looking for accommodation on CouchShare or Airbnb instead of staying in 5 star hotels!

Luck has nothing to do with it!

Happy trails, Nora.


59 theprofessionalhobo October 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm

@Peggy – Just after I got my first-ever job (with an entry-level sort of income), I also got into skydiving…certainly not a cheap sport. But I made the necessary choices to both keep my skydiving expenses as low as possible as well as to make financial room for it in other areas of my life. I’ve never had cable tv, or many of the accoutrements of technology and life that many people had. It was simply a matter of priority and choice.
We all do it – all the time – but not always consciously.


60 joker October 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm

it’s amazing ! I would like to live my dream as You do !


61 theprofessionalhobo October 22, 2012 at 7:01 pm

@Joker – Thank you! I hope that this post made the idea of full-time travel seem a little more possible…


62 Flaco November 20, 2012 at 10:39 am

I’m SO GLAD I came across this blog!!! I ‘Stumbled Upon’ it actually! You are living my passion and ultimate dream of full-time travel! Good for you!


63 theprofessionalhobo November 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Thanks Flaco! Since you’re new to the site and dream of full-time travel, you may want to check out my new free series that teaches you how to do it!


64 David DeWitt November 23, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Nora! I came across your wonderful blog recently and just finished your How to Travel Full Time in a Financially Sustainable Way series and now am looking forward to more Newsletters from you – as it happens, I had a recent living conditions change and went through having to sell, store and give away much of my belongings, and move out of my house in Washington State so I have in a back door way been through the part of the process of getting rid of things and paring it all down to what I can never part with (except it is all in a storage locker back in WA) and I landed in Hawaii two months ago to begin sharing a house with a former retired co-worker who has lived here in Hawaii for the last 7 years. He said, David, what are you gonna do now? We are both artists so he said to me, I have studio space for both of us and too much room for one guy, so why not fly over and stay here? I have been here for two months and have established a base here. I intend to use your travel tips to move around all of the islands while maintaining my half of the house here in the village of Hawi (ha-vee) in the gorgeous North Kohala area! I was able to visit the hostel you stayed at in Kailua-Kona, and it is still just as you described it! I found the pottery you painted as part of your work-for-accommodation methods and took some pics of them! James, the current manager gave me a complete tour, and I was shocked at the fact that a private room was so large – a two bedroom apartment really, with a full kitchen – for $55.00 per night – A dorm room was just $25.00 per night (as of 11/23/12) and if you consider that hotels in Kona can cost you $200 and up, this is a huge bargain, just five minutes from Alii Drive the main street of Kona, all the shops and great beaches, and the Public Market! I noticed you signed one of the pots, too! It read: N Dunn ’96 – 16 years ago? This is something of a mystery to me, can you clear it up? Pineapple Park hostel is another great choice outside Kona and there is another wonderful hostel in Hilo that is a restored 1913 hotel with old world charm and modern amenities! Using your techniques its fully possible to travel around all of the Hawaiin islands at a fraction of the normal costs!


65 theprofessionalhobo November 24, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Hey David – WOW! I’m so glad you enjoyed the series (it means a lot to me), and Aloha to Hawaii! What a great opportunity for you.
Glad KOA Wood Hale (the hostel in Kona) is still awesome….and to clear up the confusion in my signature – the thing you thought was a ’96 was just a signature squiggly line below my initials! I properly signed one of the paintings (my favourite, of the woman in silhouette on the beach) – which reads Jan ’08.
I also stayed in the hostel in Hilo which you describe – which was great save for the street noise and car alarms (which, after having become accustomed to crickets and frogs, was a bit of a shock to the system).
Enjoy your base in Hawaii, and please let me know if you have any questions!


66 David DeWitt November 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Nora! I can see the squigglies now! Thanks for clearing this little mystery up! Someone has added two toned footprints leading toward the office since you were there! The woman in silhouette on the beach pot is still there, too. I took pics of all of the pots and also of the hostel, itself … nice view from the upper deck must be great for sunsets! I am going to go over to Hilo to place some of my abstract paintings in a gallery there and will stay at the Hilo Bay Hostel you enjoyed. Hilo is a two hour trip down the beautiful west coat of the Big Island along the Mamalahoa Highway from Hawi where I am living I can see the ocean from my bedroom window. Another hostel for your readers to be aware of near Kona is the Pineapple Park Hostel farther down the Kona Coast near the Captain Cook Memorial – even more well appointed than the Koa Wood Hale! You can rent a scooter in Kona to get there, too. Did you get over to the Kona Inn, in Kailua-Kona? This was the favorite ocean front hangout of actors Richard Boone and Lee Marvin who owned a couple of marlin charter boats in Kona named “Blue Hawaii” and “Goodby Charlie” – the bar they hung out in is still there and so is the covered outdoor dining area! I do have questions for you! Enjoy your YouTube videos (Nora Dunn) and subscribed yesterday!


67 theprofessionalhobo November 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Awesome, David – thanks for the recommendations of things to do and places to stay. I’m so happy you are enjoying Hawaii. Enjoy Hawi – it’s an absolutely beautiful part of the island.


68 David DeWitt November 29, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Nora! Thanks for putting up 9 new videos of your time on the Big Island on your Nora Dunn YouTube Channel! I enjoyed them a lot … was nice to see you standing along the same road to Waimea at the lookout in the hills that shows the full sweep of the coastline and the ocean before you drop down into the town of Waimea. Hawi, where I live, is just 21 miles north of Waimea. Noticed the Hawaiian memorials in one of the videos along the highway to Kona made of white stones which stretch for miles along both sides of Queen Kaahumanu Highway (19). I see you found the little beaches and out of the way spots, and saw the incredible lava fields! I have yet to go see them, myself.

People don’t expect to find snow in Hawaii, but it here on the big island! I am going to see the observatory soon, too, featured in one of your videos.

In other videos, I loved the train challenges! I went up one side of the US coast from LA to Seattle, across to New York, and down to Miami aboard the trains once, then flew to the Virgin islands as part of a month long trip – stayed with friends along the way, in a small hotel in NYC near the U.N. for a few days, and then overnight in Miami before the flight to the USVI … stayed with a nice couple looking for temporary house mates in Charlotte Amalie, took the bouncy boat over to St. John, and had a great time. Love trains, and have yet to get to Europe to experience them there. There are short line rides you can find in the Seattle area where I am originally from that are fun. I imagine these short lines are everywhere in the world!


69 theprofessionalhobo November 30, 2012 at 7:09 am

Hey David – Yes, it snows in Hawaii! I find it especially humourous when people take it upon themselves to go “snowboarding”….but hey – you work with what you got!
I don’t remember the exact statistic, but it was something like of the 14 microclimates that exist around the world, 12 of them are on the Big Island of Hawaii alone! Wow.

Trains? Did somebody say trains? I love trains. Too bad there aren’t any in the Caribbean! Ha ha! Talk about short lines…. 🙂

And I’m glad you enjoyed the videos. I look back on the Hawaiian Adventures playlist ( and I see how far I’ve come with shooting and editing! (It helps to have a decent camera and real editing software)! But I’m glad you could see past the quality and admire the scenery and adventures. I find it’s especially nice to watch videos when you’re familiar with the territory.


70 David DeWitt November 30, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Nora! Yes, you have learned a good deal about film and editing along the way but have always had good instincts for not only shooting and editing but being on camera, too. My daughter is in her first year of film school in Manhanttan, and is shooting short films for her Film Production class. She intends being a film editor but has gotten great feedback from an independent filmmaker I know in LA saying she might want to consider being a film director because she is a natural storyteller. There is an inexpensive video camera steadi-cam called the Hague Mini Motion Cam Stabilizer that gives you smooth camera movements even if you are running down stairs with it! If you have interesting lenses to go with your camera you can do very professional looking steadi-cam shots with this device. And it’s affordable. $103.92 USD, I think, from ebay (11/30/12) and it ships from England in about 3 weeks. I am not an affiliate or anything, just sharing this with you – you have become a very professional videographer since the early days, so I thought you might be interested. This devise would pack easily in a backpack with your camera – and it would be unobtrusive in most places you cared to film.

Oh, yes, there are so many different eco-systems here on the Big Island, and Hilo is the one place in the USA that gets the largest yearly rainfall.

Trains! I read the entire collected letters of Ernest Hemingway (it’s thicker than a loaf of bread) on the train trip around the USA I took … And if you can skip a hotel bill if you are traveling more overnight! Agree, Jamaica and other places would benefit from a short rail line or cross country line. It would provide jobs, too. Maybe you can find a few short lines somewhere in the world that are basically going in the same direction and make that one of your adventures? These short lines are usually The Orient Express type lines – ancient but classy!


71 theprofessionalhobo November 30, 2012 at 5:51 pm

My favourite venerable author with a passion for trains is Paul Theroux. I expound his ideas here:


72 thepointstraveler December 23, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I just Stumbled on your blog and have to say I think it is pretty cool that you are able to spend so much time seeing the world! I love to travel and take several free trips (through accumulating free miles & points) every year, but I can only imagine what it would be like to just roam free all year! Good for you! Maybe once the little ones have grown up I will get the chance to spend a year or two on the road!


73 theprofessionalhobo December 24, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Glad you found this site! Heck – if your travel bug is strong enough, you could even take to the road with the kids! I know lots of families who do – even for a sabbatical.
Either way, it looks like you’re already quite a successful travel hacker…..enjoy! Happy travels.


74 Jorge February 26, 2013 at 2:48 am

Hey Nora,

Just came across your wonderful site and other articles you have written. You have definitely inspired me to travel and live life differently. Will you be breaking down 2012 anytime soon?




75 theprofessionalhobo February 26, 2013 at 10:08 am
76 m February 26, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Really enjoyed reading your breakdown of a quite awesome adventure!


77 theprofessionalhobo February 26, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Glad you liked this post, m – Thanks!


78 Jimmy October 29, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Just left the rat race in pursue of a new way of living!pls take me with u!!?


79 theprofessionalhobo October 29, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Jimmy: Congratulations! And I’ll be with you in spirit… 😉
Where to?


80 Libby Walkup February 6, 2014 at 5:05 pm

This is so great and actually makes long term travel seem possible. Wondering. Because I’m really bad at keeping track of my expenses and will definitely have to get better no matter what I do or where I go, how do you track this?



81 theprofessionalhobo February 6, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Hi Libby,
I love using my smartphone to track expenses; as I spend a dollar, I log it into my phone!
If you have an iPhone, I absolutely adore using Trail Wallet:


82 Josie April 26, 2014 at 4:27 pm


I’m an aspiring chef and for the past 3 years I’ve been on my “Food Journey”. I’ve been in 4 different states and various cities just to gain inspiration for my craft. I’m now in my complacent phase here in Vermont and ready to just continue my trek across the globe. Your blog is quite insightful when it comes to budget travel and the best way of doing so because as we all know that in the culinary field we don’t make a lot. I was worried about funds and such until I stumbled across your blog this morning and it definitely gave me hope for the end of the year.


83 Nora Dunn April 28, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Hi Josie,
Glad you got some hope from realizing it’s possible to continue your travels! Happy traveling – and eating! 🙂


84 Susan July 16, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Was truly intrigued at your expense budget for the year and bravo that you’re living your dream and doing it so well! I found myself curious on your income for the same period… do you have a ‘portfolio’ type of employment with your writing, and _____… I see you may have exchanged housesitting/pet care for accommodations … which is also fun and a very cool thing to do!

I’m enjoying your writing; thank you!


85 Nora July 16, 2016 at 2:50 pm

Hi Susan,
You must be new to the site – welcome! 🙂
To answer your questions:
1) Yes! I publish my annual income as well as expenses each year. Here’s 2011:
(And here’s my full collection of expense/income summaries:

2) Yes, I do have quite the portfolio of writing! You can see selected things I’ve written here:

3) Yes, I’m something of an expert in getting free accommodation around the world. It’s an amazing (and very cost-effective) way to travel! Here’s some more info:

Happy travels!


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