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

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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 is my cost of full-time travel in 2012.

This post was originally published in 2013. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. 

Click here to see all of my Annual Income and Expense Summaries!

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


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.


Food & Drink: $337

Personal Effects: $80

Phone: $25

Entertainment: $117

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $62


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.


Food & Drink: $443

Transportation : $335

Phone: $10

Personal Effects: $226

Entertainment: $100

Gifts: $108

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $153


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.


Food & Drink: $142

Transportation: $593

Groceries: $410

Phone: $46

Personal Effects: $25

Gifts: $173

Medical: $163

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $23



$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”.


Food & Drink: $218

Transportation: $162

Groceries: $178

Phone: $29

Personal Effects: $14

Gifts: $52

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $37



$995 USD

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


Food & Drink: $395

Transportation: $125

Groceries: $302

Phone: $15

Personal Effects: $19

Medical: $20

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $69


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.


Food & Drink: $421

Transportation: $1,516

Groceries: $251

Phone: $205

Personal Effects: $315

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $265


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.


Food & Drink: $441

Transportation: $601

Groceries: $678

Phone: $45

Personal Effects: $479

Medical: $233

Gifts: $122

Insurance: $218

Business & Banking: $36


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.


Food & Drink: $780

Transportation: $510

Groceries: $617

Phone: $84

Personal Effects: $337

Gifts: $156

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $808



$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.


Food & Drink: $81

Transportation: $2,255

Groceries: $513

Phone: $11

Personal Effects: $90

Medical: $19

Insurance: $1,263

Business & Banking: $834

Housing: $416



$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.

Click here for a video playlist of amazing Grenada discoveries like riding my scooter, liming, and more.

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.


Food & Drink: $549

Transportation: $214

Groceries: $663

Phone: $20

Medical: $9

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $993

Housing: $955


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.


Food & Drink: $436

Transportation: $790

Groceries: $351

Phone: $34

Personal Effects: $624

Medical: $12

Gifts: $300

Insurance: $50

Business & Banking: $158

Housing: $290



$1,378 USD

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


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 cost of full-time travel in 2012 was 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

green broad leaf with water droplets

I won’t apologize for not keeping my cost of full-time travel 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 full-time travel in 2012? 

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38 thoughts on “Financially Sustainable Travel: My Cost of Full-Time Travel in 2012”

  1. 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.

    • 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….

  2. 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…

    • 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!

  3. 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.

    • 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…

    • 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?

  4. 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?
    btw-this blog has been very informative.

  5. 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!

    • 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)

  6. 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?

    • 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:

  7. 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.

    • 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”….

      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.

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

  8. no-
    that i am experienced in both commercial and residential aspects of management.
    would love to see myself somewhere interesting in a month or
    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

    • 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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! 😀

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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……..

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

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