Some of the questions we are most frequently asked when we tell people of our world travels are: “How do you afford it?”, “Are you guys rich?”, “Did you win the lottery?”, “What do you do for work?”.
Well, for all of you who are too polite to ask, or if you want ideas on how to afford long term travel, here are our answers to those questions.
“Are we rich?, Did we win lottery?”
No, definitely not, but fingers crossed, one day it will happen!
We were fortunate enough in the five or so years prior to starting our travel adventures (and this blog) to have had a business and jobs that allowed us to do some short overseas trips to France, the UK and the USA. We were also able to purchase some land during that time. We later sold that land and used most of the money from the sale to fund the purchase of a large caravan and 4wd and we headed off on our Aussie adventure (half way) around Australia.
After an amazing 8 months on the road, we decided that it was all a bit much living in such a small space with our youngest (Lucy at the time) just starting to walk and the big girls missing school, so we sold the caravan and car and moved back into “home life” in a rental property in Victoria. The sale of the caravan and car left us with a reasonable nest egg which we put aside. Now, a year or so later, we have spent some time selling a lot of our household items and cars, bikes, furniture, etc. in order to minimise what we have to keep in storage, maximise the bank account and get our world travels started.
So in short we are not rich, but we do manage to experience amazing things around the world that most people only dream of (including ourselves until recently)…. So how do we do it?
“How do we afford it?”
Only just! It’s a work in progress.
Well, as mentioned above we have a nest-egg of savings which has enabled us to purchase our initial air fares, passports, luggage, travel insurance and get set up for the journey. We’ll now dip into our savings as needed to fund each week of travel (very frugally) for a while until we can generate some ‘portable’ income from various possible sources and hopefully we will be able to make our travels financially sustainable.
We will periodically return to Australia to work, sell more of our stored belongings and plan for our next overseas trips. We’re hoping that in time we are able to increase our income by working on this blog and other online endeavours which will enable us to remain overseas for longer periods. We’ll still return and travel in Australia sometimes but by choice rather than necessity.
“So what does it cost?, How much do we actually spend?”
Well my theory is that it’s all about averages. In planning for travel, I had the idea (although Erin as per usual would say that I’m dreaming) that it is possible for us to live for an average of $100 AUD per day (excluding airfares). I know it may seem a little hopeful to try and cover all living expenses including food, accommodation, transport and expenses for a family of seven for $700 per week, but as I said it’s all about averages. For example, it may cost $120 per day in Europe (although this is looking more like $150 at the moment) but then in Indonesia, Malaysia or other Asian destinations, where you can rent a house for just a couple of hundred per week and food and living is cheap, the daily cost could come down to around $60-80. In Australia, living costs are comparatively high but we could meet the $100 per day target when “home” by living frugally and keeping to our budget.
So on average, if we were to spend 3 months in Europe ($150 per day), 2 months in Australia ($100 per day), 3 months in Asia ($70 per day) 2 months in North America ($120 per day) and finish out the year with another 2 months in Australia ($100 per day) our daily average for the year would be around $108 (a total for the year of $39,420).
Of course this total does not include airfares but we have already purchased the first lot using the ‘bonus’ money we raised selling our stuff. So this gives us a head start and we’re hoping that by the end of the first year we will have started to generate enough income from the blog and online work, as well as working for wages and selling more unwanted “stuff” when back in Australia, to raise enough money to sustain our travel indefinitely! We will probably have to dip into the savings account quite a bit to get through the first year but that is to be expected and we will re-evaluate after that.
Living on $100 per day with five kids may seem just a little ambitious to some, or “He’s dreaming!” (as Erin would say), not to mention that attempting to build up an income and ‘work it out as we go’ is a bit of a challenge, but the way we see it is that hey, you only live once, let’s give it a go and if after the first year it doesn’t quite work out, well it’s only cost a few thousand or so for an entire year of priceless experiences, which isn’t too bad for seven people.
“Frugal living, eh? So how do we do that?”
We live cheap and we enjoy it. We are really getting used to living minimally. Grocery shopping for all our meals, searching out the bargains and eating healthy basic meals that require little preparation. We rarely buy drinks or ice-creams or treats from cafes, carnivals, theme parks, etc. (sound fun, don’t we?), instead we find a nearby supermarket and buy a box of ice-creams and a six pack of box-drinks, and for just a few dollars (instead of $30+), we’re happy.
We eat out rarely. So far we have maybe once or twice per week on our UK\Europe trip, just for a treat and to experience the traditional English pub food, bratwurst in Germany and pizza and pasta in Rome, as the locals do. We are doing this less and less though and in fact we are beginning to feel guilty and even a little silly if we’ve just spent €50 ($75 AUD) or more on a very basic family dinner when we know we could have had an even more nutritious and just as enjoyable meal for about $10-15 (AUD), by buying and preparing our own.
We are starting to really get into this whole thing being life, not a holiday, and we actually really enjoy the challenge of trying to get the average costs down while still enjoying things and having little treats. When we think back to before we started planning for this trip and adopting these frugal habits, it’s crazy to think about all the money we have wasted just going out and blindly spending. We are discovering more and more that you don’t need much to be happy. We had just as great a night in Bruges, Belgium as any of the other people who were sitting in the many cafes and eateries eating their €20 per head dinner and sipping their expensive wines. We bought a roast chicken, some cherry tomatoes and a six pack of box-drinks for around €10 and had a picnic on a park bench before walking through the beautiful, cobble stoned streets and sharing 3 Belgian waffles between us for €6 . It was a beautiful evening and it cost our family around $3.50(AUD) per head!
Check out our post – What did we eat while travelling Europe and the UK?
Our weekly budget for food and entertainment is always changeable depending on where we are but at the moment we have been allocating €200 ($300 AUD) per week. This covers all of our food ($200 AUD approx.) as well as entertainment ($100 AUD approx.) such as entry to attractions or kids activities like a ride or swimming pool entry.
Finding great deals on accommodation is a very important factor in trying to reach that “dream” of the $100 per day target. We have started out in Europe and UK by combining camping in tents with Airbnb holiday rentals to try and keep the weekly accommodation costs down to an average of around $400 per week. So far this is going pretty well and we’ve actually been surprised to find that there are a lot of Airbnb rentals available in Europe that are quite often equal to, or cheaper than a campsite. Campsites in Italy can be around €80 ($120 AUD) per night just for an un-powered tent site in the popular areas, in high season, though we have found some for €30 ($45 AUD). Generally around Europe the average for a tent site is around €20-40 ($30-$60 AUD) per night. We have stayed in rentals through Airbnb in Germany for €45 ($67 AUD) per night, and two in Italy for €44 ($66 AUD) and €35 ($52 AUD) per night and they were very comfortable places and much easier than camping for around the same price.
Read our detailed post on Airbnb here.
Of course it’s a bit more expensive when first flying in to a country or stopping over and the only option is city or airport hotel rooms. We try to limit these nights and then work on bringing the average down by getting out of the city areas and finding good deals as soon as possible. We have found that hostels can be a good option to keep costs down when first arriving in a city.
Transport can really blow out the budget especially when first arriving in a country as it’s hard to research and estimate exactly how much a taxi or a bus might cost from an airport and which is the cheapest mode of transport for the area. For Europe/UK we did some research and decided that the best way for us to get around would be to buy a car for under $2000 AUD in our first few days there, and then sell it before we leave. We have budgeted for a $500 loss when we re-sell the car (but we can hopefully sell for close to what we paid) and we’ve allowed $170 per week for petrol. This of course will work out much cheaper than renting cars when we need them or catching trains from place to place and it also has the added bonus of being able to pile all the kids in and just go where-ever, whenever we like.
Read our post Buying a car to travel the UK and Europe here.
Our entertainment budget at the moment is $100 per week to cover things like entry to attractions, going out for meals and other various expenses that pop up along the way. Some weeks we won’t spend all of the $100 if we are just camping or in the country areas and doing free things, so we can save it up for when we need to spend more (like $300 family theme park entry or a cruise or tour). We recently spent £104 ($220 AUD) on a National Trust membership in England but this will allow us lots of entertainment and education for the kids over many weeks so therefore we’ll spend less each week on other things and keep the average spend around the $100 mark.
We have already gone a little over budget in Europe on our first 3 month leg of the journey as there have been so many extra costs including tolls, service charges and exorbitant airport food and transfers that we weren’t quite prepared for. We are beginning to peg back the average though, through frugal living and searching for great accommodation deals. We’ll keep you posted soon with more world travel budget tips and detail on exactly how the daily averages work out for each leg of our journey.