If you are reading this post, it means that I still don’t have an Internet access in Guatemala, but I am certainly working on it!
I received a question from a reader last week about how I manage to travel and pay my way around the world, and since several people have asked me in the past, I thought I’d answer with this two part series. The question was:
One of the things that has stopped me so far from doing this is the fear of not having any income while I’m traveling so I am very interested to know how you manage to do that.
Well the money part of traveling is pretty easy: you don’t need that much.
In my case, I went to business school the last two years of college and my school was paid for by the company I was working part time for. I also got paid through college, and the good thing is, I was able to save money.
I had my salary and a scholarship totaling about $2000 per month. And most of my friends were still broke students. So I kept living like them. I saw the money growing on my account and started dreaming about a round the world trip when I graduate. Crunching the numbers, I thought I needed $1000 per month, including flights and everything.
I kept saving even more aggressively. I took a waitress job during the weekends, stopped going out (I still had a social life and was entertaining friends at home a lot), and by the end of the year, I had much more money than needed to travel for a year.
I decided to buy a flat in the suburbs of Paris, and travel with the rent money. I still had a small money cushion after the purchase, in case of an emergency. My idea was “as long as I have enough money to pay for a last minute, one way trip back home, I am fine”. That ticket price is about $3000. I hope you will never have to pay it, but knowing you can afford to brings you peace of mind.
I traveled for a year on about $15 a day. I didn’t really care much about comfort at the time, camped a lot, slept in buses, ate on the markets, hitch-hiked too, but I always splurged when I wanted. For example, in Honduras, I got my diving degree, and logged in 10 dives. I talked a lot to travelers on the way, about places they had been and I wanted to go, and inquired about the cheapest way to get there, entry fees… Angkor Wat in Cambodia was $20 for a day and $40 for a three days pass. I am not a big fan of antique sites, but this is a must see. I asked people if one day was enough, most said yes, but you will end up exhausted, and that is why people chose a three days pass to explore slowly. I chose the first one, and paid my $2 hotel for an extra night to rest on the next day.
Coming back to the main point of the story, traveling is cheap. When you travel for a week, you need a plane ticket, and will probably buy a package in order not to worry about food and accommodation. It may cost $1000 or more. Traveling slowly is much, much cheaper. You have no plane ticket, you stay at small guest houses or people places, and you pay for what you use. If you just want to sleep, you pay for a $10 guest house and you have a clean room and a bed. In the resort, you pay for the swimming pool, the AC, the all-you-can-eat breakfast, whether you use it or not.
As far as not having an income is concerned, on that first year of travel, I was not worried about it, I had my rental income kicking in every quarter, and my savings from the last two years of college. I thought about getting a small job on the road, and gave it up for a very simple reason: low wages. In Central America, lots of tourists find jobs paying $1 per hour plus tips. At the end of their 8 hour shift, they have $15 or so. $15 go a long way in Guatemala, but I would much rather work for one day in France and enjoy a full week in Guatemala than work for local minimum wage.
Because of the French system, if I came back to look for a job after my trip, I would have been entitled to 24 months jobseeker’s allowance and that was my ”savings” cushion. Worst case scenario, I could get 70% of my last income for the next two years. While this is very reassuring, now I feel safe enough when I have 4 to 6 months of living expenses in the bank. I have never gone that long without a job (at least not on purpose) and I could always take any menial job to make my emergency cushion last longer.
To be continued…