Living as a nomad, I receive a lot of different reactions to my lifestyle. Many people tell me I'm brave or ask where I get the money to always be going somewhere. Most often, I hear "I wish I could do that!" or "You're so lucky." I agree that I am fortunate to be a U.S. citizen, have supportive family and friends, and be in good health. I also believe I work hard to live this way. I didn't just wake up with money in my bank and a plane ticket. In fact, when I decided I wanted to go to Asia, I barely had any money at all. Fast forward some, I put the effort in, committed to a dream of mine and now I'm enjoying the journey. It is a good thing that luck is not what got me here. This means you don't have to wish you were here – you can be here. You can backpack yourself and experience what I am everyday. Traveling does not have to be expensive. It does require some money, especially long term traveling, of course, but your mindset shapes how you approach this funding obstacle. I'm here to give some insight on how I approached mine and how it is still paying off.
For a year leading up to Asia, I worked hard and smart to save save save. I had a great job in downtown Orlando (Thank you VGroup) and was hungry for my travel goal. After bills were paid, I strived to put a certain amount of money in my savings each month. Any extra went to my dog Buddha (he loves ear infections and toys), my tattoo artist or also into my savings. I knew that the more money I saved, the longer I could travel the world and that motivated me more than anything. I stopped shopping. I planned to live out of a backpack.. I had no need for more clothes. I also didn’t splurge on a perfect home that I knew was temporary. I found a house with a yard for Buddha and for the last 4 months in the States I lived there with only a bed! My landlord also gave me a discount on rent for paying everything up front. "Roughing it" was exciting and budgeting became a game for me.
I have no monthly bills. The cheapest way to make this lifestyle happen is to commit fully. If I traveled and still had to pay for things back in the States, I wouldn't make it very long. Before leaving, I made sure to free myself of those expenses.
- I have no home. No rent, mortgage, internet, electric or water.
- I sold my car. No car payment, insurance or gas.
- I canceled my phone plan. Instead, I bought a sim-free (legally “unlocked”) iPhone 6. Wifi is everywhere or a sim card with data in each country is cheap.
- I don't have health insurance. I am exempt from Obamacare. I had traveler’s insurance for the first 6 months but I don’t anymore. Only a personal preference, not a recommendation.
- I don't have student loans. Thank you, mom and dad.
- I signed up for international debit and credit cards that don’t charge me atm or transaction fees.
- I canceled my gym membership. I miss you.
These savings add up to more than $2000 per month. Money in my travel fund.
I spend $30-35 a day. Normally I spend less than this, but this figure factors in the cost of my flights as well. Southeast Asia is great for budget travelers like myself. I stay in hostels or guesthouses for less than $10 / night. In Laos, waterfront private bungalows with wifi and a balcony are $3 (pictured below). I eat at locally owned restaurants and markets. I’m currently in Malaysia with a galore of indian food places. On average, naan bread is 50¢. Chicken tikka is $2.
How I make or save money while traveling:
- Credit card rewards. I earn points to fly places for free. I recently used my points to buy a roundtrip between Malaysia and California.
- I'm not in a rush. The slower I travel, the cheaper it will be. I'll wait a few days to fly somewhere if the flight is cheaper on a certain day. Transit days are best spread out as they tend to cost more money than exploring the current city I'm in.
- I walk everywhere as long as its convenient and safe. I also choose the monorail or bus over private taxis.
- I rarely drink alcohol. I save a ton here.
- The beauty of haggling. It is expected and common, especially at markets. Locals will normally give a much higher price on something knowing it will be haggled down.
- Selling my art. Thankfully, selling paintings covered all of the costs of my 2 month US road trip this summer (besides Burning Man ticket). Shipping from whatever country I am in is pretty affordable so I'm able to paint and sell while overseas too.
How I’ll make money in the future:
- Work Visa in another country.
- Hostel work in exchange for accommodation and/or food. Example: Circus Hostel (Pai, Thailand) houses any artist that will do a wall mural for their place! That is not the reason they’re one of my favorite hostels, but it sure does add more greatness to their vibe.
- Art - used to be only a dream but now I am funding my way with my paintings. I do custom pieces for my followers and the money helps me keep this lifestyle going / keep my savings in the bank.
If I've learned anything while in Asia, it's that money has little to do with happiness. Some of our dreams do require money, including traveling, but this does not deem the goal impossible. A shift in our mindset and focus can go a long way with how we save up and make it work. I now respect and admire anyone's grind for their dreams. I’m proud of myself for everything that got me traveling the world and continues to allow me to do so. I hungout with my main people during that year of saving up, but more often than that I kept to myself and Buddha. For now, my lifestyle is working out and I love it. The more I travel, the more I learn and get creative with how to keep going.