How We Spent less than $12K (£7.1K) Each Travelling to 10 Countries in 12 Months


If there was ever a post to answer the “How are you affording to travel full time?”questions then this is it.

So where did we go over the 365 days?

We stayed in 10 countries;

Japan (10 days), Australia (14 days), Thailand (5 months), Laos (10 days), England (2 weeks), Spain (4 weeks), India (3 weeks) , Turkey (6 weeks),  Bulgaria (1 week) and Germany (9 weeks). – We’re not counting stop-over countries.

After 365 days of keeping track of our spending, our outgoings added up to US$23,676.79 for two people. (Note: Exchanged from AUD as our money is in Australia)

Here is the breakdown…

Expenses AUD$ US$
Flights $5,495.75 $5,013.22
Accommodation $5,360.43 $4,889.78
Visas $570.76 $520.65
Living Costs $14,528.76 $13,253.13
Total $25,955.72 $23,676.79***

*We have not included business expenses as the idea of writing this post is to give people an indication of how much they would have spent if they had come with us and done everything we did in the same places we did. 

**Also, I want to point out the obvious, just in case – this figure is only the total outgoings. I haven’t included income for the same reason as *. It doesn’t mean we have $24K less than when we set off!

Comparison to the Old (Static) Us

Back when Dave was living in Barcelona full time he was spending around €13K euros per year, which is around $18K.

He was renting an apartment, leasing out a couple of the rooms to friends, working full time and spending his way down to zero at the end of each month.

That was just Dave. I was spending slightly less. I was able to save a few hundred euros each month so I was spending more like €11K ($15K) per year.

So by travelling, both to some of the most expensive countries in the world as well as to some of the cheapest, we have been spending around $9K less in a year than we were with our static lives in Barcelona.

In other words we are saving quite a bit of money by travelling full time.

How We Didn’t Do It

Before I talk about the main reasons that we think our spending has been so low, I want to point out a few things which we didn’t do that could have dropped our spending.

(We don’t have anything against the following list, we just didn’t happen to do any of them.)

  • We didn’t quit drinking.
  • We didn’t quit eating meat.
  • We didn’t couchsurf.
  • We didn’t stay in any dorm rooms.
  • We didn’t housesit (We are wanting to do this next year as we think this is a cool idea).
  • We never used airbnb.
  • The only free accommodation we had was the following;
  1. 10 nights in Turkey (for Helpx where we stayed in a hotel for free in exchange for making up the rooms and making breakfast).
  2. 10 nights in India (in luxury hotels for a mystery shopping project).

Spending Nothing was Not the Goal

The idea of this post isn’t to try and impress anybody or to have a challenge to see how thrifty we could be.

We all know it is really easy to spend very little if that is your goal, but we don’t see it as competition and stretching our money as far as it could go wasn’t our plan.

If it was, we could have easily lived in a beach shack in Goa for the 12 months, ate the bare minimum necessary, stopped going out completely and celebrated 12 months of not even spending $2000. Great.

But we didn’t.

We honestly never tried to sacrifice anything for the sake of spending little as we don’t believe there is any point. Sometimes it isn’t about being thrifty, it is about being smart about certain things so you don’t feel you have to be.

For the majority of the year we were staying in places that we really liked. As we like to swim, that meant that many were very close to the beach or if inland, we had our own onsite swimming pool. We both like our own space to be able to work, so we make sure we are in spacious apartments and avoid studio apartments when we can.

We could have made it much cheaper if we had been trying to stretch our money further. We could have dropped off a few thousand just by not going to Japan for a start.

How We Did It

Apart from having a knack of finding cheap flights, which really isn’t that difficult anymore with all the comparison sites doing everything for us, we believe we have quite a good system in place – Many of our preferred choices also happen to be cheapest!

1. Trying to stay for at least one month.

We found that paying the monthly rate roughly equals around 10 nights of the daily rate for a lot of accommodation, especially in Asia. So instead of moving around every few days, we would always take a rental for a full month when we could. We could then use this place as a base to go off for weekend trips and adventures in the area.

2.  We are more than happy eating what the locals eat.

We met a few westerners who live in Thailand indefinitely who couldn’t understand how we would eat Thai food all the time we were there. Trust me, it’s not so hard when you have just had 6 weeks of eating kebabs and bread. When you’re permanently moving, over the year you get a very nicely balanced diet across a wide spectrum of food. It makes sense to eat the foods in season at the place you are staying.

3. Happy to take the long way round when it comes to travelling.

Direct flights are often opportunities missed to see a new place. Indirect, however – Save money and we get to spend a night and day in an new, unfamiliar city? No brainer!

Over night bus trips are also great. Especially in Japan this was the best sleep we had. Every few days we would wake up in a brand new city and not have to worry about accommodation and the time wasted with checking in etc.

4. Working as a team.

There is the obvious advantage of there being two of us. Shared costs.

As well as this though, we both have completely different mindsets when it comes to money.

How Erin sees it: If we take the bungalow that is slightly further away from the beach we can save $200 for the month.

How Dave sees it: If we just do x and y to earn $200 more a month, the beachside bungalow is a free upgrade.

Despite how it might sound, this doesn’t cause problems, it helps us. The inevitable, midway compromise we come to means that we usually end up spending slightly less and earning slightly more at the same time.

 5. Balancing the rich with the poor.

We realised early on that the key to budgeting long term travel is to get wise about the world’s economy.

We found that the amount saved by following the common advice such as sleeping in dorm rooms or avoiding baggage fees is easily dwarfed by just being smart about when and where to spend your time across the year.

To put it into perspective for you;

Our 10 DAY adventure in Japan cost us more than the first three MONTHS in Thailand.

We could have both eaten out FOUR TIMES at our favourite restaurant in Turkey for the price of just ONE BOTTLE of house wine in any restaurant in Sydney.

By balancing our finances across a number of economies, it meant we could afford to visit the very expensive countries without having to be too thrifty.

6. Being forced to be more minimalistic.

It has been so long since we have lived somewhere permanently that it is sometimes easy to forget how our spending habits have changed. We only really buy new clothes to replace old ones. This stops us accumulating and causes us to almost never make impulse buying mistakes.

Another example, when we were living in Chiang Mai we bought a decent sounding stereo so Dave could work on some new music. Instead of buying cheap, which would mean poor quality, we bought better quality and then just sold it a couple of days before we left.

This type of buying and selling rather than renting works out much cheaper over time and ensures that we never get stuck with cheap, tacky products. Our friends did the same with a moped. Bought it and then sold it five months later for exactly the same price = Free.

To Take Away

We know that there will be people who will spend much less and also people who will spend much more. That’s just the way it is.

We hope that our figure can help you to realistically calculate how much your outgoings would cost for such a trip if you are planning one and perhaps has given you an insight into what to look out for.

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Reader Interactions


    • Erin Jane says

      Hi Addie

      I’m glad you found the post useful. I just read your post about the Turkish kahvalti – it brings back so many memories but I have to disagree when it comes to their coffee. I’m not normally a coffee drinker but I loved Turkish coffee. All the best for your long term travel plans!

  1. says

    I LOVE this post!! Thanks so much for sharing so generously and specifically your budget, tips, experience and mindset. We haven’t travelled for longer than 2 weeks out of the US recently, but I greatly aspire to, and this info is super empowering. I’ve been hacking trips to Mexico recently, but don’t have much recent experience figuring out fun, yet budget-aware trips elsewhere. We *did* recently use award miles & Airbnb to plan a very affordable trip to Paris. I’m a huge fan of using Airbnb here in the US, but it was a revelation to see how affordable the Latin Quarter could be (plus the convenience and comfort of having our own place), using Airbnb.

    • Erin Jane says

      Hey Laila!

      Thanks for stopping by! Do you have any tips for Mexico? Dave and I should be there later this year. Nice going with your awards miles trip!! We’ve been saving all our air miles for an upcoming trip too. :)

  2. says

    Great article and insight to your travel history. It is very interesting seeing the comparison of a year on the road v a year in Barcelona. You’ve clearly proven that travel is accessible at an affordable price for organised people.

    I’m interested to hear of your mystery shopping ventures, with the one above and the forthcoming assignment in Australia. Are they all expenses paid and how did you win the assignments?
    The Guy recently posted..Excuse Me, I’m British. Please Form A QueueMy Profile

    • Erin Jane says

      Thanks for the comment The Guy, we were pretty stoked when we tallied up all our figures for the year! In regards to the mystery shopping. I didn’t win the assignments, I send my mystery shopping CV off to different companies and if they like what they see (I’ve got over 7 years experience at it now) they might offer me a job. As for expenses, each company has different perks.

  3. Jack says

    Erin, it’s good to FINALLY read about someone traveling so frugally without dorms and couches! My wife and I, in our late fifties are making a run for the location independent lifestyle soon. One question though, you mentioned you did not use AirBnB either and I am just curious how you found the VERY inexpensive long term rentals. Safe journies! Jack

    • Erin Jane says

      Hi Jack

      We normally find our long term rentals by searching on foot or scouring classified ads when we arrive in the country. We book a guesthouse for 2 days and then get out on the street, walk around or hire a bike looking for “For Rent” signs or large apartment blocks that might have an office/reception area.

      We use local knowledge ( a lot of the time this is as easy as posting in a Facebook or Couchsurfing group for that city) to find out what websites people list available rentals on and then we start searching.

      This did backfire for us in Malta, we saw cheap accommodation online through AirBnB but were advised we could definitely find cheaper in person – which is the case for long term renters, we were only staying a month. We ended up paying an extra 200 euros a month but we were able to see the apartment first before making a decision, which is always a big bonus.

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