Katy and I quit our jobs in Paris, moved out to the french country side and planned our escape to the other end of the world. With at least one big question on our mind: Do we have enough money to do this? I wanted to take up some digital space to write a bit about our finances for the year and some of our thinking there in.
Some Thoughts On Spending
Katy and I decided this year to spend money on experiences! We agreed early on that we wouldn’t let money get in the way of that pursuit. If this meant we had to fly home early so be it. Our plan was not to travel as long as possible, but to have a fulfilling year, chasing down whatever dreams we could make up for the next day.
We rarely got the best deal! In order to be taken seriously in Nepal and India, you have to learn to barter a bit. But we did not fight tooth and nail and sometimes knew we were paying more than the proper price. Again, we agreed that a couple rupees (1-2$) either way to us was not going to make a big difference, but to the locals it would. So we were happily swindled and often given exceptional service along the way.
There are as many ways to budget travel as there are stars in the sky. Please don’t take this to be your travel spending truth. I would say to first find out why you want to travel and then see how financing that goal works best. There is no one-size-fits-all method for traveling, so it is up to you to figure out your where, when, and how long. We're here to share our experiences and budget with you in hopes that we can give you a little look inside our year long traveling expedition.
A Promise to Myself
Going off the advice of long time friends, who are also long-term travelers, I made a promise to myself that I would journal everyday. Even if I was tired, hungry, grumpy, or ill, I promised myself that at a minimum I would write the date, the city I was in, and how much I spent that day. Then at the end of the month, we would tally it all up, convert from the local currency to one that makes sense to us, and finally look and see how much we had left to keep going.
We broke down our spending into super basic categories: Food, Accommodation, In Country Transport, Activities, Other, and Visa fees. The sum total of all our expenses is listed, but we’ll go a bit further to look at how that breaks down day by day, simply dividing total spent by the number of days we visited the country. Something to note, all the spending is for both Katy and I, so be sure to divide by two to get to per person costs.
How Much Did We Spend this Year?
Although we quit our jobs at the end of May 2016 and spent four months traveling in France and in the US, I’m opting to define our year of spending as beginning from our flight out of LAX and ending when we arrived back in San Diego nearly a year later. Our year of spending was from September 27th 2016 to August 24th 2017.
This amount reflects all of the money we spent traveling for a total of 331 days.
Breaking Down the Numbers
Overall we spent the most on purchasing food and various activities, with airfare coming in a close third place. Being able indulge in all the various foods from Nepal, India, South Africa, and Kenya was an awesome experience! We always have a fun time trying foods that are so much different than what we're used to at home.
Total Spending by Category
I thought it would be interesting to look at how much we spent each day and how that changed based on the country we were in. Expecting to see that the average for a country like Nepal or India would be low and for a country like Israel or South Africa would be high. But to normalize the data and account for the cost of pricey activities like guided trekking in Nepal, SCUBA certification in India, or renting a car for three weeks in South Africa, I also looked at the average spending on basic items per day. Basics being defined as spending on food, accommodation, and in country transportation. The data isn’t perfect. It doesn’t account for free nights when we stayed with locals nor being treated to dinner, but I suppose all that does happen while traveling so perhaps there is some value in it just the same. Ultimately, I think we stayed in Nepal, India, South Africa, and Kenya long enough to get a good sense of basic traveling expenses. Kenya cost us the most at an average of $122 per day and India was the least at $48 per day. South Africa was around $86 and Nepal was $76. *Remember to take into account these costs are for two people.
Average Daily Spending
Cost of Flying Around the World
A lot of people assume the most expensive part of traveling is the cost of all the flights. While flying can be very pricey, it is very important to check out all of your options before committing to a flight. Mess around with different dates, days, and times to try and get the best deal. *All prices below are for both Katy and I except for the last entry.
Get Out There!
My treasure hunting Uncle Jeff once told me that you have to spend money to get it back. He thinks of it like an ebb and flow, a give and receive kind of thing. For my high school graduation he gave my twin brother and me five new one hundred dollar bills, but they had been stapled together! In his own gruff way, that was my uncle teaching his adolescent nephews to remember that money is just a tool. We are in control of it and not the other way around.
I wanted to share this information as a way to encourage the travel curious to feel more empowered to get out there. I understand some of these numbers appear big, but first recall this is the data for the two of us and it’s travel for nearly a year. Budgeting and travel can be a daunting subject to tackle, but the rewards of planning and following through with a trip are incredible. Happy Wandering!