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Calling Bullshit: How Much Money You Really Need To Travel

There’s a lot of crap floating around trying to answer the age old question:

How much money do I need to travel?

Wait. Rewind. Let’s back up for just a second. It’s not the number so many people give that is the floating crap. In fact, most of the time their numbers are pretty accurate, ie: “you need x amount to travel to y.” Instead, the floating crap is the advice on getting x.

The try a little harder myth

The people saying “just save $10/day for a year and you’ll be set” or “just give up the daily cup of Starbucks” are no better than the real estate hucksters promising to share their secrets to business success. You pay the fee and show up early to the seminar only to be spoon fed self help and can do platitudes. It’s all filler with no real substance.

Travel means saving money –> Many people can’t save money –> Many people can’t travel.

The reality of saving is difficult – particularly for young 20 somethings looking to take off on that backing trip to wherever. School loans happen. Doctor’s visits, car payments and drunken bar tabs happen. Life happens.

So there, I said it. Many people can’t travel. Especially those unable to stash $10/day or give up the daily Starbucks. Is saving to backpack South America for a month possible? Absolutely. Is hoarding the money to do it as easy as everyone claims? Probably not.

So where does that leave us?

This post is for the lucky people on the fence. Maybe they have a few hundred in a savings account somewhere or expecting a generous Christmas bonus. Perhaps they hate their job but are lucky enough to be debt free and working to make a priority to put a little away each month. You good sir/madam listen carefully!


There are three ranges you’re looking at. Or more appropriately, three realistic numbers that will get you traveling.

And one quick side note: technically you could busk your way the a few continents on a few dollars per day. But while ultra cheap might fall under the broad umbrella of “travel,” it is more accurately called being poor. And I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I’d imagine being poor isn’t fun. I enjoy warm beds and cold beer just little too much.

Right! So back the the options.

The Screw It: Just Gonna Go Option

I’ll assume most people fall into this one – not that that’s a bad thing. Why? Because there’s nothing holding you back. You’re job is dead end. The car will still be there when you get back in two months. And so will your parent’s basement.

Gather the money, leave for the summer, and come back broke but full of experiences.

Total to get you there: $3,000

Be honest with yourself. How achievable is this number?
Be honest with yourself. How achievable is this number?
The Safety Net Option

Here you’re a bit more reserved. Getting to SouthEast Asia/Eastern Europe/South America would be great and all, but I want to be able to eat when I get home. Or pay my share of rent, put gas in my car and spent nights out with friends. You get the picture.

Personally, it is reassuring for me to know that there will still be some money in the bank whenever I return from a trip. If a friend invites to a concert, I’m not going to turn them down because I’m still waiting to see if my old employer is willing to hire me back. It’s adventure with a healthy dose of pragmatism.

Total to get you there: $5,000

The No worries man Plan

This is next level status. Like this kid who sits in the front of class and always the first to raise his hand – you just want to punch him. But it would be disingenuous not to add this category on the end.

$10,000 will get you really far. A year in Thailand, a nice start to your working holiday in Australia, hell, sip some mimosas on the Champs-Élysées for all I care. But there are just so many ways to leverage $10,000 into a year-long world adventure. If the potential is there you just have to explore it! Again, I know, a big if.

As someone who didn’t discover the world of backpacking until their late 20’s, having savings from my previous professional life certainly helped for my transition back into the civilian world. It’s a heavy duty safety net; blow through a few grand in the travel pipe but still have money to come out clean on the other side.

Total to get you there: $10,000


Part of me wants to be the drunken idiot in the bar calling people out on their travel nonsense. “Really maan, just put away a little each week and you’ll be off to nomadic freedom in no time!” Drunkenly shouts from across the room, “Bull $h*t!!!” But it would be just as wrong to dissuade people from making travel goals. Yes, recognize that it will take a lot of work. But thousands, probably even more people every year are taking the plunge to go off and do something extraordinary. Maybe I’m rambling.

I guess my point is, recognize potential and set a goal to achieve it. For most, $3,000 is a lot of money – some can get there and others…well…can’t. But if there’s even a shred of a possibility in getting there, seriously, please for the love of all that is holy, chase it.


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