How much do you need to travel the world? No, seriously. How much do you actually need to quit your job, sell your car, put your things in a box and travel the world?
It’s an exciting idea, isn’t it? And it’s not as much as you think, I promise.
First off, everyone has different styles. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for the next. Some people absolutely must have that lush hotel in downtown Paris. Others are totally fine having some 18 year old gap year bust into their dorm room at 3am. But most of us I’d gather fall somewhere in the middle. You’re the guy saying “you know what, I just can’t afford a week in London. Where else can I go?”
Well this article is for you guy who falls somewhere in the middle. Like me, you can’t drop dem big monies on all those glitzy destinations. But you want some level of comfort as well.
If you’re a poor backpacker willing to sleep in subway stations, please read on. This information will only embolden your dreams of world domination, er, travel. If you’re Mr. Moneybags, well, just know that I’m jealous. But feel free to read anyway. For the rest of us, traveling to a majority of the places you’d like are closer than you think. I promise.
But before we arrive at our magic number, there’s a few vitally important question you must ask yourself.
First, are you willing to work abroad for 1 year? Second, rre you willing to eliminate countries to visit based on cost?
Answer yes to both? Great! Continue reading.
Answer no to the first but yes to the second? Awesome! Skip ahead to part two.
Answer no to both? Congratulations! You’re rich. I’m officially jealous.
Part 1: Work
Aside from being able to pretentiously say “Yeah, I spent six months in Sydney” wait, no, don’t do that. Let’s start over. Working abroad allows you to kill two birds with one stone. You don’t have to burn through your savings while simultaneously visiting a new place. And for those looking for their next destination like a junkie looking for their next fix, you can see a new country AND save money for future vacaciones. Double win!
There are two practical routes to consider:
First, the working holiday visa. Coveted by many, beloved by Europeans, and almost totally unknown to most Americans.
Australia, New Zealand, and Canada all offer Working Holiday programs for most citizens of Europe, US, and Canada. (US citizens, unfortunately, are excluded from a working holiday visa in Canada.) A quick Google search and a few clicks on each countries immigration page will determine your own eligibility.
Strangely most Americans are clueless that this is even a possibility. While living in Melbourne for eight months I met countless English, Irish, Germans, and Canadians taking advantage of the Work and Holiday Visa. But Americans? Two. The same situation applied to New Zealand.
Nonetheless these countries offer an amazing opportunity to show up and spend a few weeks looking for a position (service sector has a high turnover rate and is frequently hiring) and once you become a bit more settled, spend the next few months darting off to different regions in your spare time between work shifts. For those careful enough with their money, or fortunate enough to land a well paying position, one could potentially save a moderate amount for their onward travel.
Unfortunately, these visas don’t come cheap. The cost to apply for the Australian Working Holiday Visa is around $400. New Zealand and Canada are a bit cheaper, but still an expense when every little bit counts. In addition, Australia recently amended its tax laws regarding foreign residents, taking a very painful tax bite out of any potential earnings. There is a startup cost for those thinking about this option. While it’s hardly prohibitive it is an expense regardless.
As a more specific breakdown, here is the standard fare. Hostel life plus the base essentials would likely cost $350/week in Australia and New Zealand. Assuming it takes a few weeks to find a position waiting tables, working in a cafe, cleaning services, etc., in addition to a plane ticket from North America or Europe, and ugh visa fees, should total somewhere in the range of $3,000.
Visa fee + Plane ticket + living expenses while looking for work = $3,000
+ Earnings while working abroad = even more travel!
One prerequisite is that work and holiday visa applicants be under the age of 30. There are no limitations on education or background.
Your second option is teaching English. Unfortunately, this option is limited only to those who are native speakers and have a university degree. Furthermore, certain qualifications such as a TEFL Certification, or even a degree in English or education (although they’re definitely not necessary) would go a long way in creating a more attractive candidate.
Countries where teaching English is a possibility can be broken into three categories. It’s hard to simply categorize them into neat little packages, but I’ll try.
Yellow countries are definitely possibilities, but options to save money while working are limited. Two reasons. First, the salaries are simply too low, even when put in context with the cost of living. For example, Thailand has an average salary of approximately $1,000 per month. One could easily live on that amount in Thailand, but saving any significant amount would be almost impossible.
Red countries are high income, high saving countries. These are a gold mine if you think you could tolerate the conditions. Saudi Arabia, for example, is notorious throughout the ESL community for being overly generous with teacher salaries. Cost of living is reasonable, but even big expenses are covered given one’s earning potential. Unfortunately, the middle east has two big strikes against it. First, well, living in such a conservative society is something someone seriously needs to consider when researching a position. Second, the generous pay typically requires a generous level of experience. A bachelors degree simply will not be enough. Advanced certifications, or even a degree in English Education are often the bare minimum, in addition a quality background of experience. While these countries shouldn’t be overlooked, know that they require a broader background and experience.
Orange countries are the sweet spot. While they certainly don’t have the cheap cost of living as say Thailand, or generous pay package as Dubai, they offer enough salary to comfortably cover any living expenses while simultaneously saving for future travels. Taiwan, China, South Korea, and even Vietnam and Japan are great places to research ESL positions. In South Korea, where I had worked for two years, 1,000 per month in savings is the norm. Do that for one year and that’s an additional 12,000 to travel the world. A great thing about working here is with your vacation time you have the option of traveling to a nearby region. I easily managed a few side trips to Japan, Thailand, and Indonesia. Some teaching contracts, specifically countries in Asia, often include airfare from one’s home country as part of their compensation packages, making an even sweeter deal!
Of course all this is relative to each individual and some will save more, while others less.
Plane ticket to another country + a few weeks of living expenses = 2,000
+ earnings while working abroad = even more money for travel!
Part 2: Travel
Knowing where to go and where your money will go furthest is key. In other words, do a quick cost/benefit analysis of your prospective destinations.
Consider this Cost of Living Map complied by Business Insider. Countries in dark countries are places to avoid. While they may have some absolutely amazing destinations, ie: Europe, North America, and Australia, they’re simply just too expensive for long term travel when you’re not considering work.
Consider this example. Many travel guides budget $100/day to travel London. Accordingly, a week of travel, not including flights, totals $700. Compare that to Thailand, where a typical day costs approximately $35. Accordingly, a week of travel again not considering flights, is $245 In other words, one could get nearly three weeks in Thailand living comfortably for the price of one week in London.
So the reality is there is just going to be some destinations you will have to pass up. No, you can’t see Syndey. Europe is, well, a no as well. Just not gonna happen.
But for all those places you can’t go there’s that many more than you can.
South East Asia typically costs $30 per day. While you certainly won’t be living the high life and will have to have to budget your money, housing, small side trips, food and a few drinks will be covered. With that budget, a month of word travel is less than $1,000. South America, while not as cheap, is comparable in price. A month of budget travel will cost less than $1,500.
Of course, prices can add up quickly though. Want that 7-day hiking trip through the Peruvian Andes. Yeah, that’s going to cost you. The same applies to Chile, Brazil and Argentina, more moderately priced countries where your dollar will not go as far. I’ve travelled Colombia, Ecuador and Peru myself, and know first-hand that these destinations can be visited easily for less than $50. Cut out alcohol and mid-range hostels, and costs drop even further.
In short, if you’re planning a trip that doesn’t include high cost of living countries, long term travel becomes a real possibility.
Round trip airfare + 6 months of living expenses (at $1,200/month) in low cost of living countries = $9,000
10,000 is expensive. I know. But it’s within reach for a lot of people. When you designate travel as a priority that savings goal becomes very achievable.
For those willing to work abroad you can leave your home country for less than one third of that. Spend a year working in one of the countries I mentioned, and suddenly you’re racking up some serious destinations with only a small amount of principal.