How to Travel on a MICRO BUDGET and still THRIVE

how to travel

So lately people have been asking me, “How are you able to travel the world? You must have inherited a bunch of money” which I translate as “You’re just some privileged dude doing what other people can’t.”

This is, of course, laughable. I currently travel to countless interesting places at $800 a month. This means that when I make more than this per month, I am traveling and saving money. Who would have thought?

You can also do this. The real reason many people don’t is because they are afraid of going out of their comfort zones. Also because people are brainwashed by the concept of travel and tourism. Blowing $5,000 for two weeks in Paris is completely optional (and in my opinion, laughably hedonistic). I still encounter people who literally get pissed off at me (very mature…) because they think that this is how I travel (and how all people travel). It’s madness.

Also, some people (like Nomadic Matt) write about how to travel the world on just $50 a day. Which is also a lot of money, and not necessary, either.

How to Do It

It’s a very simple breakdown:

$300-400 / month: Rent

Use three resources: Couchsurfing, Hostelworld and Airbnb. If you’re in a city for a shorter period of time, go with a hostel. These are shared living quarters with other travelers. Some people don’t like hostels (I prefer them). You can, in this case, try Couchsurfing, which is (typically) free. In any case, all these options mean you’ll be interacting with other people quite closely.

Meeting people as you travel is the best part of traveling. So if you’re a hermit who doesn’t like these prospects, you shouldn’t necessarily be planning this type of adventure.

If you’re going to be in a city for one month plus, use Airbnb.com. Look for rooms in your area, and then click on “Monthly Rates”. If you’re in a less expensive area like the Balkans, you can usually find a monthly apartment for $400 or less.

Expensive places like West Europe cost a lot more per month. In this case, I’d suggest long-term hostel ventures, maybe switching between 2 different places. Some people will go mad from random roommates and shared bathrooms. I don’t mind any of these things. If you hate it, then your other option is to find a room share with someone living and working in the city who will rent out their room for a month at less than an Airbnb price. Craigslist is your main resource for this. You’ll find students in many big cities doing things like this.

Of course, book smart. Read reviews, Google the address to inspect the location and to see if it’s a worthwhile place, scrutinize the pictures, and book in advance before a good place gets stolen by someone else. When I was living in Los Angeles, I didn’t leave the USA until after Christmas, but I booked my apartment in Prague in August!

$100 / month: travel

Wait, that’s it?

The solution is to find a geographic area you plan to explore (ie: Europe) and then travel by bus. Not train, car, or plane, but bus. Plan your travels out along a geographic route. If you’re hopping from neighboring country to neighboring country, tickets will rarely exceed $30-50 each. If for one month you went from Munich to Prague, the rest of your $100 travel budget can be spent on mini-trips to other locations, to see more places while you visit.

$200 a month: food

I like to eat out. So, I may spend $20 a week on groceries and $30 a week at small restaurants. This works best in the cheaper regions I prefer to go to. Like in Bosnia or even neighborhoods in Prague, you can get a good meal for $6 at a restaurant, which means going out five times that week. In the meantime, cook simple dishes like pasta. If you’re traveling somewhere expensive (like France) you’ll be forced to eat out a bit less.

$100-$200 misc

This leaves the remainder of your budget. Usually this money gets absorbed by different things. As an example, credit card payments (yuck, I still have those, I blame Los Angeles), a replacement part for something you lost, buying clothes and other essentials, getting ticketed by a cop for losing your tram pass, winding up with a girlfriend who wants you to buy her dinners and jewelry, etc.

If possible, however, try to save that $100 to $200. Assuming you’ll return to your home country some day, it might be a good idea to put some money aside for your plane ticket back.

Finally, to keep in budget, do NOT do touristy things, including eating at touristy restaurants or going to museums with $29 entrance fees. This is a cardinal sin because if you get into that habit, you’ll be far outside your budget every month. The tourist industry is a sham. “Pay us thirty dollars so you can see this cool bell that we ring every day at noon”.

Extra: Splurge

Put some money aside nonetheless for a few good activities. For instance, that camel ride through the desert, or hot air balloon ride over the mountains. Some touristy things ARE worth investing into. The trick is to choose the ones that are good; the types of bucket-list “must do” adventures that would be shameful if you passed up. For example, would you go to Jordan and NOT visit Petra? I don’t think so.

But I Don’t Have $800 a Month!

To do all of this for a year, without working, would mean saving 800 x 12 (9600) plus your initial amount (I suggest 3k, so totaling nearly $13,000).

Not many people have this kind of money these days. You’ll spend the next 5 years trying to put this money aside without really doing what you want to do.

That’s why I don’t suggest saving. I suggest working. You simply need ANY kind of freelance or remote job that pulls in at least $800 a month. For instance, if a company hires you to manage their social media accounts part time, at $800 a month, you are all set. Another idea could be transcribing for a medical office. Or doing some type of data entry.

Some people I know make this on micro job sites like Fiverr. I personally perform services for clients (more on that later), I sell ebooks, and sometimes write professionally for clients.

You don’t have to have some complex Tim Ferris (the famous travel and entrepreneurial guru) style operation to do this. I do suggest “part time”, though. 20-30 hours a week, so you can still enjoy your new environment. Ferris takes part time profit to the extreme by advocating the four hour work week dream. This is alluring because of the whole “I want to travel and see the sights, not sit at my laptop!” thing.

I used to feel this way too, especially after reading “The Four Hour Work Week” years ago, but in retrospect I find all this type of guru advice to be a bit silly. As it turns out, when I am in some beautiful place like coastal Dubrovnik, I initially go hog wild; taking photos and soaking the whole place up. But then, I inevitably fall into a routine to pass the day. Let’s say I enjoy my city for an afternoon, taking photos and hiking for 5 hours. Well, that leaves a LOT of extra time in my Airbnb or hostel. What am I going to do? Play PC games? Netflix? Go drinking? None of these are really productive. If I didn’t have work to do, I’d probably go stir crazy in some places.

Work can really balance out your lifestyle and thoughts. I don’t think I’d want to only perform work for four hours a week even if I could.

How Do I Leave?

Give yourself 6 or more months ahead of time to establish what will be your remote bread and butter. You should also save about $3,000. Out of that money, about $1,000+ will be your initial plane ticket (if you live overseas), and if you are abroad for a year, about $400 on travel insurance (I use Geo Blue insurance, I don’t think it’s necessary to spend more than that). Maybe get a checkup with the doctor and dentist, too, to make sure you don’t have some horrible disease you need to treat first (these damned mortal bodies annoy me). The remainder of the money will be your cushion while you work remotely.

You will also need to make some big decisions, like quitting your job (unless they’re cool with you disappearing for a year, or they allow you to become a remote worker, thus solving the money issue). And, for making that initial chunk of money, it may involve liquidating things you don’t need, which includes your car. Selling the car is probably a better idea than letting it sit in your parent’s garage for a year while creatures build nests in the engine.

Obviously, the big challenge is establishing remote work. If everybody could make a grand a month doing some simple job on their laptops, there wouldn’t be armies of people stuck cooking curly fries at Arby’s. So yeah, you do need to search for it, utilize your talents, and try different things until something sticks.

Final Point: I can’t travel because I’m a parent or have real responsibilities.

Perfectly understandable. If you’re raising kids, I don’t suggest dragging them along to crazy destination after destination in random Airbnbs. However, what I outlined is great for anyone unless you’re physically disabled, taking care of the disabled, or taking care of a family full time. These are pretty much the only things that could (I do say “could”) hinder a life of travel.

So What Do I Do?

I primarily work in self-publishing. I’ve become extremely good at learning how to publish electronic and paperback versions of books. For clients, I handle the full spectrum to turn a normal bloke into a professional, recognized author, including: editing, formatting, cover design, Amazon publishing, paperback creation, and marketing. And I do it at a fraction of the cost of some big-wig company.

If you want to both help me by supporting my ongoing travels, while also finally achieving your dream of getting your novel into the hands of the masses, then please shoot me an e-mail and we can talk (cyrus@cyruskirkpatrick.com).

Well, I hope this guide was useful to you. As you can see, this lifestyle is well within reach of anybody who wants to do it. Not just trust fund babies with extra time on their hands, or entrepreneurial savants. A more traveled, cultured world is also more open-minded; so it’s important for everyone to learn these concepts.

As is the usual case, I plan to sell a cheap e-book in the very near future with expanded resources about micro budget nomadic living, and answers to questions about safety, if it’s OK to travel as a lone female, and tons more topics that, if I were to address in a blog post, it would be ridiculously large. So, please stay tuned.

Until next time!

~ Cyrus

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Very good article full of common sense

  2. Karolina says:

    Hi,

    I’m aware this post is not from yesterday, but to make 800$ per month working part-time is nearly impossible in Croatia (I make 780$ working full-time in accounting, and that’s considered an average pay for such a job). Especially doing jobs you mention, which don’t even exist here (transcribing, doing data entry). Nevertheless, I’m planning to quit working in my current company and change my life, so any fresh perspective and ideas on that subject are highly appreciated. And I’m glad you liked Zagreb and Dubrovnik so much, I hope you come visit us again (at least to see the Plitvice lakes). Best regards,

    Karolina

  3. Hey Karolina, well consider that speaking what sounds like perfect English is a good step up. There is still the possibility of teaching English somewhere that’s not Croatia where people are paid pennies. Actually, a friend of mine from Poland found a job teaching in Vietnam, which was about 30 hours of work a week at $1,500 a month… which is a good step up it sounds like. Otherwise, seek out the “borderless economy” marketing to people from other countries rather than inside Croatia… AKA shift to West European, English, American etc markets.

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