The best trip budget planner apps and spreadsheets aren’t really helpful without first understanding how generating income in a certain currency (e.g. USD) impacts buying power and cost of living in foreign locales. A common mistake is to simply assume travel is expensive; flights and constant travel from one locale to another inevitably add up, but the cost of living abroad on a week-to-week basis is often much cheaper than expenses at home.
Take Advantage of Cheap Living CostsThe costs of transportation are a lot more consistent across the world thanks to fuel prices and other economic factors. Consider budgeting for any major international flights well in advance and avoid signficant travel multiple times a week to cut down on weekly expenses.
A recent post on Medium by Jay Meistrich points out that San Francisco’s median rent is $3,120 a month. His cost to travel the world? $2,921 a month to really jet-set. Want to slum it up a bit? Bali and Thailand cost him $1,200 and $641 a month, respectively.
Of course San Francisco is one of the most expensive spots to live on earth. People based elsewhere are likely looking at the $2,921 figure and thinking the costs are still really high. Yet the figure works out to under $36,000 a year to travel around the world. Someone doesn’t have to be bank six figures to travel constantly and the figures decrease dramatically for those willing to stay in one place for months at a time or travel through locales with cheaper costs of living. The sub-$700 a month costs of Thailand are also feasible in other parts of Southeast Asia, as well Latin America, Eastern Europe, and many other locales.
Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, also highlights a number of surprising costs regarding experiences abroad:
$250 U.S. — Five days on a private Smithsonian tropical research island with three local fishermen who caught and cooked all my food and also took me on tours of the best hidden dive spots in Panamá.
$150 U.S. — Three days of chartering a private plane in Mendoza wine country in Argentina and flying over the most beautiful vineyards around the snowcapped Andes with a personal guide.
Question: What did you spend your last $400 on? It’s two or three weekends of nonsense and throwaway forget- the- workweek behavior in most U.S. cities. $400 is nothing for a full eight days of life-changing experiences.
I’ve personally toured vineyards in Mendoza and didn’t quite pull off the plane trip for $150, but was able to spend a half day visiting vineyards with an English speaking guide, separate driver, five-course meal, and enough wine to float down into Patagonia for about $130.
The bigger point is the fact costs to do memorable stuff penned in travel articles—in other words, activities painted as living a life of adventure and intrigue—isn’t much different than going out to eat a couple of times back home.
Trip Budget Planner: Other Resources
Check out a selection of my other posts on affording travel:
A version of this article appears in Chapter 3 of Wanderlust Dispatch’s free e-book entitled Sustaining Travel Through the Written Word.