How Much Does It Cost For One Year of Travel?

Travelling the world for a year. That must be expensive, right?

Well yes, and no.

For many folks, long-term world travel is a pipe dream. It’s something to ‘get to’ eventually, perhaps after retirement or when a figurative ship comes rolling in. There are most definitely valid barriers preventing a person from engaging in long-term international travel: personal health, family health, nationality, professional commitments, debt, money and more. The only non-valid response, as far as I’m concerned, is fear. But this blog post is not about quelling fear. If you need help, go talk to Oprah.

I’m here to talk about money.  Does it need to be such a barrier?

Money is a touchy topic. Most people are terribly polite when it comes to the subject, often not wanting to offend others by posing personal questions. But since I am a mind reader, I know what you’ve been thinking. So I’m going to go ahead and ask the question for you:

“Hey Daniel, how did you afford to do such a trip?”

Well, friends, I’ve never been rich. My parents had meager schoolteacher salaries. I did not invent Facebook. I failed to find a pot of gold, even after bounding and gagging a Leprechaun. (But that’s a different story!) My journey across the world – to twelve different countries on six different continents – was self-funded (apart from reader gifts).

For the sake of sharing, and hopefully to provide a bit of food for thought, I want to unpack the main costs of my journey, explain where the money went, and share the two primary ways in which I funded the journey.

This was the cost, for me, to travel the world for a year…

*          *          *

MAIN COSTS

All figures in US Dollars

Flight costs: $7399
Accommodation: $2431
Reciprocity Donations: $904
Entry/Exit fees (Visas, etc.): $264
Health Insurance: $471
Membership fees: $112

Couch Surfing: $25
WWOOF (Central America): $33
HelpX.net: $30
WorkAway.info: $24

Subtotal: $11,281 USD

Approximated extra costs:

Food (when not provided by host organization): $1500
Local transport (taxis, trains, buses, boats): $500
Activities (cultural activities, museums, tours): $350

Approximated extra costs subtotal: $2350 USD

Total (approximated) cost of a year of travel to twelve different countries on six continents:

$13,931 USD

*          *          *

UNPACKING THE NUMBERS ($$$$)

Flight costs: At over 50% of the entire cost of the journey, airfare was by far the biggest expense. My goal, however, was to experience a slice of life on six different continents. And I was willing to pay to achieve this.

I did not buy an around-the-world ticket because many of my destinations and work projects were unconfirmed/undecided before my departure. I opted to maintain greater flexibility, and ended up visiting countries and participating in projects based on the recommendations of people I met on the road. This flexibility came with a price tag. But in the famous words of French songwriter Charles Dumont – “Non, je ne regrette rien.”

Accommodation: The goal was to exchange work for food and accommodation, but some projects were unable to offer housing and the occasional project simply did not workout (read: Morocco or Scotland). I did occasionally pay for accommodation, but the total cost to accommodate myself was minimal compared to renting a flat for a year in any western urban location.

Reciprocity Donations: Some of the work projects requested administrative fees, or had other types of costs to be involved. Attaching cost to volunteerism is certainly fodder for a debate on the true meaning of ‘volunteering’. But I opted for non-absolutism in my travel philosophy. Essentially this meant that I would evaluate the overall learning potential of an experience, and sometimes this meant paying minimal fees to be involved.

Entry/Exit fees: Fairly self-explanatory. Some countries, such as India or Argentina have fees to enter or exit the nation. Fees can vary from one year to another, and often are scaled based upon the traveller’s country of origin (i.e. If you’re from a more developed nation, expect to pay more fees).

Health Insurance: I opted for a Canadian company that provided up to $1 million of coverage. For my one month in New Orleans I had to buy separate (and more expensive) insurance for coverage specifically in the USA (included in the $471 total). When purchasing international travel insurance, my advice is to ensure each country you are visiting is covered. Read the fine print.

Membership Fees: The cost to join certain online networks that match travellers with locals. These fees were DEFINITELY worth it.

*          *          *

HOW I GOT THE MONEY TO MAKE MY DREAM A REALITY

It was not rocket science:

1)  I worked.
2)  I got a line of credit.

Before leaving I read Vagabonding (by Rolf Potts). One of the ‘take-aways’ for me was the concept of earning one’s travels. Essentially Potts states that the journey will be more meaningful if the traveller has worked to save money. After working (and saving) for a few years, I couldn’t agree more.

I had approximately $10,000 USD in savings to start my journey. This might sound like quite the cash wad, and that it might take forever to accumulate. But with a bit of budgeting and some discipline, monthly saving can become second nature.

Here’s what saving $10,000 can look like:

$500/month for 20 months = $10,000

or

$300/month for 36 months = $10,800

or

$200/month for 48 months = $9600

I’m not going to tell you how exactly to budget. There are a million blog posts out there with stellar strategies on how to save money. Go read them.

It would be foolish, however, to believe that $10 000 would be enough money for a year of travel to six different continents. So I went to the bank to request a line of credit. The first bank rejected my request of a $10,000 loan, so I wrote them a mean blog post. The second bank approved my request, and subsequently offered me a $15,000 loan. Rest assured that most banks are happy to have you owe them money. And think of a line of credit more as a student loan. A yearlong international journey is the epitome of education.

Now I’m back home in Canadaland, and have several thousands of dollars of debt to pay off. But this debt doesn’t discourage me. I’ve had student debt before, which I subsequently paid off.

Oh yes, and there’s that other reason why I’m not fazed:

Because I travelled around the world.

*          *          *

IN CONCLUSION

Travel does not have to be financially frightening. A common misconception is that ‘travel’ and ‘work’ are mutually exclusive options. But they’re not. To make my journey economically realistic, I had to think about how I could reduce my costs. I was drawn to a ‘work-exchange’ style of journeying, where I traded a certain amount of hours per day for food and accommodation. If a traveller is willing to work, the duration of the journey can be indefinite.

Here are a few ways to reduce the cost of travel:

- Go to a single continent
- Hitch-hike or rideshare
- Couch-surf
- Work-exchange
- Don’t buy shit

Let’s go back to the start. The big question posed by this blog post was, “How much does it cost for a year of travel?”

My official answer for the record books is this: “Well, it depends on the degree of frugality in which one is willing to travel.”

If a traveller is pennywise and/or willing to focus on one corner of the world, it is possible to be on the road for a longer duration with even less money than I personally spent.

Before I leave you, let me put things into perspective. In 2004, Edmunds.com published a report stating that the average sticker price on a vehicle sold in the United States was $29,746 USD, and nearly ten years later, I’m certain that the figure has increased. I spent approximately $14,000 USD to travel to six different continents for an entire year. With this logic, I could get a new car or I could go around the world… twice. So really, it’s all about priorities.

If you want to make it happen, then make it happen.

You can.

*          *          *

Please share this blog post with someone in your life who’s dreaming of long-term international travel.

I can be contacted here:

Twitter.com/Daniel_Baylis
Facebook.com/DanielBaylis
dannyboy@danielbaylis.ca

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41 Responses to “How Much Does It Cost For One Year of Travel?”
  1. Pía Cerda Bustíos 19 June 2012 at 11:33 AM #

    I loved it Daniel, I’m sure your last year will be for ever with you!!! (so much better than a car hehe)

  2. Raoul Renard Castañeda 19 June 2012 at 11:33 AM #

    Very interesting! thank you

  3. John 19 June 2012 at 1:17 PM #

    Great post Daniel!

    We used the book “The World’s Cheapest Destinations” by Tim Leffel to plan our destinations.

    BTW, how is your book coming along?

    • danbaylis 19 June 2012 at 9:08 PM #

      Hey John!

      I’ll have to check out Leffel’s book.

      The book is coming slowly, but surely. I’m looking at an early 2013 release.

      But I hope to be in Toronto before that, and would love to share a meal and catch up!

      • John 19 June 2012 at 9:44 PM #

        Drop me an e-mail when you are in Toronto.

        I’ll be in Montreal in the middle of August.

  4. Greer Nicholson 19 June 2012 at 8:51 PM #

    I LOVE this post! Dan, you are absolutely telling the truth. I think some people want to believe that it’s all impossible because they are scared. Thank you for breaking it down in such a positive way. Sorry I missed you in Edinburgh, but hope to meet up in Montreal, soon. Thanks for a TERRIFIC blog post.

    • danbaylis 19 June 2012 at 9:08 PM #

      Thanks Greer. Happy that you appreciated it!

  5. Patrick 20 June 2012 at 2:36 PM #

    I think you’re grossly underestimating visa costs. India alone is over $125.

    • danbaylis 20 June 2012 at 3:46 PM #

      Hey Patrick,

      I got my Indian visa when I was in Israel (Tel Aviv), and it cost me $56 USD through a third party agency.

      Other countries ranged from $20 (Australia) – $70 (Argentina).

      And some countries (USA, France, Morocco) had no fees for Canadians.

      Cheers!

  6. Daniel Espinoza 20 June 2012 at 3:03 PM #

    Great post Daniel! Vagabonding is one of my most favorite books, and my wife is currently reading it too. We are planning slow travel as a family of 5 and working toward making it a reality.

    Just like Potts’ quote in the book about the guy from “Wall Street” talking about riding his motorcycle across China, people don’t understand just how inexpensive and attainable a lifestyle of travel is.

    I’m a numbers guy (just wrote about the “Math of Freedom”) and numbers can be powerful in changing people’s perceptions. Numbers help other nerds like me have a sense of safety.

    Keep on traveling!

    • danbaylis 21 June 2012 at 7:31 AM #

      I’m always happy to help a nerd!

      Safe travels to the Espinoza family…

  7. Hamish Carpenter 20 June 2012 at 6:03 PM #

    I am extremely envious…Very inspiring post. It looks I better start saving up!!

  8. Jarratt 25 June 2012 at 8:56 AM #

    Great article! I think it’s so helpful to share how much it costs to travel. I’ll be rereading to take some notes for future :)

  9. Samara 25 June 2012 at 9:27 AM #

    Great to find an article that actually states figures rather than guestimates. But I got a little confused when you say you roughly spent $14000 but that you also came home with several thousand of debt. Does the $14000 include the debt or is it you spent $14000 and also had debt after this figure? Thanks

    • danbaylis 25 June 2012 at 11:02 AM #

      Hey Samara,

      I started the journey with a savings of $10 000 USD.

      I spent around $14 000 USD on my trip.

      My debt upon returning was around $4000 USD, plus some debt I incurred while writing my book.

  10. Lisa 25 June 2012 at 9:57 AM #

    Great post and excellent point about priorities. Also, thanks for the info on insurance. That’s one of the things I would be worried about.

  11. IBé 25 June 2012 at 11:28 AM #

    A cost not mentioned (and the one that really makes this close to impossible for me) is the cost of the life waiting for you at home. Bills piling up; if you have a mortgage, God help you! And upon your return if you don’t find a job (worth its weight) right away, you are in for another cost.
    I don’t mean to be a downer, but I have thought about this, and for some reason, the cost associated with the trip is not at all scary to me. I think this can be even cheaper than you experienced. It’s those I just mentioned that makes me pack the idea and store it deep in my pillow. Maybe it’s because I have a family. Which leads me to a question: Is this an opportunity only available to single people (except of course if your last name is Zuckerberg or Gate)? I’d love to read about how a family (of 5) made this happen.

    • John 26 June 2012 at 11:19 AM #

      You can sell your house before you leave or rent it while you are away. After we calculated the costs of selling it and buying a new one upon our return, we decided to keep our house. So, this means that you need to save extra to cover the mortgage, insurance, utilities and maintenance (e.g., cutting the grass). Additionally, you can also make an arrangement with your bank to reduce your monthly payment while you are away (e.g., only pay the interest) or you can do some online work on the road to pay for a portion of your mortgage. In our case, keeping our house turned out to be a great decision because it made our transition back to reality seamless and our three children (12, 13 and 16) went back to their old school the next day.

      Don’t be so scared about your job. Your company can lay you off or fire you anytime with no warning. Or, you can get sick or get into an accident. What would you do if that happens to you? You’ll pound the pavement to look for a new job or find other ways to support your family. Life will go on and it will sort itself out. So, your transition after the trip is no different. In fact, it is better because you can start warming your contacts three months or so before your return. We got home from our one-year around the world trip on June 6 at 1:00 a.m. and I was back at work, which I kept “warm” (e.g., working remotely part-time) while I was away, at 9:00 a.m. I have been so busy since then.

      What if I couldn’t get a job right away? Open a line of credit before you leave so that you’ll have access to funds for three to six months. Hopefully, you don’t have to use it. Regardless of whether you are planning a long-term trip or not, you should have this emergency fund anyway.

      • danbaylis 26 June 2012 at 11:41 AM #

        Thanks for this response, John.

        • IBé 26 June 2012 at 4:23 PM #

          Yeah, thanks John. Good points. And good advice, especially around making arrangements with the bank to reduce payment. I didn’t know this. But as far as working remotely and such, I think this would limit the whole experience, dont you think? But at least it seems possible. Some things for me to think about. Thanks!

          • John 29 June 2012 at 9:37 PM #

            You can go to “work” while your children are attending their school online, and then take a break whenever they have questions or if they need help. I kept my work to a minimum, about 10-15 hours per week, just enough to keep my brain stimulated and my skills sharp. In doing so, there is a sense of normalcy and routine for all even though we were changing locations every few weeks. You can’t visit museums, mosques, tombs and temples every single day so it is good to do something familiar when you are not exploring new places. We really did not rely on the income from the online work. I guess the pressure of needing to earn an income may influence the experience but if you are doing it just to stay connected with your profession, the extra money is an icing on the cake that you can use to “splurge” at certain attractions. In that case, it can actually enhance the experience.

  12. Doug 25 June 2012 at 10:57 PM #

    Hi Daniel,

    Just wanted to share my experiences. I’ve been traveling the world for most of the time since December 2000 (as of this writing I’m in Asia). I’ve visited 53 countries with more than 120 return visits (10 times to China, 16 times to the Philippines, 29 times to Thailand, just to name a few). My average cost over that time is just over $16,000(US) per year. And I haven’t done the cost-saving/money-generating tips you mentioned. In fact, I’ve done some rather expensive things – like taking the Oriental Express from Malaysia to Bangkok – $1000 for a 30-hour train trip. Also, I’ve found that, as I get older, my minimum comfort-level gets higher and higher.

    To see some interesting statistics about my travels, go to http://jdfowler.net/statistics (and don’t worry, this is not a plug for a commercial site – it’s my own personal corner of cyberspace).

    I admire anyone willing to take the leap-of-faith necessary to achieve the dream of traveling the world that most of us harbor. Good job!

    • danbaylis 26 June 2012 at 11:40 AM #

      Hey Doug, Thanks for the sentiments and the link to your blog! You seem much more well versed in long term international travel than myself! Kudos. Keep it up.

  13. Run Cheap Travel 26 June 2012 at 11:11 AM #

    Hey Daniel, awesome post.
    I am planning to travel europe as my first solo travel. I choose Europe as a start to gain some experience in solo travel and keep my budget low (also to convince my mom I will be okay ahah)
    As you I want to exchange work for accomodation and food!!!

    Thanks for sharing with us…
    Sofia @RunCheapTravel

  14. sri 10 July 2012 at 1:54 PM #

    Hi John,
    Reading your blog makes me yearn to follow in your footsteps. Good part is i already have the money saved up.. (well most of it). but am a woman and apart from India and US (parts of US) i never traveled by myself nor have that many friends who would want to travel with me. based on your experience how safe is it for a woman to travel alone. i want to see the world.. meet people..but am also scared.. to take the first step.. any advice..
    Sri

  15. Elle of Solo Female Nomad 27 August 2012 at 1:15 PM #

    I think it truly depends on where you travel. Europe, your money will go before you know it. However, Asia, particularly Nepal and India, you money will last so much more longer. Hosteling in Europe or one the more expensive continents will keep the costs down, especially if you are staying in a dorm. Also, you can use their kitchen to cook your own food. The good old ramen noodles cost close to nothing! You not only have to consider the costs of travel, but saving for the “financial cushion” for your return. Great post!

  16. Ilse 10 September 2012 at 3:22 PM #

    Hello!
    I simply do respect your blogs on HOW MUCH DOES IT COST FOR ONE YEAR OF TRAVEL? | The Conversationalist | danielbaylis.ca and will be back again!
    Thank you.

  17. Adventurous Andrea 16 October 2012 at 11:08 AM #

    What an informative post! Thanks much for sharing. I always enjoy hearing about how people consolidate and save on their travels.

    -Andi

  18. nyu.edu 26 November 2012 at 1:18 AM #

    Hello, I check your new stuff on a regular basis.
    Your writing style is awesome, keep it up!

  19. Lashaun Morosow 11 January 2013 at 12:30 AM #

    What I am most interested in David, is how you guys will alter the paradigm in which people are so squeezed that they either flee or hang around to get treated like scourges. If your reserve banks reforms don’t work, for example, will you try other things? I am much more interested in whether the end is realised than the means (excluding of course disgraceful means) by which you hope to realise it.

    • danbaylis 25 January 2013 at 11:50 AM #

      My name’s not David.

  20. Rob Fielding 23 January 2013 at 4:01 AM #

    The trick with the big world trip is not to put it off once you’ve got the resources. Don’t wait for the time, go now, unless your partner is having your child or someone you love is dying. I have just spent the past 25 years working and living overseas – in 7 different countries – me, my wife and our two cats.
    Great fun, and I am sooo glad I made the effort way back when I was a young man. Teaching English is one of the ways you can do it, and the way I did it.

  21. Joe 11 March 2013 at 3:29 PM #

    Very cool post.

    Can you tell me some names of some membership web sites to interface with locals?

    Also, how do you find local ways to trade labor for room and board particularly in Scandinavia- Norway especially?

    Cheers!

  22. moseg88 24 April 2013 at 7:31 AM #

    Hello to all,
    In my opinion it full depends where & when you travel. Europe is very expensive and Asia is more affordable. Particularly Nepal & India are relatively cheap. So, if anyone is on a budget trip avoiding Europe would be a good idea. You could find a reasonably packaged tour of India and Nepal at koshertravelers.com which offers some great facilities at a very affordable cost.

  23. Tony Chan 16 March 2014 at 4:51 PM #

    Thanks for sharing this post Dan. It helped me to plan my budget for my upcoming RTW trip. I wanted to ask you, which insurance company did you get your policy from?

    • danbaylis 16 March 2014 at 7:16 PM #

      Hey Tony. Glad to help! I got my travel insurance from a Canadian travel agency called Travel Cuts, which they purchase through a Canadian bank called RBC. Most travel agencies and banks have packages available, and assuming you’re in good enough health for an RTW trip, you probably shouldn’t have a hard time finding a package right for you!

  24. Bob 19 May 2014 at 3:04 PM #

    Hi Dan! Great guide :)

    What would you suggest to someone, like me, who is 17 and still doing their A Levels. Would you say that if one wanted to do this they should do it as a gap year before university, after university or later on in life?

    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently and realised that there is more to life than waking up at a certain time, going to work, coming home, having a weekend off…. and the process repeats. Out there, there are incredible places to see, people to meet, and cultures to experience. I realised that if I am doing the prior, what is the point in living? It’s just one big job.

    So, on the subject of packing up and leaving (for a number of years), then, how and when would you suggest doing it?

    I know to you guys I just seem like a stupid child, but I believe that this is something I truly want to do in the future as a true life experience. The ‘hobo’ lifestyle is something frowned upon but personally I feel it is remarkable, and that those people actually have a better quality of life (and are often better people) than the people society brands as ‘successful’.

    After all, what makes success? It’s a one way street, as someone who many view as successful are probably not as happy and content with their lives as people who live on the road, a curious and adventurous lifestyle.

    Honestly, if I am to have a minimum wage job working 9-5 day in day out, year in year out for my entire life… I don’t see the reason for living.

    Again, really like the blog Dan, and would appreciate your opinions on this one.

    Cheers, Bob

    • danbaylis 21 May 2014 at 2:00 PM #

      Hey Bob,

      Thanks for your comment! (And no, you don’t seem like a stupid child.)

      Travel is great — especially if you know what type of experience you are looking for.

      That said, if you know what type of career you want, I recommend getting established as quickly as possible — and then using it to travel. Become a nurse or an engineer (or any other trade). Having a skill is one of the *best* ways to contribute to other communities around the world.

      But if you don’t know what you want, it’s okay to drift for a while and discover the options.

      Best of luck!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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