The end of 2018 was both awful and incredible.
First, I came out of a long term relationship. That was the bad bit.
Then, to get over it, I packed my stuff into a backpack and hit the road. I had no plans other than to travel, (try to) make a living while doing so, and have a good old-fashioned adventure in the process.
That, needless to say, was the good bit!
16 months, 6 countries, and a few continents later, and I’m back in the UK.
I learned a lot about a lot in the time I was away. Among it all, though, I figured out how to live on the road without going broke!
I’m not gonna lie- it was touch and go a couple of times. But through hook and crook, I made it through with money in the bank. In fact, I came home with more cash than I went away with.
Are you planning to travel long term and want some ways to avoid money trouble as you go?
I’d like to help!
Read on for 12 tips on taking care of your bank balance when living on the road full time.
- 1. Save Up a Bunch in Advance
- 2. Live Frugally!
- 3. Pack the Right Stuff
- 4. Get a Remote Working Job
- 5. Leverage Working Holiday Visas
- 6. Find Cash in Hand Work
- 7. Seek Out Free Accommodation
- 8. Find Accommodation that Offers Free Meals!
- 9. Cook for Yourself (Don’t Eat Out Too Often)
- 10. Make the Most of Free Activities
- 11. Book Flights in Advance (Remember Hold Luggage)
- 12. Travel to Cheap Countries (& Off-Peak)
1. Save Up a Bunch in Advance
It pays to get yourself in a decent financial situation before you go.
I just find that it takes the pressure off a bit at the start of a trip. I mean, you’re finding your feet in a new country. The last thing you want is to be worrying about cash the entire time.
Having a bit of a buffer means money isn’t on your mind as much.
Of course, it also helps you cover the initial travel expenses, such as flights and travel insurance. Those two alone can cost hundreds of bucks. If you don’t have much money at the start, then that takes a serious chunk out of your bank balance.
2. Live Frugally!
This is basically rule number 1:
Live within (or below) your means.
Channel your inner Thoreau- the champion of all frugal anti-materialists, who lived in the woods, built a simple home from the surrounding trees, and lived on essentially nothing for months on end!
Travel the world on a budget; avoid spending cash unnecessarily. If you’ve not got much cash to start with, and nothing’s going to be coming in for a while, then this is crucial.
Don’t live frugally on the road and you won’t be on the road for long.
Even worse, you might not enjoy the experience. You come across some travelers on the road who literally have no money. A part of me admires them! They’re set for an adventure by virtue of their predicament.
Still, I’d rather not be worrying about affording food and accommodation when I travel. By saving up in advance and living frugally on the road, I never have to.
3. Pack the Right Stuff
Being prepared is important too.
Try to hit the road with everything you need to be happy on it. Take quality travel gear, clothing, and tech that won’t let you down! There’s nothing worse than forking out cash for things that break.
Likewise, it’s annoying having to buy new stuff on the road because you were unprepared.
For instance, I had to buy some warmer clothing when I went to Australia last year. I had this idea that Australia was hot, like, everywhere- all the time! Go to Victoria in winter, though, and you’ll soon realize that isn’t the case.
This is just one example of how a lack of preparedness can cost you on a trip. Being diligent in your preparation should prevent that from happening. That said, don’t forget to pack a travel adapter kit. It will save you have to buy one in every other new country you step in as it happens in Europe. For starters, UK, France and Italy have all different types of electrical outlet plugs.
4. Get a Remote Working Job
This was the tack I took on my trip.
I hooked myself up with a remote content writing gig before I went away.
And it was an absolute lifesaver!
Becoming a digital nomad was something I’d thought about for a long time. I mean, being able to make a living from anywhere in the world seemed like a dream.
As it happened, there were a bunch of challenges involved too (constant need for internet, masses of distractions, issues with productivity…).
All told, though, it was (and is) incredible. I wouldn’t have been able to stay away for as long as I did without it. Having a source of income when you travel means you can be away indefinitely.
If you can do the same, then I highly recommend it. Freelance writing, online language teaching, internet businesses, marketing, consultation – there are many different ways to become a digital nomad.
5. Leverage Working Holiday Visas
Not interested in working online?
Well, think about getting a working holiday visa (WHV) for one or more of the countries you’re going to travel around. This gives you the legal right to get an ‘actual job’ wherever it is you’re headed.
Popular choices include New Zealand and Australia.
With a WHV, you can stay in the country for a long time (usually a year with the option of extending) and work as you go. Travelers do everything from hospitality to farm work to make a living this way.
Again, it’s about attaining a source of income on the road. This opens the door to long term travel. You can work for a while, save up a bunch of cash, and then move on.
6. Find Cash in Hand Work
Cash in hand work is another way to earn some money on the road.
It’s just not, technically, legal! Sure, you can take these roles if you’re on a WHV too. But it’s often the reserve of lowly travelers needing quick cash without having the requisite paperwork.
You’re usually looking at menial work, such as laboring, landscaping or fruit picking.
It works well for everybody. The ‘employer’ gets some extra hands on deck for a busy day. And you walk away with some extra cash in your pocket. Find enough of these positions (they’re often 1-day kind of gigs) and you can replenish your travel account nicely.
Just be wary of being taken for a ride.
With no contracts and so on, there’s a higher chance of unscrupulous people abusing your willingness to work. On rare occasions, they might underpay you, or fail to pay you at all.
7. Seek Out Free Accommodation
Paying for accommodation is the bane of any travelers’ life.
It’s one of the biggest expenses on the road. In Australia, for example, you could be looking at $40 to 50 (AUD) per night for a dorm room in a hostel! That’s daylight robbery if you ask me.
Looking to travel long term? Do whatever you can to find cheap or free accommodation as often as possible. Thankfully, places like Australia make that possible through ‘work for accommodation’ set-ups.
You agree to do a few hours’ work during the day (usually housekeeping) in exchange for a free bed. If you get bed AND board then you’re laughing.
Websites like HelpX and Workaway are two top sites to look into as well. Again, it is work for accommodation, but you’ll find heaps of different opportunities all over the world. People with big projects that they’re getting off the ground advertise free bed and board in exchange for your help.
It’s an awesome way to travel the world, meet inspiring people, and lend a hand as you go.
8. Find Accommodation that Offers Free Meals!
Most travelers end up staying in hostels most of the time.
If that’s the case, then search for ones that’ll chuck in a free breakfast/lunch/dinner with it.
I once paid for a hostel in New Zealand for $20 (NZD) a night (bargain) that provided free breakfast and the occasional evening meal. It was an insanely good deal. Oh, and there was a hot tub, cinema, volleyball court, table tennis tables…Best. Hostel. Ever.
Alas, they’re not all like that. But many do provide a free breakfast. It might not sound like much, but it can save you decent money as the weeks and months pass.
9. Cook for Yourself (Don’t Eat Out Too Often)
Food is, of course, another basic (and significant) expense when you’re on the road.
But imagine paying for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for months on end.
Do that in countries in Europe, Oceania, or North America and you’re going to spend huge sums of cash on food each week.
The only exception is if you’re traveling in places like south-east Asia, where it’s perfectly normal to eat out every meal. For one thing, the hostels rarely have kitchen facilities! But it’s also super cheap. When you’re paying $1-2 a meal, you can afford to eat out 3 times a day.
Don’t have that luxury? Be sure to cook for yourself as often as possible. Buy ingredients from the local supermarket and cook up some grub in the hostel kitchen.
Related read: Best Countries For Food Around The World
10. Make the Most of Free Activities
Free activities are the bomb when you’re traveling.
You should make the most of them.
To be fair, this is one thing hostels usually have going for them. To attract guests, they might have a weekly schedule of free stuff to get involved in. Expect everything from tours and cooking classes to free drinks, cinema nights, and party games in the bar.
You’ll find a bunch of free stuff to do elsewhere too though. Most cities, for instance, are packed with museums, live music venues, and any number of quirky events that don’t charge a dime.
Get online to see what’s available where you’re heading!
11. Book Flights in Advance (Remember Hold Luggage)
I’m not a big fan of having a plan when I travel.
I prefer to see what happens. It keeps things interesting!
However, when you’re living on the road, it pays (literally) to have a rough idea of the next countries you’ll be heading to. Having them in mind means you can look into flights well in advance, saving yourself oodles of cash in the process.
Don’t be fooled by the crazily cheap flights of budget airlines though.
Many of them get your attention with a ludicrously low price, only to charge exorbitant sums of money for hold luggage.
If you’re traveling full-time, then you’ll almost certainly have a backpack/suitcase that doesn’t qualify as a carryon. The cost of tickets gets shunted up as a result.
12. Travel to Cheap Countries (& Off-Peak)
Choose your travel destinations wisely.
Especially if money is tight.
Why? Because the cost of living varies enormously between different countries. For example, you’ll pay over $80 per night in Australia for a very basic double room.
In Vietnam, though, you’ll get something that’s 10 times nicer for one-tenth of that price. Expect to pay 8 bucks a night for a lush double room, with an ensuite, in a good location.
That’s 10 nights’ accommodation for the price of one!
Pick inexpensive places to travel around and living within your means becomes a much simpler task. It follows that you’ll be able to travel for longer and in greater comfort too.
Exactly How to Live On the Road without Going Broke!
Those two magic words are a dream for countless people around the world. Unfortunately, money can feel like an obstacle to making it a reality.
But it doesn’t have to be. With the right approach, you can absolutely enjoy long term travel without bankrupting yourself! Hopefully, this post has given you some good ideas on how to live on the road without going broke.