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Let’s perform a quick thought experiment, shall we?

You’ve won the lottery. You’re taking home an ungodly amount of cash, more than you could have ever hoped to earn in your lifetime.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

The what-if’s begin to unravel.

What are you going to do first?

Pay off your mortgage? Buy a super-yacht? Start a business?

If you’re like most people, the answer is probably none of the above.

I’m going to travel the world.

You spend your days lounging by crystal-clear waters in Fiji, or wandering aimlessly around the souks of Marrakech, or fawning over a steaming plate of cacio e pepe after a lengthy tour of the Uffizi.

Can you see it?

What if I told you that it’s not all just a pipe-dream.

What if I told you that you never won the lottery, yet this is your life. Your reality.

Two years ago, my partner and I boarded a plane to Japan for what would be the first of many days spent abroad—346 days in total.

I was 24-years-old and had just quit my first full-time job as a graphic designer. There were no wealthy parents or rich boyfriend to support me, just a modest savings account after aggressively saving for a few years prior.

Our trip would take us on a tour through 27 countries across Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, and finally, back home to the U.S—and it was all worth the leap of faith it took to buy that first plane ticket.

That’s all it is, really. A leap of faith.

We grow up being told that we’re meant to do life in a certain way, earning proverbial gold stars for every box we tick; that there are rules we need to follow in order to reach the other end of the rainbow.

What happens when you decide not to follow the rules?

It seems intimidating. A year of traveling.

What if I told you it was all possible? With just a little diligence, patience, and self-belief on your part?

Overlooking the Li River in Yangshuo, China
China’s famous Li River

How Much Does it Cost for Two People to Travel the World for a Year?

There’s a stigma that travel is expensive, that only trust-fund babies and Instagram celebrities can afford to take international trips so often. The rest of us have real jobs and actual responsibilities and bills to pay.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty (and trust me, there will be a lot of nitty-gritty), here’s our final number, for two people traveling to 27 countries over the span of 346 days:



Just a smidge over forty grand, or $123.08 per day ($61.54 per person). That’s how much it cost for two people to travel the world for nearly a year.

Putting Things into Perspective

Before we dig any deeper, I’d like to take a moment to put this number into perspective. Let’s imagine that you have half of this budget ($20,679.02, since the total is for two people) to live your life for one year.

I live in San Francisco. If you’re lucky, you could maybe find a room for $1,200 a month (assuming you are living with multiple roommates). You’ll be living away from any public transport, in a sketchy-but-not-deadly area, and in an old apartment without much of a common space, but it’s possible.

Your shitty living situation amounts to around $14,400 a year, which leaves you about $6,279 for the rest of your living expenses. In other words, about $523 a month. That’s enough to get by if you spend your money on basic groceries and other bare essentials—and never eat out, go to shows, go out drinking, buy clothes, take an Uber when it’s raining, go on vacation, suffer from any sort of emergency, or just generally live your life.

In other words, I spent about as much on our trip as it would have cost to barely survive in my hometown.

Now, for the real meat of this post: What exactly did we spend our money on?

Exploring the landscape of Cappadocia, Turkey
Exploring the landscape of Cappadocia

So What Exactly Does this Number Include?

I know, I know. You still have a million questions:

But how did I know how much I needed to save? What level of comfort were we traveling at? Did we even have any fun at that amount?

Patience, grasshopper. All is to be revealed.

What Did $20,000 Per Person Get us During a Year of Travel?

1.) Transportation between 27 different countries, spanning Asia, Europe, South America, North America, and a quick dip into Africa.

2.) Lodging within each of these countries.

3.) Food from grocery stores, local markets, and fancy restaurants.

4.) Experiences, including, but not limited to: tickets to Lotte World followed by a $100 lobster buffet, two nights camping in the Sahara desert, massages by the beach in Vietnam, a booze-cruise around some of Southern Thailand’s best islands, a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia, a wagyu beef yakiniku dinner, a four-night guided tour of the mountains surrounding Machu Picchu, a month’s membership at a Brazilian boxing gym, a few days at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, and two days of exploring Zurich, Switzerland (which, if you’ve been to Switzerland, you know affording that is a feat in itself).

Travel Costs: Breakdown

Spending by Category

What we spent over the entire trip, broken down into budget categories:

Daily ExpensesCost (for 2 people)
Lodging (hostels, hotels, etc.) $9,351.38
Food (groceries, meals out, coffee, etc.) $10,621.00
Entertainment (alcohol, clubs, shows, etc.)$1,036.76
Activities (museums, tours, etc.) $2,986.89
Transportation (trains, buses, metro, taxis, etc.; not including flights or overland/overseas travel between countries) $4,963.48
Misc. (toiletries, souvenirs, mail, etc.) $2,323.98
Internet (data, purchased wi-fi, etc.) $153.86
Extra ExpensesCost (for 2 people)
Flights and overland/overseas travel between countries$4,852.40
Pre-trip costs (passport, vaccines, insurance, etc.)$1,388.18
Pre-trip gear (clothes, backpacks, etc.)$1,936.64
Unrelated/emergency costs (more details below)$1,501.70

Spending by Country

What we spent over the entire trip, broken down by country. This does not include flights or any other transportation between countries, nor does it include any costs that were not country-specific (file recovery, replacing my iPhone screen, etc.) or pre-trip costs (vaccines, gear, etc.).

CategoryCost (for 2 people)
Japan$4,449.62 ($158.91/day)
South Korea$2,796.82 ($96.44/day)
China$1,039.92 ($54.73/day)
Hong Kong$511.37 ($102.27/day)
Taiwan$906.86 ($64.78/day)
Vietnam$1,304.28 ($52.17/day)
Thailand$1,256.06 ($73.89/day)
Myanmar$578.41 ($72.30/day)
Turkey$1,013.49 ($101.35/day)
Bulgaria$238.45 ($59.61/day)
Romania$1,020.04 ($68.00/day)
Hungary$267.84 ($66.96/day)
Austria$1,464.00 ($143.53/day)
Slovenia$471.21 ($94.24/day)
Croatia$950.34 ($79.19/day)
Italy$1,681.20 ($129.32/day)
Switzerland$407.84 ($135.95/day)
France$1,698.68 ($154.43/day)
Portugal$907.14 ($82.47/day)
Spain$1,586.69 ($113.34/day)
Morocco$913.64 ($76.14/day)
Brazil$1,372.97 ($52.81/day)
Peru$2,795.58 ($147.14/day)
Colombia$1,986.88 ($99.34/day)
USA$59.77 ($8.54/day)

Average Cost Per Day

$61.54/per person

Extra, Unforeseen, & Unique Costs

There were a handful for costs throughout the year that were particular to our individual situation—in other words, you could probably subtract these costs from the total number listed above (but you’ll also likely face your own unique costs abroad, so YMMV).

This includes multiple phone repairs, a new camera for Joel, a new blog layout, and file recovery services, among other things. These amounted to $1,501.70.


In addition to our own unique costs, we splurged on quite a few items and experiences. The most expensive among these were:

Day at Lotte World + lobster buffet in Seoul: $238.00
Hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia: $168.07
Overnight stay in a ryokan in Kinosaki: $410.33
Overnight stay in a monk sanctuary on Mt. Koya: $287.79

What’s Not Included

Nearly every and anything we spent money on was included in the total costs of the year, with the sole exceptions of:

1.) A nice dinner that a friend (hi Emily!) from home treated us to as a good-bye gift.

2.) My Sony A7ii. I originally started the trip with a Sony RX-1, which began to break down by the end of the summer. Once we were in Hong Kong, I was in the market for a new camera. I picked up a Sony A7ii body with kit lens and nifty-fifty for somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,900. This would have been a substantial blow to our budget early on, so I asked my mom if she could loan me the money until I returned home (and yes, I do realize my privilege). She was happy to help out, and I promptly paid her back in full within my first month back home.

Free Costs

It would show quite a lack of self-awareness were I not to mention all of the resources we utilized over the year to help drive down costs.

A big part of this was flights (I was credit card hacking and saving points for two years before we left, which I’ll get to in a minute), but there were other factors as well. We stayed in São Paulo for several weeks with Joel’s family, and they didn’t let us spend money on anything (literally, anything) while hosting us. His family in Seoul also treated us to KBBQ, and my friend, Audrey, hosted us in Shanghai, where her family (who I’m convinced are members of the jade mafia) graciously invited us along to private temple tours, tables at rooftop bars overlooking The Bund, and to lavish banquet dinners and karaoke rooms with oysters and champagne. We also stayed with my family in Georgia (the state, not the country) for a week near the end of our trip, before returning to California.

I sometimes hesitate in mentioning this part to people who ask about our expenses abroad, because it usually leads to a satisfied, “Aha! See! I told you I wouldn’t have the money to do it,” category of response. While I want to acknowledge that it is a privilege to have the sort of resources and relationships that supported us during our trip, it was far from being the reason why we could afford to do what we did in the first place.

We could have gone without most of these experiences (although I’m very grateful that we didn’t have to) and still had so many wonderful memories, with the exception of São Paulo, where we would have at least had to have paid for our own hostel had we not had an apartment to crash at.

Flights & Points

Oh man. I could dive into this for hours. Days. Or write an entire book on the topic (oh wait, I already did).

For the sake of brevity, I’ll keep it short: I used points. I used them for all of our long-haul flights, and for a brief stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Vienna over Christmas. More specifically:

San Francisco -> Tokyo (plane tickets for two)
Yangon -> Istanbul (plane tickets for two)
Lisbon -> Rio (plane tickets for two)
Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna (three nights hotel stay, for two)

I didn’t add the true costs of these flights and experiences to our total number, because most of them were much more expensive than if we had chosen to pay directly (i.e., we were able to select flights that didn’t require waking up at the ass-crack of dawn).

If memory serves, our Tokyo flight was around $5,000 each, Istanbul was $800 each, Rio was $1,500 each, and the Ritz was $400/night for a room. Of course, I would never spend $5,000 on an economy flight anywhere (anywhere) unless it was for the imminent death of a family member or I was on the run from the FBI; however, the alternative costs are worth mentioning, if only to understand the kind of convenience that becomes available to you when booking award flights.

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City God Temple of Shanghai
Friends in Shanghai (not including the guy in the back)

Insights: What Variables Affected our Travel Budget?

What could we afford with our budget? What did an average day look like for us?

Okay, I lied before. It’s not a misconception that traveling is expensive.

It’s a misconception that all travel is expensive (ba dum da!).

If you’re staying at the Four Seasons, booking first-class flights, and enjoying Michelin star meals on a weekly basis, your total expenditures are going to look drastically different from what I’ve shared so far. You could easily burn through our entire year’s budget in a few weeks if you were so inclined.

How you choose to spend your money—what you prioritize in your travels and your travel style—makes all the difference.

Joel and I primarily led “budget backpacker” lifestyles, with a few exceptions. I’d consider this a step up from shoe-string travel, which I’ll get into later.

What an Average Day Looked Like for Us by Region:

Noodle Bar in Lijiang, China
Send noods

Daily Spending habits in Asia:

Joel and I are both hardcore-nerds for Asian culture and cuisine. It also happens that Asia is quite affordable when compared to other parts of the world. As a result, we ate out a lot in the first part of our trip (which was often cheaper since most hostels here don’t have a kitchen). We also drank a decent amount (hello, Seoul).

A typical day might include waking up at a decently modern hostel, taking advantage of the free breakfast, and then checking out a local temple or cultural sight. We’d eat lunch at a hole-in-the-wall joint, then retreat back to the hostel for a few hours of rest (and to hide from the heat and humidity).

I’m a classic Type-A and I get restless on “vacation”, so I preferred having a few hours each day to write, edit photos, or somehow feel productive beyond just wandering and eating (as much as I love those things). Joel is more laid back and would spend his time watching YouTube, going for a jog, or talking with people in the hostel.

For dinner, we might explore a local market or grab some take-out (oh 7-Eleven, how I miss you).

Overlooking the old streets of Bologna

Daily Spending Habits in Europe:

Europe was a little different than Asia, if only because 1.) it’s much more expensive 2.) it was much colder (we went in winter) and 3.) please don’t kill me for saying this, but the food is generally less exciting. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy tasting the local dishes (I love a good croissant or plate of gnocchi as much as the next girl), but we just didn’t vibe with Austrian wienerschnitzel and Swiss hot dogs as much as we did with ramen and KBBQ.

Thus, much of our time involved picking out a small pocket of the city or town we were in, hopping on the metro, and then walking around and soaking in the atmosphere for free. We’d religiously eat free breakfast at the hostel (and sometimes take leftovers to-go for lunch or dinner), cook our own food (most European hostels are equipped with a kitchen), and only paid for the must-sees (think the Louvre and Alhambra).

There was a lot less partying going on during this section of the trip as well, at least until we hit Portugal and Spain.

Our hostels were probably the nicest here—almost all were very clean and modern, although we did have to spend significantly more for just the basics.

Samba dancers at a churrascaria in Brazil
Samba dancers in Brazil

Daily Spending Habits in South America:

Hostels became a little more run-down in the “budget backpacker” range. I’d say that out of the three continents we explored, South America probably delivers the least on an average backpacker budget (I’m speaking relatively, of course; you can’t directly compare a $30 Barcelona hostel to a $30 Cusco one). I’m not huge on Southern American cuisine, and therefore was perfectly happy to cook my own food; meanwhile Joel often grabbed something quick from a local restaurant or food stall.

Our activities and entertainment varied wildly by country—Brazil was absurdly expensive to visit just the basic sights, Peru was a mix of budget activities and splurging because of our guided hike up to Machu Picchu, and Colombia was mostly inexpensive until we got to the resort at San Andres. There’s a lot of nature and “packaged” adventure going on in South America, so depending on your intentions here, you could either spend very little or quite a lot.

Daily Spending Habits Overall

Overall, our experience can best be described as “budget backpacker”, which I like to define as “the cheapest, non-miserable option available”.

We never chose the bed-bug infested hostel when a nicer one was available for a few dollars more (knowingly, that is—sometimes reviews aren’t all that reliable). We didn’t slave away over a stove and spend all day grocery shopping and cooking when a bowl of hot noodles was simmering next door for $0.50 more. We never took the 30-hour bus ride if the flights cost only a little bit extra.

Most importantly: If we really wanted to do, experience, or eat something, we did, even if it defied our “budget backpacker” identity and mentality.

Amongst the $1.50 street-stall lunches were $80 steak dinners, and the 16-beds-a-dorm sleeping situations occasionally turned into an evening at a basic hotel. Sometimes, we even (gasp!) paid for a regular airline to haul our asses to the next country, rather than choosing a budget company and getting anxiety attacks the morning-of from worrying that our luggage would be force-checked at the gate for the price of my left kidney.

If you want to stretch your dollar further, there are ways to do that. You can get creative. But please, don’t do it at the cost of your sanity (or aforementioned vital organs).

Hindsight: Where Could we Have Spent Less?

While we were “budgeting a step above misery” on most days, there are a few conscious (and some less so) decisions that we made throughout the year that significantly increased our overall spending.

Deep in Nara, Japan
Making friends in Japan

1.) Doing all the things in Japan. I was (and still am) obsessed with all things Japanese. I think my enthusiasm for our month in Japan might have equaled or even outmatched my excitement for the following eleven months of travel.

As a result, we spent a lot. We weren’t partying with our own private geisha’s or shipping caseloads of square watermelons to friends and family back home as cheeky souvenirs, but we did enjoy ourselves. There were ryokans, bullet trains, and a lot of three-ice-creams-a-day to ward off the summer heat.

I wanted to do and see (and most importantly, eat) everything there, and our wallets showed for it (to be clear, I have zero regrets about any of this).

2.) Visting Europe. Apart from our time galavanting around Japan, we also spent a few solid months in Europe, which has a way of burning through cash quickly. We didn’t even do that much, other than buy groceries and walk around looking at things in the cold.

I once walked into a fast-food chain in Zurich and ordered two hot dogs and a beer, and walked out $30 poorer. True story.

3.) Our Salkantay trek up to Machu Picchu, which was simultaneously one of the most difficult yet rewarding things I’ve experienced to date (this was also around the same time in which I realized that hiking is an uncannily accurate metaphor for life). This set us back around $500 by the end of our 5-day tour.

4.) Being more flexible in general. We would have spent less had we not been so set on a specific itinerary. Although we remained flexible when sh*t hit the fan, we also had places that we (okay, I) really wanted to go and weren’t willing to give up just because the flights were a bit pricier.

This is another thing I don’t regret—sure, there’s something to be said about just booking a one-way ticket and running with it, but there were so many places I wanted to see in the world (if you thought Friday-night FOMO was bad, try planning a full year abroad) that I was willing to sacrifice a little cash in order to do so. If you’re willing to be more flexible and visit wherever the wind (and flight deals) blows, your dollar will certainly go further.

Wenshu Yuan Monestary
Wenshu Yuan Monestary in Chengdu

What to Consider When Planning Your Own Trip Around the World


There are certain elements of travel that I like to call “micro-factors”, or, more specifically, the tangible things you spend money on on a day-to-day basis.

There are The Big Three that affect your travel budget most: transportation, accommodation, and food (usually in that order).

1. Transportation

Transportation is undoubtedly a big one, which is why it’s also the most common scapegoat when people want to find an excuse for as to why they can’t afford to travel.

“If only I could afford the plane ticket!”

— Everyone, all the time, everywhere.

The rule of thumb here: the slower you go, the cheaper it is. Apart from walking, buses are almost exclusively the cheapest option for getting from point A to point B (unless you hitchhike), whether that be to another end of the city or to another country entirely. Cars (ride-shares, not rentals) are often the next best thing.

If speed is a priority for you and you must fly, then those flights will significantly add to your budget.

If you want to see more places on a tight budget, check out my guide on how to get free flights (all without ever having to leave your couch!):

The same principle applies to inner-city travel. Ubers and taxis will add up much quicker than the local metro and bus system.

Sidebar for RTW tickets: You may have heard of Airtrek’s “RTW Ticket”. You choose your itinerary based on destinations or mileage, all going in a single direction, to be used within a year. This can be a great option if:

1.) You know you won’t want to change your mind at any point, and

2.) You’re hell-bent on traveling to some of the more remote or difficult-to-access destinations in the world (think South Africa).

If you do your research you might save money, and it’s certainly an anxiety reducer for those of us who need to have everything planned out ahead of time, but I suggest DIY’ing your route. Most people change their minds about 14 times a day on whether or not they should really go to yoga after work, let alone what countries they will still want to visit a year from now.

Remember—done right, travel changes you. You will learn, grow, develop new interests and curiosities and new ways of seeing the world. You will become a very different person even halfway through your trip, so pinning yourself to the same version of yourself when you leave isn’t really the smartest idea, IMO.

2. Accommodation

Accommodation is another big chunk of your budget. Often times, you’ll spend the majority of your daily budget on a place to sleep, even if that place is the cheapest bed you could find on Hostelworld or Airbnb.

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Because accommodation does eat away at your budget, a big money saver will always be finding somewhere to stay for free. You can cook all your meals and walk three miles just to save the $1.50 on metro fare, but finding a generous soul to let you crash on their couch will by far be the most cost-effective move (and leave you plenty to spend on the things that actually make your trip enjoyable, like chocolate croissants and ordering a second bowl of cao lầu.)

In truth, Joel and I rarely took advantage of these types of resources. It’s a lot easier when you’re 1.) a solo traveler and 2.) lack a Y chromosome. If you do want to couch surf but feel like you’re lacking an international circle of friends who happen to own a three-story apartment in Hong Kong, you always have the option of a.) shamelessly plugging your trip via social media before arriving (which, really, you should always do—if someone wants to reach out, they will, but otherwise you’re not bothering anyone by asking) or b.) literally Couch Surfing.

I have a lot of opinions on CouchSurfing (I’ll spare you), but it’s suffice to say that you should do some research on the platform before jumping in. It’s not just a “free place to sleep”, and it does come with strings attached (okay, not like that, unless you want to, then more power to you).

If “free” sounds uncomfortable to you for whatever reason, hostels are the next best option. You’ll pay, but far less than a hotel in most cases, and you’ll also have more independence rather than being subject to the will and schedule of a host. Plus, if you’re a people-person, you’ll have tons of those around.

3. Food

Food is the final factor that will directly influence your daily spending. As you can probably tell, the “top 3” I’ve listed here all share something in common: you can’t avoid them. You can avoid paid activities completely, or choose to never buy toothpaste (although I hope for all of our sakes you don’t), but you will always need 1.) a way to get there 2.) a place to stay and 3.) food to eat, if you don’t want to be a.) not traveling b.) homeless or c.) dead.

The best things in life are free, and food is no exception: take advantage of the complimentary breakfast at your accommodation, or free food at events. Joel and I often booked hostels specifically because they had a great breakfast to offer their guests.

Beyond freeloading, buying groceries are usually your next best bet, although this varies slightly depending on the country you are in. In South East Asia, for example, cooking your own meals can be difficult and even more expensive than just popping into the nearest bánh mì stand and ordering a bite to-go. Europe, North America, and Australia are just the opposite: making your own meals will save you money in the long run.

Markets and hole-in-the-wall-style eateries are and will always be my favorites. Not just for the sake of saving a few dollars, but because they’re usually very vibrant and humming with local life. It’s a peek into what most locals live like on a daily basis—because that’s where they usually go to shop or to grab lunch. It’s eating, turned into a full-on anthropological study.

Plus, there’s just something so satisfying and lovely about sitting elbow-to-elbow in a noodle joint with smoke dancing between your nostrils and the loud clinking of dishes and silverware echoing all around you. It’s an energy that you won’t find in either your hostel dining room or in a 4-star restaurant.

Pro-tip: If you can swing a Priority Pass (it’s a perk with several credit cards), then you’ll have free lounge access at most major airports. Read: free food. And sometimes, it’s REALLY NICE free food. See evidence below:

SPC lounge food at ICN (Seoul Incheon Airport)
All fo freeeee
Ho Chi Minh TSN Airport Lounge
AYCE dragonfruit and papaya

Everything Else

Aside from the Big 3, there are museums, tours, alcohol, club entrance fees, souvenirs, shopping, toiletries, coffee, bottled water, wifi and data, ATM fees, conversion fees, chocolate (a necessity if you’re me), and an endless list of other things that you could purchase or experience. This is still real life, after all, and even if you’re properly fed and sheltered, you’ll likely find yourself wanting more.

Ask yourself: What are my priorities? What are my must-sees? Can I sacrifice a hair cut or two if it means accessing original Renaissance art pieces? Or would I rather use that portion of my budget on a nice rug for my apartment back home? Am I happy having lunch in shady eateries and scrambling eggs for the fourth day in a row, or do I consider fine-dining an essential part of my travel experience?

Everyone is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription on how to travel within a certain budget beyond the essentials. Decide on what’s important to you, make that a priority, and let the rest fall to the wayside.


1. Location

Where are you traveling to? A month in Western Europe could last you three months in South East Asia. Choosing cheaper destinations will stretch your budget further.

Also consider any additional costs based on the destination you are visiting—tourist taxes, visa fees, vaccinations, and so on.

2. Speed

How quickly are you traveling, and how many miles are you trying to cover? I could spend six months in San Francisco and still spend less than six months hopping between 12 different countries around Asia or South America. Transportation will eat up your budget quicker than anything, so every time you switch locations, your costs go up significantly.

3. Flexibility

The more flexible you are, the less you spend. If you’re willing to wait for the perfect date to book a flight when it’s at its cheapest, or only go to museums on free days, you will save. BUT. Do not mistake flexibility with lack of prior research and planning—flexibility is more about how you respond to issues and situations, not how you prepapre for them.

The more you plan, the less you spend. If you pop into a new place armed without any prior knowledge, you’re likely to get scammed, or end up in a hostel for twice the price of the average cost because you just didn’t know any better. You might pay a “tourist tax” on your meal because you didn’t know what it should cost. Planning also helps with bargaining.

Thorough planning and research + flexible mindset = the cheapest and most rewarding way to travel.

4. Seasons & timing

High season is usually more expensive than low season (duh), and traveling around holidays is usually more expensive than at other times of the year (also duh).

Just remember, high season exists for a reason—good weather and key events being the two main ones.

5. Travel Insurance

The insurance you choose (and yes, you should have insurance) will make a substantial impact on your budget. I chose to go with a combination of credit card trip insurance (free) and IMG Global’s extended medical coverage ($504 per person).

No, I didn’t use World Nomads, despite every blogger and their mom pushing their clearly-affiliate-centered posts on how it’s the “best in the business”. They cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,800 for the same medical coverage as IMG, plus the trip coverage that your credit card offers for free. There’s also a measly “personal belongings” portion of the coverage (and at a $1,300 difference, I could just buy a new camera for that price). Again—do your research.

6. Working on the road

Are you earning? Working on the road will also have a major impact on your spending allowance. Joel and I chose not to work on the road (with a few minor exceptions regarding a handful of small freelance projects I took along the way upon request), but there are plenty of ways to do so if you feel like your dream trip costs more than you could ever save up for all at once (or you just really need to leave ASAP).

You could apply for a work-holiday visa and spend some of your time in bars and cafés, try freelancing your skills online, join a WWOOF program, teach English, or have Middle Eastern men send money to you in exchange for pictures of your feet. Get creative.

Pro-tip: If you really want to see Paris, do it. If you really want to eat at the most famous restaurant in the world, do it. If you really don’t want to sit on a bus for 30 hours, don’t. If you don’t want to spend your trip working, don’t. Figure out your must-sees and minimally viable comfort level and stick to that. It’s great to be flexible in most cases, but it’s better to take a 6-month trip that you really enjoyed than to stretch your funds for a year and be miserable—or worse, miss out on all the countries or sights or foods that you were really looking forward to.

A final note: Don’t be afraid to just buy the ticket and go. I’m an INTJ, and planning gets me on the same kind of high as a trip to Disneyland, but I realize it’s not everyone’s idea of a good time. So don’t be intimidated by the amount of planning. If you want to just go, then go. Travel until the money runs out.

Lamb lunch in Morocco
Lamb for lunch in Morocco

A Final Note

While by far the most common reaction when I tell people how much we spent is, “That’s it?”, there are always a few outliers that will raise an eyebrow in a semi-judgemental or negatively-disbelieving way. They’re like, But how can you spend that? Don’t you need to save for a house/a baby/the future etc.?

This is a valid concern, but I have a few opinions on the subject.

First, this is operating under many assumptions about my future—that I will have the opportunity to raise a family, that I will live in an area where I can afford to buy a house, that I won’t end up in the hospital one day and wipe through my savings in one fell swoop. Or, that I won’t end up making millions on a genius idea some day.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t prepare for the future, but life is about calculated risks. You can either decide to take the trip of a lifetime, and hope that the rest will figure itself out, or you can decide to wait and wait and wait for the day that your life finally comes.

I like to frame my life by the advice of those older than me—and one of the most common things I hear is regretting not traveling more.

Have you always wanted to take a trip like this? Or maybe this post got you thinking about it? Comment below and let me know!

Kiso Valley Trail in Japan
Not a bad year at all 🙂

Before you go…

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1.) Shannon O’Donnell from A Little Adrift has had her own breakdown of her RTW trip up on her site for years, and I used her Google Sheets doc as a base to document my own expenses over the year. It’s set up in a way that allows you to auto-categorize your expenses with the least amount of manual effort possible (AKA it’s magic). You can find it here.

2.) Nomadic Matt’s best seller, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day is, not unlike his own site, the ultimate bible on budget travel.

3.) Budget Your Trip is a great starting place to start for anyone looking to breakdown the expected costs of their own, specific itinerary.

4.) Other bloggers who wrote about what they spent:

Never Ending Footsteps ($19,640.73, 1 person/1 year): How much does it cost to travel the world for a year?

Love and Road ($36,532, 2 people/1 year): 1 Year Traveling Around the World: Our Costs & Secrets

Jimmy Eats World ($28,706.29/2 years): The Cost of Traveling for 2 Years

Ditch the Map ($51,162/1.5 years): RTW Budget: Detailed Expense Breakdown for 492 Days Abroad

Millennial Revolution ($30,769/1 year): The Cost of Traveling the World for a Year

World Travel Family ($92 per day for 4 people/1 year): What Did it Cost to Travel the World for a Year?

The World Pursuit ($25,200, 2 people/1 year): How Much Does it Cost to Travel the World?

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