How do we afford to travel full-time? This is the question we get more than any others when we describe to people what we do.
When we first announced to our family and friends that we were going to sell our home and begin traveling full-time we had a lot of mixed reactions. The most common was “You are so lucky” followed by “Are you crazy?” In reality, deciding to become full-time Venturists took a lot of planning over several years. Regarding the crazy part — the jury is definitely still out!
People often imagine that we’re on a permanent vacation — the reality is that we spend a lot of time in front of our laptops, doing various income-producing work, and have “real” work days, just with our own self-imposed deadlines and goals. We do get to set our own schedule, though, which allows us to take breaks throughout the day (and those breaks can be in some incredible places):
So, how do we afford it?
Location Independent Work
Sean worked as an IT Manager and programmer for a large corporation for years, and when we took off was able to take his skills on the road. Not everyone can turn their day job into a consulting job, but there are many possibilities here. Several travel writers now conduct tours of the places that they visit. There are several sites where you can have people bid on your work (elance, design crowd, etc). Other travelers write e-books that they sell on-line through multiple channels.
Passive Income — Rental Properties
A number of years ago, we decided to try our luck at becoming landlords. It may sound ill advised in the wake of the recent break in the real estate bubble and the string of foreclosures that followed, but we actually rode that out fairly unscathed. Here’s how:
- Location, Location, Location. We looked for an area that had fewer ups and downs in real estate prices, high percentage of people that rented vs. owned, had companies that were moving into the area, and had rents that would cover the mortgages.
- A trustworthy property manager. There’s no way we could screen tenants, collect rents, and manage maintenance issues remotely from all corners of the world. We work with a management team who work with investors like us. The wife is a real estate agent who scouts out properties and her husband runs the property management side of the business. They have been a great team for us, steering us toward good deals and away from areas that are poor prospects due to safety in the neighborhood or other concerns. As they tell us, they don’t want to sell us on a house that will be a hassle for them to manage. So far, so good.
- Make sure you understand and run the numbers. At first glace a property can look like a great deal but still end up putting you at a loss each month. You need to consider the costs of mortgages, property taxes, maintenance costs, insurance, and vacancies versus the going rental rates.
Several years ago we decided to merge our love of full-time travel into a commercial venture by selling products that we discover during our travels on an online store, Zyger Imports. We first started by selling Murano Glass Products (jewelry, bottle stoppers, etc) that we found on a trip to Venice. We added products from Thailand and plan to continue adding items as we go along.
Let’s be honest — most people aren’t going to get rich travel blogging, and we don’t make a huge income from it either. We’ve seen travel bloggers generating income in many ways: travel writing, reviewing products, advertising on their blogs, affiliate links, social media consulting, and even conducting their own tours of areas they’ve visited. Many even turn their knowledge of how to start a travel blog into teaching the next generation of bloggers. The most we’ve done is provide some links as affiliates to products that we already use and recommend, which you can see under our travel resources of this blog, and if you do decide to make a purchase we do get a cut.
When we both were working full-time corporate jobs, we didn’t stick to a strict budget. That changed once we started travelling. To start with, we figured out how much we were spending on a regular basis at home. For years we’ve used Mint.com, primarily because it’s a great way to view all of our accounts in one place, and it gave us a good overall view. We then added in some travel-specific expenses and had a starting point. There are plenty of travel bloggers (Neverending Voyage, The Professional Hobo, and NE Footsteps, to name a few ) that have published specific budgets that are good sanity tests when looking at a budget.
We currently use an app called GoodBudget, which allows us to categorize expenses, and is also cloud based, so each of us can enter expenses and sync them to the same account. A similar option for iPhone people that a lot of travelers swear by is TrailWallet. The app gives us a real-time view of where we are versus budget through the month, and honestly, just the process of recording costs tends to make us think twice about frivolous purchases.
But, all those flights have to be expensive, right? Not necessarily. Having very flexible schedules allows us to research and choose cheaper transportation, sometimes with an extra day layover (after all, it’s not like we’re using vacation time!). For one-way flights on major airlines, it can also be cheaper booking a roundrip flight with “throwaway” return leg — just don’t tell the airlines.
Interestingly, not having a permanent place reduces a lot of expenses. We have no vehicle costs, no home maintenance expenses (except for the rentals), and internet, gas, water, and electricity are all typically included in the price of our apartments, which run significantly less than our old mortgage.
We spend about a month in each place we visit. This allows us to rent a short term apartment via sites such as Airbnb at a monthly rate that saves considerably over a daily rate, and is a lot cheaper than a hotel. It also doesn’t hurt that as a couple, we share a lot of expenses.
Traveling slowly also helps us not get burned out by having too many travel days in a row, and to really get to know that places that visit in depth. Or more in depth that you would in a few days.
So that’s our master plan. Not all of these will work for everyone, but for us, it’s definitely possible to travel full-time and live comfortably. We will be posting updates on our progress — so far, ahead of budget!
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Friday 28th of April 2017
After meeting you in line for Customs in Cape Town my wife and I got talking more and more throughout our trip about potentially travelling full time. There are still a few things we need to grow, change, and discover, but hopefully soon we'll be on the same path! Who knows, we may run into you in Customs again! Hope you trip was/is great, by the way!
Friday 28th of April 2017
It was great meeting you and your wife, and I hope you had a great time in Cape Town - one of our favorite cities. We're psyched that we helped inspire you to think more about the sort of crazy journey we're on. If you have any questions or just want to run ideas by us, let us know, we're happy to help!
Steph of Big World Small Pockets
Thursday 1st of October 2015
Some, great pragmatic and honest tips here - I like how you note that very few bloggers actually manage to make a liveable income from their work! I guess most just supplement it with other lines of income like the ones you've outlined! Thanks for the tips
Lisa @ HHG
Wednesday 4th of March 2015
Excellent piece. Many people look at full-time travel and may think that it's a result of luck. Your thoughtful detail is a great example of how anyone can make it happen as a result of carefully-planned choices and deliberate action. Also love to see your diversified income streams! -Lisa
Tuesday 3rd of March 2015
Great article. Would like to know how you organise travel/medical insurance when constantly travelling? Cheers Nick
Tuesday 3rd of March 2015
Hi Nick. We use Global Medical Insurance (not travel insurance) from IMG Global. Basically, we're pretty healthy, and this insurance is mainly to cover us in case of something catastrophic. It covers healthcare worldwide, including the United States (but requires us to be out of the US for the majority of the year).
Saturday 28th of February 2015
Great read! It's always nice to know how fellow travellers are making a living. I haven't tried slow travel yet but it's a great idea and will do soon. Thanks for this!