How We: Paid for Everything

Budget Travel, Finances & Savings, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, Working Abroad — By on August 15, 2006 at 4:17 pm

by Amanda Pressner
LG Executive Editor

“Where are you from?” and “How long are you staying” are the questions we hear most frequently on the road, but what people back home are dying to know is: “How the heck can you afford to quit your job and spend a whole year bouncing around the globe?”

To put two popular notions rest: No, we’re not trust fund babies and we don’t have sugar daddies. The fun but little known fact is it’s actually much cheaper for us to travel for a year than it would be to maintain our cost of living back in the states. Seriously! If that seems too good to be true, consider that young Aussies, Brits, Israelis and the Irish all find a way to take gap year-it’s not considered a luxury, but a required right-of-passage into adulthood.

So, exactly how much does it cost to take a trip like ours? Well, you can get away with going abroad for as little as a few thousand dollars by sleeping cheap, not partying and working locally at hostel or a bar. As gals who appreciate laid back days and cocktails at night, we’re not in that ultra-thrifty category!

Between flights, lodging, food, drink, entertainment, internet, shopping trips and extras, we’ve estimated that we’ll need about $15,000 to hit more than a dozen countries around the world. That figure might seem like an exorbitant amount-until you consider it’s the same amount as our yearly rent in overpriced Manhattan.

Still, as most of our pals in Gotham are struggling to save enough for a summer share or a single coveted pair of Jimmy Choos, they wonder how we socked away that kind of cash in our 20s. Well, since everyone seems to want a peek at our bank balances and checkbook registers, we’ll just lay it all out here on the blog. Here are five ways we’ve turned ourselves into our own travelin’ sugar mamas…

· Savings: While “spend less, save more” is probably the only piece of advice less fun than “eat less, exercise more” the resulting nest egg accounts for the bulk of our travel budget. Jen’s parents invested in a bond for her when she was young, and she’s chosen to cash part of it in order to hopscotch the globe with her friends. Once Holly got a job that paid more than starvation wages, she started depositing a portion of her salary into a savings account automatically, every single month. As for me, I worked a full-time editing gig at Shape magazine and kept up my freelancing for the five months leading up the trip. It was a lot of work—but I nearly doubled my savings and will hopefully have enough to move back to NYC once this fantastic year is up!

· Work: As media gals, our jobs didn’t exactly stop the second we took off…in fact, our experience in magazines and television enabled us to score cool assignments with publications like For Me magazine, Car & Travel, inWedding (a Hong Kong based publication) and Fodors.com. Yes, it sometimes sucks trying to write articles when there’s a gorgeous white sand beach beckoning, but the cash we make for these pieces goes way, way further in a developing nation than it does in crazy-expensive Manhattan. Depending on the word rate, one piece might cover our cost of living for two weeks, one month…or more!

· Cheap destinations: One of the fastest ways to run out of cash? Travel to countries where the local currency is strong-and the dollar is weak. Right now, that’s almost anywhere in Europe…the Euro kicks our greenback’s ass! Since the three of us have already hopped the pond and hit France, Spain and Italy in our early 20s, we decided to go a bit more exotic in our late 20s and visit some of the world’s most popular “alternative” destinations. In countries such as Brazil and Turkey, a good night’s sleep (plus everything listed above) will set us back about $35 per day, but we’ll “subsidize” that cost by spending the rest of our trip in $15- and $25-a-day nations such as Bolivia, India and Vietnam. Besides flights, our only major expense will be paying for secure volunteer programs in Kenya and Tanzania-a charity opportunity we feel is well worth the cost. Australia, our final stop, will be more expensive but we’re hoping to get work visas so we can…

· Fun jobs abroad: We’ve been told that getting a job on the road is one of the best ways to get to know a place and start replenishing depleted coffers. Since the land down under is somewhat pricey, we’re hoping to fulfill our collective ambitions to tend bar at some beachfront pub or secure a part time gig at a hostel.

· Unexpected assignments: Every travel writer dreams of the day when she’ll check her email and find an assignment to cover a far-flung destination for an upscale magazine. When you get one-as I did within the first few weeks of arriving in Peru-you jump for joy, because the assignment almost always “requires” spending a couple nights in a fancy-shmancy hotel. For budget-travelers such as ourselves, crashing in a dreamy hotel not only gives our wallets a bit of a break, but allows us to recover from the other 360 nights that we’re spending in dorm rooms with no heat, privacy or running water. We know travel writing this isn’t an option for everyone, but its nice work if you can get it!!

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    11 Comments

  • abercrome says:

    I have a few questions that I’m dying to ask. I’d love to do something like that but I’d be solo which makes the trip cost more but still believe I can take a year off for about $25,000 and hit every country in South and Central America, South Africa and Egypt, Thailand and the surrounding SW Asia countries (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Malaysia and India) Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. I’ve did Europe before and trying to focus on the Southern Equator this time.

    My question is: What was the weirdest job you did for money while traveling? What was the best paying job you came across? Did you find it hard to find work because I’ve traveled solo before overseas and asked about things like that and always got the same response “you must have a work visa otherwise they won’t want to hire ya.” Did you find that to be true at all? I’m taking a Digital SLR camera and a laptop with me and my plan for the trip is taking priceless pictures the whole trip. I’m no pro but I do know what I’m doing and have a little sense about photography.

    What are some companies you think that would buy pictures, or is there a websites that hosts them that companies use to look through? Many questions I know but I find your adventure inspiring and even a little changeling to beat! Can I outdo what you did??? Thanks and happy travels!
    T-roy
    MO, USA

  • Melina says:

    When I went to Italy, I know that lots of people find jobs without a work visa. A few people I met were bartenders. One girl got hired as a “Bacardi Girl” and basically walked around on the beach handing out fliers. I don’t know how difficult it is though, but I know it’s definitely possible. There are organizations that specialize in finding Americans jobs in other countries legally. You should search on Google.

  • TravelsInStiletto's says:

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  • Emily says:

    Oh my god girls what an amazing blog, I’ve spent hours reading all your adventures. I’ve always wanted to do something like this but like I believe most of the people it somehow scares me. And another thing, I am not really the “backpacker” type of girl. Its funny my family say I prefer room service, and for this reason I miss things only “backpacker”kind of people enjoy. On one side that might be true, but to be honest I like to have a place where I can have my own things, a bathroom and privacy. I guess it would be very hard for me to do something like what you guys have done. I do have to tell you that I love traveling and I have found a “cheaper” and more affordable way to travel than simply room service. I have decided the best way for me to travel specially if I do it with my friends that are just like me, is by staying at a vacation rental. Long time ago a came across a site called Rentalo.com, which allows travelers to submit an inquiry to all properties in a single destination that match your criteria. Very handy…and useful… I always manage to find excellent deals very quickly. Basically property owners bid for my inquiry, which makes it very convenient. Anyways… Just want to let you know that I totally envy your guts! Hope to hear you (read) you on your next adventures!

    Best
    Smartemilyjacobs

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