How much it’s costing me to move abroad, and how I can afford to travel
Have you ever gazed lustily at sunset-filled Instagram feeds or devoured action-packed travel blogs whilst sat at your desk, and wondered to yourself – how do they afford that?
That was me a year ago. The notion of doing something as
insane brave and exciting as quitting my job to travel the world was little more than a seed of an idea that had yet to flower. It wasn’t purely lack of courage or conviction that was stunting its growth, it was a very practical inhibitor – I didn’t have any money.
But here I am one year on sat by a gorgeous pool in Roatan, Honduras, taking the first steps towards travelling the world and writing about it. And although there are still many inevitable question marks about what my short-term future has in store, money isn’t really one of them.
Here’s how I saved enough…
1. I worked out exactly how much money I needed to travel
This might sound obvious, but a good budget acts as a concrete yardstick to save against and will ensure that you’re not caught short once you get out there. But how much is ‘enough’? I struggled to find brazen, hard figures online – plenty of helpful guides on how to save, but not many that smack-bang tell you their golden figure. So at the risk of breaking some travel blogging taboo, here’s my travel target – £15,000.
Yep, that’s a lot of money. But it’s not just a random figure that I’ve plucked out of thin air. My plan is to travel the world full-time, and to do so I will need to make money while I’m out there. I’m fortunate that one of my biggest passions is also a paying career, but training to be a scuba diving instructor isn’t cheap, and there are some serious costs in there which are pretty much non-negotiable. Add to that cost of living (rent, food, beer-fund, etc.) and plane tickets and that yardstick starts homing into view.
Oh, and then double it. This isn’t a solo venture – me and my husband James are in this together which, while keeping some costs like rent down, doubles the cost of flights and fees.
Finally, add in a contingency fund. Obviously, if you’re chomping at the bit to go and you just don’t have the funds for this, then this is the ‘luxury’ part of the travel pot that you could forgo. In emergencies most travel insurance policies will pay out to fly you home, or you might have generous family members who would club together to get you home for a big event, but I wanted to make sure that there was a small stockpile of cash sat waiting for us as ‘just in case’ money.
There are also a fair few hidden costs that are easy to overlook when budgeting; when these rear there ugly heads they can take a pretty hefty swing at your savings and leave you short.
So put all that together and you’re looking at the best part of £15,000. Yikes. So how did I get all that together…
2. I sold my house
OK, this makes it look easy. Sell your house, and travel the world on the cash? Not quite. The money that we invested into the house originally has to be protected – it’s not simply a case of splashing our original deposit on travel, unfortunately. Otherwise, it’s highly likely we’d end up buying our own dive shop somewhere in the Caribbean.
We looked into renting out the house, but the UK mortgage market inflicts heavy fines for changing from home-owner to land-lord, and prohibits you from taking large cash sums out of the property whilst you still own it. We would have ended up losing thousands of pounds a year by renting it out which, added to the hassle and logistical difficulty of being land-lords from overseas, did not make sense to us. Selling the house was a long and, at times, stressful process, but it was the only way we’d ever be able to make a big enough contribution to our daunting target figure in the timeframe we had.
3. I sold most of my furniture
What’s the use of furniture if you don’t have a house to fill it with? In the last 2 months before I left I hit Gumtree and ebay hard, selling everything from beds and sofas to spice-racks and mirrors. It’s made the house feel more like a shipping depot than a home, but that’s a small price to pay for a healthy injection into the travel fund.
Again, in the interest of honesty, I made £1655 by selling 2 sofas, a fridge-freezer, a coffee table, an oven, a microwave, a bed, a wardrobe, a kitchen table and chairs, a mirror and a spice rack.
Anything that was too precious to sell has been fostered by willing friends and family who will lovingly look after them in their homes whilst we’re away. There were many takers for my beautiful orange Dutch bike and my Laura Ashley leather armchair, but surprisingly no one wanted the macaroni art I’d made as a 6 year old. Odd.
My beautiful orange Dutch bike, otherwise known as the Tangerine Dream Machine, has found a loving home with my sister. For those things that are just too hard to get rid of for good, I strongly recommend asking round friends and family to see if they’d like to babysit them for you. My sister was in need of a bike anyway, so this way she gets to use this beauty for free and I get to have it back one day. Win, win.
4. I saved like a maniac
Once you have a rough idea how much every day things will cost in your new home, it’s easy to quantify that against random expenditure back in the UK. If it’s $3 for a beer in Roatan, cycling to work on a rainy day instead of paying the £2.90 train fare will buy you a future beer or two. If our rent will be $300 a month, I’ll happily downgrade that weekend away to a night in with some cheap wine and friends. I became obsessed with working out just what my savings could afford me in the future, and as a result would put away more and more each month. Without having to become a complete hermit, I saved money by making my own lunches and refusing to buy new clothes. I cycled everywhere and was sensible about food shopping. I even stuck to a self-imposed weekly spending-cap, which meant that if I’d hit my limit by Thursday, I’d be all set for a pretty crappy weekend. It’s funny how quickly you learn to forgo the small stuff mid-week to salvage your weekend social life.
All in all, with approximately £700 a month going into savings since last August, James and I managed to scrape £7,500 together.
5. We’ve had some really generous gifts
Acts of kindness aren’t something that you budget for, which means they’re all the more sweet when they arrive. The generosity of our loved ones was astounding, and we’re so grateful to all the donations that came in to help boost our travel fund. A few came with specific instructions: ‘only to be spent on flights home – you’d better be coming back’, or, ‘to be put towards your course fees, no blowing this on beer’, but however these incredibly kind gifts are spent abroad, we’ll be sure to make every single penny count.
6. It finally adds up
With over £1500 coming from our selling spree, close to £7000 in savings and the generosity of our loved ones, we’ve managed to rack up about £10,000 through saving and selling alone. We’re lucky that we had a house to sell and had made enough profit on it to top up that figure to £15,000 without losing out on our original deposit. And so, after a year of stress, scrimping and saving, we’re ready to go.
It’s generally deemed a bit crass to talk about money, especially in the UK. People are guarded about revealing how much they earn and what they choose to do with their money. And that’s fair enough – who has the right to judge how another person wishes to spend their hard earned cash? But for those who make travel a priority, a life choice, it’s possible to do so by making sacrifices. Listing specific figures here is my attempt to show how it is realistically possible to find the money to fund this particular type of travelling – of moving abroad and pursuing a new career. It’s not always easy, and it might take time, commitment and compromise, but if you keep your eyes on the prize, it’ll all be worth it.
The truth is, planning to travel is stressful, there’s no two ways about this. You may read stories about inspirational people who have simply bought a one way ticket to somewhere obscure and just hopped on a plane, but I’ll bet that it’s not actually been that simple for them, that most of the time they’ve had a few more boxes to tick before they can simply venture forth. That’s why I’ve written a series of Planning to Travel posts – about the more mundane, administrative aspects of travel that you’ll need to battle through before you get to reap the rewards of a life of adventure.