“How on earth can you afford to travel full time?”
Obviously, we’re all millionaires, right? Nope.
Here’s how we do it. And we spoke to some other nomadic families to see how they were able to become full time travelers. Each of them tells their own story.
Employed and working remotely (Digital nomad family)
The Kemp family
OK, us first.
Dan has worked for Book Creator for over 4 years – their head office is based in Bristol, England (our hometown).
When we started to discuss the possibility of travelling we knew that we would either have to find alternative work or speak to Dan’s boss about continuing working for Book Creator whilst travelling.
Thank goodness Dan’s boss agreed and understood why we would want to take this opportunity!
So I decided I would stop working so that I could focus on worldschooling Roobs. It made sense – I have always worked in frontline community development roles which are not well suited to remote working. We had heard from other seasoned full time travel families that living on a smaller income than you have in your home country is totally possible and actually a lot cheaper than you think.
So our experience of that? Absolutely. We are able to live on one income fairly easily. We make it work by doing the following:
- Choosing to stay for a minimum of a month in each place – you can then get huge discounts from rental properties.
- We are careful and monitor what we spend, as much as possible we try to eat at home.
- Ideally, we choose countries where the cost of living is cheaper than the UK (not that hard!).
- We rely on public transport or walking as much as possible. In addition to this, we can’t really buy any items that we keep as our suitcases are already full so we think very carefully before we shop.
- If we buy something then we try to make sure we get rid of something.
- We have learnt how to find cheap flights, are open to taking routes which involve a layover and so even the costs of travel are minimal. (eg, it cost us £50 each to get from Valencia, Spain to Prague, Czech Republic. In the UK I’d probably have to pay that just to get from Bristol to London on the train!)
Without the added extras of council tax, energy bills, internet bills and all those niggly little household costs we are actually in a position where we can save money each month! I know it seems unreal right?
Being employed and working remotely really works for us. Dan loves his job and we also have the stability of a steady income.
Various income streams
While we’ve been expats since 2011, we have only been nomadic for a year. We set out with enough savings to give us a two-year runway without an income.
The plan, of course, was to establish a few revenue streams well before that runway ended.
We have three primary income streams – stock trading, online retail, and writing.
I have been trading stocks since I was 16 and have developed it from a hobby into a career. Trading covers the majority of living and travel expenses.
In May we launched our online ecostore Nomadica, selling ethically sourced clothing and travel gear. It’s a slow process to build SEO and work out all the kinks, and we’re not making money from the site yet.
Sarah is a fiction writer. In May, she won 1st prize in the NYC midnight short story challenge – a $2,500 grand prize. Although a writer’s income is much more infrequent and unpredictable than other income streams, the occasional money she makes from writing is a big help.
We’re currently making enough money to travel indefinitely. Though we love traveling, the biggest motivator for us is that we both get to do what we love without working for someone else. We may stay in one country when our son is of school age, or we may switch between several home base cities around the world.
We blog about nomadic family life at theluxpats.com.
The Hamner family
The ‘Happy Hamners’ actually started our full-time travels partly BECAUSE of a financial hardship.
First Ken lost his job, then our oldest moved out on his own. Then we sold our house without buying another one and found we were totally free to take the travel plunge.
We at least had a pension from Ken’s Air Force career, so we could survive, but we needed something else to make our travel dreams a reality. We ultimately found that volunteer travel was our way to see the world without breaking the bank.
In volunteer travel, you stay with hosts around the world in exchange for doing some of their regular work or special projects they might need help with. There’s always a certain level and time period of help they ask for in exchange for a certain level of room and board and sometimes even transportation they’ll provide. Hosts are always anxious to share their locale and culture, so we’ve found it a great way to experience new places, because we’re doing it more as a part of a community than as tourists.
We’ve been on the go for over 2 years now and while we have managed many weeks of actual holiday, we have also had over 30 of these volunteer exchanges, primarily through an organization called HelpX which is sort of a spinoff of WWOOF (Worldwide Working on Organic Farms) but with a greater variety in the type of work. Ken can be handy with many things people typically need done, and Sunny is an organizational guru as well as a genius in the kitchen. Our daughter Ellerie is just a joy to have around, so hosts readily welcome her in the mix.
We’ve used other organizations as well. Workaway is much like HelpX, and Mind My House is a house/pet sitting organization. Diverbo is a language program that needs natural Anglo speakers in Germany and Spain every summer. And once you get several happy hosts under your belt, you often make additional, direct word-of-mouth connections outside of these organizations. We’re on one of those right now in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. Aloha!
The Knauf family
We started our own company 10 years ago which builds and hosts websites, the monthly income is mainly how we afford to travel. The flight costs for a year come from our savings, all other expenses, like food, transport in a city, accommodation and entertainment are based on the budget that we had at home.
We made the decision to travel full time after becoming bored and frustrated with the routine of life. We had lived in Cape Town, South Africa for 6 years and wanted to do something life-changing, something a 2 week holiday was not going to remedy.
Our first trip was to Prague. With our weaker currency, the cost of living was steep. Despite watching pennies and sticking to a tight budget, it did not negatively impact on the experience. To be able to live in a new environment and experience new things daily is so worth it. We chose Asia as our next destination for its affordability.
We set a mental goal of 1 year of travel, we are currently 5 months into our travels and I cannot see us going back. The biggest hurdle was saying goodbye to all the comforts and leaving everything you know behind. However, a week into our first stay, the nerves had left us and so many options presented themselves. Our biggest problem now is where to go next.
Family gap year
The Gibbon family
We used a combination of existing savings and postponed doing renovations to our house to afford our 8-month trip. We are lucky enough to be living in a booming housing market and have rented our house out while we are away which covers those expenses.
Sadly we are coming towards the end of our trip and are going home to re-group and work again to get some more cash and plan the next trip! We certainly haven’t ruled out looking at a digital nomad lifestyle at some point in the future.
There are so many different ways of making nomadic life work for you. We have also met teachers, nurses, entrepreneurs, musicians… people with all sorts of different skills who are able to afford a location independent lifestyle.
The common theme we have found from all the nomadic families we have met so far is that however you afford to travel, full time travel is well worth doing!
Do you have any questions about how to make this work, or want to share your own experience? Post in the comments below.