When people tell me they can’t afford to travel, I tell them that I’m probably doing it on their disposable income alone, and I'm usually right.
I have a very unique way of traveling because I am a full-time housesitter and travel blogger. I don’t have any of the traditional living expenses most people have. Instead, I am voluntary homeless. I can also live frugally if I have to, since I'm only one person (although I don't because I love to eat and drink Bourdain-style). You only live once!
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let's dig in
The secret weapon to how I travel full-time is to save money by not paying for things. I live-rent free by housesitting. I exchange my care of a house and pets for free accommodation. That means I get to live in luxurious homes all over the world. These homes often have anything and everything in the way of mod cons such as top of the line entertainment systems, pools, hot tubs, chef-quality kitchens, solar shades, home gyms, housekeepers, gardeners, and more... and, of course, amazingly sweet animals to love.
Secondly, I write this very darn blog you are reading now so that I can pay for travel and food, and also barter for goods and services by exchanging my personal resource, my time and work, for advertising and promotion.
And lastly, I believe in slow travel, which has a great side effect of also being budget travel. The longer you stay anywhere, the lower your overall travel cost is.
So, if I can get free accommodation, food, and stuff, then what the heck did I spend $6,000 on? My expenses are mainly food, transportation, and the costs of running this ridiculously amazing website that you are on right now.
Zilch! Zero! Nada! Because housesitting. Sometimes there are gaps between the sits where I like to explore different areas or check out new cities. During the gaps, I'll usually do one of 3 things.
I'll either stay in a hotel in exchange for a review, or book a hotel with booking.com with credit I earn for referrals, or book a private airbnb with credits I earn by giving people $40 off for singing up! And I almost always get to stay in a some surprisingly nice hotels due to flight rescheduling, all on the airlines' dime!
Easily my biggest expense. Everything from coffee to fresh fruits to dining out to beers. I love to eat and drink and this makes me super happy so I spend most all of my money eating.
I love trying local foods, street food, new cuisines, different restaurants and sampling local produce. And, stimulating the local economy and supporting vegan establishments wherever I go, of course!
I also do get lots of free food. Housesit hosts often leave stocked kitchens, pantries, cash tips, gift cards, and gardens of fruits and veggies. Neighbors may offer me home-cooked meals or produce from their gardens. And I often eat out at restaurants for free in exchange for reviews.
There have been times I've had restaurant reviews every day for a week and had so much food I could hardly even eat it all. Other times I've gotten a $700 tip for a week housesit and splurged $100 a day eating out all day long and yet others when I've gotten a several hundred dollar tip on a gift card that got me a month of food all delivered right to my door. I've had unlimited access to wineries and breweries' vaults more times than I can remember. It all depends.
Taking all the free food aside, my own out of pocket food expenses seem to average out to about $10-15 a day, which usually gets me at least one decent meal out at a restaurant every day (because I can’t really cook that well, or, at all), and sometimes two, depending on how expensive the country happens to be, or what I feel like eating at the time.
My second biggest expense. All those darn things that get you from point A to point B and want money for it! Trains, buses, ferries, taxis, airplanes. A necessity of travel.
But again, going back to slow travel, the slower you go (the more time you can stay in one place), the less you spend on travel. So if you stay in one place for one month, then you can usually spend less than $100 on travel to that place, depending on the distance.
Most of my housesits are around 4 to 8 weeks so it mostly evens out the travel cost to get from one to the next at about $100 a month. Sometimes I can spend as little as $50 on a train or plane ticket if it's close to where I already am. Sometimes I’ll travel farther, spend $300, then stay for 3 months, so it’s still usually averages out to about $100 per month. Mostly.
When major transportation like a plane or train isn't absolutely essential, I just walk. I like to walk, I like to take the time to explore and not feel rushed. So, given the option of a bus, tram or taxi over an hour walk, I’ll walk. Walking is free! It's safer than being trapped on public transportation. It's good for the environment and for you. We are bipedal mammals afterall.
online costs: ~$28/month (or zero*)
Website: Contrary to popular belief, websites do not run on unicorn magic. Us website owners have to fork out actual cash to keep things things up and running. I’ve seen some people get really carried away with adding on service or app or theme or plugin or whatever, but the minimalist in me likes keeping things simple.
That's why I use Jimdo. An all-in-one that's user-friendly and awesome. I got the plan with all the bells and whistles so I pay $240 a year. And that’s one payment for everything (domain, hosting, email, templates, storage, support, everything) all included. I love it. Check this post for more. I also use Jimdo's referral program so that if you sign up, I earn money. *This makes my website costs zero.
Housesitting: I used to use half a dozen housesitting websites, but I've paid attention to the traffic over the past few years and narrowed it down to just a few, including my favorite, Trusted Housesitters. Trusted Housesitters has a ton of international traffic and I’ve seen housesits there for most anywhere in the world. It has the best user platform, support, and a 24/7 vet tech help line, which could really save lives. Another great feature is that I can give you a 20% referral discount, and they'll give me free months, so I can get the membership for free! *This makes my housesitting costs zero.
grand total: ~$488/month, ~$5856/year
There you have it. That’s less than $6,000 USD in one year. This might seem extreme to some. I know because I see the looks of shock on people’s faces when I tell them. But this just happens to be how I did it. (And I am an extreme minimalist.)
I was never homeless nor starving. Quite the opposite in fact. I spent my time lounging about in luxury homes, reading books, watching movies, and taking walks on beaches or in forests, checking out restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, farmers markets, and snuggling lots and lots of all kinds of pets. And I got to enjoy really nice homes, adorable animals, tasty foods, and fun travel experiences. I think that's a win-win-win-win!
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