Not winning the lottery—Saving for long term travel: Part One


The story of how we’ve never won the lottery

(Or “how to save enough money to quit your job and travel the world for a while”)

Let’s start this out by reinforcing the point that we haven’t won the lottery. Well, we once we won $14, but that was on a $20 ticket, so the celebration wasn’t a big one.

When we tell people that we plan on packing up, leaving our full-time jobs and living in the back of a four-wheel drive for at least a couple of years they tend to think it sounds like a pretty reasonable plan. But then a confused look crosses their face and they tentatively ask “but how can you afford to do that?”. We used to respond with, “We don’t have kids” but given the number of families undertaking similar or longer journeys, it would seem that is not the answer.

Do you earn stupid amounts of money at your job?

Nope. I earn a few dollars less than the median hourly wage in New Zealand, Ben earns slightly more. With our powers combined, we are decidedly average. Although, coming from a two income household does make it a fair bit easier I guess!

Did you win the lottery?

Nope, as discussed above, our winnings did not contribute to our ability to afford this trip.

Did you inherit a fortune from a rich Great Uncle?

While we do occasionally receive emails stating that our inheritance is waiting and all we need to do is send some cash to free up the funds in order to have them transferred to our bank accounts, we suspect the people in these emails were not really our relatives.

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But let me stop you right there and give you the dull, boring and not very glamorous answer to how we are funding our trip:

  • We saved for three years.
  • We saved all of my income, plus a little of Ben’s and we tried very hard not to spend it on other stuff.

How did you know how much to save?

We didn’t. We did some research online to see how much other people had spent on similar trips. (It turns out that the range is quite varied)

We guesstimated how much it will cost to buy a vehicle when we get to America. How much it would cost us per day in the various countries we plan to visit. Added some extra to cover the costs of Visas, flights, emergencies, a boat ride to Antarctica, occasional splurges, a bit of new gear, insurance and worst of all—bank fees. Set what was quite possibly an arbitrary total based on this and started saving.

When asked how long we intend to stay away for, we usually answer “A couple of years, as long as we can get our savings to last for” because ultimately that is the plan. We have a rough estimated daily budget, if we spend less than that, we can travel for 1 1/2 to 2 years. If we spend more, we’ll be home early.

To embark on a trip like this you could walk out the door with a lot less money than we have saved and still have a great time, maybe even travel for longer and visit more places if you’re good with a budget. Otherwise you could start out with a whole lot more money and still have a much shorter trip and visit far fewer places. It all depends on your personal travel style and what your idea of fun is.

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Are you some kind of frugal saving ninjas?

Nope. Far from it. We aren’t even really particularly great at saving. I’m pretty sure there are people who are more dedicated than us who could have saved up for a trip like this much faster. We spent money on plenty of other things while we were saving. We even went on a seven week trip around SouthEast Asia while we saved up for this trip, so it’s not like we didn’t have any fun. We also ate a lot of nice cheese and drank a lot of nice beer.

In fact, I’m pretty sure if we’d been more dedicated we would be heading away on a longer trip, or a much more luxurious one. But we set a goal and stuck to it, so I guess that’s the important thing.

So what’s the moral of this story?

Turns out that if we can bumble our way through a savings plan, plenty of other folk would be able to as well.

Coming up in Part Two: How we tricked ourselves into regular saving

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