Obviously, I don't know how much money you actually have.
I'm basing this outrageous claim on the fact that we at Vomad have been slow travelling for the last year on an income that is around the average wage of the hard working indigenous peoples of Colombia, Peru, Cuba and Thailand.
What is covered in this post: how is it possible to earn so little and still travel indefinitely, and why aren't more people doing this?
I will break that down into two seperate questions.
Q1: How is it possible to travel on such a small income?
A: Because most people underestimate exactly how cheap most of the world is.
Our Travel Log is a convenient way for people to see exactly how cheap the parts of the world are that we have been to in comparison to our home in Australia.
To be brief, unless you currently live in one of them, then nearly all the following areas will certainly have a cost of living much less than where you currently live:
- All of South East Asia
- Most other parts of Asia aside from Japan and Hong Kong
- Nearly all of Central and South America
- Nearly all of the African continent
- Most of Eastern Europe
Incase it's not obvious, that is most of the world.
The useful website Numbeo has a worldwide Cost of Living Comparison. Use it to compare your current city to somewhere you'd like to travel. It is very detailed on everything from the price of rent to the price of specific groceries.
Using this simple and accurate tool was probably the most inspirational moment I had in terms of realising the true travel potential my very modest income.
How modest, you might ask?
Well, it's really none of your business. But in the spirit of inspiration, we at Vomad have been travelling for more than the last year by paying ourselves LESS than the Australian unemployment wage.
Almost exactly 2/3rds of it actually.
When I was living in Australia, unemployed and "looking for work", I was receiving, in total, about 1080 AUD per month, which is actually almost 100 AUD less than the maximum payment allowed.
(If this amount seems generous to you, also remember that the cost of living is quite high in Australia, especially where I'm from. For example, about 80% of that amount I received went straight to rent.)
Since leaving Australia over a year ago, we at Vomad have each been living off somewhere between 600 and 700 AUD per month.
So lets go to the high end and use the figure of 700 AUD per month, or 540 USD from here on.
The average weekly wage in Australia for the last quarter of 2017 was 1191.50 AUD. Which is 4766 AUD per month.
So even if, on average, you were able to save the absolute minimum of 700 AUD or 540 USD per month and live off the remaining 4000 AUD or 3085 USD each month, you would, including flights, theoretically be able to travel the above places (most of the world) for the equivalent of roughly 40% of the year.
At least 39% of the population of Australia do currently live off that amount, but considering my own experience with saving for travelling, and the fact that your expenses generally increase in proportion to your income, I don't think it is unreasonable to conclude that even people earning less than the average would still be able to travel for a very similar period of time.
So, now lets get a little more extreme.
The Australian national minimum wage is, at the time of writing this, 694.90 AUD per 38 hour work week (before tax) or 2779 AUD per month. So even if you currently earn minimum wage, like I have most of the time that I worked for someone else, is it unreasonable to save $700 and live off the remaining 2000 AUD (before tax) per month?
No, I don't think so at all. Not when you consider the 3/4 of a million people that currently live off the unemployment wage of almost half that amount (detailed above).
Granted, this might not be the kind of life where you eat at fancy restaurants or buy the latest iPhone every time its released, but those things are luxuries reserved for people with disposable incomes anyway.
It really comes down to: how bad do you actually want to travel and what are you willing to sacrifice to make it happen?
Of course, for longer term travel, it helps if you can take your work with you so that this income can be collected anywhere you go.
This is why more and more younger people are choosing or creating jobs that allow them to work online - because guaranteed freedom right now trumps potential freedom later.
From online English teachers to IT freelancers to full blown entrepreneurs and everything in between, the millennial generation have seen our parents work their whole lives on the promise they will be able to retire and fulfil their dreams later in life, and, well, sometimes those promises have been... broken.
For shorter term travelling though, even a mild savings account can do wonders.
Considering the above simple calculations, I refuse to believe it is impossible for almost anyone in Australia who actually works - if they really want to - not to save enough to travel at least three months of the year.
I would assume, and I could be wrong, but I doubt it, that the same is true of the UK, USA and Canada, and probably most of Western Europe also. Even though they might earn less, their cost of living is almost certainly much less than Australia, and they are definitely going to be paying less for airfares.
The main point here is that the problem for most people is not money...
I would say it's not even for lack of the "travel bug"... that burning desire for more travel that you get after a good trip...
Which leads into the second part of the original question of this post...
Q2: Why aren't more people doing this?
A: Because most people structure their lives in a way that makes them bound to one location.
Or at least feel that they are bound to one location.
Whether its choosing to start a family, choosing to get an outrageous mortgage or choosing a job that requires you to be in the same place every day, this is just the way most peoples lives are structured.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with doing those things, if one of your dreams is to see the world before you die, wouldn't you agree that it makes more sense to do it while you are young and able to enjoy it more? By putting it off indefinitely until you reach a retirement age that isn't promised to you, aren't you essentially telling yourself that your dreams are less important than surviving to an age that someone else tells you is more appropriate to fulfil them?
Fortunately, these situations are not as concrete as they first appear to be.
If you are in one of these situations, it would be useful to ask yourself, "are these things really holding me back, or are they just appearing to?" Even something as small as a mobile phone contract can serve as a psychological string holding you in one place.
I have not had personal experience with this, as I have no mortgage, I have not started a family and the "job" I made does not require me to be in any specific location, but the internet is abound with stories of people who have overcome those apparent obstacles and now travel freely around our beautiful world.
Ever heard of large nomadic families? Ever thought of starting an online business? (Don't worry, you don't have to quit your job.) Ever heard of Tim Ferriss' inspirational and paradigm shifting book The Four-Hour Work Week? If you haven't, maybe look into it. It's a justifiably popular place to start as it has been dubbed responsible for kickstarting the global "digital nomad movement" and includes clear and detailed steps to shifting from your current situation to one that allows for much more freedom.
The point of this post is not to handle your specific logistical issues, it's just to make you realise how little money you actually need to see most of the world. I know this might seem like a dramatic oversimplification of the process, but for those with just a little innovation it really can be as easy as it seems here.
And we really do travel for around 700 AUD per month. We do not stay at fancy hotels, I'm writing this from a common area in a Romanian hostel (there are sexy French accents all around me right now, it's awesome), we normally catch night busses from place to place because it's cheaper, and the most expensive thing I have bought in the last year - aside from a plane ticket from Asia to Europe - is a 100 AUD winter jacket (on sale from 180 AUD).
Yes, we live cheap. Even though we earn a bit more, we don't need to pay ourselves any more to live comfortably. While some people might be repulsed at bootstrapping for a lifestyle like this, for us, the experience alone is priceless.
The value of memories and experiences can not be quantified, yet most people would agree they are infinitely more valuable than owning a large house in an expensive neighbourhood filled with expensive but meaningless material possessions, and waiting there doing something wholly unfulfilling until you are old enough to be allowed to do what your heart desires - the apparent situation of the more traditional, location dependent lifestyle.
Call me crazy, but I will die without any savings or investments, renting someone else's apartment and having exhausted all my wildest aspirations before I die in an abundance of physical comforts with a head full of unpursued dreams.