How do I quit my job and travel forever? How can I possibly save enough money for travel? What are the regulations about travelling abroad full-time? What about retirement?
These are questions we are constantly asked, and yet somehow, we don’t have a post fully explaining the process of becoming a full-time traveller in our Goats on the Road archives!
If you’re sitting at home right now reading this, and you know that you’re going to have to wake up tomorrow morning to go back to a job that you don’t enjoy (or maybe you do enjoy but you’d rather be travelling), then this post is for you.
You really don’t have to keep the 9-5 life going if you don’t want to. There are many ways to travel for free, make money on the road and explore the world full-time, even for those who don’t have a ton of money in the bank.
In this guide, I’m going to show you how we managed to quit our jobs, store / sell our belongings, sell our house, and travel / live abroad non-stop for over 6 years and counting.
I’m going to try to answer all of the questions we’ve received from readers, as well as the many questions that I had before embarking on this epic lifestyle. So let’s get started.
Note: In this post I’m going to use Canadian Dollars (CAD) throughout. Normally we use USD on this site, but it seems strange to use that currency when I’m comparing this to how we saved / budgeted seeing as we were living in Canada at the time. ($1 CAD = $0.77 USD at the time of writing)
Step 1 – Book Your Flight
Right now you may be thinking, “I’m not going to book a flight first! I’m not even sure I can save enough money, or exactly which countries I’m going to!”
You’re right. It’s a bit crazy booking your flight before doing any planning, but I’m assuming if you’re planning on travelling the world, you already know at least what region you may want to visit. If you know where you want to go(ish), then booking your flight should be your first step.
You don’t need to budget exactly how much you need to save before this step either. Just make an estimate of what you’ll be able to save based on your current income. Give yourself an extra couple of months of saving time just to be safe, and go for it.
This flight is going to be a major leap into the life that you’re reaching towards. If you don’t make a drastic first move, then you won’t have the motivation or commitment to keep you going.
Trust me! Too many people start on the path towards travel and get side tracked. This flight is going to be your light. You’ll be like a moth, constantly attracted to the bright and shiny end goal of travel. Without this, you’re just fluttering around, lost in a life that isn’t for you.
Book your flight first.
I recommend heading to Google Flights. Type in your departure airport and then instead of choosing the actual city that you’re flying into, type in the region (ie: Southeast Asia). Then click on the map view and simply find the cheapest city to fly into.
Don’t forget to check a bunch of different dates and different months – even days of the week can be significantly cheaper.
We had our flight booked to leave Canada before our house had even sold!
Step 2 – Figure Out How Much Money You’ll Need
Okay now it’s time to start getting into the nitty-gritty logistics of your trip. You need to know how much this trip is going to cost you.
Check out our daily budget for some of the countries that we’ve visited to get a bit of an idea of what your daily costs will be while on the road. Then multiply this by the number of days you hope to keep travelling, and then you have your budget.
Let’s say you’re planning to visit South America, Central America, Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe. A solo traveller in these regions can typically get by on a minimum of $50 / day, while a couple can travel on around $70 / day.
(Note: this is at the budget end of the scale)
Let’s say you’re a solo traveller and you want to go for one year. Your costs will be $50 x 365 = $18,250 CAD. You’ll then need to add flights (let’s say $1,500, return) & travel insurance (let’s say $900 / year) to this cost.
Now the total cost for a 1 year trip is looking like it will be $20,650.
For couples planning to travel for one year, your costs will be more like $80 / day. So, $80 x 365 = $29,200. Plus, a return flight ($3,000) and travel insurance ($1,800), for two people. For a total of $34,000. Let’s just say $35,000.
This may sound like an overwhelming amount of money, but you can quite possibly cut that amount in half and save it twice as fast as you think you can (more on that later).
Note: For the rest of this post I’m going to assume that you are one half of a couple planning a one year trip.
Step 3 – Create a Budget & Savings Plan
This step is extremely important. If you don’t take the time to write down your income and expenses and create a viable budget plan, then you will be shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to saving money. By visualizing it, you will be able to post it on your wall and follow it like a guide each and every day.
What you need to do is take a big piece of paper, and write your monthly income (after tax) at the very top. For this post I’m going to the average annual salary for a Canadian as an example ($49,000 CAD / year). Of course we need to take off all the normal taxes and deductions (annoying right?)
Okay now we have our net annual salary which is $37,761. Divide that by 12 and we see that our net monthly is $3,146.
So at the top of your notepad, write $3,146, and below that number you’re going to minus each of your expenses. Don’t forget to minus $100 / month for entertainment. You don’t want to create an unrealistic savings plan for yourself. If you don’t give yourself time and money to have fun, you might just give up on your savings plan all together.
You’ll also want to keep $100 for miscellaneous because you never know when something might pop up (like a broken coffee maker or a flat tire).
Your budget could look something like this:
My Income = $3,146
– Mortgage / Rent = $525 (based on Canadian average & sharing cost with spouse)
– Groceries = $241 (based on Canadian average per person)
– TV & Internet = $30 (sharing cost of basic bundle with spouse)
– All Utilities = $70 (based on Canadian average per person)
– Gas for Car = $125 (based on Canadian average)
– Car Insurance = $85 (based on Canadian average)
– Mobile Data & Talk = $35 (based on cheapest plan)
– Entertainment = $100
– miscellaneous = $100
TOTAL SAVINGS = $1,835 / MONTH
Now we’re getting somewhere!
You can then multiply your total monthly savings by 12 to see how much you would save in one calendar year. In this case, you’ll save just over $22,000 in one year.
Earlier in this post we calculated that – if you’re travelling as a couple – your one year trip will cost $35,000 all-in. So if you and your partner both save $22,000 (as in the example above), then you’ll have $44,000 between you after one year, which is more than enough for your adventure. In fact, you’ll each have $4,500 left over, which is nice if you end up returning home without a job.
Of course, wages differ greatly around the world and the above chart is for a Canadian salary which is considered one of the 10 highest. If you’re a Canadian making the average wage, you’ll have no problem saving this amount in the year if you follow the next step in this article.
It is also worth noting that I used the “average” for all of the expenses. The “average” Canadian spends way too much on some of these things and you may just find that you can cut down on quite a few of those if you get a bit creative.
If your wage is lower than the above chart, then hopefully your living expenses are lower as well. If not, you may need to make some serious adjustments on your bills, or just plan to save a lot longer.
If you have loans or other payments, you can add them to the list, but consider trying to consolidate them or minimizing them as much as possible. If you have credit card debt (average is 19% interest), then that should be paid off with at least half of your savings each month).
If you’re writing down your expenses and you find that you’re subtracting way more than what I’ve included in the above list, then you’ll probably have to rethink your expenses while living at home. Car payments, loans for furniture and TV’s, clothing allowance etc. You might want to head to Craigslist, sell some stuff and put an end to unnecessary purchases.
Another option to boost your savings is to take on a second, part-time job, or work a lot of overtime.
Note: You can also cut down your day-to-day travel expenses by as much as half if you consider things like housesitting, Couchsurfing, volunteering, working in exchange for room and board, and WWOOFing while on the road.
Step 4 – Stick To Your Plan
There’s no point in writing all of this stuff down if you don’t stick to it. You need to be frugal and smart about the way you live your life over the next twelve months. Don’t be too strict on your budget though. Always leave room for some incidentals and unforseen expenses along the way, and enough for entertainment.
At this point you may be thinking, how can I stick to this budget plan? There’s just not enough money left over for me! But in reality, there is! Think of every dollar you’re saving as an adventure you can have overseas. That’s ALL for you. Those experiences will stick with you for the rest of your life.
When you work an extra hour at your job and get $20 overtime pay, that will pay for a beach hut in Thailand. When you save $10 by eating at home rather than eating out, that’s 10 street meals in Vietnam. Decide to kick smoking? You’ll save at least $1,500 / year and that will pay for your flights and first 3 weeks of travel.
Think of every dollar you spend as an experience you could have overseas and suddenly it will be much easier to save. Always keep in mind that if something costs you $10 in a western country, it’ll probably be $2 where you’re travelling.
Similarly, you need to think of ways to cut your expenses at home so that you can save even more money.
Every time you think about going out for a Starbucks coffee ($5), consider making a cup at home (10 cents). Next time your friends invite you out for a nice dinner and drinks ($60), maybe tell them that you’re saving money, but you’d love to have them over the next night instead ($15).
Instead of owning a car and driving to work every day ($205 / month), consider taking the bus ($80 / month) or walking (free).
There are so many ways that you can cut your expenses and live within your new budget, you just have to have a little bit of discipline.
Step 5 – Start Selling & Purging
We all have way too much stuff in our houses. I mean WAY too much. If you’ve got a storage room, you need to get in there and start organizing it.
Every day after work, choose a room in your house and start working on it. Make three piles and call them “Keep it”, “Sell it” & “Ditch it”.
Everything in your house should go into one of these piles. Of course, if travelling indefinitely is not in your plans and you think you’ll return home after a year, then you will probably be less strict and your “Keep it” pile will be a bit larger.
Even so, you must think about what you really “need“. Be hard on yourself. If you go through this process and don’t feel at all sad or a bit regretful, then you weren’t strict enough! You need to ditch and sell as much stuff as possible.
For one, you may end up travelling / living abroad forever, in which case you will never use this stuff again, and for two, storage units are expensive and your family members usually have a limit to how many boxes they’ll take for you!
Your “Ditch it” pile probably has a lot of stuff that could be used by people who are less fortunate than you. Help your mindset by thinking “a homeless person would make great use of this”. This will definitely keep your “Keep it” pile small and your “Ditch it” pile large. When you’re finished, you can donate the Ditch it pile and know you’ve helped countless people.
You should really be working on sorting through your belongings every couple of days. You might be surprised at how long it takes! Once you have all of your items in your storage room in three piles, go over it again and see if you can’t bring down the size of your “Keep it” pile.
Also keep in mind that you’re going to have to do this with EVERYTHING you own when it comes time to pack up your house and go, so look at all of your day-to-day items in new light. Do you really need them? Can you buy them again if you need to?
Okay so once you’ve got your “ditch it” pile donated and your “keep it” pile nicely packed in boxes, it’s time to actually sell the stuff in the “sell it” pile. Get out your smart phone, take some quick pictures and post them up on Craigslist, eBay, Amazon or whatever online service you choose.
You will be surprised at how much you can sell online. Old phones, old computers, old clothes. You can sell it all. Whatever’s left over can then be donated.
Step 6 – Start Planning
Now comes a bit of the fun stuff. You get to start planning your trip. Head to your local book store, pick up a nice big map, some pens and a regional Lonely Planet Travel Guide.
Post your map up on the wall or on your kitchen table and start planning your routes. You can paste post-it notes on countries you want to visit with a few key points about each place (when to visit, average daily budget, visa free countries, visa on arrival costs, entry requirements, borders, transport etc.).
You can connect the post-it notes with some string to show your route and over the next few months you’ll see your trip start to come into focus. Remember, don’t over plan! This part will help you get the logistics, but there is absolutely no point in figuring out where each day will be spent on a year-long trip.
Have an idea, and leave plenty of room for spontaneity. This part of the preparation process is fun, so enjoy it. It will help you to keep your mind focused on your goal and what you want to see during your new life of travel, freedom and adventure.
Some main logistics and regulations that you will need to think about include:
- When To Go
- Daily budget for each country
- Visa Regulations / maximum stay (Check out these pages for Canadians, UK Citizens, Americans, Aussies, New Zealanders and more)
- Getting There and Away (flights, buses, border crossings etc.)
- Onward Flight Tickets
- Amount of time / pages left in your passport (many pages needed + at least 18 months left on passport if you’re planning a 12 month trip)
- Money (USD, local currency, withdrawal costs, best travel bank account, best credit card, can you use ATMs? etc.)
Step 7 – Get Travel Insurance
It’s always wise to have travel insurance while on a long trip like this. If anything happens overseas, hospital bills can add up quickly. World Nomads covers you for medical emergencies and even covers the cost of your gear if it is lost or stolen. At only a few bucks per day, you really can’t go wrong and in our experience it is the best travel insurance for digital nomads and backpackers.
Step 8 – Quit Your Job!
Okay so no matter how tempting it might be, I don’t recommend walking into work on the last day before your trip and yelling “I Quit!” It’s never good to burn bridges and you can’t be certain that you won’t ever want to fall back on that income source one day in the future.
Give your work 2 weeks to 2 months notice and let them know that you’re going travelling. Navigate your way around the verbal backlash of “You’re not 18 anymore you know”, “It must be nice to not have any commitments” and “You won’t be able to have kids if you’re travelling”. Just ignore it and move on.
You’ve done your research and no amount of social norm is going to hold you back from your dreams.
Step 9 – Give Notice / Sell Your House
If you own your house, you should probably start with this step with at much time as possible before your trip. You’ll want to have the house on the market for as long as possible to make sure it sells and you should try to make the possession date be around the time you’re leaving.
If you know that you can live with a friend or rent if the house sells early, then you may just want to begin this before you even plan your budget for the trip. Don’t let selling a house deter you from travelling. We sold our condo and although it was a bit difficult / stressful, we felt a weight lifted when it was gone and we were free to explore the world.
We even booked our flights before selling the house, which made it a bit stressful when the house was still on the market with just a month left before our trip. But it all worked out. It will all work out for you if you’re following your dreams. Trust it.
If you’re renting… sweet! Easy peezy lemon squeezy. All you have to do is give your landlord a month or two notice, pack your stuff, get your damage deposit back and go.
Moving is always a big step. HealthStatus.com says that moving a house is one of life’s top 5 most stressful events, so just expect some mixed emotions to come along with the process.
If you write a to-do list and take each thing one step at a time, you can minimize the anxiety of moving and you’ll get through it easier.
In the end, you’re freeing yourself from a massive amount of debt (or at least a huge monthly payment) and giving yourself the opportunity to live out your dreams. Once your house is gone and you’re ready to go travelling, I guarantee your spirits will be lifted and you’ll feel like a new person.
Note: If you own a car, now would be a good time to sell that as well.
Step 10 – Pack up Your House
You can start doing this as early as 2 months before your departure date, although if you start that early you’ll probably want to begin with the spare bedroom and not the living room and kitchen!
By this point, you’ve already purged your storage room(s) / attic and extra stuff, and now it’s time to actually start putting your belongings in boxes and getting ready for your trip. Again you should be taking time every day after work to do some packing / piling.
Remember to use the “Keep it”, “Sell it”, “Ditch it” piles and be strict about it. If you haven’t thought about it by now, you should start trying to figure out where your “Keep it” stuff is going to go.
This is where friends and family can come in very handy. Even though they may be a little bit reluctant at first, almost everyone has some space in their house to keep a couple of boxes. Storage facilities can cost up to $100 / month for a pretty small space (10×14 ft), so it’s best that you try to get as many “volunteers” as possible.
Measure your boxes, make a few phone calls and start dispersing your “keep it” pile amongst friends and family. If you end up with 10 boxes that nobody has space for, you can probably get a 5×5 storage space for around $480 / year, but hopefully you have enough loved ones to take all of your stuff.
Step 11 – Say Good-Bye
Saying goodbye to friends and loved ones is another one of life’s most difficult experiences, but just know that you’re saying “see you later” not “goodbye”. You may even consider having some of them come and meet you on the road.
At this point, goodbyes are a bitter-sweet because on one hand you know that you’re not going to see your loved ones for a long time, but on the other you know that you’re going to go have a life changing experience and you’ll come out of the other side a brighter, happier and more enlightened person.
Remember during this process that you’re not just saying goodbye to your friends and family, you’re saying goodbye to a way of life. Bid farewell to the 9-5 job. Say goodbye to timetables and schedules, deadlines and due dates. Say adios to the stress of bills and debt and the chaos of life at home.
Welcome in the countless possibilities that are going to come with your new life. You are going to be “off” for a year or more. You’re going to see more and learn more in the first month of your trip, than you probably have in your entire life previous to departure.
Say goodbye to the materialism of the western world and know that you’ve just sold and stored most of your belongings. Now it’s just you, your luggage and the whole world. The few things you need can be packed into a 35 litre bag and strapped to your back. You are free. Relish in it. You only have this moment once.
Step 12 – Take Off
You’ve done it. All of your planning, hard work, saving and preparation has led up to this moment. As the plane races down the runway and the wheels leave the tarmac, feel all the weight lifting from your shoulders. Appreciate the stress falling from your soul and prepare your mind and body for a journey beyond your wildest dreams.
This feeling is truly indescribable. There is such a mix of emotions as the plane lifts off for the first time.
You’re going to be travelling for a full year or more.
You won’t be waking up to alarms or getting stuck in traffic. You’ll be meeting local people, learning about new cultures, tasting different food, hearing new music, dancing to a new beat and experiencing things you never thought possible.
One thought will most definitely sink in, almost overwhelming you…
“Why didn’t I do this sooner?”
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