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How to Become a Digital Nomad on a Budget

December 5, 2018

Sri Lanka for Digital Nomads a couple riding on a motorbike

Waking up in beautiful islands, and climbing up waterfalls sounds like something out of a dream. People save money all year hoping that they can score two weeks making that dream a reality. What if I told you that you could do it for longer than two weeks? What if every single day you woke up doing something incredible, and loving your life? Something we get asked a lot is how we can afford to travel full-time, and a lot of people don’t like the answer. We are here to shed some light on how to be a backpacker and travel full-time on a budget.

I’m going to be honest, when Daniel and I sold all of our stuff to travel full-time in 2017, we had NO IDEA what we were doing. All we knew was that the 9-5 was killing us inside, and we were desperate to be happy. With nothing but a dream and will-power, we finally made it happen in June of 2018! We did it scared and have no regrets!

“Okay, Annette, I get it! You are living the dream… good for you! But how do you afford to travel the world full-time on a budget?”

Honestly, it took a lot of work and sacrifices for us to save up the money we needed to. All in all, Daniel and I saved $15,000 to go on this trip. We did this by ending our lease, moving into Daniel’s parents’ house, selling all of our stuff, and working OVER 70 HOURS A WEEK FOR EIGHT MONTHS! You read that right. Daniel was working at Publix full-time from 4AM-12PM, would come home to do his homework, and then leave to babysit until 6 PM. Every. Single. Day. I would work at a preschool full-time and then go from work straight to babysitting until sometimes midnight. Daniel and I oftentimes would go a whole week without seeing each other awake because we ran on such opposite schedules. It sounds like a lot because it is. I don’t tell you this to discourage you, I tell you this because I want to show you that you, too, can make this dream possible. It’s not easy but it’s worth it.

STEP 1: To Be a Digital Nomad and travel full-time on a budget, You Have to Put in the Work

You know that nothing worth it in this life comes easy, friend. That’s why you read what I post! You’re not looking for the easy way out, you’re looking for the RIGHT way to do it. Before we left was major hustle time. Daniel and I were working our little butts off trying to save up as much money as possible. We saved up $15,000 knowing that we were going to try to live as cheaply as possible with the plan of that swinging us for the first year of travel while we figured out how to make an online business.

Before you travel, pick up extra jobs, sell your stuff, and find ways to make your current living situation cheap. Daniel and I shared a car for 10 months to save money on car insurance and gas and we moved into his parent’s house to save money on rent!  If this is something you want to do, it is possible to do it no matter how impossible it seems. Pick up extra jobs on the side, and get to work!

Related: The Digital Nomad Lifestyle: 10 Painful Truths

Step 2: If you want to travel full-time, Do it Scared

I know selling all of your stuff to travel may be scary, but it is SO worth it. We have found that travelers make up a community abroad and now we have dozens of friends all around the world. As a matter of fact, if traveling solo or not making friends is what scares you, just check out our YouTube channel so you can see all of the amazing best friends we’ve made! We even got to stay with one of them in England!

I wish I could tell you it becomes less scary after you buy your tickets, but the fear doesn’t subside until you get on the plane! My suggestion to you: Buy your plane ticket first and give yourself a pep talk daily. If you’re still freaking out, contact me here and I’ll give you a pep talk!

Also, to make your decision even easier, I’ve partnered with Cheap-O-Air to give our Chase for Adventure Fam flexible payment plan options and a $20 discount on tickets when you use this link!

Related: Courage: Why it is The Key to Success

dollars to sell all of your stuff

Step 3: Sell All of Your Stuff

I’ve got to be honest, this was one of the hardest things for us to do. To sell our stuff quickly, we did an estate sale to get rid of our furniture and random stuff and sold the rest through Facebook groups, apps like offer up, and consignment shops. Although the selling part itself isn’t particularly hard, it was parting with all of our stuff that I wasn’t ready for. I didn’t realize how emotionally attached I was to totally random stuff. Not to mention my hardcore meltdown when someone bought all of my bedroom furniture!

If you’re fine with the concept of downsizing, and instead just want to know how to sell your stuff quickly, I have an entire guide on how to tell your stuff quickly right here to save you a headache!

Related: Sell Your Stuff Fast: 10 Tips from the Experts

Step 4: Get the right gear to travel carry-on only

If you want to travel inexpensively, you have to travel carry-on only! To do that, you need to have items that fulfill many purposes and know how to get through airport security. Some main things you’re going to have to get are a great backpack, travel cubes, and a power converter. If you want a full list of all of the things you’ll need, click here to look through our minimalist packing list that has allowed to literally save thousands of dollars in the last year! We use all of those things every single day, and love them!

After you have all of you’re stuff into your backpack, you need some smooth-talking skills to not get your bag weighed at airports. To get through airport security, you need to smile and have confidence. Daniel wrote an AMAZING post about how we get through airport security with WAY more weight than we should (Click Here to Read it!).

Related: Click here to download our minimalist packing list!

Step 5: To travel full-time on a budget you need to pick the right destination

If you want to make your money go far, I suggest you skip Europe and head to either South America or our favorite, South East Asia. These are places where you can find a dorm room for under $5/night and meals that run you between $.50-$3. Apart from how cheap it is, South East Asia is absolutely GORGEOUS! I’m talking about gorgeous beaches, limestone cliffs, waterfalls, caves, and even mountains! The earth literally shows off on this side of the world and we’ve gotten to do some pretty crazy stuff like (click the links to see what I’m talking about):

Jetski Island hop in Langkawi, Malaysia

Cliff Jump into huge waterfalls

Snuggle monkeys in Bali

Snorkel with sea turtles

This is just scratching the surface! Don’t even get me started on the food! Don’t believe me? Check out our Thailand Playlist on our YouTube Channel and you will be amazed!

Related: Check out our AMAZING YouTube Channel!

Step 6: Keep a Budget!

Clean our your ears, pal! This is important. Daniel and I travel on a budget of $50, or $25 per person. This includes our accommodations, food, entertainment, and transportation while bouncing around through sunny South East Asia. It may sound crazy, but you really can live that affordably if you pick the right travel destination as I mentioned above. Your budget is going to depend greatly on how much you save before your trip and how long you plan on traveling for. If you want to go to Europe, note that your budget will probably be around $50 a day if you do it backpacker style. What I recommend to my Worker to Wanderer students is to start somewhere like Asia or South America, learn how to make money on the road, and then move on to more expensive destinations.

Whenever you’re ready to start tracking we use TrailWallet! It’s a really handy app on your phone that even converts different currency so you can see how much you spent in your primary currency. Truly the bomb.com.

Related:  Join us in Worker to Wanderer!

office budget travel

Step 7: Subsidise as Many of Your Costs as Possible to Travel Under Budget

The world outside of the US works very differently than you imagine. You would be surprised by all of the incredible opportunities there are to both make money and travel for free abroad. To travel full-time on a budget, many travelers pitch themselves to hostels and restaurants exchanging a few working hours for a meal or a bed. I know it sounds like a foreign concept, especially if you’re coming from the states, but trust me. Almost every single place we visit, we see foreigners working as receptionists or housekeepers staying and eating for free.  As a matter of fact, in Thailand, Daniel and I worked at a noodle shop for an hour a day in exchange for two meals there! I actually go really into depth on this topic, so if you’re really interested in traveling for free click here to read about all of those opportunities.

Related: How to Travel FOR FREE: The Complete Guide

Step 8: Make Money on the Road!

This is literally the bread and butter of Chase for Adventure! I LOVE showing people how easy it can be to make money on the road. Making money while traveling doesn’t have to a be complicated venture! There are dozens of ways that you can make money online and on the road right now! Before starting our business, Daniel and I got working holiday visas and he bartended in Australia for $36/hr! We’ve run city tours, worked at noodle shops, taught courses, and offered freelance work! If you’re not entrepreneurial, you’re not excluded from the fun! There are remote jobs available on sites like Indeed and Flexjobs and if that’s not your cup of tea, working holiday visas are the best!

A working holiday visa allows you to get a high paying job in a different country to fund your travels. That is literally the purpose of them. Working holiday visas are generally only available to people between the ages of 18-30 and are in countries all over the world. Currently, American citizens qualify for working holiday visas in:

  • Singapore
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • South Korea
  • Ireland

You can find more information on how t

o qualify for these and how much they cost right here!

But rest assured, if you’re above the age bracket working holiday visas aren’t the only option! As a matter of fact, click here to learn about the 3 easiest ways for you to make money while traveling. AND if you need even more ideas, click here to download our 50 Creatives Ways to Make Money While Traveling Cheatsheet!

Related: 10 Best Location Independent Jobs That Let You Travel Full-Time

Step 9: Remember You are NOT on Vacation

If you want to travel full-time on a budget, you’re not going to be able to act like you are on a vacation all of the time. When on holiday, we have the tendency to overspend. You know what I’m talking about, drinking every night, going on an excursion every single day, and eating at the cool up and coming restaurants all of the time. If you are serious about making this your long-term lifestyle, you will need to rein it back and think about how often you’re going to the bar.

Now don’t get me wrong, every day to us does feel like a vacation. We have the freedom to do what we want when we want and get to see really cool stuff in our free time! As a matter of fact, it’s not a rare occurrence for Daniel and I to go to a waterfall or kayaking after we are done working for the day. The important part is finding balance. There are tons of cool things around the world that are free to do, and still just as fun.

Related: The Digital Nomad Lifestyle: 10 Painful Truths

record your memories of full-time travel on a budget

Step 10: Record the Memories

Travel is seriously the most amazing, life-changing, and educational experience you can have! As you can see it’s not as hard as you’d think to travel full-time on a budget. If there is one good thing you can take is a journal and a pen. Make the time to write down all of those fun stories because one day you will get older and not remember them as well. And who knows, maybe you can turn them into a book someday 😉

Now go and book your flight! Have another topic you would like me to cover? Tell me in the comments below!

Related: What it Takes to Prep for 5 Years of Full-Time Travel

*Updated Feb 2020*

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how to travel the world full-time on a budgethow to travel the world full-time on a budget for over a year

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