This is from Era One, a 23 page writeup of my last year of travels, with some included lessons. I'm going to have a few excerpts of Era One this week, alongside our regularly schedule programming. You can download your free copy of Era One here - Era One - Download PDF
Spending – How Much Does it Cost to Travel?
I get this question a lot. People wonder how I can travel and hop around the world when I’m not working?
The truth is, it’s cheaper to spend a few months in a developing country than it is to stay in a city in the Western world. The expensive part is getting there – airfare. But after around three months, airfare+expenses becomes cheaper than staying home. Cheaper rent and much cheaper food.
I’ve got some friends here and there, so I might stay with friends for a while and get them gifts or take them out in lieu of getting my own place, but even renting a place can be done cheap. Like I said, I was paying $12/night in Seoul to stay in a jimjilbang. Now, if you lived in Seoul, you wouldn’t want to stay in a jimjilbang all the time. But for a month, paying $360 to stay at a place with a gym, sauna, pools of water/minerals, sleeping areas, restaurants, snack stands, and more – it’s a fantastic deal. Yes, I didn’t have my own space there. Yes, I had to check out during the day. Yes, there’s some hassle involved. Yes, it’s not always good sleeping. But $360, man. For a month. And that includes the hot rooms, cold rooms, the various mineral and herb baths, and all the weights and cardio I want. Fantastic.
Also, it’s very possible to eat for under $5 per day in developing countries. You can get a good meal cooked out in the world for $1 in Northern Thailand. You can cook your own food for less. Here in Malaysia, you can get a big pack of peanuts for 60 cents USD. I’m renting a room in a luxury condo 40 minutes outside of Kuala Lumpur, and it’s 500 Malaysian Ringgit per month. That’s about $170 USD. The internet where I’m staying is shaky, so I usually work in a cafe. The 10 minute taxi ride there is about $2.
It takes some research and willingness to step into the unknown, but you can absolutely live and travel very cheaply through most of the world. Here’s my spending since I started tracking it in July. These are my original notes –
18 July to 26 July (8 days) - Total: room $144 ($18/day), food $46, coffee $19, groceries $31, transit $2 -> I also bought vitamins for $66, but that's a long term expense over the next two months, not an expense for just this week.
27 July to 5 August (10 days) - $340 for 10 days, total $34 per day. Higher than last week. It would've been lower without the massages - massage is valuable for health, but going 3 times over 10 days was unnecessary. I know my body was sore from training, but the expense wasn't worth it. I didn't realize how much it was until I calculated. [Web hosting: $137 for next year]
6 August to 13 August (8 days) - $25 on Visa, $30 on AMEX, $50 in cash since got to VN. Maybe $35 more leaving Hong Kong... for $140 total?
14 August to 20 August (7 days) - $163 self [$10 business] - free rent drastically takes down expenses. Many of the high expenses are a result of partying with friends, the rest of it is food/taxis. I should keep spending well on Chris and buy some gear while I'm here, which will keep my expenses high, but I think I can eat cheaper as well.
21 August to 27 August (7 days) - $115 for living expenses [plus $50 for business clothes] - this is amazingly good
28 August to 5 September (9 days) - $170 over 9 days = $18.90 per day
6 September to 17 September (12 days) - $299/12 = $25/day personal [$385 business and business clothing]
18 September to 29 September (12 days) - $528 over 12 days. $44 per day. (Room: $420 for 12 days. Food/coffee: $82 Entertainment: $26)
30 September to 10 October (11 days) - $331 for 11 days. = $30/day
11 October to 24 October (14 days) - $215 personal ($15.36 per day), $16 in business expenses
25 October to 1 November (8 days) - computer crashed, not sure. Main expenses: Entertaining Chris kind of a high number, some taxis/trains, two nights in hotel in KL, new vitamins.
Other spending: The pre-July spending I wasn't tracking. Flights aren’t much. Saigon to Kuala Lumpur one-way was $95. I got the Taipei -> Hong Kong -> Saigon flights for free with points I’d built up on my American Express card, but it would’ve been around $400 if I didn’t have that. Some bank expenses – I’ve got to pay more attention to those wily banks. My laptop at the end of this time period and I had to get a new one. I got a Toshiba Satellite with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4 GB Ram, 500 GB hard disk, built in webcam and mic, and boring other specs for $650  at the Low Yat Center in Malasia. I’d have been happy using my old computer until it died, but then it did die.
 Checking my credit card statement, I actually did the currency conversion wrong. The Toshiba was closer to $700 at the conversion rates I got on my Visa. My mistake, though not a big one.
Anyway, these numbers could be even lower if I worked at it. If you have a valuable skill you’re willing to barter and you’re a cool person, I think it’d probably be possible to never pay rent ever using Couchsurfing and connecting with people. If you cook your own food, I think it’d be possible to eat for less than $100/month. Transport is cheap if you’re in the right places. It’d probably be possible to survive on a few hundred dollars per month total for a while if you were disciplined about it and did enough planning.
Era One is available here - Era One - Download PDF
Three weeks ago I added cash numbers to my weekly review. What I'd make actively, passively, spend. Two weeks ago the line on my review read:
What'd I spend this week? Not sure. Figure out expenses next week
This week it looks like this*:
What'd I spend this week?
Expenses: July 18: room $32, food $12, coffee $4 July 19: room $15, food $10, coffee $4, transit $2 [groceries $18, vitamins $66] July 20: room $15, food $0, no other expenses July 21: room $15, food $12 coffee $4 [groceries $3] July 22: room $15, food $0, no other expenses July 23: room $15, food $0, no other expenses July 24: room $15, food $0, no other expenses July 25: room $22, food $12, coffee $7 [groceries $13 - but bought at convenience store, and had to throw away two things I bought because pork was in it] 26 room $15, food $0 Total: room $144 ($18/day), food $46, coffee $19, groceries $31, transit $2 -> I also bought vitamins for $66, but that's a long term expense over the next two months, not an expense for just this week.
These aren't my photos, but I wanted to share them with you. I got them in an email from a friend of mine (hi Estera!) and thought they'd be great to have on my blog too. So here they are.
January: An electrical storm perfectly complements fireworks launched to mark Australia Day 2012 celebrations in Perth, in a stunning shot by Matthew Titmanis.
February: A thunderstorm sweeps over the Melbourne suburb of Carrum Downs, captured by Flavio Bonicelli.