How I Travelled for 18 Months
How I travelled for 18 months – starting off on a big travel adventure can be exciting.
It can also be a shock to the system!
On one hand, there’s a big world out there. On the other, there’s friends and family that’s will be left behind. Possibly a career too.
Bank savings will only last for so long, which leads to the question:
How do you travel more on less?
Well here’s how I travelled for 18 months without bankrupting myself, used what resources I had, and most importantly didn’t clean out my bank account.
I Separated Travelling from Going on Holiday
Going on holiday is great!
Finishing work and jetting off on a beach holiday for 7, 10 or 14 days of sun is what most of us require for some much-needed R&R. However, it pays to remember travelling and going on holiday are different.
Splashing out on a luxury pad at the Hilton and eating out at restaurants every night are a great way to treat the other half to a romantic weekend. But living this kind of lifestyle for extended periods without the security of ‘holiday pay’ would soon demolish that savings nest egg.
During the last 18 months of travelling two recurring sentences that came up were “I wish I could travel like you” and “you’re so lucky.”
While the comments are good natured at heart, apart from curiosity, the reason I received comments like this is because people imagine I am travelling just like they go on holiday.
Here’s the truth… sadly I wasn’t.
Sure occasionally I checked into a decent hotel room and got upgraded to business class, yet these were the exception, not the rule.
How I travelled for 18 months without bankrupting myself is because for the vast amount of the time I was staying in Agoda budget guesthouses, Airbnb apartments, or rented digs booked directly from the manager.
There were some free stays through Couchsurfing thrown into the equation too.
I Used Time to My Advantage
Time is not my foe.
When it comes to going overseas, or even life, time is the enemy of most people. It seems there’s never enough time to appreciate what’s truly in front of you.
While I may not have had the security of a full-time job backing me up, the one thing that was on my side was time. Being 100% in control of your day is a great thing. It means that when a ridiculously low sale fare for $20 comes up, you take advantage and book it.
No messing around waiting a week for a response from your manager, or his managers, manager.
I do have my favourite airlines like everyone else, and it’s hard to go wrong with Singapore Airlines, Etihad, or deal websites like Lastminute. Yet I can also be the world’s best tight arse when needed because it’s incredibly satisfying getting the best flight deal possible.
When there was a massive Air Asia sale in 2014, I was all over it faster than Usain Bolt running the 100m.
My destinations were wherever and whatever was on sale. I booked six flights in one shot; all were at ridiculously low prices.
The cheapest was Kuala Lumpur to Kuching, which I paid a huge $10 USD for.
I Learnt About Travel Hacking
Travel hacking is a bit of a buzz word at the moment – but really it’s just a fancy term used to describe a technique used by people who try to manipulate the travel system to get gains.
Travel hacking involves signing up for airlines reward programs, credit cards, or hotels.
Once signed up the traveller does everything possible to increase their chances of free travel, which includes free flights, free rooms, discounts, and other upgrades.
Although travel hacking sounds all James Bond and sexy, the reality is all very basic. How I travelled for 18 Months is because it turns out you don’t need to be George Clooney in that film.
Even the average guy like me can become a travel hacking expert in as little as 14 weeks.
For free flights you:
- Sign up for an airline reward program. I’m a member of Etihad, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Australia, and Air Asia.
- Sign up for a credit card affiliated with the airline. For example, I have American Express and Visa cards.
- Use the credit card for your NORMAL living costs. How much you spend each month will turn into points for upgrades.
- Browse the airlines’ website and see if they have affiliated with companies you already use. For example, Virgin Velocity is affiliated brands I already shop with like eBay and Agoda. Bookings will now be paid for with the airline credit card to receive additional points.
- Sign up to emails and check offers to see what bonus offer they have. I changed my internet and electricity provider (while renting an apartment in Australia) and these two alone earned me over 20,000 in points, as well as being cheaper than what I was already paying at the time.
- Over time, the points will accumulate then eventually you can redeem them for a free flight online or over the phone.
So is it worth the hassle?
Recently I’ve redeemed points for free flights from Manchester to Bangkok, and then another from Da Nang to Siem Reap. Then there were over two weeks of free hotels stays.
Remember, travel hacking for free flights, or a hotel room is not free – it’s more of a bonus. If it’s a situation where you’re spending more than you would earn the points, then it’s probably cheaper to buy the flight ticket with cash.
I Made Asia My Second Home
It might sound irrational, but with the right strategy travelling for 18 months doesn’t cost as much as you would expect.
How much is not much?
Well while in Asia my daily budget was quite small – in fact just $20US.
While I am the first to agree you wouldn’t get much for this back home, it turns out in many places in Asia you can.
Less than $10 a night secured me a surprisingly decent place to stay in Da Nang, Vietnam.
The room included a powerful hot shower (something not to taken for granted in SE Asia), fresh towels, cleaners, international cable TV, fast Wi-Fi, plus a huge all you can eat buffet breakfast – every single day.
Being situated just one street back from the beach and the fact I could eat out for a couple of dollars was a bonus.
In Taiwan, I was able to almost half this daily accommodation cost by renting out a place in rural Minxiong while learning to speak Mandarin. Even I sometimes struggled to believe I could live a decent lifestyle for such a tiny amount.
Well, it turns out you can – there are plenty of cheap places to go backpacking.
Finally, I Travelled Slowly
It’s easy to think that you’re going to change the world by travelling.
Let’s ride into an 18-month travel journey with all guns blazing, spending each day to the fullest, seeing and doing as much as possible.
For me, it was quite the opposite, sometimes more along the lines of a relaxing semi-retirement break. Not quite the adrenaline fuelled travel adventure many would imagine. Sure there’s bungee jumping, parachuting out of planes, and diving in the ocean, but for the other 99% of the time, you find yourself doing everyday non-adrenaline stuff.
How I travelled for 18 months without bankrupting myself is by taking it slow.
Moving slowly, with the occasional sprint every now and again is what allows me to go longer, further, and avoid travel burnout.
I would move to a new city or town, find a backstreet gym, chat with the local guys, and then do some deadlifts or squats. Often these gyms would cost around $10-20 for the entire month, around the same price I would be paying for one casual yoga class in Australia.
Do you see metal bars? Well, then there’s always chin ups and dips. Total cost for this = nothing.
After I would eat some local street food, wander through markets, work remotely from coffee shops, chat with locals, attend Couchsurfing meetings and generally just enjoy life.
Just because you’re not travelling at 200mph, breaking any world records, or changing the planet – doesn’t mean travelling isn’t fun.
— Barry (@ToolsofTravel) 5 December 2015
How I Travelled for 18 Months Without Bankrupting Myself images created by ToolsofTravel.