I Traveled 5 Months In 2019

Palermo Rooftops
Overlooking Palermo
And spent less than I would have staying put in Boston

I lived on about $1,200 a month during my travels. Over the years I’ve become good friends with spreadsheets and made an effort to keep track of my spending and change my relationship with money and things. That’s the only reason I’m able to travel as much as I do.

Where did I go in 2019?

  • April: a long weekend in New Orleans with a friend
  • May: a month in Croatia/Bosnia
  • June: a long weekend in Mexico City with friends
  • September: With my US lease ending, I decided to head back overseas with a suitcase, backpack, laptop, and camera. I split the month with two weeks in Paris and 2.5 weeks in Italy. I took a proper vacation (no remote working) for one week when a friend joined me in Rome where we strolled the Eternal City, ate our weight in Naples (more pizza, please), and had a spa day in Ischia.
  • October: Dubrovnik and Sarajevo
  • November: Mostly Sarajevo with a few small road trips around the area.
  • First week of December: Zagreb
  • Second week of December: Berlin
  • The remainder of December: at my parents’ house in Western, NY

How did I live off an average of $1,240 per month?

I spend the majority of my time in destinations where the $USD goes much further than it does in any large US city. I also changed the way I think about buying things I don’t need.

The $6,200 in travel and living costs over 5 months includes:

  • Accommodations: (hotels, Airbnbs, hostels, guest houses). After September this was my only housing cost.
  • Transportation: (airfare, train, bus, subway, Uber)

That total does NOT include groceries, dining out, or misc. expenses like clothing or hair care (although I only got my hair cut once in 4 months). Since I’m living out of a suitcase, there is little temptation to buy anything. I have no room for it.

For context, when I lived in Boston I was spending, on average

  • $1,700 – $1,800/month for rent + utilities on a shared apartment
  • $300 – $350/month on groceries and dining out
  • $90/month for a subway pass
  • $250/month on random things. While I dramatically cut down on random spending around 2016/2017, I definitely spend more money when I have a place to live long-term and a place to store things. For example, I bought more groceries, household items, and clothing when living at a permanent address.

What do the numbers mean?

It’s about 25% cheaper for me to live as a digital nomad across Europe than it is to live in Boston. If I were to limit myself to mostly Southeast Europe, that savings would be closer to 40%.

That’s great, but I have a day job and a family. How do I save money while traveling?

The biggest cost savings can be made in accommodations and airfare. If you aren’t constrained by travel dates, sign up for airfare alerts and choose a location and date based on what’s most affordable for your travel style. Also

  • Travel offseason if your ideal vacation isn’t 100% weather dependent.
  • Share accommodations. There are def concerns about what Airbnb is doing to rents in urban areas, but whenever possible, I look for rooms that people are listing in their homes (as opposed to an entire apartment). That way I save cash, get some local insight, and feel a little better that I’m not totally contributing to rent increases in a city.
  • Opt for buses or trains over flying when possible.
  • Choose more budget-friendly destinations. Everyone should visit Paris at least once, but there are other parts of France and the world that are stunning and less expensive, too.

For a deeper dive into how to make your week-long holiday more affordable, I wrote this article, 9 big and small ways to save money while you travel.

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