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How to Save Money for Travel

How to Save Money for Traveling “It is far easier to save $20 than it is to make $20.” – Andy the Hobotraveler.com. This is the mantra of the modern traveler. Anyone who wishes to travel the world should chant this line over and over again every single day. As I wait in the USA [...]

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How to Save Money for Traveling

“It is far easier to save $20 than it is to make $20.”Andy the Hobotraveler.com.

This is the mantra of the modern traveler. Anyone who wishes to travel the world should chant this line over and over again every single day.

As I wait in the USA for Chaya to finish cultivating Number Three, I am publishing a defacto guide of how an aspiring traveler could save enough money to comfortably travel the world.

How to Make Money to Travel the World Project

If you read the entries from this project throughout the summer and try to follow many of their recommendations, I guarantee that you will be able to save enough money to travel the world for at least 18 months from 6 months of preparation.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Bangor, Maine- July 5, 2009
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I am keeping this path very general — I am trying to sidestep any work that requires specialized knowledge or any prerequisites (such as education or prior work experience) to obtain. I am a professional archaeologist and an experienced copy editor, but I will try to stay way from these professions, as they often required a touch of education and/ or prior experience to easily get into.

I will try to only work jobs that almost any high school kid can do. But this is only my attempt, and not an iron clad rule. Most people do possess specific work skills that enable them to access specific realms of employment that greenhorns would not have access to, so I do not feel as if it would absolutely null and void the project if at some point in the summer I dip into the shallow resources my university education provides for me.

So far during this project I have worked as a gardener, a child care provider, a farmer, a webmaster, and a research assistant for a world renown geographer. It is my impression that most of this work (besides the research assistant job) does not require any special set of training. I want the mile markers on this road to be ones that almost anybody who can work freely in a developed country could follow. It is easy for a doctor to save up money to travel; it is much more difficult for a young kid fresh out of high school or college. To really do this project effectively — to really lay out a path that other aspiring travelers can follow — I need to scrub the bottom of the barrel of the employment bucket and wallow in the muck of the general laborer.

Then, I can show how almost anyone from a developed country could make enough money to travel the world.

I do not know if I can really save up the specified amount of money from doing this sort of work, but it is this precariousness itself that makes this project a PROJECT. If I do save up the specified $6,000 by October, I will call this project a success, and will only chuckle when I hear the excuse, “I don’t have the money to travel.”

Ultimately, I want to put together a running index of pages that an aspiring traveler could browse through to find tips and suggestions about how they can obtain the resources to travel long term off of a 6 month term of working hard and living frugally.

As of the beginning of July, I have so far saved $2,135.

Saving money for traveling is a two part endeavor:

  1. You have to make the money.
  2. Then you have to not spend it.

I am not sure which is more difficult. My observations have decreed that lots of people make lots of money. Almost ever person that I know in the USA makes more money than I do, but very few are able to not spend it. The flip side of this “how to make money to travel project” is about how to keep the funds that you earn for traveling.

Traveling — and, consequently, preparing for travel — is a lifestyle. It is not the only lifestyle in the world, to be sure, and it is probably not the best lifestyle for most people, but this is the lifestyle that this travelogue is focused around. Therefore, I generally only publish information about the traveling life. I do not want to feign pompousness by implying that traveling is the best way to live, for I know that it probably isn’t.

Any lifestyle requires sacrifices:

To be a doctor you need to go through a decade of difficult study, be on call 24 hours a day, and be responsible for the very life of your patients.

To travel the world you have to find ways to not spend much money, sleep in uncomfortable beds, eat bad food, often forgo hanging out with friends when it requires spending money, being away from your family, and having a very short list of needs and wants.

I have not met many people willing to fill either of these criteria, and this is alright. As my father use to say, “different strokes for different folks.” But I do know that if you want to travel, obtaining the means to do so must be the focus of your attention AT ALL TIMES. You cannot party on the weekends and expect to save money to travel; you cannot spend $5 on a pack of cigarettes ever day and expect to have the means to go traveling; you cannot go out to dinner every other night AND save up travel funds.

The traveling lifestyle is mutually exclusive to many other ways of life.

(well, unless you make a lot of money)

Traveling begins before you leave home

It is my impression that traveling and preparing for travel demands a change in lifestyle. Once you decide that you want to travel, you are a traveler, and cannot enjoy all of the fruits of the sedentary life. Being excessively frugal at home is training for the vagabond life — learning how to save money at every turn begins long before you start your journey.

Saving money for traveling can be equated to running a marathon. A long distance runner is not going to sit down in the shade and have a nice long rest if he wants to win the race. Likewise, saving money for travel is one long marathon: you work your ass off for six months and devoid yourself of any costly enjoyments so that you can win up the funds to travel the world.

I bet it sucks to run a marathon.

I know it sucks trying to save money to travel.

If you live in a tent in your friend’s backyard, stay away from bars, don’t eat at restaurants, live on rice and beans and chicken and noodles, sell your car and commute with a bicycle, cancel your cabal TV subscription, internet, and cell phone, shop in thrift stores for clothes, and DON”T BUY ANYTHING THAT YOU WILL NOT CROAK WITHOUT then I say that you will make a mighty fine traveler.

Ride a bike to save money to travel

Remember this: $10 is a full day of travel in most countries.

Travel Tip: Measure expenses not in monetary digits but by days of travel. How many days of travel will it cost you to eat out tonight with your friends?

$12 = 1.2 days of traveling in a foreign country.

How many new places could you have experienced with the money you just passed over to that bartender? Is going to that concert really worth a week of wandering the world? Is having that cappuccino double mocha latte shit sludge with a coworker each day with lunch really worth a half day of traveling in India?

Maybe it is? I don’t know. But if you want to travel, it is my impression that you have to say “no” to spending money.

This is what I do. Every day I measure each potential expense in terms of how many days of travel it will cost me. “Is this really worth X days of traveling,” I ask myself. I usually answer this question in the negative, and, likewise, I usually have enough money to travel.

Perhaps life is a continual balancing act of decisions. If you buy a bag of cheesy poofs, a can of pop, and a pack of cigarettes each day as you drive home from work and then complain about not having enough money to travel, then it is my impression that you made your decision: you would rather have cheesy poofs, pop, and cigarettes rather than traveling the world. And this is alright.

I can remember back in the winter of ’05 how my best friend, Erik the Pilot, was trying to save up money to go traveling in Costa Rica. We were browsing through a Barnes and Nobel and talking about how he thought he would not have enough money for the trip. I then followed him into the cafe section of the store and stood in line with him for a moment. He told me that he was hungry. I asked him what he was going to buy.

“A sandwich.”

The sandwich carried a $7 price tag. Seven dollars is almost a full day of travel in Costa Rica. I chided Erik about this and lectured him about how saving money for traveling meant that he could not buy a $7 sandwich every time he was hungry.

“Seven dollars is not going to get me to Costa Rica,” he responded while rolling his eyes.

“No, but seven dollars is almost a full day that you could otherwise have there on the beach,” I replied.”Do you really want to eat up a full day of Costa Rica travel in the five minutes that it will take to dispose of that sandwich?”

He looked at me guiltily.

“Why don’t you just go home and eat a sandwich at your mom’s house for free?” I continued.

This is what he did.

Erik the Pilot went to Costa Rica because he wanted to travel more than eating seven dollar sandwiches.

These tips on how to save money to travel are based on my experience. It is my experience that saving money is rarely fun, but it is necessary if you want to travel. It sucks staying at home when your friends are going out to a concert; it sucks to live for three months in a tent because you don’t want to pay rent; working hard at crappy jobs always sucks; it sucks to say “I can’t spend that much money” a dozen times a day.

There is a lee side to the traveling life, and it can be found on the slippery slope of saving money. But I know that each dollar that I save is a dollar that is going to get me one step closer to the farthest horizon.

With this knowledge, saving money for traveling becomes more than worth the sacrifice. A traveler will do anything to travel another day . . .

I have found that there is a certain mindset that goes along with the traveling lifestyle, and I know that if I want to continue traveling, I must stay in this mindset every stinking day:

“It is far easier to save $20 than it is to make $20.”

“Is buying this thing worth X days of traveling?”

“Don’t buy anything that you will not croak without.”

Live in a tent to save money to travel

How to save money to travel project

  • How to make Money to Travel
  • Free Accommodation is the first step to saving travel funds

How to Save Money for Traveling

Filed under: Maine, Make Money for Travel, Money, Start Traveling, USA

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3705 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

6 comments… add one

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  • Caitlin July 6, 2009, 12:36 am

    You know, I still have a lot to learn from you. My money saving skills still leave a lot to be desired. Maybe I should write Andy's motto on the back of my hand to keep me in line.

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  • Byron J. Gaudette July 6, 2009, 2:34 am

    Well written…I didn't really know how to save money BEFORE I went traveling, but I learned very quickly WHILE traveling.

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  • DivaD July 6, 2009, 3:26 am

    I think you pretty much wrote the definitive piece regarding this point.

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  • Anonymous July 6, 2009, 3:12 pm

    I also do the opposite. When I was up in alaska they made us work long hours. I mean really long hours, 16 hours/day was normal. Almost every hour I would remind myself that this hour of work would pay for 2 days of travel in India. It really helped to keep me going and made those long days bearable. It helps to always keep your goals in mind. For what its worth I never made it to India, ended up sidetracked in Spain and Morocco instead. But that's another story, just the idea of going to India helped me finish the season in alaska.

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  • Wade Vagabond Journey.com July 6, 2009, 11:51 pm


    You seem to enjoy that which you spend your money on, and it does not seem from here that you spend too much of it. The way I figure it, the more money you spend the more you have to work. Working can be interesting. Spending all of your money creates interesting circumstances. In The Royal Road to Romance Halliburton would often give his money away or spend it on stupid things to ensure that he would have something interesting to write about. Adventure and wealth are always inversely proportional.

    It is not my impression that you are spending an excessive amount of money. There often comes a threshold where trying to pinch your pocketbook to the smallest penny is not worth the effort.


    It is my impression that you are doing real well, man. You are working hard, saving money, and traveling the world. Keep at it — working is almost always a story and can be an integral part of traveling. Man, it made me so happy when you let me know that you were traveling through Central America. Good on ya! I always love hearing about people who have always wanted to travel putting their noses to the grindstone and actually going out and doing it.

    Thanks David,

    I appreciate it!

    Walk Slow,


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  • Wade Vagabond Journey.com July 7, 2009, 4:01 pm

    Test. These Blogger powered comment forms are no longer working.

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