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Is Cruising Around the World Too Expensive?

Sailing and living on a boat used to be a cheap way to travel the world. Has this changed?

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Has Cruising Around the World Become Gentrified?

I can remember reading books on how to sail around the world and live cheaply in Maine, the place where I learned the basics of sailing. These books said that you could sail around the world on only a few thousand dollars a year, that you could eat for a buck a day, that you could float around on little more than your own ingenuity.

These books were all written in the 70’s.

I am told now that world wide cruises are a different game, that sailing has become gentrified. These cruises may be worth it though, depending on where you want to travel. Sailing with Voyagers Travel to the Galapagos Islands, for example, is never going to be a budget vacation, but it could absolutely be worth the cost to take a trip of a lifetime.

“It use to be cheap,” a man who spent two years at sea told me, “but now it is too expensive.”

Sailors who have given up the life say that the old ports that you use to be able to drop anchor at for free now charge fees and taxes and . . .
They tell me that sailing has become gentrified, that it is too expensive, that you need to be rich to cruise full time around the world.

But, then again, people tell me all the time that they can’t travel the terrestrial world because it is expensive, they look at me like some sort of rich man. They think that I have a lot of money from somewhere, they say that they would need a lot of money to travel.

And they probably would.

Travel is expensive for most people, they shoot out money like a sprinkler thinking that they have to. They don’t. I don’t, travel is cheap for me, I live on less money than any USA person that I know, I travel in Europe on $5 a day, and while working at a hotel in Guatemala my family had lived for three months on maybe $2 a day. Now in Mexico, the three of us are living very comfortably on around a $25 daily budget. But I can live cheaply because I come up with strategies to retain my funds, l think about what I spend, I ask if there is a way that I could save more money, I do the work necessary to travel and live cheaply.

Everything that I have ever done in travel I have done cheaper than almost anybody else, why would sailing be any different?

It is my impression that traveling is expensive for most people because they WANT it to be expensive, they confuse quality and security with price, think more money = better, are afraid of the local people and opt to stay in the tourist bubble, they stay out late in bars or pay for their entertainment as a default position. It seems to me that most people who travel would rather reach into their pockets than put a little elbow grease into their living — or perhaps they just don’t know what and where to scrub.

It is true, taking what the world of tourism gives you is expensive.

I am sure that taking verbatim what the sailing infrastructure gives you then the lifestyle would be pretty expensive as well. If I stay in marinas, go to expensive destinations, travel in the yachting bubble, then venturing through the world on a boat will be an overbearing strain on my travel funds. Just about every person who has told me that sailing was expensive has either never done it before, did not heed price and tried to save, took what was given to them rather than elbow greasing their own way, or simply had the money to spend.

marina in rio dulce guatemala

Marina in Rio Dulce

The sailors living on the boats in the Rio Dulce don’t seem to over burdened with money to me. I know for a fact that most of the sailors in Rio Dulce are thrifty fellows who drink beer out of cans in the street in front of tiendas when they can’t sproat the means for a bar tab. These guys know how to save money, and that is because they know they don’t have much. When someone says that I boat is a hole in the water to throw your money down, I must think of the sailors that I have known — they all say that sailing is still cheap — they don’t seem to be throwing money many other places than for their beers. They are a cheap bunch, they live on pensions, peddle jewelry, do odd jobs, get the money to live on their boats by any means necessary.

By any means necessary is another mantra of travel — of life — there is always a way to do things as you wish if you keep trying. Life is a maze, there are routes and paths resplete with dead ends and wrong turns, but it is a maze that has an infinite amount of variables. If you keep tinkering on the path, keep trying and testing the variables which have no end, then you are going to get to where you want to be, eventually.

This is what traveling has taught me: the paths may set, but they are infinite. I can get anywhere.

“With each place that becomes too expensive to anchor in,” an old sailor once spoke to me, “there is always a new cheap one that opens up.”

Travel by sea does not seem too different in this regard from terrestrial travel: the people willing to spend money will spend it, while those who don’t will put in the effort to come up with the stratigies to live cheaply.

I can travel anywhere, live for under $10 per person per day, by land or sea.

Related articles: Cost to travel by sea


Filed under: Boat Travel, Central America, Guatemala, Travel Economics

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 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 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

5 comments… add one

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  • Ray B. August 30, 2010, 7:17 pm

    Hi. I read your blog and enjoy it. Google “Reid Stowe”. You may find some useful info and he is looking for volunteers on his ship. Mabey this would be good for you.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com August 30, 2010, 11:01 pm

      Thanks Ray,

      Will look into this.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com August 30, 2010, 11:14 pm

      Do you know how I could contact Reid Stowe, this does sound like something I would be interested in.



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  • g September 1, 2010, 2:49 pm

    Beliefs create reality. Believe sailing to be expensive and it will be. believe sailing to be cheap and you will find ways to make that your reality. g.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 1, 2010, 4:36 pm

      Right on, beliefs create parameters for reality. If you think something is expensive then you have parameters set up for easily accepting higher prices, if you believe that something can be cheaper than your parameters are more finely tuned, and any price that does not fit in is quickly disregarded as being expensive.

      I travel cheap because I have tight parameters that do not allow for spending more than what my target expenses are. If a hotel is more than what I wanted to pay, I don’t stay there, I move on to another.

      If I thought that travel was going to be expensive I may be prone to accept and pay higher prices.

      Having tight parameters in regards to how much money you want to spend forces you to look for prices that fit your bounds of expectation. It is possible, you just have to do the leg work to find the reality you believe is out there.

      This is right on, G, beliefs do create reality.



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