The mist is rising up through the jungle in the early morning light as a troop of chattering monkeys jump from branch to branch. I sip my coffee and watch their antics from the verandah. Here, in the mountains of Goa, India’s smallest state, life is good.
Life has been good like this—full of travel and adventure—ever since my husband Duncan and I first realised it cost less for us to travel the world than to sit on our couch back home in Sydney.
We did it all on a budget of $92 per day—in fact we had $250 left over on the last day. We blew it all on a bottle of Australian Sauvignon Blanc and a sumptuous three-course lunch in one of Barbados’ top beachside restaurants.
Our life now is a far cry from when Duncan and I would dream of our 20 or so days of annual leave. Duncan held corporate roles and I ran a personal consulting business. We accepted that if we wanted to retire comfortably at 67 then we would have to work longer and salary sacrifice to top up our super fund.
Every year we spent our hard-earned dollars on an exotic holiday in an attempt to replenish our batteries. But we always felt there had to be more to life than working, there had to be a way to follow our dreams of travelling extensively for as long as we wanted.
Fortunately, we discovered there was a way. And since 2013 we’ve successfully used all sorts of travel tricks—from housesitting to flight hacking. Here are some of our top tips…
The first thing we learned was to slow our pace. By staying in a place longer you not only enrich your experiences but you cut your costs. Our first year we were on the move every four nights so our travel costs skyrocketed. It was when we planned a three-week stop on the Greek island of Santorini that we realised what we were doing.
A big lesson learnt. In those three weeks we had no transport costs, we met locals who showed us where they bought their fruit, vegetables and local wine and the best places to eat away from the touristy areas.
The good news is much of the world is way cheaper than Australia. The more Duncan and I have travelled, the more we realise just how expensive it is back home compared to other countries. This morning in Goa three of us went out for breakfast and enjoyed five local Goan dishes, plus a takeaway for lunch, all for $8.30. We enjoy the local Kings beer or a coffee for less than a dollar.
We say, “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. Don’t skimp with a policy that has low medical coverage. Compare each company carefully and read the small print. For a 12-month annual policy worldwide with 1 Cover it costs us $2,530 (or $210 per month) for the both of us. If we are overseas and decide to extend our stay longer than 12 months, we use World Nomads who allow you to purchase insurance whilst abroad (we extended for six months and the cost was $1,592 for both of us).
For us, our biggest savings come from housesitting. We estimate we’ve saved $40,000 on accommodation alone in our first year travelling. Currently we housesit between four to six months of the year in places that we once only dreamed of visiting. Our recent international housesits have been in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico, France, Barbados, Spain, Goa and Koh Samui. We lived like locals, enjoyed the local green markets and our daily costs (on average) were $10 to $20 per day.
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