Mini-Retirements Mastered: Shoestring International Travel

I’m excited to share the next Mini-Retirement Mastered story! Kyle and Lauren have lived in abroad in Australia for over two years and are about to embark on a six month mini-retirement to see even more of the world. Plus they are the first story I’m sharing of a mini-retirement with out kids! Kyle has some great tips for folks looking for long term travel affordably.

The dream of long-term travel

The desire for travel has been with me for as long as I can remember. I’ve always enjoyed travel and the feelings it has aroused in me. Travel makes me feel like I’m an explorer on an adventure to discover new lands, and if you really think about, that’s exactly what travel is!

Just over 2.5 years ago, I pursued an adventure when I left my home city of Chicago to live and work in Sydney, Australia after I was laid off from my job. I decided that I had had enough of Chicago for the time-being and wanted to explore the land down under. Luckily, things worked out pretty well, and I was able to get a fairly good job and set up a life for myself in Sydney. It has been an incredibly rewarding growth experience to leave home and build a new life for myself in another country.

Lauren and I on the Sydney Harbor with the famous bridge in the background

 

Since I’m under the age of 31, a friend told me I could apply for a 1-year work visa through Australia’s immigration website, which allowed me to make the move. Then through sheer luck and a bit of determination, I was able to network with a former employer before I left who connected me with a hiring manager in Sydney, so I was able to interview for a job when I arrived.

It was scary and a bit overwhelming at first moving to a new country. It took time to make new friends and build support group in our new home, but in the end it has been an incredibly rewarding growth experience to leave home and build a new life for myself in another country.

After a few years, I could feel the travel itch coming back to me again. My job is still a corporate sales job, and on a day-to-day basis I’m still living a fairly normal life in Sydney (just with better weather and a beach nearby).

It’s been during this past year that I started my personal finance blog at Not Your Parents’ Financial Guy to document my journey from unemployed to adamant money-saver, and also began to learn more about the “alternative retirement movement”, both early retirement and mini-retirements. And I knew that after doing my research, that a mini-retirement was exactly what I needed in order to get a break from structured work and fulfill my travel desires.

My first mini-retirement and the dream realized

So come June 2018, it’ll be time for my partner Lauren and I to pack up our lives after almost 3 years in Sydney to begin our global mini-retirement. We are sub-leasing our apartment, selling most of our belongings or sending them back to Chicago and putting in our notice with our jobs. Our plan is spend at least 6 months traveling through Asia and Europe before returning back to the U.S. to start the next phase of our lives.

 

Our tentative route is to take the following path around the world:

 

Australia. Indonesia. Thailand/Laos/Cambodia/Vietnam (traveling completely over land through these countries).  Japan. Italy (for a wedding in September). Germany (to meet friends for Oktoberfest). Poland/Denmark/Netherlands/England/Ireland/others (in no particular order)

Yes, it is a long time to be traveling. We will only have 1 large backpack each with about one week’s worth of clothes and some personal items, so we absolutely will not be traveling in luxury. It is likely that there will be times that it will be dirty and uncomfortable, one or both of us will probably get sick and we will miss some of the comforts of home. But hey, all great learning experiences come with some level of discomfort, and that’s part of what makes it an adventure.

The dream of long-term travel on a budget is completely possible if you know how to approach it. There is a whole culture of people out there who spend months or even years on the road with only a shoestring budget. On this front, I highly recommend the book Vagabonding by Rolf Potts to learn more about the secrets of world travel. We are not on an unlimited budget and don’t plan to make money on the road.

Our total budget between two people for this trip is $20,000, or on average, $1,500-$2,000/month per person. At this stage in our lives, it’s a good percentage of our net worth and will take us back under the six-figure mark, but we can always make more money, but we may never get a chance like this again.

So how is it possible?

Saving up $20,000 of cash that we are willing to spend over the course of our mini-retirement hasn’t been easy. I’m a big fan of the “pay yourself first” method of budgeting and saving, however, in doing so, we have made sacrifices in how we spend our money.

We live in a small, un-renovated 1 bedroom apartment while many of our other friends live in nice, new modern homes. Almost all of our meals are cooked at home, and we decline many invitations to dine out with friends. Then we have taken relatively few vacations compared to the rest of our friends, opting to save our travel for a long stretch rather than short bursts. The ability to hold off on short-term gratification for the benefit of our long-term goals has been the most useful skill in preparing for this trip.

 

Here’s a list of the top costs when traveling and how we plan to tackle them on our budget:

 

  • Accommodation: We’ll be staying in Airbnb’s or private rooms at hostels for the most part, and cost will depend on the location and be basic but clean/comfortable. For example, you can get a private beach hut with A/C in Indonesia for only $15/night, or in Northern Thailand, you can get a private room at a new, modern hostel for only $20/night. Europe will be a bit more expensive, and we may have to stay in private AirBnB rooms that people rent out in their homes instead of getting our own place. But hey, that’s part of the adventure and getting to know the local culture!

 

  • Food: The key here is to eat as the locals do. Pad thai in Thailand or pho in Vietnam can be bought for as little as $1-$5 per meal. Doesn’t get much cheaper than that. Then in Europe where eating out is expensive, we can shop at local markets and cook at home. Fresh pasta in Italy anyone?!

 

  • Transportation: Flying is by far the most expensive mode of transport, so we will avoid it when we can. In Southeast Asia, we’ll travel by bus between countries, where in overnight bus right from Thailand to Cambodia can cost as little as $20. Then in Europe, there’s the option of train, bus or budget airlines like RyanAir. If we do fly, such as from Tokyo to Rome, we’ll be flexible with our dates and with layover times in order to get the best deal. When you’re not on a time crunch, why not spend an extra day or two in Japan eating ramen to save a few hundred dollars on a flight?

 

  • Activities: We won’t be spending every day scuba diving or taking expensive tours. With plenty of free time, our days will be spent leisurely exploring our destinations, going for hikes, working on my blog or catching up on all the reading we want to do. This trip isn’t a vacation but our actual life for many months, so some days might be spent trying to figure out how to get my laundry done in Vietnam!

 

There is a service called Workaway, which allows travelers to connect with local hosts in various locations who offer room and board in exchange for help with various activities, such as teaching English, renovation projects, farming, etc. I have many friends who have had incredible experiences volunteering their time all around the world, such as helping to build an eco-village in Indonesia or teaching English in Japan. We have already scheduled 3 weeks in September where will be living on an eco-farm in Tuscany, helping a young couple plant crops, harvest olives and improve their English, all while being fed fresh Italian meals every day!

 

Where we will be spending a few weeks volunteering in Tuscany.

If you spend most of your time volunteering during your travels, you could cut your expenses down to almost nothing, all while immersing yourself in the local culture and learning new skills.

Why we are doing this now.

Life is meant to be lived to the fullest, experiencing new things and meeting new people, and there is no better way to live up to this potential than embracing world travel. Remember, you can always go back to your home country, career and daily life, but you can never rewind the clock to take advantage of great experiences such as traveling the world for an extended period of time. A two week vacation just isn’t the same.

Have you been wanting to travel the world but haven’t been sure how to make it work financially or logistically? Feel free to get in touch as I’d be happy to give you some tips. And check out my blog as we document our travels and the subsequent financials starting in June!

Bio: Kyle started his blog, Not Your Parents’ Financial Guy, as a way to document his experiences with money and personal development, and in doing so, help people to get the most out of their money and life by following nontraditional advice. He is currently living and working in Sydney, Australia after moving there from his home city of Chicago, and he’ll be starting a 6+ month mini-retirement to travel the world starting in June 2018.

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13 thoughts on “Mini-Retirements Mastered: Shoestring International Travel

  1. What an incredible trip you two have planned! We are in the phase of 1-2 week trips, but I love the idea of being able to spend more time than that in a single location to really get a feel for the place. We don’t have an interest in fully uprooting our lives (and our son), but I want to work toward longer trips of 3-4 weeks at a time.

  2. Great story. What a wonderful life!

    Workaway has been around for a long time and has a great reputation. The book Vagabond is one that Tim Ferriss often recommends on his podcast. If I’m not mistaken it’s small and fits easily into a backpack.

  3. I have a friend who recently traveled around the world with her husband on a very tight budget while renting out their house here in the states. I believe they backpacked and planned flights around time zone changes that were less expensive. I never thought so many people traveled like this!

  4. That is such an awesome mini-retirement you have planned, it looks awesome. And I think your budget is certainly a step above shoestring for the areas you are visiting, it’s more extravagant shoestring!

  5. Not all of Europe is expensive for eating – Italy is VERY reasonable. I’m from SE United States (much cheaper than Chi-town), and while in Northern Italy last year, I found most meals to be less than what I’d pay here. Germany is inexpensive if you’re in a highly populated area with food carts (a lot of them also use real plates and utensils from the carts, too). Because of the large population of Turkish people in Berlin, there are plenty of kabob carts, too!