Globetrotting: How can you afford it?

By Beth Puliti
Published in Issue #31

It’s a bit surreal to finally be turning the pedals on foreign soil after so much planning went into freeing myself from life at home. I’m not going to sugar coat things: Taking the initial steps to begin a long-term bike tour was intimidating and laborious. It would have been so much easier to hire a travel agent, purchase a vacation package, escape for two weeks and return home. Albeit, financially and emotionally drained.

Beth P Afford It

But I don’t do easy. I can’t afford easy. And I don’t have the desire to “escape” life (despite what the travel industry and my nurse at the travel clinic say). I want to live it, fully and on my terms. It’s the belief that life doesn’t have to only consist of the familiar routine we frequently find ourselves living, unless we want it to. I believe we have the ability to figure out what it is we want in life and more or less create our own reality.

Therefore, it is while living my life—not running from it—that I began this long-term, two-wheeled journey. And it was when telling my friends and family of my plans that I heard time and again, “How can you afford it?” It’s a valid question. And it has a simple, two-part answer: priority and sacrifice. I’ll attempt to explain in more detail.

When something becomes a priority, we take steps to make it happen. Many people find a way to finance a brand new car, designer clothing or dining out, usually by saving and/or sacrificing in areas deemed less important. In the same way, when travel becomes a priority, my husband and I take similar steps. We live a simple life and are frugal with our humble savings. When we decided to place a higher value on travel, we didn’t have to change our lifestyle drastically.

That isn’t to say we don’t make sacrifices. The following is a list of things we did, or were already doing, that afforded us the freedom to travel. I understand everyone’s situation is different. This is simply what worked for us, and perhaps it might serve as a starting point of sorts for those looking for some guidance.

  1. We don’t have a smartphone payment. I don’t have one and my husband’s is paid for by his employer.
  2. We don’t have a cable bill, or a television, for that matter.
  3. We rarely go out to eat.
  4. We owned one older car that was paid off. Several days before we left the country, we sold it on Craigslist to add a bit of extra cash to our savings and eliminate our insurance payment.
  5. We put our house up for rent.
  6. We sold expensive items we wouldn’t have a need for on the road, such as rarely-used camera lenses and hardly-ridden bikes.

However, being able to afford long-term travel extends beyond the planning stages. We’re just as conscious of our spending when we’re pedaling, too. Here’s what we do on the road to afford frequent travel.

  1. We buy and cook most of our own food.
  2. We almost always use human-powered transportation.
  3. We sign up for credit cards that offer bonus miles and use the frequent flier miles we’ve accrued from business travel.
  4. We “wild camp” or seek out Warm Showers hosts. (Have you heard of Warm Showers? It’s a community of touring cyclists around the world who open up their homes to other touring cyclists. We’ve been hosted by some truly wonderful people on our current tour.)

This column is proof that we’re also working from the road, as time permits. Saying that we travel “inexpensively” is pretty subjective. What does that mean, exactly? It means [we were] pedaling through Italy on $20 a day [at the start of the trip]. That’s less than our living expenses in the United States. We thought we’d need to rush through Europe to maintain our savings but, much to our surprise and delight, we’re able to take our time.

Traveling this way isn’t for everyone. It requires a bit of sacrifice, effort and faith in humanity. But it will afford you authentic experiences, leave you with more money in your bank account and reward you a thousand times over.

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