How can you afford to travel for a year?

Many people ask us (or perhaps want to ask); ‘How can you afford to travel for a year?’ The short answer; We spend less when travelling than we do at home!

We spent less flying around the world for a year than we did at home in Ashburton the previous year. If we factor in the income we earned from renting out our house while we travelled, the cost of travelling was actually less than half the cost of living at home. And this was when we travelled in Europe for 8 of the 12 months, one of the most expensive parts of the world to travel in. Crazy huh!?

You can skip to the nitty gritty numbers at the end of this post if you want, comparing expenses from a year at home with a year abroad, but the following explanation gives it a bit of context.

Long-term travel is a lot different to your one or two week holiday in Sydney or Fiji. You plan and spend in quite different ways. So don’t imagine the cost of your recent holiday x 52! Our year has been a mix of being tourists where we pay for accommodation and see beautiful places (25 weeks), workawaying or other work in exchange for free food and accommodation (12 weeks) and staying with friends/ family (10 weeks). In Iran we couchsurfed a lot too (5 weeks) which was both an amazing cultural experience and cut down expenses considerably.

Antony enjoying a free week of English talking, good food, lovely accommodation, excellent company and in this pic a few too many free drinks! Angloville, Hungary.

Accommodation: When we paid for accommodation we predominantly used Air Bnb which, although it can cause headaches for locals in terms of rental price and availability, is an absolute God-send for long term travellers. We had excellent experiences with airbnb. It was much preferable to hotels and cheaper even than hostels. A few times we rented a room in a house with local hosts but mostly we rented a place for ourselves. We had our own space (so Antony could work at all hours of day and night without disturbing anyone), a washing machine to do laundry, a kitchen to cook in so we didn’t have to eat out and a place to call home for a few days. We did find the odd homestay and hotel in Georgia from and splurged on an expensive lodge & meals package in the Pyranees for the Tour de France.

Antony working, at our AirBnb, Rudkøbing, Denmark.

Transport: We went for the cheapest possible means of transport so not always what we would have prefered from an environmental point of view. We mostly used Wizz Air for flights (so cheap!) and Flix bus for buses in Europe. Considering how much we traveled we didn’t spend much compared to what we’d spend on our car and petrol at home.

Dates: We left our house Dec 18 2015, and left the country February 4, 2016. We will return to our house April 1st 2017.  We had a look at our expenses for the 2015 year spent living in our house and then compared it to the 2016 year which was spent travelling (January around NZ, then overseas). We present here the comparisons!  Although our trip carried on into 2017 I will not include 2017 expenses here except for our return flight costs.

Happy travellers exploring Gozo by bike. Malta, May 2016.

Income: Travelling for such a long time meant we could rent out our house. With the mortgage virtually paid off, what we received from our tennants ($380 per week) was mostly all income, minus a bit for insurance and rates. Although I quit my job and haven’t worked since Dec 2015, Antony has kept his business going and worked while we traveled. Probably on average he’s worked about 20 hours a week, some weeks a lot more and others not so much. But what is important here is not so much our income (which has for both of us been much less than when at home) but our spending.

Expenditure: In 2015 all our income, after expenses, was spent on reducing the mortgage. For the purpose of the following comparisons, we have chosen to write our accomodation costs as what we would pay if we were renting our house, i.e. $380 NZD per week. Money spent on our mortgage, painting our house and upgrading our heating systems is therefore not included in expenditure for 2015, nor is the money we spent on the garden, plants, tree care etc.

We keep track of our expenses using Xero and while we’ve been on the road I have written down every cent we’ve spent and categorised our spending so the following figures should be very accurate!

The Numbers!

(All figures in New Zealand Dollars)

12 months of our normal life at home in New Zealand

1. Accommodation (‘Rent’ as above, Power, Firewood): $21,917
2. Transport (Petrol, Car Rego, Insurance & Repairs): $6,665
3. Food (groceries & eating out): $9,967
4. Health (Medical, Gym fees, Dental; more than half this was one off dental work): $6,016
5. Communication (Post & Phone; Antony’s cell and our home internet & phone largely paid for by his business): $331
6. Giving and Donations: $5,037
7. Rates and Insurance (House & Contents, Medical, Life): $7153
8. Activities (Recreation, Entertainment): $1209
9. Clothing & Shoes (higher than usual as we both bought new clothes, jackets & shoes for our trip): $3,137
10. Education/ Courses: $1254
11. Holidays: $2,852
12. Souvenirs N/A
13. International flights N/A
14. Other (sundry items): $2332

$ 67,870 for 2015 year
$ 5,655  NZD per month

12 months of travelling (NZ, Iran, Georgia, Armenia & Europe)

1. Accommodation (Air BnB, Hotels): $11,390
2. Transport (European domestic flights, buses, trains, car hire): $3,969
3. Food (groceries & eating out): $9,410
4. Health (pharmacy supplies, hospital visit, toiletries, haircuts; 1/3 of this was an optometrist visit & sunglasses) $1,025
5. Communication (postcards, postage, sim cards + data, internet): $333
6. Giving & Donations: $4977
7. Visas, Rates and Insurance (House & Contents, Medical (January only), Life, Travel): $6,459
8. Activities & Sightseeing: $4,769
9. Clothing & Shoes: $1271
10. Education/ Courses: $30
11. N/A
12. Souvenirs $233
13 International flights (2 pax NZ–>Iran, 2 pax flights between Georgia –> Poland –>Italy <–> Malta, Sardinia —>France –> Netherlands, Denmark–> Germany–> Georgia–> Hungary –> Romania–> Spain. 1pax Spain –> Japan–> NZ, 1 pax Spain–>Iran–> NZ): $8,190
14. Other $59

$52,115  for 2016 year (incl 2017 return flights home)
Take off the income we received from our house which is rented because we are travelling: $52,115 – $19,760 = $32,355

It cost us therefore $2,696 NZD per month to travel.

Interestingly life on the road cost us less than half of what it costs to live at home in New Zealand! I say bring on the next long term trip 🙂


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