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How Much Does It Cost To Travel Full Time? My 2016 Expenses

Traveling and seeing the world is an item appearing on most people's bucket lists, however, many think it's merely a dream. Something reserved for the ultra-rich...

Well, it might be more in your reach than you think.  

I've been living out of carry-on luggage full time since the end of 2012, and been 100% location independent—living and working on the road full time—since the middle of 2014.

Do you want to see the current gear I travel with? Click Here

I've tracked my spending (among other things) in a journal everyday since I hit the road in 2012, and I've never spent more than I did living a fairly uneventful life in California.

When I tell people this fact—that I spent more money living in California than I ever have traveling the world, I'm usually met with something like..."yeah, but you must be roughing it..."

In 2016, I...

  • Never stayed in a hostel dorm.
  • Ate out for 90% of my meals.
  • Visited 10 different countries and crossed international borders 19 times.
  • Had even more adventures. Check out the end of the post for a lil taste...

But before I get to the all important number and breakdown. Let's clarify what my expenses don't include, what they do include and how you can best use it for your trip planning and prep...

More...

What my 2016 Expenses Don't Include

Any Gear Purchases.

This year I made some extremely expensive and unnecessary (to most) purchases like this camera, this camera lens to go with it, this higher end laptop and a custom made suit for a wedding I was in. 

Also, gear is extremely variable from person to person. Many people already have the gear they will travel with and the differences in price between high and low end travel gear can be massive.

I think these factors skew the results ​and give an unfair representation of what it costs to travel full time, which is why I have decided to leave it out.

What my 2016 Expenses Do Include

Everything else, including some of my favorite photos from the year.

You'll find my expenses broken down into 6 main categories:

Food

All food and beverage from restaurants and grocery stores.
This does not include alcohol.

Accommodation

This includes everything spent on a place to sleep, health/personal care like toothpaste and haircuts and non-entertainment services like travel insurance.

Transportation

Flights, trains, taxis, vehicle rentals, public transport, gas, etc.
This does not include transportation for tours.

Entertainment

Tours, shows, entrance fees, adventure sports, etc. 

Alcohol

The cause and solution to all of life's problems.

Business & Education

Anything used to help run/build an online business or learn a new skill.

I also break some of the larger categories into more interesting subcategories to give you a better idea of where the money is going.

For example, I spent $6,585.52 on food and beverages in 2016, which is about $18/day. I've broken that down further into restaurant food vs. groceries which is a lot more helpful when you're planning your own travel budgets. 

What My 2016 Expenses Mean For You...

There's a lot of great information in this post gathered over an entire year of traveling and living on the road. You'll get to see a detailed breakdown of my spending, where I went and a small peek into some of the adventures over the year to give you some tangibles and ideas of what's possible with this amount of spending.

Concrete details on spending and experiences can be extremely helpful for inspiration, budget and planning purposes. One of my reasons for keeping track of this stuff and posting it is to help you get out into the world anyway I can.

However, this entire post comes with a caveat: this expense report is merely a tool to give you an idea of what IS possible. You are not me, we do not have the same goals or aspirations, we do not have the same network and we do not enjoy the same activities.

Keep this in mind as it ultimately means we will travel differently, have different opportunities available to us, and have a completely different travel experience, which will result in different travel expenses...

Now let me get down off my lil soapbox and show you the numbers you're all here for...

My 2016 Expenses & Breakdown

Total Spent: $23,737.14

Avg. Spend: $64.86/day

How Much Does It Cost To Travel The World 2016 Expenses Breakdown
How Much Does It Cost To Travel The World 2016 Interesting Expenses

A Lil' Taste of 2016's Adventures

Where I Went (Countries Only)

How Much Does It Cost to Travel the World 2016 Expenses - Countries Visited

In total, I visited 10 countries (5 new), but my itinerary for the year seems much more crazy as I crossed international borders 19 times. Here's how 2016 looked:

USA> Mexico> Colombia*> Spain> Thailand> Vietnam*> Mexico> Ecuador*> Mexico> USA> Mexico> Belize*> Mexico> USA> Mexico> Portugal> Romania> Portugal*> Mexico> USA

*Countries visited for the first time.

Flying Over the Blue Hole - Belize

How Much Does It Cost To Travel The World 2016 Expenses Belize Blue Hole

Weekend Getaway to Lagos - Portugal

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Lagos
How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Lagos

Hike to Quilotoa Lake - Ecuador

How Much Does it Cost to Travel the World 2016 Expenses Quilotoa Lake

Three Months Living in Lisbon - Portugal

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Lisbon
How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Lisbon
How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Lisbon

30th Birthday in Cartegena with Besties - Colombia

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Colombia

1,600 Pandas in Bangkok - Thailand

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses WOW Thailand Pandas
How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses WOW Thailand Pandas

Flying to Porto Just for Lunch - Portugal

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Porto for the Day
How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Porto for the Day

Bachelor Party in Lake Tahoe (Not Mine) - USA

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Lake Tahoe Bachelor Party

Beautiful Bungalos & Boats in Phuket - Thailand

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Phuket
How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Phuket

Road-Trip from Lisbon to Porto - Portugal

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Porto
How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Portugal Road Trip
How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Nazare
How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Nazare
How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Porto

Swingin' in the Rain in Banos - Ecuador

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Banos

Hiking El Penon de Guatape - Colombia

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses El Penon

It's Way Pasture Bedtime, Cow - Montanita, Ecuador

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Montanita

Swimin' with Nurse Sharks in Caye Caulker - Belize

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Nurse Sharks

Watching Them Make it Official in San Luis Obispo - USA

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Wedding

Christmas with the Family in Albuquerque - USA

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses Family Christmas

Ridiculous NYE in Onsies with Super Crew - USA

How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses NYE
How Much Does it Cost to Travel The World 2016 Expenses NYE
  • Hanne says:

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for sharing! And for being so thorough with your tracking 😀
    I think one of the biggest “mindset switches” is understanding that you do not have any “fixed” costs.
    I mean the day I calculated how much my appartement costed a day, I didn’t wonna go on holidays anymore and pay a hotel on top of that 😉

    Cause when you’re paying a $1500 a month on rent you’re spending almost $50 a day on it (and then you still have to add internet, electricity, costs, taxes, …) but no-one every calculates a day when they are not location independent, it’s too scary! 😀

    Thanks for your transparency, it would be fun to compare with someone living in California!

    • Hanne!

      Glad you enjoyed the post and I love your point about the mindset switch, it’s definitely something to keep in mind if you’re considering traveling full time because if you don’t have to pay any rent for a place back home it decreases your spending a TON and gives you more money in your pocket to spend on your travels.

      I’d love to compare different places to give people more ideas of costs around the world 🙂

  • Keith Agnew says:

    To say this is very inspiring is an understatement. I’m particularly impressed with how you keep your costs so low yet seem to be living a dream life. By the photos, I’d guess you’re splurging daily, hehe. Thanks for sharing .. Onwards & Upwards! #peace

    • Thanks Keith! I definitely make sure to take time out to splurge and those times are where most of the photos come from, but much of the time is spent working if I’m honest.

      Glad you found it inspiring 🙂 Onwards and upwards indeed!

  • Iain May says:

    Hi David

    Many thanks for sharing this. Looks like the Sony was well worth it 😀

    All the best

    Iain – T-142 days!

    • No problem, Iain! Glad you found it useful 🙂

      The Sony was so worth it for me, I’m enjoying it so much!

      T-142 days! Enjoy whatever it is you’re counting down to…

  • Ravi Kumar says:

    Hello Dave,

    Hope you are doing well. Must say a very interesting way of living and again thanks for sharing the insight into your eventful life. I am sure almost everybody would have once in their lifetime dreamt of travelling in the way you are doing. Having said that, I understand/guess living this way is easier said then done. So while complimenting you on this front I would request you to share some key differences also as compared to living at one location, not in monetary terms but quality, comfort, health impact, relationships/family, happy parts, & the sad parts.

    • Hi Ravi,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

      It is definitely easier said than done, especially when starting, and I’ll say this. I’m living MY dream, and while I enjoy it, it’s definitely not for everyone.

      I’ve been thinking about putting together a post covering what you request, but have never been sure if people would find it interesting or helpful…cool to hear at least one person would be interested!

  • Scott says:

    I’m curious as to your accommodation costs. How often were you staying with friends vs. in an apartment vs. hotel etc…
    How much time did those accommodation costs actually cover? All 12 months and if so, how much of that time was in the US?
    It does become easier when you aren’t paying for an apartment or housing in the US, but I’m trying to figure out how easy it is to bring costs down that low.

    • Hi Scott,

      Great questions…and this is why I say travel is so variable because we have different networks and will therefore have much different opportunities available to us.

      I’ll do my best to answer. Some of the answers will be ballpark figures (I have all of the data in my journals but don’t have the time at the moment to go back through them to pull it out), but I’ll make a note of this to put in future reports!

      Ok, so I was only in the US for 35 days in 2016. Most of this time was spent staying with friends/family as that’s the reason I was in the US in the first place. Weddings, home for Christmas parties, bachelor parties, etc. However, costs for bachelor party and wedding party accommodations were split.

      I spent 3 months living/working in Lisbon for a company I contract for and part of the deal was that they paid for my housing, so that’s not included in these figures. So, I’d say 98% of the remaining 8 months were spent in AirBnB/apartment/hotels.

      I’d say the BEST way to get the costs down that low is to go where the prices are low. SE Asia, South America, Mexico, etc. and stay away from places like Easter Europe.

      Hope that helps!

  • Steph says:

    Amazing post 🙂 It’s always useful to see how much the ‘dream lifestyle’ costs in practice. Not as much as you would imagine! (actually less than my last year living in Perth :o)

  • Thanks to your amazing post, I was able to get an insight and info about many important questions I had. Keep up the great work, David!

  • Ed Chesney says:

    Hi Dave,

    Thank you for sharing again. You do inspire me. I think for my part my alcohol costs would be about three times yours 😉

    Keep livin’ the dream.

    Cheers!

  • Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the awesome article! Love how you detailed the costs. This really helps in firguring if this is possible.

    From,
    Eliza

  • Francesca says:

    Your photos are very beautiful! It’s nice that you enjoyed every moment, and living the life you want. I hope I’ll get to visit more places someday. I’m taking it slow at the moment. 🙂

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