Full-Time Travel is Cheaper than Staying in One Place

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Full-Time Travel is Cheaper than Staying in One Place

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Would you believe full-time travel is cheaper than staying in one place? I didn't believe it myself until I did it. The longer you stay in one place, the higher your cost of living becomes.

Full-Time Travel is Cheaper than Staying in One PlaceI wrote an acclaimed article a few years ago about traveling full-time for $14,000/year or less. However not everybody should do it; it's a lifestyle with intangible costs many of us are not prepared to pay.

This post isn't (necessarily!) to convince you to travel full-time; instead hopefully it will help you understand the ever-increasing trappings of the "comfortable" life so you can make decisions accordingly.

Watching it Happen

Despite my full-time travel lifestyle, I lived in Australia for 1.5 years, in the same home for a year. And projecting into my second year there, expenses weren't going down...quite the opposite.

My second-hand car needed repairs, insurance, registration, and certification. I wouldn't't have owned a car at all if I weren't't living rurally, and if staying anywhere for under six months, a car is out of the question. 

The house I lived in needed attention. Trinkets I survived without thinking the place was temporary, became necessary with ideas of being there longer.

I signed up for yoga. In the first year I attended community events and free workshops, but eventually I wanted to treat myself. It seemed a minor expense, but was part of a mounting collection of minor expenses.

My power, phone, and internet bills went up. I also became lazy about calls to mobile phones (which in Australia are horrendously expensive). Whoops: there's an extra $40/month just to keep in touch.

My social expenses increased. I can't explain it, except to say that it all meant more money was being spent, just to stay in one place and maintain the status quo - a status that seemed to constantly require something new.

Discretionary "Nesting" Expenses

Some of these new or increased expenses were discretionary. The pitfall of staying in one place for too long is that our "nesting" genes kick in, and we want to make the place - and ourselves - more comfortable. When a place is new there's a lot to keep us busy, and since we're so busy adapting we don't need much. Things like cable television or video game systems are discretionary, but can eventually be considered necessities (along with the accompanying flat screen television). 

Increasing Expenses

Aside from an increasing basic cost of living, there's also maintaining the neighborhood status quo, entertaining friends, keeping up with technology, joining community groups or taking classes, and finding ways to pass the time. You usually spend more money the deeper your roots become.

And yes, experience has shown me that these expenses cost more than you would spend socializing and seeing the sights on the road, where simply taking a stroll around the block (which is new and exciting) with new friends can be entertainment enough. 

Lifestyle Choices

Imagine setting up shop in any - or every - destination you've ever dreamed of living in. (I'm currently house-sitting in the Caribbean; free accommodation for three months). With a full-time travel lifestyle, you can try three months here and six months there, working as you go with a location independent career. All for less than it would cost you to stay put!

Then again, full-time travel may be a lonely life sentence for somebody who needs to be physically close to their family and enjoys regularly seeing a close circle of friends.

Regardless of your lifestyle preferences, maybe simply seeing the world through a traveler's lens, appreciating little things as new and exciting, and taking time to "smell the flowers", you can avoid the trappings of an increasingly expensive life in one place.


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CareOne Debt Relief Services, Life Balance Blogger Nora DunnNora Dunn

Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under the CareOne Debt Relief Services Life Balance blog. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions. As a former certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services. You can follow Nora on Twitter @hobonora

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  • Definitely prefer travelling than living in one place as well. Interesting points about the costs of living versus travelling. Most people though would spend more than $14,000 a year on travelling fulltime I believe.

  • @Cole - Yes, I agree that many people would spend more than $14,000/year, especially if they are traveling like it's a permanent vacation. I keep my travel expenses low by taking it slowly, and by almost never paying for accommodation (by volunteering and house-sitting etc). It's easy enough to do, but certainly not for everybody.

    But you bring up an interesting point about travel in general; it is so very different for everybody, depending on their style, preferences, comforts, destinations, and activities. That's what makes travel so special!

    Funny though - I think most people would prefer having one place to live than traveling, if they dig deep enough. Needing that "nest" and that sense of home is more important for many people.

  • Oh, how true this is!   We definitely find that our expenses can be lower when we're moving around, than when we're not.  

    For us, we initially in 2006 moved into a small travel trailer to travel the US. We had 45 sq ft of shared living space - so buying 'stuff' was just not something we could do.  And true enough, the new of a place keeps us perfectly entertained without needing to spend much at all.  

    And, we often find, when being the visitor to an area - people are quite insistent on entertaining you.  Meals, hosting, tours, etc.   While traveling is a lifestyle for us nomads, our presence in an area is a rare occurrence for those we visit. We do our best to contribute as much as a host will allow without being offended - but fact of the matter is, we're often the special visiting guest.

    Last winter we took an opportunity to sublet a cottage on St. John in the USVI (ahhh.. Caribbean life.. I am so envying you right now ;) for five months.  The first month we were there, that time period seemed like it would be forever in comparison to our previous hectic pace.  It was tough to fight the temptation to nest, equip our kitchen with all the conveniences, etc.  But after the half way mark, that changed as our mindset shifted to 'what's next?'.  

    I will also add tho, that lots of change in one's style of travel can also be expensive.  This 5th year on the road for us has been our most expensive yet - a few months in the islands, returning to the states, selling our RV, hopping on a train to find a vintage bus as our next home and then 'nesting' in our bus.  I look forward to getting back to a pace of travel that is more financially sustainable.

  • @Cherie - You've hit the nail on another factor that makes travel ultimately cheaper - no space to buy stuff! When you live out of a bag, (or in a 45 sq ft trailer), then you just don't have the capacity to buy stuff!

    The other aspect you highlighted that can bring the cost of travel up is activity. The more you're on the move, the more money you'll spend. Somewhere in between active on-the-go travel and living permanently in one place, is a "sweet spot" where you travel slowly, see lots, and spend less.

  • Hi Nora  I think in the end it all boils down how you view stability and how iy

    important it is for you. sometimes the cost of being a professional hobo is so high and  people arent prepared to pay the price

  • @Prime - Excellent observation! When it comes to lifestyle design, there are so many intangibles that you just can't put a price on. A good friend of mine was extolling the virtues of my full-time travel lifestyle before saying "It'd be nice, but it's not for me. I like my stuff. Simple as that." And that's okay too! :-)

  • For me it came down to a philosophical question - did I own the stuff or did the stuff own me? The answer for me was that I was owned by the stuff. Most of my money and energy went to support it or maintain it. Now everything I have fits in one backpack and I am a much happier man.

  • @Gar1948 - Indeed! I think for many of us, our stuff "owns" us, provides us with an identity, comfort, and security. Something that many aren't willing to let go of for a life of full-time travel. (And that's okay too! Just being aware of it is half the battle).

  • I think the fear or issue for many people is not to compare which lifestyle is more expensive than the other ( staying in 1 place VS traveling)

    The big dilema comes when you wonder how you ( me or whoever that takes this decision) will be able to produce money while on the road.

    I think MOST people Dreams & wonder how awesome would be to spend a whole year or all your life traveling....

  • @Just Saying - Great point! Having an income source on the road can be a sticking point. But where there is a will, there's usually a way...and knowing that the cost of living on the road doesn't have to be substantial can be liberating.

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