by Elizabeth Aldrich | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on Oct. 16, 2019
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Traveling the world might not be the irresponsible choice anymore.
If vacations are an indulgence for the well-off, then long-term travel must be a luxury reserved only for the 1%, right? Maybe not.
This may have been true a few decades ago, but times are changing. Travel is more accessible than ever, and slower, longer-term trips tend to be the most affordable form of travel on a cost-per-day basis.
However, long-term travel isn't only affordable when compared to short vacations. It can even be cheaper than staying at home. Here are three reasons why.
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The three biggest expenses involved in travel are transportation, hotels, and eating out. If you're traveling long term and have the ability to move more slowly, you can cut down on all three of those expenses.
Traveling for months at a time allows you to take advantage of long-term rentals, which significantly lowers the price per night that you're spending on accommodations. Rather than spending $200 per night on a hotel, you might be spending $1,000 per month on a month-to-month rental. Base yourself out of a major city for a couple of months, do day trips and weekend trips to explore the rest of the surrounding country, then rinse and repeat with a new location. You'll cut down on food costs tremendously by staying in these rentals, as you'll have a kitchen where you can cook your own food.
You can even get your accommodation costs down to zero by taking advantage of websites that promote housesitting and petsitting opportunities. These websites connect travelers in an area with hosts who are willing to offer up their home as a free place to stay in exchange for someone to feed and walk their dog while they're on vacation.
In terms of transportation, flights tend to be the biggest expense -- especially if you don't have the flexibility to go for the cheapest ones. Long-term travel cuts this cost on two fronts. First, because you have a lot of flexibility regarding when and where you travel, you can opt for only the best flight deals. Second, because you've got plenty of time to get where you're going, you don't always have to rely on flights. Instead, you can get from destination to destination via bus, train, or car, which is usually much cheaper.
If you really want to cut down on your travel costs, the best travel rewards credit cards will earn you points and miles that can be used to cover your flights or the occasional hotel stay.
You can cut down majorly on the cost of travel by traveling for longer periods of time, but you've still got bills to pay back home, and you aren't bringing money in.
Well, thanks to the sharing economy, that's not always true. Plenty of people now make money off of the stuff they left back home while traveling. Home-sharing apps allow you to rent your house or apartment to travelers while you're out seeing the world, and that alone has the potential to bring in a generous stream of passive income. If you've got a car back home, there are apps that will let you rent that out as well. There are even websites that allow you to rent out storage areas like your garage or space like your driveway.
If you don't own property or a car, you can at least sell your belongings online before you leave to make some extra cash. Without rent or a car payment to worry about, your monthly expenses while traveling will be rather low.
Once you've figured out how to live cheaply while traveling and cover the costs of your stuff back home, there's still the problem of not bringing any money in.
This is where remote work comes in. From new companies hiring teams that are fully remote to freelancing and entrepreneurship, there are more opportunities than you might think for building a career online. Even if you're only interested in taking a year-long break from your career to travel, picking up side gigs online can help fund your gap year.
When you consider that the U.S. is one of the most expensive countries in the world, you can see how making U.S. dollars while traveling through the world's more affordable countries can leave you with more disposable income than what you're used to having back home. This approach of earning income from a high cost of living area while spending it in a low cost of living area is called geographic arbitrage, and it's an approach that people are starting to take advantage of to pay off debt faster or drastically increase their savings rate.
If you're taking advantage of low-cost methods of travel in affordable countries, renting out your unused property, and making money online, then traveling for several months, a year, or even indefinitely can end up making more financial sense than staying home.
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