Since I quit my last job in 2009 to work for myself, I have been location independent. Thanks to the internet, I can work from anywhere that has a connection, and I have taken full advantage of it by going on several six-month motorcycle trips and living in different countries.
The first quarter of 2016, I took a trip to France, and then flew to Chile to visit Patagonia for a couple of months. The French trip cost around $2,000, and exploring Patagonia on a bike was $6,000.
I usually try to keep my travel costs as low as possible, but going to Patagonia meant an $800 one-way flight from Europe, then the bad weather had me splurge on a $750 cruise, and I had to fly back to Guatemala in a rush, which set me back $1,350.
Last year was just as full of adventures, with a two-week trip to the Grand Canyon as a graduation gift to my baby brother (around $4,000), a summer biking tour around Europe (another $5,000), a visit to Miami ($2,500), and a few local trips.
Most years, I spend more on travel than many do on rent, and I'm fine with that.
Travel as a Form of Investment
Money spent on making lifelong memories is a great investment in my book.
The goal of personal finance is to have enough money to spend on what is important to you. Whatever it is, your spending has to be in line with your values. I highly value travel, so my budget is crazily high.
On the other hand, I rarely buy new clothes, and my house is pretty minimalistic. I eat out all the time when I travel, so when I am home, I cook everything from scratch and save on groceries. And I didn’t buy a car until I was 29.
If you prioritize your splurges, saving in other areas won’t seem like a hassle. I spend over $15,000 a year on travel, and I don't feel bad about it because my other savings goals are met. I have already spent $8,000 this year, and I have plans to go to the U.S. in September, and maybe visit my family in France after that.
The way to go about it is simple: Remember that everything you buy is taking you away from your goal.
You may be saving for a new pair of shoes, a cool laptop, a bachelorette getaway… Whatever it is, every time you spend money on something else, that’s money you won’t spend on what brings you pleasure.
So next time, when you are about to swipe your card, ask yourself one question: Would you rather spend on this item, or save the money for a bigger goal?
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Generally, my travel budget is between $50 and $100 a day, depending on the destination – plus flights to get there. So every time I am tempted to buy something, I wonder if it is worth one full day of traveling, discovering new places, and living my nomadic lifestyle to the fullest. More often than not, the answer is no.
Your own goal can also be a get-out-of-debt goal. If you have 24 payments left on your student loans, would you rather cut them by a month, or go out tonight? Would you rather keep the $50 overpayments on your mortgage and become mortgage-free five years earlier, or get a new smartphone and its expensive data plan?
You can’t have it all and still live below your means.
Maybe you can have more than one category of spending in which you treat yourself within reason. Spa days, sports, and nights out. That is perfectly fine, as long as your savings goals are met, as well. If you make your splurge areas travel, luxury cars, and designer clothes, it might get a bit more difficult.
It all comes down to defining your life priorities and adjusting your spending accordingly. Then you, too, might be able to come with me to Patagonia someday. Or maybe you will go around Cape Horn and hop off in Antarctica. Drop me a line when you do!
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