In 2015, I travelled to Tokyo, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, New York, Toronto, and all around Scandinavia, twice. This has become a normal way of life for me, but to many, my mobile lifestyle appears difficult, expensive, and logistically impossible. Some ask me how I manage to travel 3-5 months a year while maintaining a full-time job in the Arctic. In this post, I attempt to explain the methods I use.
You Don’t Have to Be a Millionaire to Travel
I’m not exorbitantly wealthy. Well, I am wealthy in ways: I have my health, my family, a job, a house, and some savings. However, these are not the main reason why I can afford my current level of globetrotting. Having money has very little to do with being able to afford travel.
For me, it boils down to these two factors:
- I’m good at saving money (being frugal, thrifty, etc.)
- I travel differently (think ‘lifestyle’, not ‘vacation’).
Saving > Earning (by 30%)
I recently realized that the following maxim is true: “For every dollar you save, you earn 30 cents.” This makes sense because, in order to save that one dollar, you have to earn $1.30, and then pay 30 cents in (Canadian) taxes.
It became clear to me how much more economical it was to keep my travel expenses low (ie. saving), rather than trying to make more money to pay for it (ie. earning). This fundamental, time-tested financial game-changer is true in all areas of life.
Here are a few personal examples og how I keep my expenses low:
- I don’t pay rent because I house-sit or stay with friends and family.
- I save money on food because (being a personal trainer) I know what foods will give me most nutrition and energy for my dollar.
- I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs (which are all expensive).
- By reading books on psychology, asceticism and stoicism, I’ve conditioned my brain to not crave material possessions like cars, TVs, fancy clothes, etc.
The further you can keep costs down, the farther you’re able to travel.
Once I’ve lowered my expenses, I spend money mostly on things that can improve my chances of travel. I call these ‘travel assets’. They include high-leverage purchases that increase my wealth (and wealth-building capacity), improve of health, and free up my time.
Here are a few of my personal examples of Travel Assets:
- I buy truly “high quality” foods, which are often much cheaper, keep me healthier, and give me more energy.
- I have a gym membership, which keeps my body healthy, giving me energy to learn about healthy foods, and look for cheap airline tickets.
- I spend a lot of time finding cheap travel tickets using websites like Momondo and Kayak. On my current journey,
- I found tickets for Ottawa-Quebec-Toronto-Miami-Toronto-Copenhagen-Toronto for a mere $1250 – thats a month of epic travel adventure for less than two grand!
I have several credit cards with Aeroplan points signing-bonuses. I use these cards for all purchases. The miles can save me $1500-2500 on tickets from Iqaluit to Ottawa/Montreal.
Invest in your ability to travel more.
The most expensive part of travelling is often the accommodations. While travelling, I stay with friends and family. This is free, and it’s also the entire purpose of why I travel – to spend time with the people I love.
If I don’t know anyone nearby, I opt for a shared room in a youth hostel. Being an extrovert, I absolutely love the connections I make in these places. AirBnB is an excellent option for people who want more privacy.
The type of accommodation you prefer can reveal why you want to travel. If you want to “lie on a beach and not worry about anything”, then you’ll probably have to pay for an expensive hotel. But if you’re like me, then travelling is a lifestyle, a way to explore the world while growing as a person.
Because my family is geographically scattered across the globe, my goal is to create a mobile lifestyle that allows me live and work from anywhere I chose. Therefore, I don’t consider any of my trips “vacations” – I’m simply located somewhere else, working from my laptop.
To be clear, the ‘work’ I do probably isn’t what normal people would consider work. It’s more like life research, discovering ways to improve my ability to improve my lifestyle.
I spend my time listening to audiobooks, watching videos, taking classes, interning with mentors and start-ups, observing people and places, thinking, writing, talking to friends, family and strangers, developing my social skills. All experiences stimulate my mind and build my knowledge base in a way that being ‘back home’ never could.
I always see new information through a lens of “How can this information help me travel and learn more?” I reflect about things I learn, talk to people about it, write it down, all in an effort to internalize the truths I discover.
Maintaining My Day Job
Surprisingly, I have a pretty normal 9-5 day-job. I’m fortunate to have a great employer that is flexible with my time off, and appreciates my ability to handle the workload during my time (physically) present in the office.
I’m good at what I do, and I’ve optimized my workflow in order to get everything I need to do done in the least amount of time. Many of the skills required to juggle work and travel come from Tim Ferriss’s book ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’, where ideas of lifestyle design, mini-retirements, and off-site productivity, are all explained in more depth. I would highly recommend it to anyone wishing to lead a mobile lifestyle.
I realize that I’m extremely fortunate to be in this position, and that I have many advantages: I’m young, single, employed and debt-free. I’m not saying that developing a mobile lifestyle is easy or even desirable for everyone, but I believe that anyone can duplicate the tricks I use and get similar results if they want.
The mobile lifestyle is awesome, and with the right system in place, I believe anyone can travel, for any amount of time, cheaply, all while keeping their job (if they want to). The world is yours to explore!
Good Luck and Bon Voyage!