How I Lived Abroad for a Year, Travelled to 12 Countries and Spent Less Than $12,000 AUD
Updated: Apr 20, 2019
The end of this month marks one year since I left Australia with a one-way ticket in my hand. The last twelve months have been a crazy, whirlwind of an adventure that has taken me to twelve different countries, led me to live and work abroad in Canada and surprisingly, has cost me less than what some people spend on a bougie couple of weeks in Europe. I always get so many questions about how I made this adventure happen and how I afford to travel. In this blog post, I break down how I was able to live abroad for a year and travel to twelve countries – all for less than $12,000 AUD.
I’d never originally planned to be away for so long – I didn’t think I could pull off such a long time away without of running out of money. I’d put off selling my car back in Brisbane with the intention of returning less than six months after I’d left. But a couple months into my time away I realised that if I was smart about how I spent my time and money, I could extend this adventure much longer.
Looking back, I feel like I’ve achieved a lot in the last year and have had so many priceless experiences. I’ve spent three weeks in the Philippines, one week in NYC, four months living and working at a summer camp, two weeks road-tripping in Canada, three-and-a-half months working as an Au Pair in Vancouver Island, two months backpacking in Central America, one month in South America and one week in the United States!
I get lots of people asking me how I have been able to do what I have done this past year. Many people assume I'm rich or funded by my family. But no, I've done this all myself. I recognise that I am super privileged to have had the ability to live in a wealthy country where the minimum wage jobs that I worked paid enough for me to save up enough to go travelling. I realise that only a small percentage of people in the world have the means to afford to leave their own country and explore the world for fun - and I'm so grateful for all the opportunities I've hard.
However, in saying that, this past year hasn't come without hard work, many hours spent working tedious hospitality jobs or a whole lot of determination and self control. I wrote a more detailed blog post about how I afford to travel and the techniques I use to plan and save for a budget trip:
I've pretty religiously tracked every dollar I’ve spent since leaving Australia in a well organised Excel spreadsheet. I feel like it’s important to have a good understanding of how much you’re earning/spending especially on an extended trip.
In total, I’ve spent $22,000 in the last twelve months. That amount covers absolutely everything – I’ve spent $2,700 on 14 flights, $1000 on travel insurance and the other $18,300 on everything else: travel, accommodation, all food, living expenses, working visa, travel vaccinations and everyday essential purchases like shampoo or toothpaste.
The biggest reason why I’ve been able to stretch my money further is by working abroad in Canada. I cannot recommend a working holiday highly enough. As an Aussie it’s super easy to get approved for a Canadian working holiday visa and there are so many varied work opportunities on offer when you get there. It is a smart way to combine work with travel and to make your money last longer. I have written blog posts about how I got my work visa and my experiences working in Canada. See:
While working in Canada for seven-and-a-half months of the year, I was able to earn just over $10,000. While the wages available to working holiday-ers in Canada won’t make anyone a millionaire, I was able to save a fair portion of the money I earned to put towards travelling on my months off. I worked jobs that offered free food and board which meant I had a really low cost of living. I choose to live frugally and save my money for travel and experiences rather than material possessions or nights out drinking.
While travelling, I choose to spend longer in cheap destinations (e.g. Central and South America) and less time in more expensive destinations (e.g. America), stay in hostels and plan itineraries that make use of cheap flights and off-season specials. While in Costa Rica I spent a week volunteering for a hostel/travel agency that gave me free accommodation and sent me on free tours in exchange for writing blog posts for them. Websites like Workaway and WOOFING list many work for accommodation opportunities. I stayed with friends in San Francisco who let me sleep on their couch for free.
Doing the math, the difference between the $22,000 I’ve spent and the $10,000 I’ve earned in the last twelve months is only $12,000. $12,000 out-of-pocket is all that it has cost me to have the most incredible year of my life – working for 7 ½ months and travelling for 4 ½ months.
It’s because of this that I have been able to stay even longer – I’m hoping to stay overseas until the end of this year.
I hope that I can show that travelling doesn't have to be expensive and that you can do a lot with a little money if you’re smart with how you plan your trips and spend your money.
My Top Tips
Begin by travelling overseas on a working holiday visa. Australian’s can get work visas fairly easily in Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malta, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, The Netherlands and the UK.
Seek out jobs that have a low cost of living. E.g. Choosing to work as an Au Pair in a small town where my food and board were covered versus living in a big city and renting an expensive apartment enabled me to spend less and save more money.
Live simply – I only buy things that I really need and only own what fits into my backpack!
Stop spending money on alcohol – I’ve seen so many people waste so much money on alcohol. In my opinion, that money can be better spent on travel experiences.
“Look after your cents and the dollars will follow”.
Watch for flight deals, travel in the low season and spend more time in cheaper countries. Be prepared to be flexible with your travel plans to take advantage of good deals.
Stay with family and friends where possible – especially in large, expensive cities.
Connect with other travellers and seek out opportunities – you never know who you might meet!
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