5 Months Abroad: How We Did It | Money

If you missed it, start with 5 Months Abroad: Why We Did It.

Money. Such a loaded topic, but it’s important.

Saving for a trip

“Wow, must’ve been a great peach season!” We heard that quite a bit before we left, and obviously we understand the sentiment. And yes, it was an amazing season. But this trip wasn’t about this peach season. Jessica and I have been living simply for years. We’ve been saving our money for years. Staying out of debt and keeping a long term view with our savings have allowed us to make this decision to travel.

Here’s the bottom line: we spent less money on the road than we would have if we stayed at home. Flights included.

When we left, our lease on our home ended, so we didn’t have any monthly expenses to worry about. That was a huge relief, and I understand it’s not a realistic proposition for everyone. But for us, it worked out perfectly. We also sold our car so it wouldn’t just be sitting for all that time.

We just bought a house in Nashville, so in the future we’ll look at house swap opportunities abroad. There’s always a way if you look hard enough.


People travel the world for next to nothing, and there are plenty of blogs about “Travel Hacking” as they call it. We’re in no way experts in the field, but employed several of the tactics these travel hackers recommend. Here are a couple of our favorite blogs on the subject. Read these. They’ll save you a boatload on flights.

Chris Guillebeau

The Points Guy

Million Mile Secrets


Every place is different. In Thailand, we stayed in great hotel rooms for $15/night. In Europe, you’re lucky to find a shoebox to stay in for $15/night. We used several websites to find housing.

I like to start with TripAdvisor and see what is the highest rated guesthouse in the area. Then I go right to price. Kayak, HostelWorld, and AirBNB are lifesavers. In Europe especially, we’ve used AirBNB a ton. Since you pay per person at hostels, it ends up being as cheap to get our own room in someone’s house, or even our own flat. And, besides, the bunk beds in a room with 8 other people got old after a little bit :).

Do the math on your rent or mortgage. What do you pay per night to live in your house? For us, our rent was $900, which comes out to about $30/night. I knew that if our lodging was under $30/night, we were ahead of the game with what we would have spent in Nashville.


Cash. Every country has their own version of it. Fun.

We left the US with no cash. That’s not what we recommend, but it’s what we did.

For personal banking, we use Charles Schwab Bank. If you’re going to travel, we really recommend them because they charge 0 foreign transaction fees and refund all ATM fees worldwide.

We landed in Thailand and got Thai Baht out of the ATM. We didn’t have to worry if the exchange office was ripping us off, as the bank gives us the actual exchange rate. We went to the ATM every two days so we didn’t carry more cash than we’d feel comfortable with.

Gone are the days of travelers checks or carrying $10k in US Dollars to exchange money as you go. Use a bank that doesn’t charge you money to use your card abroad, and get cash as you need it. ATMs are everywhere.

There are several currency converter apps for your phone. Get one and put it to use until you can do the conversion in your head.

Day to day

Travel can be stressful, and adding extra stress over small decisions will not be beneficial over time. Chris Guillebeau recommends setting a dollar amount (for him it’s $10) that you don’t worry about for small expenses. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

We set a budget before we left, and have stuck to it like a dream. We use Mint.com to keep track of what we’re spending, and just create a new budget for each country we’re in. It’s worked perfectly for us.

Where you go

Europe is expensive. Which is one reason we spent the bulk of our trip in places that aren’t expensive. You can have an incredible Thai meal for under $2. In India, meals are usually under $5. Where you go will definitely dictate how long you can stay.

Europe lives up to the hype for us. Especially Italy and France. But we can’t wait to explore Central and South America one day. Travel does not have to be very expensive. 

I met one travel hacker in Nepal who said “I can’t afford not to travel.” It’s cheaper for him to be abroad than at home in the States. Amazing.

The world is waiting for you! Don’t let money keep you from living your dreams. Set a savings goal and add something to it every single month.

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