The Economics of Extreme World Travel
How I Traveled to 100+ Countries with $1786 per Month
Have you ever wondered how much it really costs to travel the world?
When people hear that I’ve visited over 100 countries they think I must be rich. The reality is that you don’t have to be rich to travel extensively. Moreover, rich people are often too busy and have too many obligations to travel so much.
So what does it take to travel to 100 countries? Well, extreme world travel may be more affordable than you think. However, it does require a few sacrifices and strong willpower to live this lifestyle.
Today I will share with you some details of my travel lifestyle I’ve never shared with anyone before.
In this article you’ll learn:
– Why I traveled to 100 counties?
– Why traveling the world is easier than ever before
– How much extreme world travel really costs
– How much money I spent in each country
– Why you might be able to have enough money for extreme world travel
– Other sacrifices you have to make for this travel lifestyle
– The problem with relationships
– How I financed everything
– Is this lifestyle for you?
– Isn’t it better to travel to few countries and spend more time in each country?
– How does it feel to visit 100 countries?
– What’s next? + big surprise!
– Helpful resources for those who want to become location independent.
I do think traveling is important. Traveling allows you to open your mind and understand the world better. You meet people from different places, with different perspective on life. Travel expands your world.
Of course there are other ways to learn about the world, by reading or watching documentaries for example. I do think though that experiencing the world is the real deal. Traveling allows you to emotionally connect to other places and other people. I believe that getting insights into how the world works is a valuable skill.
But why did I travel to 100 countries and not, let’s say to 30? Well, since I was a child I’ve always been obsessed with different countries and their capitals. I remember seeing pictures of pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall and the skylines of big metropolis. I decided that one day I would visit all those places. It has simply always been a dream for me to travel so much.
I took every opportunity in my twenties to travel. I had a part-time job in the supermarket in my neighborhood and every time I managed to save some money I booked trips to other countries in Europe.
After I finished high school I went to Costa Rica to learn Spanish and to do volunteer in a national park. In my second year in college I got the chance to go to China for five months, so obviously I took it!
I enjoyed my time ‘’pioneering’’ abroad so much that I decided that I wasn’t going to stop anytime soon and I always found ways to travel to new places.
A few years ago when I hit my 70th country, I thought about which remaining countries I still wanted to visit. I made a list of 100 countries that I wanted to visit before my 30’s and I pursued my travel dreams.
Before we start breaking down the costs of all the tips I’ve made, let’s take a look at how it comes that more and more (often young) people can afford to travel the world.
Despite flights in general getting cheaper and global wealth increasing, an even more important phenomenon makes it possible for many people to travel so much: the rise of the Internet.
Now that we have the Internet we can basically work from wherever we want if the job is such that it allows work to be done via Internet.
Those who are even smarter could start their own business, find ways to outsource or even automate tasks so that besides choosing where they work, they can also choose how much time they want to spend on work.
Later in this post I will show you how I managed to work location independently while building two businesses and earning a decent income. Let’s first take a look at the countries I’ve visited and how much all these trips had cost me.
So how much does it actually costs to travel? Well, it depends mostly on how you travel. Are you only staying in five-star hotels, do you share a room with 16 people in a cheap hostel, or something in between?
The way I travel has changed over the years. When I started my location independent career I hardly had any money so I stayed in hostels most of the time and traveled around a lot in cheap countries in Southeast Asia. These days I prefer to stay at comfortable Airbnb’s, or in hotels. It depends on who I am with and what the purpose of the trip is.
In some countries like China, Indonesia, Brazil and Morocco I stayed longer, so instead of staying in a hotel or Airbnb, I rented apartments (sometimes with friends), which lowered the costs of accommodation drastically.
Below you can find an overview of all my travel expenses of the trips I’ve made over the last ten years. In this overview you also can see how long I’ve stayed in each country, how long and how much money I spent.
I’ve stayed in both 5 star hotels and in hostels so the expenses vary widely. Therefore I’ve added a column with remarks where you can see why my expenses in that country were so high or low. If nothing is indicated I stayed in a simple but comfortable hotel/airbnb and I might have been able to split the costs with someone who was traveling with me.
As you can see in the PDF, I spent around $77,161 US dollars on my travels.
(These are only the costs that I spent in the country, flights are not included).
Over the last 8 years I’ve taken between 20 and 50 flights per year. Looking at my bank statements I estimate that I spent around 30,000 US dollars on flights in total.
If you want to travel cheaper you can travel more over land and combine more countries in one trip so that you don’t need to fly so much.
I always flew economy class and I often chose cheap dates to fly as I was flexible and did not depend on holidays.
This means, that if we round up the total amount if my travel expenses were around 107,161 US dollars.
In the costs overview you might have noticed that I have only traveled about 6 months per year on average. So if I’ve only traveled (and lived abroad) for 5 years, during the last 10 years, that means that I’ve only been abroad for 60 months in total.
When we divide the total travel expenses by 60 months, we come to a conclusion that I spent about 1,786 US dollars per month traveling, working, and studying in 100+ countries.
That’s roughly 11,000 US dollars per year on averaged.
Let me ask you a question: how much are your annual expenses?
If you live in a country with a relatively low cost of living, you probably spend much less than what I spent on my travels. If you live in Paris, London, New York or Hong Kong and you rent an apartment and own a car, you probably spend much more!
What I’m trying to say: traveling the world can be cheaper than staying in your own country. The challenge, however (if you don’t have 100K or more in your bank account), is to work online, or even better, to build an online business so that you have the freedom to work wherever you want.
At the end of this article I will give you my best book recommendations and websites in case you’re interested in this latter topic, that is, building an online business.
Traveling the world is great, but except for the physical costs, you also need to consider the opportunity costs; the things you can’t do and the money you can’t earn because you’re traveling.
Let me be honest with you, I spent a lot of time on the road (and in the air) traveling from one point to another. Traveling can be stressful and can distract you from the things you’re working on. Working across time zones might be challenging, too.
I’m pretty confident that with the same amount of money and energy that I’ve put in my traveling adventures, I could also have built my businesses much bigger than what they are now. On the other hand, without traveling I would probably never have gotten the ideas and the skills to start these business in the first place.
So, if you want to focus on building a business empire, starting a family, working out and following a strict diet, then it’s probably not a good idea to travel to 100+ countries.
It’s simply a choice you have to make. I’ve found that an interesting lifestyle in your twenties is more important than making a lot of money or starting a family.
It’s difficult to travel around the world and have a stable relationship back home. Of course you can bring your partner with you but that becomes difficult if they have a fixed job.
An advantage of traveling is that you can meet many girls (or guys) from different places, if you’re willing take the effort at least.
The question is, for how long do you want to keep changing girlfriends every now and then? Until your 30’s, 40’s, forever?
I found it incredibly hard to have a long-term relationship. Before my current relationship I’ve never stayed together with a girl for longer than three months.
I met my girlfriend in my late twenties and we’ve traveled a lot together over the last few years. She works for a big multinational and often travels for business. Whenever she has to go somewhere I also plan a trip. Additionally, I still do some solo traveling now and then.
So how did I finance the 11,000 USD I spent on traveling each year, and how could I travel six months per year while still having a good income?
The answer: By running an online business (nowadays two of them in fact).
At the age of 23 I was doing an internship in Shenzhen, China, when one day my boss asked me to arrange translations of our website into 10 languages. As I had already traveled a lot at that time, I had many translator friends from various countries. I asked them to do the job and that’s how I got the idea to start my own translation business.
Since 2013 I run TopVertaal together with a friend in the Netherlands. With our team of translators we translate instruction manuals and marketing texts for trade companies into most European languages. I can do almost all my work online, no matter where in the world I am as long as I have a good internet connection.
Meeting people from all over the world inspired me to learn nine foreign languages. I first learned how to learn languages quickly myself, and later started helping other people learning foreign languages more effectively. That’s our core business at LanguageBoost, our second online business.
Those two businesses generate enough revenue to reinvest in the businesses, finance my travels and cover costs I have when I’m not traveling and to save money as well.
Now that I’ve shown you that traveling the world is actually much more affordable than most people think, the question is, is this lifestyle for you?
Are you willing to work online? Working online can be lonely sometimes. Are you single or do you have a family? Are you willing to spend less time with your friends back home? Are you willing to make the sacrifices?
I personally think that choosing this lifestyle has been one of the best decisions in my life. As a child I was already studying the atlas, for fun. My dream has always been to go to all those countries I read about as a child.
On this incredible journey I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet many interesting people from all over the world who have made me who I am today. I’ve learned skills, which I believe, are useful for the global world we live in today, skills that not many people have.
I’ve become fluent in a couple of foreign languages and I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) a lot about online business.
Because of the variety of people I’ve met and talked to, I became good at understanding people from different backgrounds and developed strong social skills. Living this lifestyle has changed me from an average boy from a small town in the south of the Netherlands called ‘’Helmond’’ into a world citizen.
The question is of course, what would I have become if I spent my time and energy on something else. Well, we don’t know.
If you’re in your twenties and you want to explore the world, you want to have fun and develop a unique skill set and you feel attracted to this lifestyle, then go for it!
Maybe. This depends on what you prefer. Combined, I’ve spent two years in China, six months in Indonesia, four months in Brazil and two months in South Korea and Morocco. I’ve stayed for a long time in some countries while I only spent one day in Bulgaria and Macedonia for example.
Of course it’s cooler to stay a few months in each of the 100 countries but that would take me a few decades. That means even more sacrifice.
”But you could have traveled to fewer countries and stay longer” Yes, I could. If you could choose between spending a month in Mexico, or two weeks in Mexico and two weeks in Canada, what would you chose?
As you would guess, I chose for the second option. I want at least to have an impression and a personal connection with all these places. It’s a desire I’ve always had. For the same reason I’ve found the motivation to become conversational in 10 languages.
Me speaking 10 languages by the end of 2016.
Do I feel different now than when I had only visited 50 countries? Actually, not really.
I do think though that traveling so much allows me to be better at seeing the ‘’big picture’’. I also feel that I have much more in common with people with different backgrounds than before.
My goal was to visit a 100 countries and learn 10 languages before my 30’s and turn it into a business. The translation business financed my travels and allowed me have the time to learn about language learning, online marketing and eventually start LanguageBoost. That’s done now.
So, what’s next?
Am I going to visit all the countries in the world?
Maybe, but I will slow down a bit.
As I said it’s difficult to focus on business and traveling at the same time. I feel I’m the most productive when I don’t have to worry all the time about where to go next.
Therefore I will travel a bit less and focus more on expanding my businesses.
It’s time so settle down and that makes sense if I tell you that my girlfriend and I are expecting a baby by the end of this year. Yes, that’s correct, I will become a father!
I’m looking forward to explore the remaining 93 countries with them 😉
I hope that was a happy ending!
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Jan van der Aa traveled to over 100 countries and learned 10 languages before he turned 30. On this website he shares his language learning experience and helps people from all over the world to learn languages faster.