Why Cynics Like Bob Will Always Be Haters and How You Can Prove Them Wrong

walking down the street in nycRemember last month when I wrote about Jessica and how she’ll never get to Ireland? No? Read about her here and then come back. I’ll wait. Ok, now that you’re back, I’d like you to meet someone similar to her – let’s call him “Bob.” They’re different people, but they’re two sides of the same coin. Whereas Jessica won’t travel because she is held back by the travel industry’s marketing, Bob is our resident travel naysayer and held back by his own cynicism.

Bob (I’ve changed his name – both here and in his original comment) came to my attention when he responded to my blog post about how I make money and afford to travel.  He wrote:

“I love this – “Anyone can do it” Then we find he was able to save $20,000 before his first trip. Most of us are paying off student loans whilst juggling rent. See, folks? There’s always more to it – former high-paying job or lived with his parents so could save, monetary gift from parents, taught English abroad, fired or laid off, took a trip, in right place at right time & got hospitality job or teaching or gardening job. It’s all very individual. There is no formula that’s why no one comes out and says. They want you to buy something. This site doesn’t seem that big/popular enough to generate enough money to fly 25 times/year. My niece has a bigger blog than this. [Matt’s comment: OUCH!!!] Like I said, everyone wants to seem lucky. There’s always more to it than anyone will let on. I’ve been to 20 countries, but that’s because I’ve had rich friends/lovers & affluent parents. I once had a job that took me places, too. See? I said it. That’s honest. No expensive books w/some secret. I’m not trying to sound lucky or like I now something because I’m not selling anything.”

I don’t know Bob personally. He’s probably a nice guy and I’m not here to pick on him; I simply want to discuss his line of thinking because I think it is shared by far too many.  People like Bob assume that someone must first have some sort of helping hand, that saving money in order to travel can’t be as simple as I make it seem — and that I, and others like me, are just here to make a quick buck by selling a pipe dream!

Why Bob is a Nice Guy But Completely Wrong

Happy as a group in New Zealand
Jessica will never go to Ireland not because she doesn’t think she can, but because she will never break out of the mold the travel industry puts her in. On the other hand, folks like Bob might travel far and wide but will never believe it is possible to do so without a lot of money. I call this the Sarah Palin Syndrome, which I’ve defined as:

“The persistent belief that only those with means, helpful parents, or an upper class upbringing can afford to launch a travel endeavor for any sustained period of time because normal people have too many bills, loans, debts, or obligations to travel.”

I’ve named it as such because while running for Vice-President of the United States, Sarah Palin stated “I’m not one of those who came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and go off and travel the world. No, I’ve worked all my life. In fact, I usually had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of that culture.”

So why are folks like Bob wrong?
First, Bob has assumed that I could only afford my original trip with the help of my parents.  This goes to the heart of Sarah Palin Syndrome – the assumption that you need a lot of money (either through a good job or helpful parents) to get going and that if you don’t start out with a fair amount of savings, you can’t travel. In his follow up e-mail, Bob told me:

“I’ve lived in the South End. A $30,000 salary, in a city like Boston, particularly w/school loans, doesn’t bring forth $20,000 savings in three years. That math doesn’t exist, mate…unless you’re living w/your parents.”

Yet as I’ve pointed out before, the math can work on that kind of salary.  I wrote a list months ago of 20 ways one can drastically cut their expenses. These are the exact 20 tips I used before I went traveling. It becomes pretty easy to save 33% of your salary when you are fully committed to your goal.

I think folks like Bob don’t think that it’s possible to save money in such a hyper-consumption world. But it is. Because when you stop buying crap, your bank account goes WAY up. I lived like a pauper and made my salary work. And I have always said that I lived with my parents for the last 6 months before my first trip.

Second, Bob assumes that you can’t do this while carrying outstanding debt. I am simply going to show you my student loan balance, which I have been paying off ever since I left my MBA program 6 years ago. Take a look at how much I still owe:

student loan debt

Traveling with debt is possible if you are smart about your money.  I made sure to cover my expenses before I went away and put money aside to cover my loans.

But Bob’s main thrust in his argument was this:  I’m selling a lie. Bob e-mailed me the following after he posted his comment:

“Hey, Matt – This is a response to your about me page. Why doesn’t anyone every just say how they do it? Those backpackers in Thailand told you how. Why can’t you just share what they shared for free? Everyone wants to keep it some mystery or say, “Just decide to,” knowing full well the average person can’t just up and leave or doesn’t know how. Do you just save enough for a cheap flight, then, once you arrive hustle, camp, hostel, look for jobs as a gardener, network? Is that it? Once the bit you’ve saved is gone, how do you generate enough to continue to eat and live? No matter how cheap it is, you have to do something to generate money for food and hostels and trains and planes. What is it that folks do? Did I guess it right? Teach English, hustle, take odd jobs, garden, tutor? Can you just be real, honest and upfront? That’s a lot more helpful than just saying, “Look what I can do”.”

In responding to my experience with those backpackers in Thailand, Bob demonstrated that he had looked around my site but clearly only saw what he wanted to see, because I’ve answered all his questions in previous posts and have always been upfront about the practical nature of this site.  But then he figured it out:

“There’s no secret or book needed. All anyone has to say/do is exactly what I communicated very briefly. All you need is $2,000 for an initial trip and week stay to make connections. It will get cheaper from there. Once you take a trip, go for a teaching job or hospitality, hustle, network. The more you do, the more things unfold. That’s the secret to most things. Just start. Figure the rest out as you go.”

Bob, I agree. Just make the leap. Here are all the times I’ve made that point myself:

Why There is Never a Perfect Time to Travel
How to Overcome Your Travel Fears
Everyone Says I’m Running Away
There is No Secret to Long Term Travel
Oh! The Amazing Places You’ll Go

It’s not about Bob – it’s about cynicism

thinking in bali
The world is full of cynics. The world is full of people who want to get you down. Anyone who has lived for more than 5 minutes knows that. Folks like Bob simply believe that it’s impossible to do what I do without some sort of helping hand. They sneer at the thought that travel could be easy or affordable to all. Pssh, they say, you must have a trust fund. You aren’t telling the whole truth.

Bob isn’t as far off as others because he knows what I have long said – there is no secret to travel. You just go do it! You need to make the leap.  But he is wrong that in order to make that leap, you must be well off in advance. Hard work and dedication can get you where you need to go. I worked my butt off to so I could go travel. I taught English to recharge my bank account.

But cynics only see and hear what they want. I told Bob that I had loans, that the math worked out, that I wasn’t selling him an unrealistic dream, linked to all the articles I’ve written to share my experiences, and talked more about my past.

I never heard back from Bob.

Sarah Palin Syndrome doesn’t let you see the truth, it only seeks to reinforce your beliefs. Once Bob knew my story (a story I never hide but that he didn’t take the time to learn), he went away.  Cynics like to be cynics.

Bob is right – there is no secret to travel. You just need to take the leap. I’m not selling any larger dream than that. All I am doing is pushing you out the door and then telling you how to save money when you get outside.

There are bound to be Bobs in your life. People will dismiss your goals, accomplishments, and dreams. They will try to give you a sense of reality and tell you “the whole story”.

I believe people like Bob can’t dream the impossible. Where Bob and people like him go wrong is that they believe that only those individuals who hustle or have outside help can go live their dream. But your average person? They can’t do it.

They are completely wrong.

Travel is possible, even with a job paying $30,000 USD per year in a major city like Boston. The Bobs of the world will never believe that, though, because if they did, then they would have to accept that anything would be possible.

And then they couldn’t be miserable and cynical.

But I like the Bobs of the world because I can go out and prove them wrong.  And, hopefully, I can inspire many of you to do the same by crushing the myth that travel is expensive or unattainable.

And then we can all say to Bob:  “I know you’re wrong. I won’t let you get me down. I’ll only let you inspire me to do better.”

  1. NomadicMatt

    As a sidebar, I would like to say that yes, this website does bring in enough money to support my travels and fly 25 times per year! (Thank you to all you wonderfully awesome readers and community members who support this website by booking their travels through here!!!!)

    I spend about a week or two a year with my parents and there is no other job but this!

    • I’m not a travel blogger, I do video, but I interviewed a travel blogger recently and I found it interesting that he didn’t concentrate of adsense but organised his own advertising deals.

      If you are not making your money from ads on this site Matt, where is your income source coming from? e-book sales?

      I can understand why Bob would be cynical. Everyone writes their own copy online and I think a lot of travel bloggers are not really truly nomadic, but just pretending to be successful in order to sell stuff.

      I find sites like nerdy nomad great because she lays it out each month what she spends and what she earns.

      From the outside looking in at travel blogs, I wonder whether success is based more on knowing how to game SEO rather than actual genuine audience. It always surprises me how many comments on travel blogs are made by other travel bloggers.

      As I said, I’m not a travel blogger, I don’t understand how it all works, and I may sound cynical like Bob. But I have been on the road for near a year, making money solely from my travel videos, so I know it can be done.

      • I like the idea of Mark about running their own ad deals instead of Google Ad sense. I see Buy Sell ads allow you to do something similar to what mark is talking about.

        As far as making money through travel blogs or videos are concern, I will totally back the mark’s comment!

    • I took the leap about 5 months ago (even made a blog thanks to your book!) with loans even bigger than yours and about 10 grand in my pocket thanks to a year of selling everything I own – including swapping my car for my dad’s bicycle! – and living like a street urchin. After working my way through Africa and Asia spending my hard earned money I hit Oz with not much left – but within a week of hustling landed a job thanks to the joy of the internet that will result in me heading home next year with almost as much money than I left with – so I will just come back and carry on travelling 😀 I am having the time of my life and it all started with a split second decision – it’s easy once you get out there, and if it’s not you find a way to make it work. I’m currently writing this post whilst watching the sunset from my live-aboard boat on the Great Barrier Reef! Oh, and not a penny from my parents – I’m a lowly teacher! Great post x

  2. I LOVE this Matt. Crazy how I have been hit with some similar comments this week as well…and I haven’t even written a book yet! Thanks for being so open and for calling out the naysayers and breaking down their pessimist opinions. How we get there is not as important as wanting it and then purposely working towards your goals. Live on my brother – do you.

  3. Erin

    Thanks Matt for another great article!

    I’ve met many ‘Bobs’ myself asking me how I do it. I’ve managed to travel to Europe, Southeast Asia, and South Korea on my own initiative, all while paying for Univerisity (and I have loans too). I chose to live with my parents, not buy brand name clothes all the time, take public transit, pack lunches (okay, most of the time), but travel is worth it! And my parents never contributed to my traveling.

    Teach English, work in a hostel, or work your butt off at home and SAVE. Budget WHILE traveling. You don’t need 5 or even 3 star hotels, cabs everywhere, and expensive restaurants. Couchsurf, hostel, or stay with friends you make while traveling!

    It comes down to priorities. If your priority is to travel, you will make it happen. You WILL save the money. You don’t need Coach bags, fancy restaurants, a car, or every weekend at the bar. The high from paying for these things wears off very quickly.

    The high you get from travel, the experiences you have and friends you make from all over the world? That never wears off!

  4. Delhi

    Totally agree..What you said is true for anything in life.. When your mind is set on some goal, you just take the leap and chase your goal. Nothing is impossible. I racked up $6000 of credit card debt while taking my first trip (and buying a DSLR before that) All cynics told me it was stupid! Why go into debt to travel! I said I wanted to, time is more previous that money. I applied for a 0% APR card to put the debt on. My pre-tax salary was $19000. Yet I paid off my debt in 1 year. If you think you can, you can.

  5. Well said Matt. Since coming back from living abroad for 2 years and then backpacking for 8 months after that, I’ve become acutely aware of the “you’re so lucky you got to do that” and “this is the only time in your life you’ll be able to do something like that” comments. People don’t understand how easy it is to get out and travel and live those dreams. The greatest hurdle for anyone is making the decision to go and do it. Once you’ve set your mind to it, you’ll do whatever you need to do to make it happen. And really that’s the difference between those who travel and those who don’t, we find a way to make it all possible even when we don’t know where to begin. It’s a constant learning process and we figure it out as we go. But believing you can do it is the biggest challenge for most people, and you (and the travel blogging community) are here to show it’s entirely possible. Cheers!

  6. Nicely written Matt! Since starting my own blog there have been countless Bobs in my life. I know first hand how inexpensive travel can be and you’re totally right. So suck it Bob! Followed by a hug for Bob because he makes the journey so much sweeter 😉

  7. Emma

    Hi Matt,

    This is a great post. I commented on the Jessica post too about how I felt that Jessica was possibly not trying to travel because of a lack of desire, etc. I appreciate how you responded to my question back then, clarifying that the travel industry pigeon-holes people, and to the issue of Bob. Thx for this one.


  8. Well said Matt. It really comes down to how much your willing to sacrifice to make your dreams happen. We saved for 2 1/2 years before our trip and paid off bills for another year after and it was the best decision we could have made. It tough to say no to going out to dinner with friends. Or saying no to buying coffee at a coffee shop. Or not buying new clothes. Or not going out to see movies. Or not buying a beer at the pub. Or one of the million things we all waste our money on. But if each time you think “I’m not going to spend $15 on this junk Hollywood movie because this pays for 1 night in Thailand” it makes it easier.

    If you want to make your dreams a reality, you have to put the effort in. It’s not easy, it may get side tracked, but if you keep focused on it long enough it’ll happen if you believe you can do it. But if you think you’ll fail, you always will. We have the ability in the west to create our own reality.

    Kudos Matt

  9. Hey, Matt. Thanks for this. I battle this with people in some ways. I think you have captured it though. It’s about being intentional about including travel as a part of your life. I have a small little blog where I write about my travels and while it’s not a 6 month sojourn in Latin America and Southeast Asia, my husband and I are still finding ways to travel. While we do well financially, most of my traveling happened BEFORE I met him and we combined our finances. I do understand that people think it’s expensive, and worry about bills and student loans. I have waay more loans than you, but travel is still within reach if you’re willing to sacrifice. I’d rather hear someone spent 1or 2 years saving for a trip somewhere (anywhere) than not going at all because they thought it wasn’t a possibility for them. I just hope that people don’t think travel has to mean quitting your job and traveling indefinitely (I have to admit that this is my pet peeve with many travel blogs). I don’t care how and how long people travel. I just want them to get out there and see the world.

  10. DD

    Hey MAtt, I love reading ur blog…many of my frens keep askin me too do u hv sum treasure chest dat u keep on going on travels…i also hv worked for 5 yrs aftr my mba,,,payed off my loan…invested….its simple….u need to cut down d unnecessary expenses…like in my case while being in my home town unncecessary shopping luxury items, spending on exp meals on weekends with frens, clubbing , etc…and i never regret buying that new trendy dress…cos i know i m gona spend dat money in makin memorable experiences while i travel…


  11. Laura P

    “Because when you stop buying crap, your bank account goes WAY up. I lived like a pauper and made my salary work” – those two lines are all anyone needs to know about being able to afford travel. It’s not rocket science or some sort of sly trick involving funding from parents!

    “Then we find he was able to save $20,000 before his first trip” – I love how he seems surprised that the big secret to this long term travel malarky is saving up for it in advance of setting off.

    I think the disconnect for people like Bob is that bloggers don’t post every day about the decisions they make to save before they go (19 June: I didn’t buy that new sweater I liked, 20 June: I moved in with my parents to save on rent etc) and because they feel so stuck in their own financial situation and can’t see a way to alter their own finances (despite posts detailing this) they assume you have to be pulling one over on them.

    Sounds like Bob would feel better if you complained about how tough it was to cut back on spending in order to afford your first trip. He could believe it then. Except you were probably happy to make all those cut backs because the promise of travel was worth it. There’s no pleasing some people!

  12. The secret “Bob” is looking for is this: Decide on the life you want, and then become the person who lives that life. Most people don’t even get as far as figuring out the first part. Of those who do, only a handful have the stomach for the second. Living your dream life almost always requires major sacrifices, and that is the secret nobody ever wants to hear.

  13. The fear is by far the hardest thing to get over. It’s just a weird, unnamed fear with no rationality behind it (or maybe too much rationality?) Glad Bob finally saw the light.

  14. Haha. He is cynical, because he is jealous that someone else figured this out, and it wasn’t him! Some people are so close-minded. This reminds me of my Father – “Oh it’s a terrible time to go to Europe now, the dollar is so weak!” Who cares?! There will always be an excuse.

    • Silent Bob

      Ermm…do you really think NomadicMatt discovered the secret to traveling?

      I was traveling for many years before NomadicMatt was even born, and I sure didn’t discover the “secret”.

      And you know what, I feel no need to write a book about it either, because traveling like this is nothing new, it’s a great thing to do, but literally thousands upon thousands of people are living this sort of lifestyle everyday.

      What I’ve never seen actually is someone who has done the travel circuit jobs throughout Europe write a book on how to do it. There are loads of quite reasonable paying industries where you can work for a few months, and save up enough to pay for your next trip…of course there is always bar work, but that doesn’t usually pay that well.

      There is a huge circuit of seasonal work where people have worked in for a couple of decades now that I know of, many are very keen travelers and many I know have been doing living like this since the late 80’s, early 90’s.

      • Colleen

        For the various Bobs,

        May I submit some thoughts for your consideration?

        1. What value are you deriving for harping on NomadicMatt and his website?

        2. Is there a better and more productive way to spend your time?

        3. Is this possibly a pattern? If so, please be encouraged to know that there is another more fulfilling way of doing things. Find things that you like and that make you feel good and express appreciation to people for those things. Here’s a big secret to happiness: The more you give away, the more you have. If I give away encouragement, I’m encouraged in life. If I hassle people irrationally, I’m going to feel bad about myself deep down. We’re all connected.

        I find your comments a little irrational. Dude, you can do better than this. And you will be happier for it. = )

        Go strongly for your own gold in life and cheer others as they do their best too. More fun than nitpicking.

      • NomadicMatt

        I didn’t discover any secret to traveling. I make that point a lot. I just try to get other people to see that the only real “secret” is that there is no secret. You just get out the door. But, while you may be the world’s best traveler, not everyone else is so this website exists to help people figure out the practical nature of travel (booking trains, picking hostels, finding work) so they can stop being afraid and get out the door.

        As for publishing comments on my blog, Bob published a public comment and our conversation via email struck a cord I see in a lot of people (yourself included). I stripped out all identifying factors so you will never who Bob was. Maybe Bob is actually a girl. Maybe Bob is my friend. Maybe Bob doesn’t exist. I changed the information to protect his identity. Plenty of other bloggers put e-mails up if they go to a larger point. Not everyone removes names. I did.

        I will happily debate on this blog and will always leave negative comments up. Ask Colleen. We have tussled a few times on a number of issues. Good, bad, ugly – it stays. But people want to get on a high horse on this blog, I’ll take them down because travel should be accessible to all and it’s the very idea Bob talks about or the guy who said “I’m a real traveler since I haven’t been to Africa” that keeps people in their homes and scared to travel.

  15. Colleen

    AWE-SOME article, Matt. You’re telling it like it is.

    There are two kinds of people in this world. People who understand that personal responsibility is where it’s at. They know that if they are willing to work for a goal, and yes, sacrifice for it, they can attain it. I have a 16 and a 19 year old who’ve got their first 3 years of college completed. The 19 year old ran his first marathon last month, and both (long ago) achieved the very highest levels in their scouting organization, so I know what I’m talking about.

    The other kind of person is actually afraid of his own dreams and desires. He’s sold himself short, is living a life of quiet desperation, and is afraid he really can’t get what he wants out of life. He assigns blame to others for his circumstances and just tells himself, “It’s the way it is.” Nothing annoys this kind more than encountering someone living joyfully, passionately and authentically. Other peoples’ success and happiness feels to him like an indictment against his own unwillingness to pay the price, sacrifice, work hard, and go for the gold in whatever area. Encountering successful people exposes the falseness of his own ‘religion’ of victimhood, helplessness, neediness and every other self-defeating thought pattern he chooses in lieu of just manning up and going for it.

    People actually have way more personal power to exert a lot more control over their lives than many will admit (to themselves.) Matt, you’ve succeeded by exerting a lot of positive will in your circumstances towards building the wonderful life you have. You are an example for all. Thank you for generously sharing your hard-won wisdom with the world.

    This site has given me many hours of inspiration, enjoyment and dreams for further travel. Thank you.

    Travel on, Matt. Godspeed.

  16. Kim Law

    Well said Matt. Dont get me wrong I am 31 and it’s only been since I landed on sites like yours that I actually believe I can do it. Like a lot of people I’ve always wanted to go travelling but felt it was impossible. Since I was 16 I have a heavy loan sitting on my shoulders with 2 credit cards. I am a full time administrator on “all right” wages and share a rented flat with one other. I went on a 3wk holiday in November to SE Asia first time by myself (was scared) and had the most amazing time, met so many friends and that was when I decided “I CAN TRAVEL”. Read your advice etc and started planning. I will be debt free for the first time in my life in Sept this year and if I stick to hard saving by 2014 I should be able to save nearly £10,000 (with the help of a few bonuses from my work). Don’t get me wrong it can be depressing not spending barely any money and ive still got a few years to go – how i wish the time away but I have so many friends and family saying “it will be so worth all this hard/depressing work but just think of all the amazing places and experiences you aren’t going to get here.” xx

    • Colleen

      Kim, You can do it! = ) You will be so excited when you are debt free. It will come faster than you think. My husband and I dug ourselves out of debt in the early years of our marriage and we have been debt-free for nearly 15 years. It’s the most fun and freeing way to live.

      Your travels will be that much more meaningful to you as a result of achieving this honorable goal.

      Good luck! = )

      • Kim Law

        Awww thanks Colleen. I can’t believe it myself. I seem to have picked up an addiction to reducing the debt.

        The weird thing is, all it took was my friend to show me on a calculator, pen and paper to see how possible it was to clear debt and save for travels. Before it was just my mind guessing oh it’s impossible to do it for years and years.

  17. Beto

    Great answer as usual Matt. You tell me if we’re surrounded by cynics trying to get you down every step of the way… When in all truth they are consumed by a poorly disimulated jealousy of the courage and balls it takes to do what you really want to do in life rather than being consumed by fear and whine about it for the rest of your life.

    I am on my late thirties, single, and with no debts at this point. Plus I have a nice location independent job. I know I am on a very privileged position compared to many, and exploring this world is one of the things I’ve been looking forward to do at its fullest. But i am by no means rich or come from a wealthy family. Once I cleared all my debts, it’s been all about decisions. For instance, I drive a clunker that has been screaming for retirement for years. And damned if I wouldnt like to drive a nicer, newer car. But the nice car can wait. I can buy one later. Meanwhile, I’m not sure if I’ll have the chance to travel in the future as I do right now. I may not be as well-off or as healthy or with a location-independent job as I am today. Or I may. I don’t know. The only thing I can count on for sure is in the Here and Now, and now is when I can do what I really want to do. Screw the cynics. Travel on.

  18. Well said Matt, it really all does come down to priorities. I spent whole last year traveling and settled back to my expat life in London for now, but I know I’ll go again 😉 But it’s weird when many people I talk to say that they haven’t even considered taking a year to travel, and the figures they estimate it will cost are absolutely ridiculous. In the end, it is quite cheap, and within reach of most people.

  19. If you are truly passionate and committed then follow your dream, as no one else can. More people talk and don’t follow through because they believe they can’t do. Fear holds some back with strong negative outside influences (like the Bobs). This goes for traveling or whatever. If you want it bad enough there’s nothing wrong with a little sacrifice along the path to your desires. A choice can be made at any age to please yourself first.

    I’m 58 and have been traveling in the US for 35+ years on a seasonal income, as a Park Ranger for the last 20, and with student loans larger and older than yours. Two years ago I finally followed my dream stepping off this continent to South Africa and without extravagance afforded a month of adventure. Currently planning winter 2014 in Costa Rica, and maybe beyond.

    Great piece Matt.

  20. The “Bobs” don’t really want to know, they just want to make excuses. When I was counting cards and getting boocoo comped trips to Vegas, then everybody had a reason why it was a bad idea and they couldn’t be bothered.

    My theory: You didn’t hear back from “Bob,” because once he found it was possible to save money and travel as you described, he had to you-know-what or get off the pot, and he decided he preferred to remain sitting. Can’t speak to the college loan issue but the biggest way for most adults to save money is not have kids. Most people will not make that choice. Fine. I respect their decision. But I feel they should have equal respect for my decision. As the man said, you can have anything but you can’t have everything.

  21. Shayna

    Fantastic post, and a lot of great comments, too!

    I didn’t start out w/much savings, but I’ve made it work on these numbers:

    – Earning 33K in New York City, saved up $1000 for a one-way ticket to Brazil. (had about 2k more in savings)

    – Contacted every English school in the city & got a job. That and freelancing results in 20K for my husband and I – putting us in the Brazilian middle class. Husband’s in school and I’m paying down student loans of 16K

    – I’m building an internet business that is starting to turn a profit, and should provide enough to support us by mid-2013. By the time hubby graduates end of 2014, we’ll have enough location-independent income to travel indefinitely!

    So there you have it – makin’ it work on low wages and from outside the U.S., w/out a lot of savings. Note- our apartment is about the size of a 3-car garage. But it’s good b/c having little space means we can’t buy stuff to fill it up!

  22. I sold my Jeep to start traveling three years ago. All that money is gone now, but I make money along the way. I’ve worked my way around the world, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Hawaii and I’m living int the Philippines now; still moving, still exploring new places.

    Another note, 30k a year is heaps of money! If you are making 30k a year you have NO excuse. You can save money, sell stuff and be out the door in 6 months.

    To Bob – Get a working holiday visa in Australia and fly there. Then, WHEN you run out of money, you can find an even better paying job there.

    You can do it Bob. Stop being a bitch.

  23. Not Bob

    So, you’re saying that you don’t do niche websites, that farm for AdSense money, Matt? It’s all money from this exact website?

    I don’t have anything against your message. I know it can be done, but I do wonder about your honesty about where your income is coming from. I’ve done niche website work myself and have seen you active in the community.

    I understand your reluctance to admit it because it’s a fragile ecosystem and people always want to be taught, but if you are doing it like I suspect, you’re not being completely honest.

    • NomadicMatt

      Someone is totally a blogger in disguise with this comment! :)

      I don’t run Adsense sites anymore. I haven’t done anything with them in years. With the new Google updates, I’ve made a whopping $74 USD last month over like 10 sites. I am just selling them off. As for niche sites, I’m selling those off too and while I still sell the occasional link on them, all those requests come in via this site anyway. So in a way, it’s via this website that happens.

      I gave up on niche websites. No time, no desire to spend money to make them.

  24. I have a long time friend who I met while I was living in Germany. He is American and just went over one day as a backpacking college grad with hardly any funds. He fell in love with Europe and was easily able to get bartending jobs at the U.S. military installations. It’s 15 years later and he’s still over there, now running his own business. Travel and migrating into other countries is completely do-able, it just matters how each person places priority on travel. :-)

  25. I think it really depends on the person’s lifestyle and situation. Some people can barely pay rent every month, that’s a reality – there’s not even enough room in the budget for a little savings. But that’s usually a minority. Truth is – most people can afford to save for traveling, but are just too afraid to do it.

  26. Aside from receiving about $2,000 of the $4,500 i spent on my first trip to Europe in 2005 from my parents, I’ve funded all my travels out of my own pocket and been traveling more or less full time for the last 3 years aside from staying 6 months in 2011 with my parents.

    As you say, it’s all a matter of making travel a priority. Anyone can save enough money if they truly want to. But instead most people spend their money on crap. Cars, DVDs, stereos, designer clothes, etc. That’s their choice. I choose to spend all my money on travel. That’s my choice.

  27. Kim Law

    Congratulations Darkroom Drifter. How exciting, wish I was going so soon but my time will come. All the best in your travels :)

  28. I think a lot of the problem is that people never look outside of they’re comfort zone to see if a different lifestyle is possible. If they look around and see all their friends buying cars, designer clothes, expensive electronics, they’ll think that’s normal. If they had a job making $80,000/year and so did their friends (which should give them enough to both buy some junk AND go traveling…), and all their friends lived at home with their parents, never owned a car, and didn’t buy junk, they probably would do the same.

    I was surprised when I went to Namibia that the cost of my flight there (about $1200) was the same as the cost for most Germans to fly there. I was surprised by this because there were SO MANY Germans there, that I figured it must be cheaper for them. Nope, they just decide to put more of their money into traveling. I was thinking “$1200 for one flight, wow that’s a lot of money to spend on a flight” while they were thinking “1200 for one flight – about normal, and only a small portion of my travel budget”. Of course many people in America that would never spend $1200 on a flight wouldn’t hesitate to spend that on a TV.

    I had too much coffee while typing this so I know it’s not written that well, but hopefully what I’m saying makes sense. It all depends on what you value. People need to decide what they truly value, and then spend their money on that. I still have a 227lb, 36″ CRT TV that I got for free years ago. Why? It hasn’t broken, and I don’t care enough about TV to spend any money on a new one. Instead, I value travel and put my money towards that.

  29. gen in nyc

    Oh my. If I told “Bob” my background story for the past 2 years, he probably wouldn’t believe that I am planning a trip to Florence with my 12 year old this summer (peak season). I still owe student loans similar to yours and still manage to travel. Me, myself and I pay for these trips 100 %.

    I think for some people, travel isn’t a priority, but then why say “I wish I could go if you really don’t want to make it happen” ? Having a car was never a priority for me and I don’t own one, easy since I live in nyc.

    I choose to spend my money on travel. It is a priority for me. It is important to me. I would die if I wasn’t able to travel.

  30. NomadicMatt

    Thanks everybody for sharing their own stories. I read them all and they are all great. It’s interesting to see how you all made travel your own priority and made the math work for you!

    Travel on!

  31. That is definitely the answer to most things in life! Just take the first step and things seem to fall into place!
    I opened a clothing boutique when I was 23 and no one could seem to understand how I did it without rich parents. My answer has always been the same – just take step one and that will lead you to step two. But, most people like making excuses for why they can’t much more than actually doing what it takes to get them to where they want to be.
    Anything is possible if it’s actually what you REALLY want!
    Great post!

    • Colleen

      “Just take step one and that will lead you to step two.” That thought for me is distilled genius. The truth is often very simple. I’m incorporating this idea into my thought life and actions.

      Thank you, Raquel! = )

  32. On the face of it you’re being exceptionally kind to Bob. He seems like a wanker!! But as he went to such trouble to keep contacting you and possibly even sorted it out for himself in the end, it seems like he is desperately looking for a way to do this himself!! Fingers crossed he proves you wrong and hits the road! Not that we’ll ever know!!

  33. Carrie

    Thank you Matt for a really great, thought-provoking post. I know that I have been stuck in the rut of “I can’t travel until my student loans are paid off” mentality but sadly in my state of loan-ness, it is true: I have to begin paying them down first. But once the routine is established, exactly what you said: Make said arrangements; sell off crap; book flight; go. It’s not as hard as all the nay-sayers make it out to be. If it were I couldn’t have afforded Nicaragua to save my life.

  34. Silent Bob

    I don’t think it’s very cool that you post people emails online, even if you do change the name…you did this a while ago to me too. Your fan club attacked me like they did this guy and you knew full well they would when you posted it. Bit sad really.

    I don’t agree with Bob’s opinion, but publishing private emails is not a cool thing to do.

    • That’s what transparency is all about. People shouldn’t be sending emails that they wouldn’t be comfortable having published to the world. Same as you shouldn’t be doing things in real life that you wouldn’t be comfortable exposing on your facebook page to all your friends. Matt hid this person’s real name, which is more than he had to do.

      • Colleen


        For this comment I want to give you a rating of 100% for accuracy, 100% for style, plus a bonus 100% for brevity.

        • Raquel

          Colleen and Drew, you’re both wrong. Publishing private emails is a blatant breach of online copyright laws, regardless of if the author’s real name is used or not.

          Matt, before publishing any private emails you are under a legal obligation to obtain permission from the writer. The writer has the copyright not you. Besides the law, publishing private emails is abominable netiquette.

          You’re well travelled, Matt. I don’t doubt that. And despite all this travel, it seems you still lack worldliness and grace. Persecuting and patronising Bob’s private viewpoint reads as self aggrandisement at best. Are you that hard up for copy this week?

          You seem to get quite bogged down and obsessive about the cynics and doubters of your words. Yet, when you don’t have a grasp of basic copyright laws and netiquette how can you be surprised?

          It seems you’ve a lot to learn about becoming a ‘credible’ professional online writer, Matt.

      • SilentBob

        I don’t agree at all, when you contact someone privately, it’s completely unacceptable to publish that communication online. If this guy Bob had written a comment on here, then it’s fine to reply back as I’m doing to you…but it’s very rude to publish peoples private emails.

        So Drew, I’ll give you an example, if you split with your partner and then publish all the messy emails on your blog to humiliate them….I assume you would find this completely acceptable behaviour because in your words, people shouldn’t be sending emails that they wouldn’t be comfortable having published to the world.

        Nomadic Matt has done this a few times, the moment anyone posts anything other than cringeworthy posts like “I love this post Matt!!!, you are sooo right…100%!!!”…Matt takes offense and then makes a blog out of it knowing full well that people like you and Colleen will back him…..100%!!!.

  35. I managed to go on holiday for 2 weeks for 40 euros, so even if you did have loads of money when you first went out travelling, just to restate everyone else, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t possible to have gone and done it anyway with less. Things happen when you leave the house, that just be the rule of the road.

  36. Bob’s not a nice guy, Bob’s a boob. I’m so sick of shitty pessimistic people dumping their cynicism on everyone else. You worked hard to be where you’re at, and yeah, that’s worth preaching to other people for a profit. That’s how economy works. That’s how life works. There’s no formula, but there’s inspiration.

  37. Great post. Like many of the other commenters, I too have come across many such cynics throughout my traveling life, including members of my own extended family (I swear that some still think there’s a hidden trust fund somewhere I’m not telling them about!). It’s mind-blowing how many times I’ve had to deflect comments like “It must be nice to be able to travel the world,” as if I too don’t have to work my ass off and pay for a mortgage! It’s all about making that conscious lifestyle choice, as you say–not only before a big RTW trip but also when you get home and decide you want to keep that lifestyle (or a variation of it) for good.

  38. I’m not aspiring to build a career on travel, but in teaching (so my blog about life abroad sounds a little bit too much like real life sometimes). So my opinion in this matter is quite different. For people who doubt what Matt is doing, yes, you’re right. Stay home. Marry your high school sweetheart, make your car payments, and have a nice life. For people who believe in what Matt is doing, save and get a little bit of scratch together for a plane ticket. It’s not hard, really. Of course if you just want to travel so you can act like an idiot in other people’s countries, please stay home. Surely, there’s something good in TV that you need to watch. I honestly don’t want to promote travel for the sake of travel and bragging rights. It’s a vacant way to live, and I’ve met too many foreigners while abroad who should have please stayed home.

  39. Asen

    I had a question, if someone wanted to travel full time like you do, what would be the options for income apart from building a website like you have done and praying that it gets traffic?

  40. I think it’s awesome what you’ve done for yourself and everything that you’ve experienced. Not many people can do that but wish they could. Don’t let the haters get to you man.


  41. First: Being a cynic does not make you a “hater”.
    Second: In general, being a cynic will result in a person missing out a lot in life. Some people have a tendency to own a lot of “stuff” and are unaware that at a certain point their “stuff” owns them. There’s a lot to be said about the old adage: “You’ve made your bed, now you have to lay in it.”

  42. Ian and Wendy

    I had a friend recently tell me that she figured it was going to cost us FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS for a 3 week trip we have planned to Europe. Needless to say that is FAR in excess of our actual budget and we travel with our young kids and not as the paupers we once did. People tend to WAY overestimate how much it costs to travel and way underestimate the financial costs in staying home (power, food, gas, entertainment). And yes it’s true that many people can’t conceive of how the could “cut back” while they have homes full of items most people in this world can’t even dream of. It’s all a matter of how badly you want to do it.

  43. The strange thing about the Bob fella is he’s answered his own question.

    I’ve travelled for 3 years now. I did it via job redundancy money, sale of car, paying off my debt before travel (normal job, less than $30k), reducing outgoings, living with parents. That got me about a year of travel job/worry free.

    I extended it by travelling to cheap countries, eating and sleeping cheaply, getting several jobs (teaching English, hotel receptionist, lazer gun repair man, gardener, leaflet advertising) and accepting advertisement and paid guest posts on my website (which is effectively a business), selling things I find abroad worldwide (that’s a more recent one). Other outgoings include studying for a degree, which I’m doing remotely.

    I wouldn’t call myself the most entrepreneurial, due to resorting to picking up jobs in most countries I’ve been too, rather than raise my own money. But the ability to adapt to the situation has got me this far. There isn’t any secret. Matt’s books aren’t secrets either, they just condense the information already available in a package.

  44. Tom

    I found this quote the other day that fits this topic fairly well.

    “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance. If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own.” -Steven Pressfield

  45. Hey Matt!

    Great post and response to this comment. I would say from my own experience that another good way to be nomadic and able to afford it is pursuing a career that can be done from anywhere, through the Internet.

    I have been traveling Central America for the past 5 months and working online as a translator, with no problems whatsoever in regards to location. True, I’ve also had 5 yeras of experience as in-house working the normal 9-5 job, which gave me the skills to do what I’m doing now, but it’s very doable these days.

    Translator, writer, journalist, graphic designer, web designer, programmer, you name it. There’s plenty of jobs you can do from the road!

  46. I saved $10,000 in one year before I went travelling working as a freelance writer by downsizing from an apartment to a room in a house and selling a lot of my stuff. I am TERRIBLE at saving money, but I managed to do it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Good on you, Matt, for sticking up for the dreamers, doers and those who believe in the possibilities of life.

    You will not change Bob — he likes being cynical — but you are inspiring others.

    ps This is why my blog is called breathe dream go :)

  47. Barbara

    I just wanted to say, my husband’s name is Bob… and he doesn’t believe this at all.

    I just had to make sure that people knew not all “Bob’s” think the same way. :)

  48. Jo


    Thank you for taking the time to formulate such a detailed response to Bob’s cynicism. I don’t usually take the time to add comments on posts but had to do it on this one because your website (along with Chris Guillebeau’s) is the reason why I’m currently trekking through Europe. Something I always wanted to do but never thought I could. My friend and I have gone almost homeless just to meet someone who was mysteriously going to London for five days and offerering us his swanky apartment to stay in FOR FREE. Traveling is scary, meeting new people is scary but once you take the leap, trust your instincts, stick to your morals, you will be okay. Worst comes to worst, your hustle side will surface if you’re really in the deep.

  49. Elmer Cruz

    Well I guess it’s because of people’s expectations of traveling. I think a lot of people don’t think it’s possible because their idea of traveling may be lbuilt from traditional experiences and an expectation of luxury or at least being totally comfortable. It’s funny how people go on holidays and expect to have the same comfort of their homes or where they came from. I’ve encountered a lot of people who complain about language barriers, Mosquitos, water, street foods, or even not having a blow dryer In the hotel. These people’s idea of traveling is being somewhere unfamiliar with all the familiar comforts that they are used to. Of course, these are available practically everywhere but you need to cough up the cash and if this is their mentality then for sure they will be cynical about doing it el cheapo!

  50. Matt, I cannot contribute to the discussion since I started traveling when I was forty and had the money and lack of responsibilities to go where I list. My only problem with what you have written is that in a world made unpleasant by gratuitous snarkerie you are indulging in what strikes as gratuitous snarkerie in naming Bob’s distemper for the former Governor of Alaska, who after all did not say that all young people who wandered the world were overprivileged layabouts, only that some were — which must certainly be true — and that she was not one of them.

    One of the things I like most about travel blogs is the almost complete absence of politics from them. In a world where everything seems no more than one step removed from politics of the most acrimonious sort, and persons who otherwise would be in accord are instead at daggers-drawn, it is pleasing to find a corner of that world where we may speak civily of other things in which we have a common interest and specialized knowledge.

  51. Jesse

    Hey guys, I’m just in Bali literally only thanks to this site and of course matt!! Iv been travelling for 8 months and will be going home in a month and have had the time of my life!!! I just stopped buying stupid stuff, eating takeaways, driving when I could walk, drinking constantly and being a general idiot! I saved for a year for this trip on a minimum wage job and had over 6000 when I came away all thanks to following matts advice! Also got a few hundred here and there from family too!! That’s the best advice, just decide to go!! Thanks so much matt, you basically made this trip possible for me and my girlfriend, any future trips will be booked through your site as a thankyou! Next stop Iceland :)

  52. I just read a few of your articles on this blog and am so amazed at some of the insightful posts that you have written. It seems like you learn so much from your job and the positivity that you emanate is very inspiring. All of us cynics (including myself) just need to switch gears and take the leap! Thanks for the great posts!

  53. And this.. this is why my parents have not let me apply to full scholarship programs for high school students funded by the US government. This is why they are not letting me be a foreign exchange student. They do not believe going overseas is possible without a ton of money, and they will not listen to me if I try to explain it. That is the only reason they have not been out of North America.

    I cannot WAIT until I am in college and they ask me what I am planning on doing this summer. “Well, I don’t know. I’m thinking of heading to Thailand and maybe taking a small trip to Cambodia. If I don’t do that, I’m going to head to Peru. Or Morocco. Oh, and did you know there is a scholarship to study in Azerbaijan?” Cannot. Wait.

  54. Gabor

    You’re so right about this. But let’s not forget that this doesn’t apply to people of all backgrounds, or to be more specific, to people from parts of the world where the average GDP per capita is a lot lower (but I realize you were mainly directing this at Americans). People with low or even average paying jobs from my part of the world (Eastern Europe, Hungary in my case) couldn’t do this – that’s why I’m doing my best to get the hell out of dodge and go work in Western Europe as soon as I’m done with my master’s (2 years from now).

    To illustrate my point, average salaries in Hungary go like this (for simplicity’s sake I rounded them up or down so while if I were to convert the actual salary it would yield something like $511 I’ll just write $500):

    minimum wage: $300 USD
    high school teacher (like my mom who’s been on the job for 31 years now): $500 USD
    a “high-paying” job (programmer, web designer, engineer in niche areas etc.): $1000 to $1800 USD but the bulk of the population makes less than my mom
    (being an MP is highly lucrative though and doesn’t even require you to go to work, it’s more of a mood-dependent thing 😛 with salaries of over $3000 monthly…gotta love politicians)

    So while I agree with what you’re saying, I don’t see anyone from around here being able to just up and do it. (This is also the reason you view Budapest as a cheap destination but for Hungarians it’s about as expensive as it gets :) still if you find all the right places it can be a pretty budget place for us as well.)

    • Barbara

      Gabor, I live in Budapest, I get about the Budapest average of 800$ a month and I in the last 3 years I went to Greece, two times to Istanbul, to Kiev, London, Romania, Zagreb, Belgrade, Krk, Slowenia, the Plitvice lakes and Bratislava. In a few weeks I’ll go on a trip to Jordan and Israel.The times I went home to Germany or to Vienna I don’t even mention. There are hardly ever passing more than 3 months without traveling. So travel IS possible. It all depends on which sh*thole you are willing to live in and what crappy wine you are willing to drink (yes, I do go out every week).
      But admittedly, so save up for a long term trip is nearly impossible here, even with two jobs. But better short trips than no trips, right?

  55. Gabor

    Oh also to underscore the ridiculousness of our situation compared to Western Europe, I just recently came home from a semester I spent in France on Erasmus (which means you also get a stipendum from the European Union that covers a large chunk of your expenses if you’re lucky) and before coming home I did a 2-week stint at Disneyland Paris and I made almost the same amount of money my mom would make in…3 months. (Also tried to save as much as I could while I was in Bordeaux and if all goes well I’ll be using that money to hang out in NYC for a couple of days – far from being a budget destination but I’ve dreamed about going there since forever and now I might finally be able to afford it! :P)

    All in all, great blog and great points made in this article. I just created a “Travel” folder in my browser and your blog is the first one I bookmarked and added to it. Found it through Benny’s blog somehow (fluentin3months) since I’m also a language buff.

    Gábor :-)

  56. Sheralyn

    .June 22, 2012 at 6:52 pmI had a question, if someone wanted to travel full time like you do, what would be the options for income apart from building a website like you have done and praying that it gets traffic?”

    1) live cheaply and save up ahead of time so you’ll have cash to fund a 6 mo, a year, or whatever timeframe you can afford for travel – spend a year or two or three collecting reward miles via credit card offers so you can fly for free when traveling
    2) rent out your house (assuming you own it) and use the rent money to fund your travel for as long as you wish
    3) get jobs as you go – if young enough, maybe a working holidy visa in a place like Australia – can work and travel at the same time – or maybe you can teach english in Asia – or maybe you speak a non-english language and can get work doing translations
    4) build a website or blog and pray for traffic 😉 …plus put in long hours studying how other successful bloggers do their thing, long hours learning the ins and outs of SEO, guest posting on other people’s blogs, and endless other tasks, which, in addition to prayer haha, will bring you traffic :)
    5) house-sit in countries that you want to explore so your accommodations costs will be zero… that plus free airfare from rewards miles eliminates the largest of your traveling expenses
    6) try all or some of the above, fall flat on your face few times, but don’t quit, keep trying, and eventually, I bet you have really good odds of learning to be successful with those strategies and being able to travel full-time

    I’d rather fall flat on my face trying to travel full time, than not try at all. Worst case you come back home to your old life, but at least the traveling you were able to do will be something you remember forever!

  57. Excellent article. I have come across lots of Bobs in my life as well. They are the ones who say they want to travel, but don’t have the money, yet at the same time they have friends that are in their exact same situation, but the do travel. The Bobs always have a list of excuses why THEY can’t go. There are people traveling with next to no money at all. It’s also funny how he thinks he can’t save $20,000 over 3 years from a $30,000 salary. All he needs to do is save $7,000 a year. That leaves $23,000 to live on. And surprise, surprise, some people do actually live on $23,000 a year. The problem is probably that people like Bob don’t want to travel enough to make the effort to save. We all have choices. Some chose to save $7,000 a year so that they can spend a whole year traveling, while other would rather spend the money on the latest gadgets, eating out, drinking, or whatever. There is nothing wrong with that choice, if it’s what they want. But they made the choice, so they shouldn’t then complain that they don’t have enough to travel. They made the choice.

  58. I totally agree with you Matt! I did my first 5 month solo backpacking trip of Europe back in 2009. I had a part time job and was on benefits for a small period of time. I made some smart decisions like:
    My work allowed me to live on site for free, this saved me petrol and rent (This also included free food! bargain!).
    I stopped buying crap, surprising how much money that saves.
    I stopped going out every weekend.
    An so on.
    Just like you, I funded a 5 month trip in about 8 months. But I’ll be honest, I roughed it, I ate jam sandwiches that I made from stolen breakfast supplies at hostels, I slept at train stations and stayed in some dodgy hostels. But at the end of the day, I had a great time, I have some funny stories, and I now know how to travel Europe for next to nothing (5 month trip cost me $10,000).
    It is possible, and people who doubt have small minds and tunnel vision.
    Thankyou for another great post Matt! Keep up the great work!

  59. Great article!
    I’m a living example as well as you Matt that it is possible without any helping hands or so.
    My dad died when i was 18 (duo to alcohol) and my mom is living off the danish state to give her income because she is an alcoholic to (yeah i’m from Denmark).

    2 parents who are heavy alcoholics without jobs is not gonna make me have any good economic, in my young life right? i’ve had no help and i’m leaving in 2 days for a permanent trip, much like matts i’ve just finished my education while living in my apartment paying rents and saving money for the trip at the same time, living off 100$ a month in food and drink, not really using money on anything beside bills and food/drinks. People just gotta prioritize and go for it! oh and i’m leaving Denmark with something around 20.000$

    I’ve never really met a “real” bob before, but i would like to :)

  60. Andy Watt

    I only recently started reading your blogs and find them so refreshing. I’ve been away from home travelling Oz and NZ for over 2 years now and loving it. Done a host of different jobs. Been so broke to tears at points.
    I am glad that on reading your advice that I followed most of it without knowing it. But I think you’ve missed one key rule out. If you plan to stay and live in a country a while, and you travel with money, get a job and don’t spend it. This was the major mistake I made when I 1st arrived in Perth in 2011. I came with approximately $11000aus and whilst doing a couple of shifts in a super market and the odd day here and there gardening etc nearer the end I’d pretty much blown the lot within 3 months. Don’t get me wrong, I had an awesome time (of what I remember) though it perhaps inhibited me in what I eventually saw in my 2 years there (I missed Darwin so never got to wrestle a crocodile- gutted). I would just say if you have a bit of money, keep it if you can. That’s your fun money for trips and stuff. Don’t live on it.

    Also are there any catches to the travel credit cards. I mean can I get one, get the miles and just never use the card so spend nothing?

    • NomadicMatt

      Yes, that’s right. If it has a yearly fee, just make sure to cancel the card or move to a no fee card if you don’t want to pay the fee.

  61. When I first read your post about saving $20,000 in three years, I was a bit surprised. I thought you were maybe even low-balling yourself to seem more believable. I think the main reason people don’t save money are that they are lousy at economics and math, and travel isn’t high on their priority list.

    If most people got their salary doubled instantly, they would think “bigger house, big tv, new computer, stuff, stuff, stuff.” I think people say they want to travel, but in reality, it is low on the priority list. Ive met people who spend 1000 dollars on a phone and I think “man that is like 2 flights to SE Asia!” If my salary was doubled, I would think “thailand, cambodia, malaysia.” We all run our lives on priorities and spend most of our money on them. Travel is the same.

    A lot of people suck at math too. They think “30,000 a year” as a solid number and forget necessities like electricity, taxes, and so on. The opposite is also true when they add things like “expensive phone plans, cable tv, an unnecessarily large apartments” and the like to the priorities list.

    Personally, I am pretty frugal… well, I have different priorities and get by on about 800 USD a month. Given I live in South Korea where things are about 20% cheaper, but I have lived in the US too and managed to save money as well in LA.

    I am almost done with my third year (saving) and am projected to completely pay off my debt (40k) and save 10k by march. It isn’t magic, it is a plan I set out three years ago and stuck to it.

    In the mean time, I have managed to afford trips to Peru, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Italy, and Japan (twice). It is not magic… and I will write a full post showing the math in a few months (come march, to make sure I accomplish said goals).

    My point is, what Matt does can be done. He sells books about blogging and traveling… the main criticisms I hear here. Wow Matt… big no no… how dare you try to sell tips on blogging and travel… what makes YOU such an authority. Oh yeah, you traveled non-stop for 8 years and have the top travel blog in the world.

    I’m not here to kiss Matt’s you know what. My point is that people spend so much money on travel books (like the lonely planet), and self help books and never consider calling those people a cheat. Here we have a blog run for so many years as a resume (which is more than I can say for Lonely planet writers, if you have followed their controversy), he has the right to sell his knowledge, like any book author, if he so pleases. If you don’t like it, dont buy it, but to say that the claims of saving a bunch of money are not possible if complete BS.

  62. Ze

    Bob, Bob, Bob…

    I have a website/business of my own (not travel-related), and I’ve found that on my blog, and pretty much every blog I’ve ever read, there’s always a “Bob.” There’s always someone who takes your advice and tips and tells you why it CAN’T be done and then goes even further to get angry that you would even suggest such advice. These people ignore the advice, and all the evidence that others are “doing it,” and always have some special reason why they can’t. Yet here Bob is on your site, reading your stuff. And why? Because he wants to travel, but he’s just too afraid, and seeing you do it only reminds him that the problem is him, not money. And if the Bobs spent as much time and energy going after what they want as they do defending their own self-limiting beliefs and attacking all who challenging them, think about how amazing their lives could be!

    Food for thought, Bob.

    Great site, by the way, NM…

  63. Charlie

    Yearly Monthly Weekly Daily
    Take Home £9,399.45 £783.29 £180.76 £36.15

    That is an example of what I would be paid in England, if I worked full-time hours at the minimum wage for 18-21 year olds. For many, the only jobs they can find in this country are paid the minimum wage, and full-time hours are becoming increasingly rare – youth unemployment is running at around 20%.

    Accommodation alone cannot be found for less than £200 a month all inclusive, and that is if you are living in a student house-share or something similar. If I wanted to rent a studio flat, due to the other costs incurred such as council tax, water rates, energy – the cheapest I could possibly hope for on a monthly basis is £400 (and that’s highly optimistic).

    So, even living in the very cheapest accommodation – I have about £583.29 left to provide me with everything else that is required to survive. Even living on an incredibly tight budget – due to the country, and the area of the country I am based in – let’s say I spend £100 a month on everything else. That leaves me with £483.29 to put away in savings, each month.
    Of course, all of this depends on an un-skilled, young man to have a job at all, let alone one which offers the luxury of full-time hours.

    If that were the case however, over the course of one year I would save $9429.95 at today’s exchange rate. How would you advise the truly working class people of the UK, and from your own country, to travel for meaningful amounts of time – considering that in some parts of the world, and in my case especially in the EuroZone, there is a massive risk of not being able to find any work upon return to their home country?

    Please also take in mind that my example is from England. What about Greece, and Spain, where youth unemployment is running as high as 50% or more??


    Not a hater, just would love ideas!

  64. klein

    People bringing up the word sacrifice are on target.

    Sites, people and books who are so upbeat and positive are great but pay short shrift to the idea of sacrifice. Granted, it may not feel like much of a sacrifice if you are getting to live your dreams, whatever they may be, but the dogged pursuit of a single goal oftentimes comes at the expense of others.

    You’ve even mentioned that long-term relationships are difficult to maintain. Things like saving for a home purchase, or for retirement. Having children. Pursuing the career that you may have interest in after you’re done travelling (assuming that you want to be done at some point). These are things that are important to mention to put in perspective that you are making a tradeoff in your life.

    I appreciate that the majority of your posts deal with these things in a positive manner, but it is a lie of ommission to not mention the other side of the coin.

    • NomadicMatt

      It’s not all rainbows and unicorns but it’s not a sacrifice if you don’t want it. Yeah, there are short term trade offs like not being able to go out or giving up some luxuries in order to save to travel but those other things you mention, aren’t sacrifices to many people because they don’t want that stuff. I talk often about the downside of long-term travel but to use the word sacrifice is to imply that I gave up something I wanted.

  65. Tata Rasyad

    I think I know a Bob, my Dad. He’s 63 and never travel. The farest he had gone was 1,5 hours flight from Riau to Jakarta, we live in Indonesia. All our lives (me and 3 older brothers) were not into travel. We chose to visit Grandma at the village in West Sumatera (now, 6-7 hours by car from Riau) on every school holidays, or to visit Grandpa in Jakarta. We never event went to Bali.

    Until recently, my brother went to Sweden for business trip and he took along his wife and 3,5yo son to travel Europe. For 3 weeks.

    And suddenly, a close friend of his told him to travel to Europe. He has saved along 34 years of his life, working. That was his ‘A-ha!’ Moment, i guess. He’s planning his trip at this moment, dont care the flight fare is climbing due the upcoming school holidays and summer. He said he want to go. And he take me (and my 2,5yo) along because my parents speaks only Indonesian. The 4 of us (with mom, too) is going to Europe next month. Imagining going out of the country, while planning the trip, I already feel the energy i cannot explain. By the way, I finally went to Bali few weeks ago with my office coleagues, and havent moved on ever since.

    Reading this article about Bob hits me to the bone. Maybe I was a Bob, too. Thinking that there’s no way i can travel. This thought had been shared with my husband too. You change my mind, Matt. So i think i’m gonna skip those lunches at the nearest mall to my office, by thinking “this is for one night hotel in Thailand,” i’m gonna save. I will. So i can travel with my husband, next.

    Thank you, Matt.


  66. Kyle McKenna

    It’s never felt like a sacrifice to me, not even a little, and I’ve always travelled as much as I wanted. Were there trade-offs? OF course. But you’re already making trade-offs whether or not you recognize it. What you’re doing right now is a trade off in relation to something else you could be doing. I’m not rich but I travel well, simply because I want to. Other things people do, I may not be as interested in. It’s not magic–it’s just deciding what you like most and then doing it. Expensive restaurants, movies, vacation homes, etc? I’m not interested so I don’t miss them.

  67. sholladay

    Matt, I just read your 20 ways to save money and it could pretty much be my biography. For Bob and his fellow doubters, Matt is right and I’m living proof! Make your own coffee, cook your own meals, and save like a hungry squirrel in November because it does pay off. Spouse and I did not take off and travel the world in our younger days, but we did in-country trips every year, then retired early: he was 51, I retired later at 55. In the two years since I retired, we’ve gone to Colorado, Utah, Maine, and Wyoming, but also Costa Rica and Peru, with Belize, Guatemala, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana on the horizon. If you plan as well as dream it will happen. Until age and health restrict us, we will see the world, because we planned and we can. Oh, yeah…about our retirement savings…still growing, even with the travel. It’s just a matter of what you really want to do.

  68. Another wonderfully inspiring post, thanks Matt!

    I kind of love how much of a dickhead Bob was being with comments like “my niece has a bigger blog than this!” Uhhhh sure, ok, good for your niece – but you do realise this is the number one travel blog out there and that everyone else looks here for inspiration, right? I mean, I’m sure there are bigger blogs out there – but not in travel, this is the number one site on any list I’ve ever seen!

    But yes, it can be done – you just have to go. If you’re clever with airfares, you can go a long way on not very much. Sydney to Singapore for $180? That’s a thing now! And from Singapore, you can go anywhere, especially if you travel slowly and use local transport. It’s just a matter of being a bit clever, of thinking through the options and of enjoying the ride!

    Martina :-)

  69. Funnily enough I came to the same result last night. People keep telling me that I am in a great position to do what I do, a “break” in my career, no car, flat or other obligations etc.
    Nobody sees the preparation and compromises it takes.
    Like everybody else I met a lot of people doing the same and you can always look at it from to sites: The guy that left Germany to take a managing position in China – Of course he was lucky with this offer but he had to manage to move with his wife and two schoolkids. For everybody you can find a reason that it was way easier for them than for yourself but in the end it’s again only finding excuses. Because everybody has to overcome hurdles that prevent them from travelling, and these hurdles are very personal ones. While for yourself it might be very difficult to overcome, for others it might be easy as.

  70. One thing that cannot be addressed by all the savings and multiple jobs in the world are the circumstances that poor people find themselves in. For example, suppose you save up your $5K through immense efforts, but your brother, mother, dad, or whomever all the sudden has an intense crisis that will cause homelessness or jail or death. It’s been documented that poor people are much more generous than those who are richer. It’s not just that a poor person does not get help from their parents or relatives, but that their parents or relatives will take whatever they happen to save up.

  71. Love your site. Hit the road over a year ago and not ready to quit yet! Paying off debt, dragging son along, and dog and cat. Learning to make a living on the road and loving it. Bloggers like you keep bloggers like me going.


    Hi All

    Just to add to the comments already posted here, one way of reducing costs but getting a great experience is to volunteer for free. Sites such as workaway.info provide an exchange philosophy – you help someone and they put you up and feed you. That way, you have travel costs and some expenses but your main outgoings are reduced. As many of the hosts on Workaway only need you for a limited time during the week, it gives scope to earn money from odd jobs.

  73. Nice one! My partner and I have full time jobs, but we still have time to go around our country, the Philippines. Later, it would be the world. It all rests on thoroughly planning everything, from itineraries to schedules to budgets.

    Being in a third-world country doesn’t really pay that much but through hard work, savings, and smart money-making techniques, we are able to live our passions and dreams, which is traveling and engaging in adventures!

  74. Rachel Maer

    Matt! I am an example of what you’re talking about! I’ve been to 35 countries now, and have spent a bit more than three years out of the U.S. doing all that traveling (in different chunks of one month, three months, six months etc). My parents never helped me with any of my college or traveling costs, and when I first traveled I was paying off student loans, too. Sometimes when I post traveling pics online, old highschool friends act like I’m a millionaire or something, and some people get a little angry that I’m able to do what I do… But it’s like you say, there are a lot of ways to cut costs to save up that money. I don’t have a TV subscription or an expensive cellphone plan, I don’t go crazy buying clothes or shoes, I don’t go crazy on going out to eat or on drinking out, I don’t buy all the toys like video game systems, etc… People don’t realize how much money they DO spend, but just on other things. So my “secret” is just that I save money (and I’ve never even lived with my parents to do it!), and I have sometimes taught English in other countries. You’ve just got to watch your money then (when you’re saving it), and later when you’re traveling (like staying in hostels instead of hotels).

  75. Haley Meland

    Hey Matt! Thank you for this article & i could not have read it at a better time. Since i was little traveling the world has always been my passion. I am currently working very hard and saving in order to move to Ecuador (Near Montanita) in September with my grandparents who just bought a house.I have also received an opportunity to work on the Galapagos Islands for the month of October (Super excited). BUT my dad is a Bob, actually more cynical than Bob. I just graduated high school and cant fight my passion to travel for at least a short time before i figure out my future schooling plans or whatever kind of plans. My dad has given my the silent treatment since he found out and when he did express his feelings it sounded something like “You are going to get kidnapped” “You can only travel if youre rich” ” Im not paying for your ticket when you want to come home” ” You cant move to a third world country right out of high school” “the only way to fix our relationship is if you dont go”. You can imagine that i would be super discouraged to travel and create my own life through my own passion and dreams. You probably cant imagine how i have a passion like this living with a Bob, me either. ANYWAYS i was just searching for some advise and wondering if you could offer any words of encouragement. Thanks for your inspiration and helpful tips.

  76. robert beaver

    matt, i enjoy reading your columns. ive just returned from southeast asia for the 5th time. ive decided i want tostay in michigan for the summer and travel back over from the end of october until may. i have some savings, no bills and my 3 master cards are paid off. i have back accounts with 2 banks with atm cards. i bring in about 4500.00 a month so money should not be a problem. my question is, i want to rent a apartment somewhere which will be my home and travel around to differant placees for a few days at a time.am having a hard time deciding on which city or area would be best., hopefully you can give me some ideas, thankyou

  77. Jhon Lingkon

    A great & informative post, also a long article, thx for writting such long article for us, great job

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