Last Updated: 2/20/22 | February 20th, 2022
Serendipitous adventure, carefree nights with newfound friends in foreign lands, delicious foods for bargain prices, and the luxury of time to enjoy it all.
Welcome to the world of long-term travel.
When it comes to this kind of travel, I get a lot of emails asking for my “secret.”
How do you travel so often and for so long? How did you quit your job and escape the grind? You must have a trust fund to afford all that, right?
What am I leaving out? What, they ask, is my secret to escaping the cubicle and being a nomad? Did I win the lottery? Do my parents pay for everything?
There must be something that makes me so special.
Well, here it is! The big secret to traveling long-term is…
There is no special secret.
Vagabonds, nomads, and long-term travelers are nothing special. We have no superpowers or secret Swiss bank accounts. We don’t have a money tree or the ability to teleport everywhere.
Of course, privilege will inevitably play its part, but we’re not unique or doing anything special. This kind of travel has been done for decades, by people from all parts of the world, with a variety of backgrounds.
Long-term travelers are just like you.
When I first discovered long-term travel, I thought the backpackers I had met in Chiang Mai had found some secret to life I didn’t know existed.
But once I got on the road myself, I saw that there was no secret. I wasn’t unique or special. Millions of people every year did this. Even people with virtually no money were making it work.
I had left home thinking I was going on an exciting adventure few people go on — then I went to Khao San Road and hung out in Amsterdam during the summer. In those places, I met travelers young and old doing exactly the same thing as me — and none of them were trust fund babies.
These travelers just did what they wanted — a revolutionary idea for me at the time. But now, after years of travel, I realize that it’s not so revolutionary. If people really want something, they do it. If you want a big-screen TV or a new computer, you find a way to make it happen. If you really want to eat sushi for dinner, you are going to have sushi for dinner.
Because, just like you find a way to pay for that TV or your new car, these travelers simply arranged their life so that they could afford to travel.
The only thing these people had that I didn’t have before was the desire to do what they wanted to do, free from the expectations of society, just because they enjoyed it.
They simply said, “I want to travel” and then worked to make it happen.
They saved more, they took second jobs, they stayed home instead of going out to eat or drink, they found work overseas. They did whatever it took.
As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
It is that simple.
People ask me about whether I worry about bills, retirement, and my future. To be honest, not really.
When you travel long-term, all those things disappear. You have no bills because you have no home. You just spend what you spend from day to day (which is usually less than $50 a day).
My mother told me I should start saving more for my retirement so I could…wait for it…travel more.
Then she stopped herself and said, “Well, I guess you do that already, so never mind!”
I’m a big believer in the idea that we shouldn’t work our lives away and that we should take short breaks to pursue our passions. Why should I spend my best years in an office, saving money for an age I may not even see, or if I do see it, might be too sick to enjoy?
Yeah, we long-term travelers save a bit for a rainy day, but we don’t worry about the future. We enjoy now. Take care of your present, and your future works itself out. When I stop traveling, I’ll figure out what is next.
So, when you ask travelers how they do it, they aren’t lying when they say there is no secret. We simply made a conscious decision to do it and, after that, just worked toward our goal, saving money and making plans just like what you would do for any other goal or venture in your life.
That’s the secret. So, know that you know it, go start making your travel dreams come true!
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
My New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A to Z planning guide that the BBC called the “bible for budget travelers.”
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Want to travel for free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation. They are what keep me traveling so much for so little. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.