Meet The Couple Traveling The World On $750 Per Month
Backpacking on the cheap through southeast Asia or Central America is the bread and butter of frugal travelers. Traveling through Europe and Australia without depleting your funds? That is a different feat entirely. However, travel writers and podcast hosts Meagen Collins and Tom Williams were able to make their way through these more expensive continents on less than $750 per month on average per person. They key: a slow schedule, a penchant for house-sitting and a flexible itinerary.
“Traveling has been part of our life for a while,” says Collins, 32, who met her boyfriend, Williams, 34, on the road. Setting off together in April 2013, the couple is about to hit their three-year mark as nomads and so far, they have no plans to settle down. Together they have visited over 75 countries at a sluggish pace.
“The only way we’ve survived this long is slow travel,” says Williams. The British national admits that after 14 months in India where they changed hostels every three days, the couple needed a break from the constant movement. When they explored Europe in 2015, they opted for a slower pace, following off-seasons around the continent and picking up house-sitting gigs when possible.
One of their cheapest months in Europe included spending $402 in Portugal thanks to an Airbnb room that ran them a mere $11 per night. Although it was technically winter, the coast of Portugal boasts a micro-climate that allowed them to enjoy warmer weather than elsewhere on the continent.
The couple tried to house-sit or Airbnb throughout Europe to keep lodging costs low.
“Flexibility is key,” says Williams. By sticking to the off-seasons, like France in August or Portugal during the cold months, they were able to snag free house-sits or ultra-low rates on apartments for the month. They traveled slowly, spending up to three months in one location. This allowed them to lock in an apartment or room at a lower rate than if they switched accommodation every five days.
Despite their budget, the couple wants to see and do as much as possible.
“There are so many places in the world where all the museums are free on Sundays,” says Collins, a native Australian. While in England visiting Williams’ family, they tried to take advantage of all the free activities that were available to offset the high cost of living.
Collins adds that, “Being able to cook for yourself saves a lot of money.” Some of their favorite budget countries included Morocco, Romania, Spain and Hungary. After finding an apartment in Bucharest, Romania for $350 a month, the couple stayed for three months. It is the longest time they spent in one place since they began traveling together nearly three years ago.
“We found a word for apartment in Romanian and looked up that,” says Williams. He recommends finding cheap lodging and restaurants by translating “restaurant” or “apartment” into the local language and then searching that phrase. The couple uses this trick all over the world. Collins says, “It is about finding a mom-and-pop place.”
To fund their adventures, the couple started out with $30,000 in savings garnered from nine months of working in Australia. It lasted them 18 to 20 months into their journey and now they live off the income generated from their blog. They also go on sponsored trips, but generally those don’t pay and will instead offer sightseeing or lodging for free, like a week in a hotel or hot air ballooning in Turkey, in exchange for a write-up on their blog, FiveDollarTraveller.com.
If you are planning on funding your travel with a business, the couple recommends thinking about what kind of focus your business will have. They began writing about budget travel, which was a “huge mistake,” according to Williams, as there is very little money in it.
“Do your research first and see what else is out there,” says Collins. “See what you are passionate about.”
Collins continues, “It doesn’t matter when you start, it is about quality.”
As for getting around, the 30-somethings love to fly, as it saves time and, if done properly, can save money. Search Wikipedia to find a budget airline for a specific region or country as that leads to better deals. They also use websites like WhichAirline.com or Skyscanner. com to find airfare mistakes, which can lead to hundreds of dollars in savings. Lastly, they sign up for email lists and Facebook accounts where sales are promoted.
“Everybody wants to try to find this lifestyle. And they feel if you commit to that mortgage, you’ll have that debt for the next 20 years,” says Williams, who was prompted to travel long term when he was about turn 30 and realized he could travel or buy a house. He says that many of the long-term travelers that they meet decided to start their journeys for similar reasons.
“We have to admit we do work a lot of hours in the week to sustain this,” says Williams.
At the moment, the pair is in Chang Mai, Thailand. After speaking with me, they were about to go to the cinema, something that helped keep travel fatigue at bay. At $3 per ticket, it’s a cheap way to avoid going crazy on the road.
They plan on heading to Australia in February, at the bequest of Collins’ mother. Then, it’s off to the Philippines in the spring to explore its thousands of islands.
Williams says, “The fact that we are even planning that far in advance is surprising for us.”