How much would you pay to live the dream?

When we tell people about our trip, no one ever asks how we can afford to quit our jobs to travel but I know that they’re thinking it. Personally, I don’t mind discussing our budget. It’s a major part of our planning process and if you’re thinking of taking a trip like this yourself, how much it will cost is obviously among the first questions.

I wish I could tell you that there is some secret easy way to being table to fund your career break, but there just isn’t. We decided nearly two years ago that we wanted to take this trip and we began to save every penny possible to make it a reality from that point forward.


We won’t be saving pennies on the beach…we’ll be spending ’em. Hopefully on drinks with umbrellas…but also on student loans.

Mrs. Banh Mi and I are fortunate that we both had(!) relatively well-paying jobs and that our only debt is low-interest student loans. We don’t have a mortgage or car payments, we don’t have credit card debt and we’re both fortunate to be healthy (physically, anyway) and not have medical debt. We didn’t have to sacrifice a lot to save the money for our trip, but we did make some sacrifices and it took a long, long time. Over the past two years, we didn’t eat out or go out to bars with friends as much as we would have liked. We didn’t take a vacation or two that would have been fun but expensive. We didn’t buy new clothes and basically made do with the things we had rather than buy new stuff. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t all that bad once we got used to the lifestyle.

Obviously there are many ways to travel, from couch-surfing backpacker to 5 star celebrity. We hope to be somewhere in the middle of that on a budget of $80-100 US Dollars per day (this is all inclusive: food, lodging, transportation, entrance fees to tourist sites, visa fees, miscellaneous costs etc). Some days we’ll spend more than that and others, depending on where we are, we’ll spend much less. Southeast Asia is a very inexpensive place to travel and your dollar will stretch a long way, but if you want to hold a baby panda (which for Mrs. Banh Mi is not optional), you will pay out the nose for the experience. You could absolutely do our trip for less than $80 per day. You could also spend much, much more. We plan on eating street food and avoiding pricey (and usually lousy) tourist restaurants. We’ll be staying in hostels and guest houses where we’ll usually have a private room and private bathroom. It won’t be the Ritz, but it’ll be clean (hopefully) and basic. You could stay in dorm rooms with shared bathrooms in hostels for much much less, but being a married couple in our 30’s, that’s just not our scene. We’ll be taking trains and buses within the region which are slower but much cheaper than planes.

Flights to and from Asia are expensive (round trip for the two of us could be between $2,000-$4,000) but we’re flying to Singapore for free (in first class, no less!) on Mrs. Banh Mi’s frequent flyer miles that she earned from traveling for her previous job. We haven’t booked tickets home yet, but we’ll have enough miles to cover those flights (in economy, boo) as well. So that’s a huge savings for us.

Furthermore, while we may be leaving a lot of our old life behind us, some things we can’t escape. There are some fixed costs that we’ll have to pay while we travel:

  • Student loans — Approximately $600/month for both of us combined)
  • Storage unit rental and insurance — Approximately $100/month
  • Travel insurance – Purchased through World Nomads — Approximately $125/month

So, right there it’ll cost us $825 per month and we haven’t even left the country yet — that’s about $7500 over 9 months. $90 per day for 9 months is about $24,000. We’re not sure we’ll be gone for that long, but we wanted to have the option. So, $7500 in fixed costs plus $24,000 brings us to our total budget for the trip: Approximately $31,500. I bounce back and forth between thinking that that is an astronomical figure and thinking that it’s really not very much at all. Either way, we’ve never FELT like we had a lot of money because all we’ve been doing with it is NOT spending it…until now.

But even after we hit our savings goal, we still couldn’t leave. We can’t spend every penny to our name on our trip and just come back to America broke as a joke. So we also had to save up a large amount of “cushion” money so that we’d have some funds to live on when we get home — money for a security deposit on an apartment and for general living expenses. We won’t have jobs and we don’t know how long we’ll be unemployed. There’s no way for us to know how large a cushion we’ll need…so let’s hope we get jobs quickly upon our return and we can turn that cushion into a potential down payment on a house a few years down the line.

This is a subject that can make some people feel uneasy, but we’re happy to discuss it. If you have questions about our budget just leave us a comment or email us! We depart in six days. Commencing freak-out in 3…2…1…


One response to “How much would you pay to live the dream?

  1. Good luck! Hope the freak out has come to an end and some brilliant umbrella drinks are in hand!

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