Just over a year ago, I quit my job to travel the world. Twenty-five countries and an unforgivable number of sleeper buses later, I can now say that I have dated a professional soccer player in Pristina, accidentally eaten duck’s stomach in Shanghai, e-scootered among ancient pagodas in Bagan, bathed excessively in Budapest, dove with walking sharks in the Halmahera Sea, and frolicked in an amusement park at the bottom of an ancient salt mine in Transylvania. And all of these unforgettable experiences started with just one thing: A 100% full-on commitment to savings.
Now, before I get into how I did it, I am well aware that when a lot of people read the title of this article the word “privilege” will begin to drift across their minds. And yes, I know I am very privileged. I have an American passport. I have a college degree and no debts thanks to my frugal parents. I had a job that put me in the top 1% of world incomes that in turn allowed me to save. (FYI, if you make over $34,000 a year, you are in the 1% of the wealthiest people on the planet). I didn’t (and still don’t) have to support anyone financially besides myself. I am well aware that not everyone can just uproot their lives to travel, but it was something I could and wanted to do, and so I figured out a way to do it.
From perusing travel blogs, I concluded that the average cost for a year of solo travel was somewhere between $14,000 and $18,000. I inherited my parents' frugality, but I also didn’t want to worry constantly about my expenses while abroad, so I made my goal a reasonable $16,000. At the time, I was living in New York City making $42,000 a year working for a restaurant group. This broke down to $2,336 a month after taxes, from which I took away my monthly costs of rent ($865), utilities ($35), and my unlimited subway card ($112 at the time). Given that I didn’t want to be waiting forever to jet off into the unknown, I made my savings goal a very steep $1,000 per month, which gave me $326 to spend on everything else. Although I didn’t meet my goal exactly every month, I did come pretty damn close. Find out how I did it, ahead.