We made a decision very early in our relationship that we would invest in experiences as opposed to things. Both of us come from humble backgrounds without a trust fund or financial support from our parents. Money was never something that either of our families had a plethora of growing up and was never something that was deemed necessary for success or happiness.
See, the funny thing about money is that it’s never enough. While conversely, the thing with travel is that every dollar you spend on it makes your richer.
Almost all of our friends and many of our readers have asked us, “So how did you guys do it?” It’s really a simple question that starts with one easy decision. You have to fully accept that you can make anything happen if you want it badly enough. You have to also decide that you aren’t going to be controlled by what is a socially acceptable, “successful” life to live. For some God awful reason we have let society form norms for our lives that go something like: go to school, graduate, go to college, graduate, get a job, work 40+ hours a week for 51+ weeks every year for the next 40 years, retire, attempt to finally travel and enjoy all of this wealth that you’ve accumulated and pray it doesn’t run out before you die.
But what if we flipped this idea on its head and traveled with little to no money while we are young enough to adventure in any fashion and still impressionable enough to learn something and grow personally with every new city, state, and country we visit? This is what we decided to do. We quit our jobs, sold virtually everything we owned (which wasn’t much), and set out to live our lives for no one other than ourselves. And you know what? It was the best decision we ever made.
Many of those who have asked us how we managed to make this adventure happen have expressed fears of getting behind in life, taking a step back in their careers, or just simply not knowing how to logistically make a trip of this magnitude happen. Well listen to us and listen to us good. If you take a year to yourself to travel the world nothing will have changed when you return. Barring a death or some incredibly unlikely unforeseen tragedy, everything back home will be exactly the way you left it. The only thing that will have changed will be you. You’ll be richer, wiser, and so incredibly refreshed. Your job will either be there for you or one of the other hundred companies that does the exact same thing will hire you. Trust us millennials, a gap year in your early – mid 20s won’t mar your resume. Any manager/company that would knock you for traveling the world and gaining a wealth of experience and knowledge is simply not someone you want to work for anyway.
Did it cross our mind that what we might be doing was potentially insane? Of course! Both of us had just filed tax returns for our most successful year financially and we were on pace for another great year of business. But again, to reiterate, money is not the driving factor in our lives.
Logistics will be different for everyone who chooses to embark on a journey like this. Everyone has his or her own personal financial standing, has certain places he or she would prefer to live in/visit and of course, some prefer spontaneity while others prefer detailed itineraries. But let us tell you a bit about our personal situation.
On June 1, 2015, we boarded a one-way flight to Italy and embarked on the greatest journey of our lives. Over 7 months we traveled to 12 countries and literally traveled the entire way around the Earth.
We had been planning and making soft plans for about 10 months but we really didn’t do anything other than talk and dream about all the places we would visit. It wasn’t until about 2 months before our trip that we started booking flights and such. We wanted to be as spontaneous as possible, but during high season buying flights and hotels last minute can double or triple your costs. To avoid this, We decided which countries outside of Italy that we wanted to visit and purchased flights and booked accommodation ahead of time. Of course this hindered spontaneity, but when we wanted to be spontaneous we hopped on a train and traveled around Italy. Honestly, having the majority of our travel pre-paid was such a life saver when it came time to actually taking the trips – especially our later ones like Oktoberfest and Amsterdam Music Festival.
Of course our plans weren’t concrete. We ended up missing one trip we booked in advance due to constraints in finances and we ended up spending a month in France and 2 months in Bali (check out our Bali Travel Guide); neither of which were planned from the get go.
This part is going to be different for anyone who chooses to embark on a journey like this. If you’re going to Europe, obviously you should save more than if you’re going to South America or Asia. If you’re fine with making all of your meals at home and don’t mind slow forms of travel, obviously you need to save less than if you’re only willing to fly and you want to eat out every night.
We did our best to budget, cook meals at home when possible, and stay in affordable accommodation.
Full disclosure: We saved about $8,000. Yeah. That’s it. That was the total we saved together; not each. What some people spend on a table in Vegas on a random night, we had saved to live on and travel the world with. Although, we did have a couple small forms of income while traveling. We freelanced for a number of travel companies and Michael did some contract work for his company back home in the States. But this “income” was barely enough to cover either rent or food each month.
Before we left we each opened a British Airways credit card from Chase. After spending just a few thousand dollars over a period of 3 months you get 50,000 bonus miles. For us, this was enough for flights from Milan to Qatar and on to Bali and additionally from Tokyo back home to LAX. Alex had just started a Delta Skymiles account but Michael had one for a couple years and as such had enough miles to get from Bali to Tokyo for our journey home. It was incredibly fortunate, because as one could expect, we were pretty broke on our way home.
If you don’t have an airline miles credit card, open one. However, do some research before. Every card offers different benefits and has different airline taxes.
We’ve also come to a point with Couple’s Coordinates where we are collaborating with brands, hospitality companies, and travel companies which essentially means that we are getting paid (a very small amount) to travel.
· Tripit – To keep your travel details all in one place. This is great because you can link your Gmail account as well as others to have auto import of your new reservations, tickets, etc.
· Skyscanner – Best airfare prices (especially for flights in Europe)
· Interrail – Interrail will suit all of your train needs in Europe
· Airbnb – We really wish Airbnb had a loyalty/miles program because we stayed in Aribnbs for about 90% of our 7 month journey. Dear Airbnb: Please create a miles/points/loyalty program.
· Google translate app – This app is so clutch for quick translation needs
· Forex app – Don’t get screwed by the rate at exchanges or banks you’ll find as you travel. Know the rate. Check the Forex app.
· Hotels.com (Get a free night after you book 10 nights)
· Uber (or grab taxi in Asia)
· Rosetta Stone – If you’re spending any bit of time in a place, learn the language.
· Duolingo – Helpful for learning new phrases in another language
· Delta AMEX – 30k mile signing bonus after initial spending requirement. (Side note: Delta is our preferred airline.)
· Chase sapphire – 40k (Sometimes 50k) miles after initial spending requirement
· BA Visa Signature from Chase – 50k miles after initial spending requirement
We hope that this was helpful and perhaps even a bit inspirational for those of you who have dreams to travel extensively. The last year has been one the best year of our lives. We have built a very solid brand and foundation with Couple’s Coordinates and are eager to continue to build as we plan our trips for 2016. Thanks you all so much for following our journey. We can’t wait to share what we have in store for the future.
We want this to be an open forum and want to answer any question you might have, so feel free to ask us in the comments below. We will be sure to respond. Happy travel planning!
Hey! Just wondering how you guys afforded food, clothes, souvenirs, activities and other things during the first few months of your journey? Also, how did you start to get more income from your blog? Was it the followers or someone promoting you two?
Check out this article we wrote and you’ll get an insight into how we save and plan. https://couplescoordinates.com/uncategorized/cant-afford-travel/
Souveniers are generally a massive waste of time and suitcase space. We will buy some (nice leather bags/wallets/belts/shoes in Florence, jewelry, or a t-shirt here and there, but we avoid knick knacks about 100% of the time.
Blogs make money a number of ways. We partner with a number of companies and receive commission for referred sales (www.corpinfo.com/resources) and we also freelance for a number of travel companies as well. There are other ways, but these are our main 2.
How did you decide what to do and where to go in Bali? I am getting married next year and want to plan our honeymoon there, the all inclusive packages are a bit expensive when I know I could use some of these tools for less money. I also have traveled quite a bit, lived in London for awhile and have been to many different countries, but we know we want to go to Bali for our honeymoon. I have a few specific things I would like to do like visit an elephant sanctuary and going snorkeling, what would you recommend on researching where to go and how to get around?
Hey Rachel! Honestly an all inclusive package in Bali would likely be a waste of money. Both accommodation and food are super cheap there. Imported alcohol can be expensive at bars/clubs, but local beers are very affordable. Our favorite places to stay were the 2 Four Seasons Resorts (Jimbaran and Sayan). If you’re willing to spend a bit to splurge on a couple night we would highly suggest staying 1+ night at each resort.
Snorkeling: Take a boat to the Gili Islands and stay at Seri Resort. You can rent snorkeling gear and snorkel out in front of the hotel. You’re almost guaranteed to see sea turtles.
Elephant sanctuary: No suggestions here, sorry.
Check out a couple blogs we have written that should help out with tips:
Is your income solely based on blogging right now ? Or do you do other online ways to make money? Also I’m trying to start a blog how did you make it? I’ve tried WordPress and blogger but for both of those the blog is connected to the website how do you make a blog like this that is independent?
Hi guys! I am following you on The Blonde Abroad for an year I think and today I found out that you gus have blog together, because I was reading your article about 5 top romantic places in Prague since I am Czech and I live close to Prague. It is always nice to read something nice about your home and I am so glad that you enjoyed your time there. Now I live in Illinois, because I am an exchange student on high school and I have great time over here, although I miss Europe more than anything ever before. I love traveling since I was a kid and I am lucky that my parents could always afford that. Now when I am turning my 18 things are rapidly changing and once I will be back in Europe I have to find a job, finish high school, get in college and all these stereotypes which scares me. I really want to go to college, but in the same time I am afraid that then I will be working and get stuck for 40 years like you said. Nothing scares me more than this. I want to travel since I can walk and here is no bigger passion in my life. Unfortunately I don´t think my parents will be able to give me money for that which means I will get stuck with works for few years. I am desire for any tips what to do, but in the same time I feel like you can´t even have more words than what you´ve already said. Also…I don´t think blogging is about money, but honestly I was always wondering how you actually get the financial support. Are you asking for them or? I am just wondering. Art, writing and international relationships are next thing I am really interested in and it has been always fascinating to watch ppl who actually do that for living.
You guys are my inspiration! Thank you!!! Lots of love and luck from Illinois (Czech republic)
That is so awesome to hear, Eva! The blog is not our sole source of income, so keep that in mind. It has, however, been great in subsidizing our travel costs. Ideally, we will get to a point one day where the blog is a substantial enough income to not only travel, but also pay the bills + invest/save. Until then, we will continue to have jobs on the back end as well.
Have y’all been to Thailand?? Also was couples coordinated something y’all started or are y’all working through another company?
Alex has, but I haven’t.
Couple’s Coordinates is our baby. We launched this blog in 2015. – Michael
Me and my husband are travelling to oz in December for a couple of months to work and travel. We’re hoping to have saved around £10,000 by then. We are working as well, so would this be enough to then travel on for another year? We plan to head to New Zealand and Asia after? Any tips on travel? As in is it best to travel by train or would you recommend flying? How did you guys manage to book accommodation? Did you book it all before? Or weekly?
Hey Nicole! Well, there are WAY too many unknowns to know if that is enough money. I don’t know your spending habits, accommodation preference, diet, whether or not you drink, how many activities you want to do, etc. You really need to sit down and make a budget outlining how much you expect to spend and see if that balances out with how much you plan to make working.
As far as train or plane…might be hard to get to Asia from OZ/NZ on a train 🙂 haha. In Asia, we usually fly and use ferries for islands.
Weekly vs. at once? Well, weekly, you’ll pay more. But all at once and you might change your mind on what you want to do.
You’ll find a balance between planning and spontaneity but definitely focus on a budget. I wouldn’t worry too much…if you run out of money you can always go home. Just make sure you set aside enough for return flights lol.
Great story! My boyfriend and I just quit our jobs and are on the countdown for May 14th when we take our one way ticket to Belize. We will traveling through Central America, South America, SE Asia, and Europe for 15-18 months depending on how long we can stretch out our money. It is amazing what you did with $8,000. It gives me lots of hope that we can make it the full 18 months. Happy Travels-I’ll keep up with you on instagram.
Hey Lindsay! PLEASE don’t assume $8k will last 7 months. It might since you’re going to cheaper destinations, but we also found ways to make money while traveling. Have an amazing time!