The number one question I’m asked when somebody meets me for the first time and hears what I’m doing is: “How can you afford to travel around the world for so long? Did you win the lottery?”
My answer sounds rhetorical to me now. But to tell you the truth, I asked myself the same exact question before I started doing this. How can a person afford to travel for so long, while the average Joe spends like a thousand dollars a week to go for a little trip just down the road?
First of all, you need to understand a basic principle: it is one thing to go on “holiday on a motorcycle” and another to “travel on a motorcycle.”
The first option is usually a time we want to enjoy off work, probably during our annual leave, so we tend to indulge a bit whether inadvertently or deliberately: we go to nice hotels, we treat ourselves to decent meals cooked by someone else and we probably buy souvenirs to take home. We usually ride all day and we want to rest well at night. We have little time so we spend as much as necessary to make our journey the most comfortable. We have a limited time and a reasonably unlimited budget.
The mechanism that gets triggered instead, when your life becomes a motorcycle adventure, is exactly the opposite of the one I just mentioned before: we have plenty of time but a limited budget. In this case, luxury is not a gourmet meal or a fancy hotel at night, but the opportunity to travel one more day, one more month, one more year.
To cope with this, I worked out a couple of “tricks” that allowed me to extend my time on the road, using the same fixed budget.
When I started travelling, I wasn’t really accustomed to camping, or eating scraps to survive on the road; I didn’t quite have an idea of what travelling meant, in reality.
Somehow, If I kept my city boy habits, I wouldn’t have lasted much on the road, and eventually I would have had to go back to work in less than few months.
What I realized, few months in my adventure, is that there were certain “needs” that I had that were completely arbitrary. Other instead couldn’t be changed, because embedded in the trip itself.
I simply modified two of the most expensive things I had in my daily life: food and accommodation.
I know, right?! Rocket science!
I started to rethink about my food intake, related to my energy requirements, and my sleeping needs, compared to what I was used to have.
I used to have 2 meals a day (at least) plus a light breakfast and a snack in the afternoon.
I also used to need my 8 hours sleep, in my comfy bed and a nice shower beforehand.
Well, life on the road really changed that for me.
I don’t have a 9-5 daily routine anymore. Travelling made my life completely flexible and different every day, so why should I keep the same routine (at a significant cost)?
Eating a nutritious enough breakfast (porridge/cereals/fruit) and a substantial meal around 4-5pm will suffice for anyone who sits on a motorcycle for most of the day. Having a snack (like a fruit or a nut bar) and a coffee in the middle of the day, will also cut your hunger for a few hours.
There are also days when you eat way more that the necessary anyway, so you’ll compensate the “light days”.
This new food system eliminates one meal per day which, over the course of a couple of months, will automatically supply you with another month of food!
The other trick is sleeping in a tent in rest areas or in free camp sites. Whether sleeping outdoors is not possible, Couch Surfing is also a valuable option (free as well).
Hostels or other friendly “overlanders” usually offer an alternative, if you want (the travellers community is usually very helpful in this sense). Last but not least, in case of emergency, you can always ask the local firemen station for a free night camping in their facility.
Another trick, to remind yourself “how much” a certain amount of money could be, is to quantify your unit of measure with a full tank of fuel. One full tank of gasoline will usually provide me with a 450km range at a cost of roughly US$25. Every $25 I don’t spend on something else will take me 450km further.
So whenever I spend $10-$15, which don’t seem so much at the time, I always translate it to “hey, that’s a half tank of fuel”, so I put myself in front of evaluating the purchase I am about to make.
Most of the time, this trick saves me from spending money on unnecessary things…and in the long run, it keeps me on the road for more days or even months.
I know it seems odd to most of us, to think about changing our culinary habits, our sleeping habits, etc, but to me it is the very essence of travelling.
Isn’t travelling meant to take you outside of your comfort zone?
Otherwise, you are just really going on vacation.