Aside from bikes, bike mods, and luggage set-ups, the travel budget is one of the hottest ADV topics out there. Just like with said bikes or packing theories, travel budgets can vary a lot depending on where you’re going and how you’re going about it; still, there are some rough guidelines of how much you’re looking to spend while on the road. So without much further ado, I figured I’d do a detailed travel budget breakdown based on my last year on the road.
In total, I spent just a little over $22,000 in 2019. This included riding Peru and Chile, chasing Rally Dakar, shipping my bike from Chile to Poland, riding from Poland to Greece, racing the Hellas Rally Raid, riding across the Balkans and taking part in the Bosnia Rally training event, riding to Romania and doing some hard enduro training there, and finally, riding back to Poland, leaving the bike there and flying to travel, ride, and lead motorcycle tours in Ecuador, Cuba, and Colombia. This amount would have been less if I didn’t race, but more if I’d shipped the bike again; so let’s take a look at it in more detail. Here’s where most of the expenses were:
Here’s a confession: I don’t camp anymore. I could, and sometimes, I’d love to, but the way I fund my travels is by working on the road, and to do that, I need a little comfort and a steady internet connection plus, always, secure bike parking. Most of the time, I stay in AirBnB’s because it comes out cheaper than hotels as I tend to stay in one place for longer, usually a couple of weeks or more. On average, the cost – anywhere from Colombia to Chile and from Germany to Greece – balances out to around $20 a night (sometimes it’s $30, sometimes it’s $12, so I’m just looking at averages here). Could you do it cheaper? Sure, if you camped, stayed in hostels, or stayed with friends/other travelers along the way, you could easily slash this number in half. Could you spend more? Well, there’s really no limit to how much you can spend on hotels and apartments or houses if you need a lot of comfort along the way.
Ever since going vegan on the road, I’m spending $10/day on food on average. Veggies don’t cost much, and although I would sometimes splurge on an almond milk latte or a fancy vegan burger, it’s pretty rare, so my food budget remains fairly reasonable. If you’re looking to save money on food while you’re traveling, Paolo has an excellent post on the topic.
Another confession: I hate long daily distances, and for me, anything over 250km a day is a long distance, especially off-road. On average, my fuel expenses come out to about $12 a day; again, this is not an exact daily expenditure but an average because I would do 600km/day when I was chasing the Dakar, and 0km/day when I’d stop somewhere to get some work done.
This is more or less what I spent on: bike shipping (Valparaiso, Chile to Warsaw, Poland: 900 eur); bike insurance, maintenance, parts, and tires; my own medical/travel insurance; racing insurance and other rally fees; flights (average flight from Europe to South America is about $350), and Cuba Libres.
So this is a travel budget breakdown that works for me. Granted, you can spend less, and you can definitely spend a lot more if you choose to; however, the $22,000/year seems to be pretty common among other travelers, too. This Saturday, I’m doing a live YouTube chat with Nora from Adventurism Life, Kinga “On Her Bike” Tanajewska, and Lea Rieck where we’ll talk about travel budgets, money, funding your travels, and getting sponsors in more detail.
Of course, there’s always the “what if” factor: what if you get seriously injured or the bike is totaled, what if you get stuck somewhere longer than you could afford to due to, say, COVID-19, what if… As someone with a medical condition requiring expensive surgeries every 2-3 years (not covered by insurance because of two magic little words, “pre-existing”), which sometimes cost more than half of my entire annual budget, all I can say is this: when there’s a will, there’s a way, and humans are wonderfully adaptable species capable of figuring all sorts of things out when they want it bad enough or are pushed far enough. So, yes, unexpected things will happen, but we’re perfectly capable of dealing with them along the way.
Whether the $22,000 a year is a lot or not by Western standards, I’m not sure; but it isn’t hundreds of thousands, as so many people seem to imagine, and it is certainly doable, especially if you don’t require luxury, stick to cheaper continents and countries, and aren’t doing crazy miles each day. A simple way of looking at it is this: the slower you travel, the more time you have, and the less comfort you require, the less you’ll spend.
Is this a lot or not, and would spend less or more? Let me know in the comments below.