Travel the world on a budget

This blog is meant for those of you who are curious about traveling and, especially, working while traveling. After traveling since 2018 the most frequently asked question I get is “How do you get the money for it?”. I understand the interest in this question and honestly, sometimes I ask myself the same. I’ve tried setting budgets and watching my spendings, but to be honest, when I do I somehow always end up spending way more money than I had budgeted for. When I don’t set a financial budget for myself, I use less money than anticipated. Whilst traveling you never know what tomorrow might bring. Either you’ll be at the hostel all day just chilling and not spending any money because a nice Chilean woman is offering to make lunch and dinner for you, simply because she loves cooking, or you decide to go on a 3-day boat trip on the spur of the moment and spend money you didn’t expect to use. But let me tell you, the experiences were worth every penny! 

This blog is written by Stine Andersen. Stine has traveled in South America for years, and is hosting our equestrian meet-ups in Argentina in March 2024.

Without a doubt, there are so many different ways to travel and, in this post, I will share how I have been traveling for 5 years now while still having money in my bank account. Not a lot, but it’s not completely empty.
Free horse riding holiday in Chile by volunteering
Taking in the view of the Andes while volunteering as a horseback guide in Chile. (2018)

The start of traveling the world for cheap!

I started traveling in 2018, almost a year after graduating high school.

Saving up before traveling

In the 10 months between graduating and traveling, I worked at a supermarket and at a horse riding school. Those 10 months that I worked and lived at home allowed me to save up enough money to travel to Chile for a year. I mostly spent my year in Chile volunteering on a ranch that offered horseback rides.

Car camping

Before I left for Chile, I didn’t expect to travel around much, but once in Chile, I met my forever travel companion. We rented a car and drove from Santiago, Chile to Tierra del Fuego in Argentina which is the most southern point of South America. (Pro tip: if you go to Ushuaia, you can visit the tourist office at the seafront and get a stamp in your passport saying you went to the end of the world). Although we had bought a tent, we slept in our car, because Patagonia can be very cold in April… This way, we were also able to save a fair amount of money, because we didn’t have to pay for a hostel bed every night.

Studying or traveling

After my year in Chile, I traveled back home and stayed there for about 8 months. In those 8 months, I worked and had many thoughts about whether I would start studying or keep traveling. You can obviously guess which path I chose. In January 2020, I traveled to South Africa. First, I volunteered at Khotso (where we start our Lesotho trips!), which is where I also met Sanne. If you’ve read her book, you know the story of how we met. If not, let’s just say we were not best friends the first few days (or even weeks for that matter). It took me being rushed to hospital and having emergency surgery before we started bonding. It’s a great story now! And we obviously became good friends and now co-workers.

Traveling South Africa for cheap
Sanne and I in Cape Town, South Africa (2020)

Choice: Traveling! After saving up again.

Covid hit 3 months later and I had to return home. During Covid, I started working again. The circle repeated itself. Was I going to study or continue traveling? As the second wave of Covid eased, my friend and I went to Ecuador. Here we were volunteering on a horse ranch. After 4 months of volunteering and not spending much money, we began traveling around South America again. After 3 months of backpacking, we settled down for 3 months on a ranch in Uruguay. As winter was coming around the corner, we were looking for a change of season and scenery. We ended up with two possible scenarios. Either keep traveling in South America or to fly to the other end of the world.

Volunteering with horses in Ecuador
Volunteering in Cotopaxi national park, Ecuador (2021)

Travel from South America to Asia

So, we ended up booking flights to Indonesia. Neither of us had ever been to Asia and soon it became very clear that we had not put much thought into our arrival date. Turns out we got there just as Ramadan ended – the biggest holiday of the year – which resulted in us being stuck in the capital for over a week. It was the first time since Covid that people were allowed to travel again in the country, so everybody left the big city to spend time with their families in the villages, hence why literally ALL means of transportation were sold out. Terribly jet-lagged and just having spent money on a plane ticket that we didn’t plan on spending, we both signed up on a platform for freelancers. And that was the start of about 2 months of low-paid jobs. After 2 months I landed a really good job. This job lasted for about 3 months, but I was able to make enough to buy insurance for another year, a plane ticket, and save some pocket money for the next trip. When I lost my job to the inflation issues in Europe, I thought I was screwed. I couldn’t find any new jobs, as all the jobs were one-time projects and paid about 10 USD for 2 hours of work. A couple of months into the freelancing business, my friend got a job that luckily lasted for 6 months, and a month after she took on her project, I was fortunate to find a really good translation job as well. 

Traveling Indonesia on a budget
Indonesia (2022)

Fitting in work hours while traveling

It is a lot easier to travel together when you are both working the same number of hours and days. So far, we have been super lucky in that we found projects that allowed us to create our own work schedule and that we don’t need to be online at a certain time during the day. Some freelancing jobs give specific hours in the day, while others simply specify the number of hours that must be worked per day, for instance, 2 hours a day, 5 days a week. 

Working remotely 

When traveling and working remotely I appreciate the freedom to work at the time of the day depending on how my day looks. I can choose to go out and explore in the morning and work in the evening or the other way around. I have met other travellers who were required to work at certain hours during the day. For instance, from 2 pm – 9 pm every weekday. They had to be “in the office” during those hours, as they had to answer calls and talk to clients. Personally, I find that having set work hours limits you a lot as a traveler and it’s important to keep this in mind when choosing your job or combining working remotely with traveling. For some people working from 2 pm – 9 pm every day of the week works out well for them because they enjoy having a routine. For people like myself, I prefer having the freedom to schedule the hours of the day myself.  

Another thing you need to take into account when combining traveling and working is that you allow for more time in each location. You now might not be able to only spend 2 days per location, as you are limited in your time to explore - unless you’re not much of an explorer and just want to try working from different locations around the world this is okay. 

Backpacking in Argentina
Ushuaia (2019)

Finding a base and practice "slow travel" 

I love ‘settling down’ during my travels. Preferably somewhere in the countryside. With the jobs that I have been fortunate enough to find, I was able to make a little money on the side. While volunteering at the same time allowed me to save money on the costs of living. In doing so, I have enough money to ‘survive’ each month plus travel around if I want to. Volunteering in general is a great way to save money while traveling and I certainly enjoy checking my bank account a lot more!
Working only part-time online is a lot easier when finding places to volunteer than working full-time. Some places don’t accept volunteers who work online, as they won’t be available to them 24 hours a day to help out. Other places don’t care at all. This very much depends on the place. 

Backpackers lodge in the mountains of Lesotho
Volunteering in Lesotho (2020)

Pros and cons to long-term travel in your twenties

Financially speaking, 5 years on the road has its downsides. I won’t be able to afford to buy a house when I’m 30 or have kids when I’m 28, which is never something I desired or worked towards anyway. When I go home, I live on my family’s farm, but after not seeing them for a year it is a good way to spend lots of time together. So maybe, the ‘disadvantages’ are not at all that bad. It is hard not to compare yourself to the friends you grew up with. They are either working or have a master's degree by now and I will admit that the second year I chose to travel rather than study not everyone was supportive. At the same time, I have friends who have studied the years while I traveled, spent too much money on living and material things, and now found out this is not what they wanted to study. So, they need to start again at square one, with the same amount of money in their pocket.

It is a very personal decision how you want to spend your money (and time), and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Because I started traveling quite young, I personally don’t have any financial responsibilities at home once I leave my country, no apartment, no mortgage, etc., which gives me a lot of freedom. My advice is to be thoughtful with your money while traveling and not to live the ‘crazy life’ every day and you will do just fine. The more you worry about it, the less you will enjoy your travels. And when you are sitting on the top of a hill in Colombia, watching the sun set over the Atlantic, while having beers with your best friend and some Dutch guy that you just met, I bet you, you’re not regretting your financial choices. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Surround yourself with people with the same mindset as you. They just might not be in your high school class and you will have to travel across the world until you find them.

So far, this way of working and traveling has been going pretty smoothly for me, so why return home when it works out just fine? But this is a question for another time. For now, I, or any other person in their 20’s for that matter, shouldn’t have to worry more than we already do. I’m enjoying my life whilst making incredible experiences all over the world. Both on horseback and as a backpacker! I hope this can help you with your second thoughts about that big trip you're possibly planning.

If you have any questions or want to know more about my experiences, feel free to check out my Instagram @stineandersen98.

Volunteering with horses in Africa
Volunteering in South Africa (2020)
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