And now, it’s time for that end of trip post about the budget. I hope that writing about how much it costs to live our life of moderate luxury and high adventure inspires someone to get out and travel or helps them plan their next trip. I’ve said it before, but writing about budgets always reminds me that Adam and I are incredibly lucky to be able to wander the world and I’m thankful for that every day.
So anyway, here’s what we spent in total during 81 days in SE Asia:
Our total expense were of $152 per day. Surprisingly, this was in line with our daily spending on our US Road Trip, which was $145. Like the US trip, there were a lot of times where we spent more than was absolutely necessary. However, SE Asia was much more luxurious since we slept in hotels and ate out nearly every meal, excepting the meditation retreat.
After nine months of traveling, I realize that I always want to pack more than I need. I get hung up on “just in case”. I’m sure my bag will always be bigger than Adam’s and this trip was no exception. I did pack light, when Adam and I left on our four month backpacking adventure, his bag was half the size and weight of mine. (Adam’s bag was 15L and 7 pounds, while mine was 33L and closer to 20 pounds.) Surprisingly, even with such a small and carefully curated bag, I had clear must-haves and also quite a few leave-at-homes.
I was originally skeptical that I’d be able to live happily with only a small backpack. I was worried I would be cold, wet, dirty, underdressed or over-exposed for our various adventures. I knew I could purchase more clothes or get a bigger bag, but the process was still stressful. Fortunately, as you’ve probably picked up, packing light worked out perfectly. You can see exactly what’s in my bag and Adam’s bag in these previous posts.
While we’re wandering the world without employment, we try to spend money thoughtfully. We also like to eat healthy, though that’s always supplemented by a large dose of local specialties. (Iced coffee in Vietnam with more sugar than I usually eat in a week? Yes, please, I’ll have that every day!) In most of SE Asia, the food was pretty good, health-wise, but the protein was usually limited and sometimes the small meals left us a little hungry. Without a kitchen, our snacks were limited to salty fried carbohydrates or roasted nuts. Continue reading Our Favorite Eating Hack
When we started out on our Southeast Asia adventure, I didn’t have a lot of specific must dos, but I hoped we’d find a spot somewhere to learn to surf. Fortunately, we made it to Bali, and stumbled across Kuta Beach, a fantastic spot to learn.
I was originally nervous that surfing would be too expensive for our high-value taste. Google surf lessons Bali and you’ll see that many options are $40+ a day for rentals and lessons. Worse, check surf camps in Bali, which is exactly what it sounds like, and you’ll pay hundreds of dollars a day for an all-inclusive experience. I am sure there would be times this expense would be worth it, but we couldn’t do it, especially when we were only paying $25 a night to sleep and $10 for a meal for us both. Continue reading Surf’s Up! Beginner Lessons in Bali
Minimalism sometimes seems like it’s about living or traveling without things, but I prefer to think of it as finding those few items that are absolutely amazing. Here’s four I won’t leave home without. They weren’t necessarily the items I expected, and they all fit easily in a minimalist backpack, so maybe pick one up before your next trip!
My Schwab Debit Card
Schwab wins the gold star for being my favorite travel accessory. What? Did you think this post was going to be about fashion? On our US road trip, I loved that I could use any ATM and get any fees refunded, even though we didn’t use that much cash. What I learned on our SE Asia trip is that Schwab also refunds ATM fees for cash drawn outside the US. Even better, there’s no additional fees on their end and I get an intraday exchange rate on local currency. This is much better than the sketchy guys with a shack in the market or even the official stands at the airport. The fee refund alone saved me $50-80 a month over the 3 months of our trip. The exchange rates also saved us a few hundred dollars since we paid for everything in cash. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that US dollars are also at recent highs compared with almost every other currency, making it a great time to spend them. Continue reading My Favorite Travel Things
Embarrassingly, we’ve been on the road for two and a half months and I still haven’t written about one of the most amazing things about our trip: Adam’s impossibly tiny backpack. It’s only 15L, and weighs about 7.5lbs (3.4kg) depending on what he’s wearing at the time. This is smaller and lighter than the bag I used to carry back and forth to work every day.
Adam chose the small backpack size because, of course, that was what he already had available. What can I say, he’s a stoic minimalist who loves a challenge.
There are lots of benefits of having such a small bag. Aside from being a fantastic conversation starter with the locals, it’s convenient and safe to have a bag that never has to be out of your sight. Of course, figuring out the right set of things to bring took a big upfront time commitment, both in internet research and actual shopping at REI, Sierra Trading Company, and ExOfficio, but that’s paid for itself many times over with time and money we didn’t spend waiting for luggage and on checked bag fees. All the clothes have held up remarkably well over the past three months, too.
After over a month of traveling in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia, here are some of the most notable surprises and un-surprises:
Happily, and not really surprisingly, all the hotels we’ve stayed at have been beyond acceptable in terms of cleanliness and service. We’ve co-habitated with lizards and occasionally small ants, but we all maintained appropriate personal space.
There’s no standard hotel toiletry kit or bathroom setup. Some hotels have nice little soaps, others have crappy ones. Some have small toothbrushes and combs, and only some have shampoo. Shower curtains are rare, so I am now used to getting everything in the bathroom wet. Pro tip: be careful where you leave the toilet paper.
The idea of a “weekly rate” or extended stay discount seems foreign here. We’ve occasionally found it is less expensive to book on Expedia or Booking.com than to walk up with cash and ask for the best price. It makes me wonder if those companies send “best rate” spies or something.
Longtime readers of the blog will recall that back in June, Adam and I rode AmTrak almost all the way across the US. It was an exciting and enlightening experience and I still encourage anyone with time and money to waste to give it a shot. This month, I am thrilled to write about overnight trains again because Adam and I experienced the joy of sleeping across Vietnam and Thailand. With two sleeper-car nights in each of these three countries, I think it’s time we started keeping score. Continue reading Overnight Trains Around the World
After a long summer road-tripping, Adam and I are officially off on our wildest adventure yet. Southeast Asia, here we come. We started in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on September 15th, and we’re hoping to visit a few other countries over the next four months before returning to the USA. I wanted to start with this packing post so it’s clear why we’re wearing the same three outfits in every future picture of our trip. It’s also an excuse to put a hot celebrity on the blog. Continue reading Packing for Southeast Asia – Minimalist Style
On the road, we get a lot of questions that are some combination of, “How long are you going to do this?”, also disguised as, “So, when are you coming back to reality and getting a job?”, or “How can you afford this?”. I haven’t exactly figured out any of those answers yet, but I have taken a long hard look at the last four months to figure out just how much our trip cost. And, of course, I’ve translated my sweet spreadsheet into even more exciting graphs. (Which doesn’t mean I’m quite ready to go back to work yet, people!) Continue reading Budgeting for a 4-Month National Park Roadtrip