Luxury for Less: How I Travelled To 51 Countries in 2 Years Without a Full-Time Job

December 23, 2017

On the Road in Northern Argentina

I left my fancy corporate job in June 2015, because I was bored out of my mind of living the corporate dream and living the life that wasn’t really what my heart desired. After getting my Master’s degree in Oxford, I went to work for one of the most prestigious hedge funds in the City of London, and I was making a six-figure salary. Lots of people envied me for working for the largest, most-prestigious asset manager in the World, but I was not fulfilled, so I left the corporate World behind without any specific plans. luxury for less

Here 100 things every American should know, before visiting Europe for the first time.

At this point, I had no debts, and I had enough savings in the bank to be able to afford the luxury of walking out of a job. I was excited to see all the places on my bucket list with my friends during that Summer. I went to Sicily on a family vacation; then I sailed around the Greek Islands with my friends. My life has taken a very exciting turn, and I have spent the last 2 years traveling non-stop. luxury for less

Where Did I Travel?

I never saved money during my travels, and I never stayed in hostels and Airbnb. I visited many luxury destinations, like St-Tropez, Monaco, Cannes, Venice and San Sebastian during the film festival, went to Japan, to Patagonia in Argentina, which was as expensive as Switzerland. I visited Scandinavia, I spent my whole Winter in Israel, which is as expensive as London. I visited Italy six times and the South of France 5 times during the past two years. I always stayed in decent hotels, and I was surprised after two years, how little money I had spent on traveling. Here are all the travels I have done in the last two years since I left my job: luxury for less

 

In 2015 I traveled to 14 countries:

In 2016 I travelled to 23 countries. It was the craziest year of my life

  • Argentina (Northern Argentina and Iguazu)
  • Brazil
  • Chile (Atacama Desert)
  • France (Cannes Film Festival)
  • Italy (3 times: Sicily for Easter, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast for a wedding)
  • UK (living and traveling around)
  • Hungary (Multiple times to see friends and family)
  • Mexico
  • Cuba
  • Morocco
  • Sri Lanka
  • The Philippines
  • Indonesia
  • Greece
  • Austria
  • Germany for Oktoberfest
  • Liechtenstein
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Estonia
  • Israel

In 2017 I travelled to 14 countries so far

    • Israel
    • Hungary
    • UK
    • Germany (Berlin)
    • Georgia
    • Armenia
    • Azerbaijan
    • China
    • Korea
    • Japan
    • Macedonia
    • Albania
    • Croatia
    • Montenegro

How Could You Afford to Travel So Much?

In the last two years, I was flying somewhere almost every week at least once and often more than once. I receive many emails from readers asking me about how I can afford to travel and how much does it all cost and how they could also travel more. After traveling non-stop for 2 years, I consider myself a travel pro and I know many tips and tricks on how to travel fairly cheaply to many expensive destinations that most people can never even dream about traveling to.

Here are all my travel tips on how I can afford to maintain my lifestyle and travel as much as possible, without breaking the bank. If you want to travel on a budget, these are not the best tips for you, because I don’t count my money, but I spend about £1000 on average a month while traveling. I sleep in proper hotels, eat in restaurants, spend on entertainment in expensive destinations. Here are some of my travel hacks and tips I can advise everyone, who wants to see the World and have enough money to be able to afford to do it properly. luxury for less

Get Rid of Your Debt and Liabilities

Before you leave your job to travel the World, pay off all your student loans, credit card debts and other liabilities. You should only be traveling if you have enough disposable income that you can afford to blow on nice experiences. You won’t be able to enjoy your vacation when you feel guilty for not being able to afford it. So, pay off all your debts or do not take them at all and then go on vacation.luxury for less

I m fortunate enough because I never had any debts. I pay off all my credit card bills right after I receive the bill. I worked my way through college and got scholarships to be able to pay for my first degree in the USA. My Masters in Oxford was significantly more expensive, but by then I had savings and I had some parental support to help me pay for it.

In conclusion, you should be debt free, when you set out to travel. Under no circumstances should you take out a loan to travel the World. Traveling is not a necessity. luxury for less

Make Money in a Strong Currency or Save in a Stronger Currency Than Yours

It is essential that you earn your salary in a currency that is strong and it gives you to strong global purchasing power. Such currencies are USD, EUR, NOK, SEK, CHF, JPY. The GBP was also amongst the strongest currencies, but it has significantly weakened in the last year. If you earn your salary in these currencies, your purchasing power will be strong relative to other currencies and you can pretty much travel anywhere you want. luxury for less

If you are not fortunate enough to be making money in the above-mentioned currencies, open a foreign currency account and convert your savings to one or more of the above currencies to protect you from currency fluctuations of your own currency. I used to keep my money in GBP and it was great for a while, but the GBP has been volatile in the last year, so I diversify my savings between USD, CHF, EUR, and JPY at the moment. luxury for less

I advise you not to keep your money in one currency to avoid losing money because of currency fluctuations. This way, even if one currency drops, you will still be making money on another one in your portfolio. luxury for less

Save Every Month for Travel

Put aside a small proportion of your salary for future vacations every month. Let’s say a $100 a month (which you can easily spend on entertainment and fun in a night in your own city) will result in $1200 savings in a year. This should be enough for at least one beautiful beach vacation a year, but if you know how to travel cost efficiently, you might be able to go on two trips with this money. luxury for less

Make sure you separate the $100 as soon as you receive your pay check and move it to another account so that you won’t have the temptation to spend that money. You can open up a separate savings account, which will be your vacation fund.

Get Rid of Your Fixed Costs

You don’t want to be paying for your flat, while you are on vacation. It is very important that you are not paying rent or mortgage at home and also for a hotel, while you are on vacation. Rent your flat short-term while you are traveling and it will pay your rent and some of your vacation. luxury for less

You can also swap flats with someone, who is traveling to your country if you are willing to travel to his or her country at the same time. This way you can eliminate your cost of accommodation. luxury for less

Some travelers choose to do house-sitting and stay at empty houses of people. You do need references before people allow you to stay in their houses, so it can be challenging to get started. luxury for less

It s important to eliminate as much of your fixed costs as possible before you start traveling so that you don’t run out of resources along the journey. luxury for less

Earn Air Miles

Get one of those credit cards that will earn you air miles with every dollar you spend. I have one with AMEX in the UK The blue card is free and it will earn you a mile for every pound you spend, the black card has a fee, but it will earn you 3 miles for every pound you spend, so it is all worth it. The yearly fee is £199, but it is a good investment. Here is a link to sign up to your free AMEX Card!luxury for less

The only reason, why I have a credit card is to earn miles towards flights. Otherwise, I don’t need one. This credit card earns me a couple of free or discounted tickets every year. Make sure you set up a direct debit every month to pay your bill in full to avoid late fees and interest charges. luxury for less

Get No Fee Banking and Credit Cards

It is important to switch your bank accounts to banks that won’t charge you foreign transaction fees while you are traveling. Foreign transaction fees can add up to hundreds of dollars a month and thousands of dollars a year.

I have a no-fee travel reward credit card with Bank of America in the USA. CapitalOne 360 offers free cash withdrawals all over the World. Banks in the UK are less generous to cut down on their foreign transaction fees. Only Metro Bank offers free cash withdrawal within Europe. luxury for less

How to Fly Cheaply?

There are a few ways to fly cheaply: luxury for less

Book your ticket way ahead of time. The earlier you book, the more likely you will get a good deal. I m not good at this at all, to be honest. Sometimes I book my flight on the same day, so I end up paying up. I usually use Skyscanner to check which airline offers the cheapest tickets and then I go directly to the airline’s website and book my ticket there. I find Skyscanner to be one of the best flight search engines as it searches many airlines at the same time and it gives you the cheapest flights. luxury for less

Fly on Tuesdays or Saturdays as these are the days when the least people fly and flights are cheaper than on any other days. I avoid flying on Sundays or on Fridays because the airports are packed and usually flights are at premium rates. This is when all the amature travellers are flying, who usually travel with their bags full of liquids and hold up the entire security line behind them. luxury for less

Avoid flying on bank holidays and during holidays like Christmas or New Year’s Eve, unless you have a lot of disposable income and you like to go through travel- related chaos and like to deal with packed airports and delayed flights. I have learned my lesson the hard way and I stopped flying when the masses fly. luxury for less

Fly low-cost carriers. Low-cost carriers are great!

Ryanair: I personally love Ryanair and I will fly with them anytime, anywhere. They allow two cabin bags and they are right on time and they fly to every small town in Europe. They are great. True, they don’t serve any food and their seats are not the most comfortable, but for a 2-hour flight, I honestly don’t care about the seat. The planes are clean and it is cheap and it is never late, nor does it have any canceled flights. luxury for less

Wizzair is another European low-cost airline I often fly with. It flies into every town in Eastern-Europe and it is dirt cheap. It is not as punctual as Ryanair, but they have frequent flights to many cities that were unreachable before. I consider them one of the worst airlines in Europe. It is probably the second worst after Vueling. You can read more about why I think they are awful in this article.

EasyJet: I used to fly a lot with EasyJet because they also fly to many places in Europe, but after two canceled flights and many many delayed flights, they are not my preferred option. They are still better than some other airlines like Alitalia, Iberia and WoW Airline.

Wow Airline is a mess. Yes, they are cheap, but who cares if they are cheap when your luggage doesn’t arrive for a week. I am all about saving money on flights, but not to the extent that I have to wait for a week for my luggage to arrive.

Vueling is one of the worst airlines in Europe. It is the only airline I will not fly with no matter how cheap they are.

Air Asia is a great airline. I flew all over Asia with them. They are also dirt cheap. Their services are very basic, but who cares, when they get you to the destination for the price of a restaurant meal.

British Airways: I often fly with them overseas. I don’t remember the time, when their flight departed on time. They are facing all kinds of issues, and they are notoriously late. Not my favourite airline to be honest, but their prices sometimes beat the prices of Ryanair, because there is such a fierce competition in Europe. I often use them for business class travel, but I find other airlines much better for that too. They need to update their seats.

Alitalia, Iberia: These are some of the worst airlines I have ever flown with. Alitalia loses my luggage every time I fly with them. Last time I flew to Brazil with Iberia and there was no entertainment system, so I decided never to fly with them again.

Virgin Atlantic: This is the airline I always fly with, when I travel to the States. They are excellent in every way.

Overall, I mostly fly with Ryanair or EasyJet because these airlines are predictable and they are super cheap to fly around Europe. I fly with British Airways or Virgin Atlantic when I have to fly overseas.

Same Day Hotel Booking

I never stay in hostels or AirBnBs, but I know how to get cheap hotel rooms. I always book hotels on the afternoon of my arrival and I always manage to get really good hotels at heavily discounted rates. I get on my favorite booking site on my phone after I land at an airport, normally after 2 pm and look for last-minute rooms. (I use Booking.com in Europe, Agoda in Asia and Expedia in the US) Hotels get desperate to sell their canceled rooms around 2 pm and they drastically drop their prices.

I have stayed in really reasonably priced hotels in some really expensive cities by using this method. Many people, who travel with me think I m crazy and they insist on booking a hotel room in advance. I don’t blame them. It is not for everyone, but I always found great rooms at good rates with this method, even during really busy periods.

I remember booking a lovely hotel on the main square of Salta in Northern Argentina for $40 at 10 pm during the Dakar Rally. This room would have cost about $100-$150 if, I had booked it a day or two earlier. The city was packed with tourists from all over the World, who arrived to see the rally. Luckily, there are always people who cancel rooms last minute and the hotels will sell these rooms at a discounted rate.

Eating and Drinking Out

I usually eat breakfast at the hotels and later in the afternoon I eat one meal in a restaurant. I never cook, when I am traveling. Nor do I eat street food. I go to a restaurant and I buy one decent meal a day. Two meals a day are more than enough for me to get by. I spend about $10-$20 a day on food. I don’t drink alcohol, nor do I smoke, so this saves me some money as well.

Take Public Transportation

I hate public transportation and I avoid it as much as I can, but since, I stopped working, I started taking it. When I arrive in a new city, instead of jumping into the first taxi, like I used to do, when I was working, I hop on the subway or a bus to get me into the city center. I take buses between cities or a Blah Blah car rather than taking a first-class train or a taxi.

Also, I learned how to save on airport transfers by taking cheaper trains within London instead of paying for the Gatwick Express or the Heathrow Express or the Arlanda Express in Stockholm. Every big city has a fancy train from the airport to the center that will get you there in a short time for a reasonable sum of money and also has a cheaper train that will save you like $10, but it will take you a bit longer. I must have saved thousands of dollars in the last two years by opting for public transportation rather than taking taxis.

Travel Insurance

I used to get a travel insurance and I used to waste hundreds of dollars on insurance every time I went abroad. I have never used my travel insurance. These days, I have an American Express card that gives me travel insurance anywhere in the World. If I have a canceled flight, I book a hotel room with it or I buy a new ticket with it and AMEX will reimburse me for all the expenses.

Also, in case of a delayed flight, they reimburse me for the drinks and for the food I buy at the airport as long as I submit the receipts. I will not rent a car without an AMEX card either because this card gives me insurance on car rentals as well. So, it is essential to have an AMEX card with me, when I travel.

Travel to Cheaper Destinations Than Your Own City

I live in London, which is one of the priciest cities in the World, so it is not difficult to find destinations that are cheaper than London. My living expenses cost more in London than it costs me to stay in a hotel in most parts of the World. If you live in an expensive city, you are better off being on vacation, because you are saving money. The weather is also pretty bad in London, so it also incentiveses me to get out to places, where the weather is sunny, when I don’t have much business to do in the big city.

Find places that are cheaper than your own city and go there on vacation. While you are on vacation, rent out your flat, to make sure someone else is covering your fixed costs and save money while you are traveling. Many Western-Europeans retire in Spain or in the South of France, where their pension affords them a better lifestyle tha it would in England or in Germany and they also enjoy better weather.

Clothes Shopping

I have spent the last two years living out of a carry on and only wore about 5% of all the clothes I had accumulated over the previous years. At this point, I only allow myself to go shopping a few times a year, usually during sales. I try not to accumulate excess stuff in my closet. Also, I try to donate the clothes I don’t wear to ensure they don’t take up too much space.

I believe in collecting experiences over possessions. Having more stuff in my closet will not make me a happier person, but experiencing the World will. Possessions weigh me down and make me tied down to one place. I want to live lightly and not be attached to too many things.

Souvenirs

I travel very lightly, so I don’t buy souvenirs for people unless it is a small scarf or a T-shirt or some sweets. This way I can travel lighter, and also spend less money. When you travel, buy small souvenirs, like keychains, magnets, clothing that are not too pricey and won’t take up too much space in your luggage. It kills the fun when you have to run around with an extra bag of souvenirs that people don’t really need let’s be honest. Travel should be light, easy and uncomplicated.

Be Frugal!

I don’t mean that you should stay in uncomfortable places and eat poor quality food, but don’t waste money on unnecessary things. When I was in graduate school in Oxford, I had to learn to be frugal and spent only on food and necessities. After,I graduated, I started making six figures and I was still living almost the same way as I was, when I was in grad school. Renting a nice flat in Central-London was my biggest expense, but other than that, I wasn’t eating at expensive restaurants like my colleagues did, I was flying with EasyJet and RyanAir, while my colleagues were flying with British Airways. I did not feel the need to pay the premium for unnecessary things.

Once I read a book, The Millionaire Next Door, which was a study on many millionaires and their spending habits in the US. Most of these millionaires lived below their means, never purchased an expensive suit or a watch. They bought used cars and they lived in middle-class neighborhoods even if they could have afforded to live in better places. They made smart investments and they lived a fairly simple life. As a result of this, they had millions in the bank in cash.

It is unnecessary to be spending an an excessive amount of money on things that you don’t need. I have also learned not to be attached to items. This way, I m not only saving money, but I can also easily move around and I can live very lightly.

 

The Most Important Travel Advice

The best and most important travel advice I can give you is not to leave your full-time job. There is nothing greater, than collecting a paycheck, while you are on vacation. Many people cannot handle the uncertainty of coming back from a long holiday and looking for a job. I know it can be frustrating. I have been there done that. If you want to do a long trip, try to take a sabbatical. I know in America employers don’t give you that option, but you can always ask to see what they say. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

You can also take a month or 2 off in-between 2 jobs and travel around the World. Most employers let you take some time off, before you start a new role. The best if you secure your next role before you go away, so that you don’t have to worry about not being paid after you just drained your accounts traveling the World.

Finally….

I have been on the road for the last two years and during this time, I have seen more of the World, than most people see in their entire lives. I have had some fascinating experiences that I had never even dreamed about. I spent about £10,000 a year on average and I have enough money in the bank to continue this lifestyle for a while, but at the same time, I have learned to value stability.

I am planning to go back to a normal life to build my life to achieve bigger, better things than to just live out of a suitcase and fulfill my selfish desire to see the World. I still have big travel plans and I will continue to visit places around the World. I m keen on visiting all the European countries in the next year or two.

At the same time, I hope all of you, who are reading this article, will have the opportunity to take some time off from work to fulfill your desire to see the World, which is the most enriching experience anyone can wish for.

 

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Luxury for Less - How I Traveled to 51 Countries in 2 Years

About Barbara

Barbara is a London based luxury travel and lifestyle blogger. She started traveling through Paris, London, New York, Milan, Tokyo at the age of 17 to conquer the World as a model. Ever since, she has visited 67 countries. She writes about the most exclusive jet-set destinations such as Cannes, Venice Film Festivals, Monaco Grand Prix, Oscar Parties in LA, Fashion Weeks in Milan or Paris as well as yacht parties in St-Tropez, Miami Art Basel, Biennale in Venice, Frieze in London or the Royal Wedding in Monaco.

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