How I Left Home with $2,500 and Traveled the World for 6 Years

Last month marked six years since Luke and I set off to see the world.

I was 22. I’d just graduated from college and been in a long distance relationship for almost two years. We were tired of spending all of our money on flights and all our time on Skype. We decided to buy one more ticket.

I’d worked all summer to be able to afford my flight to New Zealand. While my friends were preparing for their new corporate gigs, I was working retail, hustling for commissions and checking my bank balance every two weeks.

By the end of the summer I’d purchased a $900 flight to Auckland and had $2,500 left in my account to get me through the first few weeks (I thought months, ha!).

Anyone who’s read my About Page knows that the plan was never to make this my life. It was only supposed to be a year of travel. A few months earning in New Zealand until we had enough to travel Australia and South East Asia.

The thing was, I really liked New Zealand. I loved it actually. I loved the mindset I was in when I was there.

Something about being somewhere completely new sparked a desire to get up and go every weekend, to be a “traveler” even though I was living and working there.

We decided to spend a whole year just enjoying New Zealand.

In that year we made sure we saw as much of the country as we could.

Every weekend we were off somewhere different, every holiday and vacation time was spent driving along the coast, hiking the mountain trails, boating through the fjords and supping wine from every region we could find.

In that year of travel and living abroad, I managed to save almost $10,000 NZD (that’s about $7,000 USD as of today, five years ago the exchange rate was slightly better).

living abroad
This is Luke and me looking like absolute CHILDREN at the ripe old age of 22. We had only been in New Zealand for a week at this point.

I only worked for 8 months and didn’t earn much over minimum wage.

Sure I was conscious of the fact that I wanted to save, but I wasn’t militant about it. We still ate out, still enjoyed drinks with friends, and spent plenty of money on travel, but we weren’t extravagant.

We didn’t buy many new clothes, didn’t join gyms or have fancy phone plans. We even sold our car for $100 more than what we bought it for.

If you want to read more about exactly how I budget and save for travel read these posts:

How I Afford to Live on the Road

How I Save At Least $10,000 Every Year to Travel

3 day angkor wat pass

I spent two years after that living, working and traveling around Australia. Just like in New Zealand, we had this zest, this desire to explore as much as we could.

Luke and I spent a lot of our free time traveling around Melbourne, then Sydney, then everywhere else we could get to by bus, car and budget airline.

We spent a few weeks in Bali in there somewhere, too.

the people we meet when we travel

We saved enough, about $15,000 between us, so that we didn’t work for seven months. We traveled around the US and the UK before eventually moving to Korea.

We lived a lavish life as teachers in our small town. We didn’t have to pay rent and received the equivalent of $2,000 a month each.

We struggled to spend even one of our paychecks a month with the cost of living. We ate out four or five times a week. We enjoyed drinks with friends every weekend.

Whenever we had more than a weekend off we were traveling around Korea, eating our weight in kimchi and pork belly.

Read: How to Teach English in Korea (& If It’s The Right Job For You) **This post has a code for 35% off your TEFL course, too!**

When we left Korea a year later we’d saved more than we ever had before. Over $30,000 between the two of us in fact. (seriously, get your TEFL and get to Korea now)

cambodian people and their hospitality

After saving that $30k, we traveled to Asia for five months: in awe of Japan, eating everything in Taiwan, learning to dive in the Philippines, bussing our way through Vietnam, falling head over heels for Cambodia, diving and eating and shopping in Thailand, and wondering if it was even possible to be anywhere as beautiful as Laos.

See complete breakdowns of how much we spent in those countries here.

See all my posts from that Round the World Trip here.

how to fund a life of travel

It was the most amazing, inspiring, eye-opening and life-changing five months of my life.

I did a lot of thinking and talking and learning and I got back to the US with a completely different idea of what I wanted my life to look like.

So here I am, six years later and I’m typing this from my apartment in Mexico City.

The sun is shining. It’s about 75 degrees out even though it’s mid-October.

I’ll probably go for a walk through my neighborhood later, say hello to the woman who runs the fruit and veg shop. She picks out the best papayas.

chichen itza tour
Life in Mexico is pretty spectacular

Luke is working a job that he loves. I’m making a living off this very blog.

I have more than $2,500 in my bank account.

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so balanced, so happy. I can’t believe this is my life.

I get to see the world. All because I bought that ticket and took a chance.

72 thoughts on “How I Left Home with $2,500 and Traveled the World for 6 Years”

  1. This reminds me a lot of my own story. I took a chance, booked the ticket and before I realised, I’ve been living overseas for 4 years now! I can totally relate to when you worked in New Zealand. I worked in Ireland and ended up saving a nice chunk of money πŸ™‚

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  2. Wow! Honestly, I hadn’t visited your blog until now and it is really, really good! I mean, most blogs seem to be a more or less articulated collection of stories and pics that hardly relate to each other, but yours is different… It is like having a beer or a coffee with an old friend! No one of the commercial aspects gives the impression that you and your stories are not 100% genuine… Thanks for sharing it and best of luck!

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  3. Belize. Great blog. Enjoyed your comments on working abroad. My plan is to retire to Belize and live there in the least expensive way possible. Have you been and lived there? What are your thoughts about the country? People? culture?

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  4. Wow I don’t know how this is my first time coming across your blog, where have you been all my life?! Lol I love the cost/savings honesty it can be hard to find that with bloggers! This whole post is EXACTLY my dream right now I just don’t know where to start.. But you have certainly gave me more hope and inspiration than ever before thank you!!

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  5. I just wanted to say how inspired I was by this article! I hope that one day I might live the life you talk about in this post πŸ™‚ Thanks for motivating me!

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  6. Do you have any job suggestions for an older. Perßo
    I am 64 and a new widow, I would love to travel but have limited funds, very curious how you find cheap housing?

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  7. Oh my, what a story! Wow! Amazing! Part of me wishes I had the guts (and my husband would be willing to go with me) for something like this, but another part of me knows I would be missing home just too much. Ahhh, this wanderlusting heart..

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  8. Hi! Thank you so much for the amazing insight. I’m 20 and seriously debating taking the chance and just going! What moment made you pull the trigger? Any advice on getting started? My email is brittanyturnbull@yahoo.com I can’t wait to hear from you!

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    • That’s great Carlee! I’m so glad you found some inspiration in this post. Enjoy your time studying abroad – it was definitely one of the best experiences of my life when I went. France is such an awesome place!

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    • Hi Ximena! Thanks for your comment. I worked legally in all of the countries that I lived. If you’re American (which it seems like you are from your blog?) you can get a working holiday visa in New Zealand and Australia for up to a year where you can work legally. For Korea I got a job first and they sorted out the work visa for me before I arrived. Hope that’s helpful! If you have questions about moving to specific countries as a US citizen, feel free to send me an email!

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  9. Amazing story – thanks for sharing! So cool that you’ve been travelling now for six years!! We have been on the road for nearly a year now and hope to continue! It’s great to hear from other couples on how you managed to save to extend your trip! Interesting reading about Korea – how did you find the teaching there? We have a TEFL but do you think this was enough to prepare you to teach full time?

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    • Thanks Charlotte and Josh! I’m so glad you enjoyed my story! It’s definitely been an adventure and so cool that you guys are on one yourselves! TEFL is a great start and will no doubt help you get a job, but that being said, nothing will prepare you to teach full time except teaching full time. Kids are amazing and absurd, hilarious and infuriating. The culture of the country you decide to teach in will play a huge role in what it’s like to teach there, the type of school you teach at will make a huge difference. It’s a great experience and a wonderful way to save money to travel more- but it’s not easy! Feel free to email me if you have more specific questions, I’d love to help!

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  10. This is really inspiring!! I also would love to travel all the time. I’m learning to how save, but at times it seems impossible?. One big barrier I constantly struggle with is paying back my dreadful student loans. I won’t give up though and I will follow up on your articles!

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    • Thanks Denise! I have so many friends that work abroad and are paying off their student loans WAY faster than they would if they were working in the US. One of my best friends has been paying off her loan while working in Australia and then New Zealand. It is possible to do both!

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  11. You touched my soul. This is all my thoughts. I’m 23 years old now. I bought a ticket to Dubai. I have not much more money but I have hope. I planned this for a month. I will have new experiences about life. This is my dream and giving me more motivation. Thank you and happy for you.
    Burcu.

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  12. I would love to something similar to this with my significant other after we graduate college, and I am wondering what you did for work while you were traveling and how you balanced it with any trips you took. I would love to get some more information or details on how you accomplished this! It has always been a dream to travel the world. You are an inspiration.

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  13. I think it was a little foolish to start travelling with such a small amount of money. Then again, if you dont do something foolish when you are young when will you do it? Good for you

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  14. Hi! Loved your article! Is it true, as one reader said, that you have to be under 30 years old to get a work visa? I dream of travelling almost every day. Blessings to you and your husband!

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  15. What kind of jobs did you do while traveling? I’m planning on trying this later this year and would appreciate ideas, and how to find them. Open to anything.

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    • Hi Shayna! Thanks for your question πŸ™‚ When I worked in Australia and NZ, I applied for jobs in Marketing and worked for various companies doing that. I then taught English in Korea and did some freelance writing and copywriting while I was traveling to make sure I didn’t eat into my savings too much. Now I’m full-time blogging! Feel free to email me if you have any questions about getting jobs abroad!

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  16. Hey great post. I’m sort of doing this backwards…had kids at 26, stuck out the city working life for another 26 years…and now at 52 I am just about to start a 3 month NZ and Aus tour staying in peoples spare bedrooms through Airbnb… Only 2 weeks until we leave the cold dark UK!!

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  17. wow what a story! So inspiring!

    Last year my boyfriend and I started traveling together and now we are so addicted haha. Next year we hope to start up a business together so we can work as a graphic designer and web developer along the way. So excited for that!

    Because of this article I’m so motivated, Thank you!

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  18. loved the post. I have a question, what did you do if you don’t speek the language and how do you legally get a job in a country if you only plan on being there for a few months ?

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    • In Korea and Mexico I learned. Korean was a really fun language to learn and helped me be a better teacher to my students and helped me get to know the Korean culture so much better! Here in Mexico I’m studying Spanish – it just makes living in the country so much easier! As for your question about legally working – if you want to work somewhere, you need to apply for a work visa. If you only plan to stay for a few months, well, I’d just save money and enjoy your travels. If you can make some income online then you don’t need a work visa (in most places anyway). Feel free to email me if you have more questions!

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  19. Life has its moments ,glad Laura has a beautiful experience. That break from job was necessary and new Zealand truly is beautiful country. Hope that everyone gets their lessons. Thanks Laura for sharing an experience.

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  20. This is, quite literally, most everyone’s dream. It’s amazing to live a life you truly love but when you get to travel all over the world to do it, that’s even better.

    (FWIW, I live in Melbourne now after marrying an Aussie and I used to live in Seoul. SE Asia and AU are definitely my favourite places in the world because of the attitude, culture & just sheer happiness in places like this.)

    Great blog name, too, btw. I’ll be back!

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  21. wow that was fantastic idea. You give inspiration to travel around world and i like the idea working while travel. i hope i can go travel one day..

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  22. This is so inspiring! I’m in college currently and once I graduate, I want to live this kind of life. I just want to save up some money and go everywhere. It’s a little scary of a thought, but seeing people like you actually get out there and do it really gives me the courage to follow my dream. Amazing post!

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    • The amounts of money you can safe is very royal. I have welfare money and am lucky to safe just around 75 euro a month. Don’t know my skills are good enough and what to do to make money abroad. If I have extra expenses it takes a part of the savings again…
      Still I keep dreaming of freedom lifestyle and hopefully be happy someday

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  23. This post is so well written! Truth be told, I rarely read every word of a blog post, but you captivated me! What a wonderful life you have set up for yourself! Now, excuse me while I go figure out how to pull the trigger on full time travel. Cheers! πŸ™‚

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  24. A very inspiring post! I love the idea of working around the world etc. I was sad that I was unable to do this as I was too old for the working holiday visa and have been sad that they cut off the age to 30. However, looking for other ways is also fun πŸ™‚ I love that you save up enough and headed to Bali! So want to go there!

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  25. I often wondered how the people who claim to have left the usual 9 to 5 have managed to live life on the road for a long time until I went away for a year and met people like you. That’s amazing and inspiring for someone like me who is still doing her 9-5 but not for long as people like you have inspired me to leave my career altogether. I plan to leave in 2 years or so and focus on mountain trekking πŸ™‚ Nice to read about your post as a way to continue to inspire me on my own journey – better late than never.

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  26. Awesome article. Goes to show what the mind can achieve when the mind believes! We are pretty fortunate in our current situation in Fiji which is probably similar to your Korea experience in that we are able to save most of what we earn. Hopefully this will give us the chance to then do more travel in future! Right now I get to write full time and my husband is in a great job. Life is good!

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  27. Brilliant article…travelled a bit of south east asia, but for no longer than a month at a time. Heading to Australia in May, and was so paranoid I wouldn’t be able to do it on little money. This article just shows it’s possible. Thank you!

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  28. Amazing! Hats off to you. We are a couple and we have a baby. we live in the costliest metro in India. We are looking forward to breaking out of this lifestyle and travel as much as we can. You article is quiet inspiring

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  29. Wow. Feeling very inspired! I just finished the first month of what will hopefully be 2-3-4+ year trip! My gf and I are also planning to build our career while traveling the world, as you only live once and true wealth comes from time and location flexibility rather than having loads of money! Thanks for your great post!

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  30. It’s pretty amazing how one ticket can change everything. Last February, my husband asked me to move myself and our toddlers..and our 2 dogs, to Ecuador, his native country. If you would have told my 22 year old self that this would happen..I would have said it was impossible. Now, we have no plans to return to life in the USA, I have caught a severe case of wanderlust..and I am asking myself if we can give our kids an entire childhood of travel rather than school?! The possibilities and opportunities are endless, when you give them a chance to take root.

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    • That’s so amazing, Stephanie! There are tons of parents doing exactly that! It’s so exciting to see what your life can look like when you step outside of the “norm” isn’t it? Good luck and I’ll definitely be emailing with questions when I plan my trip to Ecuador!

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    • haha thanks Linh! There are always ways to make a bit more money, even if you have to take a part time job or do some Wwoofing (helpx was my best friend while I was in Australia and New Zealand). I traveled in cheap countries to make sure my money lasted longer. I’m also a pretty good saver! You can do it! Email me if you want some more help πŸ™‚

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  31. Sounds like the dream! I can’t wait to save enough money over the next year or so to be able to pack up and go on the adventure of a lifetime. Who knows, maybe in 6 years I’ll be writing a post just like this!

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  32. This article has motivated me so much! This is what I want to do with my life, if only I didn’t have all these barriers.. maybe one day! I definitely plan to read through the rest of your experiences too πŸ™‚ best of luck!
    -Madiha
    thewhimsicalgallivanter.blogspot.ae

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