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How I Left Home with $2,500 and Traveled the World for 12 Years

How I Left Home with $2,500 and Traveled the World for 12 Years

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Last month marked TWELVE WHOLE YEARS since Luke and I set off to see the world.

I was 22. I’d just graduated from college and had 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 of earning in New Zealand until we had enough to travel to 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.

Babu K Raghavan

Tuesday 12th of July 2022

Congrats, ur life style and joint effort with ur partner and work and live made u successive. Go ahead . Best wishes.


Sunday 21st of November 2021

Reading this article, it has motivated me to keep travelling and saving up for my travels.


Tuesday 16th of February 2021

This is a great article explaining how to save/budget to travel, thanks for the helpful information!


Wednesday 9th of December 2020

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 :)

Louis Huynh

Friday 10th of January 2020

Definitely felt inspired, keep up the good work!

Laura Bronner

Monday 13th of January 2020

Thanks so much!