Turns out that planning for a three-month trip is a lot of hassle. The past few days have been crammed full of logistics-working with house-sitters, yard work, packing, and a bazillion little details that need to be taken care of while prepping for a trip. Fortunately, the end is in sight! Zach and I leave for Portland this evening, and our trip out west— which I’m officially naming The Grand Gallivant— will begin. Right now I’m too distracted and detail-oriented to really be excited, but I know the excitement will kick in later.
In the meantime, here’s a post I meant to put up earlier this week, but forgot. Enjoy!
Yesterday, someone at Zach’s work asked him how he could afford to take three months off work to go gallivanting off on a trip. It’s a good question, and I figured some of my blog readers might be wondering as well. It’s no secret that Zach and I live on one-and-a-half Walmart incomes, but a variety of factors have made trips like this possible.
This is not a how-to guide, since many of the circumstances can’t be replicated. But it might be helpful as an example of how two relatively low-income people are able to make a trip like this.
We’re traveling super-low budget. We’ve budgeted $20 a day for the two of us, which must include food, lodging, gas, entertainment, and incidentals. This means no hotels or hostels (at least when just we’re traveling together), and no eating out. Fortunately, I’m already pretty familiar with the whole super-budget trip thing. We’re going to be spending big chunks of time volunteering on farms (that provide lodging and most of your food), as well as camping and couchsurfing. We’re gonna buy bulk groceries in Portland and schlep them around so we’ll avoid (comparatively expensive) fast food. If you want more tips on budget travel, check out these blog posts.
We have chosen very few expenses. Some expenses are inevitable— medical bills, taxes, etc.— but most are negotiable. Some of the expenses we’ve avoided were due to huge life choices: for instance, neither of us has student debt because neither of us went to college, and our mortgage is very low because we chose to live in a low-income neighborhood in Missouri. Other expenses we’re whittling down for the summer— for instance, we cancelled my cell phone.
We’ve been saving money carefully. For the past several months we’ve scaled way back on eating out, cut back on specialty food (meat, nuts, alcohol), spent almost no money on hobbies, and taken advantage of every money-accruing benefit that Walmart offers (say what you want about Walmart, but if you know how to work their benefit program, they will give you a lot of free money!). We’re putting off home projects and anything that we want to buy until after the trip.
We are incredibly privileged. Although I’m proud of the way we’ve managed our money, I fully appreciate the privileges that we have. We’re both in good health. We haven’t had any huge repairs or crippling medical bills this year. Our car payment is $0 because my brother gave us his car. We have no children. Zach’s sister is lending us a car for the summer. We have family who lives in a neat place to visit. All these factors are not ones you can plan, but they’re working to our advantage. So we can’t think for a moment that we’re “self-made,” or that we’re able to travel simply by our own power. On the other hand, though, with planning, counter-cultural life choices, and careful saving, we’ve given ourselves good leverage to take advantage of those privileges.
In the end, not everyone can take a trip like this— indeed, most people can’t. However, I believe this kind of trip is within the reach of many more people than it would at first appear.
At any rate, thanks for coming with me on the Grand Gallivant! Whether you’re here for vicarious experiences or ideas of how to make a trip like this yourself, I hope you enjoy the journey!