As two people without a permanent home and always on the go from country to country we’re often asked how we live a life of travel. This covers the everyday nuances of life and how we cope with long-term travel. It’s not a complicated ordeal and we take almost everything day by day. If you want to learn a little more about our lives of travel and how it can help with your travels, read on.
How we live a life of travel?
Packing for long-term travel is a drag, but that has been our life the past four years so it’s just something we learned to deal with. You would think that after 70 countries I would be a great packer, but I’m not. I’m not a bad packer either – I’m just an okay packer.
We’ve used two strategies to pack one with a backpack and the other with a suitcase. They have both have their advantages and disadvantages. Truth be told we both travel with suitcases these days as it feels more professional and we find we’re aging out of the backpacker mindset. That being said it’s still great for the right kind of trip.
When we use to travel with backpacks, I could fit everything I needed into my Osprey Farpoint and carried a separate day bag for my electronics and valuables. My daypack always stayed on my person while riding on buses, trains, and planes. It was the most important bag for us and I would never take my eyes off the bag. We now love to use a backpack or suitcase for more adventurous trips like island hopping in Indonesia, snowboarding in the Alps, or traveling around Africa.
Last year we switched to suitcases to travel around Europe. It made life a lot easier rolling a bag along sidewalks rather than carrying a backpack. It also allows me to pack nicer clothes like cute dresses, real bras, and more than a pair of hiking shoes. The suitcase keeps my belongings more organized, fits more things, and help me not look like…well, a backpacker.
Personally, I like to have a backpack if I am moving more and traveling by public transport. If I am basing myself at apartments around the world and traveling mostly with my own rental car then I like to have a suitcase. My suitcase saved me this winter as all the clothes I needed were obviously fluffier and bulkier than summertime clothing. Having the suitcase allowed me to have more sweaters and boots.
Since we love to snowboard around the world we must carry our snowboards with us in the winter (not fun or easy). We are able to pack two snowboards with bindings and boots into this Dakine Bag. Although it’s a tough squeeze having just the one equipment bag saves us money on baggage fees. Of course, it’s all self-inflicted, but if you’re spending a season snowboarding you don’t want rental gear. If you’re in the market for a new suitcase I recommend getting one with TSA approved lock, without one anyone can get into your bags.
Besides the packing, most people generally ask us how we keep up with laundry. Laundry is something we absolutely hate thinking about when we travel. It’s always a pain, always a hassle, always inconvenient, and hardly ever easy. It’s not like hotel laundromat pricing is practical for anyone, $8.00 for a pair of socks? No thank you! Can you tell I hate doing laundry while traveling?
We typically have to do our laundry every two weeks. When we were in Costa Rica and it was hot and humid we wanted to get it done sooner. In the winter we can go much longer since we are not sweating in our clothes and can often wear items multiple times. Humidity is not your friend when it comes to laundry.
When we know we have to do laundry we always try to book an Airbnb with a washer. They have a filter where you can select to only see properties with this feature. In North America, I often find that many corporate hotels (Marriott or Double Tree) will have washer/dryer units you can pay to use, and we never hesitate to do a load when this is available.
Throughout Southeast Asia, laundry services are cheap and we can often get all our clothes washed, dried, and folded for $5-$10. Throughout Africa, we would seek out local women to wash, hang dry, and iron our clothes for $5-$10. When we camped and were in desperate need of clothing we turn to our handy-dandy scrubba bagwhich we still always travel around with for emergencies.
Believe it or not, the majority of places we travel to are a result of finding a good flight deal. Generally, we will choose a region that we know we want to travel to and set out for the best deal. I’ve been using Skyscanner’s “everywhere” feature for years. I simply type in my starting location and then for the destination I put “everywhere” and pick a whole month that I want to travel. Skyscanner will then show me countries that are cheapest to travel to and which date is best. It’s amazing the deals you can find if you’re flexible.
Other flight engines we look at are Google Flights, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and I am signed up with Secret Flying. Secret Flying sends me flight error prices right to my inbox, but they can get spammy and send too many emails really fast so be careful when signing up. This year we’ve been using Google Flights more and more and really love its powerful features like exploring flight prices by map. We’ve gone to the Seychelles, Latvia, Costa Rica, and Bali simply because we found flight offers too good to refuse.
When we are not taking public transport we are renting a car. It’s our preferred way to travel around Africa, North America, Australia, and Europe. Since there are often two of us sharing the cost and driving responsibility it usually makes more sense to rent. In North America, parts of Africa, and Australia having your own car is the only way to get from point A to point B. Around Europe and Asia, the infrastructure is well set up for trains and buses. We’ve gotten to a point in our travels where we are willing to pay for for the convenience of having our own set of wheels.
When we were younger and more carefree we stayed at hostels. Hostels are a great way to meet people when you travel and also save money by essentially booking out space in a room rather than a full bedroom. It’s cheap and can be a lot of fun.
However, we’ve grown older and cherish our space and privacy more than we did when we were 22. I still think they are great. If we are staying for more than three days at a destination we will first look to see what we can find on Airbnb. I like having my own kitchen and feeling like I’m at a home rather than a hotel room. Plus most Airbnb’s have their own private WiFi network meaning we can work more efficiently than in a hotel where everyone’s eating up the bandwidth.
When Airbnb isn’t an option we turn to hotels. Call us boujee but we don’t book places that have a review score below an 8 on Booking.com. Our general budget is $60-80 per night a private room – so $30+ a person. In certain places like New York, Edinburgh, and Dublin we’ve paid a lot more than that. In Southeast Asia or the Balkans we’ve paid a lot less.
Another question we always get is on our phone bill. Verizon (a major company in the US) must be charging us a ton for roaming, right?
While we both have smartphones we don’t have a plan in the US since we are never there. We get local Sim cards everywhere we go and make calls and use 4G off that.
For those that don’t know all cell phones have a tiny little slot in the side of it for sim cards. This connects you to your telecom company like Verizon, AT&T, Vodafone or whatever it may be. This little sim card can pop in and out. Every time we land in a new country we purchase a SIM card and data+minutes and that is how we stay connected.
If we aren’t staying somewhere that long we may not even bother trying to get a sim card and simply just stay connected via WiFi connection. SIM cards are available in every country and are typically very inexpensive. They’ve helped us make calls and do our business things throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe. SIM cards can usually be bought at the airport when you arrive but you will pay a higher price for the convenience. Once you leave the airport look for cell phone providers in city centers and malls.
If you don’t feel confident about getting a sim card you can always look into portable wireless hotspots before you leave for your trip.
It may or may not surprise you that we don’t have many belongings. We sold our cars years ago, don’t have a home, and sold all our furniture in New York. We find the less stuff you own the more relieving life is. Our tubs of clothes and a few other knick-knacks have a home in our parent’s attics. When we finally find a permanent home we won’t have much to move!
This is one of those things that we had almost completely given up to travel. When we left New York we gave up things like working out, gym and class memberships, and sports. Travel quickly became our only hobby and then because traveling is our work, working on this blog became our hobby which then became our work. We felt like as if we were working around the clock – not a bad job, but still not ideal.
I suppose there could be worse jobs than traveling, but we both really like to stay active. We started implementing activities in our travels. We’ve also made a push to pick up more hobbies again, our most recent was snowboarding. We spent our winter mountain hopping our way across Europe, Canada, and the US and will be basing ourselves in Hokkaido this winter to snowboard.
I’ve been getting more and more into yoga and joining studios and fitness classes when we travel. I even have a travel yoga mat which is great for practicing on the go. Cameron’s picked up running and has found a lot of joy in exploring destinations by foot. He’s even signed up for his marathon in November so wish him luck! We both just confirmed our spot on getting dive certified in Indonesia, something that has been on the list forever. Happy to be scratching that off this year.
When we decide to settle in a more permanent base our goal is to implement ourselves more into the community and pick up more hobbies. We’re getting a lot of joy pursuing new hobbies like scuba and free diving, running, yoga, mountaineering, and more.
Since we travel full time we don’t get to see our friends and family as often as we would like. We try to make it back home to Michigan and North Carolina at least once a year to enjoy time with loved ones. However, sometimes this doesn’t happen. One year we went two years without going home and that was tough for everyone and we hope to not let that happen again.
The good news is that traveling opens you up to all kinds of new people and cultures and we end up making friends wherever we are. The hardest part is saying goodbye and knowing we may never see those people again.
Thankfully we are both fortunate and have good health. We try to take care of ourselves and live a healthy lifestyle by staying active and eating mostly vegan.
However, accidents can happen anywhere in the world so we both travel with travel insurance. In our opinion, if you can’t afford travel insurance you shouldn’t be traveling. Thankfully, we have never had to make a claim or even visit a doctor while on the road. Sure, we’ve gotten stomach bugs and colds a few times but nothing life-threatening or serious.
Because we are out of the US most of the year we actually don’t have primary insurance in America. We are only covered around the globe should something serious or unexpected happens. Eye exams, dental visits, and checkups we pay out of pocket for but generally do this abroad because it is cheaper. Seriously, it seems all medical is cheaper OUTSIDE of the US and YES the professionals are just as good. We’ve had dental checkups in Cape Town, Portugal, and Mexico and I order all my contacts online from the UK for a good price and no prescription. In Italy, I walked up to the optical store picked up a pair of glasses and they put in the correct lenses all in less than a day for €50.
We also made sure we were up to date on all of our shots years ago. When we traveled to Africa we picked up malaria prevention and other types of medicine in South Africa for a fraction of what we would pay in the US. Cameron was even able to pick up his yellow fever jab for cheap at a nice private clinic in Johannesburg.
Unlike previous generations who had to use paper maps and guidebooks to get them around new places, we are lucky enough to have the computers and the internet. We download full maps to our phone with Google Maps so that we can use it without data or WiFi. This gives us turn by turn navigation while we are driving. ] However, it does not give us walking directions offline while we are in cities. We also use Maps.Me which helps us navigate without WiFi (this got us all around Africa).
We’ve talked a lot about how we manage finances both here and here before. But the gist of is we do all of our banking online, never use currency exchanges, pick the right travel credit cards to maximize points and minimize foreign transaction fees. We use credit cards when we can so that we can track our expenses and also earn points for airlines miles. In general, I watch our finances like a hawk. Would you believe I opened up my first credit card at 16 and have stayed pretty dedicated to tracking my spending habits since? Read all about it here.
If you’re wondering how we afford this life of travel we now earn a full-time income off of our travel blog. It’s been a long road to this point, but we were able to do so by starting out living off our savings. We lived in New York City for a year and a half to save $25,000 each so we could travel and start this blog. It was not easy and we nearly went broke by the time we left Africa, but have since filled our bank accounts back up plus some.