How to Travel the World for Less Than it Costs to be Poor in America

I am writing this post so that I have it to reference in the future. A lot of my friends may read this and say “yeah duh.” Most of my friends these days are frequent travelers. It’s easy for any of us to forget what it felt like before we got out and saw the world. Most people who are stuck in their ways really have no clue that the types of things I’ll be discussing on this site even exist. When I mention the things I do in my normal life, jaws often drop. The other party often leaves with a palpable air of disbelief, as if they are thinking, “there has to be more to the story than he’s letting on. It’s not that simple.”

Sorry, it IS that simple.

The view from the balcony of my private room in Vang Vieng, Laos. Double bed, A/C, hot water, fridge, $9/night.

The view from the balcony of my private room in Vang Vieng, Laos. Double bed, A/C, hot water, fridge, $9/night. Read my Vang Vieng post for more details

Have you ever wished that you could travel all over the world? This post is for you. Here is a no B.S. guide to your first major world travel experience.

It is a lot easier than you might think. For me it was like having sex: after I did it for the first time I thought, “Why the hell did I wait so long? This is the coolest thing ever!” And I haven’t quit either activity since.

But I think going places is way way better than that. I mean anyone can have sex, and most people do at least once in their lifetime. Less than 1% of people will ever truly experience the joys of extended world travel.

Step One: Get ready to get ready

Before you can even start planning your new adventure you should assassinate everything that might stop you.

Don’t have a passport? Get One! (Call your mom every day until she sends you your damn birth certificate.)

Don’t have any money? Not a big deal. If you’re in a first world country and you’re poor, you probably have enough. If you for sure don’t, see my posts about Hustle.

Have other commitments? That’s fine. Turn them into assets. If you have a job, use it to save the amount of money you need and then quit. If it’s a job worth keeping, it will be available in the future, and this self-investment will make you a much stronger asset to any company. Have kids? Bring them with you, home school them if you have to, and give them a life experience that you could never buy them, just by traveling.

Step Two: Actually Planning

This is where you make all of those arrangements, get your gear in order, say good-bye to your mom, and so on and so forth, right? Wrong!

There are two steps in pre-trip planning.

Step One: You decide where are going.

Step Two: Book a ticket.

If it’s international and you don’t have a passport yet, book it two months in advance. If you are pretty much ready to go and have some loose ends, book it a week in advance. Guesstimate and leave yourself just enough time to settle your affairs before you leave.

Here is why. You commit yourself by forking out $500-$1,000 cash for a nonrefundable plane ticket. You just jumped off a cliff and there’s no turning back. I promise you will find a way to work everything out in the interim and it will all turn out ok. Life has a funny way of eventually working out when you follow your dreams.

Step Three: Live it up

It’s as simple as those two steps. A lot of people can even skip Step One. Just massively overcommit yourself, and you’ll quickly work out what absolutely must be worked out. The rest is unimportant. If you can do that, the world is yours for the taking.

Want to know what to expect? Here is a sample budget of 30 days living expenses in Koh Samui, Thailand:

30 Day Budget

Lodging; $90/month

You can rent an open air loft on the beach in Koh Samui, Thailand for 150 baht per day ($5). Negotiate staying for one month and get it for 3,000 baht. See Dave at Acoustic Cafe in Lamai. Have him cook you a delicious burger and discuss the loft.

Food: $200/month

Eat a lot of Thai food. It’s tasty. Buying food from the places where the locals eat will save you lots of money. You can get a filling Thai meal for around three bucks really easily from a lot of different places. For dessert try a Banana Pancake from a street vendor and see what Jack Johnson was talking about.

Entertainment: $300/month

As glamorous as, “retiring to a tropical island and living on a beach” sounds, it’s actually only fun for the first day or so. Traveling should be fun and by living ultra-cheap you can have some extra money to enjoy yourself with. At bars you will be overcharged and may pay as much as (gasp) $3/beer. The less touristy the bar, the cheaper the drinks will be. $2/beer is a safe guess. So in a month, if all you like to do is drink, you can drink 10 beers a night every other night. Note: Buying the same beer from the grocery store will cost about 1/4 as much per beer. Assuming you buy local beer, not fucking Heineken.

The cheapest/best entertainment options are to rent a motorbike ($5/day) and ride it all over the island sightseeing; buy a used book for $1 and read it in a hammock by the ocean; spend a few hours walking around a local open-air market for free; go play soccer.

Miscellaneous: $50/month

This covers bug spray, sun block, soap, toilet paper, etc.

Total Monthly Budget: $640 US

I am not talking about roughing it that bad even. Sure, a loft might not be as well appointed as the Westin, but you WILL survive. You’ll learn to love the local food. And you will, no shit, be living in one of the nicest places on the planet.

Understand that you could also stay here and spend $5,000/month without even trying. If you have that money, go for it.

A lot of people don’t have that kind of money and they let the false belief that any kind of traveling is “expensive” keep them stuck at home. They will spend $2,000 a month to live someplace they hate, instead of spending $700 or less in paradise. I don’t understand why you would do that.

Personally, I don’t live on $640/month because I am an extremely lucky person who is able to scrape together a few extra bucks for some upgrades. If my income dried up, I would move to that loft, and eat exclusively cheap local food in a heartbeat. Because that’s what it would take.

This doesn’t only apply to Koh Samui, Thailand. You could make it happen in a lot of places in Asia and South America and there are places in both those continents that would be a heck of a lot cheaper than Koh Samui. But I think we’re getting down to splitting hairs when we talk Sub $700/month lifestyles.

Moral of the story: Paying for it is easy. Taking the leap to do it is hard. Believe me, I know. But you will not regret it.

See you over there.

4 thoughts on “How to Travel the World for Less Than it Costs to be Poor in America”

  1. HA! awesome! Would rather stay by the beach in a cottage than at a Westin, when it comes to nice beaches for sure!

  2. Hey Keith-
    Speaking of traveling…not sure exactly how often you travel from Koh Samui, but do you desire a super simple way to share your current location on this blog (on the about page as text?)?

    PS: 100% concur with your point. It’s absolutely cheaper to live in paradise than it is to live in the US. I didn’t hit koh samui but did hit Koh phangan, koh tao and koh phi phi last year while in Asia. Koh Tao is an amazing island that I fully plan on going back to live on for an extended period of time. You could live on that island for $1000 per month pretty easily.

    1. Hey Drew,

      I just might :). I had some plugin a long time ago that did a current location update, but it was a really poorly designed plugin with a lot of bugs that I eventually gave up.

      Checked out your homepage, that app actually looks pretty cool. I’d like to take a closer lok at it.

      I’m actually heading to Koh Tao in a few days before going to Koh Phangan for the FMP. I’ll let you know if it’s still cool 🙂

      -Jordan

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