How We Fund Our Travels

  • January 23, 2019

for at least 12 months, beginning January 2019, we're traveling the globe full-time.

this might sound pricy. but before explaining how we're able to afford it, let's first consider what life cost us in New York City, our residence for 6 years before this trip.

as with all things there are fixed expenses, variable expenses, and everything in between. below is our previous monthly burn, our new budget abroad, and how we're managing it.

Fixed Costs

rent, utilities, and services.

our Manhattan lease was $3,550, gym memberships $210 /each, and cable + utilities $200 per month.

yes, we could have lived in a cheaper apartment, worked out at lower quality gyms, and subscribed to a slower internet package. but we sort of "did that" already in our earlier New York years.

for example, Ryan started in Bushwick, Brooklyn with 4 roommates and 1 bathroom. he then moved to Harlem and had 2-3 roommates, 1 bathroom.

after living in the city 2 years he could afford more than $1,000 per month on a home, so he signed his first solo lease and we moved in together.

total: $4,170 per month for a roof, email connection, and fit body.

Variable Costs

food, entertainment, and creature comforts.

let's start with our largest variable expense, eating.

  • (2 people * 2 meals per day) * 30 days => 120 meals /month

  • 2.5 meals at home per week, per person => 20 meals /month at home

  • restaurants: $12 per lunch, $30 per dinner

  • home: $6 ingredients per meal

100 meals out (50 lunch, 50 dinner) and 20 meals in (10 lunch, 10 dinner) for 2 people equals $2,220 per month on food. factor in snacks, breakfast food, protein bars, milk, coffee, etc, and it's closer to $2,500 per month on food. add another $500 for a few $12 cocktails per week.

next, entertainment.

we spend most of our time working, so beyond the usual suspects (Netflix, Hulu, etc) we didn't do much in the city. occasional broadway shows or movies are about it, and we haven't gone to a nightclub in ~2 years.

total: $300 /month for subscriptions, movies, tickets.

finally, miscellaneous.

in this category are flights to see family and friends, donations, and gifts. let's assume $400 /month on average. it's probably much more. i don't want to check my account.

total: $3,700 on variable costs.

New York is Expensive

our State-side lifestyle was at least $7,870 per month.

these figures don't even include phone bills, new computers, medicine, or insurance.

put simply, living semi-comfortably in Manhattan cost us $94,440 per year.

yet for all that cash we had little to show for it:

  • no dishwasher, laundry machines

  • no central air conditioning(!)

  • extreme street noise 24/7

  • renting, not owning

it doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at these numbers and wonder:

what's the point?

regular scientist

so we started kicking around the idea of moving to Texas.

besides obvious benefits like less insane people, affordability of home ownership, and much better schools for future children, Texas has 0% state income tax.

this means if you make $100k /year you get an instant $10,000 raise. or, if your 1 bedroom apartment is ~$850 per month you now live free, simply by converting to the Baptist church.

but we didn't want to move right away, just to live in a cheaper apartment and a less fun zip code. we decided that to "do it right" we should rack up cash and buy a house; a compound.

it was this analysis of our NYC lifestyle and the alternatives available elsewhere that helped us realize traveling full-time is the best way to save money.

How we Make Money

before our adventures Hideko did the corporate thing at a private equity fund in New York, and Ryan was already involved in remote-friendly startups.

for 2.5 years before this trip we spent nights and weekends learning to code. this enabled us to form a small private equity shop, Fork Equity, through which we build and acquire profitable companies that pay our bills.

in the future we may share specific metrics, but for now i'll say we are very lucky to work on a number of projects:

there are 4+ other businesses in our portfolio in pre-launch stage, so we'll mention elsewhere.

Traveling is Cheap

a vacation to Rome adds up quickly: $1,200+ per flight, $150+ per night in an economy hotel, and $100-$200 minimum per day on food, tickets, and excursions.

but projecting a 1 week, $5,000 vacation into 52 weeks at $260k is bad math.

for example, here's our first month in Korea:

  • flights: $49.60 + 70k miles ($24.80 + 35k Skymiles /each)

  • accommodations: $2,201 for 27 nights in 2 downtown lofts

  • food: ~50% less expensive than NYC, ~$1,500

  • entertainment: mostly walking around, ~$100 museum tickets

monthly burn: $3,851 (half our New York spend)

considering most of our trips are in cheaper cities than Seoul and a few will be more expensive (Switzerland, Rome), we predict we'll spend ~$70,000 traveling to 50 cities in 2019.

savings: $25,000 per year ($95k NYC - $70k abroad). but that's not all.

US citizens who live outside the country for 330+ days per year also qualify for the Foreign Exclusion status, which relieves us of the requirement to pay US taxes on up to ~$100k income per person.

savings: $50-75k per year that would have gone directly to the government.

traveling full-time puts at least $100,000 more cash in our pockets.

one other thing: transportation.

in Texas we'll both have cars, gas, and automobile insurance. you can spend anything you want on a vehicle, but let's assume our cars will cost (all-in) at least $650 per month, per person.

savings: $15,600 per year.

Give Yourself a Raise

it would be easy to cut costs even further.

in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for example, a fully furnished 1 bedroom condo with internet and electricity starts at just $300 per month.

imagine living an entire year in Chiang Mai. your annual rent is $3,600, groceries are ~60% less than a United States suburb, and 100s of expats who live there full-time are anxious to befriend you and hang out.

sure, you couldn't vote for Trump again in 2020 without fancy stamps, but who cares? you're now watching American movies in theaters for $3 instead of $19.

next time you meet a hater who thinks only rich people can travel, refer them to this post.

and if you decide to ditch an expensive, boring lifestyle for money-savings adventures abroad, let us know so we can buy you a beer.

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