Wondering how to travel long term around the world? My husband and I traveled long-term (or full-time) for almost 5 years straight. But what does that mean exactly?
Did we constantly move from place to place? No! That would be exhausting! But we were moving, and way more frequently than most people.
About every 1-3 months we would pack up and go to a new city or a new country. But how did we do it?
To Travel Long Term: Start Planning Early
I’m a planner, so this has never been a problem for me. But it’s generally understood that the earlier you plan or book something, the cheaper that thing will be. This isn’t always the case, but it almost always is with long-term travel.
For flights, book about 6 months in advance, and with accommodation, about 3-4 months in advance. You can try for earlier if you want but usually, 3-4 months is perfect unless you are visiting during a busy season in that area (like Christmas in Paris or something).
If you’re seriously considering long-term travel, you should also read this pros & cons list for living abroad! Everything I love and hate about life abroad.
Get an Online Job
I got my online job as an online English Teacher for VIPKid only a few weeks before Jake and I made our first International move to Bali, Indonesia. We didn’t even know if it would work, but we knew it was what we wanted to do so we went for it!
Luckily, the job turned out to be perfect for us and Jake ended up applying as well. You can read about how we made $4,500 a month while traveling here!
Other good options besides VIPKid could be other online English teaching companies like DaDaABc, Qkids, or Magic Ears. You can also find English teaching jobs in an actual school on Dave’s ESL Cafe.
If you’re looking for something, not English teaching related, you could look into being a virtual assistant, social media manager, blogger, ad manager, website builder, etc.
I recommend starting with English teaching and using your free time to build up another income stream or learning a new skill that would help you build an online business!
Get Really Good at Saving Money
Before your move, you need to start learning how to save as much money as possible. Sell anything you don’t plan to bring with you, or ask a family member if you can store some of it at their place until you get back (storage units can be expensive!).
Start eating at home instead of going out and maybe even move into a cheaper place since you know it’s only temporary!
Although it’s not always necessary, I recommend you have at least $5,000-10,000 saved before heading out on a long-term trip. Especially if you bought a one-way ticket, who knows if you might want to stay forever!
The reason I say that this isn’t necessary in all cases is that if you already have an online job and are living in an expensive city, you might not be able to save that quickly.
It might actually be cheaper to just buy the ticket and go (depending on where you’re moving to) and start saving once you’re there.
Truthfully, one thing that has made our crazy life SO possible is that we HATE touching our savings account. And the truth is, we haven’t touched it in all the years that we have been traveling.
The money we made from VIPKid has always been enough to fund our travels WHILE feeding our savings account.
In fact, we have about $15,000 more in savings than we did when we started traveling. How’s that for affordable travel?
Before we choose a place we want to go, we like to head over to Nomadlist.com. This site ranks cities by quality of life, wifi, price, etc.
Since we work online and rely a lot on a great wifi connection, there are certain areas that we just need to avoid (for living at least, we can totally go on a trip there as long as we don’t need to work!).
This site helps us narrow down our options a bit as well as giving us ideas of places to go that are popular with Digital Nomads (people who travel and work online).
You can click on the “Add Filters” button to start narrowing down the cities and to find one that you might like.
After choosing your filters, you can start looking into the cities listed and seeing what you would like. I always use the “fast internet” and “near a beach” filter but you can play around and start imagining what life could be like in all the different places that pop up!
Numbeo is a super fun website for nerds like me who are trying to constantly figure out how much things are gonna cost. On Numbeo, you can compare the cost of living between two cities, which helps us see how affordable a city really is.
It can be surprising to find out that the city you’re living in could be the main reason for your financial problems.
But if you compare Peoria, AZ with Nice, France you’ll see that they almost cost the exact same. You can use that calculator to compare your home city with wherever you’d live to move to to get a general idea of how much you’d need.
If there’s enough information on your city and the city that you’d like to move to, then Numbeo might show you how much money you need each month to maintain the same quality of life.
You can also click “change the amount in this calculation” and type in how much you actually spend each month on everything to get a better idea.
I typed in $800 USD since that’s how much Jake and I spent on EVERYTHING in one month in Hanoi, Vietnam. Since we lived there for 3 months, I was sure that this was the right amount.
To live the same quality of life in NYC as we did in Hanoi we would need about $3,099 instead of $800.
Ahh, visas. Basically the worst part of moving around, but it’s worth it! Make sure you know how long you are allowed to stay in the country that you have chosen.
For example, you can arrive to Bali and get 30 days visa-free, but you cannot just land in Vietnam. You need to apply for a visa ahead of time online! Check to see what your country requires.
Also, I should probably address the bit of gray area as far as “tourist” visas go. When you are traveling with an online job, you do not tell the country that.
You do not need a working visa. Some people argue and say that is illegal, but technically it is not.
You are not taking any jobs away from locals and you work for an American company. When you apply for a visa or are asked as you enter the country, “What are you here for?” you should respond: “Tourism.”
Working online is such a new territory that there really isn’t a place for us yet.
In order to get an actual working visa, you would need to be hired by a company in that country, which would be impossible for us.
So instead, you just stay as long as the tourist visa allows and then you move on to the next country.
Book Your Flights
First things first, if you haven’t already, go sign up for Pomelo Travels free email subscription. I explain why in this blog post, but basically, they send you emails with the craziest flight deals I’ve ever seen and they show you how to book them.
Keep your eye out for deals that will get you close to where you want to go, but since you are a long-term traveler now, you don’t need to head straight there!
Say you want to move to Phuket, Thailand (sorry, I use Southeast Asia a lot because I’ve lived there for so long and it’s the best place to start your long-term travel life!) but the tickets direct to Phuket are too expensive.
Try flying into Bangkok instead! Spend a few nights getting to know the city and then head to your final destination by bus or by plane (check out my recommendations for best sites to use when booking flights around SE Asia here!)
If you aren’t finding any deals going near where you want to go (which would be rare!) then you can follow the steps I laid out in this blog post about finding cheap flights to Europe.
Although I wrote it with Europe in mind, the steps are essentially the same for finding cheap flights from the USA to anywhere in the world.
When you buy a one-way ticket into a country, some countries may have a problem with you. They want proof that you’re not just moving there permanently and plan to live there illegally after your visa expires.
There are a few ways you can prepare for that. One would be to plan in advance your next location and have that ticket bought before your flight.
All you need to do then is show them your ongoing ticket and they will be happy. It doesn’t have to always be a flight either, you can use a bus or a train ticket as well.
If you don’t want to plan that far in advance, you could always buy a refundable bus or plane ticket, or a cheap one so you don’t lose a lot of money.
The third option is to use a website that lets you rent a ticket. You pay them to basically book a refundable ticket for you for about $15.
They send you the flight information and for about 24 hours it shows that you have actually booked that flight. I’ve only used them once and it worked fine, but I get so anxious about getting in trouble that I usually just go with option 1 and have my ongoing flights all scheduled in advance.
An absolute ESSENTIAL part of the way we live is Airbnb. We’ve stayed at over 50 Airbnbs so far in almost 20 countries!
Without it, this type of travel would still be possible but a lot more complicated. After we’ve used the sites listed above to choose the city we want to move to, we start the search for an apartment on Airbnb.
Since we’ll be living there, the absolute essentials (for us) are wifi, kitchen, and air conditioning.
I know, we could probably learn to live without air conditioning, but I don’t really want to lol. Also, since it is a longer trip, we need more privacy so we always choose “Entire Place” under the “Type of Place” tab.
Then, we change the dates to a full month (important since the prices are sometimes discounted when you stay for a full month) and then we change the price range as low as we can while still having about 10-15 choices.
If there’s less and they still have good reviews then that’s fine too! If you want to learn more about reviews on Airbnb you can check out this blog post.
After that, we start messaging each of the apartments asking for their wifi speed (upload, download, and ping) and if the wifi is shared with any other apartments.
Some people say their wifi is “fast” or “good enough to stream”, but in our experience, we need the exact numbers before we commit to a place.
Too many times we’ve trusted the landlord only to find out the wifi was definitely NOT good enough.
Once you find a place with a decent price, the actual wifi speed numbers, and available for your dates, you’re good! For reference, a good wifi speed shouldn’t be less than 10 upload, 3 download, and 30 ping. You can test your wifi at speedtest.net.
Staying Longer than 1 Month on Airbnb
When Jake and I plan to stay longer than 1 month, we rarely book the following months through Airbnb.
Instead, we pay for the first month to establish trust with the landlord, then we message them through Airbnb and ask if we could pay them for months 2 & 3 (or whatever your plans are!) off of Airbnb and if they would be willing to give us a discount.
Usually, they are willing. Why? Because Airbnb costs both us and the landlord more money, which is fair since they found you a tenant, but they are usually happy to avoid the fees.
Plus, Airbnb doesn’t pay out right away, and if you pay them in cash then they get their money faster.
In most cases, this will also include you paying for the utilities you use as well as the rent, but this still ends up being cheaper than booking directly through Airbnb. We’ve done this in Bali, Vietnam & Turkey without any problems.
However, we only do it with landlords that we trust (follow your gut!) and when we are staying for longer than 1 month.
Groceries & Food
In your first week, make sure you spend a day going to a few grocery stores and comparing prices. This could save you hundreds during your long-term trip! Just mark a few of them on Google Maps and make a day of it!
Looking around grocery stores in a new place/country is a super fun experience and teaches you a lot about the place! Make sure you know the exchange rates before you go and use your phone to calculate the prices of the things you buy the most often.
For example, cereal, fruit, milk, chicken, etc. Write the prices down in your iPhone notes and then head to the next store!
Once you figure out the cheapest one (one might be cheaper for produce and another cheaper for processed foods) then you can head straight there next time instead of worrying about whether you’re getting screwed (by not knowing the local prices).
Depending on where you are in the world, the mode of transportation that most people use will be different.
In Southeast Asia, you’ll need to rent a motorbike. In Europe, you will probably be using subways or public transportation. In the USA, you’re most likely going to need a car. In more off-the-beaten-path areas, you might even just need to walk!
I personally don’t recommend buying a car/motorbike if you are only going to be there for 1-3 months. If you are going to be there for longer than that, then you could look into longer-term options.
Before moving abroad, I highly suggest that you buy an unlocked phone or get your cell phone unlocked. This means that your phone can be used by other carriers than the one it was programmed for (like Sprint or AT&T).
Once you get to your new country, you can get familiar with what SIM cards the expats there are using (I usually do this by joining a lot of expat groups on Facebook like ‘Americans living in _____” or “Expats in _____”) Facebook groups can be a lifesaver abroad!).
Fill Your Time
If you’re going to be somewhere for longer than a normal vacation generally lasts, then you are going to have some free time on your hands. Going out every day to site-see can be exhausting, so find ways to make life in your new city enjoyable as well.
Generally, once Jake and I choose the city we want to go to, we find weekend trips (or even week-long trips) that are nearby and plan out how we can fit those into our 1-3 months in that area.
For example, we lived in Hanoi for 3 months. During the week we joined a local gym, worked online, learned languages, cooked our own food, etc.
However, if we had a trip planned, we would usually take Friday off and head out for a long weekend to Ninh Binh or Ha Long Bay. On other “at-home” weekends, we would go to a local church on Sundays, try new food and see new things in Hanoi itself.
Moving away from family and friends and familiar food can be difficult at first. Make sure you let yourself splurge every once in a while on a 5 dollar Dr. Pepper or that box of Mac ‘n’ Cheese.
Find ways to get yourself out of the house on the weeks when you’re not traveling (gym, language classes, church, local communities, etc.) and make sure that you stay in contact with people back at home!
They might not understand how or why you’re doing what you’re doing, but it’s important to still feel connected to your home!
I hope this has helped you understand a bit more about what goes into planning and moving abroad!
Dayna Brockbank is a travel and language-learning blogger who has lived around the world but has now settled in Nice, France. She speaks 3 languages at varying levels of fluency: Spanish, Italian, and French, and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Spanish Education. She and her husband focus on making travel part of life by living cheaply and traveling on a budget.