One great bonus about long-term travel is that it can be cheaper than living back home. I've spent $7,700 so far in 107 days. That's $72 per day ($2160 per month) but is more than I hoped to be spending. My goal was to keep it closer to $50/day. Here's the breakdown...
Why am I almost 50% over budget?
- Education expenses have been fairly high -- higher than booze, even. This was not something that I originally budgeted for, but I'm glad I've been learning Spanish. It's a worthwhile added expense.
- The bike trip & camping accessories (filed under "stuff", above). Last autumn in Denver I got rid of pretty much everything I owned, including my sleeping bag, backpack and some miscellaneous camping gear like cook kit, stove, and the titanium spork that I remember thinking, upon its purchase, would be the last spork I'd ever need to buy. How wrong I was! I unexpectedly decided to do some bike touring in Patagonia, so I had to re-buy all that stuff. Initially I didn't plan on doing enough camping on this journey that I would carry my own gear. I figured there would be a couple places where I would work through an outfitter to rent gear for a 3-5 day excursion. That's why I'd gotten rid of my backpacking backpack and instead purchased more of a traveler backpack. Oops. Oh well. It hurt the budget but I'm still thankful for the freeing feeling of getting rid of stuff. I knew there would be a couple things like that.
- Chile & Argentina ain't cheap. Sure, you can get a good bottle of wine for $5. But a craft beer also costs $5, just like in the States. A meal at a restaurant in Chile is running me anywhere from $8-$25. Last night I went to a Thai restaurant, got the prix fixe menu with water to drink and it was $26. It was a really good meal, but was no cheaper than it would have been at a similar joint in Denver or Minneapolis. The good news is that these are the two most expensive countries in South America and I'm getting them out of the way first. Brazil is getting cheaper and Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia will definitely help me bring my budgeting numbers back in line.
- Travel expenses. Moving around a lot costs more than just staying in one place. Buses in Argentina were fairly expensive and I've paid for an airplane a couple times. I always knew this would be a wildcard expense, not really knowing how much transport would cost and how much I'd be using it. As you can see, it's right up there with food and lodging as one of my largest expenses (and it does not include my flight from Denver to Buenos Aires which was free with miles points).
- Accommodations. I've been doing a fairly good job on accommodation spending. Most nights I spend $15 or $20. For the last 2+ weeks in Valparaiso I've spent $14/night to have my own room in a 3-bedroom AirBnB apartment. I'm living with 2 locals and they're great people. In hostels $10-$15 will get me a bunkbed in a simple room with 3-5 other travelers. Hostels are good for meeting other travelers from around the world, but I can only do the dorm room a few nights in a row. Most of the time the rooms and spaces are quite pleasant, but I had one bad experience in Argentina that is still nudging me toward paying for my own room.
However, even though I'm over budget I'm still spending only 58% of what I was spending while living in the States. Traveling long-term can be a great way to lower your expenses.
My goals for this experience on the non-financial side include:
- Meeting cool people (hopefully someone special cute and female)
- Experiencing new cultures and places and landscapes
- Being healthy
- Scope out affordable ski areas
- Meeting People: This has been difficult. In Buenos Aires I made some great friends through my Spanish language lessons, but then we all departed in different directions. Since I am often only in one place for a few days it is hard for me to connect with people. Most of the travelers I've noticed are much younger than me, as was expected. All of the cute traveling women I've seen have been with a dude (and also at least 10 years younger than me). I'm a natural introvert so it is always hard for me to meet people. It takes awhile to form bonds, and when traveling like this it is extremely rare to have enough time near any other person for me to make a connection. To improve this, I'm going to try to join more tours.
- New Cultures & Places: The new places and landscapes I've spent time in have been amazing. Patagonia blew my mind and Chile is one of the most diversely landscaped nations in the world. The scenery has been everything I hoped and it will continue to be as I head north. Culturally, I'm not feeling as strong of a vibe. The personality of Latin America is so different from the Norwegian-American Minnesota culture that I grew up with. People here don't go out for dinner or drinks until 10pm. Since I'm unemployed and homeless, I'd much rather enjoy a couple glasses of wine on a patio in the afternoon and go to bed at 10:00. The food has been disappointing, too. Lots of bread and meat and potatoes and little variety.
- Being Healthy: I'm doing pretty well here. Been meditating for 15-20 minutes most days and I've lost a bunch of weight. There aren't any scales around, but I keep making my belt smaller and all my clothes feel too big. And if I keep spending more money on education than booze I'm going in the right direction.
- Ski Areas: Nevados de Chillan is a pretty sweet looking ski area. I'm hoping to find a place that gets at least 300" of snow per year and is more affordable than ski areas in the States. NdC definitely fits the bill, getting 400" with some choice looking terrain. However, I've heard that at the ski areas in South America they can often struggle to get a ski area open until a day or two after a big storm. I will have to come back in winter to learn more.
That's it for now. Check back in 3 more months for the fascinating 6-month sequel.