How I Afford To Live As A Motorcycle Traveler
Here’s How I Maintain My Travel Lifestyle
One of the first things anyone wants to know about me is how I afford to live a life of travel. Travel is basically my priority in life, so I go to lengths to make it happen.
I flew to Egypt several years ago and managed to live there for 8 months using up the remaining $5000 I had in my bank account. In November 2014, I became “Vagabondesss” and took off on my motorcycle around the US for 6 months. I’ve been fairly nomadic since. I took several shorter trips over the last couple of years (up to 5 weeks each) and then left on my motorcycle again on July 9, 2017. As I write this, I’m currently meandering across Canada and planning to live on the road for as long as I can! 😀
I Basically Spend As Little As Possible
Believe it or not, my expenses traveling and living on the road are significantly less than when I live in one place! I’ve successfully stuck to a budget of $500 USD per month while touring in the US in 2014/2015; this included the monthly fee for my storage unit (which I no longer have). My food budget was actually $3/day at one point. I know other people who spend even less when they live on the road, but go to lengths I would not be comfortable with (such as hitchhiking). I had to train myself to spend very little, which mostly involved a change of habits, priorities, and lifestyle. It isn’t easy, and can take constant work!
I Monitor Everything That I DO Spend. Obsessively.
I use a free app called Daily Budget. No matter what and when I spend (even a dollar!), I enter it in the app, which forces me to be very mindful as well as track my spending. I used to be a rather impulsive shopper! I’d buy whatever I wanted, including daily restaurant food. I was used to the instant gratification and it took me a long time to stop. NOT spending money takes planning and discipline, and once you’re used to spending money on certain things, it’s hard to cut back. I analyze my spending frequently as well (at least once a week) to make sure I’m staying on track! 🙂
I Don’t Pay for Accommodation.
At this point in time I mostly camp, for free. I find free campsites on freecampsites.net or with the Allstays Camp & Tent app. I also camp in random places such as picnic areas, parks, gas stations, and even Walmarts. I’ve even camped on someone’s lawn before (with permission). I also couch-surf, which is free! I use the website couchsurfing.com (which uses a referencing system) to find people willing to host me. Sometimes I stay with people I meet on the road. I personally feel that sleep itself should not cost money. If I paid for a motel one day, what I would actually be paying for would be the shelter, security, warmth, shower, wifi, coffee, cozy bed, etc. I wouldn’t be paying to sleep.
I Avoid Restaurants and Paid Attractions.
This has caused a few awkward situations with friends. I usually only eat food from grocery stores now. I actually buy a lot of peanut butter because it’s cheap, dense and high calorie! I also stopped going to the movies (or any places that charged a fee) because I personally don’t value them enough to justify the spending. Fortunately, many of my favorite activities are free or very cheap. When I am traveling, I usually avoid paid attractions like museums, zoos, exhibits, or even the “must see” places. I don’t really feel like I’m missing out much though, because if not for my frugal spending, I wouldn’t even be there in the first place!
I Don’t Have Any Debt or Big Monthly Payments.
I never got the university degree I wanted so badly, as I did not want to get into deep debt when I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to study! I ended up going anyways, only for a short time, and payments were made up-front. I’ve never been late on a VISA payment, and I never spend money I don’t have, because it terrifies me. I have never made a large purchase in my life (house or car) that involved monthly payments. I purchased my motorcycle for $3800 CAD with cash I had saved up. I would not even be eligible to borrow money from a bank anyways!
I’m Not Financially Responsible for Anyone But Myself.
I don’t have any children or anybody that depends on me financially, so that obviously makes traveling much easier. I wouldn’t expect someone with young children or elderly parents to abandon them, because I certainly wouldn’t. If I ever wanted to have kids (which I doubt would happen), I would definitely have to give up this specific lifestyle. I have met some people traveling full time with children though! 🙂 So I do believe it can work, but it’s harder.
I’m Kind Of Homeless.
My motorcycle is my home. The people I love are my home. I have an address for legal purposes of course, but I don’t have my own personal place where I pay rent or call home. All the belongings I have left in the world are either on my motorcycle, or in 6 bags I left in a basement. I got rid of most of my belongings because paying for a storage unit was too expensive (in Toronto at least!).
I Find Ways to Make Money On the Road.
Because I spend so little, it doesn’t take me too long to save up enough money to keep me going for another month or so. I once did some office work for a tow company to cover my tow bill. I found random jobs on the road (like serving and construction) lasting about 3 days each that I found on craigslist, or by asking around. I have also worked online as a Virtual Assistant (maintaining a website & social media accounts), and could work wherever I wanted in the world as long as I had a good wifi connection. I have also done clinical trials in between trips in the past. There are so many opportunities to combine work & travel, but just keep in mind that income may not be consistent!
My Small Motorcycle Has Amazing Mileage.
One of the reasons I still ride my beloved Ninja 250 is because, well, she’s a 250. She has amazing mileage (65 mpg!), and insurance and registration cost me significantly less because she’s a small bike. My costs associated with my motorcycle (not including gas) are about $75/month, which is very cheap for a motorcycle! The cheapest way to travel would be on a bicycle, I think. I might want to live in a van someday, but I would have to be prepared for significantly higher fuel costs!
My Phone Plan Is $17 Per Month.
Many people I know spend over $100 a month on their phone plan. I have lived without a “real” phone plan for YEARS. I currently have a 3GB (per month) tablet data-only promo plan on my iPhone with Fido that I got for approx. CDN $17/month. I usually communicate using iMessage, Whatsapp, or Facebook messenger. I’ve been using a free app called Textnow for unlimited calling and texting to ANY US or Canadian number (the receiver does not need to have the app).
I Don’t Always Replace or Fix Things When Needed.
My motorcycle fairing is currently glued and duct-taped back together (but I like it that way now, because of the stickers!). My helmet has been in a major accident but hasn’t been replaced yet (bad Safia!). My boots that I use daily for walking, riding & hiking have holes and are slowly coming apart. I have a couple of broken molars that I should get fixed eventually (when I get to Mexico?), but I haven’t. All these things bother me, of course, but I don’t feel like I should fix or replace things until it’s a pressing matter. This (bad?) habit has also forced me take better care of myself and belongings!
I Purchase Items Second Hand.
I buy more expensive items secondhand on Kijiji or Craigslist. I have always made a habit of shopping for the best deals, and have done the majority of my shopping on Amazon, Walmart, or at dollar stores. I bought items like my sleeping bag, boots, and most of my electronics all used, for a fraction of the price otherwise. This takes extra time and effort but is worth it for me!
I Make Sacrifices.
Once, all I ate in a day was peanut butter. Many times, free camping means peeing in the bush, and I mean, I prefer toilets for that, lol. Sometimes I sleep in places I am not comfortable in (truck stops?) because they are free. Sometimes I have to go through a lot of extra effort just to save money, and then realize in the end that it wasn’t even worth it. Convenience, comfort and safety… are all usually expensive when you think about it. This is something I am still trying to balance. For example, I am currently trying to eat healthier even if it costs me more, because I know it is better in the long run.
I Don’t Spend Much On My Appearance.
I take great pleasure in maintaining my appearance, but I actually don’t spend much money on it. I don’t go to nail salons, spas, or waxing bars. I’ve never gotten a facial or my eyebrows threaded. The thing is, I am used to being around women (city girls?) who do all those things! I do my own hair (sometimes with help) and I barely spend money on clothes or make up! I think I probably spend about $25 CAD a year on make up even though I would love to spend more, lol. 🙂
I Walk A LOT.
I tend not to ride my bike when I’m hanging out in a big city (because I hate riding in traffic). It’s not uncommon for me to walk an hour or two, rather than pay for the bus. I absolutely never use Uber or take cabs. Why spend money when I can get some good exercise and still get to my destination? My clothes might be sweaty when I get there, but sweating is good for you! This habit has actually saved me significant money over the years but once again causes awkward situations with friends.
The first step to freedom, for me, was teaching myself how to spend less.
I’m A Slow Traveler.
Traveling slowly does save me money in a few ways. If I rode every day, I would spend a lot more money on gas, and be more likely to get into a situation where I might run out of time and need to pay for a campsite/motel as well (or basically pay for convenience). Traveling is obviously fun, but can get exhausting for me personally. When I travel, I might spend a week at a time in the same spot, and won’t be paying for accommodation or gas (since I won’t be riding long distances). So, that’s another thing to keep in mind!
I Don’t Exactly Have Financial Security.
I currently don’t have a retirement plan (I’ll start thinking of one… soon!). If I was ever in desperate need of a large sum of money for whatever reason, I’d probably be screwed right now. It’s something I’m aware of, and that I live with (for now).
I Don’t Have “Normal” Relationships.
Living/traveling this way means I can’t just go see my family whenever I miss them, because that costs money. I’ve missed birthdays and weddings because I’ve been off gallivanting. At this point in time, I have no idea when I will even see my family or best friends (in person) again, because my route isn’t heading back to Toronto anytime soon. It was emotionally difficult for me to leave my loved ones, and I would not expect anyone else to do the same. I maintain almost all my relationships through messaging and video calls, and have pretty much gotten used to it by now. It has now become very difficult for me to become attached to anyone because it ends up being too painful.
I Don’t Shower Every Day.
It depends on the situation, but “real” showers are now a luxury! Or, they at least take effort to get. There are other ways I stay clean though! I can bathe in a lake, use my portable camping shower, take sponge baths, or even use baby wipes in a pinch. I reallyyy love my real bathrooms and showers, though! #firstworldproblems
I Can’t Buy Things I Really Want.
I love buying things! Especially sparkly things! They make me happy (for a few days at least). But I have nowhere to put them on my bike (I’m already bursting as is), and I can’t afford to buy just anything I want anyways (well, who can), because even a few dollars here and there will add up! One of the other things I started doing was taking pictures of things I wanted, instead of buying them.
I Benefit from The Kindness of Strangers.
You will be amazed by the kindness and generosity you encounter on the road. People have shared their meals, campsites, and homes with me. People have given me gifts, and helped me when I was in a bad situation and pretty much saved me from getting myself killed. If not for these acts of generosity, my expenses might be higher. Or I wouldn’t be alive. Lol. I would never feel entitled to the generosity of strangers, my point is that it is very appreciated, and makes a difference! I try my best to pay it forward as well.
I’m Downright Privileged.
I don’t have any major health problems. I look “white” (but I’m half Middle Eastern). I don’t have any elderly parents or grandparents I need to take care of. I was born in Canada, and I have free healthcare as long as I am in Canada (but I have to pay for travel insurance when I leave). The list goes on… especially if I compare myself to most people in the world.
I Do My Research & Planning.
I read a lot of travel blogs, watched a lot of videos, and basically did a lot of googling over the years to learn the ways to reduce travel costs. The internet has an overwhelming amount of budget travel information freely available, which is what gave me the courage to travel long-term on my own. Saving money takes time & effort. Then again, there is that whole time vs. money argument… I’m still figuring it out! I tend to think “we always have time and money available for important things”.
Some Random Opinionated Blabbering
Some of my acquaintances who thought my frugality was unreasonable coincidentally were in debt and overall not the best at managing their finances. Why would they be? This isn’t something we get taught in school. We are (indirectly) taught to spend! I’m not a fan of consumer culture. Money is being made off of our insecurities. Products or services are marketed to us (partially) by being associated with a feeling or state of being that we desire. Frugality is also not a quality that seems to be encouraged in our society, perhaps because it doesn’t exactly benefit the economy (I think).
Maybe, when you’re living a life you love, that is your joy. You won’t have as much of an urge to give into your habits that cost money. The higher your expenses are, the more you have to work to pay for them, and then begins the cycle. I think of it like a hamster wheel. The first step to freedom, for me, was training myself to spend less. 🙂
Update: Click HERE to see a breakdown of my expenses from July 9-22 (2017).
If you enjoyed this post, please share it on social media to support me! I am also looking forward to hearing your thoughts and tips in the comments below! 😀
I spent several hours working on this, and I sincerely hope it can benefit you and others. I’m also always open to suggestions! This list was last updated on August 9, 2017. I will be updating it as things change!