We didn’t win the lottery or some other prize.
Neither of us has a trust fund.
We didn’t inherit money from a parent or rich uncle.
We didn’t empty our retirement nest egg or take out a loan to travel.
These are some of the ideas that others have conjectured about how we can afford to quit work and travel for year.
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Here’s the reality of our situation (in 2016).
We saved money.
We saved money every month for about seven years, knowing that we one day we wanted to travel full-time.
We set up an online brokerage account with automatic debits from our checking account.
At the start, we invested a few hundred dollars in mutual funds. We increased our monthly savings contribution as our income increased, and a couple years in we were saving more than our monthly house payment in the adventure travel fund.
We avoided consumer debt.
Consumer and student loan debt can absolutely derail dreams of full-time adventure travel, and I go in depth about managing debt in the 15 steps to live a life of adventure.
Aside from our home and investment houses, we don’t have other debt.
We don’t have credit cards, only debit cards tied to the money we have in the bank.
We don’t have car payments. When we left, I drove a 1996 suburban. Ugly for my coworkers to look at in the parking lot, but it got me to work each day.
We avoided MBA school student loan debt a few years ago. Katie and I both worked during the day, and I went to school at night so we could cash flow the tuition bills.
We continue to earn.
We quit our full-time jobs and gave up our incomes, but we still make some money to slow and hopefully cover the burn rate.
We also earn money from the books I’ve written and this blog (which makes money through affiliate links), but those barely cover the cost of the costs of running this site.
The main income that we live on while RV’ing around America comes from Mark’s advisory role with the company where he worked when we left. He works from the road part-time, attending meetings, coaching sales team members, and working on special projects.
2022 Update: Earning income while living abroad
As we’ve traveled abroad in 2022, much of the above remains true with regards to our financial situation. Managing expenses, budgeting, avoiding debt, saving, and investing enabled our 2016 adventure year, and similar good financial habits are enabling our year of adventure in 2022.
We continue to live debt free (aside from our home mortgage), and we have upped our investments in real estate. We’ve moved away from single family rentals and into commercial real estate primarily through syndication, which we describe in a different article. And our commitment to reinvesting for long-term grown remains true. We won’t draw on cash from investments or sell equites to fund our year abroad. We will certainly deplete cash savings that we’ve been banking for our year of adventure, though we’re also going to work.
The remote work culture spurred by the pandemic provided an option to remain employed full-time while we lived in another country. In considering the options, Katie opted to leave her role in IT sales, preferring to focus on full-time parenting, establishing the family household in Santiago, and seeking involvement in the children’s school so we could plug into a social community.
Mark opted to remain at his job full-time, and that decision to work full-time is one reason why we chose Santiago, Chile for our expat experience. Santiago is only an hour behind Eastern Standard Time (New York), and so it makes remote work easier than accommodating a major time zone gap. Also, Chile and South America offer many opportunities for exploration, including Patagonia and Antarctica, and Mark opting to work allows the family to cover most expenses through income while our adventure savings fund enables us to embark on expensive trips like a ten day cruise in Antarctica.
Where to start financing your adventure
If you want to quit your typical work life and embark on your own adventure, you don’t have to start buying lottery tickets or searching your family tree for a rich uncle you can cozy up to.
Instead, you should start saving immediately, manage and cut debt, and determine the ways in which you can make money while you travel.
For more ideas on how you can start making your adventure possible, read our 15 steps to live a life of adventure.