CGL 125 Mini-Motorcycle Diaries: The Financial Life of an Adventure Traveler -Exposed!

It’s time to crunch some numbers! How much is this trip actually costing me? Can I really motorcycle across multiple countries on an average of $30/day and still afford all the daily necessities of such a big trip?

Let’s take a closer look:

From January 1st to February 18th, I spent most of my time in Chile, one of Latin America’s most expensive countries (it compares to the States in cost, with a plain jane coffee costing as much as $4USD and a dorm bed $20). In these 49 days I spent $1,393, or a daily average of only $28.50USD, less than my self imposed $30/day budget. That’s less than $900/month for all my living, travel and motorcycle costs, which leaves an extra $200 in my pocket for unforeseen expenses (the remainder of what I earn from my rental property, after paying things like mortgage and utilities). Its also less than I’d spend if I were at home paying my own mortgage, bills, food, gas, outings, etc.

In order to travel on $30/day, I just decide what’s important to me and what isn’t, and cut out the spending that’s not adding to the experience or that doesn’t bring me satisfaction.

The math and routine is simple enough. I break my day into three main categories: $10/food, $10/camping or hostels, $10/fuel. With such an economic motorcycle, I usually only spent $8-12/day, generally not exceeding 250km/day in those first 49 days. Some days more or less, but rest days help lower the cost of fuel, and camping lowers the cost of lodging. Avoiding touristic restaurants most of the time, $10/day on food is easy, although I’ll admit to eating mostly granola, chocolate, cheese, tomatoes, avocado, bread, bananas and empanadas while in Chile, which seriously lacks in quality and selection when it comes to food. Argentina will be a different story!

So I’m spending less than $30 for daily costs, but what happens if I factor in the big expenses?

If I add in the $160 visa cost for Argentina and Chile ($320 total), my daily average increases to $35 over those first 49 days. If I add in the cost of the motorcycle and a round trip flight here (into Santiago, out of Bogota if I decide to use it. TIP: Round trip tickets are usually only slightly more expensive than one-way tickets, sometimes even cheaper!) for just those first 49 days, I average $90/day, which is the cost of a mid-range hotel room in expensive cities like Santiago. Over the course of a 6 month trip, the motorcycle ($1,400 with paperwork) and the visas ($320), plus travel insurance ($300), will only cost me $18USD/day, $48/day with a daily budget of $30. Over 8 months, the daily cost would be in the range of $36/day, or $1075/month, still under what I earn for renting out my house (so still providing some buffer to go over). And remember that the numbers here were while in the most expensive country in South America. Most countries will be cheaper. This means that even if I traveled for the next year, my savings could potentially stay intact.

Of course this isn’t a perfect system by a long shot, and I expect a daily average of $45 after 8 months on the road and with every little thing added in. For example, what would happen if my house didn’t rent for a month or three? What if my water heater went belly up? What if my motorcycle engine blew up, and I needed to buy another cheap bike? What if I tire of a 125cc bike and I want a bigger, more expensive bike? In all these cases, I still have my savings to back me up. But in the last three years of owning my house and renting rooms, I have not once had a vacancy over two weeks, and even that is rare. The rental economy in Seattle has been so strong that finding good renters has been relatively easy. Even if the economy in Seattle tanked, I would still be able to rent out rooms (and live in one of the rooms myself) and easily get enough to cover my mortgage and utilities, because after all, people always need a place to live.

But in the meantime, I’ll continue to make the most of it, and to show potential travelers you don’t need $1,000 a week for a grand adventure!

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6 thoughts on “CGL 125 Mini-Motorcycle Diaries: The Financial Life of an Adventure Traveler -Exposed!”

  1. I used to record and calculate the cost of each trip, but now I try not to think of the cost, but concentrate on the experience. I have now accepted that travelling IS going to be expensive, and that I WILL spend more money than I want to, but it is the overall experience that counts.

    That said, I HATE visa fees !

    happy travels.

    jeritilley.wordpress.com

    1. If you have a lot of money to begin with, there’s no need to keep track, but I think it’s a misconception that traveling has to be expensive. One of the points I’m trying to make is that traveling doesn’t have to be so costly, if you’re a bit more thoughtful about what you’re spending on (and it won’t damage the experience one bit, unless you’re looking to be wined and dined at a Maui resort). You can adventure travel for a lot less than you think, and that’s important for people who don’t have a lot of money to travel with in the first place to know this.

  2. I’m soon heading off to join the world’s nomads. Thanks for the confidence boost. I’ll have a part time online based jib that will bring in about AU$2800 per month after taxes so your math shows me that I might even be better off on the road than I currently am working full time and living in a house. Haha. I will mostly be hiking in the first year so transport costs will be low for me too

    1. Wow, now that’s an ideal gig! I need to find a job I could do on the road. Any tips?

      If you’re thoughtful with where your money goes, you’ll be able to travel as long as you want and also beef up your savings account.

      Hiking trips are amongst my favorites, although I’ve learned that what I save on fuel and transport, I make up in the cost of all the extra food I require :) I’ve seen the same thing with bicyclists here, who don’t need to buy gas but do eat about three times what I do.

      Where will you be starting? Good luck and have a fabulous time!

      1. P.S. Dang, I just realized that’s $33,600 a year after taxes (that’s almost TRIPLE what I’m spending on traveling in a year!) In the ‘real’ world that might not sound like a lot, but for a traveler, it’s a pretty serious fortune. And if you don’t have any overhead (bills at home, loans, etc), you really could still save at least $10,000 a year even if you doubled my budget.. It’s so great to be able to have a job where you can go anywhere… I’m envious :)

  3. I lived on 30E a day in Europe for 4 months during the summer.
    Same sort of breakdown as yours – 10 each on petrol/camping and food.
    One trick I learned in France was to go to the supermarket hlf an hour before closing and they had all their fresh bread and salads on half price.
    My other saving grace was HU motorcyclists allowing me to Freeload.

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