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!