How is traveling the world full time cheaper than living in the states?

Good question! A four year old question, in fact. We have been debating this issue almost daily when the idea dawned on me that so many places in the world are significantly cheaper than America, and don’t come with omission of creature comforts. We initially planned to move right from Nashville to Portugal before a family member in Florida became ill and we were asked to be available for a kidney transplant, so we moved to be close by. A new illness took over and kept us in Florida an unexpected two and a half years. As we thought about moving straight to Portugal, we realized that we really wanted to explore the world and that finance didn’t have to play the role of the bad guy if we were smart about it. Admittedly, we dot our lives with streaming entertainment, drive through coffee, and car internet to get us through our daily duties, and we know things will be less convenient and less predictable while traveling and setting up home in Portugal. But with those things gone, we will save a ton alone on coffee. Honest, it all adds up. These savings, some planning, and some crafty maneuvering are now allowing us to travel AND move to Portugal. And i't’s cheaper than if we stayed in Florida or Nashville or went back to Brooklyn.

If we cut up our lives into what we spend the most money on.

  • Food

  • Health/Medical (out of pocket)

  • Housing

  • Car

  • Insurance

  • Entertainment

  • General Bills (electric, internet, water, etc)

We added these elements up. Nothing fancy going on here. I don’t like to shop. I don’t go to the salon. I don’t get my nails done. I don’t have coworkers birthday presents to buy or uniforms for Atlas. We share a car. We keep things very tight on the day-to-day with food being our biggest culprit when it comes to “treating ourselves”. So, we added these elements into an average and took that number and walked it down the “cost of living” lists in the countries we were interested in living and visiting and our minds were blown.

We could live in Porto for 2/3 of what we spend now - and everything would be higher quality. Coffee is $0.60 if you buy local (whew). Super markets are 1/4 the cost of the best sales in the states. We couldn't spend over $55 at a restaurant, and we were trying to be good to ourselves! If we moved to Mexico, we could get things down to 1/4. You get the point. Your dollar goes way further in lots of other places.

Once you fly overseas, getting around is super cheap. Italy to Portugal was $111 for all three of us one way. Now, I know what you are thinking. Paris, Florence, and Iceland are going to be expensive. I agree. That’s why we are only spending a week each in “luxury” or “touristy” places.

We decided to do a ratio scenario:

  • What we spent on rent ($2,500), we spend on accommodations 1:1

  • What we spend on food will be way less, just circumstance of food cost locational on average.

  • We are selling our car, so we will save that monthly bill ($1,000) and allowing ourself 1/2 of that for travel expenses monthly (cab, car rental, plane tickets, etc)

  • Medical is a big one. Have you heard of medical tourism? We have been researching the world for the best places to have procedures and once again our minds were blown when we discovered the high quality, high tech options available all over the world for a fraction of the price. Dentist visits to common colds to big surgical procedures. We spend so much on top of our insurance on medical, so this one will help a ton. Looking forward to my $10 teeth cleanings while I get a foot massage (the massage is a joke!). I list more comprehensive details below.

  • General bills go out the window. We swapped our phones to Google Fi and cut our bills in 1/2. We no longer will have those huge bills to keep the AC on!

  • Entertainment also opens up for us. So many museums in Europe are free, parks are free, family walks are free. Yes! We will be throwing down some cash to experience things we are looking forward to, but it wouldn’t cost any more than here. In New York we went to an afternoon movie with Atlas and it cost $55.

We wind up saving a few thousand dollars a month by simply NOT living in the states. We still will have health insurance, go to all our scheduled and emergency medical visits, and have the dentist visits that are recommended. We will still eat (yes, three meals a day!), Atlas will still be in “school”. I will drink my coffee (or coffee alternative). Everything will be the same, just cheaper. Cleaner. A bit more high quality.

That being said, cars are so much more expensive. So is gas. Good thing we plan to live in a heavily pedestrian town. I rather walk the beautiful streets of Porto, everything is so close! Before we settle in, while we travel, renting a car is actually pretty cheap if you do it a month at a time.

We really wanted to sell everything before we left to travel, but it didn’t work out that way. I really have a dream of being down to a suitcase each before we built a home again. We plan, universe laughs.

I wanted to share some findings about medical tourism and specifically where good places to check out are and an idea of the costs.

The top 10 places for Medical Tourism in the World*:

Costa Rica

India

Malaysia

Mexico

Singapore

South Korea

Taiwan

Thailand

Turkey

United States

Most Frequent Conditions Treated*:

Dentistry

Cosmetic surgery

Cardiac conditions

In vitro fertility

Weight loss

Dermatology

Liver

Kidney transplants

Spine surgery

How Much Can You Expect TO SAVE ‡:

Brazil: 20-30%

Costa Rica: 45-65%

India: 65-90%

Malaysia: 65-80%

Mexico: 40-65%

Singapore: 25-40%

South Korea: 30-45%

Taiwan: 40-55%

Thailand: 50-75%

Turkey: 50-65%

*sourced from American Journal of Medicine

‡ sourced from Patience without Borders

Keeping Accommodations Cheap/Free

  • Depending on where you go and how long you stay, you can do this cheap or free. I am going to run through different scenarios, some which we are trying, some which we are not.

  • Sometimes our accommodations are taking care of because we are working with a hotel or tourism board, but in the event we are paying for ourselves - we keep things pretty affordable because the places we are drawn to tend to naturally be nice and not expensive. For example, we stayed in Porto for 10 days at $70/night and had a fantastic place we found on Airbnb with a backyard. It was new, clean, and centrally located. $70 is on the high end of things too - we wanted a yard for Atlas to play, so we opted for the premium. Last year we stayed in a bit south, in Lisbon and spent $99/night at an amazing high end hotel.

  • Many sites and Facebook groups exist to do home swap set ups and also match you with folks who need a house sitter.

  • You can explore farmstays, pop up communities, WWOOF (where you live and work on an organic farm), and there are also hubs like this where you can exchange your time for accommodations.

  • Many hostels are new, cheap and can be private if you rent all the beds. I have read about families doing this.

  • Another trick I have read is always traveling overnight, to skip an overnight accommodation. I despise flying at night, so this doesn’t work for us, but it might for you!

  • Now, I am a massive planner. Like, fine tooth comb level researcher, theorist of plans A, B, C, D through Z with back up plans for each potential outcome. The idea of waiting until last moment to book a hotel basically gives me the hives, but! Yes, but! You can save a bunch of money on really nice hotels (we have done this a bunch stateside) with an app called, Hotels Tonight. If you use our friend code LKATSAROS you can take $25 off the already highly discounted room rate. Life has happened upon us often and we have needed to book last moment. They have international hotels, so I am game to give it a go overseas, when we are in need of something on the spot.

Free Travel

This mostly has to do with what kind of credit card you have and how you use your points, The card we have gives us cash back specifically for travel related things. Planes, trains, hotels, rental car, Airbnb……anything related to travel. Being we have invested most of our expenses to travel related things, we get a nice chunk back every month to apply to our bill. Pretty sweet. This makes a few days each month - free! Check out Capitol 1 Venture and Chase Sapphire Preferred to start your research on travel specific points.

School

I am going to dedicate specific posts to homeschooling and world schooling and how we do it and what it costs included what we brought, what apps, websites, and tools we use. The thing I want to express here and now is that it is SO much cheaper than private school. I have nothing against public school, but private school is how we would choose to go if we stayed stateside or settled down anywhere. Our kid has special needs and the process was such a nightmare to advocate for him, that our efforts were much more effective elsewhere - like focusing on him, not fighting on his behalf. All the real world experiencing he will have vs what he would read in a book are mostly free - once you are physically there. We calculated a trip around the world, emerged in the culture, activities and experiences we have planned out, will cost roughly 1/3 of 9 months at private school. His teachers are still guiding us academically and have chosen his material for him - which cost about $200. I did some supplementing with another $100ish - the rest is the world, some apps, and some distant learning programs - all will come in well under the $26K a full time private school would cost in our neighborhood.

Travel Health Insurance

We decided to supplement our American health insurance with travel health insurance for an extra $130/mo. This will take care of any major accidents, illnesses or unexpected medical emergencies. Most places we are visiting will have significant cheaper health for maintenance issues and minor issues (see above travel tourism numbers to have your mind b-l-o-w-n). We also seek more natural and non-invasive options whenever possible and those are more readily available out of the states.

So there you have it. I have tried to make this as comprehensive as I can, to give you a guideline to follow. I know what works for my family of three, may not work for your family at all! This is just how we structured leaving the states, saving money, keeping our kid educated, keeping things fun, keeping things healthy, and of course as fun as possible. I hope is to at least give you one gem of wisdom that benefits you somehow and encourages you to be more confident in your travels!

‘Til next time, safe travels!

xo,

Lana

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