How I Traveled for 1 Year For Under $5,000 – And How You Can Too!

In 2017, I went to Europe for 9 months, and spent the last 3 months of the year chilling in Hawaii. I left home with $300 to my name and my fingers crossed tight. When it was all said and done, I spent on average $13/per day. Still, I lived relatively comfortably and I never went hungry. And there’s not a lot to it. If I, a college drop-out can make it work, anyone can.

Here are my 5 tips to traveling long term!

Travel Slowly

This is one of the most important factors of traveling long term with little money. Because even though I spent 9 months in Europe, I really didn’t go to that many countries. I spent 3 months in Italy, 2 months in England, 2 months in Ukraine, 6 weeks hitchhiking through Europe, and the final 3 months of the year in Hawaii. If you want to be cramming in every country you can to check things off a list, you probably won’t last unless you have a chunk of savings put aside. Transportation kills your budget, so slow down!

Hitchhiking in Germany!

Traveling slowly means not only traveling longer, but you get to really dig deep into where you are and live like a local. While I was in Italy, I was able to explore most of the north, from the canals of Venice to the dramatic mountains of the Dolomites. Focusing on one country at a time will not only save you money, but you’ll get the most out of your time there.

For my hitchhiking stint, I got to experience the city hopping method of traveling. I only ever spent about 3 days in one place, and hit 6 countries in that time. And I almost couldn’t do it. If you want to sustain your travels, you cannot travel quickly – you’ll burn out, run out of money, or both.

Never Pay For Accommodation

I’m not saying “be a freeloader.” I stayed in most of these places by doing some form of volunteering. In Italy, I was an au pair for a wonderful family. In Ukraine, I taught English at a summer camp. And the only reason I was able to stay in Hawaii for 3 months without breaking the bank, was by volunteering at a hostel.

Pros of working in Hawaii – you can learn how to surf!

The first few volunteer opportunities sort of just fell into my lap, and eventually I realized that this was my preferred method of traveling. Eventually, I signed up for Workaway which has led to even more volunteering opportunities. These days, it’s the only thing I use anymore!

Not only do you get a place to stay for free, but you’ll get a much more authentic experience by doing so, and be able to make a real home in the places you are. On top of that, you typically have your own room (or shared with one or two people) – so no worrying about dealing with hostel snorers.

Cook Whenever You Can

One major bonus to volunteering: Some amount of food is often included. Sometimes, all of your food is included! The summer camp where I worked in Ukraine provided every single meal for the whole time, sometimes more than I could even eat. So for two months, I had free food, and free accommodation. During the entire 2 months stay, I spent less than $30.

Not everywhere will be so generous, but if you already have a place to stay for free, can you really complain? While volunteering in Hawaii, every breakfast was free and the rest of my meals were up to me. Because while sometimes it’s nice to have meals provided, it’s also great to have the freedom to cook whatever you want. And I don’t know about you, but there’s something about grocery shopping that makes me feel like a bona fide adult! So learn to cook – it will save you a fortune.

Is it a want or a need?

This is something I have to always be asking myself before spending money on anything. It’s simple, and it makes you think twice before whipping out your wallet. Living out of a backpack, I simply don’t have the space to buy any actual items wherever I am, so for me, the real challenge is food and beer. Who doesn’t love food?! Maybe you’re wandering about on a hot day and you pass by a gelato shop (ice cream is my weakness). It’s piled high with those beautiful swirls of creamy goodness and it’s calling your name.

Another weakness – Belgian fries!

Okay, pause and ask yourself: Is it a want or a need?

Sometimes, it’s totally okay to splurge! And while it may only be a dollar (or two, if you want multiple scoops!), it adds up. Personally, I make exceptions depending on where I am. Am I in Italy? You bet your bum I’ll make an exception for gelato. Am I in Belgium? Then the exception becomes frites. Because it’s something you just can’t get anywhere else, so you buy those dang fries! Just not every time.

As for beer (well, alcohol in general), all I’ll say is this – minesweeping totally works.

You’ll Have to be the Loser of the Group Sometimes

And it kind of sucks, specifically because you’re with other people. There have been several times where I’ve had to stay in because the people I’m with want to go to a club with a cover charge. I’m sorry, but I am not paying to walk inside a building. While everyone is out spending money, that’s when I take the time to get to work and make some cash.

On the plus side, you might not always have to work alone


This applies to food as well. Often when I’m traveling with a group of friends, they’re usually on vacation and therefore want to splurge on eating out. Me? I’m gonna cook myself up a batch of dollar mac n’ cheese and chow down beforehand. And while it’s awkward to be the only one at a restaurant not eating – your wallet will thank you later. If you have to, compromise and settle for a simple (yet cheap!) appetizer and everyone wins.


So that’s it – my top 5 secrets to traveling the world that literally anyone can do! And personally, I’m naturally stingy so it’s almost second nature to look anywhere I can to travel on the cheap. The only thing that may be tricky to do on a budget is the process of buying flights, but luckily there are ways around that too.

The most important thing to keep in mind with long term travel is this: it’s a lifestyle, not a vacation. If you treat long-term travel as a vacation, I promise, you’ll run out of money in a heartbeat! But if you don’t, you’ll be in for an amazing journey.

Is there anything you do differently in order to save money on your travels? Let me know! I’m always looking for more ways to cut down on costs!




By | 2018-09-04T17:31:22+00:00 April 26th, 2018|Travel Tips|

About the Author:

Hey Humans! My name is Michelle, and I've been writing since I was a teenager. Having a mom as an English teacher most likely helped plant the seed that I had no idea would grow into what it is today. For the most part, I love writing about my travel experiences, but I'm slowly branching out more. Stick around and see what else comes out of my fingertips - sometimes I even surprise myself!

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