Traveling full time is not as expensive as you think

People ask me how we can afford to travel the world with kids. Good question!!!

I tell them that the lifestyle of a traveller is not necessarily more expensive. In fact, it can be cheaper than staying put.

Here are some of my thoughts on how we choose to live nomadically and simply.

We are not tourists.

We are travellers with a home on wheels. We are students of the world. We are proponents of extreme simplicity. We learn from the poor.We are pilgrims. There is a huge difference.

[nzs_heading heading=”3″] Food [/nzs_heading]

We normally don’t eat out at restaurants except for special occasions. Instead, we bring our kitchen with us. Many times we even bring our kitchen to the parking lot of a grocery store or market and load our groceries straight into our kitchen. There are exceptions to this. In Hong Kong it was cheaper to eat in cheap cooked food malls than to go to the grocery store.  As I write this post, my husband is cooking a lovely rabbit stew from rabbits I shot yesterday with old potatoes that were a gift. This meal is slowly simmering on a fire of pinecones that he gathered under the neighbouring pine trees. We would have been cooking this meal on a fire outside if it weren’t for the steady rain.

washing clothes in a waterfall
We enjoy eating like the locals do or simpler. We don’t eat the expensive foreigner food. We don’t eat a lot of meat. We cook lots of food from scratch. We are learning how to fish better, hunt, forage better and dumpster dive for food.

[nzs_heading heading=”3″] Accommodation [/nzs_heading]

We bring our home with us. When we aren’t in our truck we are backpacking with our tents or staying with friends ( thanks for all of our generous, longsuffering friends), couchsurfing or woofing. If we get really stuck we stay in a hostel. An example would be when Andrew went up to Auckland last month for a course he stayed in a hostel because the student dorms were too expensive. Sometimes Andrew will stay in a hotel when that is what is provided for him.

We don’t pay off a mortgage or rent. Heck, we can’t even afford a normal camground.

In New Zealand we have 3 options. We move the truck everyday, we wild camp for free or we join the NZMCA for a nominal annual fee and stay in a NZMCA club site in NZ for a small weekly cost. Many times this can even be too expensive for us.

We don’t pay utilities. We live off grid. Even in club sites we are off grid. This dramatically decreases our costs.

We have two automatic payments coming out of our bank account, web hosting and mobile phone. Really, that is it.

We don’t pay for a storage unit for our treasures. Our treasures are with us, in the homes of our friends and in our hearts.

[nzs_heading heading=”3″] Shopping [/nzs_heading]

Souvenirs. Well sometimes, when they are practical and cheap. My favourite souvenir from turkey is a whisk. My favourite souvenir from Morocco has my butter in it. We generally do not buy new stuff. We love op shops and salvage yards, we scavenge and we do DIY, even when we are not quite sure what we are doing.

[nzs_heading heading=”3″] Attractions [/nzs_heading]

We love the free attractions. We have marvelled at the front doors of Notre Dam but never went in. We passed up the pay spas in Rotorua and went down a few windy roads and dirt paths to soak in hot water at Kerosine Creek. We have not been to Hobbiton but the crew of the Hobbit bought Abi beer and pizza because she was making their coffee all week. We will pay if it is important enough and we have the money. The ones we pay for normally involve a good friend, a favourite artist or a very special occasion.

[nzs_heading heading=”3″] Work [/nzs_heading]

Most people look for one full-time job nearby. We find a temporary job here and another opportunity over there. We start up the engine on our home on wheels and drive it to the next job.

We are not really money motivated. Just isn’t a priority. Doing our little bit to make the world a better place is what we love doing most. Celebrating the beauty of the world we live in and those who live in it.

Sometimes we get given gifts so we don’t need to work so much. This amounts to not a lot monetarily but an enormous amount in encouragement and love.

[nzs_heading heading=”3″] Enjoy [/nzs_heading]

This lifestyle is not maintainable unless we enjoy it. We love to find a way to live cheaper. We love the rebellion of being ‘downwardly mobile’. It is so counterculture, don’t you think. We love patching clothes for beauty instead of just functionality. We love finding a new way to live cheaper. We love finding people who know how to live on less and can challenge us. Such a rush. We also love how a christmas feast after a month of poverty tastes even more amazing.

[nzs_heading heading=”3″] Ethos [/nzs_heading]

All of this is tied into part of our belief system. We see and hear about so much the desperate plight of people in the developing world. We are sensing, more and more, that the poverty and corruption in the developing world is the counterbalance to the affluence we live with in the west. As our family lives according to our own consciences on this issue we have become more and more drastic in our attempts to live on less and less. Not just to live on less on a superficial level but to take it to a deeper level of contentment and enjoyment of the lifestyle of extreme simplicity. We take on this lifestyle with humility because we know we still have so much more to learn and change. What is the fun in thinking we have arrived, anyway.


  • admin on October 1, 2013

    Thank you Marcia, BTW nice blog. Uhhhh, nice pictures. Wish I could read portuguese better. Debbie

  • Cathryn on September 29, 2013

    i love that you are writing more…….. i love listening……………. i love even more i can see you smiling as you write. I love you my friend. x

    • admin on October 1, 2013

      Ahhhh, you lovely woman. Good hearing your voice too. It was great how you pampered us while you were here in the truck. Little luxuries here and there. I am so glad you were such a good sport roughing it with us, even though you weren’t well. Hope we didn’t mess you up too much. : )

  • marcia on September 29, 2013

    Great post Debbie! Thank you so much for being an inspiration for me and for many. Finding Joy in Simplicity is a lesson we all need to learn soon, if we want to live in a sustainable, fairer world.