OK, let’s get down to brass tacks. The question most often asked is “How do you finance your travel?” The answer is … I live totally from my average Social Security income. Yes, it is cheaper to do what I do in Europe than to live in the United States.
I severely downsized my life before taking on this adventure. I own nothing! My roommates took over the lease on our townhouse, they bought my car and adopted my cat. And, I owe nothing! I have no bills, or monthly payments other than my credit card. I try to put all of my expenses on the credit card because I get travel miles for my expenditures.
Really, you say! Yes, Really!
In Seattle where I was living a small studio would cost $1200 a month at a minimum. This means that if I want to eat during the month, put gas in a car, or go to a movie I need to go to work. No thanks, I’d rather have this adventure instead.
And, the follow up question is usually – does it take all of your monthly SS income. Answer: Not usually. I have been able to put money aside and still have a splurge every couple of months, Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland; birthday in Casablanca at the replica of Rick’s Cafe Americana from the movie Casablanca.
And, 4 days in the Blue City of Chefchaoen, Morocco. I don’t live like a pauper, but I also don’t throw money away.
If you have a close knit family, a pet, or other obligations like a mortgage, traveling like me would not work for you. But reducing the size of your travel agenda to what is manageable could be a fun project. For instance, you could travel to Spain and do 2 back-to-back English Immersion Programs based out of Madrid. Add one week on the front end to visit interesting cities within an hour or two of Madrid, like Segovia, Toledo, Avila, or El Escorial. Then take a few days on the back side of the program and discover the real Madrid, not the “tour guide” version.
You might also be able to find a “Trusted Housesitter” or other volunteer one week gig in or near Madrid and take your day trips from there. This would also mean you are not paying for a hotel or other lodging for that week.
I was able to rent a furnished apartment, 10 minutes walking distance from the Nile, in Luxor, Egypt for 250.00 US Dollars a month. I stayed 3 months. I was not volunteering. Just spending a warm winter there.
When you can plan your travel around volunteering (free lodging and often your food provided as well) your costs end up being mostly about travel ONLY! A month in sunny (mostly) Spain where you meet new native English speakers at the program plus, the possibility of creating some new friendships with your Spanish participants sounds like fun to me. What about you?
Back to cost. Research your flights, travel off season or shoulder season. Do not pay for a seat. If you have purchased a ticket, they will assign a seat to you. Do not choose hotels as your lodging, but have a little adventure by staying in a hostel (lots of young people); or checkout Couch-Surfing, Air B&B, SERVAS, Hospitality Club or university dorm rentals in off season only.
Instead of eating in restaurants, try sidewalk vendors. The trick is to watch and see where most of the locals line up, and get in that line, Buy some munchies at supermarkets like Aldi, Lidl, Mercadona, or local open air markets like this one in Valencia, Spain where there is everything from Serrano ham to wool socks.
Since transportation will be your primary expense, educate yourself using Google to find trains or inexpensive buses from airports to your destination. Keep in mind that some cities have 2 airports. I didn’t, and had a problem in Brussels when I ended up at the Ryan Air (ugh!) airport. Won’t make that mistake again.
If you are going to be traveling for 30 days in any one country check and see if they offer a senior discount train card. Don’t overlook daily and weekly bus or tram/light rail discount tickets. Find the visitors center in the airport, ask your hosts, hostel bulletin boards, other travelers, or get familiar with online resources. Spain has the gold card which allows 40% off LONG DISTANCE TRAINS Monday thru Thursday and 25% off on the weekends. It is always cheaper to purchase tickets on line. DO NOT PURCHASE a Europass because it is expensive and will not meet your needs. Travel like a local instead. Most people who work in train stations and airports will speak English,
Here’s a tip someone gave me – I’ve not used it but I could. If you are a member of Toastmasters International, lookup club meetings in the city you are visiting. Contact the club early and arrange to attend a meeting. You may be invited to stay in someone’s home. My friend was! I think this might also work for “Meet-Ups” as well.
I hope this answers some more questions for you. Please feel free to ask for other information. I will gladly share whatever I can. This is the final blog about this subject.
Keep an eye open for our book “The Big But” dedicated to people who say “I want to travel, but…” to be available on Amazon soon.
Happy trails to you…..