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In Depth


Finances: FAQs

We get a lot of questions about how finances work on a trip like this, so I'm going to try to answer some of the most frequently asked on this page.

How can you financially pull something like this off for a year after just graduating college?

Earn your freedom. You may think it appears impossible, but we found a way to round up the money. We basically spent the last few months working lots of overtime in jobs that most people would not be willing to do. Actively making choices to not spend unnecessary costs can save a lot of money in the long run. For example, not going out to eat, not buying anything that you won't be taking on the trip, or trying not to drive much to conserve gas all contribute to a lower cost of living, which puts more money into your travel account. Rolf Potts Vagabonding book has a good chapter on earning your freedom. His website also has good resources posted online about how to find temporary work that allows you to earn money to travel.

Simplify your life. When you decide to take on a trip like this, the only possessions that you will need for a year will be carried on your back, which allows you to free yourself from many of the material possessions that you would need if you lived in a specific location with longer term committments and a steady job. For this trip, we both sold our cars and many other posessions that we will not be needing throughout the next year. This also saves costs on insurance, upkeep, repairs, etc., that you would add up if you were not traveling.

Student Loans. Either set aside money for your student loan payments and consider it a "travel expense," or look at ways to defer. There appear to be valid ways to defer loans on account of low income or economic hardship, which could possibly be applied to long-term travel.

How much are you budgeting for this year?

$10,000 per person.

This includes costs for flights, land travel, visas & border crossings, travel insurance, food, and lodging. We hope this number is fairly accurate, but we also understand how costs alwasy seem to add up quicker than expected. We are purposely choosing to travel to more of the developing countries around the world to save room and board costs and trying to find volunteer opportunities or travel modes that require little lodging costs in the more expensive countries. We expect are largest costs to be for travel associated, and will probably spend 1/2 to 2/3 of our budget for these costs.

Do keep in mind that many people would struggle to live for less than this in the USA for a year, so realize that if you can afford to not work for a year and you are willing to live below the high standard that most people expect, you can do some incredible things for a very reasonable price.

How are you accessing your money overseas and what would happen in the case of theft?

ATMs. It seems that travelers' checks are slowly becoming a thing of the past as ATM locations are becoming more readily available worldwide. We have set up 4 separate bank accounts with 3 ATM cards, and will also carry 4 credit cards, some of which could double as an ATM in the case of an emergency. Although you may pay a small service fee, accessing cash from an ATM gives you the best exchange rate and provides easy access to local currency. We are also planning on carrying around $200 in US Dollars which could easily be exchanged and carry a lot of stability in many countries with floundering economies.

Online Banking. All of our bank accounts are set up with an online interface which can be used to carefully manage account traffic and transfer money. We have set up a trip account which we will keep a lower amount of money in case our ATM card is stolen, in which we could transfer the money into one of our backup accounts until we are sure that our ATM card is cancelled. We will also be using Paypal to transfer money between accounts with different banks. All of our credit cards have options to electronically transfer money from our bank accounts to pay the bills. Basically all of our finances can be controlled and handled through the internet.

Theft. We have decided that it was easier to assume we would be robbed at some point in this year than to get our hopes up and think that it will not happen. Because of this we are trying to run through all of the scenarios to secure our remaining resources, both financial and material and continue on our way. We have posted phone numbers to all of financial institutions (banks, credit card companies, etc.) in a private folder on the internet, and in the case of theft, we would use the web to retrieve these numbers and make the appropriate calls to cancel cards and then arrange new ones to be send to us at a farther point in our route. (Note that you cannot call US 800 numbers from other countries, except Canada. You need to have the local number of each to call collect or use a calling card.)

We are planning to distribute our ATM and credit cards throughout our luggage, clothes, and footwear in a way that would minimize the risk of losing everything. As long as we can pull up enough cash to get to an Internet cafe, we should be alright. We are planning to sew a few US $20's into some of our clothes or stash them in our boots. We are also using money belts that go around our waists instead of the ones that hang around our necks. We feel these are safer and also less visible. It's also a good idea to just carry as little cash on you as you feel you can get away with. Having less to lose greatly improves your chances of losing a lot.

Other Security notes. We have scanned important documents and posted them to a secure private server on the web in case we would need to print out copies to help in the replacement of lost passports, etc.

Travel Insurance. We have also purchased a backpacker's travel insurance from This offers basic medical coverage as well as at least partial reimbursment in the accident of theft. The cost for this insurance is around $400 for a year, and we found that this plan was the best fit for the activities and risks of our trip, as well as being one of the least expensive. The company is based out of Germany and serves over 1000 backpacking travelers. A full policy report is available here.

Since you are doing a lot of service projects, have you asked for any donations to help offset the costs?

We have not, but... In going with our theme of humble service, we thought that we would try to pull the financial resources necessary for this journey from our own lives. It provided a way to free ourselves from unnecessary possessions and by raising our own support, we feel that we have a great appreciation for the work necessary to gather the money to do something like this.

Even so, a few people have been asking if there are ways that they could be a part of our vision and mission by financial donation to this journey. We did not ever intend on taking donations, but if people feel called to contribute, we would also like to provide that opportunity. In response to this, I added a link that would allow people to donate using Paypal, anonymously if desired, to our travel account. You can find this link at the bottom of our interaction page. If you would like to find an alternative way to donate, contact us by our email addresses on our biography pages, and we can arrange something.

I hope this page has been useful for people hoping to travel like this and feeling overwhelmed by trying to financially make it happen. Please feel free to post any other questions or comments you might have...

Posted by Dave at October 3, 2004 11:30 PM

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David P. Landis & Eric S. Kennel