How this couple travel full time on the Australian pension – it’s cheaper than staying at home

“Your travel budget is what?” I asked, thinking that I had misheard Jason.

“$37,000 USD per year total for the 3 of us,” Jason repeated. I had heard him correctly. Here was a family of 3 traveling the world for less than the 2 of us!

We were online friends, both following each other’s adventures via Facebook and we just happened to be in Istanbul at the same time.

I looked across at Duncan who was computing that figure in his mind. The 3 of them were traveling on USD 102 per day and our current average was USD 119 per day, USD $43,365 per annum.

“We haven’t included travel and medical insurance in that figure,” said Kerry, Jason’s wife. Even so, we were impressed.

Even so, we were impressed.

Why Is It Cheaper To Travel Than Stay At Home?

The challenge: Is it possible to spend less travelling than staying at home?
The challenge: Is it possible to spend less traveling than staying at home?

Prior to this trip, we had downsized, our adult boys had flown the nest and our day in day out corporate life was starting to become a grind.

It was our time, not corporate time! We were working to make enough money to pay off the mortgage and to have enough money to go to work. Sound familiar!

We are Australian and we were in our ‘transition to retirement phase’. Superannuation, rules, regulations, and pensions were at the top of our minds. Would we have enough, had we planned correctly? Our new motto ‘chase time, not money’ was starting to ring true.

The Australian Age Pension with added benefits currently sat at AUD 34,252 for a couple or USD 25,288.

Could we challenge ourselves to spend less from our current position of USD 43,365 to USD 25,288 per annum?

A light bulb moment – a challenge

‘let’s travel the world for 1 year on the equivalent of the Australian Aged Pension – that is USD25,288 or USD69 per day’.

That was 42% less than our previous budget!

When you put it that way, it hit hard. What were we thinking? Oh, heck lets do it! If we don’t try we won’t know whether we could or not. What’s the worst thing that could happen…we blow the budget? We have done that before, nothing new.

What’s the worst thing that could happen…we blow the budget? We have done that before, nothing new.

Family and friends questioned our sanity. Those on pensions already said ‘it could not be done’. Just that wording alone set the challenge in motion.

How do we achieve traveling on the pension?

Budgets and Tracking Expenses

Tracking your spending is a great way to make sure you're spending less while you travel.
Tracking your spending is a great way to make sure you’re spending less while you travel.

We track every cent we spend on an Excel spreadsheet and the travel budget app Trail Wallet against the daily and annual budget.

We learnt from Year 1 (which was a blowout) that buying things we really didn’t need meant we had to pay $$ to send these items home or more $$$ for excess luggage.

We learnt that experiences were more valuable than purchases: hot air ballooning over Cappadocia in Turkey and in Bagan in Myanmar, trekking Machu Picchu in Peru and being tossed from side to side in a jet boat in Iguazu Falls, just to name a few out of many.

Changing Our Travel Style

Our year 1 travel style was definitely not the way we were going to travel in upcoming years.

On the move every 4 days, 16 air sectors, USA, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, was exhausting. Transport costs were high and we were rushing from place to place.

Enter ‘slowing down’ travel.

Housesitting was now part of our ‘slowing down travel’ experiences. Spending time as a local in countries that we had never dreamed of visiting; caring for luxury homes, pets, gardens and swimming pools.

Expensive Round The World Tickets would now be a thing of the past; tickets would be purchased governed by our housesitting assignments and our holidays in between.

Let Year 2 of Travels Begin

Jane and her husband spent less money travelling than staying at home by housesitting in places like Nicaragua.
Jane and her husband spent less money travelling than staying at home by housesitting in places like Nicaragua.

With two housesits confirmed in Canoa in Ecuador and San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, we left Australia determined to succeed.

In that year we:

  • Spent 81 days in Ecuador, 42 of those days housesitting in Canoa the rest holidaying in Quito, Cuenca and the Galapagos Islands
  • Spent 122 days in Mexico, 76 of those days housesitting in San Miguel de Allende, Tepoztlan, Zihuatanejo and Puerto Vallarta. Holidays were spent in Acapulco, Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Morelia, and Mexico City.
  • Spent 45 days in Nicaragua, 44 of those days housesitting in Granada and Ometepe Island
    Spent 6 days in Costa Rica holidaying
  • Spent 43 days in Panama, 32 of those housesitting in Boquete and the rest holidaying in Panama City

We ended up having to cut short our year by 56 days and traveled back home to Australia to tie up some loose ends.

Did we come in on travel budget?

Finding housesitting assignments in cheaper countries, like Panama, will reduce your travel expenses.
Finding housesitting assignments in cheaper countries, like Panama, will reduce your travel expenses.

For those 300 days our total daily costs for the 2 of us were:

  • USA: USD 88.50 per day
  • Ecuador: USD 79.66 per day
  • Mexico: USD 43.00 per day
  • Nicaragua: USD 23.00 per day
  • Costa Rica: USD 86.00 per day
  • Panama: USD 34.90 per day

Our major expenses were:

USA was our most expensive country followed by Costa Rica, and our cheapest country to travel was Nicaragua.

Travelling to low-cost countries and slowing down travel kept costs down. 65% of our time was spent housesitting where our only daily expenses were food and beer. We had real experiences along the way.

65% of our time was spent housesitting where our only daily expenses were food and beer. We had real experiences along the way.

Thailand is just one of the many places Jane and her husband have been able to travel to for less than staying at home.
Thailand is just one of the many places Jane and her husband have been able to travel to for less than staying at home.

We did it! We came in right on budget! USD69 per day. Our savings USD 18,077!

We were thrilled with what we achieved that year and set off in our 3rd year with the same budget.

We have just finished that year traveling from Australia to Thailand, Spain, Sweden, France, Montenegro, Croatia, Panama, Mexico, Cuba and Barbados.

Crack open the champagne (yep, it is in the budget) we did it again!

We are now into our fourth year of continuous travel and pleased to say we are on budget, have gained more time and the bucket list keeps getting bigger!

What do you think? Would you believe it’s cheaper to travel than stay at home?

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Is it possible to travel the world on a pension? Here's a look at why it is cheaper to travel than stay at home plus how you can save money while traveling.