How I’ve Afforded A Life Of Nonstop Travel For The Last 5 Years
American Megan Abbott has spent the last five years of her life travelling the world. The one question she’s constantly asked is, “how do you afford it?” This is her story.
The truth is that when I first began travelling, I couldn’t afford it, not even a little bit. But I did it anyway because it was all I wanted to do, and I wanted it with my whole heart.
My five-year journey began in May 2011; I set out to Alaska with a one-way ticket and $1000 in my pocket. I left with no real plans and minimal travel knowledge. I wished to create a lifestyle where I could travel and support myself simultaneously, but I had no idea where to start. Little did I know, it would take years for me to figure that out. But it would end up being quite the unexpected adventure and learning experience during the process.
Part one: Alaska to Hawaii – learning to let go
I lived very cheaply and roughly in Alaska, sacrificing comforts for experience. I learned a lot about how to let go of things that I didn’t actually need – and minimalism made life much more affordable.
“I realised that the less I had, the more authentically grateful and excited I felt toward anything I received, and I liked the way that felt.”
I lived in an airstream trailer in the bush without electricity or running water. An incredibly kind old man who I met at a cafe miraculously gifted me a car he no longer used, which gave me the ability to get a job as a receptionist at a nearby lodge. I saved my pennies for months and when it got too cold, I left for Hawaii.
In Hawaii, I lived for even cheaper: I worked as a caretaker at a vacation rental house on the coast where I gardened in exchange for free rent. I hitchhiked everywhere. I ate rice and beans, and I foraged coconuts and papaya from the jungle for breakfast. My life became simpler by the day. I was content and I was learning how to become much less stressed about money.
Part two: Central America – loving that less is more
I continued this lifestyle for the next couple of years, being a minimalist nomad and slowly making my way through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and every other country in Central America on a dime, including some of South America.
I lived in communes in the jungle, I volunteered, exchanged my art for food, and slept on people’s couches. I networked as much as possible and made an effort to meet people to learn how we could help each other out and where we could make exchanges. I never ate out at restaurants, I cooked and foraged all my own meals. I realised that the less I had, the more authentically grateful and excited I felt toward anything I received, and I liked the way that felt.
I met the most outrageously kind strangers and it showed me a really beautiful and loving side of humanity that I never before knew existed.
Part three: Iceland – wanting to quicken the pace and freedom
I went to Iceland in 2012. Everyone told me that it would be expensive but I ended up only spending a few hundred dollars for the entire nine weeks I was there. I hitchhiked around the entire perimeter of the country, couchsurfed with some local fishermen, camped in the wild most nights and cooked healthy foods that I bought from the supermarket over a fire. That trip was peaceful and simple, and having such little money was never less of an issue.
After Iceland, I started realising that there was a lot of the world left that I wanted to see. But this much had become clear: travelling without money means travelling very slowly and openly.
This approach is something that I enjoyed and had become really content with, but it was time for a new way. A slightly sped-up and freer method of travel – one that would require quite a bit more more money than I’d needed before – was the next challenge.
Part four: Odd jobs from Sweden to the Caribbean – investing in travel
I spent the next few years bouncing around the world and finding jobs abroad as a means to travel. I worked on an apple farm in Sweden, as a marketer in Kauai, on a yacht in the Caribbean, and on a farm in Italy. I sold items on Ebay and sold my own art through Etsy.
I still lived very cheaply for the most part. I couchsurfed to save money on rent, I would spend hours digging through the internet to find freakishly cheap flight fares. Every penny I made was saved and went right back into travel. Travel was my main priority: I’m pretty sure at this point I hadn’t bought a brand new piece of clothing in years!
Part five: travelling with a purpose – the internet as facilitator
In the last year or so, my travel method has evolved once again. It was around my 25th birthday that I realised I wanted to be travelling with a deeper purpose. I also learned that working for other people is not my thing, and that I much prefer being my own boss.
I made the decision to learn how to utilise the internet as my main source of income, and as a way to attain an even deeper level of freedom. With no previous knowledge of making money online, I probably initially spent 100+ hours learning as many different online skills and tricks as possible to begin my new journey. I took free online courses on web-design and coding, I watched how-to videos on social media and affiliate marketing, read countless articles on entering the world of freelancing and searched loads of blogs and websites about other people who had already mastered the art of making millions online.
Thank you, digital age
So as of late, I’ve been funding my travels by working as a freelance writer, a ghost writer and a travel writer. I’ve been paid to make and design websites for people. I’ve dabbled in affiliate marketing and social media marketing. I still sell things online sometimes, and I seize any digital opportunity to make a quick buck that I can stash into my travel account.
Working online, in my experience, is turning out to be the ultimate way to fulfil my original goal of travelling while making money. In the last year, I returned to Central America to travel all of the countries once again – I backpacked around seven countries in Europe and volunteered in Tanzania as a high-school teacher at a school at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Having a laptop and a reliable internet connection – and knowing how to use them to my advantage – have proven to be the most invaluable resources.
My current state of play
Lately, I’ve put my fast-paced travel lifestyle on hold for just a little while. I’ve settled into my dream location, a city painted entirely blue in the heart of the Rif Mountains in Morocco. I’ve started up a tour company which helps me stay close to the world of travel while helping me save up for future trips. My business revolves around helping other people plan and organise their own trips and travels, something that I love nearly as much as travelling myself.
We rent out our spare bedroom via Airbnb to help pay our rent, and we even rent out our massive rooftop terrace space to bikers, backpackers and budget travellers who need a cheap spot to pitch their tent. I continue to work as a freelance travel writer, because writing about travel is one of my greatest passions.
You want it? Then take it
What I’ve learned over the last five years is that a life of nonstop travel is so, so possible. Optimise the resources that are the most available to you; this is the key. Dig deep, do your research, think outside of the box, stay focused on your goals and don’t get discouraged if there are a few bumps along the way!
Lead image: Michael Libis. All images supplied.
Megan Abbott is originally from the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, but currently resides in the Atlas Mountains of Chefchaouen, Morocco. She is an avid tea drinker, a freelance writer, and a curious nomad with a perpetual case of wanderlust. Follow her journey on Instagram @megan_abbott_