We couldn’t believe that we celebrated our ONE YEAR NOMADIVERSARY while slow traveling in South America! Where has the time gone?!? We actually celebrated in August–yes, we are a little behind on our blog, but will soon be catching it up!
We left behind all we knew to start our great adventure in August 2018.
To recap, we quit our jobs, sold our house and vehicles, and got rid of almost everything that we owned. We lived frugally and saved for years in order to slowly travel around the world. We decided to spend this past year in South America. And spoiler alert, we had so much fun (and stayed under budget!) that we will be continuing for another year, but in a different location.
But for now, let us break down our numbers for year 1 in South America.
How we spent our time slow traveling.
We started off our nomad adventure with five days in a wild and exotic locale near and dear to our hearts—Walt Disney World in Florida. Florida has actually become our new home base, thanks to favorable tax laws and our love of Mickey Mouse.
From there, if you recall, our original plan changed almost immediately upon setting foot in Peru. We had originally planned to go to Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. But thanks to recent (as within the week before we arrived) immigration changes in Peru, we had to come up with another plan. So here’s how we actually spent our first year in South America, by number of days:
All of these countries allow US citizens to stay on 90-day free visas, even including Brazil thanks to a change this summer. We actually went in and out of Argentina 5 different times! It was very easy to cross the border and re-enter as we needed. We loved the flexibility that these countries offered us!
How we spent our money slow traveling.
But now onto the numbers you are more interested in! How much money did we spend for an entire year of living a nomadic, slow travel lifestyle? We were pleased that we came in under budget at US$24,631! This includes everything, with one exception, which we will break down for you below. Here’s a fancy chart to show our expenses.
As with living at home, housing is often the biggest expense in any budget. We spent almost all of our time staying in AirBNB apartments, usually for at least 28 days. That is because hosts on AirBNB often offer amazing discounts if you stay for at least that length of time. This was also one of our keys to keeping our budget on target—the less you move from place to place the less you spend on housing and transportation costs.
Our favorite accommodations had modern features. We stayed in studio apartments in refurbished colonial buildings, high-rise apartments, and even a storage container house in Brazil! We/ve met some great hosts along the way, too. With only a few minor issues along the way (like rioting outside our apartment or places that were very small), we’ve learned how to search for places that meet our needs, and have overall had a great experience.
On a side note, our housing cost includes our annual fees that we pay for our timeshare in Orlando, Florida (about 10% of our accommodation expenses). Since Florida is our home base, and we have owned the timeshare for more than 10 years, we built this into our budget. We consider it a great value to us personally, and plan to continue to enjoy it yearly when we return to the US. When we went back home in September we stayed in our timeshare for two weeks and loved it!
Our next largest category of expenses was food. About 1/3 of our budget was spent on eating out, and we ate some great food! From delicious empanadas, tender (and cheap) steak in Argentina, drool-worthy burgers in Uruguay, amazing ice cream, and bakeries galore. We loved the food these countries offered. Also, Emily loved being able to find tons of gluten-free options, including entire bakeries! This has been a gluten-free paradise, with everything in the grocery stores clearly labeled. If we hadn’t walked so much, we would have definitely ended this year a few pounds heavier!
This is the amount that we spent on health insurance and health-related expenses. 90% of this category was for our annual health insurance plan through IMG (imglobal.com), which is an expat plan that also covers us when we return to visit the United States. Thankfully, we remained healthy throughout the year, except for one Emergency Room visit for Ryan with an ankle injury (ER visit and x-ray costs us $73, which didn’t even come close to our deductible). We also had dental cleanings that we paid for out of pocket.
This category was also the caveat to our overall budget number. We did spend an additional $1,630, mostly on dental expenses for Emily. We delayed this dental care because we knew it would be cheaper to have the work done in Peru rather than in the US. Since we were reimbursed for these expenses through our existing HSAs, we did not count this amount in our overall spending for this year’s budget.
This is how much we spent going from place to place. This category could be further broken down into about 50% for the 10 flights we took, 1/3 for long distance buses, and the rest for local transportation. We used airline reward miles to pay for our flight from Orlando to Lima, Peru, only paying $13.76 out of pocket.
This is definitely a catch-all category, and oddly the same exact amount as transportation! This included everything from toilet paper to shoes to a frying pan to a new camera. Also, we purchased items for our next adventure and had the items shipped to family at home. This category shows how all the little purchases in a budget can really add up.
This first year we have had many amazing adventures! Some of the big highlights include Huacachina, Machu Picchu, Patagonia (including the Lake District, Torres del Paine, visiting the penguin island, and the Perito Moreno Glacier), Colca Canyon, the total solar eclipse, and Iguazu Falls.
We also had many smaller adventures, like exploring the surrounding area of Salta, a walking tour of Montevideo, biking around the wineries of Mendoza, the street art of Valpairiso, the salt mines of Peru and Argentina, and the tango show and a philharmonic orchestra performance in Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.
And we can’t forget the smaller daily adventures, like ordering at a restaurant in a different language or walking around the neighborhood. While there were many activities, we also had lots of down time. We had to learn how to find balance now that we were not working 40+ hours per week. At times it was a rough adjustment, but now we are good at living this lifestyle!
We believe that the money we have is to be shared with others. When we were working, we would donate a percent of our income to the local church and other organizations we wished to support. Part of our vision for our adventure has been to donate money to local churches, organizations, and individuals as we traveled. Although we have no income, apart from our savings, we felt this was an important category to us.
Many people ask us what we do with our mail when we are gone. We use a service called Escapees to handle our mail. By using their service, this also allows us to have a Florida address without actually owning or renting a home there. The total might seem high, but that is because we have already paid for the service for next year also.
So there you have it. A full year of slow traveling.
We spent just over $24,500, or about $2,000 per month, for two people slow traveling for a full 365 days. So, you might be wondering what is next for us? We returned to the US for about six weeks–split between Florida, North/South Carolina, and Pennsylvania. We had a wonderful time reconnecting with friends and family.
And now we started our second year of travel in our next slow traveling location–Southeast Asia! Stay tuned for our upcoming posts about our start in Myanmar and Thailand. And thanks, as always, for following along!