Unforeseen costs of long-term travel (and why I don’t care)

One of my personal heroes, Elizabeth Gilbert, said “To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice,” and she wasn’t kidding.  Traveling is expensive, and not just for your bank account, but I agree with Liz.  It is all worth it.  I’ve given up a lot to travel, to keep following my dream to see every country in the world, and I don’t regret a thing.  My life is an epic roller coaster ride with killer views, and that’s worth one hefty price tag.

While you can plan to “fund your freedom” with proper saving, budgeting and remote business planning like I have, there are going to be unforeseen expenses.  There were many costs of travel that I never saw coming before they hit me straight in the face.  So let me share them with you before you experience the same thing.  (Managing expectations, I’ve learned, is critically important and a great way to save yourself a headache down the road.)

10 Unforeseen Costs of Long-term Travel

1.  Transaction charges- These are the sneaky little pests that creep in and ruin your all time spent budgeting.  I file them under bull shit  miscellaneous costs.  They can really add up, so getting a credit card with zero international transaction fees is key.  Of course, there’s always going to be ATM fees, but international transaction fees are worse and can be avoided with the right card, so it’s something to consider before you travel abroad.

2.  Broken equipment- It hurts when you break your phone or your camera.  It hurts even more when you do it abroad.  Just say YES to insurance on your phone and other devices.  That’s about the only insurance I am adamant about, and it’s saved my ass more times than I will admit.  (The toilet, taxis and other thieves have loved stealing my phone from me over the years.)

3.  Lost clothes- No, not just from the night you skinny dipped in Spain (yes I did!)… I’m talking about you leaving your only jacket in the train that just sped off down the tracks after you got off at your stop.  I’m talking about the socks and panties that go missing when you get your laundry done in Thailand.  I’m talking about extra spending on clothes you already had with you when you left.  In other words, save a few pennies for your future lost panties.  That’s all I’m sayin…

Yes that’s actually my laundry. No you can’t borrow my cute undies. 🤣

4.  Lost or stolen items (ie. Phone, laptop, etc.)- Anyone remember how I totally F*%#ed up and lost my phone in a techno club in Barcelona?  Whoopsies!  That cost me $175 to pay the insurance deductible (could’ve been way worse, I know) plus shipping.  Guess how many days that took off my travel budget (living on $50 a day)?  FOUR WHOLE DAYS! 🤦🏼‍♀️

5.  Overpriced Transportation-  I’ve paid as little as $10 and as much as $200 for the same distance, duration and method of transportation in different countries.  There’s no rule other than to expect the unexpected with your transportation costs.  I usually take the least expensive method (which varies per country) and find that the more flexible I am on the day/time I travel, the more I can save.  Be prepared the shell out some serious cash if you’re trying to get somewhere specific at a specific day/ time.

6.  Exchange rate slip ups-  While I’ve never done this (I obsess over checking my currency converter app when I’m traveling), I’ve seen SO many others cost themselves big $$$ by not paying close attention to exchange rates.  I once saw a girl accidentally nearly empty her checking account by taking out the max local currency in an ATM somewhere in Europe (can’t remember where I was at the time).  But the lesson is this: Always, always, always check exchange rates before taking cash out of an ATM, exchanging any cash you do have and also before making purchases.  Rates can change daily so you always have to pay attention.

7.  Double booking yourself-  I shared my story with you all about my double booking in Italy (thanks wine) in my “10 Epic Travel Fails,” and I’ve got to reiterate here.  I just heard of another traveler doing the same thing because they didn’t take the time difference into account.  Use that world clock on your phone and get your bearings before you even take off, and don’t pay twice for one night of accommodation.  

8.  Reverse culture shock- There is no set monetary loss with this, other than how much more expensive life can be when you return back home.  I’ve bitched about this more than I should have (people probably look at me and think: Okay go back to Thailand already!) since I’ve been back home.  Traveling has it’s challenges, and so does life back home.  The space in between when you return home is full of reflection, shock and awe.  You want how much for that pad thai?  But you made it in California…img_3556
READ: Reverse Culture Shock in California

9.  Relationships- Traveling can enhance your relationships, or it ca ruin them.  It depends on you and your people.  We live in a time when connecting with people back home from abroad is easier than ever, but with that comes a requirement of hitting “send” or “call” (even when you don’t feel up to it).  It’s easy for everyone to get swept away into their daily lives and lose touch.  That’s just life.  I find that I get closer to my closest friends when I’m away traveling, and more distant from those I’d consider more of acquaintances.  When I’m touring a new country I love being able to share with my friends and family along the way, but there’s nothing like actually having them there- so there’s always a very real distance that’s impossible to ignore.  Can’t we all just go skip around the world hand in hand and never miss each other again?!

And that’s my dear friend Charlie…

10.  Yourself-  I’ve been at this for two years and when I think back to who I was before, I don’t recognize myself.  I don’t recognize the person I used to be.  I only see the person I am now, and she may be lost sometimes, but I like her better.  My former self was a small price to pay for where I’ve arrived now. 

“Your new life is going to cost you your old one.” 

I hope this list helps you save some money and piece of mind!  Travel really IS worth any cost or sacrifice, I promise.

~HMD

 

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5 thoughts on “Unforeseen costs of long-term travel (and why I don’t care)

  1. Alexander Popkov says:

    Well done Heather! Nice summary, I’m sure it would help someone who is preparing for a long-term trip. Mine awaits in a couple of years…
    Do you have a list of positive things, that long-term travel brings? I know people who do it, and they are fantastic. A lot of stories.

    Like

  2. Julie says:

    I have to say, I never minded transaction fees on bank accounts when I was travelling. I thought it was so amazing to be able to get money out of a hole in the wall wherever I was in the world so didn’t mind paying a small price for it!

    Like

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