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Life Nomadic: How Much Does it Cost to Be a Nomad?

Tynan and Todd getting fitted for tuxes in Bangkok

One of the big barriers between most people and becoming a nomad is money. It sounds expensive. Most questions I get about it have to do with affording the trips.

Here's the big secret: being a nomad is not expensive. In fact, without knowing how much money you spend monthly, I can confidently say that you can probably comfortably become a nomad and spend less.

I don't have exact numbers, but I'd say that Todd and I each average spending under $3000 per month. That includes everything including lodging, airfare, food, entertainment, and small gear purchases along the way.

There's a big difference between "cheaply" and traveling "cheaply and well". I have little interest in eating ramen in a hostel or taking buses across the country.

That's backpacking. Nothing wrong with that, but being a nomad is different.

The key is not treat it like a vacation. Many people spend money outrageously "because I'm on vacation". Life Nomadic is a lifestyle that's intended to be sustainable.

One big advantage the nomad has is that he has no expenses back home. The tourist is paying nightly for a hotel, but he's also paying rent, electricity, and cable back home.

That's like trying to pay for two lives at once.

A basic hotel in Tokyo will cost at least $150 per night. That's not a great hotel, and it's definitely not in a great location. $1050 for 7 days.

Renting a large room with a fridge, two beds, and a couch cost Todd and I $1000 for a month in the most desirable neighborhood of Tokyo. That's cheaper than it would have cost us for a mediocre hotel for a week.

It's almost always cheaper to rent an apartment for a month than to get a hotel, but you can also just choose cheap destinations. Thailand is full of great hotels for $20/night, either in downtown Bangkok or on the beach on an island. In Panama City you can get a solid (but not exceptional) hotel for around $30 a night.

If you really have a limited budget, go to any of the countless cheap-but-awesome destinations. You'd be shocked at how cheap great places in Southeast Asia are.

The savings you create by living in such cheap locales can easily pay for the plane tickets you need to get there.

If you really have NO money, go to Ko Phi Phi in Thailand. You can hand out flyers for the big reggae club for four hours a night and make enough cash to pay for all of your food and hotel forever. And that little island is paradise, believe me.

Every country you visit will have a whole tourism industry centered around creating an America-like experience for you at a premium price.

Avoid that. Live like the locals.

Take the train, walk, or buy a bike like the locals. Don't take overpriced cabs. Buy food from the grocery store and cook for yourself in your rented apartment. Ask around and see which beach the locals go to. It's usually much better than the one that tourists are whisked off to.

Spend time in nature. It's usually free or cheap and some environments you'll see are unlike anything back home. Even something as simple as the deserts of the Middle East are breathtaking to a foreigner.

If you're going to be somewhere for a month, don't feel like every day needs to be filled with sightseeing and adventure. Spend four days a week practicing your language, working, and walking around town like you would back home. Then on the weekends go white water rafting through the rain forest instead of seeing the latest disappointing movie.

Above all, don't let money stop you from living the dream. Being a nomad can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be, and the sheer adventure of doing something almost guarantees that the money you spend on a monthly basis will be well worth it.

Filed under: Budget Travel, Life Nomadic

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