Internet is full of round-the-world travelogues. But how do the riders manage to get the funds together for multi-year tours you ask?
After meeting a number of long distance cyclists. Plus having had contact with many more via being editor of Bicycle Traveler magazine, I’ve laid out some of the more popular methods on how they managed to get together the necessary bucks.
Living with parents
As you can imagine – once you remove the cost of rent, saving serious money for a trip happens faster.
This option is especially popular amongst younger cyclists and university students. When combined with not having to pay for meals, saving money is easy even when you have a minimum wage job. A number of older solo long-term travelers also manage to save cash by sleeping in their parent’s spare bedroom.
For couples, this method often comes into practice at the end of their trip. They stay with family while looking for a new job, apartment, and in order to replenish their coffers. By doing that, these couples don’t need to save an extra sum of money in order to have a ‘soft landing’ once their journey has ended.
Working holiday visas
A number of people between 18 and 30 years old take part in the working holiday scheme. From what I’ve come across, the favorite countries to take a break and earn some extra dollars in are Australia and New Zealand. Most of the travelers enjoyed their experience of bartending, working on a farm, etc. and were able to set forth their journey with the extra cash they earned. A number of other countries such as Canada also offer working holiday visas but are more stringent in their requirements and the number of people they allow to take part.
Thomas Anderson worked on a cattle station.
And as the goats on the road website states;
But if you want to get a job, not just to make ends meet, but so you can save money for further travels then you probably want to get out of the city or a huge chunk of your wages will go on rent and food, leaving little money to save towards adventures in Australia and beyond.
There are many opportunities for backpackers in more rural areas where there are staff shortages.
The best way to save money is to work in a remote area in a ‘live in’ job, one that includes your accommodation and food plus wages, commonly these are in hospitality or childcare.
This is what I did, I worked and lived in a Queensland country pub and I managed to save AUD$15,000 working for 6 months.
Saving money via giving up luxuries
Many cyclists’ practice this method and end up being able to save enough money for the first part of their trip. Then when they’re on the road and money starts drying up, some of them switch over to teaching English or getting a job via a working holiday visa.
These money-saving tips were often used in combination with downsizing living costs; such as sharing a home with a number of friends or renting a room in someone else’s apartment.
For more information on how to budget for a round-the-world bike trip, check out this article on Tom Allen’s site.
Teaching English in East Asia
This has to be one of the more popular ways to earn money. And for good reason.
There are downsides but have you ever come across the ‘perfect’ job?
In 2016 Sarah Webb and her partner Scott Daniel-Guiterrez of Long Rode Home stopped their trip halfway to teach English in China.
On her blog Sarah writes; “Within a week of arriving in Chengdu we had an apartment, a kettle and a 12-month contract at a local English school.”
“For us, it was a win-win situation. As a full-time globe-trotter, you often tire of moving from place to place every day and so a respite in China, well if you count teaching screaming four-year-olds a respite, provided us with the opportunity to plant some shallow roots, earn some money, and really get to know another country. It’s a bit heart wrenching having to stop a world cycle trip halfway round, but the truth is unless you’re financially blessed or you’re quite content with living on $2 a day, then for many this is the best option. And it’s a pretty good one too.”
She was also kind enough to answer these two questions:
Q: How much money did you manage to save by working as teachers that year?
A: By teaching English in Chengdu, China, we managed to save a total of $22,000 (that’s between two of us). Wages are ok but the cost of living can be very low and a lot of teaching positions include a housing allowance. We also did quite a lot of site seeing while we were in China so we certainly could have saved more.
Q: Would you do it again / recommend it to other touring cyclists who are running low on cash?
A: We would absolutely do it again in a heartbeat. Living and working in another country gives you an insight into the country that travelling alone could never offer. Teaching is also one of those jobs I believe everyone should do at one point in their life and my partner and I loved it so much we decided teaching is what we ultimately want to do. China is a wonderful country to do it in because while it’s challenging at times there are so many great opportunities and the country itself has some of the most diverse scenery on the planet. That said, a lot of South East and Central Asia, such as Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea, offer awesome opportunities.
Thanks, Sarah for answering my crass financial question. And as an aside note, in April 2018 Sarah and Scott were off to America to continue their journey down to Argentina. Their humorous travel accounts are not to be missed!
Wealthy family, trust funds and inheritance
Yes, trust fund cyclists do exist as well as travelers who received a windfall inheritance. But they don’t publicize the fact. Who wants to tell others that their funds were acquired via grandma kicking the bucket?
What’s more common is parents who help subsidize their kid’s tour.
Many younger, novice cyclists underestimate the funds necessary for their trip. They discover that trying to pedal on pot noodles and no beer lowers the fun factor. So out go the “Hello mom, could you…” letters.
Note: Unfortunately quite a few bicycle travelers post inaccurate (lowered) daily spending amounts on the internet. Maybe they think it makes them look more hardcore? Or they forget to add in the cost of airplane tickets, material repairs, visas, etc. into their daily costs.
So beginners who budget for their tour according to these inaccurate figures often have to hit up their parents for extra funds in order to complete their journey.
Many parents do send money. They often see it as a reward for completing university and realize that this is the best chance for their kid to go out and see the world before they start working, buy a house and start a family.
Saving money via a higher wage
Some people earn a higher than average salary, sometimes up to 3 or 4 times the national average. They’re able to sock away more than half of their income each month by living frugally. This helps when trying to get enough money together for a multi-year tour. Instead of having to spend 10 years saving, they were able to do it in 3 or 4.
There are people who work as tour guides for part of the year and spend the remaining months on their bikes. Travelling Claus is one of them. According to Claus, the job is hard and the hours are long when you’re leading a group. He also writes; “The pay almost always sucks in this business. You get rich in so many other ways though and that’s why there are so many people who only want to do this.”
After many years of experience, he now earns roughly $200 US dollars per day and all of his expenses are paid while he’s on tour. At this time, Claus works approximately 5 months per year and the rest he spends travelling.
Who wouldn’t want a passive income?
Rental income, Airbnb, etc. do help subsidize or even pay for some people’s trips. But it’s not one of the more popular ways methods due to:
- If you don’t own your house free and clear, some banks don’t allow you to sub-let your house.
- Worries of renter’s damaging your personal home and furniture/possessions.
- High storage costs for furniture if you want to rent your home unfurnished.
- Popular major cities are starting to crack down on the number of days people can rent their apartments via Airbnb in a single year.
But it is noted as a positive way to go if:
- You have a large sum of money over that you can invest in rental properties.
- You have family/friends living in the neighborhood who can check on the property every now and then.
Selling the house
There are some cyclists who have traveled using the proceeds from their house sale, but they are in the minority.
Most long-term travelers who have a house either rent it out or sell it. Otherwise half of the tour costs could easily go out to paying the mortgage/rent.
From what I’ve come across, the majority of R.T.W. cyclists have given up their apartment/house. Their argument for doing so is; “it’s too big of a hassle and costs too much to keep it.”
But what about middle-aged people? The ones who are concerned about having to find a new job after a tour and who only earn average to lower than average salaries? There aren’t that many taking R.T.W. tours. Especially singles find it difficult to save ‘serious money’. As one guy put it, “I didn’t own a car or even a credit card. My full-time job just barely paid the rent on my studio apartment, plus utilities and groceries.” He was recently laid off and struck a deal with his new boss that he would start in a couple of months. During that time, he traveled using his redundancy money plus some savings.
For those of you dreaming of a long trip – these are the methods others have used. Maybe one of them will work for you.
Of course, there are even more options, but I can’t (and won’t!) list them all here. Just think creatively and maybe you’ll discover some hidden talent like David Brankley did. For more than 20 years now he has been touring the world and he pays for it by spending part of the year painting pictures.