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Frugality Helps Me Live the (travel) Life of My Dreams


brooke in Ukraine

Living a Simple Life in Ukraine

A couple of months ago, I saw a rather large number of Facebook messages come through from my friends back in the States. These messages were all commenting on the fact that I had made quite the life for myself, and it looked like I was having a great time while doing it. Sure enough, I was; I am.

I’ve spent the larger part of my 20s dedicated to the goal of travel, and I’ve been blessed with some awesome life experiences in the process. Who knew that I would actually one day be living in Australia, writing for an online Oz travel guide for BootsnAll? Who could have imagined that I would have spent a good year of my life traipsing around the countries of the former Soviet Union? If I think about it, it almost doesn’t seem real; I can’t imagine what that must sound like to people who have never considered pursuing travel in the same way.

Many people think they can’t live a life like this. Why not? If I can figure out a way to change my habits enough to pursue the travel life of my dreams, then I’m sure anyone can. I don’t have parents with heaps of money, and I’ve never had flashy jobs that pay me more than I can handle. The key has always been frugality.

With frugality – in both day-to-day and travel choices – I have set myself up to live a life that is full of worldly adventures and, in essence, the life of my dreams.


Frugality in the Day-to-Day

When I returned from my semester abroad in Italy back in 2004, I remember feeling like I had so much “stuff”. I had just lived 3 months of my life with nothing but a suitcase, yet all these “things” were at home, crowding up my room and making me feel heavy. A massive purge was in order, and it was at this time that my frugal life truly began.

I didn’t need these things, and to be honest, they just made me feel further away from the travel scene. How could I possibly hit the road when I had the weight of all my possessions tying me down? However, the idea was more than a mental trap; it was the reality that I would be happier having my money go towards adventures abroad.

It’s about thinking in terms of travel…

whale hugging

Wearing My Trusty Blue Shirt

I lead a fairly minimal life. My wardrobe is a fraction the size of a normal person with items in there that have been with me since I started traveling back in 2007. Instead of a full-sized fridge, I use a bar fridge; instead of a couch, we have a couple of bean bags. Sure, all of these things would be appreciated to have nicer and newer, but what we have now “works”, and that’s what matters. Even more importantly, I would much rather use that $100 to buy a round-trip plane ticket to Melbourne, or that $300 to take a tour of the Red Center.

I maximize my utility on spending that money by using it for travel.

It’s about making enabling life decisions…

There are a couple of things in life that I can’t fathom ever doing: buying a brand new car and dropping thousands of dollars on a wedding. Geez, if you feel like throwing money away like that, please, at least give some of it to me.

I used to get the average price range for a wedding back in East Peoria, IL. Apparently, it can start near $14,000… for one day! How? I’m sorry to all the girls that want that extravagant wedding experience, but don’t you think you could put those funds to better use? In my case, I could use it to take my new hubby around the world for at least 6 months, 12 months around Asia! Now that’s a honeymoon.

Frugality with major life decisions can help me continue doing what I love.

It’s about thinking long-term…

Waiting to see the results of being frugal is a challenge that not everyone can handle. Small gains here and there do add up, but it might not be until a year in that you see the full result. My advice is to stick with it and let the knowledge that it will pay off become a normal part of your daily life. For example, smokers who spend $20 a week on cigarettes can see $1040 in savings in a year’s time if they were to kick the habit. That sounds like an awesome plane ticket right there, so imagine what you can do if you give up something else, like one $20 take-out meal a week.

Making smart and frugal plans provides for my travel lifestyle.


Frugality in Travel

Hanging in Kyrgyzstan

I’ve seen a good chunk of the world now, but that has been enabled by making wise (frugal) travel choices. First off, I wouldn’t plan on spending any large amount of time in Dubai, for example, unless I were doing some working in the process. For the most part, I’ve spent a lot of time in countries where it is cheaper to travel, and that helps my dollar go further.

It’s about making the most of the path ahead…

I wouldn’t just search for direct flights to Gran Canaria, for example, from the USA or Australia. To make the most of a long journey to an exotic location like this, I would most likely break the trip up into segments. The flight is probably going to include a stopover in Europe, so why not spend a week (or a month) there on your way to the sunny Canary Islands in order to spread the cost of the flight across a longer period of travel?

I try to hold back from overly impulsive decisions. The key word is “try”. There was that time I dramatically changed my local by flying from Ukraine to Australia.


The Moral of the Story

I’ve chosen a lifestyle that promotes my ability to travel. While I don’t partake in a number of daily life splurges, I like to think that I appreciate them more when I do. It’s safe to say that I owe all of my travel successes to my frugality. That’s it; that’s my secret.


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25 Responses to Frugality Helps Me Live the (travel) Life of My Dreams

  1. ayngelina December 17, 2010 at 11:59 pm #

    My secret too! If you looked at my apartment before I left you would have seen that every single piece of furniture was something someone gave to me or I bought second-hand. I didn’t have a lot of nice expensive things and now I can travel because of it.

    • Brooke December 18, 2010 at 8:16 am #

      Yay! It’s so worth it. I like our lives 😉

  2. Christine December 18, 2010 at 5:54 am #

    Great tips! I’m in the midst of a lot of college friends getting married, and I can’t believe the money being spent on just one day. I’d much rather put that money toward an extended honeymoon at the very least!

    • Brooke December 18, 2010 at 8:13 am #

      Agreed! I sometimes think they have the numbers all wrong… $15k on a wedding, but only $3-4k on the honeymoon? Flip those numbers!

  3. Lauren December 18, 2010 at 10:55 am #

    Great post. I feel the same way about the wedding thing and the car thing. I got rid of my car (it was fully paid off by that point, which I was proud of), seven months before I left the States, and I’m not sure I’ll ever buy one–new or used–again. It’s such a money sucker, b/c even after it’s paid off, there’s insurance, gas, maintenance, problems, etc.

    I must say, though, living cheaply in Sydney is a challenge! I couldn’t believe when I was home in the States a few weeks ago the amount of food I could get for under $10–that will barely buy you a sandwich here.

    • Brooke December 18, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

      I’m not sure living cheaply in Sydney is actually possible.. but I’m still going to try my hardest to find a happy balance!

      Good on ya for the car! They do come in handy, but it’s not impossible to be without 🙂

  4. Audrey December 20, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    A great reminder that traveling for extended periods of time is not about winning the lottery but about consciously choosing to live life simply and frugally. We often remind people that we have never owned new cars and the last time we actually owned a car was in 2001. We rented our last apartment furnished so as to avoid the financial blow of buying furniture (in Prague, the cost wasn’t that much more for a furnished place). And when I think back to the last place we lived in the States most of our furniture came from second hand places or friends. Sure, we like to eat well and drink a nice bottle of wine from time to time as a splurge. But, overall we think about how we can do more with less. It makes one quite creative along the way 🙂

    • Brooke December 20, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

      Cheers, Audrey! It’s all about lifestyle choice — I just don’t think enough people realize that doing something a bit different is possible without having tons of money.

  5. tata December 21, 2010 at 12:50 am #

    My secret too! I try to budget my earnings and a big chunk of it goes to savings for future travel. My cousins are telling me every time how I seem to have a lot of money being able to travel all the time. And I’m like saying to myself that they too have that capacity. Only that I choose to save my money for travels than buy the trendiest pair of jeans available. Every time i fancy something expensive, I would find myself thinking I’d rather use the money buy a round trip ticket to some destination. I love the creativity that goes into living a frugal life too!

    • Brooke December 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

      I like the way you think 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story with us all!

  6. Mike December 21, 2010 at 6:22 am #

    Good for you Brooke. Personally, I would rather spend what I do have on experiences rather than things; experiences will last forever. You’ve done a good job of doing what most people want to do: arranging your life so that you can enjoy the things you want to.

    • Brooke December 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, Mike! Looks like my frugal lifestyle is right up your alley 🙂 I’m proud of what I’ve achieved because of it.

  7. Anjaly December 21, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    I thoroughly enjoyed your article and agree with all that you say, begining with all the excess stuff at home and going all the way down to cutting down on daily extravaganze and expensive weddings 🙂 I think I am going straight out and adopt your methods, though it will take me a while to stop myself from buying those rather horrendously expensive backpacks or boots, “for the next trek” etc! Happy travelling and stay safe. I am off to Egypt tonight!!

    • Brooke December 22, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

      Thanks, Anjaly 🙂 Hey, I’m all about nice travel gear as that stuff can last a very long time! Have fun in Egypt!

  8. Globetrottergirls December 22, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    This is a great post – we are living our dream the same way and often people tell us how ‘lucky’ we are. When we tell them that we gave up every single possession we’ve ever owned to pursue a ‘digital nomad’ life, they are often surprised because they wouldn’t even consider doing that.

    Good point about the cost of a wedding – we can only agree!! How can people spend so much money on just ONE day?? (And sometimes even more on the divorce later on 😉 …)

    • Brooke December 22, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

      Thanks for reading, and thanks for the feedback 🙂 I love hearing from like-minded people! I guess it takes a different kind of person to pursue something as uncertain as being a “digital nomad”, but there are so many people who just don’t even see it as a possibility. That seems crazy to me.

  9. Lois December 28, 2010 at 5:12 am #

    I totally agree with the car and wedding dress bit. My boyfriend (who is a big travel freak himself) have already talked about eloping and just asking everyone to contribute to our RTW ‘honeymoon’. Hmmm… not sure how the family would take that.

    • Brooke December 28, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

      Haha, I love the idea of an extended honeymoon fund. Much better than a toaster any day!

  10. Stephanie September 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    I am trying so hard to downsize my life. I have so many possessions in my flat, mostly clothes. I am going to have to downsize a lot and your article was the perfect inspiration for this! I could live in Asia for at least a month with what my tv cost me!

  11. Nancy February 12, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    I love to travel. I’ll give up most anything to travel. My wedding cost us $500 with 125 people. All our friends helped and made it a day we all will remember. Since then we were frugal to the point we set ourselves up to travel at will. Gas prices put a bit of a damper on things as does the fact I retired at 58. Memories are so much better than things.


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