Trip to Asia – The Plan and the Finances

The Plan

I haven’t talked about it a whole lot in my blog yet, but I wanted to write out my travel plan for the next five months. I also want to talk about costs of traveling, as people often think that travel has to be expensive. It’s simply not true, and I’ll explain more below.

I’ve wanted to travel Southeast Asia for a while now (especially Thailand), but I never put it as a priority until now. So after talking about it with Chika, we decided to make a plan and put it into action. We originally planned the trip with visits to Japan, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, but it gradually changed. After Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, we decided to take time to volunteer there for disaster relief. After learning more about Myanmar, we became very excited to explore a country that just recently opened up for tourism (and is growing rapidly). With a few good layovers, we added short stints in Beijing, China, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After all this, our trip is tentatively looking like this:

New Jersey/New York January 4th – January 8th
Beijing, China 16 hour layover on the night of January 9th
Tokyo, Japan January 10th – January 17th
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 5-hour layover on January 18th
Thailand January 18th – February 1st
Myanmar February 1st – February 22nd
Northern Thailand February 22nd – March 1st
Laos March 1st – March 15th
Vietnam March 15th – April 5th
Cambodia April 5th – April 19th
Philippines April 19th – May 10th
Japan May 10th – May 24th

The Finances

travel finances

A few people have recently asked me recently how I am able to continue traveling without working. After all, traveling long-term is a big expense coupled with no income (at least in my case). The answer is quite simple and can be done by anyone with the desire to travel. Step 1: Live simply and cheaply while working a job. Step 2: Live simply and cheaply while traveling. This means that you’ll be saving as much money as possible while working and then stretching every dollar while traveling. I know this sounds painful, but once the lifestyle becomes normal, it’s very easy to make it happen. It involves sacrificing many luxuries which are considered normal (for example, I’ve never owned a smart phone and sold my TV several years ago). When traveling, you will probably need to give up luxuries like hotels, eating out (if you’re in an expensive country), and taxis. It means you’ll be in hostels, cooking, and taking local buses. After traveling with the latter lifestyle, I actually prefer it. I find that most adventures come from this type of travel and create many great stories and memories.

Another way to get the most value from a trip is to travel longer. The cost of the plane ticket is oftentimes the biggest expense of the trip. More days in a trip means that the cost of the plane ticket per day of travel decreases. A 2-week trip can easily cost $2,000. Compare this to my 7-month trip to South America which cost $8,000 or to my 5.5-month trip to Central America which cost about $5,500. I understand that taking this amount of time off is not possible for everyone in their jobs. But it is possible if you’re willing to make sacrifices.

Finally, I travel to countries that are great values. Nicaragua has so much to offer as far as adventure, outdoors, food, and culture, and it’s just a small fraction of the cost when compared to countries in Europe. Thailand, from what I know, has so much to offer, especially in beaches, unique foods, and culture, and it’s very cheap relatively to Australia. Obviously I don’t judge countries based solely on cost, but some countries are better values than others.

So I give you my budget for a 4 and a half month trip to Southeast Asia:

Flights $1,600
Hostels ($10/night) $1,200
Food ($7/day) $840
Visas $180
Buses/Transportation $1,000
Tours/activities $1,000
Japan ($20/day hostel, $12/day food, $500 transport) $940
Travel Insurance ($48 per month) $240
Total $7,000

Because Japan is much more expensive than the other countries, I split it out into it’s own line on the budget. Some are hard to calculate, like how much buses and other transport will cost. But others, like flights, are already pretty much locked in.

At first look, $7,000 may seem like a huge amount of money. But if you compare it to the average cost of living in a developed country, it’s not bad at all, coming out to about $1,500 per month including everything. It’s easy to spend $1,500 alone on rent/a mortgage in many parts of the US and Europe. Heck, renting a closet in New York City can cost more than that. But money can be stretched much further while traveling to less expensive countries for longer periods of time.

As you can now see, I am not performing magic. It’s a simple equation that is easy to be done. It involves living simply, giving up expensive “wants”, and stretching every dollar. Once getting into this mindset, things become easy and traveling long-term does not seem so far-fetched.

About Trent

I started Frugal Purpose to share my love of personal finance to assist your pursuit of a more fulfilling life. I am a financial analyst by trade, traveler at heart, and want to share with you the beauty of this world.


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