Almost Fearless

The Travel Diet: Day 2 of 30w30d

This post is part of 30 Ways in 30 days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World. This series seeks to give you the practical, real world steps you need to take to get from wherever you are, to exactly where you want to be– traveling the world and living the lifestyle you want.


30 Ways in 30 Days, saving money, around the world trip, income

In the upcoming posts, I’ll be looking at many of the questions that readers sent in: how to save money, deal with debt, get a visa, homeschool kids, travel with pets and so on.  But first, before we do any of that, I don’t want to waste any time.

I’m putting you on a diet.

The travel diet becomes the lifestyle modus operandi of any world traveler.  It’s simple:

  • Don’t buy anything, unless it’s worth the travel time it costs.

We’re not talking about just saving money, we’re talking about changing your relationship with it.  Every dollar you spend is a certain amount of your finite life spent working for it.  The goal is to work less, travel more.  The easiest way to begin this process is becoming acutely aware of your relationship with money.  Nothing makes you more aware of what you spend and why than not spending anything at all.  It takes a mindfulness to not spend.  It’s often learned on the road, after you go wildly over budget in your first few weeks and over time you learn how to live on less than you ever thought possible–and still have an amazing time.

The irony is that the same skills you learn on the road will also get you traveling that much faster.  It’s never too soon to start.  And when you’re spending an extra month in the South Pacific, you’ll thank me.

Remember this: Money spent = Time not traveling.  $15 pays for an extra day in some countries.

The concept in practice

Stop, breathe, think. If you’re considering buying something, take a moment to stop and breathe through the impulse.  Sometimes what seemed like a “must have” will not seem as important after a little time.  Have you ever talked yourself out of buying something?  Probably walked around the store too long, holding the item, contemplating and in the end decided against it.  This is exactly why sales people want to rush your purchases- the initial impulse is often stronger then the actual need.

Use creativity first, cash second. Often we buy things to solve problems.  I need this X, so I can do Y.  What if you couldn’t buy your way out of the problem?  How would you solve it then?  I suggest going through this decision tree (in order) before making any purchases:

  • Workaround: Can I find another solution?
  • Reuse: Is there something I can mend, reuse or re-purpose?
  • Borrow: Does anyone I know have one?
  • Barter: Can I trade services or goods to get what I need?
  • Buy Used: Have I checked Craigslist/salvation army/second hand stores?
  • Buy New at best price:  Will the cheapest model met my needs?  Can I get a discount?

Make it a fun. It’s hard at first to start living more frugally.  You begin to focus on everything that is missing, instead of what you will be gaining.  It helps to make it game-like challenge and set short term goals:

  • Try to buy no groceries for 10, 20, 30 days (depending on how big your pantry is).  You’d be surprised how long you can survive on the food that you have, with a little creativity.
  • Look for free local events for the weekends- you might see a side of your area that you never appreciated.
  • Set dinner challenges- Can you make a delicious dinner for under $5?  What’s the cheapest meal you can make in bulk?  Can you beat that?
  • How many days in a row can you go without spending a cent?  Or make weekends a “spend-free” zone.

Start living the travel lifestyle now. Little things, like subscriptions to Netflix, a gym membership, magazines, cable, expensive cell phone plans, and so on, will be the first things to go, when traveling.  You won’t miss them.  You’ll find alternatives.  You can watch your favorite shows online or workout at home or live without constant cell phone internet access.


1.  Even if you’re just contemplating travel, put yourself on the Travel Diet– at minimum, no big purchases, thoughtful shopping and reduction in expenses.

2.  The next time you feel like you need to buy something, give yourself 5 minutes ‘cooling off’ period before making the purchase.

3.  The month, commit to convert one potential purchase into being free, using one of the spending alternatives: workaround, reuse, borrow, or barter.

4.  For every household purchase, put it to the “backpack test”.  Will you be able (or want) to carry it with you?  If not, don’t buy it.

Additional Reading:

Bad News: Higher Income = Less Leisure Time?

20 Money Hacks: Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Finances

Making the Time Money Connection

Opting Out of the Money Economy

Get Real About the Difference Between Needs and Wants: Enjoy the Life You Really Want to Live!

Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



  • This is all good advice but there is one really important piece of the savings puzzle that is missing here. In my opinion, you have to know how much you are spending before you can start saving. If you’re spending $300/month on your cable bill then cutting your $5 coffee habit isn’t going to help nearly as much as cutting cable. Before you start doing anything, my advice is to gather all your receipts and bills and plug everything into a money management software. I like Quicken because it’s cheap and intuitive but there is free software out there that is also supposed to be pretty good. At worst, just set up an Excel spreadsheet. I’ve been using Quicken for years so it was really easy to see that we were spending a lot of money on dining and entertainment expenses and very little money on cable and cell phones: so we cut dining and entertainment expenses by about half in the last year and saved way more than I expected we would save.
    .-= Akila´s last blog ..hana: this is hawaii =-.

  • more great advice!!!!
    have cancelled the 250 a month cell bill, cancelled cable 150 (agreed on Netflix for kids too many changes at once)

    working on doing the yoga at home via netflix….now if I can control by husband and his cars!!!!!

  • Fantastic advice. I’ve been giving myself a 48 hour cooling off period before i purchase anything online (my biggest weak spot for impulse shopping) and am shocked by how little I actually want to buy once I’m thinking rationally again. I’ve also tried to replace more expensive shopping habits with free ones, such as going to the library instead of buying books and rooting through my friends hand me downs instead of clothes shopping.

    When you are money conscious every day it really helps you feel more proactive about making your travel dream happen.
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..Iceland in Pictures =-.

  • Oh…this is really fantastic info, Christine.

    Especially the part about the things we won’t use when traveling: cable, cell, gym, etc.

    One of things I’ve done to be a “digital nomad” — and I do own my own home — is to rent my place out for periods of time. Right now, I’m renting my place out indefinitely so I can explore more places. My strategy is to find a place to rent elsewhere that is cheaper than what I rent my place for.

    I sold mostly everything I own, too, and actually love having less.

    I do like to pick up art and artifacts when I travel. But much less so these days. So I wouldn’t have passed your household item purchase question. I did buy a set of tea glasses, tea pot and tray in Marrakesh — and carried them for 3 weeks in my backpack. Yep. I travel light so I can add a few things.

    I am still seeking my happy balance between stuff and stuff I like (I am an artist and have lots of supplies, and do like to collect art). It’s an ongoing question.

    Regarding spending. I have found that I don’t need to know what I’m spending to stop. I do know the numbers now, but for a long time I didn’t. If I had to wait to enter everything into Quickbooks or track every penny, that would have made me procrastinate.

    great topic, I’ll stop now. could go on and on!

  • Akila– good point, if it works for you use it.

    Lisa- I’m with you on not needing to know what you’re spending to stop. In my view, it all has to stop. It’ll be you, whatever you can carry, staying in hotels and eating what you can find. ALL the things you spend money on now will end. Another way to look at it is, try living on just $25/day at home. Most long term travelers are planning on living on a pretty tight budget, but until you practice it, you won’t know what that means.

    Michelle, Stephanie– awesome! glad to hear it.

  • Awesome post! Once our family made the decision to travel it became so EASY to not buy things. The “backpack test” as you call it was how we lived for 6 months before we left, even though we certainly travel with more than a backpack!! At some point it got slightly ridiculous, and really fun, to see how much we could Not buy. Now that we’re on the road we don’t buy much either, because there’s no place to put it.

    You are so right: When you change your definition of wealth from how Much you have, to how much Time you have – it changes everything. The first step in doing that is to start looking at purchases as time spent. This 30 days is going to really make a difference to people. Like ME.
    .-= Brenna Redpath´s last blog ..More Flickr Pix Galore =-.

  • This is some great advice that is also creative. And that’s how people need to think about saving money – creatively – because everyone comes from different situations.

    I recently came across a post by two sisters who have found some creative ways to save for their round-the-world travels, including quitting smoking. They even have some unique ways of still going out with friends without breaking the bank:
    .-= Michaela Potter´s last blog ..Circumstances: Negotiating a Sabbatical =-.

  • Christine, we’ve done almost all of your suggestions over this past year and now have saved enough money for our own year of travel. One thing I recommend is Ramit Sethi’s blog I WIll Teach You to be Rich. He taught me a lot about negotiation for bank fees and insurance, which saved me hundreds of dollars (which went right into the savings account).

    For instance, I work from home and my husband uses a shuttle to get to work, so we were able to change our car insurance to “recreational vehicle” since it gets driven less than 10K miles per year. That saves real money. I used the same techniques in smaller ways on bank fees, cell phones and internet access fees. Short story: Evaluate every single expense to see how you can reduce it. You might be surprised.
    .-= Betsy Talbot´s last blog ..Happiness is Contagious =-.

  • There are some great tips here. I think once you realize how little you can survive on, you start having fun living your life on a shoestring. My parents preached the “save, save, save” mentality to me at a very young age so I may be one of the lucky ones who feels saving money is second nature, however, there will still always be temptation and you have to learn to control it. I wrote about a few money saving tips on my blog also at Thank you for sharing yours!

  • Amazing piece of advice there. Since i keep travelling frequently i prefer Lufthansa over others as their food is terrific.Also a friend of mine played their quiz last week and won some fabulous goodies, you could get lucky too! Check it out

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