How Much Does it Cost to Travel Around the World? (2012 Year End Update)

This post includes both a year end review for 2013 as well as the monthly summary for December 2012. Each month we provide a monthly summary of our expenses during our trip around the world. We’ve documented every dollar, yuan, and bhat spent on our journey to show you how affordable around the world (RTW) travel can be by breaking down our expenses.

2012 Overview

December marks the end of an amazing year following our dream to travel the world. We started the year in Thailand, spending 3 months enjoying great food and launching Strip Off Your Fear. We then took off on our biggest adventure yet by traveling over-land/sea from Thailand to Portugal. During the 6 month journey we opened our eyes to new cultures and experiences we’d have never known possible. We crossed Russia on the Trans-Siberian, a dream come true and better than we hoped.

From Russia we headed into Europe for a 2 month exploration of new areas, connecting with friends old and new, and discovering new passions for Spain and Slovenia. Then we hopped on a ship for another trans-Atlantic sailing to bring us back to the US for a long-overdue visit with friends and family.

Our year was truly magical and represents exactly the type of life we dreamed about back in 2008 when we started planning our new lives. We were able to explore the world while writing to help others follow their dreams. A truly great year.

Financial Review of 2012

We were excited to see our December expenses come in quite similar for November. We once again had no accommodation expense thanks to a housesit we landed through (note, use the code “married” to save 25% on your membership). We spent a lot of time walking to help reduce costs as well as continue to focus on our health. While we kept our spending down, only $1,145 for the entire month, we did not skimp on enjoying our time in Austin and eating the foods we’d missed for all the years away.

We ended 2012 spending at total of $25,722 which is well below our initial target of $36,500/year. What is interesting about this figure is that it is just $102 more than we spent in 2011. We had initially thought our expenses for 2011 were an anomaly so it is nice to see the figures aligning well. For the year we were able to travel across Asia and Europe, stay in Europe for 2 months, and then the US for another 2 all for far less than we ever lived back in our “old lives” in Seattle.

Here are a few ways we were able to save money for the year:

  • Housesitting
  • Ate out at lunch instead of dinner
  • Discovered happy hours in locations
  • Said yes to offers from friends to stay with them
  • Ate locally and avoided “western” restaurants (aka more expensive)
  • Stayed in hostels, which were extremely nice in China and Russia
  • Booked travel in 2nd or 3rd class on the trains across China, Mongolia, and Russia

Looking Ahead to 2013

We are getting a bit antsy here in the US and looking forward to continuing our travels. We will be wrapping up our time in the US later this month and then heading off to Mexico. We plan to spend several month extending our Spanish, Betsy’s planning to learn guitar, we’ll be hiking as much as possible, and then we have our sights on writing a new book. Later in the year we’re going to Turkey to hike the Lycian Way (a 500km trek along the southern coast) with Sherry Ott of Ottsworld.

It is already shaping up to be a big year and we are beside ourselves with anticipation to watch it all unfold.

Let’s Get to The Numbers:

December 2012:

  • Total spending for December 2012: $1,145
  • Daily average for December 2012: $36.92

2012 Yearly Total:

  • 2012 Total: $25,722
  • 2012 Daily Average: $70.47
  • Total spending to date (for entire trip – Oct 2010 – December 2012): $55,425
  • Overall daily average (822 days on the road): $67.43

Expense Breakdown:


2012 Yearly

Annual expenses for 2012


Over the course of providing these monthly spending reports, we’ve received a lot of questions and requests for clarification on our spending and finances. In order to spread the answers to more of you we’ll start including one here each month.

How did you only spend $4 on water for the entire year?

We try our best to never buy water and avoid it whenever possible. We both carry water bottles and keep them full most of the time. We have a Steripen we use to sterilize the water most of the time. But once we got to Russia we drank water from the tap. In Mongolia, while sleeping with families in gers out in the desert or mountains, the water was always boiled first (sometimes with the flavor of mutton to add to the experience).

What are your plans for 2013? What are you most excited for in the new year? Let us know in the comments below.


  1. Great ideas on saving money while traveling, I definatley want to check out the home sitting idea. I never thought it was so inexpensive to travel for so long!

    • Hi Kristy,
      Glad you enjoyed the information. The last 27 months have truly surprised us in just how affordable we can see the world. Of course it takes some discipline and focus, but the results are so worth it with each new experience.

  2. Well Warren and Betsy

    Thanks again for your summary of expenses and insights about ways you have found to contain your expenses. As Debra and I move toward a life of part time travel abroad (just under six months each year) your experience is helping us understand what it will take.

    One question though I think I already know the answer. First, let me put it in context. We are Canadians. As a result healthcare costs, while essentially free here, is always top of mind when travelling abroad. I know you have insurance while travelling but, mentally, how did you get past the idea you could end up at the mercy of a healthcare system you are unfamiliar with, may be less advanced than your own, and could be costly.

    We’re about ten years older than the two of you and while Debra is fit and healthy, I have a couple of conditions ( high cholesteral and diabetes not requiring insulin) that aren’t life-threatening but, would be considered pre-existing and could be used by travel insurance companies to suggest many medical emergencies experienced while travelling are attributable to those considtions. So, it’s the fear of the unknown medical emergencies that weigh most heavily on our minds.

    Thanks, Grant

    • Hey Grant,
      Healthcare is certainly a concern, though not one we spend a lot of our time focused on. When we first left it was a key concern, but as we’ve continued to explore and see different systems and met people around the world we’ve become more comfortable. We’ve had some excellent care in Ecuador and Thailand, far faster and cheaper that we had ever experienced.

      We are more comfortable after having realized that people get sick everywhere and they have been able to be treated for years, just like us. I have not felt that there is a huge disparity in care or ability to diagnose/treat most ailments. Plus, getting the drugs you need is far easier in most places we’ve been either directly from the pharmacy or heading to a clinic and chatting with a doctor.

      The 2 areas we do worry about are heart and cancer. For the heart side we’ve taken a far more active role in being healthy and focusing on staying that way. As for cancer, and I don’t mean to be flip, it would suck no matter where we got it, but we also know there are treatment options throughout the world.

      Overall, we have insurance for the big emergencies and are focused on keeping ourselves in shape. For the rest we will continue to see local doctors and get annual physicals wherever we may be.

      I hope this helps, but would love to help reduce your concerns as much as possible so feel free to ask anything.

  3. Hey guys! Awesome site and love the information sharing. I’m sure you’ve heard of this, but just in case CouchSurfing is another option. It’s a great way to meet locals (or get together with Americans if you’re homesick) and learn a lot more about the country you’re in. Obviously it’s also intended to provide you a place to stay. I’ve used it in over twenty countries and hosted quite a bit when I was living in Japan. Good luck and safe travels. 一路平安

    • Hi Al,
      Thank you for engaging in the discussion and recommendation. We are big fans of the Couchsurfing concept, yet have only used it once in England. We know we’ll be using it more in the years ahead in order to meet more interesting people and to stay on budget.

  4. Wow! I am so shocked as to how low the cost is for your length of travel and diversity of regions traveled! You are an inspiration and I hope I can be as organized and focused in my future travels as you two are. Best of luck in the New Year!

    • Hi Natalie,
      We love knowing we have inspired you. It has been a wonderful surprise to know how inexpensive we can travel full-time. Good luck in your own adventure and we hope you’ll share the experience with us and our readers.

  5. clamdigger53 says:

    Wonderful to meet you.Just retired and will be taking a long trip to Africa.Counting on having my money on plastic which (i hope) will replenish without problems monthly.What could go wrong?

    • Congratulations on your retirement and big trip plans. Sounds like a wonderful plan. We found that much of the world does not accept credit cards, but we’ve had only a couple of instances where we could not get cash. With a bit of planning and keeping cash on hand you can eliminate virtually any problems. Good luck and have a great adventure.

  6. Hi there,

    I am eighteen years old and I am a young woman. I didn’t necessarily grow up traveling all that much but I did move around a bit and traveled to Korea a few times. I have been entertaining the idea of traveling the world before continuing my education, would it be wise and would it be safe for a person like myself to travel for a whole year? My plan is to get involved in at least one volunteering endeavor in each country that I visit: India, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand/Australia, Guatemala, Cuba, Spain/Portugal, Italy, Ireland/UK, and maybe Antarctica. I am working two jobs and will have nearly twenty thousand dollars set aside by next January/February so funding will not be a problem. I have a level head but I can’t find very many resources targeted at travelers my age (not at the scale that I would like to travel). Anywho, I know that this is a long post but thank you for any insight you may have to offer! Oh, and I will stay in hostels, use CouchSurfers, or use for accomodation so that, hopefully, I might even have some money set aside after my travels.

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