It’s been one year!
Mid-April marks one year since we restarted our slow travel, vagabond lifestyle, on a budget in early retirement.
April 11, 2022 was the day we boarded a plane at the Caticlan/Boracay airport in the Philippines after a two-year COVID-caused travel pause.
Since then, we’ve gradually regained our ‘sea legs’, our mojo, our confidence that the COVID crisis is behind us and our wandering ways will still work in the new normal.
So how feasible is early retired, budget slow travel in an era of rising inflation, interest rates, and the cost of living?
A look back at our previous year provides some encouraging answers.
What it cost us to travel Asia for 1 year
Below are the monthly expenditures – and the grand 1-year total – for myself and my wife (2 persons) as we’ve continued to enjoy and explore Southeast and Central Asia.
11 April ’22 – $2161
May ’22 — $1510
June ’22 — $4064
July ’22 — $1694
August ’22 – $2492
Sept. ’22 — $2227
Oct. ’22 — $2269
Nov. ’22 — $1431
Dec. ’22 — $2241
Jan. ’23 — $2156
Feb. ’23 — $1882
March ’23 – $2462
10 April ’23 – $629
Total = $27,218
As a point of clarity: at the end of last year, I posted a review of all our year 2022 expenses. But that total included our spending from the first quarter when we were still living in the Philippines.
This report is 100% true world- travel expenses.
I should also point out that we did share various expense breakouts and monthly-stay cost totals in blog posts throughout the travel year. Obviously, what is shown here is our spending per precise calendar month.
Expenditures by category
Seeing the year’s expenditures by category gives an alternative view of the data.
Housing — $7935
Health — $4077
Restaurants – $3363
Gifts/Charity – $3281
Travel — $2224
Groceries — $1944
Excursions — $1247
Supplies — $1194
Beer — $1098
Local Transit — $855
Total = $27,218
Spending & living
We know precisely what we spend every month/day and can easily dissect it in various ways because every morning over coffee/tea we recount and record the previous day’s expenditures in our ‘Spending Tracker’ cell phone app. Every single penny.
Reminder: This is an independent travel blog. We never work with sponsors or affiliates, and we never take kickbacks.
As you can plainly see, compared to ‘first world’ standards, the cost of living in developing Asian nations remains very affordable.
Overall, we are pleased with how our ‘restart year’ turned out.
Most satisfying: for what could be considered a fairly modest monthly outlay, we’ve visited, experienced, and lived in some of the most amazing places on the planet.
The subways, malls, and skyscrapers of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Mumbai; the Himalayas, the Thar Desert, Penang Island; the Taj Mahal, Buddhist Thai temples and pagodas, Hindu cremations on the Ganges, Muslim prayer calls, Christian churches and bells; yoga, meditation, Ellen’s spiritual groups; ancient palaces and forts, beautiful beaches, rural splendor, sickening slums, shocking poverty.
All told, we’ve been witness to the most astounding and varied kaleidoscope of mankind and nature for under $75 per day! ($27,218 ÷ 365 = $74.57). I highly recommend it.
Monthly averages in cost to travel Asia for 1 year
Another useful view is by MONTHLY average: (M$$$ ÷ 12 = ?)
Housing — $661
Health — $339
Restaurants — $280
Gifts/Charity — $273
Travel — $185
Groceries — $162
Excursions — $104
Supplies — $99
Beer — $91
Local transit — $71
Total = $2265
Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention it’s all been done with the most cooperative and supportive spouse/wife/friend/adventurer any man could ask for — as well as the help of friends old and new. Some of those friends we assisted with household, medical, or business donations. In addition, we spent more than two months touring with my remarkable mother – now in her 80s. Priceless moments and memories.
We remain excited and positive about our lifestyle and future. And we are always cognizant of our many blessings and good fortune. We continue to be amazed at how warm and welcoming people are to us Americans all around the globe. We try to represent our nation with humility and generosity.
As the figures show, charity efforts and Ellen’s broken wrist put us over budget by about 13%. We always advise allowing a 20% to 25% spending cushion.
— Over $2500 of Health expense was related to the broken wrist: car vs. bicycle / Hua Hin, Thailand, 6-5-22.
— In November, I contracted dengue fever in Jaipur, India. Two weeks of bed rest greatly depressed our spending for the month.
— $788 in the Travel category was spent on our initial Thailand flight, required COVID tests/transport/1-night quarantine, and mandatory health insurance.
— We’ve flown 4 times:
Philippines — Thailand ($220pp)
Malaysia — India ($210pp)
Chennai, India — Delhi, India ($103pp)
Nepal — India ($112pp)
We are always on high-alert for cheap airfare. But trains and busses remain our preferred modes of distance travel.
— During the 12 months, we stayed at 27 different rental units. 2 Thailand, 2 Malaysia, 4 Nepal, 19 India. 6 of the stays were apartments of 1 month or longer. 2 were short ‘homestays’ – a bedroom and ensuite bath in a host’s home. 8 were ‘guest houses’ – a hotel room/suite and bath with common/shared lounge, terrace, kitchen, rooftop, etc. 22 stays were booked using the AirBnb platform. We stayed only 1 night in a hotel — a lousy Indian experience!
Other notes on Asian travel
Asian rents, restaurant prices, and tourist costs have crept upward – but good deals can be found. The number of international visitors still seems way below pre-COVID times. Chinese tour groups remain mostly absent.
Our budget goal has been $2,000 per month throughout 4.5 total years in Asia. We do seek to find good value in everything we do, but we don’t obsess about it. Our comfortable, moderate standard of living is similar to what we knew in the USA.
Someone less cost conscious – or “on vacation” – could easily double our spending. A couple desiring alcoholic beverages at restaurants/bars would add $10 to $20 per meal/day. My beer is mostly carry-out and consumed at home, the beach, river, park, street corner… lol.
Travel plans into 2024
June 1 we will leave India and plan to spend the rest of ’23 into ’24 in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. We expect a budget increase of at least 30 to 40 percent.
We’ve already purchased some super-cheap airfare. Month-long Airbnb discounts are available and will be critical to our cost-control efforts.
Of course, we will continue to post detailed monthly spending breakdowns where practicable. And it will be interesting to see how things work out and add up in next year’s 12-month total travel tally.
As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!
You can live this vagabond lifestyle, too! See also:
Thanks for reading, “What it cost us to travel in Asia for 1 year.”
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