Travelling in Guatemala Costs Less than Living at Home
In 2014, I traveled to Guatemala for 6 weeks in order to work remotely, travel, and study Spanish. After returning I crunched numbers on my finances and figured out that the cost for me to travel the world for 6 weeks was equivalent to my cost of living at home. Had I stayed for longer than 6 weeks it actually would have been cheaper, as the cost of the flight would have been spread over an even greater period of time.
When I say it was equivalent to living at home, I mean that. My costs of traveling weren’t in addition to my expenses at home but instead were in place of.
I’ve structured life so that most of my expenses are variable, meaning I only pay when I use them.
My only fixed expenses (mortgage and utilities mainly) are quite low and I was able to cover these by finding a renter.
We’ll review my expenses while on my trip and what I learned from this particular travel.
Let’s dive in.
$615 – Flight cost
$165 – Cash from Airport Money Exchange
$1,163.66 – Cash Withdrawn from 5 ATM visits
$615 – The cost
of my round trip ticket to Guatemala. I did a good bit of searching prior to my trip. I was willing to fly out of 2 nearby airports, but surprisingly, my local airport was the same price (actually slightly cheaper) than those.
$1,328.66 – Total expenses that I incurred in Guatemala for 6 weeks. This included 80 hours of Spanish Lessons as well!
I didn’t write down each of my expenses, but instead kept up with my ATM receipts since I lived on a cash basis the entire trip. I could judge approximately how much I was spending per day by averaging the amount I had taken out the last time with the number of days that had passed (i.e. if I took out $250 the last ATM visit and 6 days had passed then I was spending approximately $42/day). I made 5 ATM trips on my travels, approximately one per week.
I’ll also admit that I didn’t actually do the above math during my trip, as I could obviously tell that things were inexpensive and that I was spending less abroad than I would be back home.
I just wanted to be able to do the math (for this post) after the trip so that I could really see how my finances worked out on my travels.
$23.02 – ATM fees were charged and later reimbursed (so no real expenses incurred here) — I recommend a Fidelity Account as I’ve had great experiences with it thus far (I also have a credit card that pays me 2% cashback on ALL purchases through them). Using the ATM is best because it uses the current exchange rates, not a created exchange rate like money changers do. [my new favorite travel credit card has become the Chase Sapphire (aff link) which gives you 60,000 bonus points when you sign on!]
*A lesson learned prior to using the ATM. When I showed up to the Guatemalan airport I was anxious to go ahead and get some cash. A professional looking money change company (with no fees or commissions) talked me into changing money. The more I changed, the better rate I received. So I exchanged $175 or so. But guess what I didn’t know. What the current exchange rate should be. Even the ‘great’ rate that they gave me was terrible. So I lost about $27 on the transaction. So the ‘non-fee’ company turned out to cost me approximately 15% in exchange. Remember that when you see nice employees in suits at a business. Clearly it’s a successful business, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best deal for you.
$47 – Travel Health Insurance through Seven Corners — large company, recommended.
When you travel/live you lose your food, travel, fuel, entertainment, and other similar expenses back home. They are included in your travel budget.
$750 – Back home, I still had to pay for my mortgage and utilities, but this was offset by the $750 that I received by renting out my home for the month (a great win/win because some friends needed a place to live while they were renovating a section of their home).
$197.60 – Amount I made from renting out my Jeep via RelayRides (now Turo) while I was gone. This was incredible, as clearly I didn’t need to use it while I was gone. Of course, I had to get help to meet up with the renter to get them keys.
In conclusion, the financial net effect to me being in Guatemala was as if I never left.
The effect to my bottom line was basically the same. It’s difficult to measure perfectly, due to the number of variables involved. But when calculating for total income made during my trip, my total trip costs, as well as money saved for giving, taxes, and long term savings the net affect to me was literally equivalent.
Not only was the net effect the same on my expenses, but also on income since while traveling in Guatemala it was business as usual.
So I’m living proof that you can travel for the same that it costs you to live at home (depending on your travel location of course).
I always hear it.
“I wish I could, but I can’t do that.”
“I don’t know how you do it, it’s impossible for me.”
If they don’t open up their minds and destroy the box then it will always be impossible for them.
If you have the desire to take long travel, then know that you can do it too!
I also wrote this overview on travel hacking if the idea is something that interests you.
Where have you been?
Where do you want to go?
How you done the math to figure out how much it will cost you to travel the world?
Might not be as much as you think…
What steps are you taking in order to get there?!?