How We Afford to Travel

This is a question we get a lot and there really is no easy answer — but we’ll give it a go! Watch the video above if you want to listen to us ramble on about this topic. Or you can read the more concise version below.

After some discussion, we boiled it down to three major things that have allowed us to travel as extensively as we have—

1. We prioritize travel over other comforts.

Afterall, we do live in a van when we’re in the US. This means our expenses are pretty low most of the year, and we don’t have rent or any other big expenses that we’re paying when we leave the country (just parking for the van!). We also traveled long before we could afford to do so comfortably — like our first trip to New Zealand in 2014 where we spent all our money on a beater car (cheaper than renting) and thus couldn’t afford a tent. So we slept in the back of our station wagon with a stick in the door to keep it propped open since we were both too tall to fit with it closed. Eventually someone took pity on us and lent us a (leaky) tent. It rained for most of the two months we were in NZ that year, which resulted in a lot of awkward dinners cooked in the back of the car, crouching with the gas stove, surrounded by all our stuff. But we got to see amazing places and race our bikes in a very special part of the world. So, yeah, it was totally worth it! But that trip never would have happened if we hadn’t been willing to make some sacrifices and to live very cheaply. I think we ate in a restaurant maybe ONCE in the entire 10 weeks we were in NZ, and that was out of desperation. We even cooked in a public toilet once because it was raining so much. Yeah, you get the picture.

2. We work remotely.

At this point 100 percent of our income is location independent,* via sponsorship for racing or freelance work. This means we take our jobs with us, which as you can imagine can be a blessing and a curse. The blessing part is that if we want to go to Scotland for a month, all we have to do is rustle together the money for the airline ticket (more on this in part 3) and we can continue to earn our normal income while living on the other side of the world.

The downside is that the work life boundary can be very blurry. The work week definitely doesn’t stop on Friday at 5pm and real “off time” can be hard to find. Someone asked us recently if we were on vacation all the time, or working all the time, and the answer is, well, depends on how you frame it. Some days it feels like vacation! Most of the time it doesn’t.

*Location independent except for the fact that we obviously have to go to bike races and travel places where we can train and ride our bikes. But we want to do that anyway, and we have a lot of freedom to choose which places.

3. We use credit cards with airline miles rewards programs.

We’ve used credit cards with mile programs to purchase flights all over the world. When you sign up for a credit card like American Advantage you get a bonus 50,000 which is basically a round trip ticket to South America (or slightly less than round trip to NZ). We currently use both the American Advantage Platinum Select and the Chase Sapphire Reserve cards, to maximize the miles benefits. While using miles often requires you to be time flexible, it can literally save you thousands of dollars on flights. And with many miles programs, you can purchase miles when they’re having a sale, which basically means discounted flights — this can work out really well if you have a wonky flight plan, like needing to fly out of a different destination than where you arrived.

The flip side, of course, is that miles flights are usually the worst of the worst. Early starts, late arrivals and looooong layovers. Like the one time we spent an overnight layover in the hyper air-conditioned Brisbane airport where we had to resort to spooning on a table to avoid freezing to death (the couches being too small for spooning). It wasn’t weird because the airport was completely empty, no one else being dumb enough to book such a terrible flight. But if you want to get somewhere badly enough, you won’t care how many flights it takes you to get there.