why we travel on £30 a day

Making the decision to live out of a rucksack for months or years is never an easy one. Commitments and relationships - familial, financial or practical - can make the costs appear far greater than the potential benefits.

A society which tends to emphasise the black and white of a CV - school, university, career - often views periods of indecision, drifting and uncertainty as 'grey' and displaying a person's weaknesses rather than strengths. However, it is often these moments which weave the greatest and most vibrant colours into one's life tapestry. 

We took the choice to escape the city and travel Latin America for two years. To give ourselves the opportunity to learn new skills, ameliorate dormant ones and create memories. Not to "find ourselves" as the clichéd rationale goes but to improve ourselves.

One's life should be a symphony. 

the budget

We both wanted to give ourselves the longest time away and the only way to do this responsibly and sustainably was to set a daily budget. 

We stayed in London for almost 4 years and it is a truly awesome city. When the original lexicographer Samuel Johnson guffawed: "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life", he wasn't wrong. You can feel like you're at the epi-centre of so many cultural movements and shifts, with an iconic vista or landmark often just around the corner. And when that rare summer's day arrives, there are few better places to reside. 

Johnson, however,  perhaps underestimated what sort of life many can come to live there. We grew to question elements of la rutina diaria and concerned about whether we were moving backward. Also, as William Shenstone astutely observed, "nothing is certain in London but expense". 

Our daily budget whilst working there full-time, Monday-Friday, was around £50/$85 each per day. This included rent, commuting, breakfast, lunch and dinner plus one standard take-away coffee. 

However, in actuality, with various taxes, bills and social stuff (usually consisting of trying and failing to look cool in Dalston) included, this figure was frequently higher. 

We are well aware that given the multitude of employment, housing and social difficulties facing an ever higher proportion of London's residents, this figure may appear exorbitant and reflect nothing more than our own comfortable Pret A Manger fuelled existence. 

However, that's all too often what it felt like: existing.  #firstworldproblems #yuppieguilt.

We decided to live more and spend less: £100/$170 day for two would become £30/$50 day for two. A budget which hopefully will enable us to enjoy each country, but not line our pockets enough to completely divorce us from local realities:

Accommodation | 33% | £10 | $17

Food | 20-30% | £6-9 | $10-15

Other* | 37-47% | £11-14 |  $18.5-24

*Other includes transport, activities, toiletries, alcohol and treats.

A few of our "bucket list" items such as scuba-diving school, language schools and Maachu Pichu will be excluded. 

Achieving this will be much easier in some countries (i.e. Guatemala, Nicaragua and Bolivia) than others (Argentina, Belize, Chile). And that's what it's about: a more-rounded experience can be had by having to make choices, identify alternatives and taking the cheaper option. 

Image courtesy of The Economist

Image courtesy of The Economist

The further rationale underlying our budget is to use it as a real-time comparison of countries and their living/economic situation. We will track this throughout our trip so that others, such as prospective money-conscious travellers, can spot which country may be best for them. 

Of course, we are under no delusion that our modest daily budget will be significantly greater than 80m Latin Americans, where "middle-class" is viewed as existing on $10 - $50 USD/day. We are lucky enough to be able to do this out of choice, luck and circumstance.

Click here to find out if, at six months in, we stuck to our budget!

so, how did the £30 philosophy fare in reality?