Own a Car or Travel the World?

February 18, 2014

A lot of people continue to ask how I can afford to travel and live abroad?  I’ll be completely honest with you and share some secrets.   If you can manage to live on your own in the US, it is just as easy to do it abroad. There is no secret to living and traveling abroad.

Question 1: How can you afford to live abroad and travel?

My response is “How much is your Monthly Car Payment?”

I have lived/worked/studied in 6 countries over the past 3 years. (Ireland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Australia, Italy and South Korea). One thing all these places had in common was awesome public transport.  I either took public transport or walked to work/school.  Owning a car is a HUGE expense and so many cities outside of the US have awesome alternatives to owning a car. Prague cost about $30 a month for unlimited metro, tram, bus travel, Sydney was around $160 month, Korea is $1 per bus ride ($50 month average).  Don’t get me wrong, I love driving and miss it sometimes.  When I start to miss it, I just remember, for the cost of owning a car I can travel year round or live like a king in South East Asia.  Unfortunately we are so car dependent in the US, most people don’t even consider this as an option.

Let’s break down the cost of owning a car

Initial cost of a new car like a Honda Civic $18,000 ($390 month  over 36 months)

Even after you pay off your car it is still cost $9,000 a year to maintain it (gas, maintenance, insurance, etc.) Figures according to USA today.

These numbers aren’t broken down to the exact cent, but you get the picture. It is really expensive to own and operate a car. Especially when you consider the alternatives of transport.  I know living at most cities in the US you need a car, but you always have a choice to relocate.

Car amsterdam

Question 2: How Can I Travel With Debt?

Debt shouldn’t hinder your urge to travel the world. But what if I have massive student loans?

Student loans are commonplace after US students graduate.  Practically every English teacher I have met here in Korea is paying or paid off their student loans. But at the same time they are living abroad and doing quite well. South Korean jobs offer some pretty sweet incentives (free flight, housing, insurance and the highest pay in the world for teaching English).  When you break down the expenses you can actually make and save more money by living abroad. (This isn’t a South Korean tourism plug, it is just a good and easy example). Let’s dissect these numbers so people stop thinking everyone who lives abroad magically won the lottery.

Average student loans: Lets say $250-300 per month (According to CNN Money)

Average income for English Teachers in Korea $2,000-2,300 per month (Epik Teacher Pay Scale)

SO you are living in South Korea. Got here for FREE and your Apartment is included. For simplicity I’ll leave out the other costs since they are pretty similar or actually cheaper than the US (Food, Cell Phone, Cost of Living).

Alright, well this seems like a pretty good margins since you can probably save around $1,000-1,300 a month before paying off your student loans.

Second Question: I don’t want to teach English. How can I travel and still work?

Although Teaching English abroad is the Easiest way to work and travel it isn’t the only possibility. I covered most of these questions in my previous post (Moving to a New Country with $5,000).  I worked in Sales full time for 4 months and then traveled for 2 months in Australia and still had money leftover.  The truth is living abroad is like anything else, you have to work and pay for the same things. Just the cost of living, income and your expenses vary depending on your lifestyle/job.


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