How to Make Money While Traveling Abroad

A friend asked me the other day whether we spent a lot of time “saving up” for our month in Buenos Aires.  The question caught me off guard because really the way we travel is a tad irresponsible and tends to be more haphazard.  Of course, we have a vacation savings account and we are always adding to it, in the hopes we find ourselves with the time off to escape.  But more realistically, I dream up the idea first and then find a creative way to finance  it.  If I waited to have all the money in order before dreaming big, we’d never get any further than Las Vegas.

Dreaming about a life that includes a bedroom with a door and windows that open..

As a consummate saver, I am usually plagued by self doubt right as my finger hovers over the “book it” button.  I mentally scan the empty rooms of our apartment, lament our car free lifestyle and notice the growing hole in the bottom of my shoe.  Can we really afford this?  Is this the most ridiculous decision I have ever made?  Will our unborn children suffer because of our hedonistic decisions?  But those thoughts are always crowded out by more pleasant thoughts like meandering through a local artisan market in Argentina, slurping noodles in Bangkok or hiking a volcano in Costa Rica.

Sometimes, the universe aligns with the travel gods to create a perfect storm. Maybe you find round trip tickets to Thailand for $650 to be used in November, right when you will be finishing a particularly brutal election cycle.  Or perhaps you are feeling stifled in your 350 square foot apartment, ready to move, when it occurs to you that if you put everything in storage for a month you can finance another trip.  I also follow the old adage that if you are starting another job, you always take a trip.  Period.  There is no room for discussion on this one.

It was around late September that I was hit with the inspiration for traveling to South America.  I happened to have some time on my hands after barricading myself in the bathroom to get away from Roem, who was breathing funny while working on music.  Seriously, if you are living right now with your significant other and sharing a space that could be considered a glorified dorm room, I promise it gets better.  Do whatever you have to do to upgrade to the absolute minimum of 450 square feet.

So back to South America.  I was thinking at the time about moving to a bigger apartment after the election ended and

Our apartment in BA that measured twice the size of our previous dorm room in SF.

maybe taking some time to recuperate, when it hit me.  What if we moved out of our apartment, loaded everything into storage (if you want to know how this went, read here) and used the rent money we saved to get a place in Argentina?  I knew from my previous visit that Buenos Aires is a beautiful city where one could live very frugally without much sacrifice.  Our rent in SF totaled about $1500 and I knew we could find a place in Buenos Aires for about $1,000.  By staying in one place and not moving around too much, we could keep our travel budget fairly small.  We added in a long weekend visit to Mendoza that didn’t break the bank and began to realize we could actually do this.

I used some money from our travel account to buy the cheapest tickets to Buenos Aires (around $850) that I could find.  That is a LOT more than I would normally pay for airfare, but I knew once I got there it would be worth it because the cost of living was so much less.   I factored in our usual spending money for the

Ordering the premium cuts of meat I can afford now that we are below the Equator.

month, including grocery money and other incidentals, to get our total budget for the month abroad.  Then we cut out any nonessential spending for October, leaving us with enough money to enjoy ourselves in Argentina and put a security deposit down on a new place when we got back.

It also helped that my amazing sister and brother in law let us crash at their place on our return, until we found an apartment.   They put up with our smelly laundry, messy backpacks, forwarded junk mail and all else that comes with jamming four people into a one bedroom San Francisco apartment.  This one week saved us about $500, allowing us to check a case of carefully packed wine from Mendoza, take our long suffering siblings out to dinner and put the rest in savings.

I am extremely lucky to have a very understanding boss that supported me in my request to take some time off after the election.   Roem was also able to take time off from his job as a server and still promoted his open mic from the Southern Hemisphere.  We maximized our time off by traveling during Thanksgiving and still got some family time in via skype for the holiday.  Our Christmas shopping was done for a fraction of the cost in Argentina and I handmade the rest of our gifts.

So that’s the short version of how we saved money by moving to Argentina for a month.  This is by no means the only way to do this, we have lots of friends that have found their own version of this formula.  Some rent out their apartment or house while they are gone to turn a profit or turn a business trip into a three week long road trip.  Our advice is to think creatively and look outside the box for ways to explore the world without breaking the bank.


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Filed under Adventure, Buenos Aires, Finance, Lifestyle, Mendoza, Moving, San Francisco, San Telmo, Uncategorized

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