How My Wife and I Went on a 7-Week Vacation to Europe for (Almost) Free

During the past year, I’ve been trying to make changes in my life to little by little move to a 4-Hour Workweek lifestyle. The book basically points out the insanity of our “work-hard, play-hard” culture, and introduces a lifestyle in which you’re doing what you love all the time.

For Holly and I, our version of “doing what we love” currently involves a 7-week trip to Scotland, England, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Spain.

 

We are by no means rich. We’re poor 20-somethings just out of college. The changes we’ve made to our lifestyle have allowed this trip to happen with only small increases in our cost of living. Here’s how we did it:

 

  1. Don’t pay rent twice.

We are currently homeless. Our lease on our last apartment ended mid-April. Our next lease begins mid-June. And that means that we’re saving thousands of dollars in rent/utilities/cable/internet for 2 months. Where does that rent money go? Straight to our hotel/hostel/apartment bills in Europe. We’re staying in places about on-par with our former apartment. And as a result, we’re paying about the same amount to have a place to sleep. The only difference is that we’re staying in places like Edinburgh, London, Amsterdam, Munich, Barcelona, and Madrid.

 

  1. Don’t eat like you’re on vacation.

20150512_175509Another bill that we’re trying to keep similar to the one we have at home, is our grocery bill. At home we’d probably eat out or “splurge” on pizza about once a week. Why should Europe be any different? Nobody says that you have to drop 10 bucks on every meal. Europeans sure don’t. They have grocery stores, just like us. So we eat cereal, sandwiches, granola bars, and microwave meals. We also try to get food from the grocery stores that still gives us an “authentic” experience. What’s more authentic than eating what normal people eat here, anyways? And just like we do at home, once or twice a week we splurge on a nice restaurant.

 

  1. Get a job that lets you be mobile.

More and more these days, jobs let you work from home. Whether you do graphic design, web development, customer service, online teaching, or just about anything else, with the use of the internet you can work from anywhere. I do digital marketing. Holly does freelance graphic design. It takes a little discipline, but once a day in the morning or evening we spend a couple of hours working on our laptops. And it feels great! Going out to see a castle or a museum feels even better when you know that you’ve just earned more than the amount to cover the admission fee, travel, and food for the day. The thing about internet, is that you can do the exact same thing in London as you can do in America.

 

  1. Don’t be a tourist. Be a member of a new culture.

20150520_164103Tourists are among the most irrational people in the world. They spend more money than they have, they make poor decisions because of their shortage of time in a given place, they’re generally rude, and they often do things that they don’t even like. Don’t be a tourist. Be Scottish, or Dutch, or Spanish. Those people still go to museums and to castles and to nice restaurants. But they also enjoy an evening in the park, or watch a movie at home with friends, or get work done (see point 3). Don’t be afraid to adopt the mentality that you will be back, so that you don’t stress about doing everything you can in a given place. Take it easy, don’t spend so much money, and just act like you belong there.

 

  1. Don’t acquire stuff before, during, or after your trip.

Stuff slows you down. In order to accomplish point #1 above, you’ve got to have a place for your stuff to go when you leave it. If there isn’t much stuff to begin with, or if most of it can go straight to the trash, then moving to Europe is a breeze. During vacation, we don’t buy stuff. This lets us spend our money on transportation, food, and experiences. It also keeps our bags light, and lets us go on future trips, since we won’t need to find places for that stuff to go. I’ve never heard someone say how much they regret throwing away ____, or not having ____. Something you will regret, however, is letting your mounds of garbage hold you back financially and logistically from doing something amazing.

 

 

We hope that this is the first of many multi-month vacations in our life, and perhaps the planting of a seed for your first multi-month vacation.

If you’re smart about the way you do it, you can come out even financially, and come out on top in life-experiences.

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4 Responses

  1. Brian
    | Reply

    Nice post. Good advice for anyone looking to travel. Some points are easier said than done, but I could see how using these principles could easily make “vacationing,” a more affordable experience.

  2. Rachel A
    | Reply

    Thanks so much for this advice! It’s great. I do have a question about plane tickets and storage costs for your stuff; how do you handle paying for those? Is it just factored in as part of what you would have paid for renting your apartment? I think the price of a plane ticket to Europe, despite cheap European airlines, is a big deterrent.

  3. Travis
    | Reply

    Hi Rachel, good questions! That’s why I said “almost” free :). Since we don’t have a lot of stuff, we were able to store it for free in my Uncle’s basement. For flights, we checked for deals a lot. Many people use free miles with new credit cards to get flights to Europe for free. And as I mentioned in point 5, since we never buy much stuff, we have a little extra money to spend on flights and on other smaller travel expenses.

  4. Nicole
    | Reply

    What about if you are a homeowner? There is no time between leases, so there are no months that I could get away with not paying “rent” (mortgage payment). We have been working on becoming somewhat minimalist: huge garage sale to get rid of stuff that’s not a necessity, no more cable and trialing magicjack for home phone ($4 a month!) as well as other cost cuts…

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