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Take a Year off to Travel the World

By Katherine Tom, Senior Editor, Yahoo! Travel
June 6, 2007

Ever dream about quitting your job and taking off to parts unknown? It's easier than you think. With a bit of careful planning and research, taking an extended vacation can be surprisingly affordable. The secret is to target areas where daily living expenses are lower than those here in America. Even with the weak U.S. dollar, that still leaves a huge portion of the globe to explore. Let’s assume that a typical San Franciscan spends $1,000 per month on rent, $150 on gas, and $150 on utilities. Even without factoring in food and entertainment expenses, that gives them over $43 per day to play with — more than enough to live on in Southeast Asia, Central and South America, Eastern Europe, and Africa.

But what about airfare? Since plane tickets are one of the most expensive parts of traveling, it's actually cheaper to stay longer in each destination. Around-the-world tickets may seem like a bargain at first glance, but many require you to lock down your itinerary in advance, and the joys of long-term traveling are often about seeing where the road takes you. We think it's better to book only your major flights (getting in and out of the U.S.) and rely on local transportation (bus, low-cost air carriers, camel) during your journey.

Top Five Secrets of Long-Term Travelers

  1. The hardest part is deciding to go
    Guess what? It's far easier to make excuses for staying home than it is to actually jump on a plane and head halfway around the world. Once you've made up your mind that this is something you want to do, the rest is just details. Most people cite money as the main obstacle to taking an extended vacation, but the next few secrets show that traveling the world can actually be cheaper than staying home.

  2. Those little luxuries add up
    Think you can't afford to take off for a year? You'd be surprised. Instead of blowing your cash on small indulgences like that morning latte and cable TV, start saving towards the big luxury of an entire year off. Set up an automated deposit into your savings account (most banks provide this service for free). You're far less likely to spend money that you never see. Consider this training for your future downscaled life on the road.

  3. You don't really need all that stuff
    One quick way to get cash is to sell your things. Sell enough stuff, and you can also cut down significantly on the cost of storing your belongings while you're out of the country. Hold a garage sale, or take advantage of online marketplaces like eBay.

  4. Staying longer can save you money
    As we mentioned earlier, staying longer in each destination can actually end up costing you less, and you'll get a true taste of what life is like for the locals. Hotels are out of the question — you'll burn through your cash in a few weeks. Consider subletting an apartment, staying at a hostel, or even CouchSurfing. As always, exercise good judgment — it's not worth saving a few bucks to stay somewhere that feels unsafe.

  5. Know what you're getting into
    Taking a year off may sound like a dream come true, but it's important to recognize that there's a tradeoff. You won't see most of your friends and family for a while, you'll temporarily step off your career fast-track, and you'll most likely be roughing it in hostels. But when all is said and done, you'll have a year of priceless memories to look back on.