Funding A Dropout

My shiny silver Toyota Rav 4 funded my first dropout. The next one will be funded by a year’s worth of savings (which isn’t that much, really. Really.)

I traded in my battered and rusty Pajero for the Rav 4. The Pajero had taken me to the top of Australia’s Cape York, a trip that shook the radio out of the dashboard and the bounce out of the suspension. The Pajero got a bit rusty but that just added to its charm (until I discovered it was no longer considered roadworthy). The back side windows were just the right height for my trusty sidekick, the indefategable Mollydog. (Of course, back window height was a key factor in choosing the Pajero’s replacement. I even took the dog along for test drives!)

Unlike its predecessor, my Rav 4 barely went off-road, a fact I was quite embarrassed about. It looked fab in the driveway, though. During yet another sleepless night in early 2007, tossing and turning and wrestling with the feeling of being trapped in my career and in soulless Canberra, I thought about selling the car. Suddenly everything fell into place.

So my car funded my career break, which stretched from the originally planned “three-months-to-a-year” into a full-blown dropout. I think I sold the car for about A$8,000, less than half of what I bought it for. That money paid for my stuff to be packed up and stored, for my dog to be flown to my Mum’s for safekeeping (and there were many many tears at the airport), for my one-way ticket to Ho Chi Minh City and for a four-week teaching English course. At the end of the course I found some teaching work which initially brought in $1,000 a month, rising as I gained confidence and more hours. Rising again when I switched jobs — twice. And so the car (kind of) funded nearly four years of living in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as trips to various parts of Vietnam and to the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

The Silver Pagoda in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, one of the amazing sights I've seen since dropping out

Many travelers save for years to fund their adventures. It’s hard to know how much to save. Thankfully, some bloggers are very open about their expenses.

Former Ballarat boy, the Aussie Nomad, has a handy breakdown of his traveling costs for various countries in Europe.  Danny and Gillian from I Should Log Off traveled the world for 21 months for a grand total of $59,114, according to this post they published in February. Some careful Googling can lead you to other bloggers who have totted up their expenses at the end of their trips.

This next dropout, of course, includes my entourage. I am planning this next one with much more care because I know I have to look after three people instead of just myself, at least initially.

The smallest member of my entourage

We’ve decided we need to enter the next dropout with US$10,000 in savings. I think we will have that but it’s not so important if we don’t. A good portion of that money will be earmarked for a two-month holiday in Europe. So if we don’t have the money, we don’t go to Europe. Simple.

What we are embarking on, on this next dropout, is a lifestyle of travel, not just a trip or a holiday. It will be a period of slow travel. Slow travel so we get that sense of home that we think we need. Slow travel so we can watch gardens grow in different parts of the world. Slow travel so we can find the best street food, the best local foods and make friends. And slow travel because I’d really like to write a book.

I’ve set myself a target of earning $3,000 a month during my next dropout. That was to be funded by freelancing and entrepreneurial activities until I met a magazine dude. I may well start the next dropout with a part-time magazine job that will enable us to save during our six months in Chiang Mai. Then we’re off to Europe, hopefully, then back to Asia, where costs are much, much lower.

I expect our living expenses to be about $1,000 a month in Chiang Mai. That rough estimate was confirmed by Avril from Got Passport in early July. Avril and her family of three have been living in Chiang Mai for nine months for an average cost of $1,200 a month, according to this post. School fees kicked their monthly expenses much higher than ours will be.

So, you see, dropping out doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Especially if you’re crap at savings like I am, so just plan to work as you go.

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This post is part of a “turning our travel dreams into reality” group writing project. You can read the following fantastic posts written by traveling parent bloggers:

Decide, Commit by Amy from World Schooled Adventures

Inspired Dreams, Inspiring Travel by Lainie from Raising Miro

Turning Our Travel Dream Into Reality by Lisa from Around The World In Easy Ways

Prioritizing, Taking Life By The Balls and Making My Travel Dreams Come True from Melissa from Break Out of Bushwick

Why And How We Came To Be A Traveling Family by Amy from Livin On The Road

How To Afford Long Term Family Travel by Nancy from Family On Bikes

11 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. I LOVE hearing that folks can make it on $1000 a month. I’m figuring if I can make it on peanuts in NYC, I can make it on $1000 just about anywhere! Good luck with your savings, and happy travels!
    Melissa Banigan recently posted..Prioritizing, taking life by the balls and making my travel dreams come true

    • The Dropout says:

      You can certainly live on $1,000 a month in some parts of Southeast Asia. But it’s not possible everywhere. We’re in Singapore, which is still in Southeast Asia, but we are paying more than $3,000 a month in rent. The prices here are insane. That’s just one of the reasons we’re leaving.

  2. […] much does a family RTW trip cost? Livin on the Road: Why and how we came to be a traveling family The Dropout Diaries: Funding a dropout Around the World is Easy Ways: Turning our travel dreams into a reality Break Out of Bushwick: […]

  3. Amy says:

    People think it costs a fortune but in most cases long term travel will cost less than living at home. And when you travel slowly the costs come down even more. We are hoping to only spend $20,000 per year traveling Asia (family of four).
    Amy recently posted..Decide. Commit.

  4. i LOVE this story – it’s so fascinating to me, to hear the back story of how and why people started traveling. too bad you don’t have another rav4 to cash in. LOL!
    wandering educators recently posted..Family on Bikes: Travels on the Pan American Highway

  5. Lisa Shusterman says:

    It will be a different adventure with three instead of one but hopefully you will find it just as fulfilling.

  6. Sailor says:

    That sounds great. Travel full time is getting cheaper with great planning/.
    Sailor recently posted..What’s So Great About A European River Cruise?

  7. Maria says:

    This is a great statement, “Slow travel so we can watch gardens grow in different parts of the world. Slow travel so we can find the best street food, the best local foods and make friends.”

    You’re on track for one helluv an adventure!
    Maria recently posted..Wheels Down – Part II

  8. Kelly says:

    Good for you!! I paid for my travels by working 3 jobs for 9 months like a freaking crazy person. It sucked, but man was it worth it!
    Kelly recently posted..Staying Safe in Rwanda

    • The Dropout says:

      I hear you Kelly. I took on a second job to prepare for the next drop out. The second job nearly killed me but it paid for a new laptop and a fancy new camera. Then the magazine went bust! Oh well, best plans and all that.

  9. We will be new parents in November and are trying to figure out what our future looks like. It’s nice to see so many other young families continuing to follow their dreams!

  10. ayngelina says:

    I was shocked at how little Mark from Migrationology was spending in Chiang Mai, I’m at 1000/month in Latin America and that seems expensive compared to there!
    ayngelina recently posted..In my backyard – 5 things to do in Toronto

  11. Amy says:

    It is so much cheaper than people imagine it to be. It’s cheaper to travel than live in a house, but I am thinking that South-East Asia sounds so much more affordable than Australia.

  12. How exciting! Congrats on making the decision and saving the cash.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..My First Taxi Crash in Buenos Aires

  13. I love reading about the financial aspects of your planning! $1000 a month budget is definitely doable. Good luck and I’ll be sure to keep reading more!!
    Lainie Liberti recently posted..Inspired Dreams, Inspiring Travel

  14. robin says:

    Excellent post. You have some earning power which is great and it sounds like you have your head on straight about the whole venture. Let me know when you’ve finished the book – I’ll buy.

    As long as it’s reasonably priced of course – my earnings are way under 1000 a month 😉
    robin recently posted..Limpio

  15. That’s exciting and you should have no problems since it sounds like you’re really diligent about planning. I’ve put off Europe and Asia because it seems so expensive, but I know I really wouldn’t have to save for that long to make it happen.
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..Crazy Horse: The monument that may never be finished

  16. Very inspiring post. Scott and I are big savers and we like to give ourselves a big cushion, but I would definitely still quit my job to travel if I knew it was the right time no matter how much money I had saved. Good for you for doing it!

    I’m happy with our business building at the moment and actually loving where I live. It’s becoming hard to leave. 😉 I’m sure that will pass sooner or later though.
    Christy @ Ordinary Traveler recently posted..Best Places to Photograph in San Diego

  17. Angus says:

    We’re about to finish a six months round the world trip – very sad but we have already started to plan the next one. We are terrible savers, in fact I think it the six months prior to leaving we managed to save about $2000 :\

    So we decided to really ‘dropout’. Sold a house, a car and quit both our jobs. We’ve probably spent around $50,000 in total, which, when you write it down like this, seems like a massive amount of cash, and it is! But I would do it again in an instant.

    We could have done it lots cheaper but these opportunities only come around once or twice in a lifetime and we wanted to do it ‘our way’.

    My advice for anyone considering dropping out is DO IT! Money, or lack there of, should not be a motivator! You can always get more! Experiences that last you a lifetime – now that’s PRICELESS!!
    Angus recently posted..The Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Naples

    • The Dropout says:

      Yay for the next one!
      Have you calculated how much you would have spent if you stayed at home? I’m sure your expenses would have been $50,000 or less if you hadn’t traveled. The trick is to have an income while you travel, that’s what I think, anyway.
      Here’s a MASSIVE glass of champagne toasting our next big dropouts! Bon Voyage! *clink*

  18. Good information! We’re always telling people that we can live less expensively on the road (most of the time). Go figure!
    Kent @ NO Vacation Required recently posted..From Glacier NP to Glacier Bay NP

  19. Jeremy Branham says:

    Good luck on the trip and the savings! Hope the money gets you through Europe! Love the idea of slow travel and hope it is a great trip! And yes, Asia is much more affordable!

  20. Our current travels are in Europe, but after that we plan to head to India and Thailand. As much as I’m enjoying where we are now (and ok, we’re housesitting so lodging is free for now), I can’t wait to head where it’s cheaper! Hearing what other people spend on the road helps a lot.
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..Housesitting in London: Check out our Crib

  21. Sophie says:

    Very exciting your project. Best of luck 🙂
    Sophie recently posted..Pizza night in the Italian countryside

  22. […] The Drop Out Diaries – Funding a Dropout […]

  23. […] part of getting older and slowing down overall. Maybe its because I’ve discovered slow travel is cheaper and more rewarding. Whatever the reason, slow travel suits us. For now, at least. Bio: Barbara has […]

  24. […] The Dropout Diaries: The first hurdle was getting my husband to believe that a traveling lifestyle was possible. Once he was on board, it was a matter of researching, planning and working my butt off with a second job that paid for the camera and laptop I needed to work while on the move. The second job vanished when the company folded just before we left Singapore, but somehow another offer landed in my lap a few days later! It IS hard work to work and travel (and be a mum) but I think the effort is worthwhile. I see much more of my daughter now than I did when I had a “real” job.   Here’s Barbara’s Funding a Dropout post […]

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