Category Archives: financial

Tracking Pesos

I thought I would keep track of every peso. I thought it would be cool to know down to the peso how much I spent in eight weeks.

And for two and a half days I did.

I wrote down what I spent on accommodation, every meal, drink, snack, transport ticket, admission fee and tip.*

And then I stopped tracking.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it for the whole journey but I thought I would have been able to go at least a week. Instead, I went just two whole days.

On the other hand, I did manage to keep track of what I spent on accommodation each night for 60+ nights.

* It seemed customary to tip the driver/guard when they give (read:throw) you your pack when upon arriving at your destination.

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Setting up a second bank account

After reading this, I realized I would definitely need a second bank account.

My biggest concern was fees. I didn’t want to pay a fee from the US bank, a fee from the foreign bank and that dreaded foreign transaction fee.

My current US bank has agreed to waive their fees until April. I had to go up the food chain for that agreed waiver. But I will still have to pay the foreign bank fee.

What I find amazing is that my primary US bank partners with several foreign banks – but none in the countries I will be traveling. I was told if I find those banks in my travels, they cannot be sure the fee will be waived as the partnerships are identified on the website for those banks in specific countries. We shall see how that works out.

Needless to say I realized I wanted to have a bank that had actual branch locations in South America. I visited many, many banks to find the right one.

I had even received a suggestion to check out Bank of China. I did and they don’t link their accounts outside of the US.

I visited Capital One, and even though they have few fees, making them a key bank for international travelers, I had heard from several people, Katie included, that their customer service from outside the US is sub-par. And customer service is huge for me.

I eventually went with Citibank. They have locations in most of the places I am going and if I lose my card (please think good thoughts that I don’t) they can issue me one at the local branch, wherever in the world I may be. 

This is a huge plus as most banks will only send a new card to a US address, which would ultimately be problematic for me, since I wouldn’t be in the US.

And the guy who set my account up was super friendly, super helpful and most importantly, he answered all of my questions.

So, we’ll see. I’m hopeful.


FAQs: Money

Today is the five-year anniversary of my grandpa’s death and while I miss him every day, he has left a lasting legacy.

Today’s post is a thank you to my grandpa and his forward-thinking.

Today’s post is also about the biggest question I have been asked…How much money is this going to cost?

Honestly, I don’t know.

FAQ: How do you have the money to take this trip?

My grandpa had always said ‘pay yourself first.’

While I don’t think he meant pay yourself first so you can travel, that’s exactly what I have been doing for the better part of ten years, even while I was in some serious debt.

While some people save their money to buy handbags, furniture and homes, I save in order to buy airline tickets.

I don’t think that my grandpa wanted me to interpret ‘pay yourself first’ as a travel fund, much less an opportunity to quit my job to peace out for two months. 

I do think that somewhere he is shaking his head in disbelief that his oldest grandchild who lived on grilled cheese as a kid has become quite the adventurer. He shouldn’t be all that surprised though, it was me who introduced him to ikura on the sushi menu.

Thanks Poppy. Without this cushion, I would never be able to do this.

FAQ: What’s your budget?

I think I can do it on $200-400 per week, depending on the country and the cost of living there. And I think that’s on the high end.

What would it say about my cost of living to ensure that my monthly travel budget comes in way under my expenses and outrageous monthly rent! It would mean — get the hell out of New York!

Because I only have limited time on the road, I will have a different mindset than a longer-term traveler. What’s the sense of being somewhere only to not partake because it busts the budget? I’ll make up for the splurge in other places, like food and lodging, or spending more time in less expensive places.

For example, Ayngelina from Bacon is Magic, wrote that she traveled South America for 18 months on approximately $1000 a month. And Wandering Earl wrote about living on $1000 a month.

In the meantime, check out these budget breakdowns from Shannon from A Little Adrift and Betsy and Warren from Married With Luggage. Their trips are longer (and still ongoing!) and cover more countries than my trip but you get the idea that the cost of living is much cheaper once you leave the USA, no matter where you live from sea to shining sea.

Please note: I am not an Excel whiz so please don’t expect me to provide anything like this at the end of my trip. I will probably start, with good intentions, to keep track of my expenses in a good, old-fashioned notebook. And then one day, not even halfway through my trip, I will probably stop.

FAQ: This last point isn’t an FAQ so much as a request from a dear friend and I think it nicely wraps up the money section of the FAQs.

Some background: I moved to London to live and work for six months after graduating from college. Thanks to this experience, which I would do all over again even knowing what I now know, I spent the better part of my twenties in a significant amount of debt.

I worked very hard to eliminate that debt, many years after the pints were drunk and the fancy Paris hotel was a faint memory. I have no intention of getting myself back into travel debt again. And the note my dear friend wrote was a friendly reminder.

My friend, we’ll call her M, writes…

And my only request/piece of advice for your new adventure is not to get yourself back into “London Debt”…you worked so so hard to get out of it, and I remember you feeling so relieved and proud of yourself for doing so. That will be my only comment on the finance matter of your trip. Other than that, I hope you have a fabulous time and wish you safe and friendly travels 🙂