The question is often asked, how can one travel for so long. So I've developed here a few little points that come to mind about what is possible and especially to de-demonize the idea that you have to be rich to undertake such a trip.
There are ways not to spend a lot, but also to earn money on the road. All of this put together can lead to a great project that we thought was out of reach.
Costs : What actually costs ? Just about everything, in fact. Everything is an expense, except for living a little more on the dirtbag side of life, we'll see that below.
We pay for food, sleep, potentially beverages. On top of that, you pay for flights, visas, equipment changes, insurance and repairs.
No cost is really incompressible, but it's all going to be a question of tricks and involvement.
These are the costs inherent to the trip, the expenses on the way. You can quickly establish an average, in fact. If your trip is planned, you take the price of visas, insurance and flights to make a fixed cost, and then add the daily budget you allow yourself.
This gives an average and that's what you can usually read from others, an all-inclusive average.
Insurance and bank charges should not be neglected. This requires a bit of comparative work beforehand as costs can quickly rise.
But there are also the upstream costs, which can quickly become substantial but are also very strategic.
This includes the bike, the tent, the sleeping bag, the stove, the clothes or the photo equipment. You can therefore leave with what you already have in your cupboards, which is not necessarily suitable but which is less expensive, and allows you to avoid buying again. But this also potentially means that you'll have to change it on the road. You can always make a bike out of what you have in the garage, and you can always ride it across the planet, but it will always be a question of comfort. A reliable bike, a reliable rain jacket, good shoes or a good tent will allow you to enjoy what you see rather than having to constantly worry about potential problems.
You buy yourself peace of mind.
Spending a fair amount of money at the beginning on suitable equipment allows you to leave with peace of mind and potentially never have to change it. A good duvet or a good stove can last a lifetime.
So spend more to spend less. Potentially.
Concerning the photo and video equipment, it goes without saying that the prices are not negligible, but it can also be seen as an investment.
Because beyond the pleasure it gives to photograph and film, it is also an investment in the future. Coming back with something solid to present allows you to tour festivals, to exhibit, to write a book or to win various prizes. Not everyone can recycle their raw material in this way, but if that is your ambition, then it is a way to justify your costs.
On top of all this there may be additional costs depending on your situation: storage of your stuff, insurance, rent, bills. The problem is potentially reduced over the long term: get rid of everything and move on.
Tinkering to reduce cost - Learn the basics of mechanics
Reduce bike maintenance expenses to a minimum by learning how to fix primary and recurring problems. Adjusting a derailleur seems insurmountable but with a good youtube video it can be done smoothly.
Especially since in some countries it's a good idea to avoid having anyone touch your bike, not knowing how competent he/she is. And for something you could have done yourself, it happens that the bike comes out worse than better and costs even more.
- Hosting networks
Easy and efficient hosting networks like warmshower or couchsurfing. It all depends on the community too, which is larger in some countries than in others. Still, you save the price of a night, but if you bring a bottle of wine, it's a serious cost. Anyway, it's an awesome way to meet locals and get a shower.
- Dumpster diving
Supermarkets throw away a lot. Take a look in the bins in countries that have supermarkets, and you'll be surprised at what you find!
Also, keep an eye on the expiry dates, and find someone who will let you have it for free as they will throw it away anyway!
By the way, in some countries like Australia, you can't technically cross state lines with fresh produce. The bins are overflowing at state border crossings!
- Second hand equipment
Find second-hand equipment to limit your initial expenses. If you plan ahead, you can find almost new stuff at decent prices!
- Avoid flights
It seems rather logical, but flights represent a big part of the budget, especially if you are doing jumps here and there. Building your project around the idea of reducing flights as much as possible reduces the cost of the flights themselves, and the related costs: cardboard, taxis, life in the big cities.
- Avoiding visas
Like flights, choosing a route that limits visa fees makes sense from a cost-saving perspective. Now, don't deprive yourself of a country for all that. But it is true that some countries require some thought. Especially since the cost of the visa also includes accommodation, transport and the usual costs when waiting for it for several days in a city.
- Playing with the seasons
Being judicious with the seasons allows you to have less to wear and therefore potentially less to spend since you equip yourself differently. A sleeping bag or a 2 season tent does not cost the same as winter gear. Just like clothes, by the way. Shorts, a t-shirt and sandals, freedom.
- Online banking
Limit bank fees with some online banks that are very accommodating to the wanderers that we are. The traditional French banks are actually quite expensive once you have compared the offers.
Obvious, but effective. Besides being much nicer, it doesn't cost anything. Accommodation costs can go up very quickly in some places. A sharp eye, a sharp tongue and a little bit of resourcefulness are enough to drastically reduce accommodation costs.
- Brand with good customer service
Having equipment from brands that have a good reputation for after-sales service is important. Instead of replacing faulty equipment by buying it at a high price, some brands replace generously. Worth looking into.
Rigour I don't have any, so I'll talk about it with a touch of envy. When you draw up a daily budget and plan for a specific period of time, you have to be rigorous, you have to know how to say no to others and to yourself.
This means keeping track of the accounts and paying attention to your expenses. It takes time and, above all, you understand what you can and cannot afford.
Keeping track of the accounts means having a clear view of what you have and what you spend. You are aware of the limits you have to put on yourself and what you will have to deny yourself or allow yourself in the future. It's quite an exercise, especially when you've taken to the road to have a little more freedom.
But freedom comes at a price, and everything extra you spend gets you one step closer to going home or working.
A beer, a restaurant, a hotel room. It sounds good, it feels like a holiday. But in the long run, it's not every day a holiday. And even if you'd like a little comfort, you have to say no, because that one night in a hotel is two or three days of travel on its own.
Long-distance cycling goes beyond the commonly accepted idea of travel. We take pleasure in the distance and the duration, in the resourcefulness.
So sometimes we wander along the roadside to find a dry place, with a bit of a heavy heart. But that's good too, let me explain. What rigour brings The advantage of rigour is that it develops a certain sense of DIY, as well as creating unexpected, human situations.
Having too much money to spend brings us closer to a certain notion of comfort. You don't look any further than the end of your nose to find a cheaper place, or to drive a few extra kilometres to find a place to camp. You don't try to negotiate anymore, or only weakly.
However, by not giving in to temptation, you look for alternative solutions, you negotiate, you tinker. You don't take no for an answer.
This means, among other things, getting closer to others, because suddenly you have to deny yourself the luxury of money and ask for help and advice from those around you.
Moreover, a hotel room can be closed, but a tent on a football field attracts attention. It is sometimes tiring, but it is a precious moment of joy and sharing. From one hotel room to another, you see the world a little less well.
And that's just one example of what being on your own can do. You can end up in a funny place, or in someone's garden. You can have a hard time but learn from it and be satisfied.
It's kind of travelling with a kind of restriction. But a creative restriction. It pushes us to reinvent ourselves and to see the world in a completely different way.
Or the lack of rigour That's my area. I tend not to worry or calculate too much. Which brings me to Australia at the moment to spend a few months working.
If I'd been a bit more judicious with my budget, I could have cycled for a few extra months rather than having to go back to work so soon.
But would I have benefited from those extra months? Because I could have cycled for a few more months but could I have done all the things I have done so far? Going out, climbing, living with the pleasure of carefree living, meeting people, diving, hiking. Probably not. And I would probably have suffered more from al restriction than from the current situation where I have to work a bit before going back.
No miracles. I'd like to cycle as long as possible, but I also like the free side of carefree riding, I like not to deny myself anything because life is relatively short. There is a middle ground that I try to find and that allows a bit of both. The "too cheap" syndrome I tend to spend more when the cost of living is expensive.
I realised that I spent maybe as much in 4 months in Australia as I did in 5 weeks in Nepal. Surprising, isn't it?
Not so much, it's the "cheap" effect
When the cost of living is too high, you can do without many things. And we do without very well. On the other hand, when prices are really affordable, I tend to consume. But then the costs pile up. And a lot of small purchases will always be more than no big expenditure at all.
A pint of beer in Australia is quickly between 10 and 18$. So I do without. A pint in Laos at 2$, I find it hard to say no. And I drink three. Nothing spent in Australia, $6 in Laos. And it works like that with everything. Restaurants, hotels, beers, outings. The most expensive country In line with this reflection, I would say that the most expensive countries are often those where I spend the least.
The most expensive countries are often those with a high level of education. This means by a cause and effect relationship that it will be easier to understand what you are doing, and what that entails.
Traveller accommodation networks are larger, it is often easier to get accommodation, the English language is more widespread. Sometimes they even give you money, just like that, to help you. Time is money This is a well-known expression, and it is an empirical method that is accelerated when travelling.
You save a lot by being patient. Sitting down and comparing, negotiating and asking around for the real cost of things.
All that money potentially saved is time, and therefore money.
Sometimes you can wait for the next train, bus or plane to save a bit. But it seems that nowadays patience is no longer an option. We want everything, and right away. I'm one of those.
And to avoid taking the time to compare buses and negotiate the price, we jump on the first one as long as it leaves quickly and arrives quickly.
Do you want to save money? Take the time to measure, compare, negotiate. People often know that Westerners are in a hurry and don't care about expenses, so they take advantage of it.
How to finance : - Leave with savings. The simplest solution in a sense. You live simply, you work, you put everything aside. You sell almost everything. And then you make a plan with what you have in your pocket.
-Working on the road. Many ways to work on the road, especially since if it adds to your savings, you're guaranteed a long trip. You can work online, apply for work visas, stop in a country that is attached to your own and offers you the right to work, but on the other side of the world.
- Travel-related income. It has become more common to earn income from blog, instagram or youtube shares. Especially if you don't spend a lot of money, it is feasible to cover your daily expenses.
- Sponsorship. The world of sponsorship is quite intriguing. I find it hard to figure out what it takes to get attention. Some people have big sponsors for a less than stellar external appearance. Smaller brands are the most sensible target, if you get the timing right. We all win in this situation. But the big brands don't need any extra publicity, unless you have a large network.
In any case, it's a lot of work, and for what? A pair of bags or a pair of socks? I think it's a good idea to calculate the ratio between what it costs in time and energy compared to what you can get out of it.
If it's for a pair of bags, the time spent on them and the compensation required, I tend to think it's better to work a few days longer and afford everything.
Don't get your hopes up:
I'd like to say that it's never been as difficult as it is now that it's easy. Let me explain.
Even though the means and platforms have multiplied, so has the number of people with the same activity and the same goal. So it's a bit more of a battle to make a place for yourself on social networks and in the sponsorship world.
There are ways to stand out a little bit, but unless you are extremely good at what you do, it involves little algorithmic strategies. And it's up to each person to judge how much intellectual freedom they want to sacrifice to get there. A vague idea of the expenses :
Part 1: France - New Zealand
I must have spent about 16 euros per day all inclusive (flights, visas, beers, 3 breakfasts per day) in the first two years between France and New Zealand.
Flights: Muscat - Cairo / Cape Town - Bangkok / Singapore - Auckland
Visas: Mostly on the African continent, prices can go up quickly.
And then, I did not really deprive myself. I lived well without counting too much. No regrets.
Part 2: New Zealand
Here it's much more chaotic. I was there for two years with Covid. I cycled for a few months and walked for a few months, then worked, and spent some time in confinement.
It's all a bit of a blur. I made money but also spent a lot.
I left there with 6000 euros I think.
Part 3: Australia - Vietnam
I think we're also quickly on an average of 15/20 euros per day all included. No deprivation either, I went where I wanted to go to do what I wanted. A lot of flights, a lot of loss of money linked to the final chaos, namely going to NZ or Australia. And finally the flights were already expensive, but the changes don't help either. Well, it's too late.
Flights: Nelson - Melbourne / Darwin - Bali / Bali - Leh / Kathmandu - Bangkok / Hanoi - Melbourne
The visas: barely a hundred euros
I could have done differently. Should I have? Maybe, but it's too late, and it's a nice lesson. A lot of money wasted for nothing in procrastination and decisions that are moderately in line with my desires.
I financed the first part with the savings I had, and the lovely donations I received too.
NZ was self-sufficient as I was working.
And the third part is based on the savings from part 2, namely NZ.
So so far, things are holding together a bit logically. Short and efficient work periods to pedal longer. But I've been spending too much lately, and the cycling period has turned out to be shorter than expected.
Currently in Australia, work is not going as well as expected, so it's questionable what the future holds. But instead of depriving myself of what I want to do, I think I'll try to lower my expenses in the next few years. Without too much effort I can fit two years into one. So why not ?
I'm trying to develop a donation system as well, which is slow at the moment. And why not video subscriptions.
It's hard for me to conceptualise content monetisation. So I'm trying to stay on a donation basis, and hopefully that will keep the machine running when the crossing of the Americas comes.
Money is the lifeblood of most projects, no matter what you think. There is a middle ground to be found. There is no need to be rich as long as you reduce your daily expenses. And you can do it with small, simple techniques. I think it's all about discipline.
Knowing how to control your desires and questioning the way you spend.
Once it becomes more of a career than a simple bike ride, you have to learn to make money from content, from sharing. But that's something I'm learning the hard way right now.
Go for it. If you sell everything you don't need, you can probably go on a bike tour for a year. And a lot of the worries we have about going away for a long time are fears that we've been brilliantly made to accept.
It's not so complex to bounce back. And you will come back much stronger as a human being than any experience that routine provides.