How I Actually Saved Money by Traveling the World

A few years ago, I was renting a room in a house filled with students who were studying at the German university where I was first paid to study my Master’s degree and then later employed as a researcher.

Because of some bureaucratic rules for switching between a student and a work visa, I had to delay my thesis defense date until the end of that summer. With my thesis research complete, I realized that neither it nor the paid work that I was doing for another lab, technically required me to be physically present during the proceeding months. Due to my record of having performed good work in the past, I was able to persuade the professor who employed me to let me work remotely.

Given that I was still a tax paying resident of Germany at the time, I was required to keep a local German mailing address for legal reasons. Conveniently, there was a small room located under the stairs in my house. It was barely big enough for both a bed and my luggage, but it did have both a window and radiator. I saw this Harry Potter room as the perfect cost savings opportunity, and convinced the land lady to let me rent it for about $80 a month. Given that the house utilities (energy is expensive in Germany) were included in that rate, after taking a couple of long showers, I think the land lady may of barely broke even.

With a fixed address for legal reasons, and place to crash during the few nights that I was going to be back in town, I spent that entire summer traveling the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as took a trip back to the USA to visit family.

After one month, I discovered that I was actually saving more money traveling than an average month living in Germany! The cost of living in the Baltic countries was much lower than in Germany, thus I was saving on rent, food and especially the cost of an evening out. At the same time, I still had my German salary and health insurance.

But what about the cost of traveling itself you may ask? Well, by booking ahead on Wizzair, I have flown for as little $12 from Germany to Eastern Europe (plus checked bag fee). And I was able to book bus trips between the Baltic country capitals on LuxExpress for between $10 and $20. These buses even included free wifi, which let me work on route and earn enough to cover their costs before even reaching my destination.

As an American, I found it amazing that in Latvia I can take a comfortable 5 hours ride on a brand new bus with wifi for only $10. A couple months later, I was taking a bus out of NYC  which cost over $50 and whose wifi didn’t work at all. After pressing the button to turn on my reading lamp, dirty water emptied out of it and down onto my lap. Ironically, the radiating light bulb symbol did look similar to that of a shower head. Oh, if American buses were only up to Latvian standards…

That summer showed me how cost effective traveling can actually be, and how one can leverage currency exchange rates in their favor. It was a stepping stone on my way to establishing my current lifestyle where I work completely remotely. There is nothing better than when the net cost of traveling results in a profit.

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