How to Travel the World on a Budget

by May 12, 2022Personal Finance

“If I’ve been able to travel with my income, anybody should be able to do it,” proclaims Susan.

She has worked as an assistant for 2 years and a Certified Veterinary Technician for 10 years at a small animal practice in Illinois.

Her boyfriend, Fred, a high-tech fabric machinist, gave her the international travel bug.

Their first big trip was to Iceland, in June 2017, during the Summer solstice. Over 7 days (+ 2 days of travel), they toured the island along the “Ring Road” in a rental car. This is an 825 miles road around Iceland. It’s the equivalent of driving from Boston, Massachusetts to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall


They stayed in hotels, AirBnBs and hostels. They also may or may not have slept in the car once… They enjoyed visiting lava fields, waterfalls, gorgeous mountains, rocky beaches, deep fjords and glacial lagoons.

Icelandic horses

Icelandic horses


Their second big trip was to the Big Island, in Hawaii, in February 2022. The highlights of the trips were Volcanoes National Park, where you can see active volcanoes and hot lava.

They splurged on a 45 minute helicopter tour, during which they enjoyed stunning views of waterfalls that can’t be accessed any other way.

Kilauea volcano

Kilauea volcano


Again, they rented a car – a Jeep – to be able to go offroad.

Over 7 days (+ 2 days of travel), they saw whales twice: once from the helicopter, and once from their breakfast table!

Humpback whale

Humpback whale


A fun discovery was Papakolea Beach, one of only 4 beaches in the world with green sand. It owes its green color to olivine, a crystal derived from lava.

Their third big trip will be to Malaysia, where Fred’s friend is getting married in February 2023.

Temple in Kuala Lumpur

Temple in Kuala Lumpur


So how did our love birds afford such trips?

It sure took a lot of dedication.

One strategy was to increase their income. Susan took on several jobs in addition to her day job, picking up more hours, pet sitting and working as an ER nurse.

The other strategy was to reduce expenses. They went out less, ate out less and shopped at discount stores (including for food).

Susan’s other tip is to be creative and find affordable ways to take care of your pets while you’re gone.

Sure, this required some sacrifices, but they were quickly forgotten when they saw whales from a helicopter!


Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified