Two Month Trip Assessment

We are almost two months into our trip.  We’ll be leaving Oceania for SE Asia in a few days.  We’re currently about halfway through a two-week road trip from Cairns to Sydney (a 2,500 km or 1,500 mi drive).  Here are some assorted thoughts on our travels so far.

Expenses

Our spending has been a little on the high side.  We were hoping not to spend more abroad than we would have spent in the U.S.  In other words, if we spent $55K a year ($4,500 a month) at home, we would have liked to treat that as our ceiling for traveling abroad.  We started off our travels in first-world countries (Australia and New Zealand).  While the currency exchange rates are favorable for AUD and NZD, the costs in those places are still high so it is not surprising that our spending has been on the high side.  Here’s what we’ve been spending:

Sydney — $1,200 for a week ($383 for a private room on AirBNB)
New Zealand — $4,600 for a month ($1,900 for AirBNB and motel/cabin rooms)
Melbourne — $900 for a week ($475 for an entire apartment on AirBNB)
Cairns to Sydney — $2,700 for two weeks ($676 for various AirBNBs); we spent more on this leg due to about $600 in fees for tours of the Great Barrier Reef and Fraser Island; also had rental car + gas expenses

While Melbourne is pretty expensive (perhaps more so than Sydney), you can see we tried to cut back on eating out so we were able to spend 70% of what we spent in Sydney.  While exploring a new place’s cuisine is a big part of traveling, we felt that the food here in Oz is not that different from what we get back home.

Our expectation going forward is that costs will go down a lot, except for the month we are in Japan.  We are only somewhat seeing that trend as we book AirBNBs in SE Asia, but not to the extent we were expecting.  For example, the total average room rate we are paying while in Australia and NZ is about $60/night.  On the other hand, the average room rate for places in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia we have booked so far is about $45/night.  The quality of the rooms seems pretty consistent.  A 25% difference is nothing to scoff at, but we figured SE Asia would be dirt cheap.  I suppose it CAN be dirt cheap…

Travel Fatigue

We have spent six of the last eight weeks doing road-trip style traveling — one month in NZ and two weeks in Queensland and New South Wales.  That means a lot driving and short stays at places.  While it’s a good way to get a sense of a large area quickly, it’s not really my cup of tea in terms of traveling.  The two weeks where we were stationed in two cities were more enjoyable because we could take downtime when we needed to.

Packing

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we have been trying to travel as lightly as possible.  I have a 32-litre backpack and my wife has a international carry-on roller.  We also have a collapsible day pack that I mostly use for my camera and/or golf-related items when needed.  So far I’ve been really happy with this decision.  I’m glad I got a light backpack instead of a roller especially when there are stairs, etc.  We’ve been forced to contend with the 7 kg (15 lb)  carry on limit of budget airlines.  Both of our bags are over 7 kg.  We end up checking her bag and transferring some of my items into the day bag so we are both under the limit.

I’ve also been really happy with the storage cubes that I am using for clothes, toiletries and cables.  Keeping things compartmentalized is key to maximizing a small space.

I have made some changes, however.  On the eve of our departure, I decided to leave my electric razor at home given the size and weight.  Great decision!  I brought a disposable Mach 3 handle and 4 cartridges, which are promised to last 4 months.  In addition, I brought a small strip of denim, which should at least double the life of those cartridges.  Using a technique called stropping, you brush the razor along the denim (or leather) to smooth the shaving surface.  So far it’s worked out well.

We also learned that cotton clothing is going to be useless in the tropics.  I’m already planning on replacing a cotton polo and cotton T-shirt with something better for the heat and humidity.  I have a Merino t-shirt (120 weight) that is amazing.  Handles moisture well and also doesn’t stink.  I have a synthetic polo, which is comfortable to wear, but starts to smell pretty quickly.

****

Well, I am sure I have more thoughts, but running out of steam here.  Will try to post more later.

7 thoughts on “Two Month Trip Assessment

  1. Thanks for posting this, and for the blog in general. It’s been really cool the follow the journey (I’m in finance). I hear you on the costs.. if you’re moving around frequently, it’s not that much cheaper compared to staying put somewhere in the US. But I think if you were *living* in Bangkok/Chiang Mai/Hanoi/etc for a longer period, and you had an apartment there (eg for a month or two), and were eating cheaper local food, then the cost comes down further..but it’s not “1/10th” of the cost like a lot of travel bloggers would like you to believe. Keep up the great work and keep posting!

  2. I get excited when I see an update on your blog!

    Thanks for taking the time to update us. Sounds like the great adventure is still going strong. Let us know how you’re decompressing from life in biglaw – I always thought it’d probably take a full year to really disconnect.

    Still reaching for the phone to check email?

    On expenses, it makes sense that spending might start out high. You’re still new to traveling like this and will only get better at it over time.

    • Haha thanks for the support. It does take a while to decompress. I often think about what my former colleagues are working on, whether so and so is fitting in, how people are adjusting to a big shake up at another former firm, etc. I still have some law related sites on my RSS feed and sometimes read about big developments in my practice area. A recruiter asked if I was interested in a chief xxx counsel position for an international company, and it made me do a head fake for just one minute. So it’s not a 100% switch to travel mode. The past still lingers and haunts.

  3. Thanks for the update. It’ll be interesting to see how your budget adjusts. With your current NW, you can safely spend around 5k/month and still maintain a ~3% withdrawal rate.

    Just curious, do you plan on ever owning a home or do you plan to continue renting (i.e., MMM model or GCC model)? We are expecting 1-2 kids so it probably makes sense for us to buy since we won’t be travelling as much, but I see the appeal in being a perpetual renter.

    • Thanks Steve. We are hoping to spend less than our SWR limit while traveling. Will hope to settle at about $3k a month while in Asia, but not sure if that will be easily doable.

      Our next adventure will probably be sampling different places to see where we want to settle down, maybe think about a kid. We would probably buy a place for $200-$350k, if possible, to have a home base.

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