Looking for an adventurous way to give you both a practical and meaningful understanding of money? Try taking a trip around the world.
"You really get a sense of the value of a dollar when you travel," say Gerard Bao and Kieu Nguyen, founders of GQ Trippin. "And there is a fine line between not having enough and not having anything at all. We witness both sides of the spectrum."
Visiting places like Japan, Cambodia and Africa have given the couple a lot of perspective in that regard. And beyond witnessing how different cultures view finance, they've learned to use their money to prioritize experience over material items.
Here, G and Q share advice on traveling abroad - offering tips on saving money for a round-the-world trip and budgeting for air travel, lodging and more. Read on:
Tell us the story behind GQ Trippin...when and why did you start the site?
It started as a journal on Blogspot in 2009 as a way to document our travel experiences to share with friends and family. When we decided to take a career break to travel for a year in 2011, we made the switch to WordPress and our own domain so we could continue to provide updates on us while abroad. G is short for Gerard, Q is how you pronounce Kieu's name, and Trippin came from an old MTV series with Cameron Diaz and her celebrity friends traveling around the world doing extraordinary things.
Kieu, you quit your job in 2011 to travel the world...what spurred this decision? How did you prepare financially for this move?
We knew we wanted to take some time off for travel and had plans to both quit our jobs by end of 2011, but G got lucky and was laid off beforehand.
As for the money, G had a good amount saved up with hopes to put it toward a home purchase one day. Q spent a year focusing on paying off her car and school loans before she left. We also cut back on everyday spending and sold most our belongings on the side to help us out financially.
What were some of the easiest ways you found to save money for your trip around the world?
Quitting "bad" habits like daily coffee runs to Starbucks is one way we saved money. We stopped eating out and started bringing packed lunches to work. We limited ourselves on social nights out with friends, forwent movie dates and weekend getaways. Q sold all her designer handbags and shoes. We both made sacrifices on top of setting money aside each month for an entire year to save up for this trip of a lifetime. Staying with our parents leading up to the trip helped out a bit, too.
How did you determine how much money you'd need to save up before heading out on your adventure?
We did a lot of research on the Internet, reading travel websites and blogs to find out what people either spent or suggest to spend in certain countries. Legal Nomads has a great long-term travel resources guide that included other career breakers' budgets which were extremely helpful in the budget planning process.
We then decided on which countries we wanted to visit and used BudgetYourTrip.com to start calculating daily travel costs by countries. We looked into average accommodation costs, general food and activities expenses and came up with a daily expense amount per day/per person by country where we both felt comfortable with: $100 a day in Australia, $30 a day in India, $50 a day in Peru, just to name a few.
What was your strategy for saving and splurging on your trip? What did you skimp on? What did you spend more on?
Save on accommodations, splurge on experiences. We didn't skimp on much for our RTW trip, just made the choice to not stay in luxury hotels in order to do more activities. Next to experiences, we spent the most on food. No surprise there.
What are you favorite methods for nabbing lowcost airfare?
Skyscanner was a good resource. Vayama was good for multi-city itineraries. For travels within Asia, Airasia is extremely affordable. Also, choosing to fly in the middle of the week as oppose to weekends are usually a lot cheaper, too.
What tips can you offer on finding affordable ground transportation? How do you get around on the cheap?
Resources like Wikitravel tell you how to get around in specific countries or cities. We would take the overnight train or bus many times if flying is expensive. Riding overnight also alleviates the need for accommodations, which helps the budget, too. Booking midweek transportation is also more affordable.
What about tips on saving money on lodging?
Don't be afraid to try different types of accommodation. You name it, we've tried them all. From hostels to hotels, guesthouses to Airbnb. We even tried couchsurfing numerous of times and loved it. Who doesn't love free accommodation with a chance of meeting really cool people?!
You're both foodies, too. Which destinations offered the most exciting cuisine, in your opinion?
Japan, because just the names of food alone is exciting to say and eat sukiyaki, yakitori, sushi, shabu shabu. Another destination with the most exciting cuisine is Thailand. From pad thai noodles to mango sticky rice, Thai food is exotic and abundant and absolutely delicious. Vietnam is another one, and we're not just saying that because we're Vietnamese. :)
Where did you find the best low-cost food? Any tips on tracking down cheap (delicious) eats while traveling abroad?
Street food isn't just cheap, it's delicious and probably the most authentic cuisine experience you should try while abroad. Not to mention the safest since street food is generally prepared and made fresh to order daily.
The best way to track down cheap eats is to go where the locals go. Ask the staff at your hotel or hostel, your Airbnb host or even folks on the streets where they'd go to enjoy a deliciously cheap and authentic meal. Chances are, it's a hole-in-the-wall place where they don't speak a lick of English. And that's OK. Just observe what others are eating and use the point method.