I traveled and lived abroad for 3 years, averaging $8900 per year for all expenses. Ask Me Anything!

Stephie D
Jun 18, 2017

Find out how you can too! Ask Me Anything about it!

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My husband and I travel only on his retirement! Love the photo!

Jun 19, 7:18PM EDT0

Good for you! Keep on!

Jun 19, 8:35PM EDT0

Which countries did you ever gone?

Jun 19, 11:13AM EDT0

England, Wales, US, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Trinidad, Guyana, New Zealand, Australia, Nicaragua, US Virgin Islands, Hawaii (still US but wayyy out there)

Jun 19, 8:35PM EDT0

What did your parents/family say when you decided to do somethig like that?

Jun 19, 5:16AM EDT0

They were more scared than I was. My dad said if I hadn't been traveling to Central America for as long as I did, he'd think I was crazy. But he knew that I wouldn't do anything I wasn't fully prepared for. My mom was all for it. Both of my parents are world travellers as well. They just wanted me to be happy, so I appreciated that.

Jun 19, 8:33PM EDT0

What were the glaring differences between people in those countries and back home?

Jun 18, 3:06AM EDT0

Overall, the fact that people everywhere but the U.S. were open and helpful and friendlier than I was used to seeing. They were also much more laid back and happy. In New Zealand, during a transaction such as checking out at a grocery store, you'll get no less than 4 thank you's. There are roadwork signs that apologize for the inconvenience and thank YOU. lol. During a transaction, they'll say: "That'll be $20.50 thank you." I'm used to hearing 'please' instead. 

Jun 18, 4:11AM EDT0

What country is the most hospitable, to you?

Jun 19, 4:39AM EDT0

Which are the top five places you would recommend others to visit and enjoy?

Jun 18, 12:54AM EDT0

Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, Virgin Islands, Belize.

Jun 18, 4:06AM EDT0

What's the best country that you've visited so far?

Jun 17, 10:34AM EDT0

Well, they were all good in their own rights and they all have their setbacks. I love Costa Rica but New Zealand and Australia are amazing as well. I try to look for the best in every place I go, so it's actually a hard question to answer!

Jun 17, 5:29PM EDT0

Hi! Were the people there hospitable?

Jun 17, 9:06AM EDT0

Yes, I've found most people in every country were hospitable.

Jun 17, 5:30PM EDT0

What kind of cultural differences have you observed in the different countries you have been to so far?

Jun 16, 8:30PM EDT0

Well there were a lot...depends on what country you're asking about really. In NZ and Oz, being an American, it was sometimes difficult getting used to the terms they used that meant the same thing, just different words. In Central America, people would stand way too close to me for my comfort and the men were very forward. 

Jun 17, 5:32PM EDT0

Did you visit those countries to fulfil some official work and duties?

Jun 16, 6:41PM EDT0

Nope, just doing it for fun. I did move to Costa Rica to volunteer with wild animals, which is actually where everything started.

Jun 17, 5:32PM EDT0

The idea is fantastic! But have you never dreamt about jacuzzi, luxurious hotel room and stuff?

Jun 16, 6:13PM EDT0

After a while, of course! I would treat myself to a nice hotel room and doing house sits, sometimes they had really nice places with pools and nicer homes than I lived in!

Jun 17, 5:33PM EDT0

Did you communicate with your family during your travels?

Jun 16, 5:56PM EDT0

Yes, of course. Email, mostly. I did set up a Google voice account so I could call the U.S for free through my computer whenever I wanted.

Jun 17, 5:34PM EDT0

What are the main dangers when you travel cheaply?

Jun 16, 3:44PM EDT0

I didn't have first hand experience with this, but read enough reviews of hosts on HelpX that stated the hosts were sometimes after sex or had really bad standards of living. Some people had to 'escape' in the middle of the night from crazy hosts. Luckily they wrote about it. I'd just watch out for helpx positions because it seems a lot of those people are just lazy who want others to do work for them in exchange for room/board which may be substandard. Google the person's name as well to see if anything comes up. Staying in hostels can be sketchy. I refused to stay in one the entire time I was on the road. Have to watch out for things being stolen. I'd just say, go with your gut feeling..if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

Jun 17, 5:37PM EDT0

Would you go to the same places with your family?

Jun 16, 5:39AM EDT0

Not all of them. My mother traveled quite a few times to NZ and once to Oz. Her and I went to Costa Rica once. My standard of travel is far below my parents'.

Jun 17, 5:38PM EDT0

How has been your experience as a sole traveler visiting various countries around the world?

Jun 15, 2:58PM EDT0

I've had a complete blast! I've met a lot of wonderful people and seen some amazing sights. I was much happier being alone than I would have been with a partner. It gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted to and not at the mercy of someone else.

Jun 17, 5:39PM EDT0

At what age did you strive to travel across the world and live a free life?

Jun 15, 2:24PM EDT0

I started at age 43.

Jun 17, 5:39PM EDT0

Hi, where did you live?

Jun 15, 1:50PM EDT0

I lived in Texas.

Jun 17, 5:39PM EDT0

Do you plan to go on a world tour again as a solo traveler?

Jun 15, 11:33AM EDT0

I'll never stop traveling although sometimes I may settle down (like I am now). 

Jun 17, 5:40PM EDT0

Did you have to change your lifestyle drastically to live on that small budget?

Jun 15, 6:28AM EDT0

Not really and in some cases I was living BETTER than I had. You really only need a few things...clothes, toiletries, food, a roof over your head and a computer! I still ate well, which I didn't skimp on much. If you think about it, your income mainly goes to your mortgage/rent and bills. Once you don't have those things, your expenses aren't that much. Money to travel, be it by air/bus/train and then having a free place to live (house sitting) or a cheap place like airbnb or homestays. You can typically buy a cheap plan for your phone or pay as you go as you won't be using it much. Cook at home instead of eating out, etc.

Jun 17, 5:43PM EDT0

Which country you have visited has the best standard of living?

Jun 15, 2:22AM EDT0

The U.S. still nails it as far as standard of living. NZ homes are typically drafty and cold unless you're really rich. Australian homes aren't bad but electricity is expensive there so it can take a while to get used to the heat inside the house during the day since they don't tend to use A/C. 

Jun 17, 5:44PM EDT0

Which country do you believe has the most interesting and satisfactory cuisine?

Jun 14, 9:11PM EDT0

None that I've been to! When I think of great cuisine, I think Italy or France. Central America isn't well known for its cuisine. I will say that Panama had some of the best seafood (prawns, particularly) that I've ever had. They were so fresh and inexpensive...that's one thing I really miss about that place.

Jun 14, 9:22PM EDT0

Fascinating! Could you share some photos?

Jun 14, 7:44PM EDT0

You can find them on my blog at www.warmreptle.wordpress.com and my book site www.twobraudsabroad.com but here are a couple (won't let me add any more).Sheep farm in New Zealand

baby sloth in Costa Rica

Jun 14, 9:29PM EDT0

Oh I like this one - have you met lots of sloths on your trips?

Jun 19, 6:17AM EDT0

What kind of difficulties did you face and overcome during your travels?

Jun 14, 7:09PM EDT0

Well, in Central America I had attempted to learn spanish a year before setting off. However, it wasn't really up to par. I learned most by being around the locals. Although it never really hindered me as most people could speak English if necessary. Honestly, I don't recall having many difficulties during my travels. I sort of planned where I would have to go next as far as where to stay, but other than that, I just let life take me where it wanted instead of rigorous planning. I found it worked out better that way.

Jun 18, 4:34PM EDT0

How did you manage your expenses on such a short or low budget?

Jun 14, 7:02PM EDT0

Quite easily, really. When you factor in house sitting, that takes away most of your expense (they pay the utility bills as well typically). So my only expenses were food, cell phone, entertainment, toiletries and travel related. Clothes are super cheap at second hand stores. Had I not taken up house sitting or work exchange, my budget would have easily tripled depending on where I was. 

Jun 18, 4:32PM EDT0

Which country offered you the most interesting insights into various facets of life?

Jun 14, 6:27PM EDT0

Well they were all interesting in their own ways so that's a tough question to answer. Belizeans and Guyanese are quite self-sufficient and I learned a lot from them as far as growing your own food. Kiwi's do a lot of farming and gardening. I will always grow my own fruits and veggies from now on, whereas in the States it was sort of an afterthought. It's good to know where your food comes from and know it's pesticide-free.

Jun 18, 4:37PM EDT0

That's a great idea!

Jun 19, 6:22AM EDT0

How much of that money did you spend on food, Stephie?

Jun 14, 6:15PM EDT0

All in USD...in Oz and NZ between 300-400/mo. In Costa Rica about 2-400/mo and Panama 300-500/mo.

Jun 14, 9:33PM EDT0

Was it okay for you?

Jun 19, 6:16AM EDT0

Which country would you like to visit again if given a chance?

Jun 14, 5:36PM EDT0

Costa Rica, hands down. Of course I want to live in Australia so I definitely want to go back there as well.

Jun 14, 9:34PM EDT0

What do you like most about Australia, Stefie? Are you into surfing?

Jun 19, 6:21AM EDT0

Which is the one place you have visited that you would desperately prefer to avoid in future?

Jun 14, 3:48PM EDT0

Tough one. Panama is up there. It was dirty, the wildlife wasn't that good and the traffic was horrendous. I went to Guyana which was the toughest trip of my life and I swore I wouldn't go back. But now that time has passed and I know what to expect, I may venture back that way eventually. 

Jun 14, 9:35PM EDT0

What then are critical things you would hate in a country?

Jun 19, 6:10AM EDT0

Can a person travel to Europe on a budget?

Jun 14, 12:47PM EDT0

I can't really comment since I haven't been there since I was 11. If you can find house sits there, that could make it affordable. I suppose it depends on the currency conversion of your country, too.

Jun 14, 9:36PM EDT0

You're right, thanks!

Jun 19, 6:22AM EDT0

What should one keep in mind while touring new places as a solo traveler?

Jun 14, 11:43AM EDT0

Have an open mind, be friendly, be aware and don't be stupid. Get lost, walk a lot, talk to the locals and make friends!

Jun 14, 9:36PM EDT0

What was the most unusual dish you tried there?

Jun 14, 10:13AM EDT0

Nothing really comes to mind. I ate mutton once while working on the sheep farm. It was not good.

Jun 14, 9:38PM EDT0

Were you not uncertain or worried about exploring and visiting new places across the globe?

Jun 14, 7:55AM EDT0

Nahhh, never worried. Uncertainty is always a factor but that's what makes it exciting.

Jun 14, 9:38PM EDT0

What country was the cheapest?

Jun 14, 7:18AM EDT0

Panama. Sometimes it was cheaper than the U.S. for certain things. 

Jun 14, 9:39PM EDT0

Have you ever shared your experiences on a blog or forum online to help others contemplating a similar world tour?

Jun 14, 6:46AM EDT0

Sure have! www.warmreptle.wordpress.com and my book site www.twobraudsabroad.com

Jun 14, 9:40PM EDT0

Do you believe it is more fun visiting places as a solo traveler?

Jun 14, 5:46AM EDT0

Definitely. It lets you meet more people that way as opposed to being with a significant other where you feel maybe you can't approach or talk to the opposite sex. You also don't have to worry about someone else's issues or problems...it's only you!

Jun 14, 9:41PM EDT0

Which country you have visited has been the best in terms of hospitality and camaderie?

Jun 14, 3:08AM EDT0

Costa Rica was up there for sure. People were very helpful and made you feel welcomed. 

Jun 14, 9:41PM EDT0

Did you ever get nostalgic and miss home and wished to cut short the trip?

Jun 13, 8:17PM EDT0

Never! I don't even have a home in the U.S. anymore...I sold everything I had and left in 2013 and have only gone back twice since then for a visit. Actually, I take it back...when I was in Guyana I wanted to cut it short but didn't. I was really stressed out from lack of sleep and dehydration and bug bites that I felt I couldn't take it anymore (I was still living in the US at that time). But I powered through it and was glad I didn't give up. That blog is: https://guyanatraveler.wordpress.com/  Great trip...very difficult, the hardest one I've ever taken.

Jun 14, 12:27AM EDT0

What would you do in case of a medical emergency or an accident with no one around to help in a foreign country?

Jun 13, 7:35PM EDT0

There's always someone to help. Always keep a phone nearby with emergency numbers already programmed and let people know where you are. Deal with it as it comes! Get with your local consular and give them your info on where you live/phone numbers/emergency contacts.

Jun 14, 12:28AM EDT0

What are top 5 things every budget traveller must know?

Jun 13, 6:44PM EDT0
  1. Have a plan B...always! Never know when things are going to fall through.
  2. Have money in the bank or easily accessible. Get an account that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees or ATM fees.
  3. Have an unlocked phone.
  4. Learn about house sitting and homestays.
  5. Only take with you what you need (which isn't that much). Don't load yourself down with luggage. Leave behind clothes and buy them at second hand shops at the next stop. This is handly when going from one climate to another.
Jun 14, 12:32AM EDT0

Thanks Stephie!

Jun 19, 6:53AM EDT0

What is your secret to living on a shoestring budget yet enjoying life in different countries?

Jun 13, 6:34PM EDT0

Being flexible. Be open minded and have fun. Make friends wherever you go and try not to stress out too much. One I stopped planning and trying to figure out what my next step was going to be, my life really opened up for me.

Jun 14, 12:35AM EDT0

Could you say that you live according to Buddhist laws in some aspects?

Jun 19, 7:06AM EDT0

What do you think is the main thing you have to know about budget travelling?

Jun 13, 6:16PM EDT0

Plan as you go don't try to plan too much ahead of time. Basically, let life take you where it wants...it always seems to work out better that way!

Jun 14, 12:34AM EDT0

Hey, that's good! What about you - are you an organised person or natural born bohemian?

Jun 19, 6:47AM EDT0

Which country you have visited has been the best so far in terms of natural beauty?

Jun 13, 5:49PM EDT0

I'd have to say there are two...New Zealand and Costa Rica. Two vastly different places, but NZ has some postcard views that you just have to see to believe. CR has amazing rainforests and views as well.

Jun 13, 10:26PM EDT0

Did you take up short term work in the countries you visited to manage your expenses?

Jun 13, 5:06PM EDT0

No...I was always on a tourist visa. I had some online businesses I managed and sold things from those which helped. I also house sat which didn't pay me, but cut down on my expenses a LOT.

Jun 13, 10:27PM EDT0

Have you always been lucky with your hosts?

Jun 19, 6:48AM EDT0

What has been your dream and did you fulfil your wishes during the three years you spent abroad?

Jun 13, 3:30PM EDT0

My dream has been to work with wild animals which I was able to do in Costa Rica. I did interact with wildlife in other countries, but I don't consider it 'working' with them. I'm still abroad...living in New Zealand but have gained residency here and settled down from traveling so much.

Jun 13, 10:28PM EDT0

Does one need any special documents to travel like this?

Jun 13, 1:56PM EDT0

No, I was just on tourist visas, but you should always check with the country you're going to what visa you'll need (depending on what country you come from) and how long it lasts. I had to jump around quite a bit because most are only for 90 days.

Jun 13, 10:29PM EDT0

Have you ever been refused in a tourist visa?

Jun 19, 6:52AM EDT0

What kind of fallback plan do you have in place to meet emergencies?

Jun 13, 1:30PM EDT0

Good question. I suppose it depends on what type of emergency you're talking about. Health-wise, I stopped paying for insurance after the first few months of being abroad because I was rarely in a place where a doctor on their list was and it's so much cheaper to just go to a doctor and pay out of pocket than it is in the States. Luckily, there were never any emergencies I had to deal with. I always made sure someone back home knew where I was and gave phone numbers of people that I knew in the area in case they couldn't get a hold of me. Also I registered with the US consulate so they knew where I was with emergency contact numbers.

Jun 13, 10:31PM EDT0

Do you have any crazy story to tell us?

Jun 13, 1:01PM EDT0

Well one was when I was living in Costa Rica and thousands upon thousands of army ants started coming up out of the ground under my casita and flooded the yard. They wanted to come up into the house but I managed to keep them off the verandah. They even drove the little lizards up on the verandah with me. I was told to just let them clean the house...leave for a couple of hours and come back. But it was getting late and I didn't want to stay out that long. I managed to keep them out, but I'll never forget it. I blogged about it here: https://warmreptile.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/time-for-a-cleaning-compliments-of-the-army/

Jun 14, 12:24AM EDT0

Oh god! were you afraid of the ants?

Jun 19, 6:36AM EDT0

What got you interested in travelling around the world and visiting new places?

Jun 13, 12:01PM EDT0

Well I've been an avid traveler since I was 24 and after visiting Central America a few times, I knew I wanted to live there. It took until I was 43 to actually quit my job, sell my house and cars and just take off and do it. I haven't returned to the States and have residency in New Zealand now. Life's too short to live in one place and one country. You must see what other opportunities are out there! I wrote a book about it too called Two Brauds Abroad with my friend who was living in Africa at the time. Our site is www.twobraudsabroad.com and our book is on Amazon.

Jun 13, 10:33PM EDT0

What kind of precautions did you take to ensure your safety and wellbeing during your travels?

Jun 13, 11:43AM EDT0

First, I make sure my parents and friends have my contact information and the info of people I know in the area in case I go missing. Same for the US Consulate with their STEP program. I also don't go out at night to bars or get drunk or go home with anyone I don't know. I've often left notes where I'm staying if I did go out snorkeling by myself or if I feel I'm going to a place nobody would know where to find me. If I have a strange feeling about someone I'll be with, I'll email my friend in the US and tell her what's up and say I'll get back with her when I return and if I don't, to raise the alarm.  Common sense stuff...don't act like a tourist or stand out.

Jun 13, 10:36PM EDT0

Which country or city is the best to live in if you are short of money?

Jun 13, 11:31AM EDT0

Well there are a lot that I haven't been to that would be such as Colombia. Costa Rica was expensive and so is New Zealand/Australia. Panama was getting expensive too. It depends on where you want to live and how much you want to spend on rent. I spent about $350/mo. on a very basic cabana without a washing machine but it was practically on the beach. This was in a high tourist area too. If you go where the locals live and live like them, you could get away with cheaper. Don't rent from the internet, you'll get ripped off. Go talk to locals and get a better deal.

Jun 13, 10:38PM EDT0

Is it really safe for women to travel alone to distant countries?

Jun 13, 10:21AM EDT0

Yes. I've never had an issue but I'm also a seasoned traveller. I went to Amazonia by myself (Guyana) and was told by my hosts in one place that they had NEVER seen a single woman traveling alone there. I was fine. Just have to know what you're doing and know what not to do. I've got some street smarts so it's hard to pull the wool over my eyes.

Jun 13, 10:40PM EDT0

Are there any special tips for women travellers? My sister is plannig a trip to Peru and she's only 22

Jun 19, 6:58AM EDT0

Weren't you afraid of living abroad?

Jun 13, 9:03AM EDT0

Not at all! I welcome the opportunity to live in new places and see amazing things...it's quite a rush. I love the unknown and enjoy meeting locals and seeing what it's like. Just going somewhere on vacation doesn't cut it for me...you can't immerse yourself in the culture.

Jun 13, 10:41PM EDT0

Do you have any tips for people contemplating a world tour being a solo traveler?

Jun 13, 9:01AM EDT0

Well, I'd say have a rough plan of what it is you want to accomplish. Have money in the bank; a way of making money legally (can't work on a tourist visa); have a Plan B if things fail; don't give up right away; have a budget in mind and try to stick to it; research the countries you're going to for how much things cost and where to live; do a lot of homestays; try house sitting. I wrote a book about it too called Two Brauds Abroad with my friend who was living in Africa at the time. Our site is www.twobraudsabroad.com and our book is on Amazon. We give a lot of practical advice on how to do it sucessfully. 

Jun 13, 10:43PM EDT0


Jun 19, 6:50AM EDT0

What's your favourite place now?

Jun 13, 8:56AM EDT0

Costa Rica hands down. I'd go back there to live in a heartbeat!

Jun 13, 10:44PM EDT0

Stephie, what are you going to do next? What are your plans?

Jun 13, 8:10AM EDT0

Well I now have residency in New Zealand so I've been here for a couple of years now and will stay. Would like to move to Australia eventually. My constant travel days are over for now. I may head back to the US this year to visit and then down to Central America for a while before coming back here.

Jun 13, 10:45PM EDT0

How many countries have you visited and stayed in till now?

Jun 13, 7:42AM EDT0

I think I've been to about 11 countries so far and lived in 5.

Jun 13, 10:46PM EDT0

Which country do you believe is the most interesting in terms of their culture and traditions?

Jun 13, 7:28AM EDT0

Belize has a lot of different mixes of people and I got along well with all of them. The Garifuna really stand out as having an interesting culture and their music is great. 

Jun 14, 9:43PM EDT0

Did you encounter any weird or hilarious incidents during your world tour?

Jun 13, 7:20AM EDT0

Yes, all of the time! One in particular in Costa Rica where tourists would go to this beach and the monkeys would come down from the trees and steal their stuff. Even unzipping their bags and taking things out of them and going back up into the trees to play/destroy them. 

In New Zealand on the way to Milford Sound, there is a place you can pull over to see the world's only Alpine parrots (Kias) who are very intelligent. As people were snapping photos of them on top of their parked cars, the birds would start tearing apart the weatherstripping and mirrors which freaked everyone out. 

Jun 14, 9:47PM EDT0

Ha ha parrots are really crazy guys! I think animals add so much fun to travelling!

Jun 19, 7:04AM EDT0

Would you like to visit those places again?

Jun 13, 6:15AM EDT0

Definitely..I've been to Costa Rica quite a few times but always want to go back. I'm looking forward to living in Australia one day in the near future. I love visiting Belize as well...been there about 7 times.

Jun 13, 10:47PM EDT0

How did your family react to your decision about traveling around the world alone?

Jun 13, 5:37AM EDT0

They were more scared than I was. My dad said if I hadn't been traveling to Central America for as long as I did, he'd think I was crazy. But he knew that I wouldn't do anything I wasn't fully prepared for. My mom was all for it. Both of my parents are world travellers as well. They just wanted me to be happy, so I appreciated that.

Jun 13, 10:50PM EDT0

Hello Stephie! What transport do I have to use to travel cheaply?

Jun 13, 5:30AM EDT0

The bus! I don't recommend hitch hiking although a lot of people do it in Oz and New Zealand. The bus is usually the cheapest mode of transportation. Although I used the trains a lot in Oz which were cheap enough and faster too. They have a great transit system. NZ, not so much. It's very expensive to get around here. Costa Rica had a great bus system and was very cheap and comfortable. When you have to fly, you have no choice but to pay an airfare. Start collecting your miles!

Jun 13, 10:52PM EDT0

Ok, thanks!

Jun 19, 7:43AM EDT0

Don’t you think traveling with a partner, family or friends would be more enjoyable than traveling alone?

Jun 13, 5:28AM EDT0

No how, no way! I'm much better off traveling alone. That way I don't have to worry about someone else's issues. Sometimes I did wish I had someone to be with, but you make friends where you go and can hang with them if you want. I find it difficult to travel with someone else.

Jun 13, 10:53PM EDT0

Tastes differ, it's true!

Jun 19, 6:50AM EDT0

Were people usually helpful in the places you visited or were they reserved and kept to themselves?

Jun 13, 5:20AM EDT0

Yes, locals are very helpful...especially in Central America. The thing about people there though is that they don't want to dissapoint you when answering a question, so they could actually not tell you the truth or give bad directions instead of just saying they didn't know (that took some getting used to). Kiwi's are helpful and friendly for the most part, but they don't seem to let you into their circle, regardless of how long they've known you...it's really weird. Aussies were nice though.

Jun 13, 10:56PM EDT0