It's possible to travel the world, work remotely, and stay financially sane. Jessica Schlauderaff, a member of Remote Year Darien, shares her tips and tricks.
Preparing to head out on a 4-month or 12-month work and travel adventure is no joke.
For the more organized of us, it means creating lists upon lists of to-dos in a notebook that we bought just for this, detailing the many tasks we need to accomplish before we hop on a plane. For others, it means figuring things out as we go, following the reminders set forth for us by the Remote Year Onboarding team, hoping that everything will be settled by the time we’re actually packing our bags.
One thing that is sure to be on your mind when you’re preparing to leave? Creating a travel budget. Remote Year is a work and travel program with a comprehensive package of benefits and amenities including accommodations, travel support, access to coworking spaces, and unique, local experiences, but there are some things that fall outside of the monthly fee. Food and beverage, side trips, and souvenirs are just a few of the things you’ll pay for out-of-pocket while on program.
So, how can you prepare? How do you know how much you’ll be spending each month in each city, and how can you start getting ready for your adventure now, instead of trying to figure out your financial situation once you’ve stepped foot in your first destination?
Fact: Everyone has a different experience on Remote Year, so it’s difficult to give an exact estimate of how much you’ll spend on program. Some people take quite a few side trips throughout the year, exploring places outside of the set itinerary that they’ve joined, while others like to splurge on 5-star meals in each Remote Year destination. Truth be told, it’s all about your money mindset and personal situation.
You’re going to spend money on Remote Year. Though some cities are known for inexpensive food or quick access to side trip destinations at modest prices, there’s a 0% chance that you won’t spend any money outside of the Remote Year fee while you’re on program.
That’s where your money mindset comes in. While this isn’t an experience that comes without a price tag, it’s up to you to determine how you want to spend your cash while on program, as you prepare to start your adventure.
Before Jessica Schlauderaff, a member of Remote Year Darien, left for her 12-month program, she adopted a forward-thinking money mindset in order to save for her experience.
“I just kept telling myself, ‘Do I want to have this expensive meal now, or would it be more fun to have it in Peru?’” Jessica said. “I was comparing what I was doing before the trip with what I could spend that money on on the trip. That’s how I saved most of my money for Remote Year.”
“I also made a list of the things that I would actually be excited to spend money on while on the trip,” Jessica said. “I knew the cities that I would be traveling to, so I spent a bunch of time researching what those cities would be like and planning my budget that way.”
Financial prioritization is key while on program, as there are going to be so many incredible opportunities for you to take part in. You need to have a period of serious reflection before you join the trip (and, perhaps, a second period about halfway through your adventure!) to determine what is most important for you to experience while working and traveling around the world. If you are an art connoisseur, maybe you’ll set aside some extra cash for admission into art galleries and museums. If extreme sports are more your style, you can make room in your Remote Year budget for paragliding in Colombia or cage diving with sharks in South Africa. Keep in mind that Tracks™, unique, local experiences curated by Remote Year City Teams, are included in your monthly fee.
Jessica’s money mindset on Remote Year had to do more with building community. She saw her disposable income as a tool to help her develop relationships with each member of Remote Year Darien.
“I think I was spending more money on Remote Year than I was in my “regular” life because I was thinking of it as a short-term thing,” Jessica said. “I could save $20 by not going out one night, but that’s not the mindset I was in. If I was going to spend money to eat alone, I probably wouldn’t have done it, but if I was going to go out with friends, I would spend more. I knew that I wanted to bond with my community and attend as many events as I could.”
This mentality wasn’t just limited to opportunities to connect with her community. In her blog post series where she details her spending on Remote Year, she introduces the “How many tacos could I buy with this?” mindset.
“Once we got to Mexico, I was like tacos are 25 cents. Why would you spend $5 on a t-shirt that’s kind of cool, but you probably won’t wear very often, when you could buy 20 tacos?”
“It’s the mindset of, whenever you’re making a purchase, thinking to yourself, ‘Will I value this as much as something that brings me so much happiness?’”
Seems like good rationale to us.
Now that you’ve gotten a glimpse into the mindset of a Remote Year participant, let’s get into what you came for: real-deal details on how to create a budget for Remote Year, and how much you should aim to spend each month.
This normally isn’t the advice that many financial planners would give you, but when you’re creating a travel budget it’s important to leave some room for flexibility. You’ll be living and working in either four or twelve different cities after all, each with its own conversion rate and cost of living.
Jessica used each month as an opportunity to reevaluate her budget and determine what she needed to cut back on, or when she could afford to spend a little more.
“Every month I refined it a bit based on what I’d spent the month before. Once I’d spent a week in a place, I could determine if I could eat out more or if I needed to buy more groceries and cook in my apartment.”
Before you go on Remote Year, it’s impossible to know every experience you’ll want to take part in. Members of your community will come up with great ideas for additional trips or festivities to attend, and you may want to join in the fun - at a cost.
“The things I didn’t plan for were side trips,” Jessica said. “I just didn’t know going in what I was going to want to do. I ended up going to Machu Picchu with one of my best friends and her family from home. I had never planned to do that, but it was absolutely worth it.”
With great restaurants, clubs, events, and pubs at your disposal, you may be worried about blowing your budget in order to keep up with your community. However, Remote Year is much more about who you are than what you can afford, so make it a point to seek out bonding opportunities that don’t make you feel like you’re overspending.
“Money doesn’t control what we do - we control what we do with our money,” Jessica said. “So, in Portugal, my friends and I would often have brunch at home.”
“We’d say, ‘Are we doing this to try something new in that country? Then we’ll spend money on it.’ If we’re doing it just to hang out, it’s better to buy a cheap bottle of wine in Portugal and a bunch of cheese and have a meal at home.”
Outside of the monthly Remote Year fee, participants suggest that you budget an extra $1,000 on average. This amount can be used to cover your food, drinks, side trips, and other experiences outside of Remote Year’s amenities that you may want to take part in. Plan for this amount, and if you spend less than you think, all the more power to you! It’s all about the ride after all.
“Don’t think about money as something you’re losing, think of it as the experiences you’re gaining,” Jessica said.
Jessica has laid out all of the details of her monthly Remote Year spending in her blog post series if you’d like to see a bit more context around what exactly you might spend your money on while on program.
Creating a Remote Year budget is an important part of your preparation process, but it’s also something you’ll evaluate throughout your time on program. While having a good grasp on your financial status is integral to having a worry-free experience, having a money mindset that leans toward flexibility and a focus on experiences will ensure that your time on Remote Year is filled with unbelievable memories and lifelong connections with your community.