Make travel a habit – how a minimalist lifestyle makes it possible

How to travel for six months every year

Everyone should travel more. People often say to me ‘I wish I had your life’. Well, of course, my answer is ‘you can’! Even with a full-time job you can easily commit to making travel a habit, not a one-off. And the first step is to spend less in everyday life in order to put it towards travelling. Spend your money on experiences, not stuff.

My only monthly direct debit is Spotify Premium. Yes, you read that correctly. I don’t pay a monthly car bill, or a phone contract, or a TV subscription service. I don’t have any utility bills or a landlord. I pay car and travel insurance up front every year. And I hadn’t realised until recently how unusual that is for a 39 year old.

Dhulikhel, Nepal
Contemplating life in Dhulikhel, Nepal

I don’t really notice how thrifty I am until I read articles or blogs about people trying not to spend anything for a year or similar. Then I think, well I do all those things naturally and always have. I’m a miser at heart!

Spend wisely and you too can work half the year and travel half the year

I suppose I’m so used to working and saving all through one season, so I can go travelling for all of the next season, that I don’t really question my spending habits anymore.

The great thing about living frugally is that it naturally feeds into modern life initiatives such as eating a plant based diet, going plastic free where possible, being mindful and having a minimalist lifestyle.

So anyway, here are the main ways I make sure I always have enough cash to go travelling each year…

I avoid paying rent

Festival bell tents, glamping
My home for the summer months

Obviously this one is a winner! During summers (my ‘working season’) I live in a tent or my small Berlingo van.

My disinclination to have my own home started a long time ago. For two and a half years after Uni I lived in shared dormitory rooms in cheap backpacker hostels, when working and travelling in New Zealand and Australia. Instead of longing for my own place, it made me appreciate the freedom it gave me.

After work, instead of rushing home to do the dishes, I’d go out walking, to the beach or to a late night gallery or museum. It’s easy to make more of your weekday evening when you haven’t got a home to rush back to.

When I returned to the UK, I ended up working in the seasonal accommodation sector, with, you guessed it, accommodation provided. Hurray – no bills, no furniture to buy, no boiler breaking down…

Now I work in the UK festival and events sector and spend my summer living and working in a field. There’s no living costs, no commuting costs and best of all, because I live in a field, there’s nowhere to tempt me into spending money.

I cook my meals from scratch

Vanlife - cooking on a camp stove
Coffee first, porridge second

I save so much money by only visiting the fruit and veg aisle and the tinned food aisle in the supermarket. Simply pretend the rest of the shop doesn’t exist! (Although I do love crisps. They’re exempt from any spending rules.)

I do enjoy cooking and I love food. I like researching recipes online and adapting them to van or tent life. Nearly all my meals are cooked on a camp stove and I don’t have access to a fridge, so simplicity is key.

My usual evening meals involve a couple of different veggies, some pulses and a tin of tomatoes with some herbs and spices. Yum! This saves loads of money, makes me healthier and cuts back on any unnecessary packaging. And of course, being veggie means I have a lower impact on the environment.

I’m always looking out for free experiences

Glasgow street art trail
On the trail of street art in Glasgow

Forget paying £20 entry to a tourist attraction – I just go the beach, climb a mountain or do a random challenge like trying to find all the white horses of Wiltshire (yep, I actually did this). I’m definitely a miser when it comes to paying entry fees. Unless it’s going to be really excellent value for money, I won’t pay!

If you look hard enough you can find free things to do anywhere, even in a city. In Glasgow recently I spent three hours exploring the city by following a street art trail.  It’s actually really fun tracking down free city activities, as I end up in the strangest of places like random museums, historical buildings and even graveyards.

One out one in policy on clothes

Morning coffee brewed in my Berlingo Microcamper
Enjoying an early morning cuppa as the mist clears

I do like nice things and nice clothes but I don’t feel the need to have lots of them. By cutting down on quantity you can focus more on quality. Of course it helps that I don’t really enjoy shopping anyway. I’m not sure how well this would work if I was a shopaholic.

I tend to wait until my one hoodie or good pair of jeans has had its day, then spend a very long time deciding what to replace it with. With the focus lately on the shocking environmental impact of ‘fast fashion’ with toxic chemicals and polyester microfibres polluting the planet, I feel pretty good about my single storage box of clothes!

When I do get the urge to buy something new, and let’s face it, this happens to everyone (why can’t we get away from the need to validate our existence by buying stuff?), I turn to charity shops or eBay. I don’t mind if something is second hand as long as it’s in good condition and I can then feel smug about my commitment to reducing, reusing and recycling. On eBay I can spend hours browsing clothes from all my favourite surf and skate brands. Sometimes I even buy something.

I’ve become a Radio 4 and podcast fan

A sunset drive in my Berlingo camper on the Isle of Man
There’s no excuse to miss a sunset when you embrace vanlife

Okay, so this definitely isn’t for everyone and I remember the days when I wouldn’t have dreamed of tuning into Radio 4. It’s surprising now though that podcasts are so popular among people of all ages – surely just a version of Radio 4? I’ve come to enjoy the reassuring voices of Radio 4 presenters and the random things I learn about. There’s even comedy shows – honest.

Listening to the radio or downloading podcasts is free and you learn really interesting stuff. I love driving to the beach or a scenic parkup, making a cuppa on my camp stove and sitting in the passenger seat with my feet up on the dash listening to the radio. Heaven!

I bought my phone outright and I buy a monthly £7 data plan

Rhossili Bay, Gower, Wales
Roaming the sand during another spectacular Vanlife sunset

And no, I never run out of data. Considering I live in a field so have no WiFi, that’s pretty good right?!

My secret is that I go to coffee shops in the evening and download Netflix shows, podcasts and websites to read offline. This means I can save my data for that all important weather report (essential when living in a field), Google Docs (necessary for my job) and of course social media (contact with friends is so important after ten hours of physical labour every single day).

It also means that when I’m away travelling each winter, in countries where free roaming doesn’t exist, I don’t pay for a data bundle I’m not using.

My biggest tip for saving money is Just Don’t Buy Stuff. Not as easy as it sounds though. Spending money is a habit everyone has and making a decision to stop can be difficult. But you can do it! Just think of all the amazing travel experiences you can have instead.

What tips have you got for reducing your spending habits to save for travelling adventures?


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