Traveling is soooooo expensive, right? You could never afford a long trip, right?  People who travel must come from wealthy families, riiiiiight?

Negative!  Traveling can be as expensive, cheap, or even as lucrative as you please.

I visited 8 countries (South Korea, the Philippines, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, India, Bhutan, and Nepal) in 15 months and saved 10,000$ USD while doing it.  Here's how you can do it, too.

Teach English in South Korea 

The sole source of income for my 15 months abroad was through 12 months of Teaching English.  I taught through the TaLK program in South Korea, which only required me to work 15 hours per week.  Yes, I worked 15 hours per week and saved 10k, all while traveling the world.  My expenses in Korea were very low, thanks to the TaLK program paying for my flight, rent, transportation to school, "cultural trip" costs, as well as paying me a nice monthly wage. I had no teaching experience, and I didn't speak Korean.

Note: The TaLK program requires you to be a citizen of an English speaking country and to have completed at least 2 years of undergraduate education. 

Tooch hugging two first grade Korean girls
Lina and Ka-Eun, my two favorites
Tooch hugging a 6th grade Korean student
6th grade Judy was my biggest fan

Use vacation time to travel to budget destinations

One of the many fantastic bonuses about the TaLK program was the insane amount of vacation time.  In addition to frequent 3-day weekends and long holidays, I got 4 weeks of paid vacation.  Korea is geographically close to SO MANY badass places!  Cheap flights are available to Japan, the Philippines, and Indonesia to name a few.  In the summer while school was out, I took a two-week trip to the Philippines with 5 fellow English teachers.  We took the cheapest flights (leg room is overrated) and stayed in backpacker hostels.  In the winter, I met my dad and sister in Paris for a 2-week Euro-trip (NOT a budget destination, but dad picked up the tab for hotels and food, making this super affordable).  If I hadn't met my family in Europe, I could have gone to Bali or Japan on the cheap.

Summer vacation in the Philippines with fellow teachers
A tipsy dive session? Sure!

Choose affordable destinations to visit when your contract ends

You could totally take your savings from teaching English and blow through it in a two weeks living like a king in a private beach hut in Fiji.... orrrrr you can do what I did.

When my contract ended with the TaLK program, I spent 3 months traveling to some of the cheapest places on the planet.  First, I flew from Seoul to New Delhi.  I traveled around India for 10 days and had a hard time comprehending how cheap everything was.  Meals at restaurants were around 50 cents.  The first few times I ate out, I ordered 2-3 meals thinking they would be small plates, and ended up with 3 delicious full meals and a price tag of 1.50$.

I then went by land into Bhutan, where my sister had been living for two years.  Traveling to Bhutan on a tourist visa is pricey, about 250$ per day.  My sister was able to get me a different visa that cost almost nothing.  I was restricted to the Thimpu area due to the visa, so I spent most of my time hanging around the capital city and my sister's boyfriend's house.  I didn't get to see much of the country, but my expenses for the entire month were less than 300$.

I flew from Paro, Bhutan, to Kathmandu, Nepal, where I spent 7 glorious weeks living the vagabond dream.  The hostel I stayed at for most of my trip was 7$/night, and food was approx. 2.50$ per meal.

The capital city of Bhutan
The streets of Thimpu, Bhutan
Tooch in front of the Taj Mahal in India
India is a mecca for budget travelers!
Selfie of Tooch trekking in the Annapurna region of Nepal
Trekking in the Annapurna region of Nepal

Be a super budget minded traveler

As stated in the intro, traveling can be as expensive or as cheap as you please.  I'm a budget traveler, through and through. I could certainly afford a more luxurious travel style but honestly, I prefer the budget life!  It's more sustainable (in terms of keeping me on the road longer) and I find that I meet more like-minded people when seeking out backpacker-friendly options.  I choose hostels over hotels, and typically buses over flights.  I'm a huge believer in pre-gaming before going to bars, and cooking meals over eating out.  I choose budget airlines with little leg room and sometimes the planes are full of mysterious smoke...? (see photo below).  Have I stayed in fancy hotels and eaten in nice restaurants?  Of course! But it's the exception, not the rule.  You're more likely to find me eating ramen and sleeping in a tent 😉

{ There is one super important detail I need to add here- it IS possible to be a budget-minded traveler while ALSO supporting local people and paying a fair price for whatever you're purchasing.  It's important not to disrespect or offend people by offering ridiculously low prices for quality products or services, or by haggling over pennies.  Haggling can certainly be a win-win situation! }

Photo inside an airplane full of smoke
Is this normal?
A plate of Dal Baht, the national dish of Nepal
Dal Baht is the national dish of Nepal, it's always all-you-can-eat, and costs about 1.50$
"Splurging" on a decadent vegetarian meal for around 4$
Sometimes taking the 7 hour bus ride for 5$ isn't always the best idea, like this instance, when this bus crashed while hauling ass down a windy mountain road. I should have "splurged" on the 10$ bus.
These 15 months were some of the best of my life!  I faced fears, tried new things, made tons of friends, partied a lot, traveled alone, made an impact on the lives of 60 elementary school kids, AND came home with a savings account.

Travel doesn't have to be expensive.  There are lots of ways to make it cheap, free, or even lucrative.  YOU CAN DO IT! YOU CAN TRAVEL THE WORLD! Tooch believes in you 🙂


Comment below, tell me your dreams, ask me specifics.  I'm here for you, now let's get you on the road!


Happy Trails,



  1. Hey Mel! I was just wondering what specifics you pack? I want to get into hiking more but have no idea what I should be bringing and how much

    1. Love this question! I pretty much have minimalist packing down to a science. I will make a specific post on how I pack for long trips and hiking trips!! Are you thinking of hiking around Missouri? I definitely recommend checking out REI in Brentwood, they have “garage sales” where they sell gently used gear for super cheap. I’ll let you know when I make a post about my packing list. Thanks for commenting 🙂

      1. I would love to do a “Backpacking in Europe” type trip, but I know I should probably be starting with Missouri. lol I will definitely check out REI. And look forward to your packing post!

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