Posted: 12/4/2012 | December 4th, 2012
Continuing my new series on travel success stories, today we’re going to meet Katie and Steve Nauman, a 30-year-old couple from San Diego. Katie and Steve spent a year saving up for their 11-month trip before they quit their jobs and headed out into the world for the majority of 2012.
Nomadic Matt: Tell everyone about yourselves.
Katie and Steve: We are two 30-year-olds from San Diego, California. Katie had some overseas travel experience prior to our trip, and Steve essentially had none, but we really wanted to get out into the world before we have kids, so this past January we quit our corporate jobs, rented out our condo, and took off for a round the world trip.
What kind of trip were you planning on doing?
We were planning an 11-month trip around the world. We left on February 1, 2012, and have been to South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia.
We plan to return home just in time for Christmas.
Did you have any fears when you decided to do this trip?
Yes! We typically make conservative decisions, but we took a massive leap of faith when we pulled the trigger on this trip. We read articles on your site that gave us general reassurance, and it also helped to hear encouragement from friends and family who know us personally.
How did this site help you overcome those fears and plan your trip?
Your insights and advice helped us during our planning phase as we dove into what RTW meant and how to do it. We spent at least six months researching everything from weather patterns and itineraries to budgets and how to pack our backpacks.
There is so much that goes into planning a trip like this: travel insurance, visas, finding cheap flights, immunizations, and on and on.
It can be massively overwhelming when you’re already nervous about the whole undertaking. Your articles gave us solace that it’s possible.
There have been other ways you’ve helped, too. From your $50 a day book, we used the coupons to save money on multi-destination flights with Airtreks.
And we chose our scuba diving certification shop (Master Divers) in Koh Tao, Thailand, based on a discount in the same book. We also purchased a Tiger Airways domestic flight in Australia based on one of the travel deal links in your newsletter.
How did you save for your trip?
Each month we put a portion of our paychecks into a travel fund so that we had enough for our trip and also for a cushion when we get back. We rented out our condo, which helped us break even on our mortgage. And, money that used to go toward expenses like car insurance is now used for bus, train, and plane tickets.
When we announced our trip to our friends, we were really surprised that nearly everyone’s first reaction had something to do with money.
But it’s not as expensive to travel as everyone thinks. We read a lot of blogs about traveling on a budget and did our research to find the right airline tickets, tour operators, hostels, and discount cards to make everything possible.
It takes more work, but it does pay off.
What about life on the road has surprised you the most?
We have been surprised at how much we identify with the word “traveler.” There is a funny but clear designation between “traveling” and “vacationing.” Before this trip, we had never distinguished between the two, but now we are absolutely certain that we are traveling.
Vacationers get to stay in nice places and spend money on trendy dinners and bottles of wine. Travelers nit-pick every expense…and many times end up with a more genuine experience. No doubt, it is harder to travel than it is to vacation. But we also think the challenges make it more rewarding.
How do you stay on budget when you travel?
We travel as cheap as possible. We stay in hostels, usually dorms unless we’re in a country where private rooms are just as affordable. We do a lot of research on our activities to make sure that our dollar is going as far as possible. We take public transportation. Traveling closer to the street is better anyway because you get more interaction with locals and have a more genuine experience.
We also use the Cash Trails app to log every penny we spend. We tag our entries by country and by type (lodging, food, nightlife, activities, transportation, etc.) so that we can keep good track of our budget.
What one thing that you thought would be a challenge has turned out not to be?
Traveling through countries where we don’t speak the language hasn’t been as impossible as we initially worried about. Sure, it can be challenging at times when the language is very different (i.e., character-based), but for the most part we haven’t found this to be too big of a stumbling block.
People are generally patient when communicating. Hand motions and a smile go a long way.
What advice would you have for other people who want to travel but might not think they can?
We were those people. We talked about a trip like this for years and wondered if we could ever do it. But if you only ever wonder, you’ll never do.
When we broke the news of our trip to our family, friends, and coworkers, the response was always the same: “I wish I had done that.” We didn’t want to look back in 20 years and say to ourselves those dreaded words: “We wish we had done that.”
The hardest part will be making the initial commitment. We know it’s the hardest part because hardly anyone does it.
At first, you will commit to it in your own mind. But then you will be forced to commit to it in a more tangible way — be it a deposit or plane ticket. Once you pull that trigger, there’s no turning back and you have no choice but to go all in. It’s the most exciting gift you’ll ever give yourself.
What I loved about Katie and Steve’s story is that it echoes many concerns I hear from potential travelers. The Naumans didn’t have a lot of travel experience and weren’t really risk-takers but took the leap anyway and were amazed at how easy everything turned out to be.
A lot of people have this fear — I did! But you realize once you start traveling that the hardest part isn’t the travel, it is getting the courage to go.
I hope this article helped give you some of that courage.
Become the Next Success Story
One of my favorite parts about this job is hearing people’s travel stories. They inspire me, but more importantly, they also inspire you. I travel a certain way, but there are many ways to fund your trips and travel the world. I hope these stories show you that there is more than one way to travel and that it is within your grasp to reach your travel goals. Here are more examples of people who gave up living a typical life to explore the world:
- Olivia and Manny Quit the Cubicle to Follow Their Passion
- How (and Why)This 72-Year-Old is Backpacking the World
- Why Trish Sold Everything She Owned to Travel
- How Helen Successfully Traveled and Volunteered Around Africa
- How This 70-Year-Old Couple Bucked Convention to Travel the World
We all come from different places, but we all have one thing in common: we all want to travel more.
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
My New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A to Z planning guide that the BBC called the “bible for budget travelers.”
Click here to learn more and start reading it today!
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.