“How do you afford all your travels?” – That’s a question people ask me a lot.
In this Blog I wanna show that money is not the key to traveling. I’m also gonna give some advice and break down how much money I spend on my trips.
First of all I wanna let you know that this is my first time writing a blog like this, and I might not always find the perfect words to describe what’s on my mind.
I’d like to start where it all began. As an only child of awesome parents I always heard a lot of stories about the adventures they had before I was born. In early 1988 they sold their flat and their car and went off on a two year tour around the world. Train-hopping through Asia, on motorbikes around Australia, and by car across central and North America. I’m pretty sure this had an influence on me because I also want to experience what they did. Then I got into Parkour in 2008. After my first trip to Lisses with some friends I became aware that traveling is actually not too hard. I was around the age of 16. I had no experience and I always went to accommodation where I had to pay for a bed. These days going to a hotel is always the last option. I remembered when I asked my mother if she would allow me to go to Vienna. Her response was “Yeah sure, but take your toothbrush with you!” I think because my parents used to do the same at my age, they fully trust me and let me do all these trips.
This was when I kind of got addicted to traveling. The more places I traveled to the more I realized how great our Parkour community is. I mean I already knew that there are so many awesome people in Switzerland, but where ever you go Parkour people will always be helpful and look after you. That’s exactly the thing that gives us an advantage and makes it easier to travel. So many times I arrived somewhere and still didn’t know where to stay. I just made a post on a social network saying that I’m looking for a floor to crash on. In less than an hour people answer to my message and help me find something. So far always with success!
Up until 2012 I only traveled to European cities. I said to myself “I wanna see something different, I wanna go to a real adventure!” I reckon the easiest place to do that is the United States. There are plenty of beautiful national parks and you’re able to go into the wild without going too far away from civilization. So I started to plan my journey. The USA is a huge country and public transportation is not an option because I want to be free to stop where ever I like. I wasn’t 21 yet and therefore not allowed to rent a car. So I just bought myself a van. The reason to buy a van and not just a car was simply to have more space so I also can sleep in it. So I started on a 3 month adventure across the United States of America which was definitely worth it!
For this trip I remember that I started packing my bags 2 weeks before I left. These days my packing starts at best 10 hours before leaving my doorstep. For small trips like going to London for a few days it might be 15 minutes before. All I need for these “weekend-trips” is my passport, bankcard, toothbrush and some fresh clothes. For the bigger adventures I think a bit more carefully about what to take with me. One of the reasons is that I don’t want my bag to be too heavy. Usually I take clothes for 7 days. When they are dirty I wash them – and then I have clothes for another 7 days. Or sometimes I just don’t wash them and wear them for another 7 days anyway. You shouldn’t be squeamish if you want to travel cheap. The only hygiene item I always need, is what my mother always told me – my toothbrush. Obviously I take my camera gear with me too. But even with that I try to sort out what lenses and other stuff I don’t need to save weight and space. If I’m going a bit more into the wild a Swiss army knife and some cords are a must! There are a lot of small things you can acquire on the tour itself. You either buy them or you find them somewhere for free. I always got plastic spoons and forks out of a fast food restaurant, and for tissues I went to a public toilet and took a toilet paper roll with me. Medical gear like plasters and headache tablets could also be a good thing to take with you. I always forget though because fortunately I’m never seriously ill.
When I’m out in nature time gets less important for me. Especially if I don’t have any trains or buses to catch. Why should I always know how late it is? I shut my watches off or set just a random time. A lot of us have our daily rhythms, including myself! Usually I get up at 8am, eat lunch at 12pm, dinner at 7pm and I go to bed at 12pm. I do those things at these particular times because I do it all the time, not because I’m hungry or tired. Without knowing the time it is, you start doing things then when you feel the need for it. So I got up when the sun woke me up, I ate when I was hungry and I went to sleep when I felt tired. I lived by the day and I always did what I felt like doing. This is how pure freedom felt to me!
“Life is what you make it” – Joel Eggimann
A lot people ask me how I can afford all this. Well, I can because I really want it! Before I started to travel that much, I worked for about 3 years as a carpenter. All I saved money for was traveling. I didn’t spend much on activities like going out because I wanted to get a solid budget that I was sure would last me at least a couple months after quitting my job. Since then 3 years have passed and I’ve never gone back to work as a carpenter. I made it possible to get enough money doing what I love to do – Parkour. I do a lot of teaching, live performance and film work. But I also have to say that I got kind of lucky with a few well-paid jobs which made it possible for me to keep traveling. In my opinion, money is no excuse if someone says he can’t go traveling. If you really want to go out there and travel somewhere. Go for it! Reduce your standard of living and save all the money you possibly can. Soon you will be able to visit the place you want to.
Traveling needs money. But it doesn’t need as much that everyone thinks. If you wanna eat in restaurants and sleep hotels everyday then it gets expensive. If you live like tramp, eating peanut butter on toast every day and sleep on concrete then you need almost no money. Read Drew Taylor’s article “8 ways to travel on the limited budget of a freerunner” to learn more about that.
Basically I don’t really care about money when I traveling. I know that the way I live on my trips is sustainable – I don’t spend that much. That’s why I don’t really keep track of how much I spend by the end of each trip. However I’ve still managed to get a little table together to show you roughly how much I spent. This summary is from my recent trip. A 6 week adventure from Switzerland – London – Los Angeles – Costa Rica – United States (from California to Colorado) – Switzerland.
Switzerland – London return 72.00
London – Los Angeles return 560.00
Los Angeles – San Jose return 483.00
London (2 days)
Costa Rica and Nicaragua (3 weeks)
Rental Car (shared with 2 friend) 434.00
Fuel (shared with 2 friend) 60.00
Fun (Bungee and Zipline) 100.00
United States (2 Weeks)
Rental Car (11 days) 785.00
Other ( National Parks, Gambling in Vegas lol) 80.00
Grand Total 3419.00€
To be honest, when you’re at home, what do you need money for? Food and accommodation, right? So when you’re on tour the only other thing you definitely need is something to get around. Either with a car, by airplane or public transportation. Basically you could take the money from the category “accommodation” which you don’t need on trips (because either people will host you or you sleep on a roof) and use it for the category “transportation”. Like this you won’t spend much more money than you would stay at home!
Even if I could afford to stay in cheap accommodation I don’t like spending money for something I don’t necessarily need. So I decided to spend money for a rental car which is big enough so I can sleep in it and items like a gas cooker so I get to eat warm food. I call it the ‘luxury tramp life’. I’m not really sure what the law says about sleeping in his car on public places. But that’s not something I really care about anyway. My concerns were more like “Is it dangerous here? Will I get robbed?” When I was with friends that was obviously less of a problem, but by myself I had to keep that in mind. When I choose a place to stay I look for either a spot which is hidden so no one can see me or the absolute opposite. When you park your car in the middle of a parking lot in front of a 24h supermarket, no one would ever guess that you’re sleeping inside. Or simply on the parking of a hotel. There are always people around so I don’t think anyone would disturb you. A place like a church is pretty safe too, because people still respect places like that. It would annoy me a lot to get woken up by some security guard in the middle of the night, telling me I have to leave. So I have my 3 rules I use if I think it could be tricky.
1. Arrive in the dark. Less people can see you.
2. Be ready to sleep. Don’t use a light to find your pillow or brush your teeth. Try to draw as little attention as possible. Basically you arrive and you sleep.
3. Leave before sunrise. Nobody will notice that you ever were there.
Doing this I never got seen or kicked out of a place and I’ve always had wonderful nights.
I never went fully into the wild – I always saw at least few people every day. But sometimes I didn’t talk to anyone for about 3 days. I actually don’t know why I did that. Perhaps it’s not really my personality to approach random people and start talking to them; or maybe I just wanted to be independent and didn’t want to get any help or advice off anyone. People ask me if it’s boring to travel by myself. Well, it’s not boring it’s just different. Of course I couldn’t be on my own all the time. I really enjoy traveling with friends too. You probably experience even more with friends because you get to see how your buddies handle situations and also you can share your adventures!
“Happiness is only real when you share” – Chris McCandless
But when I’m on my own I only do what I want to do. There are no compromises I have to make, and that is this pure freedom I talked about before.
In my opinion, everyone who is interested in travel should go out there and do it! There is nothing to lose. Traveling is always a success because you’re discovering new places and making new experiences.
I travel because it’s awesome! And I will keep doing it as long as I enjoy it!
Btw the video from my recent adventures is coming out this Sunday!