In just a few weeks, our family of four will head off for a year-long adventure to South America. So, what’s it all going to cost us? The good news is that where we’re going, things don’t cost much. Here’s what our Family Gap Year budget is going to look like:
No Income For A Year
I already quit my job, and my wife is shutting down her home business, which cannot be managed from overseas. I may do a bit of consulting for my former employer while we are away, but our plan is to have no income at all for a whole year.
Most people seem to think that’s a bit nuts – not the part about unplugging from the rat race and travelling for a year – people get that – but the part about having no income while we do it. Most folks are only able to wrap their heads around it when we tell them we’ve been planning and saving for this for many years. (That’s only partially true. We have been saving for many years, but not necessarily for this year. We only started planning the gap year thing pretty recently).
Truth is that I’ve been pondering my Corporate Escape for years – perhaps through early retirement, or some sort of new career. After all, cubicle farms, firefights, micro-managers, and executive roosters are not things I need or desire.
Our House in Bolivia
We’ll be spending most of our year abroad in a small village in Southern Bolivia called “Villa Abecia”. Not only is it gorgeous, but we already have a pretty-much-mostly-built house there. Our six-bedroom hacienda cost us about $30,000. Here’s the view from the 2nd story:
Having the house seriously cuts down on our gap year budget.
But, even if we didn’t have the house, this is a SUPER cheap place to live. You could rent a smaller house in town for just $100-$200 per month – probably less. That’s because the town is somewhat of a seasonal vacation resort. People from the cities have summer vacation houses in Villa Abecia, which they are only happy to rent out for a pittance during the rest of the year.
You can often take advantage of cheap rent like this in seasonal vacation resorts throughout South America, if you do your homework.
Just How Cheap Is It?
It’s so cheap mostly because there’s just nothing to spend your money on. No expensive entertainment. No power tool section at Home Depot. No shopping to speak of, except for basic food and supplies.
Many things you want or need cannot even be found in town, unless perhaps you borrow it from a neighbor. This means you just don’t spend much money. The real challenge is figuring out how to make do without things – because you can’t buy them.
Since we don’t have to pay rent while we’re in town, we will have no problem at all living on about $750 per month while we stay in the village. That’s about $25 per day (for a family of 4). Mostly, this goes for food and drinks, and household supplies.
Since we got our flights to Bolivia for free, we could do our whole Family Gap Year for less than $10,000, if we stayed in Villa Abecia the whole time.
But, our plan is to travel. We have several trips planned, not only within Bolivia, but also to neighboring Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. This is where most of our gap year budget will be spent.
What is brilliant about our plan also is that these trips are entirely discretionary spending. So, if we find that we are spending too much money during our travels, and we’re going over-budget for the year, all we need to do is cut out a trip or two and hang out in our lovely town.
In total, we are budgeting about $15,000 for various trips, both within Bolivia, and to other countries.
While our plans may change, we’re thinking of 3 international trips to Argentina & Uruguay, the Pantanal in Brazil, and southern Peru. Each of these trips should cost around $3,000-$4,000, including flights and hotels. We may also hit up Ecuador and the Galapagos, which would be more expensive.
On the domestic side (within Bolivia), we will probably do about 4 trips, each costing around $1,000 for transportation and hotels. We’ll definitely visit the spectacular Salar de Uyuni and also the famous Lake Titicaca.
Did you know Lake Titicaca straddles the border of Bolivia and Peru? Well, turns out the “caca” side is in Peru, and Bolivia has the…. oh, nevermind. – that’s just a common little Bolivian joke…. Yes, folks, I’ll be here all night!
Our Family Gap Year Budget
So, here’s the high-level budget for our family gap year:
|Budget ($) for Family of 4|
|1 year living in Bolivia|
(food, supplies, etc)
|Furniture for our Bolivian house |
(it's mostly empty now)
(we're not travelling with much)
|Other miscellaneous stuff |
(a.k.a. Slush Fund)
|~3 International Trips|
(Argentina, Brazil, Peru)
|~4 Domestic Trips|
|1 year storage of our stuff in California||$2,000|
|Flights to/from Bolivia/USA||$9,000|
Now, the good news is that we’re already off to a great start. Since we got our flights to Bolivia for free, we’ve already saved $4,500 off our original budget. We’ll likely also get at least two of our four return flights to the USA for free too.
Plus, we’ve topped up our free hotel nights through recent credit card churning. For our planned Argentina/Uruguay trip, we could stay in free hotels nearly the entire time.
Those savings may mean extra funds to fit in another awesome trip! Either way, we’re flexible. After all, our budget is really more of what you’d call a “guideline” than a rule.
To learn more about our year abroad, check out the Family Gap Year FAQs.