How much does all this cost anyway?

It’s been 3 months today since we left Vancouver Island for the adventure of a lifetime – and we’re still heading east! Looking back, we have absolutely no regrets and are even more convinced that our decision was right for us. In fact, we’re now trying to figure out ways of making money on the road so we can officially become snowbirds after this year. We want to spent our summers on Vancouver Island and our winters travelling.

Here is a photo (taken by Ray) of our campsite in Newfoundland where I sit as I write this. The table where my computer sits is next that big picture window:

Today I want to answer the question all of you are dying to ask, but only my close friends and relatives think it’s polite to ask. How much is this grand scheme of yours going to cost you anyway?

Figuring out all the costs involved for a one-year trip around North America is not easy and I’ve spent hours working on the budget and tracking our expenses. You might know from previous posts that I am a little OCD on the planning and organizing spectrum. I hope this information might be helpful to anyone who is planning a similar trip.

First, I have to say that a trip like this can be done on any budget. I say this because I know people who manage to travel with no money at all and work along the way. I have also met some people who seem to have an endless amount of money. This is only to demonstrate what we are doing in the style we are doing it. We are not working during this first year. We have a 28 foot 5th wheel and a truck and we are staying primarily in campsites and RV parks.

Our budget for the entire year is $51,000. Here’s how is breaks down. This chart shows our planned budget, the quarterly budget (planned/4) and the actual results. Now that we are 1/4 of the way through our trip, I have a better idea of how we are doing compared to our initial budget. In short, we have completed 25% of the trip and spent 28.5% of our budget.

So far, we have gone over our budget on fuel and camping. This is not a surprise at all since we were pushing to drive across the continent fairly quickly to spend the summer in the maritimes. Also, we are paying summer rates for camping. Later in the year we plan on staying in Florida for a month and we’ll get a monthly rate there and we will probably go to Quartzsite in Arizona where you can camp virtually for free for as long as you want.

We are looking forward to getting back into the states where the fuel is 2/3 the price and the food is 1/2 the price.

We found some new dog food that the beagles are not allergic to (they are allergic to chicken, which is in everything). This food is salmon which they LOVE (a little too much since they started to fight over it) and it is way cheaper, so we’re doing good there.

The internet & cell category is over budget because we bought a virgin mifi for better internet access, Ray lost his cell phone and had to replace it, and I also replaced my aging cell phone that burned my face when I used it.

That brings us to the line item where where we blew our whole budget: Truck and RV maintenance. We’ve already spent almost our entire budget and that is because our “Big Baby Blue” blew its transmission and it cost $3,000 to rebuild it. We probably should have budgeted more since it is an older truck and we got a real hot deal on it. So I’m not too upset about it.

Remember, this is the budget for our ongoing monthly expenses, it is does not include any of the pre-trip expenses, things like: buying one year’s worth of all medication, travel medical insurance, regular medical premiums, storage lockers, RV insurance, and buying things for the RV like a ramp for the dog, batteries, inverter, generators, brake controller, storage boxes etc. Nor does it include the cost of buying the truck and the RV.

All in all we’re doing pretty good and we’re almost ready to change direction. By that I mean literally changing direction from east to south, following the changing colours of fall!

Here are some statistics from the last 3 months:

Number of places we stayed: 29
Number of nights of boondocking: 7 (3 walmarts, 3 truck stops and 1 visitor centre)
Number of animals killed: 1 chipmunk
Number of truck repairs: 4
Average cost per day: $158
Average cost per day (if you don’t include the transmission): $125
Average campsite fee: $33.65
Stuff we’ve received from strangers:
– 2 jars of jam,
– 2 hand-knit wash clothes,
– 1 garlic sausage and chocolate eclair dinner,
– 1 bag of carrots fresh from the garden,
– 1 night of free camping in exchange for fixing a router.

Consider this: $14,500 for 2 people and 2 dogs for 3 months. How much does it cost you to stay home?

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    • Anne McKinnell says

      Hi Chris, you can do it for more or less, but this gives you an idea of how much it costs to do it the way I am doing it. The truck stops are great places to stay when you are just travelling and you just need a place to sleep. They are very safe and always have stores and everything you need.

  1. says

    First of all Anne, that image makes all of your expense worth it. Beautifully captured.

    Nice analysis of the expenses. Looks like without the transmission , you are doing pretty well. I’m a former financial guy and I appreciate a good analysis.

    I would love to do this but I would be doing it alone (and divorced) so I will have to live vicariously through you.
    Len Saltiel recently posted..Inside Looking OutMy Profile

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Hi Len, yes, without the transmission we are pretty much on track. Glad you approve of my analysis :) Hey, I met a lady on Prince Edward Island who was 65 years old and travelling in a trailer by herself!!! She was talking about having to learn how to back it up and do all the hookups and everything on her own. I was pretty impressed.

  2. says

    What a great post Anne. Thanks for sharing. This is something I would love to do but will have to wait until my kids are older and independent. I have to say I feel like I’m along for the ride with you and enjoying it immensely. Great shot too.
    Edith Levy recently posted..Farewell HeroMy Profile

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Thanks Edith, glad you found it helpful. I have met people who are full time travellers with their kids, but their kids were younger (around 4-6 I think). Might be hard if your kids were teenagers. Thanks for the comments.

  3. says

    I think it’s totally worth it if you can do it responsibly (i.e. without ending up begging for money). I’d rather be poor but enjoy life seeing interesting things and meeting interesting people than to be well off financially, but stuck in a place I don’t like, doing a job I don’t like.

    Of course life isn’t all about me and what I like, but being responsible doesn’t mean you have to be bored and frustrated either.

    Thanks for the thoughts!
    Les Taylor recently posted..Waiting For the ShinkansenMy Profile

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Hi Les, I would definitely get a job before begging for money. I always hate it when I see people begging for money with signs that say “travelling-broke”. I think “whose fault is that?” But I agree with you, I would rather live cheaply and travel and do what I like than spend my whole life working. It’s so sad when people work endless hours until retirement and then something happens to them and they don’t ever get to live their dream.

  4. says

    It can cost surprisingly little to travel. Remember also that Anne is traveling in relative comfort. However what needs to be factored in is missed wages/business opportunities. When you are photographing, in some sense this is work as you are creating new images, but even though, for a photographer, that’s the days spent at the office (ie marketing and running your business) that allow you to make your money.

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Hi QT, thanks for your visit and comments. So glad you stopped by since you really inspired me to do this trip with your national park photos. Yes, I am travelling in comfort, I have to admit. This RV is pretty nice. But it only cost 8% of what my house cost! I hope it gives people a place to start with their own planning.

      I have found that I am spending about as much money monthly as it cost me to live in Victoria (an outrageously expensive city to live in). You are correct the big factor to consider is lost income. However, I am managing to do my marketing, social networking and blogging etc on the road so I think it is possible to run a business on the road. Of course, to do that, you need to bring your office with you. I’m so glad I decided to bring my iMac!

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Thanks Richard. I think it is not really that much considering what it cost to live in Victoria. But, as QT said, you have to factor in lost income. A trip like this can be done with much less money if you have a camper van (which is cheaper to buy and takes less fuel) and try to boondock as much as possible. It will be worth it just for the experiences. If I manage to launch a new career out of it, that will be an added bonus. A big bonus :)

      • says

        That is a good point. I wasn’t aware of how much it costs to live there but not surprising since it is such a desirable place to live.

        In the long run, it could definitely pay off for sure as long as you consider the photography as a CODB.
        Richard Wong recently posted..In RemembranceMy Profile

        • Anne McKinnell says

          Hi Richard, thanks for the comments. Vancouver Island is a beautiful place to live. It is really only Victoria (and Vancouver on the mainland) that are so expensive. The market can’t stay so high there forever. People always think it will keep going up up up because everyone wants to live on the coast, but hey that didn’t save California! There are lots of places to live further up island that are just as beautiful (even more so if you like wilderness and wildlife) and much less expensive. Of course, fewer jobs too.

    • Anne McKinnell says

      I hope you get a chance to do it Marc, its a trip of a lfietime. I’ve never met anyone who regretting doing such a trip.

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Hi Chris, thank you very much for the visit and comments. I actually quite like tracking things like this. It makes me feel like I’m in control of my wild, spontaneous, unplanned adventure!

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Well said Ethan, and exactly why I decided to do this now. Following in the footsteps of the greats :) (For those who don’t know, Ethan did a trip just like this a couple of years ago and has been a huge inspiration and motivation for my adventure.)

  5. valeriano says

    Hi Anne,
    nice approach to this matter! Have you ever considered starting to sell your photography from the website to raise funds for your amazing idea?
    I think some people would buy Fine Art prints from you not only because of your guts to do this, but also because your photography is very good too.
    All my best,

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Hi Valeriano, yes, I do sell prints! There is a link over there on the right that says “View my gallery”. That takes you to my gallery where you can purchase prints and cards. I am currently working on a new website where my blog and gallery will be integrated instead of two different sites.

      Thanks for the words of support!

  6. Lisa says

    This is awesome!!! I love it, I just posted on my facebook page that I’m thinking of doing this… Selling my house, buying a motorhome and travelling with my pets (3 dogs and 2 cats) anywhere I want to go, where ever the road takes me and just go. My friend Chris gave sent me this post and said, “people are doing it!” Great Inspiration, I really commend you both for doing this and blogging about your experience. Amazing!! Keep posting, I’ll be keeping track of your amazing travels. Take Care,

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Lisa, I was so happy to get your comment today. It really makes my day to know that I can inspire others to take that risk and make a change. Do it, do it, do it!!! No one ever regrets the experiences you gain from travelling. It is so cleansing to get rid of the stuff that owns you and just take off wherever you want to go. Will you be trying to work on the road? Or would you take a set period of time off? If you decide to blog about your adventure, please send me a link as I would love to follow you. And if you have any questions or anything, don’t hesitate to drop me an email.

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Kris, I would love to do that. I think that once my old dog is gone (although I keep telling him he has to live forever) we might travel farther afield. I have never been to asia and it is on my wish list.

  7. says

    Great write up Anne, and it’s is always interesting to hear about things like this. We all dream of doing this stuff, but having a realistic view of it helps. I took a year off some years back and loved it, traveled, etc. We plan to do it again sometime in the coming years. Anyways, just wanted to send you some virtual support. Keep at it – sounds awesome!!

  8. Karin says

    Hi Anne, so glad I visited your site, you’ve been an inspiration! My husband and I both love traveling and now that the kids are grown it’s time to make a change in our lives too!! I’ll be following your adventures and thanks so much!

    • says

      Hi Karin, I need to do some more writing about the whole career change/life change part of my adventure. I am really glad to hear that I have inspired you to make your own life change! I hope you keep in touch and let me know how your adventure planning is going. I would love to hear what you have in mind.

  9. says

    WOw, you are living one of my dreams, I always wanted to do what you are doing, I truly admire your commitment and “sacrifice”, I really takes a lot of courage to leave every thing behind and embark in such a trip.
    You have captured really beautiful images. Keep it up, I will be cheering you all the way.

    Your fan
    Jack Nobre

    Wishing you a HAPPY NEW YEAR
    Jack recently posted..Welcome to my Photography siteMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Jack. Thank you very much for your visit and your comments! I visited your new website, you have some really beautiful landscapes there, I like those ones with the big rocks in the foreground. I look forward to seeing more. I hope you get a chance to travel for your photography – follow your dream!

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