This is the second post in a series that will follow Matt and Brayde Willson’s motorcycle journey from Seattle to Tierra del Fuego over 120 days.
Probably the biggest hurdle in our trip prep has been coming up with enough money to pull this off. No matter what anyone tells you, and no matter how frugal you are when you travel, it is still expensive–especially being gone for 4 months. Costs like food, gas, lodging, tires, ferries, flights, and border fees are unavoidable and add up really quick. Combine that with a home mortgage, taxes, car payment, utility bills, health insurance, and plenty of other monthly costs that don’t go away when we leave, and our trip has become very expensive. This brings us to our first task: Raise enough money to ride through Central and South America for 4 months.
Being an engineer in my previous life, I like to make Excel spreadsheets for everything. This actually came in handy for setting our budget. I was able to calculate our budget for the whole trip, including daily costs, the “back home” costs, flights, bike shipping, accessories, camping gear, and all other associated trip expenses. It was a BIG number and while this was a helpful tool for planning, I do realize that it will by no means be a reality, especially when s*** goes sideways. Anything to get us on track though.
While we could have created a Kickstarter campaign or put feelers out for sponsorship money, that just didn’t feel right to us. This is our dream trip, an extended vacation if you will, so we didn’t feel it was right to ask for anyone to pay for it but ourselves. As for ways to save up enough money for a 4-month trip, here are a few of the things we did:
1.) Create a separate savings account.
A long time ago, we made a separate sub-account with our bank titled “travel.” This is where all the money we saved up would live and only to be used for preparation items or the trip itself.
We may not have much in savings, but being motorcycle and outdoor enthusiasts we have quite a bit of “rolling stock” around we could liquidate. It’s amazing how much money we have tied up in “stuff.” This was probably the hardest task for me, emotionally, but the fastest way to reach our goal. Through hours of work cleaning, photographing, posting, and haggling, we were able to sell our beloved Toyota truck, 4-wheel camper, dirt bikes, riding gear, and some other items. This put a HUGE dent in the total amount we needed to save. I kept telling myself each time someone drove away with one of our vehicles that we could always get another one when we come back, and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Easy to justify when you think about it.
3.) Cut down on spending.
We realized that in order to actively put money into our savings account, we’d have to make a few changes. These included not eating out so often (also good for our health) and cutting back the purchases that aren’t needed for the trip. We just have to keep telling ourselves, “I’ll get that [new phone, pair of shoes, power tool, etc.] when we come back.”
4.) Rent out our house.
This one was a big deal. Not only does renting out our house help pay a part of the mortgage while we’re gone, but it also puts someone there taking care of it and watching our cat. As far as trusting someone to do all that, we got pretty lucky, and a coworker was looking for a place to rent at about the same time we announced our trip. In fact, he was even able to move in before our departure and will stay for several months afterward to further help with saving up for (and recovering from) the trip.
Those were our biggest tactics for coming up with the money, and it has been pretty successful so far. As of the time I’m writing this, we’re just about to our goal. After this post about saving money, we’ll have plenty of posts coming up about spending it. Stay tuned as the Willsons support the economy.
About the authors: Matt Willson is the product line manager at Touratech-USA. He’s been with the company for 5 years and has been riding motorcycles longer then he can remember. Matt’s wife, Brayde spent her life around motorcycles and the two have been riding together as long as they’ve been together. Brayde rides a 2007 BMW F650GS and Matt rides a 2006 BMW R1200GS