In January of 2008, Will Hatton booked his first trip abroad for his 19th birthday – to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania.
“I just wanted to do something different. I hadn’t done anything remotely exciting with my life. I wanted to go up a mountain but I didn’t have any climbing experience, so did some research and found for Kilimanjaro you don’t have to have any mountaineering skills,” says Hatton, who had been unloading trucks for a grocery store in his hometown of Brighton, England.
That trip was the start of seven years of travel, covering everywhere from Morocco to Laos to Vietnam to Israel to Central America. He’s done it all on a strict budget.
After spending two years in Asia spending an average of $12 a day, and planning an 18-month trek to Papua New Guinea with a $30-a-day budget, here, he explains what it’s like to travel the world on the cheap.
After his initial trip to Tanzania, Hatton returned home to the UK to attend university, during which he spent 10 weeks traveling through India. Upon graduation, he hitchhiked from the UK down to Morocco, then headed to Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia for another 10 weeks.
Hampi, India, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Bangalore.
In September 2011, after graduating university, he booked a one-way ticket to India and started a blog for his family and friends to follow his adventures. He ended up spending two years in Asia, living on a budget that averaged out to about $12 a day — including flights. That first year in India, he spent less than $3,000.
He’s able to stick to such a tight budget thanks to his willingness to hitchhike, camp, and pass on expensive excursions with higher price tags. “It is uncomfortable, and it is difficult,” he says. ‘What made it easier back in the day was I was so excited about being on the road that I didn’t mind being uncomfortable. I still don’t, but now I have a decent tent and camping gear, which makes a huge difference. “
Backpacking in Venezuela.
In the past, Hatton had held temporary jobs at home to save for his travels. But about nine months ago, he decided to spend one year trying to become a travel blogger to the point where he could support himself. “Three months in, I started making enough money to travel in my style,” he says.
Mount Pulag, in the Philippines.
While his month-to-month income is hard to predict, Hatton says his best months earn about £3,000 (~$4,600), and a standard month earns about £1,000 (~$1,500). He finds that for the most part, he’s earning more than he needs, and has been able to save money for the past few years.
Hatton in the largest hammock in the world, in Minca, Colombia.
Along with advertising income from his site and a multiple sponsorships for his gear, Hatton explains that most of his income comes from writing for online news sites, which generally pay him $100-$450 per story.
The Sahara desert.
“For anything I save, my eventual plan is to open a hostel,” Hatton says. “I’m not sure where yet — possibly in the Philippines. There are lots of islands with beaches, and I just want to find somewhere really lovely.”
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Palawan, the Philippines.
For those who want to travel on a similarly tight budget, Hatton has some advice. “Your three main costs will be transportation, accommodation, and food,” he explains. “And you can cut those down massively by hitchhiking or using local transportation, couch surfing, and I cook my own food or eat street food.”
Hiking in Sagada, in the Philippines.
“When I first went, couch surfing was really new and I was one of the first people on it,” Hatton remembers. “I don’t do just to save money — although I’ve saved literally thousands — but also to meet local people and gain insight into local culture. One example is I stayed in a rock-cut cave with a Rastafarian Bedouin just outside of Petra and helped herd his goats.”
The one place he isn’t able to save is on travel visas, Hatton says, and the thing he chooses to spend on is travel insurance. “When I was in Costa Rica I ended up racking up an insurance bill of about $20,000 while I was in the hospital for two weeks. I was happy I had insurance there because the hospital wouldn’t let me leave until the bill was paid. I would never travel without it, ever, but I still don’t like paying for it.”
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Surfing a volcano in Nicaragua.
Hatton admits that the nomadic lifestyle can take a toll. “I’m 26 now, and I don’t imagine doing this kind of travel when I’m 35,” he says. “It’s tiring, and a little more dangerous, and it’s uncomfortable. But at the end of the day I like traveling this way because I can travel longer. I enjoy being by myself and immersing myself into a culture”
In October, Hatton plans to set off on his next adventure: an 18-month trip from the UK to Papua New Guinea, going through 30 countries without taking a single flight. He’s setting off with a little under $10,000 in savings and a budget of £20 (~$30) a day. “This is more than I would normally like to spend,” he says, “but since I am spending time in expensive European countries and will be needing a healthy kitty for visas and trekking permits, this seems like a more realistic budget.”
Hatton in Venezuela.