Live Creatively and Travel More – 7 ideas

At the Vancouver Meetup.

At the Vancouver Meetup. From left to right, Rebecca, Ralph, Tony, me, Zuriel and Marie-Pierre.

Last month I attended two reader meetups.

One in Vancouver. The other in San Francisco.

Naturally everyone I met loved to travel. More interestingly, many of them chose a creative lifestyle so that they could travel more.

One person lives on a boat. Another downsized their apartment. Yet another rented out her condo to support herself while on the road. Me, I have a home with two apartments in it plus my own.

There were discussions about the best credit cards for points, the merits of couchsurfing, whether hitchhiking is safe… and so much more.

The common denominator amongst us was a desire to focus on experiences in life rather than material goods. To varying degrees, we were all willing to forgo spending on stuff to support our desire to travel. In the TED Talk Life Lessons from an Ad Man Rory Sutherland says that “if you want to live in a future world with less material goods, you basically have two choices: you can live poorer … or you can live in a world where intangible value constitutes a great part of overall value.”

My interpretation of Sutherland argument is that the solution is to find real pleasure in experiences rather than things.

View from my tent - Patagonia 2011

View from my tent in Patagonia, 2011. An intangible pleasure that I’ll remember forever.

7 ideas for a creative, low-cost lifestyle.

So I’ve been thinking about creative living as a way to support a travel habit and I thought it was a subject worthy of addressing. Clearly, accommodation is the most expensive part of anyone’s life so in this post I’m focusing on our homes. I’ve written plenty on how to save money for travel, Here are a few creative lifestyle choices that can help in a big way.

  1. Take in a student from overseas: My hairdresser takes in students – one at a time. Not only does she get paid for doing so, the student often becomes her friend. When she travels to their home town, she gets a free place to stay and a free tour guide. There are agencies that arrange short-term stays for students.
  2. Rent your home or apartment for a few days at a time. I have a friend who takes in couchsurfers but also has her apartment on AirBnB. Renting her apartment a few days here and a few days there can add up to a trip. She stays with friends and family while her apartment is rented.
  3. Rent your home or apartment while you travel long term. When I took a 10-month trip with my husband and children, we rented our house to a family looking for temporary accommodation. We raised half the cost of the trip that way. You can read about how to rent your home here.
  4. Consider moving to a less expensive area. Whether you move to Thailand or Third Street, if there is a less expensive place to live, move there.
  5. Go minimal. There are many blogs out there about being a minimalist – living life with fewer things. There is even the 100 Thing Challenge. It’s beyond my ability but it would sure go a long way to saving money for travel. Check out BecomingMinimalist.
  6. Consider the unconventional. Like the houseboat scenario of one of the readers at the San Francisco meetup look for options that are unconventional. Less conventional can be a lot less expensive and a lot of fun.
  7. If you’re buying consider a multi-unit dwelling. We thought it was a temporary situation but now, twenty-six years later, I’m still in the same triplex that my husband and I bought way back when. It has carried me through lean times and made better times richer. Yes, it can be inconvenient now and then and yes I have the plumbing in three kitchens and four bathrooms to worry about but this building has paid me year after year contributing to my life that includes a lot of travel.

There are other options, such as taking in a roommate, but I was looking for some of the less common ones.

I hope these have your creative juices running.

An interesting note about language and saving.

This has nothing to add to the notion of creative living but it’s fascinating and could explain why many of us are so bad at saving money. Keith Chen, a behavioral economist suggests that the nature of our language affects our ability to save. In the TED Talk below he says that “futureless language speakers are 30% more likely to save in any given year.” If you study two families in Brussels with all the same characteristics except for the fact that one speaks Flemish and one French, statistically you’ll find that the Flemish family are 30% more likely to save than the French-speaking family. The theory is that because the future and the present are the same in Flemish, the idea of saving is more real. For those speaking languages that differentiate between the future and the present, the future has less meaning and therefore they have a lesser tendency to save. The result, the futureless language speakers will retire with 25% more in savings.



  • Janice Waugh

    Hi there,

    Yes 3 and 7 do require you to own but the others can work if you rent. The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook has great advice on planning and returning from a long term trip.

    Have a great trip.


  • joyinmyfeet

    All of these depend on owning your own home, which I don’t. I would love some suggestions for those who rent. I’m in the position of packing up and going travelling with no home to come back to at the end of the year (I do have a job to return to, though). I intend to sell most of my possessions as I don’t want to have to pay for storage. Family have offered to store my car, so I will be able to load it up with stuff I want to keep.

  • Corinne Vail

    I do believe in being creative to find ways to travel. I live and work overseas, so it’s cheaper for me to see Europe. I still pay a lot for my accommodation…so I keep thinking of ways to work on that. Minimalist…I would love to, but I’m not quite there! Love the linguistic explanation of future and saving. Very interesting.

  • Jonathan Look, Jr.

    I definitely believe in the minimalist route. I mean, what do I née doll that “stuff” for anyway. Life is about adventure not taking care of possessions.

  • Jenell

    I love this article! I gave up my own apartment in St. John’s and a lucrative lifestyle and moved to Toronto to be a live-in nanny to my friend’s daughter. I have $0 expenses (with the exception of my phone bill and my cat’s needs) and I get paid weekly. I have my own room and I keep the materialistic desire in check. I get the little kid’s school hours off Monday to Friday as well as 2 days off, leaving me with plenty of time to focus on my writing – and travel! I split my 3 weeks annual vacation to 3 week-long ones, allowing me to travel in January, May and September. I’ve been doing it for 2 years now with no regrets!

  • leelaurino

    thanks for the additional info…shall research the visa card, am using cap one for no fees when in italy and they give cash back..shall let you know what other universities i find this summer….

  • Janice Waugh

    In Canada we agreed that the TD Travel Visa Card was recommended by a number of people. I use it too. I’m not sure about UofT housing in the summer. It certainly sounds likely. As for boats, being knowledgeable about boats was helpful with both the guys who have rented boats.

  • leelaurino

    great share on your meetups. can you give some details on what the group thought the best travel credit cards are? and i would love to know about the house boat renter, have looked up and down the east coast for one, but the prices are more than an apt! however, am working on several less conventional ‘living’ alternatives that I will share in the future. J, do you know if the Universities in Toronto rent rooms during the summer?