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First year’s finances

First a warning to friends and family, who constitute the majority of our readers. You might want to stop now, there won’t be any pretty pictures of birds or cute pictures of Quinn. This is just a breakdown of how much money we spent on what during the past year of our travels.

People planning trips such as this are always trying to get a handle on how much it costs, and I thought another data point might be helpful.

So, for those of you who may be new to our site, a little about us – we are a family of three traveling in a Ford camper van. We’ve been on the road for just over a year. We had a budget in mind when we started, but we weren’t strict in keeping to it. We bought plenty of expensive boxed wine in Canada (yes, even the boxed kind is expensive). And when the opportunity to do something cool presented itself, like taking a scenic flight over Mt Denali, we usually said yes, figuring we may never be back.

The numbers here include pretty much everything we spent over the past year, with the exception of home expenses like our storage locker. We bought travel medical insurance for $2400 and Jen and Quinn had to fly to Philadelphia twice due to an illness in the family. For those types of expenses I put “None” as the country so as not to skew the numbers for the country where we happened to be at the time.

Yes, I know Alaska is not a country. I just thought it might be interesting to separate it from the rest of the US, especially since everything is quite a bit more expensive there.

Here are our expenses by country:


And by category:


We spent about $8,500 for van maintenance and repair. This is way more than most people spend on a trip like this, but everyone should budget something.

Alaska’s daily budget is very high, in part because we paid for both legs of the ferry back to Vancouver Island while there.

A lot of the Transportation category is the two flights back home and the flights, bus, and boat tickets involved in getting from Oaxaca to Belize while the van was in the shop.

The medical category was pretty much entirely reimbursed by our insurance.

If you factor out the van expenses and the trips home, our expenses come out to about $126 per day, which is close to what we had in mind before we left.

If anyone has any questions, please ask them in the comments and I’ll try to clear up anything I can.

Sparks Tracker

Thanks to the magic of GPS, you can now see where we are in near real time!

The Sparks Tracker

The Sparks Tracker

One of Jen’s co-workers generously loaned us his SPOT GPS beacon. It’s intended for backcountry travellers to use as an emergency notificaiton system. It also has the ability to send an “OK” message, which includes the user’s location. We’ve been pushing the OK button every day, usually when we pull in at a camp site.

The SPOT website has the ability to create “adventure pages” and embed them, but it doesn’t seem well suited to long term adventures – if you want to keep a trail of locations that spans more than 30 days, you have to periodically save the points off by hand.

Fortunately, SPOT does provide a handy API. Using a simple PHP script that transfers data from SPOT to Cartodb provides an easy and automated way to keep track of our location. Check out the Sparks Tracker page on our site!