Five months ago we left our comfortable life in Cornwall and headed for the continent; excited, optimistic and with no idea of what to expect from our new lifestyle.
Our route so far at date of article. Click here to see our live progress.
I’ve travelled a fair bit previously to various countries around the world but never like this. Before, I’ve had to budget for hostels, public transport and eating out because let’s be honest - hostel kitchens aren’t always the cleanest. This time things are different. This time we brought our home with us. We park our home wherever we want, wake up to a different view as often as we please and cook with nice local produce daily.
A month of total freedom will usually cost us £420 or to put it another way, £7.50 per day, per person.
Just to put that in to perspective, an average house rental in the UK is £764pcm.
Then there’s expensive water bills, the highest energy rates in Europe and inflated prices on day to day goods to contend with.
Just to reiterate, a month all-in costs us £420.
Seems like a pretty good deal to me.
Tempted yet? This is how we manage to comfortably live on £7.50 per day, per person.
Leave behind your worries.
This might sound a little cheesy but first things first, leave any judgement, preconceptions and inhibitions at home. The hardest part of this entire journey for us has been letting go of the way we used to live. Escaping the work, sleep, work mentality was difficult at first, but keep fighting it and before you know it, you’ll have forgotten all about it.
We now have no need to wake up early but want to anyway, because we can finally choose how we spend our time. Instead of turning our noses up at things we may never have tried, never had said yes to, never given proper thought, we are opening ourselves up to new opportunities and experiences every day.
We all love freebies and Europe doesn’t disappoint. We never buy water, never pay for campsites and try to forage as much food as possible.
Forget what your parents says about the dodgy water in Europe. It’s fine. We’ve been drinking water from springs and public fountains for five months now and as far as I’m aware, I’m still alive and well - better than ever in fact. If you are worried, hang around for a bit and see if anyone else takes any. It’s common to see people filling up bottles from taps in towns and villages. We don’t take water from mountain springs after storms, but any other time it’s the best tasting water you’ll ever find. Think Evian without the ridiculous price tag.
Don’t pay for campsites! The prospect of building or buying a van to travel freely in and then parking uniformly in an expensive field that resembles a housing estate of rolling chunks of metal and plastic is alien to me. We are self-sufficient and self-contained and to date have not run out of electricity or water. Check out our map of park ups here.
Water fountain in Monsanto, nr Fatima.
Washing needn’t be an issue either. Once you get over the idea that having a quick wash needs to be a personal, intimate thing it really doesn’t matter anymore. We wash in lakes, waterfalls and rivers a lot of the time but do have a shower built in to the van, should we fancy a 30 second hot shower for a change, although it’s much more refreshing and satisfying being surrounded by nature. We also wash our clothes this way. Ensure any cleaning products you use aren’t harmful to the water or its inhabitants.
Foraging for food is becoming a normal thing for us, we usually plan our meals but if we source some free ingredients they always find a way in to the food and save us some money a few days down the line. Read more about what free food we have found here.
How to eat cheap.
Without lecturing you on my alimentary preferences; adapting a vegetarian diet might not be to everyone’s fancy, but it saves a lot of money. Tinned beans, fresh vegetables and tofu / soya are common place in our meals. Vegetables are usually bigger, juicer and tastier in every way on the continent and usually a lot cheaper too.
We usually cook big portions of food that last three days. Adding spices actually makes food last longer and means you don't really need to refrigerate it. Rice is an obvious exceptions to this.
Without being able to slump in front of the television and watch Simon Cowell tell a middle-aged man from Durham that he can’t sing, pigging out on junk food and being couch potatoes becomes less of a problem.
Everyone loves a fire and food tastes great when it’s been cooking over hot ashes. We cook on fire as often as possible to save gas. Many towns and recreational grounds also have purpose built communal barbecues.
Eating out? Yeah we do that too.
We’ve eaten out quite a few times and each time we spent no more than £15 between us. It’s easy enough to do if you stay away from busy tourist areas and find alternative back street eateries.
Roasting figs and goats cheese on a fire.
How not to piss money up the wall.
Avoid toll roads!
This is quite an obvious one, but one that nevertheless can catch you out anywhere in Europe if you aren’t careful. Toll road tariffs can amount to pretty high figures and in some cases, not carrying a prepaid card can land you in legal trouble.
If you do need to use a toll, find an online calculator and work out how much it will cost you before you leave, you might just think again! A lot of the time there is a National route running parallel that is absolutely free.
Fuel prices can really vary across a single country in Europe and tend to fluctuate more often than the UK. Whereas you’d expect most supermarket fuel to roughly cost the same anywhere in the UK, it’s often not the case abroad.
Every country we have visited so far has had a website displaying daily fuel prices for every station nationwide. See our Tips & Tricks by country pages here for details.
Be wary of tourist traps!
It’s easy to get sucked in to the hype created around specific attractions. Do your research first. There are so many places out to rip you off and disappoint. TripAdvisor is really handy if you’re after real traveller reviews. Wherever there are paid attractions, we tend to nearly always find a cheap or free alternative of the same interest.
So there you go,
For the handsome sum of £7.50 per day, we have visited 3 countries, travelled 4500 miles, dabbled with 4 languages, reached the most western point of Europe, hiked to the top of mountains, swam in quarries, lakes and rivers, stomped all night and day at Teknivals and so much more. Not to mention all the quality people we have met along the way.
So that’s it. How to be a tight-arse traveller and live for next to nothing.
Tell us your money saving tips below!