Take a Year Off and Travel Without Going Broke

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Your car insurance company might let you pause your coverage if you don’t plan to drive on your adventure, though it probably won’t cover you overseas. Health insurance, on the other hand, is more of an issue. Yes, health care is almost always cheaper overseas than in the United States, but you’ll be taking a big risk if you forgo insurance. If you’re leaving your job, you have 60 days after your employment ends to enroll in a new plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

As far as phone bills go, the free international data roaming on T-Mobile, Sprint and Google Fi might seem attractive, but none of those companies want you roaming for 12 months. You might need to pause your service. Call your provider to verify. In reality, local SIM cards are the way to go, giving you inexpensive local phone calls and data.

The ideal, of course, is to have a job you can do remotely. Many bosses might say “no” to your working remotely. However, many jobs can be done just fine from afar; you just need to prove you can be productive when not in an office. I suggest trying to work from home a few days a week and expand from there. A word of caution: This is far more difficult than you might imagine. Working from home takes discipline, and working while in a fascinating new city even more so. This may be “the dream,” but it is far more challenging than the fantasy might appear.

One of the easiest ways to reduce your costs is to work for a hostel. For a few hours a day you can help out the hostel, usually by cleaning or replacing sheets, and in return you can stay there for free. It isn’t the most glamorous work, and not every hostel offers it, but imagine doing a bit of housekeeping in the morning then taking the rest of the day to explore some city you’ve seen only in pictures while spending only a few dollars a day.

I’ve met many people who dream about becoming a travel writer or video blogger. When I ask to see what they’ve done so far, most shrug and just say it’s something they want to do. I hate to be harsh, but these people won’t succeed. You need to treat it like a job before anyone will pay you to do it. I wrote about travel for my own blog for two years before anyone paid me. If you have a catalog of articles or videos to show a potential editor or sponsor, that goes infinitely further than saying: “Well, I think I’ll be good at it, maybe. Trust me?”

For more income, consider countries with working holiday visas. For Americans under age 30, these are available in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal and South Korea. These special visas allow you to explore a country for up to a year, sometimes two, while working occasionally. They’re not meant as a back door to staying permanently, only to aid in making some money during extended travels. If you are still a student or a recent grad or open to teaching, there are more options.

Make sure you have a credit card that doesn’t charge international fees. Wirecutter, the New York Times company that reviews products, recommends several that also have no annual fees. Cash is becoming less necessary in many countries, but having an A.T.M. card that reimburses A.T.M. fees is an added bonus. NerdWallet has a detailed look at some options. I have a card through Schwab that requires you to also open an investment account, but both are free and you can use just the checking account, if you want.

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