The Cheap Costs of High Livin'

by TommyViducich

On the road, we meet a lot of people and they usually have a lot of questions. One of the most common questions we are asked is “how are you going to afford this trip?” It is a good question; a year spent travelling seems like a costly endeavor. The beauty of bike touring is that it can cost as much or as little as you want. We have met bike tourers who “credit card tour” which involves staying in motels and eating in restaurants, packing a credit card as their main luggage. We have also met bike tourers who have completed a cross country trek with nothing more than a couple of hundred bucks in their pocket. This usually involves camping for free and preparing all their own food. Both methods of bike touring work, the choice is solely based on the preference of the rider.

Matt and Alyssum enjoy spending our Canadian "monopoly" money.

Matt and Alyssum enjoy spending our Canadian "monopoly" money.

Our trip falls somewhere in between the two styles of riding. While we have not stayed in a motel yet, from time to time we find ourselves in a roadside diner where we splurge on an extravagant pancake breakfast. This involves multiple orders of omelets and pancakes that usually leave the waitress wide eyed and thinking “there is no way they will be able to eat all of that” (we usually leave thinking “I could have downed one more order of pancakes”).

Our biggest expense since we began the trip has been the above average amount of food we eat. In fact, about 90% of the money we have spent so far has been on food. We usually stock up at the local grocery stores. For dinner, we cook big pasta or rice and bean meals, for lunch we’ve been making peanut butter and jelly or egg sandwiches plus trail mix and for breakfast a large pot of oatmeal. We tend to eat pretty well!

The other big potential cost would be lodging. This is where we shine. From Arcata, CA to Bellingham, WA, we only paid for two nights of camping. The rest of the time we either stayed with friends/roadside acquaintances who were nice enough to open there homes (and showers) to five ragged bike tourers or, more commonly, we were able to camp out on forest service or other public land. Alaska and Canada has been so wide open that we have had no trouble finding places to camp. We are more likely to come across a bear than another human in one of our campsites. (Fun Fact: we have spent more money on cookies than on lodging and camping during this trip.)

After calculating the money we have spent so far, it has averaged out to be about $10 a day per person. If it takes us another year to finish bike49, I figure we will each spent another $4,000 on food, $1,000 on inevitable bike repairs, $1,000 or so on lodging (I anticipate more motels during the cold winter), and a little extra for various entertainment. Not too bad for a year long vacation!