But, we were able to travel Europe for seven weeks* without breaking the bank. So, how did we do it?
1. We worked … the whole time
As freelancers, Zach and I know we are incredibly blessed to be able to bring work with us wherever we go. Freelancing does, of course, have its drawbacks, but for the ability to travel at any time without affecting your work (too much), it’s pretty darn great. The first month (in France), I was incredibly busy wrapping up a big project. We knew it would be that way, and we chose to stay in Annecy, France the whole time so I wouldn’t feel like I was “missing out” when I was inside all day. For the most part, in the second month, I took one day off per week and my work load was a little lighter.
Because we were working consistently, we still had income coming in. Sometimes, I felt overwhelmed by working so much, and other days, I was grateful for the structure it provided.
2. We rented out our home in Nashville
We have owned our home in East Nashville for four years, and for most of those four years, our friend Andy has rented out our basement apartment. It helps supplement our income, and he’s also a great guy who happens to do all our yardwork too! The only way we were able to afford housing in Europe was to rent out the rest of our house too. We used airbnb and were fortunate to be able to find a family who wanted to rent it the entire time we were gone. That money went toward our housing in Europe, where we exclusively used airbnb and VRBO.
3. We chose small, inexpensive rentals
Because our stay in Annecy was so long, we were able to get a better deal on our apartment with airbnb. I believe it averaged out to $45 or so a night. For the rest of our time, we stayed in studio apartments because they were the least expensive. We didn’t always stay in the center of the city; many of the places we stayed were a good walk into town, so we averaged around 8 miles or so of walking a day — forced exercise!
4. We cooked our own meals
If you know me, you know food is extremely important to me. I wanted to be able to experience the cultures via food, but Zach wanted to be sure we stuck with our budget (see how we balance each other out?). We decided to eat in during our time in France, and got all our food from the weekly markets and the grocery store. However, every morning, we bought pastries for breakfast and a baguette (usually around $1) to go with our lunch. We also occasionally splurged on waffles with Nutella (around $3), mulled wine ($1.50) and gelato. In Italy, we had our hearts set on pizza and pasta, and we ate our breakfasts and lunches at home and split a lot of meals out. Thankfully, Italy’s food was the most affordable, so a mouth-watering pizza often cost around $6. Sweden and Copenhagen were trickier; they are very expensive countries, but we cooked a lot and cut corners. For example, a nearby coffeeshop had great tomato soup, and instead of buying a sandwich, we took advantage of the FREE fresh-baked bread they offered customers. We might have eaten more than our fair share!
5. Experiences = Free
Due to the expense (and stress!) of renting a car, we chose to walk everywhere or take the bus. There were a few times we splurged on “experiences”: we rode a ferry to the Isle of Capri, took a boat tour of Lake Annecy, and rented a car to hike the French Alps. But, all in all, we did a lot of free sightseeing. We hiked local trails, walked around elaborate cathedrals, and took in the cities by foot. It made for more planning and research on our part, but we were left with a fuller pocketbook and possibly even more-toned calf muscles.
6. Research, Research, Research
When we initially decided to go to Europe, I thought it would be easy. You just book a place to stay, purchase flights, and that’s it — right? Little did I know, it’s very time-consuming. And in order to save money, research needs to happen. Zach compared commuter trains vs. buses vs. flights vs. high-speed trains, and while it was a pain, it saved us a lot of money! The only expense we needed to save up for was our flights to and from Europe, which we booked early.
And, as a side note, we took insurance off our cars while we were gone, using that money, along with normal gas money, to pay for travel between cities in Europe.
Those are just a few ways we were able to go to Europe for an extended period of time. We feel deeply blessed to have experienced the trip, and we hope to do it again in the future. But for now, we’re enjoying snuggling up in our home and sleeping in our own bed!
*Many of you know, our dear Grandma Ruth passed away during our trip, and we cut it short to attend the funeral and grieve with family.