How We Spent 6 Weeks Abroad for Less Than $600 Per Person

Every time I log onto Instagram there’s another person who “quit their job to travel the world!” It’s a thing nowadays. Hell, I just did it for 4 months. The adultier adults in my life usually seem baffled at this trend. “How can anyone afford to do that?” Well, in conjunction with the ability (privilege) to be saving a lot and living simply beforehand, lots of folks on the road are working or volunteering their way around the world.

We volunteered for 6 weeks in San Marcos on Lake Atitlan via HelpX. At the time we were looking (Feb 2019) there were 34 exchanges on HelpX in Guatemala, 9 in Atitlan, and 4 in San Marcos. We were working for Paul, an older skinny British guy who moved from London in 2008 to open restaurants in Guatemala. He now has a wife and young son and several properties and restaurants in San Marcos. We were servers in his restaurants, and in exchange we a free room, free breakfast, free meal while we were working, and half off the food in his restaurants the rest of the time. Plus tips, which were a mandatory 10% on each bill and divided amongst all the workers. Altogether we made $172 in tips - which may not seem like much for two people in 6 weeks - but when you consider that you can feed yourself well for a day on less than $10…it helped.

Pretty sweet deal, right? With this exchange, guess how much we spent TOTAL for 6 weeks living abroad? $1,098.41. For two people. That’s only $549.21 per person. What are your total expenses for 6 weeks right now? And as you can see below, we did not go light on the souvenirs & fun. Or food (which may include drinks and sweets…)

Total Expenses

2 People - 6 Weeks - Lake Atitlan

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Paul had good reviews on HelpX, but his probably wasn’t the best gig we could have gotten. His restaurants could get BUSY, and Paul himself could be a bit of a stingy old miser when it came to making change and being fair on tips and actually letting you know when he wanted you to work. His staff also didn’t seem to be too fond of the agreement on food. They didn’t exactly make tips off of what they had to make for us, you know? And I didn’t love feeling like I had to beg for the food that I had been told was part of the deal. The relationship with the staff really makes or breaks this kind of situation. My rudimentary Spanish made it a little tense for me, while my partner’s fluency made him a favorite. C’est la vie.

Overall, our time in San Marcos was my favorite of the entire 4 months, despite some of the tension. I often wish we had done another exchange in other places, but it does become a bit of a trade-off. Yes, you go slow and save like crazy, but you also see less of the country or area overall. After Atitlan we moved quite a bit quicker to hit the highlights. It drained our money faster, but we also saw so much. It is what it is. If my wandering bones ever get so jumpy I opt for long-term indefinite travel again, I’ll definitely be planning to go at a snails pace via these work and volunteer exchanges.

If you want more…

HelpX: work exchanges, and the one we happened to use

Worldpackers: more work exchanges

Tusted Housesitters: Like pets? You can pet sit around the world!

WWOOF: volunteer on organic farms even more work exchanges


Wanderlust Rose is one of those young people who blogs and travels and found jobs around the world to make it happen.


Now that you know it’s possible…

You’ll definitely want to save this for later.