Last week we published an essay from Alex Mason about how she left her office job to hike the PCT, which inspired her to leave the office behind altogether (Getting Out to Get Out of a Stale Life). Mason has made travel and adventure a priority ever since. She’s paddled across the Atlantic, ridden bikes across Australia and Indonesia, climbed mountains, thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, you name it, she’s done it. But many of you wondered: How? How does she afford near constant travels? Well, we put the question to her to find out. Originally, we were simply going to amend her essay with this section, but her answer was so thoughtful and well said, we decided to publish in full as a standalone piece. – Ed.
AJ: Many of our readers enjoyed your essay but were left wondering how you were able to afford a life out there on the road, the trail, the ocean, seemingly constantly. Would you mind sharing how you do it?
Alex Mason: “I am not wealthy, nor am I from a wealthy background. No handouts. No trust fund. A series of unfortunate events lead me to be fortunate enough to own a property. My boyfriend’s father died suddenly of a heart attack which meant we were able to use his inheritance to buy a house, when we separated and sold the house the profit we made allowed my to buy independently. I worked in London as a graphic designer for 10 years, I worked hard, I was careful with my money and never lived outside my means so, aside from my mortgage, I never had any debt.
I had never intended to make this a life, just a once in a life time experience, so I wasn’t brave enough to quit my job and I took a sabbatical with the intention of coming back to my ‘normal’ life. But coming back made me see I was more unhappy than I realised.
Now I am able to rent out my house, which covers the mortgage payments and gives me a small income. I use this to fund my daily expenses when I’m away, food, accommodation etc. I don’t adventure full time, the longest I have been away is 18 months and I was tired and ready to come home for a bit. When I’m at home I work part time in an outdoor gear shop (hello discount on things I may need to use on adventures), I freelance design work and now I do the odd talk and article about my experiences. The money from this allows me to buy flights, insurance, and gives me a buffer for any unexpected expenses that may occur.
I cut back on things I don’t need. Sold my car. Cancelled gym memberships. Stopped eating out or buying convenience food. I have supportive parents, and while they don’t give me any money, they allow me to live in their house rent free in-between trips. I live minimally and prefer to invest in experiences over material things.
Hiking long distance trails isn’t that expensive beyond the initial outlay for equipment and flights. Big events like rowing across an ocean are funded by corporate sponsors.
I haven’t really put much thought into the long term future. I am 38 and retirement age in the UK is likely to be 70 for me. I may not live that long. My ex-boyfriends father was 58 when he had a heart attack. I would rather put my focus in being able to do the things I want to do now instead of planning for a future that may not happen. I don’t know how long I will travel for but this is my normal life now, I can’t see myself returning to a 9-5 anytime soon.”