Buzios & Arraial do Cabo 6.4.17


I mentioned costs a few times on the blog but I have not directly addressed the topic of money. This post outlines my expenses and how I saved and planned for a year of travel. A future post will highlight what I do while traveling to manage my money.

First, the numbers:

  • $20,282 – Food, transport including flights, accommodation, entertainment and daily life expenses since leaving Minneapolis August 8, 2016. This figure is an average of $64 USD per day over 300 days.
  • $1,385 – Entertainment, food, transport, a few new clothes and toiletries, airline penalties for a missed flight, and 2 nights in a hotel during my 9-day birthday visit in NYC.
  • $250 – New clothes purchased in Thailand and Chile including jeans, one tank top, one bikini, and one pair of shorts.
  • $5,631 – Pre-departure costs including a laptop, camera, clothes, visas, health insurance, passport renewal and cell phone.

And my total expenses to date:

  • $27,548 –  I estimate I will spend an additional $1500 in the coming 5 weeks.

So, how did I save $30,000? I have always been careful with money and since I began working more than 6 years ago, I saved money every month. My conscious effort at saving for The Year of Sarah Joy began 2 years before I departed. The big steps I took to save included:

  • No new clothes. In 2 years I think I bought 1 pair of jeans. I did not buy new work clothes, exercise clothes, or special event clothes. When I needed a wardrobe re-fresh, I borrowed dresses from a friend.
  • No restaurants. I ate out less than once a month and had drinks out about as often. Limiting meals at restaurants had the positive side effect of making meals or drinks out feel like a special occasions.
  • No car. On average, not owning a car saves a person $7,000 USD per year in gas, insurance, maintenance and car payments.
  • Meal planning. I grocery shopped and cooked every week. For $60-80 (at Lunds, a high-end grocer) I purchased all the food I ate each week. The website and cookbook, Budget Bytes are a fantastic resource for lower cost meals.
  • Small apartment. I lived for 4 years in a 350 sq. ft. studio apartment in a location with convenient access to public transit. My rent costs were less than 30% of my take-home salary.
  • Limited re-occurring expenses. Beyond groceries and a $45 monthly gym membership, I paid $60 for a phone contract and $800 in rent each month.

For 2 years, I saved at least $600 per month. To this savings, I added 2 years of tax returns, $2,000 from the sale of household possessions prior to departure, and about $5,000 paid out from my employer for unused vacation time. I made up the difference with earlier savings.

To plan financially for a year of travel I found a book at the library, The Rough Guide to First-Time Around the World, with the below chart the writers titled the Spendometer. The chart indicates how many days’ travel can be had for $1000 in countries around the world on high, mid, and bare-bones budgets.

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 10.44.02 PM

Using this chart and additional information I learned from books and blogs, I determined $60 per day would be my average budget. Mindful of my budget, I identified countries with lower daily-life costs and planned a route to match my budget.

I treat myself semi-often to flashpacker activities/accommodations/meals to remind myself I am not a broke 20-something and to acknowledge the efforts of the last 2 years. It is possible I could have spent $2000 – $3000 less over the course of this year if I were spending with as much thrift as I did prior to departure.

Money is generally a taboo topic. I am writing about this subject for two reasons. First,  international travel is not always as expensive as we may imagine, especially when visiting less expensive countries or traveling in low season. Second, I want to encourage other people who may be considering saving for an upcoming large expense – the short term sacrifice is rewarding in the long term.

In a conversation about money I also want to acknowlege the opportunities I had to earn more than a living wage after college and to be debt-free are not opportunities available to every person. Every day I am mindful to avoid taking for granted the amazing privilege that is being unemployed and able to afford long term travel.


The first beach I visited in the town of Armacao dos Buzios or Buzios for short, Praia de Gerbia, was a 10 minute walk from the hostel. This was a long white sand beach and it took at least 20 minutes to walk from end to end. Buzios, with more than 23 beaches in the community, is a popular vacation destination for Argentines and wealthy Rio residents.
Tropical flowers in bright colors were growing all over the walls and homes in Buzios. Seeing this type of flora was a reminder of how different flowers are around the world.
From the Praia de Geriba I walked to 2 more beaches. First, I stopped at Praia Ferradurinha, pictured in the two top photos on the left. This beach was a lovely protected cove with a small amount of sand. There were hundreds of beach chairs set-up on the sand. I laughed when I saw how packed the area was. Then I quickly left. The 3rd beach I visited, Praia da Ferradura, is surrounded by homes but the sand is public property. Visitors who are not waterfront homeowners pass through walkways with high cement walls to reach the ocean.
Buzios is said to have become famous when the French actress Brigitte Bardot visited the area with her Brazilian significant other in 1964. A statue honors Bardot at the main beach in Buzios, Praia do Canto. These buggies are the rental vehicle of choice for vacationers traveling via car from beach to beach.
Sunset at Praia do Canto in Buzios. At my hostel a Chilean/Spanish couple was working for a few months in exchange for lodging. With Lorena and Pedro I we discussed Chilean slang and experiences in Chile.
From Buzios I traveled via public bus to Arraial do Cabo. The towns are 36km (22 miles) apart. Using public transit it took about 3 hours to journey this distance. I stood for the journeys because both buses were full and, while tiring, I enjoyed being a part of the daily life routine for commuters in this area. Arraial do Cabo is known for white sand beaches and clear blue water. Near the main beach in the city, Praia Grande, there was an exercise station I used a few times.
This town was founded in 1503 by Amerigo Vespucci when, sailing on behalf of the King of Portugal, he explored the coast of Brazil.
I joined a boat tour in Arrial do Cabo to see more of the landscape. I was impressed by the beauty of this scenery.
Piranhas do Atalai was the second beach we visited on the boat tour. This land is owned by the government and, except for a home belonging to the former mayor of the area, it is protected. I heard tour guides and travelers refer to this area as Brazil’s version of the Caribbean.
There were many tourist boats in the bay at Piranhas do Atalai.
From Piranhas do Atalai I climbed a small set of stairs for a better view of the bay. In this area, the mainland and an island form almost a complete circle. Because of the circular bay, this beach is one of only a few beaches in the world that faces another beach.
Visitors can reach this beach via car. I climbed a large set of stairs to reach the top of the hill and the car park. From this viewpoint I could see the bay with the beach and, on the other side, the Atlantic Ocean.
From Piranhas do Atalai we boarded our boat to ride across the bay to our third beach, Praia do Farol. The name of the beach comes from the island where it is located, Ilha do Farol. This sandy area is protected by the Brazilian Navy and is considered one of the prettiest beaches in Brazil.
Posing for photos with one of the crew members, Tiego, and the Brazilian Flag.
Still in the bay created by the mainland and an inland, we watched the sun set at the end of the boat tour. Through this natural gap in the main land and island land masses, we could see the Atlantic Ocean. The Corona catamaran was the only boat on the water with us.
An ironic realization: in Brazil, my pink scarf is a beach coverup. In India I used the same scarf as an additional clothing layer to ensure my shoulders were always completely covered.
I spent my second day in Arraial do Cabo relaxing on the main beach, Praia Grande. This beach is an undeveloped 60km stretch of white sand and dunes. At sunset I returned to the beach to exercise and enjoy another beach sunset.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Kat says:

    You know me — loving the budget breakdown. I love that you shop at Lunds. Let’s be honest. It is legit the best grocery store experience to be had. Also, so many personal finance bloggers talk about slow travel but don’t walk you through the cost of how much/how so this was super interesting to read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I enjoy your financial posts just as much! Happy to know the numbers were useful. I have spreadsheets of them for eventually crunching… some day.

      I am totally a Lunds fan – mostly because I needed to use a grocery store in walking distance to my home, but I am now officially hooked on the upscale experience.


  2. jeffwashburne says:

    Great post! Insight and petspectve

    On Jun 4, 2017 11:57 PM, “The Year of Sarah Joy” wrote:

    theyearofsarahjoy posted: ” I mentioned costs a few times on the blog but I have not directly addressed the topic of money. This post outlines my expenses and how I saved and planned for a year of travel. A future post will highlight what I do while traveling to manage my mo”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jeff! I haven’t worked the spreadsheet magic like you did, but this post was certainly inspired by reading your thoughts on the financial aspects of long term travel.


  3. Laura Johnson says:

    Cute Instagram photo of you and Carlos. But seriously, were do you stash your cash, credit card, and passport in a bikini? What do you do with your “stuff” when you are out and about? (laptop, etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura! So happy you see those Instagram photos. Fair question, haha 🙂 90% of the hostels I stay at have lockers. My passport, spare and emergency cash, credit cards, passport, laptop and everything else are always locked up. When I am away for camping style overnights, most of my valuables stay at the hostel in luggage storage. Every traveler is different, but I tend to think valuables are always safer in the hostel then on my person. Thanks for asking!


  4. Linda Woessner says:

    Another excellent blog with an excellent cover photo. Stunning flowers as well as stunning beaches. Four months, 4 days to go. Keep on enjoying!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks mom! I thought you’d enjoy those tropical flowers. I imagine you mean 1 month and 4 days to go…. Or are you secretly wishing for me to be gone longer 😉


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