Adventure travel doesn’t have to be expensive. My husband Dave and I have been going on adventures around the world for the past decade on a shoestring budget and you can, too!

Everyone always tells us they wish they could do what we’re doing. They ask, “How do you afford it and where do you find the time?” We always reply, “It’s easy. Anyone can do it.”

From climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro to trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp to driving a car from England to Mongolia, we’ve managed to spend less money on life-changing events than we would have on hopping a flight to the Caribbean for a couple of weeks.

These past three years of full-time travel have taught us a lot about true happiness. Being exposed to new cultures and different ways of living has allowed us to view life in a new way. We realized that having a lot of “stuff” doesn’t make a person happy. It’s taking the time to enjoy the little things and being open to new experiences while spending time with family and friends that make for a rich and meaningful life.

Travelling on the cheap

You’d be surprised just how cheap an adventure can be. When we drove from England to Mongolia, we spent six weeks on the road, splitting the cost among four teammates. We camped for free in fields and were visited by nomads on horseback, allowing us to make new friends and get a peek into a different way of living. Our small car didn’t use a lot of gas and we only spent $2,200 ($550 per person) on fuel for this epic road trip one-third of the way around the world. We cooked our own meals and enjoyed cheap local beer and wine under the stars as we got to know our teammates.

Travelling for charity

We always try to give back when we travel. When we cycled through Africa, we raised money and awareness for Plan Canada and when we drove to Mongolia, we raised $5,000 for the Christina Noble Foundation, a project that helps homeless and abandoned children in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar (also spelled Ulan Bator).

Seeing the children’s smiling faces there made us realize just how lucky we are in Canada. They had very little, but were so resilient and happy. They didn’t have video games or expensive clothing, but they played and laughed just like healthy children anywhere. As they showed us their bedrooms and their classrooms and even played their musical instruments for us, we observed that life is what you make it and you have to appreciate what you have. These children appreciate everything that we take for granted in the West.

Lifestyle changes

Dave and I have downsized over the years to be able to live our dream of full-time travel, and we don’t miss a thing. We used to own a house and two cars and buy name-brand clothing and designer furniture, but all that seems so far away now. We’ve been using the same gear for three years and have never felt more alive. We can’t imagine dropping $200 each weekend on home improvements anymore or shopping at a big-box store for bulk food and kitchen gadgets I’ll never use.

One thing we haven't given up is travel insurance. It may be a small expense, but travel insurance could save you thousands of dollars. We have been hospitalized on three different continents (not including North America), and are living proof that accidents and illnesses happen anywhere you are, no matter how careful you may be.

Now we are living a dream and spending very little money doing it. We’ve shared a cup of kava with a village chief in Fiji, drunk tea with elders in a Bedouin camp in Jordan and played badminton with the locals in the People’s Park in Chengdu, China. We’ve felt as if we’ve touched heaven while hiking through the Himalayas and we’ve looked a whale in the eye while seated in an inflatable boat in Antarctica.

It’s easier to travel than to own a home and spend money on upgrades and renovations. The world has become our home and we see no sign of slowing down. Travel has taught us that while cultures differ, people everywhere laugh and love and work to live. We are here for only a short time and it is up to us to make the most of each moment.

Debra Corbeil and Dave Bouskill blog about their travels as Canada’s adventure couple on The Planet D.