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"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do."
This post is a few weeks late because at the end of August we moved to a new location, the middle of the jungle! We are currently volunteering with a non-governmental organization called Etta Projects and living at a community transformation center they are running in the jungle about two hours outside of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. We have very limited cell service and almost no internet. Therefore, it’s been difficult to post any updates. We worked with Etta Projects in college when we worked with Engineers without Borders and have always felt they do great work, therefore, we wanted to come back and help out for two months. Coming to Etta Projects was actually the catalyst to us planning our South American adventure!
Anyway…back to the budget. We are waaay over our overall budget. We can't even pretend to be close to on track right now and we are completely aware of this fact. Before we jump into our thoughts on the matter, here are the actual numbers:
August 2018 - By The Numbers
Avg. per Day: $106.59
As you may recall from our July 2018 budget update, we were over budget at the end of that month. August was even worse, we spent over five times our daily budget of $19.50. However, we somewhat intentionally went over budget in August. While we were in Peru, our volunteering plans did not work out, therefore, we had a few free extra weeks that we had not planned on having. After a lot of discussion we decided that it was worth it for us to attend Spanish school for one month in Sucre, Bolivia. Spanish school was never part of the original budget of $10,000, however, we firmly believed that if we were ever going to learn Spanish, we needed to invest in schooling. Because learning Spanish is a major goal during our travels in South America, we decided it was worth the extra money.
We spent four weeks studying at Fenix Language School in Sucre, Bolivia. The package for two people was approximately $1,450 (the majority of the money spent in the Misc. category). This included a month of lodging in our own apartment, 20 hours of private classes per week, a Bolivian cooking class on Wednesdays, and Wallyball on Saturdays (basically volleyball on a squash court). We thought the cost was very reasonable for everything.
Spanish school was our largest expense for August, but there are a few other reasons why we ended up being so far over budget:
Tours and Travel:
This was a fairly big category for this month. Some of the costs were because we did a few small tours around Sucre (a walking city tour, tour of the chocolate factory, etc.). The biggest expense was our tour to the Bolivian salt flats, which we had not originally planned on doing. When we decided to go to Spanish school in Sucre, we realized that the salt flats were only about 8 hours away (fairly close when you consider how big and mountainous Bolivia is). I did a lot of research and decided that it was something we really should go see while we were so close. Therefore, we spent 4 days and 3 nights doing a tour from Tupiza to Uyuni, Bolivia with 3 other backpackers. This turned out to be an unbelievable experience (even with the altitude sickness that Kris experienced), and was completely worth the $400 we spent on the tour (which included a guide, 4x4 vehicle, and all our food and lodging). We did have to take the bus to Tupiza and back to Sucre from Uyuni, so a few extra dollars were spent on transportation as well.
The other travel costs this month were a few buses and taxis around Sucre and a flight from Sucre to Santa Cruz...$100 total for both of us for an hour flight vs. ~$60 for a 12-14 hour bus ride. Again, totally worth it.
Groceries and Restaurants:
We know that we could have done a lot better in this category for the month we were in Sucre by cooking more at our apartment. However, the kitchen was extremely basic and offered very little cooking utensils. We cooked breakfast and at least 1-2 dinners per week at the apartment, but otherwise went out to eat for lunch (and some dinners). We tried many different restaurants in Sucre, some more expensive than others. We also spent quite a bit of time at cafes using their internet because we did not have good internet at our apartment...causing us to spend more money on coffee, tea, juice, and snacks than we probably would have otherwise. Overall, eating out so much wasn't our best decision, but we're ok with it (we did eat a lot less chicken and french fries in Sucre than in Peru...so at least our meals were generally healthier!).
Most of our lodging costs for the month were rolled into the Misc. category with the cost for our Spanish school. The $100 we spent in this category were for three nights of hostels, two in Potosi and one in Tupiza. To do the tour of the salt flats we took the bus from Sucre to Potosi, stayed one night there (to start to adjust to higher altitudes), then took the bus from Potosi to Tupiza and stayed one night there before our tour started. On the way back to Sucre, we stopped again in Potosi for one night due to the timing of the buses.
Nothing super exciting here similar to last month. It's our Google FI phone bill and one month of health insurance. Our phone bill was definitely more expensive this month because we used more data than previous months. This was mostly due to not having much access to internet. We are keeping this in mind in the future and will hopefully get this cost back down.
We are definitely much more off track than we had originally planned. A lot of this is due to the fact that we decided to go to Spanish school and do the tour of the Bolivian salt flats. Both of which we feel like were completely worth the extra money.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, at the end of August we flew to Santa Cruz and moved to a community transformation center run by Etta Projects. We are volunteering here for the months of September and October and our costs are expected to be much lower (our food and housing costs are covered since we are volunteering).
Recently we were also able to set up our next Workaway in Chile. We are planning to spend the months of November, December, and January volunteering at two different Workaways near Puerto Montt, Chile. Again, costs should be much lower.
We are hoping that the plans we have set up from now until January will keep our costs much lower for the next four months than they have been for July and August. However, we also know that even if we spent zero dollars until February we would still be over budget. Overall we have come to terms with this and decided that while we are striving to keep to our budget, we are not going to let it stop us from doing some of the amazing things we want to do while we are in South America.
We will not be posting too many blog articles over the next six weeks due to our limited internet access. However, we have a big announcement coming!