How One Girl Created a Life of Humanitarianism and Endless Travel

What's your background? Who are you?

My name is Lily Howard, and I’m a surfer, climber, traveler, learner, writer, and craft beer lover.

I've been to 21 countries ranging 6 continents fulfilling my passion for surfing and interest in learning about other cultures.

lily howard

Wow. You've been living a life of pretty much endless travel. How did you make that happen?

Well, a few years back I was working three part time jobs as a craft brewery sales rep, a restaurant server and a surf coach. 

But I yearned to put my brain to use, and do it for a cause I felt passionate about.

I had just finished a grant writing internship with an environmental non-profit… so with the new skills I’d developed, I literally walked into my favorite international humanitarian aid organization’s US office.

I met the Executive Director and explained how I believed I would fit perfectly within the organization's mission, foundation and values — at least as a volunteer at the start. ;)

So I volunteered for a year, during which I determined that grant writing was something they weren’t focusing on, and they really needed!

Once I saw that, I focused all my energy there. I brought in a few grants, and shortly thereafter they began paying me for my time!

I couldn’t have been more stoked to create myself a position!


 As soon as I was officially ‘in’, I determined that I’d like to take my job with me and go see the world!

I put in two years at home in California to prove myself a self-motivated, dedicated, responsible, hard worker, before I asked to travel. 

And then when I did ask, they said yes! My dream come true!

I am paid $1,800/ month to work 20 hours a week. Nothing special, but enough!

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That's so great. How did money impact your travels? How have you viewed it? Has that changed?

Ironically enough, he first month for me was totally the hardest.

Despite having the four part time jobs in California, my student loan payments, health insurance and lifestyle costs left me with basically no money to my name. 

Relying solely on my next paycheck at the start of an open ended trip wasn't much fun!

First stop was Australia where I spent about $2,300 that month. I quickly learned that if I wanted to continue traveling I had to learn to budget on the go.

So overtime I built out a simple budget on a spreadsheet. It's been insanely helpful.

Here's the sheet I built and used. Feel free to download and use it too!!


My second month I worked from the org's headquarters in Sydney and housed with a co-worker. These two things alone got my budget down to $900/mo.

During that time I started working extra hours to build up a savings. 

After a couple of months I got the bug to travel again. My friend and I decided to head out to surf and explore Southeast Asia.

The land and culture there is amazing! And the cost of living is so much more affordable. We spent about $1,100/mo while there. 

We then used connections we made to do a work-trade at surf camp in Indonesia!

The ability to do work-trades while traveling is so abundant, and it can save you tons of money to keep your travels going!


While there I spent only $300/mo, 100% of which was spent on internet fees to keep my job! I was saving money while staying at a surf retreat. Stuff like this is totally possible!

So inspiring. I love it. Didn't you head off to Europe after that? What was that like?

Yeah, so my boyfriend and I bought a van for $1,200 USD, and took it for a loop around Spain and Portugal for 4 months. 

Our little home on wheels saved us the cost and hassle of accommodation and transportation. Our $20 gas cooker and some basic kitchenware saved us the cost of eating out three times a day.


The trip was suppose to be a surf trip, but it quickly turned in to a full on climbing escapade!

We found that we could hire a climbing guide for $200/day to take us climbing. 

Or we could invest $400 in our own gear, watch tutorials on YouTube and climb every day for two months!

I mean, come on... What choice would you make!?

Those little up-front investments in long-lasting items and experiences were super helpful for us in saving money along that trip.

It allowed us to treat ourselves to a hot shower and night out on the town every week or so. 


And we even found that we preferred the freedom of living on the road anyway. The best part was it came at half the cost than when we had traveled without the van. $3,000/mo before and $1,500/mo after. 

Soaking up the salty sunsets at the beach and waking up to mountain views from the comfort of our van were priceless.

That's awesome. What are the most helpful tips you've found while living the long-term travel life?

I should say, it’s not all easy to be a big business woman while traveling. ;)

The weekly Skype calls with my boss and team in different time zones have been tough.

There have been dark, rainy, early morning treks through the Indonesian jungle to the nearest satellite connection, and midnight calls in the van in Europe.


But I’ve learned to take a practical approach to making my travel dreams come true.

One of the biggest things I've learned is to adventure at a slower pace.

I absolutely love this way of traveling: more as a lifestyle than as a holiday. Traveling at a faster pace becomes exhausting, not to mention expensive.

To settle into a place and a rhythm for a couple weeks or a few months, proves to be an amazing way to simply BE. Truly BEing somewhere creates opportunities to meet the locals and learn about their way of life.

It also opens up doors to go with the flow, which often leads to memorable places and experiences beyond one’s wildest imagination.

I’ve also learned to diligently keep track of my budget with a simple spreadsheet.


In it I record what I’m spending and where. Since my plans evolve as I go, my budget has really helped me determine what’s feasible and what’s not.

Here's my spreadsheet again, just in case. Feel free to download it and use it for yourself!!

Lastly, when it comes to long-term travel, I’ve learned that anything is possible!

In 2016, it cost me approximately $20,000 to travel 12 countries in 12 months. That’s an average of $1,666 per month, which was actually cheaper for me than living in California!

Worthy of note here: while this was my experience, I admittedly eat like it’s the last supper more often than not. In other words, it’s 100% possible to travel on a budget even cheaper than this).

The other thing that was HUGE was my $50/mo international phone plan — T-Mobile's Simple Choice North America Plan with unlimited data in over 140 countries.

The hotspot I got from my phone using this plan saved me heaps on internet costs!

Slow travel. That is totally the way to do it. So what's next for you?

I’m currently writing this from Australia. But this year I plan to make it home to California, down to Mexico and back to Indonesia.

Hopefully I’ll make it to Taiwan and/or China as well, but these shall depend on my budget.

My pipe dream for next year is to begin a road trip from California to Patagonia!

Meanwhile though, I know that money is the enabling factor here, so I’m looking about for another part-time job to supplement my income and make all that possible so I can continue living my dream.

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