6-Month Bike Tour Expense Report

Here are my monthly expenses during my 6-month bike tour.  February includes the cost of my new Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike along with panniers, racks, etc; July includes a $130 flight from Panama City to Cartagena; and August includes my $150 return flight from Bogota to Orlando (with a $60 charge for my bike).  Oh, and I had my camera stolen twice in June (the first time on a bus in Guatemala, and the second time in the mail), which cost about $250.

Month Expenses
Feb (Bike) $1,573
Mar $685
Apr $797
May $428
Jun $954
Jul $819
Aug $769
Total $6,026

As you can see, bike touring is cheap!

I was in the US in March and April, and in May I entered Mexico and continued South.  In June and July, I was passing through Central America, and in August, I was in Colombia.

In the US, I didn’t pay for any accommodation.  We either stealth camped, camped at church grounds, or found a host through CouchSurfing.org or WarmShowers.org.  In Mexico, I was hosted by a lot of CouchSurfers, but those opportunities dwindled in Central America.  However, motel-like accommodation in Central America (residencias) were super cheap — mostly about $5 per night for a private room with a fan. And I stealth camped when I was in a pinch.

Food is expensive in the US, so we ate camp food (mac & cheese, instant mashed potatoes, baked beans) a lot, but many times we benefited from the kindness of our hosts.  But we would sometimes get a gift from a stranger.  I remember one time in Louisiana, I was hanging out outside a post office waiting for Ryan and an older Cajun Indian man asked me about what we were doing.  After I told him our plans to cycle to Panama, he handed me a $20.  I tried to refuse, but he wanted me to take it, “Lunch is on me.  I like supporting with these kinds of things.”

In Mexico, Central America, and Colombia, prepared food was very inexpensive.  Actually, I found that the cost of buying food at the grocery store was about the same as buying a prepared meal at a family-run restaurant.  So it was an easy choice for me — I ate at small restaurants the entire time.  This was great for two reasons: (1) I got rid of my camping cookware to cut down on bulk, and (2) eating local food is an important cultural experience.

So in summary, food was definitely the largest expense.  It’s interesting to see in the monthly cost breakdown that my expenses in the US were similar to when I was in Latin America.  It speaks to the high food prices in the US as we never paid for accommodation and many times we were fed by our hosts.  In Latin America, I paid for most of my food and accommodation, yet my expenses weren’t significantly higher.  I loved being hosted as my favorite memories are from meeting people along the way, but the flexibility of being able roll into a town at the end of the day and finding a cheap place to stay was great.

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Life Purpose: Excitement

I read The 4-Hour Workweek a while ago, and what I really liked was how the general life purpose of Happiness was clarified.  What we should ask ourselves is “What excites me?” Activities causing excitement will align with purpose.

Here’s an excerpt from The Project Mojave blog on the same subject of Excitement vs. Happiness:

Many societally conditionally goals — such as “get out of debt,” “buy a new car,” and “create a college fund,” — can be fine and noble, but they often do not make us come alive.  What would really make your day, I mean, if you could do anything? Think about that for a second.

If you dig deep within to answer this question, I bet your answer might be something a little different than the average idea of a “great day.” If you really answer this question from your soul, you’ll discover aspirations that really move you. Here are a few of mine:

  • Ski down a killer slope in Park City, Utah
  • Take a Tantra class
  • Read a great novel for the first time
  • Go on a group meditation or retreat
  • Play music with others, lose track of time, and get lost in sound

You see, when all our goals revolve around efficiency, money, looks, networking, etc., we lose track of why we wanted these things in the first place. Indeed, we often envision such goals because we want more time and energy to do things that truly excite us and bring deep fulfilling happiness. I challenge you to incorporate goals and aspirations that really excite and move you. Don’t get caught up in mundane, socially acceptable goals. Find out what really inspires you and make a commitment to live your life with a deeper level of satisfaction starting today.

Bike Tour Laundry System

My laundry system on the bike tour was excellent.  Every evening after riding, I’d hand wash my bike shorts and polyester performance-style shirt and they’d be pretty dry by the morning.  Then, in the morning, I’d wash the underwear I slept in and strap that down to the back of my bike along with anything that was still wet.  I had a cargo net that was perfect to hold the clothes down on top of my tent bag.  The clothes would dry in the sun and the breeze and they’d be ready to wear at the end of the ride.

This was superior to the laundry system I had while I was backpacking in Eastern Europe.  All I could do was hang wet clothes off the back of my backpack.  But then I’d have to throw the backpack under a bus, or on the floor somewhere, and the wet clothes would pick up dirt, and wouldn’t be exposed to the sun as much.

Medical Bills, Bad Credit, and Urgent Care Clinics

I made a big mistake.  A $600 mistake.  When I got cut on my wrist by tile back in February, I went to the emergency room.  On the ride over there, I was wondering how much it would cost me, and I was considering if I could suture it myself (just clean it, and sew it, or just glue it).  When I got to the ER, the lady at registration looked at my insurance card — I have Aetna’s $5000 high-deductible insurance — and told me it would cost me $100.  I figured it was a great price, and it would be good to just get it done, and get it done right.  So I waited a couple of hours in the ER, and then got my eight sutures.  Easy procedure.

cut_wrist_closeup

Then I went on my bike tour, and six months later, I returned to find a bunch of medical bills.  The ER visit cost almost $1300, and then there was a $400 physician’s fee.  I don’t even remember a physician taking care of me — a nurse did.  The hospital has some contract with Aetna, so my bill got reduced down to $669, and after that $100 I paid upfront, the balance was $569.  When I called up about the physician’s fee, somehow it got dropped, so that was lucky too.

But I still have this $569 bill to pay.  It actually got sent to a collections agency; that’s how I first heard about it.  I got a call and right off, the lady asked me for my social security number — odd.  I told them I was out of the country for six months, and so it got pulled out of collections (collections agencies usually report you to the credit bureaus and that dirty mark stays on your credit history for seven years).

Before talking to the hospital’s billing office, I called around to three urgent care clinics in the area.  I asked them how much it would cost to give me eight sutures.  It averaged around $150.  $150!!  Versus $1300 at the ER.

So, the ER experience sucked, but it was a learning experience for (and it still isn’t over — I’m disputing the bill), and I want everyone else to learn from my mistake.  NEVER GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM!!  The only reason to go is if you’re in such a bad accident that you don’t even have a choice — the ambulance is bringing you there — and you’re unconscious.  Go to an urgent care clinic instead.  They’ll fix you up for a reasonable price.

I found this list of reasons to go to an urgent care clinic on another website:

Reasons to use a Urgent Care facility:
You have an urgent non life-threatening medical condition or injury
Your primary care doctor’s office is closed
You are not able to schedule a convenient appointment with your primary care doctor
You are away from home

Most Urgent Care facilities offer:
Board Certified physicians
Urgent trauma equipment including cardiac monitors
X-Ray equipment
Minor procedure room (sterile/clean rooms)

Many Urgent Care facilities offer:
CT Scans
Ultrasounds

Other Benefits of Urgent Care facilities:
Shorter wait times to see a doctor
Doctor visit co-pay and not emergency room co-pay (that saved us $225 per visit)
Weekend and after hours availability