- Claire Zhu and Peter Ovendorf quit their corporate finance jobs in March 2022 to travel the world on a budget.
- After 19 countries, the couple shared their total spending: $48,256, or only $66 per person a day.
- They said they used their miles and credit card points — and bartered to do free household work — in exchange for lodging.
27-year-old Claire Zhu and 29-year-old Peter Ovendorf have hundreds of thousands of people following their adventures since they quit their corporate finance jobs in March 2022 to travel the world. While fans are invested in what they’re doing in the 19 countries they’ve visited, they’re also remarked by how they’re doing it.
Zhu and Ovendorf recently shared that they spent a total of $48,235 — or just $66 per person a day — over the last year. (For reference, the yearly total for the median rent for a one-bedroom in Manhattan is currently $43,176, according to the rental platform Zumper).
In their budget breakdown, which was posted to Instagram and TikTok last week, the couple said the grand total barely exceeded their original goal of $45,000. Costs included $10,601 on housing, $6,274 on excursions, $9,783 on 34 flights, $9,708 on ground transportation, and $9,614 on food.
Not included in the total were health insurance (which they estimated to be roughly $4,000), phone bills (~$1,000), credit card fees (~$690), and the credit card points and miles they used (amounting to about $9,726).
To keep costs low, the couple used five years of accrued credit card points to help pay for housing, including an 18-day stay in Norway. They also booked some paid content jobs, and offered to pet-sit and do household work in exchange for free stays at strangers’ homes. In total, Zhu said they were able to finagle 107 nights of “free” housing — including some nights where they slept in airports and on other transportation like buses and trains en route to another destination.
The couple’s budget was logged by Ovendorf, who apparently has an accounting degree, in a meticulous Excel spreadsheet that tracked “every single penny” spent on 1,714 total items, their video stated. For instance, three mangoes in Thailand set them back $1.09 USD. A late-night snack from a gas station in Norway cost them $30.12.
Zhu said they’re not in any debt and they let their credit card spending and subsequent points naturally build over time.
“To accumulate points and miles through credit cards leading up to the trip, we did not alter our spending habits in any way, and at no point do we hold credit card debt,” Claire wrote in a March 13 Instagram.
“We got some sweet COVID deals, but also got stuck with some inflated prices throughout this year,” she added.
All in, the couple said they visited 19 countries in one year: Egypt, Jordan, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Norway, Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, St. Martin, Germany, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Turkey, Georgia, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, and India. (This excludes a trip back to the US where they said they attended a wedding.)
Outside of planning and spending, the couple has also shown followers beautiful images of the places they’ve visited, like the Great Barrier Reef and the Holi in India. However, it’s not been entirely enviable. In a March 5 TikTok, Zhu counted 44 bed bug bites on her body. On March 22, she received a bad haircut. Getting sick and upset stomachs have been a recurring joke on their social media. Sometimes the effort to stay within a budget meant a diet of mostly yogurt and $1 muffins in comparatively more expensive countries such as Norway, she noted.
Zhu said they only ate out when visiting lower-cost countries to stretch their money. For the most part, the couple purchased their meals from grocery stores.
The pair, who initially intended to leave their home of Charlotte, North Carolina, for a “corporate gap year” has decided to extend their travels for at least another year, they announced in a TikTok this month.
In 2023, the couple said they wouldn’t be tracking and sharing their expenses as scrupulously — though they’ll still try to stick to a budget.
“Besides any sponsored or work opportunities, the plan is to still try to maintain a $123 a day average from now until the end of the year,” Zhu told followers.
“We are trying to sustain ourselves with social media but I have no idea how that’s going to work out,” she added. “We are so new to this. Honestly, we are just cheap travelers and cheap people at heart.”
Insider has reached out to Zhu and Ovendorf.