This is from Era One, a 23 page writeup of my last year of travels, with some included lessons. I'm going to have a few excerpts of Era One this week, alongside our regularly schedule programming. You can download your free copy of Era One here - Era One - Download PDF
Spending – How Much Does it Cost to Travel?
I get this question a lot. People wonder how I can travel and hop around the world when I’m not working?
The truth is, it’s cheaper to spend a few months in a developing country than it is to stay in a city in the Western world. The expensive part is getting there – airfare. But after around three months, airfare+expenses becomes cheaper than staying home. Cheaper rent and much cheaper food.
I’ve got some friends here and there, so I might stay with friends for a while and get them gifts or take them out in lieu of getting my own place, but even renting a place can be done cheap. Like I said, I was paying $12/night in Seoul to stay in a jimjilbang. Now, if you lived in Seoul, you wouldn’t want to stay in a jimjilbang all the time. But for a month, paying $360 to stay at a place with a gym, sauna, pools of water/minerals, sleeping areas, restaurants, snack stands, and more – it’s a fantastic deal. Yes, I didn’t have my own space there. Yes, I had to check out during the day. Yes, there’s some hassle involved. Yes, it’s not always good sleeping. But $360, man. For a month. And that includes the hot rooms, cold rooms, the various mineral and herb baths, and all the weights and cardio I want. Fantastic.
Also, it’s very possible to eat for under $5 per day in developing countries. You can get a good meal cooked out in the world for $1 in Northern Thailand. You can cook your own food for less. Here in Malaysia, you can get a big pack of peanuts for 60 cents USD. I’m renting a room in a luxury condo 40 minutes outside of Kuala Lumpur, and it’s 500 Malaysian Ringgit per month. That’s about $170 USD. The internet where I’m staying is shaky, so I usually work in a cafe. The 10 minute taxi ride there is about $2.
It takes some research and willingness to step into the unknown, but you can absolutely live and travel very cheaply through most of the world. Here’s my spending since I started tracking it in July. These are my original notes –
18 July to 26 July (8 days) - Total: room $144 ($18/day), food $46, coffee $19, groceries $31, transit $2 -> I also bought vitamins for $66, but that's a long term expense over the next two months, not an expense for just this week.
27 July to 5 August (10 days) - $340 for 10 days, total $34 per day. Higher than last week. It would've been lower without the massages - massage is valuable for health, but going 3 times over 10 days was unnecessary. I know my body was sore from training, but the expense wasn't worth it. I didn't realize how much it was until I calculated. [Web hosting: $137 for next year]
6 August to 13 August (8 days) - $25 on Visa, $30 on AMEX, $50 in cash since got to VN. Maybe $35 more leaving Hong Kong... for $140 total?
14 August to 20 August (7 days) - $163 self [$10 business] - free rent drastically takes down expenses. Many of the high expenses are a result of partying with friends, the rest of it is food/taxis. I should keep spending well on Chris and buy some gear while I'm here, which will keep my expenses high, but I think I can eat cheaper as well.
21 August to 27 August (7 days) - $115 for living expenses [plus $50 for business clothes] - this is amazingly good
28 August to 5 September (9 days) - $170 over 9 days = $18.90 per day
6 September to 17 September (12 days) - $299/12 = $25/day personal [$385 business and business clothing]
18 September to 29 September (12 days) - $528 over 12 days. $44 per day. (Room: $420 for 12 days. Food/coffee: $82 Entertainment: $26)
30 September to 10 October (11 days) - $331 for 11 days. = $30/day
11 October to 24 October (14 days) - $215 personal ($15.36 per day), $16 in business expenses
25 October to 1 November (8 days) - computer crashed, not sure. Main expenses: Entertaining Chris kind of a high number, some taxis/trains, two nights in hotel in KL, new vitamins.
Other spending: The pre-July spending I wasn't tracking. Flights aren’t much. Saigon to Kuala Lumpur one-way was $95. I got the Taipei -> Hong Kong -> Saigon flights for free with points I’d built up on my American Express card, but it would’ve been around $400 if I didn’t have that. Some bank expenses – I’ve got to pay more attention to those wily banks. My laptop at the end of this time period and I had to get a new one. I got a Toshiba Satellite with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4 GB Ram, 500 GB hard disk, built in webcam and mic, and boring other specs for $650  at the Low Yat Center in Malasia. I’d have been happy using my old computer until it died, but then it did die.
 Checking my credit card statement, I actually did the currency conversion wrong. The Toshiba was closer to $700 at the conversion rates I got on my Visa. My mistake, though not a big one.
Anyway, these numbers could be even lower if I worked at it. If you have a valuable skill you’re willing to barter and you’re a cool person, I think it’d probably be possible to never pay rent ever using Couchsurfing and connecting with people. If you cook your own food, I think it’d be possible to eat for less than $100/month. Transport is cheap if you’re in the right places. It’d probably be possible to survive on a few hundred dollars per month total for a while if you were disciplined about it and did enough planning.
Era One is available here - Era One - Download PDF
Three weeks ago I added cash numbers to my weekly review. What I'd make actively, passively, spend. Two weeks ago the line on my review read:
What'd I spend this week? Not sure. Figure out expenses next week
This week it looks like this*:
What'd I spend this week?
Expenses: July 18: room $32, food $12, coffee $4 July 19: room $15, food $10, coffee $4, transit $2 [groceries $18, vitamins $66] July 20: room $15, food $0, no other expenses July 21: room $15, food $12 coffee $4 [groceries $3] July 22: room $15, food $0, no other expenses July 23: room $15, food $0, no other expenses July 24: room $15, food $0, no other expenses July 25: room $22, food $12, coffee $7 [groceries $13 - but bought at convenience store, and had to throw away two things I bought because pork was in it] 26 room $15, food $0 Total: room $144 ($18/day), food $46, coffee $19, groceries $31, transit $2 -> I also bought vitamins for $66, but that's a long term expense over the next two months, not an expense for just this week.
First a story.
There are some mornings I wake up and immediately jump into whatever project I'm working on. It could be things for work like grading papers and emailing students. It could be projects like writing blog posts or books. It could be finding cool people to share good things. It could be exercising or watching online videos or reading blogs. Those mornings are awesome. On those mornings I'm startled by the two inches of cold coffee because I was so entranced by what I was working on.
Then there are the mornings I don't want to get out of bed. I don't want to see myself, my children or anyone else. I don't have any projects, any emails, any students. I don't have blog posts to read or write or share. I try to minimize and the best way I've found is to start a project, and this is it.
For the next 12 months I'm going to tackle an idea a month, here they are:
The inspiration for this has been from a number of sources. James Altucher writes about living your best physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional life and I've wondered if I'm doing that. Gretchen Rubin and AJ Jacobs have both written books sharing their stories about living for a year with a singular purpose, me too. I intend to stand on the shoulders of these giants, though I don't feel like that's apt. That metaphor is for physicist. I'm more like a freshman cheerleader, climbing to the top of a human pyramid because my only skill is that I'm the smallest.