Several people have asked me “How is it possible that you’re going to be able to work and travel at the same time?” I’m pretty much an open book about everything, including financial stuff, so I’m always happy to respond in detail. I truly believe that anyone who really wants to do this can find a way. I hope this information is helpful to anyone who does.
So, once Chad and I agreed to do this, we still had to figure out exactly how. That meant going into research mode (one of my favorite modes!). There are tons of resources available today for planning this type of lifestyle. Here is a brief rundown of the tools that are helping us:
Books & Blogs
Step 1 was to figure out where we wanted to go and how much we’d have to spend per day to live there. Our biggest influence in figuring this out was writer Tim Leffel. I immediately signed up for his enewsletter, Cheapest Destinations, and bought his book, A Better Life for Half the Price. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
We also used the website nomadlist.com to identify potential cities, because we needed to factor in Internet access. The website numbeo.com was helpful for estimating costs of things like food, public transit and going out to eat.
I also began subscribing to a number of podcasts and blog. My favorites are Nomadtopia (a podcast and Facebook group), Nomadic Matt (blog) and Never Ending Voyage (blog). I also enjoy the Zero to Travel podcast and recently started listening to Go Hunt Life.
Many of the books and blogs I read at first recommended just showing up in a place and using the local newspaper or apartment guide to find a place for a “locals” price. Anyone who knows me well can guess my attitude on that. I would never, ever, ever, ever count on finding a place when we arrived. (A personality assessment once said about me, “Jaime likes to plan her work and work her plan.”)
The growing popularity of AirBNB worldwide is hugely helpful for us and we’ve already lined up and paid for accommodations for most of our Europe leg and all of our Mexico/Colombia leg. We’ll be renting primarily one-bedroom apartments in all the places we’re staying (though very occasionally we’ll get a studio) that include a kitchen, laundry and wifi.
Generally, these full apartments cost about the same or even less than a night in a hotel. You get added savings by being able to cook most of your meals at home rather than going out every night. To give you a sense of our housing costs, our main Budapest apartment (which you can find here and is the picture for this post) is about $31 per night through AirBNB. Our Puerto Escondido apartment that is a 10-minute walk from the beach is about $34 per night. Our Wroclaw, Poland, studio on the main square is just $40 per night. Our Medellin apartment is only $20 per night. So, taking these costs out to a monthly rate, our rent will average anywhere from $600 to $1200 per month, which includes utilities and Internet, as well as the furnishings, linens and appliances. Sometimes it even includes cleaning once a week.
Google Project Fi
The big headache that digital nomads tend to have is getting a cell phone that works internationally. Traditionally, full-time travelers would purchase an unlocked cell phone and then put a local SIM card in it when they arrive in each country. That means their number would change and be local to the country, and then they’d have a number on Skype or Google Voice that could be consistent for people back home to call them when they have Internet access. Chad and I did something similar when we spent our month in Europe in 2010. We bought a Europe-specific cell phone that we used while we were there.
Google has fixed this headache with its Project Fi, a cellular plan that offers unlimited talk and text in the US and $10 per GB data. The best part is, it works exactly the same internationally, except that calls are 20 cents per minute. So we’ll still have unlimited texting and extremely cheap data without changing our phone numbers and can do our longer calls home via Skype or What’s App.
The only downside to Google Fi is that it only works with certain phones. Chad and I purchased a pair of the cheapest option, the Moto X4 (though he was awfully tempted by the Pixel). I’ve already switched over to the Fi plan and love it. I’ll keep you posted on whether it works as well internationally as they say.
The other big key to our plan is getting credit cards and bank accounts that don’t have international fees attached. We’re not closing any of our local accounts, but have added a checking account that offers free international ATM withdrawals and a credit card with no foreign transaction fees that is also earning points to use on travel (chosen based on recommendations from The Points Guy website). We’ve already accumulated a ton of points from our everyday purchases (over $1,000 worth!), which we’ve used to book hotels in some of the more expensive cities we’ll be visiting and our flight this fall from Columbia to Mexico City. My one regret is not signing up for a points credit card sooner.
These are the main tools making our life of travel a little bit easier. If you have any questions about any of them, I’m happy to try to answer or point you to where I did my research.