When I visited home in October after finishing my 3.5-year South America trip, I spent $500 dollars in just one week. The cost of living in the Philippines is way cheaper than any country I have been to so I wondered, “how the f%$ck did that happen when I can easily last 1.5 months out there with this amount?”
I recently hired writers for my ‘other’ job and asked them about their salary in their current work. This is just protocol. It’s for the purpose of knowing if we can afford to hire employees full-time. 98% of them answered $500.00USD per month and it’s not the net worth. They probably get $350 when they are taxed.
I was shocked. These people are required to go to the office on a daily basis, pay for food and transportation, and on top of that, they also pay for a monthly rent. I don’t want to compute what’s left with their salaries but this is totally unacceptable because these people are very talented and deserve more. I am actually surprised how they can manage to travel!
Two years ago, I wrote the article How I can afford a life of travel because I got sick of the people who kept accusing me of being an heiress to a Royal Family. Okay, I’m not from a poor family either but what made people think that out of 7 children, I will be the ‘lucky’ one to be sent off for an indefinite world travel? From my parents, I learned how to be independent and fend for myself. We weren’t required to give them money on a monthly basis (as per Filipino culture), but we are required to be responsible for ourselves, have our own place to live and spend for the lifestyle we choose to have. In my case, I chose to travel for an indefinite time. As long as I am able to support it, my parents never said a word. I am emotionally and morally supported.
My financial capabilities have stretched further through long term travel and here’s why:
1. I don’t pay rent.
At 28, I still don’t long for my own place and I think it’s good. I am freakishly obsessive compulsive with the things I spend on and somehow, paying rent is total bollocks for me. I don’t feel its importance. It doesn’t apply to everyone though. For most people, it’s comfortable to have their own space. But I have done amazing things from not paying rent: I’ve lived with a lot of local families abroad and most of my hosts gave me my own room in exchange for something cultural like cooking and language learning. I mean, that isn’t so bad at all, right?
Couchsurfing also played a big role in my traveling. Though it’s the most uncomfortable, I have made friends all over the world and believe me, it’s so easy to travel now that I have friends everywhere — even in Madagascar.
Every now and then, I am able to stay in 5-star hotels (my favourites are from Indonesia), thanks to this blog. It might look luxurious but it’s not my favourite type of accommodation. It’s good to stay in a fancy hotel suite but I get very lonely because there are no other people to interact with but rich people. I was actually never happy conversing with them compared to those rock ‘n roll nights drinking cheap beers in the gutters of Medellin. I am happy I can adjust to both.
When I don’t stay with local families, Couchsurf or get sponsored in a luxurious hotel, I pay for a hostel bed around $7-$10 USD per night, tops. This is also where I met the rowdiest, craziest and most amazing people I know in my life.
I remember the year when I saved over $4,000 USD on accommodations by doing all these. I was surprised, shocked even. I don’t have this amount and I am sure if I am living somewhere, I would be paying more than that for rent.
2. Food is cheaper and easier.
When I was living in Hong Kong and Manila, I would spend a minimum of $15.00 USD per meal and that’s not even a super nice restaurant. That is, if you are following a strict budget. But these two cities are home to a very active food scene, on most days, I couldn’t help but try them all. I would also say that peer influence plays a big role in the food you choose to eat when you have a home. If you have a daily routine, you can always have the “I worked hard today, I deserve this meal” excuse to justify your poor financial decisions.
Out here is different. For every time I am in another country, food has always been exceptional because it’s legit, dude! In Hong Kong and Manila, you go to specialty cuisines when you are tired of Chinese and Filipino food. For example, there are a lot of exceptional Latin American restaurants in Central. When I was in LatAm, I had the first hand experience of knowing what Argentine, Colombian, Mexican, Guatemalan, Brasilian etc food were like — for an extremely cheap price (i.e. $5.00 USD per meal).
Again, living with host families gave me the opportunity not just to eat local food but also the chance to know how they cook. I don’t have any culinary background and I’m often called a skinny Asian but I love food and cooking! You cannot imagine how much gastronomic experiences I’ve involved myself for being out here. It has been amazing! Whenever I visit home, my friends will write countries in small sheets of paper, put them in a jar and whatever I pull out, that’s the dish I will have to cook. Most of their choices are Israeli, Mexican and South African. I find joy in cooking and sharing all these dishes to friends and family. My learning, from these locals, FYI, are for free. I don’t pay for anything but I always offer to chip in for the ingredients. For every time, they would offer me an Ivy League hospitality and say, “No. You are a guest.”
Thanks to this blog again, I am always invited to numerous food tastings of expensive restaurants, powered by Michelin starred chefs. I really love it because just recently, I discovered my talent of writing about food. It has been exhilarating to know things about myself this way!
When I have a home, I always have the “eat fancy now, cup noodles later” kind of attitude. I am sick of that practice. All the years I am traveling, I realised I am happy when I eat well. Very well, I must say. I don’t need to spend so much, above all.
3. Having a “home” hinders my growth.
“Maybe you are just in the wrong group of friends,” a blogger friend of mine said when I ranted about not feeling well when I was in the Philippines. But no, it’s not the people. It’s not what they do. It’s everything in general. Okay, the people played a big part but I have long-time best friends back home whom I am always happy to be with. I cannot explain that feeling of having zero growth opportunity. And I am not talking about career. It’s about how I feel. Something did not feel right. The thing is, I never had that feeling while I was constantly on the move.
But I will never deny the fact that I considered to move to Hong Kong for good. I mean, that’s a good start, right? To find a place that I have strong feelings for has been really challenging. You are all familiar about how deeply inlove I am in living in Hong Kong. It’s a city that I felt comfortable in because I am an artist — artists, people who create are fit to live in HK. But that’s another story. It deserves another blog post.
It has taken me so many years to be okay with being different, and with being this alive, this intense.
Being out here is also motivating. I discover more about myself and the things I want to pursue. I am constantly surprised about the unlimited creative juice that I produce when I am out here. Ideas just keep popping. My brain is always working. My body always wants to try new (and extreme) things. Challenging myself motivates me to brew amazing things.
The thing that surprised me the most? The ability to become fluent in a language I have never spoken or heard before. I tried this when I was in a Spanish Restaurant in Siargao. I was in a table with other Spanish lads but I wasn’t speaking. Just observing because I was just a plus one to my old mate from Barcelona. They were talking about so much bulls*&ht about drugs and women. My mate asked me in Spanish, “are you okay?” When I answered back fluently, all the people on the table stopped talking and just looked at me. Wow, a Chinese girl fluently speaking Spanish, together with the I-can’t-believe-what-I-am-seeing-and-hearing-what-the-fuck-faces. My fluency in all Latin languages also helped me transact business with colleagues in Hong Kong and Greater China. It’s so amazing to be looked at and treated with professionalism and respect.
Meeting different kinds of people has also been my learning ground. People with no homes, no money in their bank accounts and didn’t finish school but have so much story to tell — I am constantly motivated by the people I met on the road. They are actually the reasons why and how I learned to live a life of travel. The people I met on the road have become my close friends. They are everything!
But wait, Trisha. We don’t have a blog! We can’t do long-term travel like you!
Sure, this blog has provided me everything to comfortably live a life of travel but I want to repeat this to everyone: I did not get this easily. I worked hard for this. I am pretty sure you can put up your own blog too! Remember, we all have stories to tell. Our lives are all unique and different. All human life will never have the exact same experience, I tell you that! Even if it’s not blogging, maybe you can find other ways, according to your skills, to make it work? You can find some concrete skill examples in this article.
Don’t worry about the money, just make it work.
Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be.
So this is for all the people who are wondering how I do this. Believe me, you spend more than what I spend on a monthly basis. Hence, I can’t afford to stop traveling. But we will never know! Life happens everyday and one day, I might learn how to have a boyfriend, get married, have kids and settle down. For now, I am not thinking about that yet. My life has been astounding! It still is.
Whatever you want to pursue, even if it’s not traveling the world, please, I ask of you, make your life spectacular.
Are you also a long-term traveler? Or maybe you are a full-time employee who is surprised about how I spend less? Would love to know your thoughts! Leave your ideas, reactions, feelings, etc on the comment box below!