Traveling to Save Money and Working Remotely

October 3, 2016


Yes, you read that right. What kind of crazy upside-down world have you stumbled upon here if someone is claiming he can be in a better position financially while traveling than staying at home?

To me and many other travelers – even those who do base themselves in the US full time – the answer is obvious, but I’ll break it down for those who work a 9-to-5 thinking there are no other options, and those who have bought into the idea that travel, all travel, is an extravagance.

Take a good look at your monthly expenses. No matter where you are in the country, there are some givens: you’re paying for rent, transportation, cell phone, food, entertainment, etc. Maybe a mortgage, car, insurance, and education. In and of themselves, these are necessities: you need a place to sleep, you need food and water, you need distractions to cope with the fact there are days you want to stab yourself in the eye to avoid your job.

Travelers have the same needs – food, shelter, leisure – but how we go about getting them is our advantage. Rather, we’re able to find comfort in a variety of environments; what would aggravate or make luxury travelers weary is our bread and butter. On a certain level, this makes sense: many tourists can only be calm and enjoy their trip if they have a fancy secure hotel with meals guaranteed not to disrupt their sensitive gastrointestinal tract. I enjoy five-star hotels and nice dinners with the best of them, but I can find just as much satisfaction sleeping in a $10/night bungalow after a street food dinner in Thailand.

San Francisco, New York City, and Honolulu are prime examples. As much as you might feel you’re staying afloat in cities like these, unless you’re making over six figures, you’re not going to get ahead. Not without making some serious sacrifices and living in a way upon which those around you may frown. Wages are high here, but rent is higher. As much as I can see the appeal of living in cities like these where there are more opportunities to socialize, network, and work a variety of jobs, it’s tough going.

I was able to get out of debt living in San Francisco, but that involved me living in an illegal sublet in a bad part of town, with roommates that made me want to consider murder.

The point is, obviously, that living in America can be expensive. No matter where you live, rent is probably your #1 expense. So what if I had the ability to take that out of the equation? If you could work the same job in another country in which the cost of living is reduced by 60-80%, wouldn’t you want to?

For some people, the answer is still no. I can’t say I blame them. Despite the costs, the quality of life in the US is pretty good, so I can’t fault people for wanting to be comfortable.

For me, it comes down to numbers. It’s the reason I refuse certain jobs even though I may desperately need the money. If I work for less than a fair wage, I might as well not work at all. Consider the minimum wage in a city like San Francisco: $13/hr. That is figuratively worthless when you deduct state and federal taxes. Less than $10/hr in a city where the price of a one-bedroom can easily exceed $3000/month. Now look at the average salary of English teachers in Thailand: 30,000-40,000 Baht/month. Less than $1000, for working five days a week. $250/week. $50/day. Of course, this money is more than enough to live on in Thailand, but even in those terms, I have a hard time convincing myself I’m not wasting my time. I can write travel articles and get more income than that.

This is my experiment for the next two months as I travel to Cambodia and Thailand: making the income from my remote jobs last and seeing if I can not just survive, but thrive. I’ll be spending more time on the Internet than I’d like, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to avoid spending more money in the US.

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One Response to Traveling to Save Money and Working Remotely

  1. […] does this mean for me, a traveler? Continuing my quest to find the right balance working remotely. Returning to teach English in Asia. Becoming a permanent resident or citizen in a stable country, […]

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