The Career Path Less Traveled

I’m proud to announce that this blog will feature a new, regular contributor. David King was a colleague and remains a friend, and there were many days where I envied him for his bravery to leave work to pursue a more meaningful life full of travel. David will bring a new perspective on travel, one the regular “luxury resort” type of travel I normally discuss. – Travel Summary

David King is a young adventurer seeking to make the most of his dollars abroad.  After completing his degree in Economics, he worked for a consulting company for just a year and a half before the travel bug enticed him to leave.  After teaching English for a year in South Korea he is traveling and documenting his experiences as a free lance writer.  He is currently backpacking through South America, studying Spanish, and indulging in the local cuisines for a fraction of the normal cost.  David takes his time in each location he visits to get a feel for the city, people, and lifestyle.

Ask almost anyone what they would do if they won the lottery and nine times out of ten the first thing you hear is travel the world.  This blog has done a good job of debunking the myth that world travel is reserved only for the wealthy.  I aim to take the dream one step further and not only show you that it is possible to travel long term for much cheaper than you are living now, but also to entice you to take action.

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Travel long term, you ask?  Perhaps you are lucky enough to have four or five weeks of vacation per year, but of course it would be impossible to take that many consecutive weeks off.  How on earth do I propose you travel long term?  Let me convince you that long term travel is not only possible on a budget, it’s the greatest liberation possible from an oppressively expensive and monotonous lifestyle trapped indoors for 50+ hours a week.  This post is primarily about a change in mentality, lifestyle, and priorities.  Think about your life, how long you will live, and what you hope to experience.  If you could do absolutely anything next week, what would you do?  I highly doubt you answered that you would go to work per usual.  If not, then consider that you do have a choice and you must make your choice every week, every day.  We all have a finite amount of time on this majestic planet and it’s imperative that we savor every moment of life. I can’t even begin to list the countless excuses that are keeping you shackled to your desk.  In 85 years of life, how important do you think $15,000 really will be?  How detrimental to your career would it be to quit your job and travel the world for a year?  When you’re actually too old to travel anymore, reflecting on the years of your life, do you seriously think you’ll regret quitting your job and traveling?  Or worse, will you regret making so many excuses and not living your life the way you wish you had?  I implore you to consider the later as an inexcusable tragedy.  Yes, traveling long term will cost money, however I think it can be cheaper than many expect.  I’m currently unemployed, living and loving life in Lima, Peru.  Let’s take a look at real life figures comparing cost of living per week in Lima versus Los Angeles.

Weekly expenses:

Categories Lima Los Angeles
Apartment $100 $250
Food $100 $150
Transportation $5 $150
Entertainment $40 $100
Miscellaneous $155 $30
Utilities $0 $25
Total $400 $655

I’m currently staying in a homestay with a lovely couple in a 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom home.  Only the master bedroom and my bedroom are occupied so there is more than enough room in the apartment, which is approximately 1,200 square feet.  For $400 per month I am living 5 minutes walking distance from the grand Pacific Ocean in the nicest neighborhood of Lima, Miraflores.  Anything in such proximity to the ocean in Los Angeles is a multi-million dollar estate that would fetch much more than the going rate here.

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I’m keeping myself stimulated with 20 hours of Spanish classes per week at a private Spanish institute (miscellaneous cost).  Take your time abroad to learn a new skill, dance, instrument, or simply do whatever makes you happy.  Budget yourself $150 or less per week, and enhance your life. Yesterday’s lunch consisted of a sizeable ceviche starter with lomo saltado served as the main dish.  The total cost?  12 Peruvian Soles.  At the current exchange rate 12 soles comes out to a whopping $4.27.

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Not bad, right?  How much does it cost to live without a worry in the world – to live as if I had just won the lottery?  It costs $1,600 per month.  Living in Lima is $1,020 cheaper per month than living in Los Angeles, affords me an extra 200 hours per month, and rids me of entirely all stress.  For me, traveling, studying languages, and playing soccer are what make me happy and fulfilled.  There will indubitably come a time when I have to work again but a great perk of traveling is that you never know who you will meet or what opportunities will arise while on the road.   If you are one of the nine out of ten people who answered that you would love to travel the world, please, stop waiting to win the lottery; we both know that isn’t going to happen.  However, do consider what you want do with your time, what you love, what will make you happy, and go out there and do it.  Quit with the excuses, there will never be a better time than now.  You certainly won’t regret being happy.

Comments

  1. Brandon says:

    This is an interesting way to experience a different culture and to have less stress in life. My English teacher from senior year of high school kind of does a hybrid lifestyle. She works as a teacher in San Jose, CA for most of the year, and she takes summers off and travels all over Europe. I also admire the Travel is Free blog. It amazes me that they travel all over the world year-round and their total annual expenses are less than $20,000. On the other hand, I know that it’s definitely realistic, especially since there are some expenses that come with stationary living in the US that you don’t have when living abroad.

    I have four main concerns to this type of lifestyle. Oftentimes, it’s not so much excuses that people have, it’s just that there are some great aspects of living in the US and some discomforts when it comes to living abroad. How do you earn income in a foreign country? No matter how cheap it is, living abroad is only sustainable if you can earn enough income to meet your basic needs. I’ve heard that one of the main ways to do it is teaching English, which I guess would work out.

    Also, how is your social life when you don’t know the language? If getting to know people is incredibly difficult, then being lonely would be as stressful, if not more stressful, than having a difficult job in the US.

    How do you transportation in a foreign country; is it easy to buy a car or cheap to regularly rent a car? One aspect of living in the US that I don’t want to give up is the freedom to go wherever I want without having to conform to public transit routes and schedules, pay astronomical cab fares, or pay astronomical car rental rates. If it’s easy to ask friends or the couple you live with for a ride wherever you want, then I guess that partially makes up for it. It still wouldn’t be as good as owning a car.

    Assuming you can retain US citizenship when living abroad, how feasible would it be to do app-o-ramas and manufactured spending when living in a foreign country? My idea would be to ask a friend or family member in the US if I can use his address when signing up for credit cards, and then make him an authorized user on the card so he can do manufactured spending for me. Another option is I can order Visa gift cards or American Express gift cards online, have them shipped to his address, and ask him to liquidate them for me. The challenge would be if you have a low income in a foreign country, it might be more difficult to get approved for credit cards and have high credit limits. If I were to live in a foreign country, I would really want to continue to have app-o-rama and manufactured spending opportunities.

    • Brandon says:

      Also, to add to the second question, even if you know the language, it might still be hard to get to know people.

    • David King says:

      You are definitely correct. The US is a great country with a lot of comforts that we take for granted. With that said however, the more places I visit, the more I realize other countries are cleaner, safer, and more advanced than I may have been previously led to believe in the US media. I have taught English in a foreign country and that is a great way to travel and make money. I’m also advocating a model and lifestyle much like you mentioned with regards to your teacher in which I plan to travel for extended periods at a time and then work for periods at a time. To me, it’s about taking many smaller “retirements” while I’m young as opposed to slaving away and saving it all for when I’m old.

      Social life is also a tricky aspect and as you mentioned, even if you do know the language it can still be difficult. This is really about how social you are as a person and how willing you are to make the first effort. I’m living with two locals and they have been a great resource for going out and introducing me to their friends. I’ve made great friends in other countries via language exchange websites as well. Never underestimate the amount of people who can speak English and even more so the amount of people who want to learn English. Obviously if you opt to stay in a hostel there will be an infinite amount of people you can meet too. I’ve found that just by being different, others will be curious in your story and where you come from. You may just have to make the first move to get to know someone.

      Depending on where you go, Eastern Asia for example, public transportation can be top notch. It’s cheap, accessible, and efficient. I love driving as well but it’s liberating to be without a car and still have no problems getting around. In other places it can be more difficult but simply ask for help. There are bus routes that will take you almost anywhere. When you’re abroad it seems you can allocate more time to moving around because you are typically less tied to a set schedule and it’s all part of the adventure. Taxis are surprisingly cheap as well in many parts of the world. It’s hard to imagine a life without a car back in the States but it hasn’t been an issue while abroad.

      Of course you can keep your U.S. citizenship. In fact, it’d be quite difficult to give it up I think. You are correct it would be a little more difficult to do manufactured spending especially without a stable income. It’s definitely feasible though based on some of the things you suggested. When I was in Korea, I signed up for the Chase Mileage Plus Explorer card, had it sent to my parent’s house and they simply mailed it to my address in Korea. It wasn’t too big of a deal. You’ll also find that once in you are in a new situation, no matter what the context, you find a way to overcome your obstacles and that is ultimately one of the greatest personal growth aspects about constantly traveling.

      I wish you the best! Thanks for reading.

  2. Excellent article!

  3. Mike Rokyo says:

    Hi David. I enjoyed reading your article. Perhaps instead of advocating for expatriation itself, you could see it as an expansion of the world as now having a group of global citizens. For years, many in Japan, England, Germany, Italy , Israel and countless others for business reasons have had to shift their lives so as to provide service to American and English customers ( as well as swiss, russian, egyptian, iranian, turkish, well you get the idea) . It isn’t the world vs living in the United States ( we’ll accept the fact that you’re using Los Angeles as your basis for what the entire United States is) .

    It’s simply that the United States needs to develop people who can relate daily in foreign markets more successfully. Just my thoughts on a larger matter than your blog addressed. I do however love all the suggestions you have, because I myself am the type of person who may actually use your suggestions. But it’s important to remember that most people are not, even if most of your ‘readers’ may be. Well at least it’s important to me. Have a great time traveling and stay safe. Hope to continue to read your contributions.

    • David King says:

      Hey Mike. Thanks for your comment. I definitely agree with your perspective. The world has been transforming into a more global community for a long time now. My sentiments remain the same no matter where you are from, however yes I am using the US and Los Angeles as my personal reference point. I’ll keep it in mind for future posts to stay more “hometown” neutral. Cheers!

  4. My nephew is in Bali for the last 6 weeks. He now has Dengue fever and Typhoid fever and been in the hospital for days. Thousands were spent on vaccinations prior to the trip and these diseases are not at or not well addressed by those. What health insurance do you have?
    I know a couple that traveled the world for 7 years and only at the end did a health issue come up that was serious.

    • David King says:

      Wow, I’m really sorry to hear that. That is awful and really unfortunate. I’m wishing your nephew a speedy recovery. Unfortunately unlucky medical incidents can occur anywhere in the world and it may not always be covered by insurance. I’m covered under my parents insurance (as I am not yet 26) but even so I am not covered for anything that is not life threatening while abroad. I had an incident where my front teeth were knocked out while abroad and I had to pay out of pocket for the hospital visit and new teeth. Amazingly and fortunately, medical expenses are relatively cheap in Korea. It’s definitely important to ensure you have the right insurance for your needs whether you’re traveling or not. Again, I’m wishing your nephew a speedy recovery.

  5. I’m curious how you met this nice, apparently relatively affluent, couple in Lima.

    • David King says:

      As I mentioned in the article, I’m studying Spanish at a private language academy. They offered an elective placement in a homestay so I decided to try it out and I definitely feel like I hit the jackpot. Based on what other people have told me at the school though, they also have been really satisfied with their homestays. The school is called Peruwayna if you’re interested for future reference. I feel that anyone living in Miraflores will be relatively affluent considering it is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Lima.

  6. Took that same pic! Awesome vistas along that coast and a great tennis group there.
    Why no mention of Barranco? A great place to spend a cold Febuary.
    Bring a bike if possible.
    It’s like many places in south am. You can be smart and find a deal or spend as much as you want…

    • David King says:

      Hey Jeff. You’re right, Barranco is a great neighborhood in Lima with a lot of character and a bohemian sort of vibe. There are a lot of neat places to talk about in Lima and as a first article I wasn’t even trying to scratch the surface in that regard. I was simply using Lima as an example of a cool place you could live in for a fraction of the cost as a large city in the US. Of course, as you pointed out, you can get fancy if you really try to!

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