30 Ways in 30 Days

30 Ways in 30 Days – Day Twenty Nine: Testing the Waters

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After you’ve done all the research, chosen your top few destinations and finally gotten up the courage to take the plunge, there’s another step that you may want to consider before you actually settle down in a city to live like a local. If you’ve been there on vacation that’s one thing, but if you’ve never been to a city before you run the risk of being unsatisfied with the realities of being on the ground as a location independent digital nomad, and the last thing you want to do is settle in for a six month (or longer) stay if you aren’t even sure if you will enjoy your chosen city.

Testing the waters is a good idea if you haven’t ever partaken of the location independent lifestyle. If you are a veteran digital nomad you have already mastered the art of flexibility and learning to let go, which means you can live like a local in any city of the world and have an enjoyable time because this is your lifestyle; you love adventure, excitement and experiencing new cultures and people. But if you are a newbie to the location independent lifestyle you could be in for a severe round of culture shock and homesickness after only a few weeks if you don’t enjoy the location.

There are numerous ways to experience a city for the first time. Perhaps the oldest tried-and-true method is staying in hostels. They are far cheaper than hotels and these days you are hard-pressed to find a hostel that doesn’t have air conditioning, hot water and high-speed Internet, which means you have all the amenities of a hotel at half the price. The amenities do vary depending on the hostel in question, but you can always find half a dozen highly-rated hostels in any given city that have all the amenities you need. Hostels are ideal because the people who work there are usually multi-lingual and they are locals who are more than happy to show you around their city, plus you can group up with other travelers and do things as a group if you prefer, or maybe even meet up with a veteran traveler who has spent time in your chosen city.

One of the newer options to come out of the past few years is CouchSurfing. If you haven’t heard about it yet, CouchSurfing is another social media outlet. It is set up for locals who have a spare couch or bed to be a host for travelers, and you–as the traveler–can search through the available hosts to find someone you think you might get along with and send them a query. Not only is it a great way to meet locals who have a place for you to lay your head for a few days, but it’s also a great way to get involved in the local communities because CouchSurfing also has forums where events are scheduled for expats and locals alike, giving you the chance to experience life as a local even if you are only in town for a few days.

TravBuddy is similar to CouchSurfing except that it is set up primarily as a way to find traveling partners, or people who are going to be in the same place you are going at the same time. However, there are also a lot of local people who have profiles up on TravBuddy, and the forums also contain a wealth of information ranging from people offering to host to apartment rentals and house swaps. They also have hotel, hostel and restaurant reviews from the travelers on the website, plus plenty of traveling photos, which means you can get an insider’s point of view on places around the world.

Any of these options are good, but the goal is to go to your chosen destination and spend a week or to immersing yourself in the environment to test the waters and see if you think you will actually enjoy a long-term stay. There’s nothing wrong with diving headlong into the soup if you have a strong constitution and don’t mind a challenge, but if it’s your first time you may want to take it slow to ensure you don’t have a bad experience that sours you on the location independent digital nomad lifestyle.

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30 Ways in 30 Days – Day Twenty Eight: Local Markets

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I’ve personally found over the years that you can save roughly 50 percent on your grocery bill by shopping at local markets. When I say local markets I mean the open-air, bazaar-style markets where you wander through an open area of stalls and stands that are set up with the wares being sold. People from the U.S. and the U.K. will recognize these as farmers’ markets, and while they can be found in the U.S., and are still fairly common on the weekends in various market towns throughout the U.K., for the most part they are relegated to once a month or once a week, depending on where you live. What you find in many of the other countries of the world is open markets that are open every single day.

Stimulating the local economy is all well and good, but one of the primary reasons to shop at the local markets for things you need is because the prices are drastically reduced. Produce is always significantly cheaper in local markets than it is at the supermarkets, as is local hand-made clothing such as scarves, shirts, sandals, jewelry and more. While you can’t find everything you need at local markets (if you want a computer you are still going to need to buy through a retailer; the same with a digital camera), you will generally be able to find all of your necessities via the local markets, allowing you to save money.

You can find a lot of different things at local markets above and beyond simply food, however. If you are keen on blending in than these markets are the best place to find clothing, ranging from hand-made versions of things to cheap knockoffs of designer clothing. Pants, shirts, sweaters, scarves, sandals, shoes and beyond, the clothing will always be cheaper than it is in the retailers, much like groceries are always cheaper at these markets. You can also find knockoff watches, wallets and various other sundries. However, while you can find just about anything you need for your day-to-day living via the local markets, it is the produce and food that make the local markets such a find when you are living like a local as a digital nomad.

Produce in the open markets is almost always local, which means you are getting it as fresh as fresh can be. While some of you may not be sticklers for it, I’m personally one of those people who prefers eating fresh food and produce whenever I can, and I always buy fresh above canned. I’ve been following the Mediterranean Diet now since January of 2008 and there’s just no comparison when it comes to the fresh produce you can get at the local markets for use in salads and other dishes. You can also find breads, cheeses, meats and beyond, always at a discount compared to the supermarkets and always fresher.

To give you an idea of the kind of money you can save, back in Colorado as of 2007 I was spending roughly 250 to 300 dollars per month for groceries, and that was using coupons and shopping for discounts at various supermarkets so I could get the best deals. Since I’ve been living abroad as a location independent digital nomad I’ve cut my grocery bill down to around 150 dollars per month. For those of you who have been following along for some time you know that I eat healthy, but I also eat well. When you can pick up a few kilos worth of vegetables for a few dollars versus spending several dollars on a single piece of “organic” produce back in the U.S., you can literally live on three to five dollars a day and yet have three well-cooked meals per day including snacks in between. I eat a lot of fish, chicken, salads, breads, cheeses, yogurt, fruits and beyond, and once or twice a month I’ll break down and do some red meat or some lean pork.

It’s possible to go even lower than 100 dollars per month if you are a vegan, but it depends on your personal tastes. The point is, part of living like a local is shopping like the locals do, and the more you explore the more you will find that no matter where you go in the world outside of the U.S and the U.K. people are doing the majority of their shopping at the local markets when it comes to the day-to-day things such as food and sundries. When you can save so much money and get the freshest food available while at the same time supporting the local market and economy, you really can’t go wrong.

Don’t forget to sign up for our free newsletter for several-times-a-week, your-eyes-only travel and entrepreneur tips, plus receive a complimentary copy of our 85-page starter book on location independence and living abroad, 30 Ways in 30 Days.

With over 1,500 copies sold, our flagship 568-page eBook is what started it all. Learn how to travel the world like I do: without a budget, with no plans, funded completely by your website and online ventures.

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30 Ways in 30 Days – Day Twenty Seven: Negotiation

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Everyone is familiar with the basics of negotiation. It’s bargaining 101. While it is not commonly used in commercial settings such as malls and plazas or grocery stores where bar-codes and regulated trade exist, once you step outside of the regulated businesses there is a wide open world of deals and bargains to be had…provided you have the skills to take advantage of them.

Negotiation is a life skill, something that you can use wherever you go in the world. However, while it is a beneficial skill that can help you live like a local no matter what city you choose to call home, there are a few aspects of negotiation that you must consider before you dive headlong into it. There’s a certain protocol to negotiating things properly and knowing how to go about it can save you from potentially offending someone or making an ass out of yourself in a situation that could otherwise have been avoided.

First off, you have to understand when you can and cannot negotiate. The aforementioned commercial settings are a good example of places that traditionally do not accept bargaining because everything is bar-coded and tracked and in the system, which means the general workers can’t really give you a deal on anything. But it is possible if you know how to work your magic. For example, you can often get a significant discount on things such as the display units for televisions, furniture and otherwise if you are willing to pay cash up front and take it as-is without a warranty. I’ve used this method to buy things for my apartments in the past and have gotten deals anywhere from 30 to 50 percent off, but you have to talk to the store manager, not the regular clerks. However, bear in mind that negotiating in a commercial setting is fairly rare and you can’t do it very often, and certainly never for groceries. It’s a case-by-case basis in these instances.

Another thing is to know the standard discount you can get when you attempt to negotiate. Once you have settled in to live like a local in your chosen city you should always ask your neighbors, landlord, taxi drivers and other local people what the going rate is for discounts. Most of the time it’s between 10 and 20 percent, but it’s not uncommon in some places for you to be able to get a discount of up to 50 percent. However, the level of discount you receive is going to depend on a few factors, such as your language level, whether you are in a tourist bazaar or the local food market and what country you are in. As a general rule the local markets range in the 10 to 20 percent bracket and the tourist markets can range from 30 to 50 percent, because the merchants are counting on tourists with lots of cash who are more than willing to blow it, so they jack their rates up to double what things really are. They aren’t stupid; they know most tourists either don’t speak the language or have no idea what the actual local prices are, so they can get away with highway robbery against the unsuspecting newbies.

There is a basic rule to bargaining as well, and that is to never take things personally. Always be friendly with people even when you are bargaining. Never be rude. Once you know the rates and what to shoot for you can deal with the local merchants on a more even playing field but if someone isn’t willing to budge on their prices you can simply thank them, bid them a good day and go on about your business. There are plenty of other merchants and you don’t need to cause a fuss over something as simple as a slight discount off the price. And if it’s something you absolutely have to have and the merchant won’t budge, you can eat a little bit of crow and pay the full price.

As far as negotiating tips goes, there’s far more than I can cover in a single post, and each one of the Live Like a Local guides includes in-depth information on how to negotiate in the specific city the guide is written for. However, one of the basic things you can do when you head into an open market to look for something specific is simply take your time. Walk around, smile and thank the merchants, check the prices on things, and eventually make your way back to whatever merchant has something you like. At this point you can say something along the lines of, “I like what you have here, but the guy over there has it in X color, and while I’d love to have it in that color if you are willing to sell it to me for Y price….” (where Y is whatever percent you know is appropriate for the local area)

Open markets are a great place to buy bulk, and this is when you get the best discounts. This applies to anything from fruits and vegetables to clothing, shoes, spare parts and beyond. Like scarves and see a merchant selling them for 10 dollars a pop? Tell them you are willing to buy 10 of them if they drop their price to X dollars (depending on local discount) and go from there. As long as you are fair with your rates and don’t ask for a ridiculous discount (which you shouldn’t if you have asked the locals what the rates are) you can always get a good deal no matter where you go in the world.

Don’t forget to sign up for our free newsletter for several-times-a-week, your-eyes-only travel and entrepreneur tips, plus receive a complimentary copy of our 85-page starter book on location independence and living abroad, 30 Ways in 30 Days.

With over 1,500 copies sold, our flagship 568-page eBook is what started it all. Learn how to travel the world like I do: without a budget, with no plans, funded completely by your website and online ventures.

The Expat GuidebookGet Your Copy Today!

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paying less

30 Ways in 30 Days – Day Twenty Six: Paying Less to Enjoy More

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As has been discussed in multiple posts here, one of the major benefits of pursuing a location independent lifestyle as a digital nomad is the ability to save significant amounts of money in comparison to what you could put away in your home country (assuming you are a reader from the U.S., U.K. or similar). But it goes beyond simply cutting your cost of living by more than half; paying less to enjoy more requires a little bit of planning in the initial stages. Beyond that it’s simply a matter of routine.

If you haven’t read my post on how to avoid the high cost of round-trip tickets, I would suggest starting there. This is a great example of paying less to enjoy more. Because you can save literally thousands of dollars on traveling fees by playing it smart you can use your money to pursue other interests once you are on the ground living like a local. Instead of spending 1500 dollars on a round-trip ticket from Denver to Rome (for example), you can pick up a one-way ticket for half the price and instead use that extra 700 dollars or so to go out and explore some of the nicer restaurants, finer wines and all the things you really want to do.

Speaking of Rome, here’s another tip to pay less so you can enjoy more. While not as common in other parts of the world as they are in Europe, you can find campgrounds all around the world. And when I say campgrounds I don’t mean backpacker sites with a space to park your car or camper and a little BBQ pit and maybe some bathrooms. I’m talking full-scale facilities such as what you can find at the Camping Village Roma, which was a place I stayed for a few days in 2009. For €5 per night I had an air-conditioned little bungalow with a queen-sized bed and a full bathroom with hot water and there are multiple facilities on site, ranging from a pool to the restaurant and bar to the grocery store and Internet. 5 euro per night is a far cry from the 100+ euro per night you will pay in Rome itself, and since you are only a 10 minute bus ride away from the subway station you can be in the heart of downtown in minutes, which means you can use that 100 or so euro per day that you would have otherwise spent on a 2 or 3 star hotel to explore the city, the food and the wine.

Negotiation is a skill you have to have if you plan on spending a significant amount of time as a location independent digital nomad, and this is doubly true if you are exploring the Latin countries where the gringo tax applies to anyone who isn’t a dark-skinned, dark-haired, native-speaking Latino. In short, the gringo tax is what the ignorant tourists pay because they don’t know any better, can’t speak the language and don’t pay attention to their money because they are on vacation to blow cash. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel for the local vendors and merchants. But if you are on the ground living like a local you have to pick up negotiation as a life skill. We’ll go into it in more detail in another post but the long and short of it is that if you don’t negotiate you can expect to pay double what the locals are paying for anything ranging from clothing to jewelry to transportation and beyond.

If you follow a few basic rules of the digital nomad lifestyle you can enjoy far more than you would as a first-time novice or tourist, which is vital if you plan on living like a local. Even if you do have the money to pay extra, why would you do so when you can get things for half the price or less? Play it smart and you will be able to see your money go twice as far or beyond.

Don’t forget to sign up for our free newsletter for several-times-a-week, your-eyes-only travel and entrepreneur tips, plus receive a complimentary copy of our 85-page starter book on location independence and living abroad, 30 Ways in 30 Days.

With over 1,500 copies sold, our flagship 568-page eBook is what started it all. Learn how to travel the world like I do: without a budget, with no plans, funded completely by your website and online ventures.

The Expat GuidebookGet Your Copy Today!

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30 Ways in 30 Days – Day Twenty Five: Marijuana, Drugs and You

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“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman

A reality that many individuals do not prepare for before they head out the door to spend time in another country as a location independent digital nomad is that laws and rules that exist in their own country do not necessarily exist in other countries. If you want to live like a local and enjoy your time and experience the depths of cultures from around the world you have to be prepared for the fact that things in other countries are not going to be how they are in yours.

This goes beyond simply a difference in cultures and religions. Many substances that are illegal in your home country will not be illegal where you set down roots to live like a local. Let’s take a look at alcohol and marijuana, as they are a couple of easily-recognized examples.

First off, let’s talk about the United States. You are forced to pay taxes and you can bleed and die for your country all at the ripe age of 18 but you can’t enjoy a beer until you are 21, legally. If you look at the overall list of countries in the world and compare that against the legal drinking age you will find that only around 15 of those countries have a drinking age of 21. The other 170+ countries in the world have varying age requirements ranging from 14 years old up to 20, with 18 years old as the most common drinking age for nearly every country in the world. There are only half a dozen that have 20 years old as the legal age, so there are around 20 countries in the world out of 200 who require you to be 20 or 21.

What does that mean? Well, the long and short of it is that when you go to a place like Italy where the legal drinking age is 16 you are going to have to adjust to the fact that there are going to be teenagers drinking beer. You are also going to have to adjust to the act that your children (should you have any and be traveling with them) are within their legal rights to kick back a cold one with their parents, friends or in any other setting…and there’s not a thing you can do about it. It’s not illegal and it’s not immoral. It’s simply a beer. And if you can’t handle that, you need to go back to the first day of this course and learn to let go, because the customs that exist in other countries are not yours. Just as much as you want other people to respect your customs when they enter your home country, you need to be doing the same for other cultures.

Most digital nomads don’t have a problem with this, but there are always a few up-tight rule-nazis who want to ruin the fun of everyone around them and run around with a little flag proclaiming how immoral and wrong it is for a country to let “minors” drink a beer or consume alcohol. Remember….the rules of your home country don’t apply in others, and your sense of entitlement will get you nowhere because you aren’t in Kansas anymore and your kids aren’t minors in places like Italy. They are adults and completely within their rights to enjoy a brew.

The one that really gets some people going is the legality of marijuana and other so-called drugs. This one varies a bit, and while there are a few sticklers who like to claim that marijuana is evil and bad and users should be punished to the full extent of the law, most countries really don’t care about personal use of drugs. In fact, many countries such as Mexico, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, Colombia and beyond have decriminalized marijuana and many other so-called drugs so you can carry around varying amounts of products ranging from marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, mushrooms, LSD, hash and beyond. In Mexico, for example, you can have up to 5 grams of weed on your person, while in Peru you can have up to a full quarter (8 grams) on your person and not have to worry about the police. In addition you can generally smoke in public without being hassled by anyone. This leads to many foreigners having a conniption fit when they are walking down the street and see someone smoking or taking something that is illegal in their home country.

If you are someone who partakes there are a variety of countries you can live like a local in where you can enjoy your particular favorite without any hassle or issues. If you are a hard-liner who thinks that all mind-altering substances should be made illegal with possession and use punishable, you need to re-think your location independent strategy until you can handle dealing with the fact that things which are illegal in your home country may not be wherever you are planning to go. Learn to let go and you will find your time far more enjoyable. And who knows…maybe if you pull the stick out, kick back, roll up a fat one and burn with the locals you might find yourself enjoying a part of life that you never knew existed before.

Don’t forget to sign up for our free newsletter for several-times-a-week, your-eyes-only travel and entrepreneur tips, plus receive a complimentary copy of our 85-page starter book on location independence and living abroad, 30 Ways in 30 Days.

With over 1,500 copies sold, our flagship 568-page eBook is what started it all. Learn how to travel the world like I do: without a budget, with no plans, funded completely by your website and online ventures.

The Expat GuidebookGet Your Copy Today!

Unplug from The System, cure yourself of The Greedy Bastard Syndrome, tap into your universal potential and create your own reality. Build a brand, travel the world and realize your cosmic consciousness.

Beyond Borders - The Social RevolutionGet Your Copy Today!