Expat Lifestyle

Melnik, Bulgaria

Five Reasons to Live Abroad

Posted by | Expat Lifestyle, Freedom, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 19 Comments

For many people, the glamour of travel is that it is the chance to explore new destinations and experience new cultures and places that allow them the opportunity to step out of the 9-to-5 routine work grind and enjoy a little downtime for a couple of weeks. Some prefer hiking mountains and volcanoes, while others enjoy lounging on the beach, kayaking down a river somewhere or enjoying a 5-star stay in a world-class destination like Paris or Rome.

For these folks, vacation is as close as they think they will ever come to experiencing “the good life”. But if you are one of those who, like me, want to enjoy “the good life” on a regular basis, there are numerous reasons why you choose to live in a foreign country and city for prolonged periods of time. It’s actually quite difficult to narrow the list down to just a few, but for the sake of space (and your eyes!) I have chosen what I think are the top five reasons people should choose to live abroad. Read More

Puerto Morelos

Making the transition

Posted by | Expat Lifestyle, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 9 Comments

Some people say that the hardest part of traveling the world is acquiring the mindset that nothing else matters as much as the journey. Possessions are nothing more than additional baggage, and baggage does nothing but weigh you down, slowing your enjoyment and detracting from the overall experience. The actual journey to the place where you reduce your consumption of unnecessary extras and transition from 9-to-5 slave into someone who no longer lives by a daily routine takes a major shift in priorities, not to mention complete dedication and commitment into becoming a new person who no longer views a singular city as their home. And for many people, that shift in priorities brings to light one of the greatest challenges you will face in your transition from slave-to-the-clock into a location independent digital nomad and international vagabond: fear.

Human beings fear change. This is an undeniable fact. In some cases it is justified. Such as when you are learning how to swim for the first time, and you are terrified of the water because you don’t believe you can survive the experience. In others, it is simply a way of thinking that is born out of years of brainwashing regarding the way things are “meant to happen”, the way things are “supposed to be”. The American Dream, working the 9-to-5 job, buying a house in the burbs, having a cozy family with a few kids, driving the latest car, having the latest gadgets, the nicest house on the block, the best-landscaped yard, the “My Kid Is On The Honor Roll” bumper sticker, and the hope that one day, when you are 60 years old or so, you will have your house paid off, the kids’ college tuition taken care of, and you will finally have the time to buy a boat and travel the world with your spouse/significant other.

What if you could do all of that now, instead of waiting until you are 60+? What if you could change everything that defines you as the person your workplace and social status want you to be, and transform yourself into a world-travelling expat who makes their home wherever in the world they want it to be, with total and absolute freedom to do what they want, when they want, without anyone telling them what time they need to get up, be at work, go to bed, have dinner or prepare for a commute to work?

What if you could finally become the person you have always wanted to be: a globe-trotting wanderer who explores the nooks and crannies of the planet at their leisure, enjoying international investment opportunities and economic strengths, taking in exotic sights and sounds and flavors and cultures and peoples, all the while indulging in the one thing most human beings have forgotten how to do: live life.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”~ Steve Jobs

Making the Change

Breaking away from the 9-to-5 grind is a calculated transition, and one that–while anyone can undertake–takes careful planning and some forethought. It’s certainly much easier to do if you are someone who is flying solo, or if you are already established as one of those who work remotely via a laptop in whatever your chosen profession is, but it is entirely feasible even if you are someone who is married, attached to a significant other, have a traditional job in a brick-and-mortar location, or even someone who has children and an entire family unit to think about. However, it is not something you can simply jump right into without any forethought or research.

The absolute first thing you need to do before you jump ship and leave your life of drudgery and slavery behind is to research which cities or countries you would like to live in. This is as important as finding countries that have a lowered cost of living because even if you are cutting your costs in half by moving to a specific place, if there is nothing there for you to enjoy, what’s the point of going in the first place?

With that in mind, it is vitally important to pick destinations that speak to your heart. There is no point in going to a country if you aren’t going to enjoy the surroundings or feel at home. If you are a beach fanatic who prefers year-round toes in the sand, a mojito in your hand and the surf lapping at your heels while you kick back and enjoy the combination of sun and sand, places such as Cancun, Mexico or the Bahamas are what you are looking for. Or, if you prefer your winter months filled with skiing the slopes of Bansko while you keep yourself warmed with a bottle of Burgas 69 or your summer months hiking and camping in the rugged outcroppings of the Rhodopes bordering Greece, then Sofia, Bulgaria is a great choice.

Another thing to consider before taking the plunge is making sure you pick cities that have the infrastructure to support you if you are a working professional, or if you are someone with special medical considerations or a family in tow, for example. Choosing cities that have quality medical services, educational facilities and modern amenities are certainly a pre-requisite for many travelers, and rightfully so. While there is a lot to be said for adventure traveling, the whole point of moving and living abroad is to enjoy the same amenities as you did back home, simply at a drastically reduced rate and in a place where you can rest assured that the infrastructure is already in place.

It’s ok to head off into the middle of the mountains, the jungle or on a remote island for weeks or even months at a time if you enjoy that sort of thing, but if you are a working professional, someone with children who need a school system or an elderly individual with a heart condition, you need to know that you have access to the same facilities you did back home. Most people who are looking at setting up foreign residencies need to know that everything will be in place for them to make the transition with as little stress as possible. After all, the whole fear of change in some cases is justified; if you are someone who needs all the amenities a big city can offer, you need to be sure you are looking at countries who have cities which can give you what you need. While it might sound like a great idea to head to Mexico to live for 6 months (or more) out of the year, there is a vast difference between living in Palenque or one of the outlying pueblos versus Mexico City or Cancun.

Cultural understanding

“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

You cannot afford to be culturally ignorant. If you wince at the thought of a 15 year old being able to legally drink, if you cringe when you hear about people in small villages eating the brains of monkeys, if you think that the menus in restaurants in foreign cities should be in English and you want the televisions at the restaurant to show American football instead of real football….you, my friend, have a long road ahead of you before you can successfully make the transition into living like a local in countries around the world.

Respect is a two-way street. You expect foreigners to respect your holidays, speak your language and follow your rules and regulations when they are in your country, so it is only natural that you do the same for them. If you walk into a foreign country with a chip on your shoulder about how you are from a “superior” world power, you will find yourself on the short bus to dissatisfaction, because every aspect of your trip is bound to be plagued with footnotes of you continually complaining about how “nothing is like it is back home”.

The whole point to living like a local in foreign destinations is to take advantage of their cultures while at the same time enjoying the drastically reduced cost of living that allows you the opportunity to improve your quality of life. But if you cannot look past the cultural differences and you continually look down your nose at the locals because of their traditions, society and culture, you should never have left your home country in the first place.

Cultural understand is perhaps the absolute most important aspect of making the transition into a location independent digital nomad. The old saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” is absolute valid and correct. You are on their turf. Their rules apply. Learn their language, follow their rules, celebrate their festivals, immerse yourself in their culture.

Appreciate time for what it is

“Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty-his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.” – Aldous Huxley

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

Your everyday life is the buzzing of the alarm clock, the morning routine, the commute to work, the 9-to-5 grind, the 40 hour work weeks, the two weeks of paid vacation per year, the mortgage, the car payment, the credit cards, the health insurance, the car insurance, the gas for the car, the cable payment, the cell phone payment, the taxes, the limited number of sick days per year you are allowed to take before you lose your job, the stress over missing an extra day of work when your spouse/significant other really needs you but you can’t miss another day because you need the income so desperately, coming home and only having the energy and time to take a quick shower, eat fast food, lay on the couch for a couple of hours before you need to get to bed and repeat the exact same routine over and over and over.

My everyday life is getting up when my body tells me it’s time. I lay in bed pondering whether or not I should go to the beach today, hike the mountains, head off into the jungle, spend a few hours at a cafe, wander the parks or plazas or maybe work out and do a little bit of work on the laptop. I get up, I make some coffee, I check my emails in between intervals while I work out, I take my time preparing a healthy breakfast, never once looking at the clock (I haven’t worn a watch in years, and I haven’t used an alarm in over 4), doing a little bit of work while I cook. I settle in to only work for a couple of hours, then I look out the window and see what kind of weather it is today before I finalize my decision on beach, mountains, jungle ruins or cafe. I decide I’ll head to the beach for a few hours, after which I’ll catch a late lunch/early dinner at my favorite cafe and spend a couple more hours there before I come home, take a shower, have a nap, wake up, call a few friends, see what they are doing, and decide whether or not I want to head to a local culture event with some local dancing, or maybe a moonlit walk on the beach, or a midnight hike in one of my favorite parks or canyons. Eventually, I feel sleepy and I decide to call it a night. I don’t know what time it is, only that my body is telling me I need sleep. I come home, crawl into my bed, and I sleep softly, soundly, uncaring of what tomorrow might bring. When I awake, I lay in bed pondering whether or not I should go to the beach today, hike the mountains, head off into the jungle, spend a few hours at a cafe, wander the parks or plazas or maybe get a little bit of work done on the laptop….

If you had to compare the two, which do you think is the lifestyle every person on this planet wants to live?

Exactly.

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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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Marginal Boundaries

Live Like A Local 101

Posted by | Expat Lifestyle, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | One Comment

The advent of the Internet has opened the doors for a whole new generation of globe-trekkers, but just as it was true in the days of yesteryear, those with the most location-specific information have the best chances of making their money go further and truly seeing a destination for all it is worth, rather than only barely scratching the surface in terms of what is actually there to experience.

There are a number of issues which plague most first-time visitors to a city or country, not the least of which is the fact that you generally stick out like a sore thumb if you are wandering around with a guidebook, gawking at every street corner and snapping pictures like it’s the first time you’ve ever operated a camera. Which leads to the following: street vendors hollering at you in broken English to buy their wares, taxi drivers whistling at you from street-side, attempting to get you to take a ride in their taxi where they then charge you triple the rate they charge locals, restaurant hosts and hostesses assaulting you with menus and every person on the street looking at you as if you are a dollar sign. In short, everyone is trying to get you for a few dollars because to them, those few dollars are worth three to four times more than what they are to you. But there is a way to avoid all of this happening to you: transition from visitor to local.

The difference between visitor and local

Probably the most important aspect of transitioning from visitor to local is being able to live life on the ground at the same prices as the locals. If it is your first time to a destination this is extremely difficult to achieve, unless you happen to have access to in-depth information from residents on how to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, take a look at taxi drivers. While the exact system they use varies depends on the country you are living in (meters, pre-paid or a set fee per ride), the simple fact of the matter is that — without fail — taxi drivers the world over are notorious for hitting tourists with fees that are two or three times what they charge locals. The reason they get away with it is simple: visitors who are new to the city don’t know any better. On top of that, tourists are usually spending dollars, pounds or euros, which are generally worth three to four times the local currency, so while it might seem like pocket change to the tourist, to the local individual it’s the equivalent of finding a gold mine.

The second example of this is the “tourist rate” versus the “local rate”. This applies to many countries around the world where the moment they think you are a foreigner the prices suddenly double or triple. Restaurants will give you the English version of the menu, which has prices that are double or triple the prices on the local menus, vendors will charge you double or triple what they charge locals and so on and so forth. In Bulgaria, for example, there is the Bulgarian rate for entry into museums, ski lift tickets and so forth, and then there is the tourist rate, which is a minimum of 20% higher.

Meanwhile, locals enjoy lower taxi and bus fares, they know the cheapest grocery stores and markets to shop at where you can buy a month’s worth of groceries for the same price you would spend on a week’s worth back home, they know the bazaars and markets to head to when they need clothing or little things for around the house, and they know the best restaurants where you can walk in and enjoy a gourmet dinner for a fraction of the price it would cost you back home. Every hole in the wall, every discounted vendor, market days, discount months, the cheapest ferries and taxi routes…all of these are things locals use every day because they know the lay of the land.

Understanding what it means to live like a local

Even if you are making dollars, pounds or euros, it is absolutely vital to your success at living like a local to unlearn what you have learned in terms of spending habits. You are no longer living in your home country. Which means those prices no longer apply to you. There is a reason I (and people like me) live like kings on what many consider to be a shoestring budget: we aren’t spending our dollars like we do back home. Instead, we are living like locals, spending local currency and utilizing local rates on things ranging from rent to utilities to transportation to groceries and beyond.

Here’s the stark reality: if you come to a destination and only visit the tourist hotspots, the tourist restaurants, the tourist markets and so on and so forth, you will easily spend as much money — if not more — than what you do back home on the cost of living. The only way you can be successful at making your money go three to four times further than it ever did back home is by truly living like a local, at local prices.

This does not mean you have to sacrifice your amenities and luxuries. You can still have your broadband Internet, air conditioning, healthcare, education system, high-def TV channels and beyond, but you have to be willing to look beyond the name brands that you recognize from back home. McDonald’s is going to cost you the same amount here as it does back home, as will a steak at a chain steakhouse. If you insist on shopping at the global chain stores, you can expect to pay the same prices you do in the West. The only way you can enjoy the massive savings that living in other countries can provide you is by learning how to live like a local. Namely, you ignore the global brands and you support your local/national community.

Some insight

My cost of living in Greeley, Colorado prior to making the transition into a location independent digital nomad was easily three times what it is now. At the time I was living there last (2007) I was paying $425 a month for rent in an unfurnished apartment. My Internet and cable was $160 a month via Comcast. Cell phone: $100 a month. Health insurance: $120 a month. Truck payment: $400 a month. Truck insurance: $100 a month. Gas for truck: $700-$1000 a month, depending on transportation needs for the month (some jobs were further than others, and I was working in construction at the time). Groceries were between $300 and $400 a month. And that was before I even got into entertainment and going out. In short, I was spending $2500 a month on the low end for basic expenses, and $3000 a month if I included entertainment.

Fast forward to Bulgaria, 2008. As an example, my Internet and cable there were around $25 USD per month. I had faster and more reliable Internet than Comcast ever offered, and while I didn’t necessarily have access to all of the “American” channels, there was the equivalent of European, which is exactly the same, only for a different audience. My grocery bill literally halved. Didn’t need health insurance because it was around $4 a month for the national/social medical plan everyone is a part of. No longer needed a vehicle because I was using public transportation and working from home, which easily cut out $1200-1500 a month from my monthly bills. Groceries were around $200 a month if I splurged; $125 a month if I was eating healthy/watching my diet.

Fast forward to Cancun, now in 2013. My current costs run in between the 7,000 and 8,000 pesos a month mark, for total cost of living including entertainment. I went from paying $2,500 – $3,000 a month for basic, middle-of-the-road living in the United States…to having the exact same lifestyle, amenities and creature comforts I had back then…only now I’m only paying around $650 a month for total costs. In other words…I was suddenly seeing an extra 2k a month where before I had been barely breaking even on things.

This is the power of globalization.

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!

Friends on Isla Mujere

What is a Digital Nomad?

Posted by | Expat Lifestyle, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 7 Comments

Location Independent and Digital Nomad are two terms which have cropped up in the last decade or so to describe a group of individuals who have one thing in common: the ability to move about the world freely without calling any one place home or needing to be tied down to any location. In short, they are working professionals, retirees and freelance entrepreneurs who have used the Internet to become truly free in every sense of the word, living where they please in countries where their money is worth three to four times what it is in their home countries, effectively allowing them to retire long before the traditional age of 60+.

In my own case, I sold all my possessions in the States in late 2007, left in January of 2008 and had all of my debt paid off by the time I was 29, rendering my need to work down to a mere 2-4 hours per day. And before you ask, I’m not a millionaire. I’m just someone who took advantage of technology and the evolution of the working industry to transpose into a new lifestyle that allows me to live, work and play as I see fit, on my own terms instead of someone else’s. As of January, 2012, I’m 32 years old and my contracts, books and products pay for my cost of living. All of this was done well before I reached 65 years of age, the “traditional” period of retiring out of the 8 hour a day work force.

Retire before you are 60? At the age of 30 (or earlier)? Right now I’m sure your mind is throwing up a wall that says “Impossible”. After all, the tried-and-true method of living dictates that you have to work a traditional 9-to-5 job in a brick-and-mortar location, clocking in Monday through Friday while you make your salary or per-hour wage, watching the hours and years tick away while you continue paying taxes, putting money into Social Security (or whatever your government’s equivalent is), anticipating those personal days you are allowed so few of per year, and planning ahead for those 2, 3 or 4 weeks of paid vacation you get every year, depending on your time spent with your company. And eventually, if you are lucky, you will be “allowed” to retire some time past the age of 6o, hopefully with a matched 401k or some other form of income to supplement your Social Security, which will never come close to paying for your actual cost of living as an elderly individual.

Sound about right?

Welcome to the New Age

While living abroad in foreign countries is not necessarily anything new (after all, there have been people in the past who have been doing this for years), the advent of the Internet has opened up this lifestyle to a whole new generation of free spirits. Global communication and the advent of global high-speed connections has transformed the world of yesteryear into the world of today, where instant communication and working remotely have allowed more and more people to transition into a lifestyle of complete freedom.

Working remotely as an expat has become more and more popular in recent years as more and more people have been able to perform their tasks from the comfort of their laptop, rather than needing to commute. But the beauty of being location independent as a digital nomad is that you don’t necessarily need to be part of the work force to enjoy the benefits. You could be someone who is already retired and receiving pension, or you could be someone who has set up residual streams of income. You can be single, you can be attached, and you can even enjoy this lifestyle as a family.

The point is, living abroad as a location independent digital nomad is a lifestyle that anyone can experience, regardless of their age or connections. While there are certainly different cases that vary depending on the individual, anyone with the desire to live this lifestyle can achieve it, utilizing nothing more than common sense and modern technology. You wouldn’t use a hand-cranked printing press to print out business cards, would you? Of course not! You would use an inkjet or laser printer to print things out because that’s the evolution of technology! So why would you continue relying on the old method of doing things when there is clearly a new and improved way of living?

But what does it mean to be an expat?

As I’ve already mentioned, the core of being location independent as an expat is that you aren’t tied down to any one location. You are free to roam the planet as you will, choosing cities and countries that speak to your heart. While the primary benefit of living this lifestyle is seeing your dollar, Euro or pound be worth literally 2-4 times what it is back home, as well as experiencing a drastically reduced cost of living as described in 5 Reasons to Live Abroad, there are many, many more reasons why you should choose this lifestyle over staying in comfy, cozy surburbia back home, which you have been brainwashed into thinking is the most affordable, safest, perfect place in the world to be.

Everyone loves vacation. It is the one time in your life when you are allowed to break away from the work grind and go see exotic locations that speak to your heart. You plan for months in advance, saving every penny against the hope that one day you will eventually be able to see the places that you have dreamed about for so long. And when you finally save up enough money and have the time off of work to go, you only have a couple of weeks (or several) to spend in your chosen destination, cramming your itinerary with “things to do” so you can see and experience everything you want within that limited amount of time. In most cases, you end up selecting your favorite things and places to see from a much larger list that is refined because you don’t have enough time or money to explore everything you want. You squeeze every last little minute for everything it’s worth, eking out every last drop before you return to your 40-hour-a-week grind back home.

Now imagine being able to live in that location. Imagine having all the time you could ever want to explore every last little item on your list. Imagine having more than enough money to spend on all the little things you could never have explored while on vacation, because you have evolved from tourist to local. Imagine never having to return home, because this is your home. Imagine never needing to return to that 9-to-5 grind. Imagine waking up without an alarm clock, never needing to clock in, taking as long as you want for lunch or dinner, going to bed when you want, sleeping as long as you want, and doing everything you ever wanted without anyone telling you what to do or when to do it.

That, in its very essence, is what being location independent as a digital nomad is really about. Absolute freedom.

Sounds too good to be true

People fear change. Especially when it is a life-changing type of change that goes against everything they have been taught since the day they were old enough to understand speech. It is only natural that you view something as mind-blowing as this with skepticism. After all, it goes against the grain of everything you have been told since the day you were old enough to understand your native tongue. The thoughts going through most people’s heads when they hear about something like this is the following:

  • Retire before 30? Impossible unless I’ve won the lottery.
  • No longer have to work a 9-to-5 job? Impossible unless I’ve won the lottery or am somehow independently wealthy.
  • Live in foreign destinations? Impossible, because the entire world outside of the United States/United Kingdom is dangerous, filled with terrorists, third-world countries, no modern amenities, third-world medicine and people just waiting to kidnap me and hold me for ransom, random other brainwashed excuse.
  • Impossible because I’ve been on vacation to these places and it cost us a fortune to stay in a hotel and go on the tours for the two/three weeks we were there.
  • Impossible because I have kids/spouse and I need to keep working my 9-to-5 job so I can keep paying for their school, the mortgage on the house, the two cars so we (both spouses) can commute to our jobs.
  • The education outside of the United States/United Kingdom is inferior, and there’s no way I want to subject my kids to that level of ignorance.

These are just a few of the excuses people come up with when confronted with the thought of living or moving outside of the “comfort and safety” of their home country. And without fail, all of these examples are born of fear that stems from the propaganda spread by the governments of certain countries, as well as a complete lack of education regarding the world that truly exists around us.

Which is the primary reason I started this website. While there are certainly other places out there where you can find similar information on traveling abroad and even spending time in certain destinations, my passion is for integrating into new cultures, learning how to live like a local in every sense of the word. It is my passion to explore and to share that information with people just like you, so that you can understand just how beautiful the world around us is, and that it is absolutely safe and just as accessible as your home country, regardless of your situation and whether or not you have kids.

The reality of the 21st century is that anyone, regardless of their previous commitments or circumstances, can live this lifestyle. You can break away and find yourself living in Peru, in Italy, in France, Russia, Japan, Columbia, South Africa…anywhere your heart desires. You don’t have to be independently wealthy and you certainly don’t have to be 60+ to enjoy the life of a retiree. You can do it right now, anywhere you want.

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!