Traveling Tips

Market 23

Whole Foods and Healthy Living Abroad

Posted by | Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 4 Comments

One of the often ignored aspects of pursuing a life abroad as a digital nomad is the ability to explore greater health and wellness through food. While most people are familiar with the traveling aspects of going to a country and living first-hand things that most people only see on vacation for a mere handful of days per year, there are numerous other benefits…such as getting away from the United States and their blatant poisoning of the population through companies such as Monsanto and federally funded genocide.

Last year (2012), the CDC released a report to ABC News. According to its casual estimates nearly 50% of Americans will be classified as obese by the year 2030. Not overweight, not merely a little chubby…but obese. As in so grossly overweight they are toxic to themselves. The current numbers show that 75% of the population are overweight, 35% of them are obese, and only about 5% of people have a genetic reason for being overweight or obese: the rest are simply fat because they want to be, or fat because they don’t know any better. That number continues to rise dramatically every year.

A perfect example of sheep led to the slaughter without even knowing it is the usage of elements such as pink slime, which contains the same ingredients as antifreeze used to cool the engines of cars. You know…the stuff that has a poison label on the side which tells you that if you drink it you will die. The FDA states that meat producers can use up to 15% of this toxic additive in U.S. ground beef without being required by law to tell people that it’s an actual ingredient; they are only required to put it on the label if it goes above 15%. Meanwhile, Canada, the U.K. and the European Union have all banned the substance for use.

(Pink slime made international headlines in March of 2012 when news agencies began reporting on the fact that 70% of the known beef in the United States contained the additive. Anyone who thinks that 70% was the actual number is smoking that propaganda pipe a little too often; 100% is a far more realistic number, because food producers in the U.S. can’t lift a finger without the FDA’s approval, which means they knew the whole time what was going on…and they didn’t do a thing to stop it.)

Then, in more recent times, we have the sweeping legislatures passed allowing GMO monster Monsanto a free and clear slate to modify and experiment with anything they want…free and clear of government control.


Abandoning Ship

As a digital nomad, you can travel to where the food is. And while you might have to pay tens of dollars for “Greek” yogurt and “organic” produce in the United States, you can travel to countries like Bulgaria (home of modern yogurt), Italy, Mexico and beyond and the produce at the local markets is organic by its very nature. It doesn’t need a label because it hasn’t been tainted by the FDA or Monsanto and their chemical tyranny, because most of the farmers are growing food the way it was intended: in the Earth, letting Mother Nature do her job without any aide.

Here’s the facts: the reason Americans are fat isn’t because of their sedentary lifestyle, at least not primarily. A case study mentioned in my Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle book (there are dozens) shows how around 65% of Americans are regularly going to the gym as of 2012. If that’s the case, why are 75% of the population overweight or obese?

The reason is because it’s 70% diet and only 30% exercise, and you get out what you put in. And the simple fact is that it’s a giant, never-ending cycle of lies and manipulation designed to keep the people sucking down supplements and vitamins and chemicals being sold by pharmaceutical companies (aka the government/FDA/Monsanto) on every level as a means to keep them chemically in check as a fat race of low-energy wave slaves.

Every item on the shelf in the grocery store has been injected with preservatives and sweeteners and chemicals and genetically-modified-gods-know-what which are designed to weaken your body and get you addicted to the smack…which then makes you fat….at which point your doctor recommends supplements to lose weight…or pills to lose weight….and you are right back where you started, paying the FDA to mainline chemicals straight into your system.

Soylent Green.

Meanwhile, the whole foods and natural medicine that the Earth provides for us are forgotten.

Monsanto Ban

Taking The High Road

Look at countries like France, with the French Paradox. Or the Mediterranean region. Or the people living in Colombia, Uruguay and other countries. Their people aren’t fat, they don’t have obesity epidemics, they don’t have an endless cycle of “take this drug to counteract this side effect”. The people in these countries are eating whole foods as they are provided by the Earth around us.

One of the only ways you can escape the deadly cycle yourself is to get away from the system, out of the prison, and escape to a place where you can surround yourself with whole foods that haven’t been tainted by the FDA and their “supposedly” healthy system. Find a country that has banned GMOs, doesn’t allow FDA-approved substances in their country, and bans places like McDonald’s and Coca Cola. Don’t think they exist?

Think again. The vast majority of the planet has banned many of the so-called safe preservatives the FDA allows to continue to be used, and in the last few weeks over 30 countries around the world have banned Monsanto from selling GMO modified seeds in their countries, including one of the major U.S. partners, Japan.

If all of the foods people are eating in the United States, all of which have the FDA-approved label on them, are supposedly so good for you and healthy…why is it that 75% of the population is a greasy, fat, sickly statistic? Why are other countries banning these substances? Why has Bolivia completely banned McDonald’s and Coca Cola from operating within their country’s borders. What do these countries know?

It’s common sense, people. If you want to be healthy, you have to put good things into your body so that you get good things out. And the only way to ensure that you are getting the best quality foods for you and your family is to get away from a controlling government that is pushing poisons down your throat at every opportunity.

Countries like France have strict policies in place regarding the quality of food, with anything other than grass-feed beef banned from being served in restaurants, and the European Union has bans on numerous cancer-causing preservatives and additives which the FDA claims is safe.

Beyond that, take a look at what Hungary just did, literally burning thousands of acres of GMO-modified corn to the ground and banning Monsanto completely from the country. Alongside 30+ other countries (as of this writing) who have taken a stand against the global poisoner and are demanding healthy food only as opposed to genetically modified toxins.

Don’t be a fool. Start living a life of absolute health and wellness today. Live life on your terms, without the interference of governments whose only role is to tax you to death, strip away your human rights and inject you with poison so that they can keep you plugged into the system.

It’s your choice. Make the right one. 

This post originally appeared at The Expat Guidebook blog in 2012. It has been updated to include the ongoing GMO and Monsanto controversies and bans currently raging on the global front.

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Illusion of Wealth

Rich Man, Poor Man – The Illusion of Wealth

Posted by | Live Like a Local, Passive Income, Quality of Life, Social Media, Traveling Tips | 15 Comments

Seattle, Washington, U.S.

Meet Bob.

Bob is a 42 year old male, married for 17 years to a beautiful wife named Phyllis. They have two children, a dog and three cats. Phyllis works in a salon as a manicurist where she’s been for the past 9 years, and Bob is a software engineer working for a company in Seattle where he’s been for the past eleven years. He makes $65,000 a year before taxes, and she makes around $40,000 a year before taxes. Together, they have a combined income of just over $100,000 per year.

Bob and Phyllis have a four bedroom home with a front and back yard, and a two car garage. They both have their own vehicles to get them to and from their jobs. They have a 50 inch television, an XBox 360, a Playstation 3, four home PCs (two for themselves, two for the kids),  four smart phones (two for themselves, two for the kids) with data plans, two tablets (one for the kids, one that he and Phyllis share).

From the outside, Bob and Phyllis are living the American Dream. A life of plenty. All the modern amenities and gadgets that a flourishing family should have. And 100 percent of what they “have” is paid for with credits cards and loans.

The house mortgage is $350,000. He still owes $19,000 on a $32,000 car loan. She still owes $4,000 on her $11,000 car loan. They have just over $15,000 of combined credit card debt. She owes $62,000 in school loans, and Bob owes $130,000 for his school loans.

Taxes for the couple are just around 25% per year when combining federal and state taxes. That means they have a bring-home pay of 75,000  a year before taxes. Their mortgage payment is $1,400 per month. Their car payments combined come to $1,000 a month, before insurance.  She pays around $350 a month for her school loans and he pays roughly $600 a month for his. They eat purely organic produce, and their groceries for a family of four cost them around $2,000 a month. Utilities run around $1,000 a month to keep the home air conditioned and heated, along with cable TV and high-speed Internet, water and recycling receptacles for the trash cans.

Already their projected bills per month come to $6,350, or $76,200 a year, which is over a thousand dollars more than their take-home pay. And we haven’t even gotten to the car insurance, gas for the vehicle, costs of clothing for the children, extra-curricular activities for school, Christmas gifts, entertainment costs, vacation costs and beyond, which run between $6,000 to $10,000 per year. In short….Bob and Phyllis are the typical American family, living far beyond their means but maintaining the illusion of wealth through credit management. What they can’t afford to pay with their bring-home salary they make up for with credit cards in order to keep their family “living the life of plenty”.

They have zero net income, and zero net worth. In fact, they are over-extended, and are making anywhere between 10k and 12k less than what they actually need to pay their bills, thus requiring them to use credit and credit cards to make ends meet. Stimulating the economy through continual cycling of never-ending debt.

Meanwhile, In Mexico

Meet Juan.

Juan is a 42 year old male, married for 17 years to a beautiful wife named Maria. They have three children, two dogs and one cat. Maria works as a secretary for a lawyer where she’s been for the past 11 years, and Juan is a software developer for a small company in Mexico City where he’s been for the past 9 years. Juan brings home around $20,000 USD a year before taxes, while Maria brings in around $10,000 a year before taxes. Together, they have a combined income of around $30,000 a year.

Juan  and Maria have a four bedroom home with a front and a back yard, and a single car parking area. They share a vehicle, and he drops her off and picks her up from work on his way back and forth. Sometimes she takes public transportation to get home. They have a 50 inch television, an XBox 360, a laptop for the kids and one for themselves. They each have smart phones, and the kids have burner phones for texting.

Their house is paid for. They bought a single-bedroom place when they were just married at 22 years old for $15,000 USD in a quiet subdivision of Mexico City and over the years added on extra rooms and a second level. They pitched in and bought a car together when they were 32 for $5,000 USD…up until that point they used public transportation to get to work. They worked part-time jobs to put themselves through school, and they don’t have credit card debt because they don’t buy anything they can’t afford to pay cash for.

Taxes for the couple run around 25 percent, leaving them with a take-home pay of around $22,500 per year. Insurance on the car runs around $500 per year. Gas comes to around $800 per year. They eat purely organic produce, cultivated by the farms around the city, and groceries for their family of four cost around $300 per month. Utilities for the home cost around $150 per month for AC/heat, cable TV, high speed Internet, water and gas. Entertainment costs for the year are around $1,300 for movies and events for the kids. They take two vacations a year which cost around $2,500 in total.

Their total cost of living for the year come to around $10,500 USD per year against a take-home pay of $22,500, which means a net profit of $12,000 per year between the two. They own their home, all the remodeling they’ve done to it over the years, their car, the TV, the amenities and have a net worth of around $50,000 USD when factoring in the current value of their home after all the renovations. 

The Conundrum

Most Westerners make the assumption that anyone living in a country beyond their borders is living a life of poverty. This is the illusion of wealth. Because while the vast majority of Westerners living a “life of plenty” with all the “modern necessities” are doing so on credit…people like Juan living in developing countries around the world have been living intelligently, working hard and living within their means, without credit.

Let’s say Bob gets sick and can’t work for six months. What’s going to happen to the house and the vehicles when he can’t make the mortgage payment for four months running, and then the car payments are four months behind, and the school loans haven’t been paid because he’s trying to keep food on the table and the water/electric going for his children and family, so rather than pay the loans he pays the necessities?

Do you think the banks and the creditors are going to pardon him, give him slack because of his circumstances, offer to forgive his debt and give him some more time so he can at least put food on the table for his family? Hell no! Within four months of late payments the bank is going to send a repo man in the middle of the night to take the cars, and then they will send a government-backed repo team to claim all the goods in the home and foreclose on the house to recoup their losses, leaving Bob and his family out on the streets.

All those “things” that Bob and Phyllis think they own, are in fact nothing more than borrowed…and they will spend their entire lives paying for those “things” until they are in their late 60s and early 70s…if they are lucky.

Meanwhile, Juan can take an entire year off work just because. His home, his car and everything he owns is actually, really, physically his. He bought and paid for it, with cash money, without credit. The bank can’t come hunt him down because he owns the title to his home, free and clear. He paid cash money for his car, and thus doesn’t have to worry about the bank coming to repossess it if he gets sick or can’t work for a few months out of the year.

The Illusion

The average Westerner (especially those from the U.S. and the U.K.) have been taught since birth to trust in banks and the credit system since they were old enough to read and write. They have bought into the lie of credit hook, line and sinker. This is blatantly obvious in the simple fact that if you ask any a Westerner about themselves and their job, they proudly list off their associated purchases as a symbol of their wealth…never once mentioning that they actually never purchased these items in the first place. They are instead on loan, via credit.

This is because the average Westerner has been brainwashed into simply ignoring the fact that they are a slave race. They honestly believe that they own their home, because after all they signed the paperwork at the bank for it. It’s “their car”, even when they still have five years’ worth of payments left on it. It’s “their television” even when they paid for it at Christmastime with a credit card. It’s “my vacation” even though it was put on a credit card. They believe that credit is the same thing as physically owning the item in question, and are thus deceived. 

“Welcome to my home” they say when you walk in the door, forgetting the fact that they still have 32 more years of mortgage payments to make and if they miss a couple or are late on more than a few the bank will quickly strip the home from them, leaving them out in the cold without a second thought. “What do you think of my car,” they ask, forgetting that they still have five more years of car payments to make before the car is actually theirs, and if they miss more than a couple the repo man will show up in the night and take their car without any warning.

Credit is a lie. It is the painted jail cell that has been carefully blended into the background so as to remain out of sight, out of mind. It is The Great Deceiver, shrouded in bells and whistles and paint and flashing lights and software and technological advances and promises of being “better than anyone else on the planet”. It is the illusion of wealth, and it has enthralled the once-great countries of The West and trapped them in a downward spiral that is currently being played out in the so-called “global crisis”.

Meanwhile, Juan and others like him are going about their daily business, living in developing countries where the cost of living is a fraction of what it is in The West. Free of the credit system that has dragged the West down into its demise, and free to live far simpler lives.

Mexicans, for example, have more than three times more national holidays than the United States. Italians work half the hours but yet have a take-home pay that is twice the average American….and they traditionally practice the siesta (afternoon nap) in southern regions of the country. So not only do they work half the hours and make twice the money, but they do it while managing to catch an afternoon wink along the way! Colombians have a two to three hour lunch break (traditionally) to break up the work day, and Bulgarians have holidays that literally last for a week, yet 98% of them own their own homes, free and clear of mortgages.

If these countries are supposedly so “backwards” and “inferior” to the West…how is it that their people have zero debt, four times and more the national holidays, half the working hours and afternoon naps to boot?

It’s all about frugality and living within your means. When you know what you really need out of life and how to get it without relying on the government, you embody the very essence of what it means to be a free human being.

Are you living in an illusion?

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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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Gimp Suit

50 Shades of Travel

Posted by | Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 12 Comments

For those of us who have been on the road for any length of time, the warm, tingly sensation of exploration is what drives us onward to each subsequent destination. It is the allure of a new conquest, a new challenge, the chance to delve into the depths of a new country, a new culture, to find pleasure in uncovering the hidden mysteries that no on else has seen. It is the lure of forbidden fruit, beckoning us onwards. Just the tip. Just to see what it feels like.

The first time is always exhilarating; a rush of emotions, nervousness, panic, culture shock, and sometimes even a few moments of desperate “ohmygodwhatthehellwasithinkingdoingthis” as you are surrounded by the unknown, the different, the strange, the uncomfortable. Teenagers marrying at the age of 12. Drinking legally at the age of 14. Shamans cutting the heads off chickens and sprinkling blood on the locals as the body writhes in the hands of the spiritual leader. Men with seven, eight, nine wives, ranging from 14 years to 30 years of age. Deep-fried tarantulas, cockroaches and other delicacies. Bribing and wheel-greasing with cash money. Legal prostitution. Legal drug use.

Every time you come into contact with one of these experiences, you feel a rush of emotions associated with fear, outrage, exhilaration, shock, awe and possibly even disgust. Nervousness. Anticipation. Excitement. It is your cultural virginity reacting. You cannot control your outbursts, because you are new and inexperienced, and every little thing causes sensations that send you over the edge.

A Lover’s Embrace

Over time, after you pop your travel cherry, those moments of cultural difference are what drives you on to the next destination where you experience that same sensations over and over again. Your first few times fade into the comfortable warmth of experience.

Instead of a rush of nervous anticipation followed by a crashing wave of emotions and overwhelming sensations, you pull the strange, the different, the unique, over your skin like a well-worn blanket. You are a Traveler, well-versed in the ways of the world. A quickie just won’t do; you prefer the long, slow, drawn-out affairs where you are deep within the confines of a country for weeks, months and possibly even years at a time, uncovering every hidden mystery along the way.

You have become the experienced lover, caressing each destination with the tender and masterful touch of someone who takes their time, exploring every nook and cranny, riding each wave of emotion, of experience, to the crest. You no longer enjoy short bursts of pleasure, nor are your ventures into other countries brief and hasty with the fumbling groping of a first-timer. You are no longer a virgin, titillated by brief encounters and momentary thrills. You prefer making love to a destination as opposed to simply getting off.

Dom or Sub

You have two choices when you make your way into the world of travel. You can let the cultural differences of the world dictate your experience, or you can choose to rise above, to control your emotions, to master your conscious self and experience Planet Earth as a fully aware and educated human being. In short, you can choose to be a sub or a dom.

A sub is dominated by their upbringing, their religious beliefs, their cultural brainwashing. It’s all about programming. Just as a computer hard-drive is a piece of hardware that can be formatted over and over again, stripped of all the old data and reprogrammed with new data as the user dictates, your mind operates in the same fashion. It is merely a piece of hardware that is programmed to think and react a certain way based upon the code that you have installed.

In the case of the culturally ignorant, the religiously zealous, and the woefully inexperienced cultural virgins, the mind reacts in a very simplistic way. It is offended by new or different experiences because it has been programmed that way. A Christian viewing a Buddhist/Muslim/Taoist as inferior is the perfect example of this. A visitor from the United States feeling shock and disgust at seeing two 14 year old teenagers drinking beer legally in Bulgaria is another. These are submissive types who are ruled by their emotions and programming, forever destined to have their lives controlled by those who are doing the programming.

A dom is in completely control over their surroundings. They realize that cultural awareness is simply a matter of reprogramming their base system to appreciate cultures on a global scale. They dominate their own existence because they do not take offense at cultural differences, but rather accept them as part of the overall journey. They sit down and drink a beer with the 14 year olds. They accept all religions and spiritual walks on equal terms. They regularly strip their hard-drive and reprogram it with new information at every destination, continually upgrading and modifying their own code to remain relevant in an ever-changing, ever-evolving world.

Dominating your environment is about a return to first premises. It is a relative approach to life. It is the acceptance that every human being on the planet is equal, deserving of the same levels of respect in terms of religion, culture, education and life. It is choosing to explore and appreciate all cultures on an equal level, embracing them with the tender caress of a lover, enjoying each destination for weeks, months and years, immersing yourself in the culture, the people and the destination.

Making Love to Culture

There is a vast difference between the quick, jerky movements of a virgin who gropes and fumbles their way through a destination before reaching an early, uncontrolled climax… and the slow, measured pace of an experienced lover, one who takes their time with each culture, ensuring that they achieve maximum enjoyment from the encounter, and gives as good as they get, sustaining the moment until the last possible second.

The little things are what should be cherished while traveling. Embrace them. Let them intoxicate you with their difference. Revel in the unknown  the unexplored, the new, the challenging, the off-the-beaten-path. Approach each destination as a potential conquest meant to be sustained over weeks and months with passion and immersion, not a quick fling soon to be forgotten once the next new shiny comes along, dressed to whore and ready to strip you of your cash.

Allow yourself to explore the full potential of a culture and you will quickly find yourself realizing just what it is that the rest of us slow travelers are talking about. Making love to a destination with the passion of experience is so much more refined than the quick thrusting of the newbie, and leaves you with so much more satisfaction than a one-night stand or weekend fling.

Sub or Dom…which one are you?

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Immersion Travel

Featured image pulled from this article at 


Following The Leader – A Look at Apple’s Global Structure

Posted by | Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 6 Comments

Apple. A global giant. A brand name that everyone recognizes. And one of the leaders in how to utilize e-commerce, tax havens and loopholes to your advantage. In 2012, they saved over three billion dollars in taxes by utilizing loopholes in the global system,  and just yesterday it was reported that they paid a mere 3 million pounds on 4 billion pounds in sales, just within the U.K. alone

Which is exactly why you should ignore all of the fear-mongering regarding tax loopholes and why they are “bad” and “evil” and off-limits for expats and digital nomads. You don’t have to be worth a billion dollars to use these systems to your advantage; you just have to know where to go, who to talk to and how to get started.

One of the most interesting aspects is regarding how digital products are very difficult for governments to nail down in terms of taxes so long as you are following a few simple rules, such as ensuring your website hosting and servers are located in the right places. When your digital items are being sold from a server and website host that is located in a country with a friendly tax rate, there’s nothing governments can do about it even if your company is technically an American/British/Etc. company…as long as you’ve done everything by the books

Remember, tax havens and loopholes are not illegal; they are simply frowned upon because governments don’t like losing money to loopholes. But the thing of it is…as long as you are doing everything legally and by the books, tax havens are just one of the many benefits you can utilize to your advantage when pursuing a life of full-time travel or location independence.

How It Applies to You

The biggest lie told by governments around the world is that you, the little guy, the peon, the ignorant little wage slave with your 30k to 50k a year income, cannot pursue the same legitimate ways of doing business that big corporations do. For starters, just about anyone can start a company in another country, either registering an LLC or a corporation, with as little as just a few hundred dollars. But governments regularly try to scare you away from this tactic, claiming that offshore business is bad/illegal/immoral/etc.

For example, in Bulgaria you can set up a sole proprietorship without any capital, giving you access to a 10% flat tax that only applies to income generated from within the country…so if your income is coming from global sources via digital sales on products sold out of, say, Chile where your servers are located, while you yourself are traveling the world without an actual residence because you are a digital nomad, well…welcome to no-man’s land. An LLC in Bulgaria costs between €500 to €800 to set up. You can find more information here.

Bear in mind that a lot of the loopholes that these major corporations are taking advantage of in the current era directly relate to e-commerce, or the sale of digital items such as music files, eBooks, movies offered purely in digital format and other forms of digital media. Because there are no physical goods, it is difficult for governments to tax these items, because they aren’t tracked in the same way as barcoded physical items that are shipped using federal transportation routes. Which is consequently why, for example, the U.K. and U.S. governments are in an uproar over said corporations (and expats/digital nomads) slipping through the cracks.

Another great example is the secondary market for MMORPGs, which is where the buying and selling of digital items that don’t even exist occurs. For example, someone levels up a character in a game, like World of Warcraft, and then sells that character to someone else for $500. That money reflects the time it took to level the character up. But technically that character is nothing more than pixels and digital space; it is not a real item, so how can a government realistically tax that item? Instead, they are looking at ways they can tax the sale itself.

And it’s not just character sales. All types of virtual items are up for grabs in the gaming market; it’s a multi-billion dollar industry in and of itself, with people buying/selling virtual real estate, weapons and armor, armor dyes, outfits, characters, in-game money and beyond. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the types of things people are selling in the digital space. And you can do it from anywhere in the world.

Live Your Own Life

We are not slaves who should fear governments. They should fear us. After all, they only have the power we elect them to have. And that’s where full-time travel comes into play: you have the freedom to go where you want, set up your company where you want, and enjoy the best tax rates you want. Because there’s nothing wrong with paying taxes to for the roads you use, the hospitals you visit, the infrastructure you use and beyond. 

But you have a right to choose. Just as Apple and Microsoft and politicians and rockstars and actors and entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Eduardo Saverin and beyond. With a global network of countries to choose from, the freedom to work from anywhere via your chosen mobile device, in a country where the tax rates are fair and the climate (both politically and geographically) to your liking.

The above article first appeared on the Expat Guidebook blog in shortened form is written based upon content within The Expat Guidebook detailing tax havens, setting up an online income and utilizing globalization to your financial advantage. Also available for your Kindle reader.

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!

Immigration Line

Local Fixers and You – Tips for Full-Time Travel

Posted by | Live Like a Local, Mexico, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 2 Comments

While those of us who are traveling for a living often speak the language of the countries we are visiting, it’s not always a guarantee that where you end up will be somewhere where you can actually communicate fluently. And although you might only be on the ground a week or two, or maybe even as long as a few months on a passport stay, once you start to get into long-term immersion travel there are a variety of bureaucratic processes that can bog you down if you don’t speak the local lingo. Or, even in the case of those of us who speak the language, sometimes you just don’t want to be bothered with the hassle of doing paperwork when you can find someone else to do it for you.

Things like getting your residency paperwork filed with the local immigration office. Or getting papers notarized and translated. Or dealing with lawyers for a property purchase/sale. Every country does things differently, and as most of us have found out over the years, sometimes the only downside to living in a developing country is the bureaucracy.

Such as looking at the immigration website for your country and downloading the required papers, filling them out and then going to the local immigration office and talking to the individual at the information desk only to find out that the papers on the website aren’t up to date and you need to fill out these papers instead and supply copies of these two pages of your passport along with a translated copy of this document and copies of these bank statements.

So you take the next day to follow the instructions, come back to the office only to find another employee working…who tells you that you didn’t actually need that copy there but actually this copy here and you need two more copies of that document and this one has to be notarized but only after it has been translated and you have to be back between the hours of two and four in the afternoon only there’s a line halfway around the block to try and get it when you return so you say screw it and come back the next day and submit all your paperwork, finally, and they tell you to check the website in two weeks for an update but when you do nothing updates and you wait and you wait and five weeks later you finally decide to go to the office to find out what’s up only to find out that your paperwork has been there the entire time but no one ever entered it into the website to let you know to come pick it up, but before you can pick it up they have changed the laws and now you need these other documents filled out and notarized and…

Having done my own visa paperwork in three countries now (Bulgaria, Colombia and Mexico), I can tell you from first-hand experience that the hassle — even if it’s only once a year — can be enough to drive a person mad. In Bulgaria, for example, I went through the residency visa process three times, and every year it was completely different…and I had to spend three to five days jumping through hoops that would change on a daily basis depending on who was working. It’s literally the only thing I dislike about living in developing countries: the lack of a streamlined filing system.

Which is where local fixers come into play.

Taking One For The Team

Think of a local fixer as a temporary personal assistant. They are going to do all the little things that you don’t want to be hassled with. Like running around to the notary and the translator and the lawyer and the copy shop and the immigration office for files and copies and forms. They speak the local language and can thus communicate on a far greater level than yourself (even if you do happen to speak fluently; they are native speakers after all), but there’s something else that a local fixer has which is greater than their communication skills: Local know-how.

They know the way things work. They know who to talk to, how to grease the wheels, how to talk to the right people to get the desired result. They have built up connections with lawyers, immigration officials, bankers, notaries and beyond, which gives them a streamlined way of doing things that just isn’t available to you, even if you (like myself) happen to live in a city and speak the language reasonably well. They are often friends with the people working behind the counter at the offices and have built up a rapport with them over the years, which means your paperwork gets pushed to the front of the line rather than lingering away, lost in some bin.

But most importantly, you don’t have to waste your time doing the little things. Instead, you simply show up a couple of times, put your signature on some paperwork, pay the fixer his fee and go on about your business. Time = money, after all, and by using your time to be more productive and work on your income, you can pay a local fixer their minimal fee and let them handle the paperwork for you.

Above and Beyond

Local fixers are also often the difference between living as an expat in a specific city and being denied the right to live there and forced to leave if you have overstayed your passport stay or your visa. For the most part they are people working on the right side of the law helping to “fix” bureaucratic issues for non-native speakers of the host country language. They either work on commission, tips or referral fees (such as in the case of fixers for local immigration lawyers who get a kickback from the lawyer after they bring in a new client, who is you, the digital nomad and/or expat who needs help).

Contrary to what some people might think, fixers are not working illegally…for the most part. They do exist on both sides of the fence. However, if you do things by the book you will be working with the legal ones, the ones who are simply helping you navigate the minefield that is dealing with your visa in Japanese when you only speak English, for example.

Fixers can also take care of some shadier types of activities (disclaimer: I do not personally recommend these methods, merely mention them for your reading), such as working with a legitimate fixer to help you grease the local wheels with bribes and tips. This involves things such as paying off local officials so you don’t have to leave a country while your visa is processing or your status is changing (such as in Bulgaria). Or it could involve overstaying your visa while in a country like Russia and then having a local fixer bribe the local officials and help you navigate the loopholes to get your visa renewed and take care of your accidental hiccup.

There’s a lot of different ways fixers can help you above and beyond just visa issues. They are also extremely common in the journalism industry, as well as the travel documentary industry, helping people nail down their film and gear permits as well as access to press passes and the like. You can read more about them  and how to utilize them in your travels within The Expat Guidebook itself, but in the meantime you can watch our YouTube video on the subject as well.

This is an expanded version of a post originally written for The Expat Guidebook blog.

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