Budget – March 2018

There seem to be a bazillion nomad bloggers out there talking about how cheap it is to travel, but very few are open about their finances. We’ve gotten quite a few questions about how we can afford to travel full-time, so we’ve decided to open up the books and do a monthly post with the details of our budget. The hope is that these posts will help prepare others who are thinking about jumping into the nomad life, and help us re-assess our spending habits. Enjoy!

There seem to be a bazillion travel bloggers out there talking about how cheap it is to travel, but very few are open about their finances. We’ve gotten quite a few questions about how we can afford to travel full-time, so we’ve decided to open up the books and do a monthly post with the details of our travel budget. The hope is that these posts will help prepare others who are thinking about jumping into the nomad life, and help us re-assess our spending habits. Enjoy this Malaysia travel budget!

Check out our full-time travel budgets for another month. ♥


Malaysia has proven to be a bit more expensive than China, both for food and lodging costs. However, we were able to keep our spending on track (mostly), and really save a lot at our housesit in KL. Our goal budget for this journey is $200 per week, putting us at $800 to spend for the month of March and our Malaysia travel budget.

  • Average Daily Food Cost: $11 per day
    • Hotel – Breakfast was included, so we only needed a light snack, and dinner each day
    • House Sit – Groceries for three meals and snack per day. One night dining out per week.
  • Average Daily Lodging: $10 per night
    • Hotel – $20 per night for basic room in questionable neighborhood
    • House Sit – $0 per night for luxury home, pool, and car use

Money Spent: -($818)

Income: $157

Monthly Net: -($661)


Three Month Spending Total: -($3,585)

Three Month Earning Total: $852

Total Journey Net: -($2,733)

(Goal was -$2,600 for month three)


Week One Malaysia Travel Budget: -($200)

We were very happy to stay exactly on budget this week. It took a little extra effort to balance the cost of food, but we made it! We loaded up on hotel breakfast every morning and tried to hold off for as long as we could until dinner. It wasn’t a strict rule. If we were hungry, we ate. But if we weren’t hungry, we did our best not to spend money on food we didn’t need. At the end of the week, we were feeling healthy and were excited about our spending. We spent $200.

Read about the amazing food in Kuala Lumpur. ♥

This month, we are cutting down on the amount of “unfocused” work we are doing. Josh has one last project on UpWork to complete, then one hour a day going forward. It won’t make us a lot of money, but will hopefully provide us more time to focus on the projects we truly want to do. We made $0.

Week Two Malaysia Travel Budget: – ($123)

We started our house sit this week! Once again, we found this arrangement to not only be comfortable and fun, but a great way to save money. We purchased groceries and cooked most meals at home. We spent $160.

Meet Molly, our new furry friend! 

Josh made some money from his one hour per day UpWork time. We made $37.

Week Three Malaysia Travel Budget: – ($172)

Even without trying, we totally nailed this week. We only went over budget on two of the days; once for a nice dinner out and another for our trip to KL Tower. We found some fish at the grocery store we really liked, making the home-cooking even more enjoyable. We spent $192.

Read about our KL Tower adventure. 

We made $20.

Week Four Malaysia Travel Budget: – ($166)

As per usual, our transition week was a little more difficult than the others. We moved from our house sit in Kuala Lumpur to Penang. We’re here for a short excursion before heading to our next house sit in Thailand. The train tickets, food, and hotel costs weren’t too bad, but always a bit more than I would like. We spent $265.

Josh has been working really hard this month to publish two short stories in addition to his CannaHealth article each week. He has been doing an amazing job and even made his first dollar as an author!!! He made $1.80 from people viewing his story, “Open Letter to my Hostel Roommates“. I’m so super proud of him! We made $100.

_Open Letter to My Hostel Roommates_


Each month seems to get better and better. For our third month over-seas, we are feeling very good. We only barely spent over our travel budget and were able to offset quite a bit with some income. We still aren’t breaking even, but each month gets closer and closer.

I can not wait to see what next month has in store!!


Instagram advertisement for @theplaceswelive. It has a blue box labeled "Follow us on Instagram" and is surrounded by four pictures. One is of a woman dancing in a desert. Under that a bowl of pork noodles. Then a photo of a bridge in Chengdu, China. Under that a photo of a farm in Yangshuo, China.


 

Sichuan, China Birding – February 2018

Chengdu is a very large city. Everywhere I went there were groups of little birds snatching snacks off the ground in parks and a few scattered here and there along the river. There are even a couple of man-made wetlands built specifically for migrating birds in the area. However, as mentioned in my Bad Ideas Blog, I was not able to make it to the wetlands, so my birding was limited to the city proper.

My favorite bird of the month was the Light Vented Bulbul. I spotted it while at the Panda Research Base. It was eating the red panda’s food. It was very pretty and I liked the little tuft of white feathers on its head.

Unfortunately, I did not spot many birds this month, but I’m still pretty happy to be adding three new birds to my life list. Hopefully next month I will be celebrating my 100th unique bird!


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Birding Update – February 2018

Identified: 5

New: 3

Life List: 98


  • Crested Myna
  • Light-vented Bulbul
  • Little Egret
  • Mallard
  • Oriental Magpie-robin

 

Budget – February 2018

There seem to be a bazillion nomad bloggers out there talking about how cheap it is to travel, but very few are open about their finances. We’ve gotten quite a few questions about how we can afford to travel full-time, so we’ve decided to open up the books and do a monthly post with the details of our budget. The hope is that these posts will help prepare others who are thinking about jumping into the nomad life, and help us re-assess our spending habits. Enjoy!

There seem to be a bazillion travel bloggers out there talking about how cheap it is to travel, but very few are open about their finances. We’ve gotten quite a few questions about how we can afford to travel full-time, so we’ve decided to open up the books and do a monthly post with the details of our budget. The hope is that these posts will help prepare others who are thinking about jumping into the nomad life, and help us re-assess our spending habits. Enjoy!


Our goal budget for this journey is $200 per week, putting us at $800 to spend for the month of February.

We did not live a life of the rich and famous, but we didn’t go without either. China is quite suitable for $800 per month for two people.

  • Average Daily Food Cost: $11
    • The time at our house sit included two home cooked meals and one meal out.
    • Outside of the house sit, we ate out for all three meals. We also enjoyed one cup of coffee and three cans of either beer or soda per day.
  • Average Daily Lodging: $7.50
    • Two weeks in the private room at the Yangshuo hostel were $14 per night.
    • Two weeks in our house sit were FREE.
    • One week in our two different dorm beds at the Chengdu hostels were $11 per night.
    • All of our lodging included Wifi, VPN (expect for three days), and free water.

Money Spent: $1,128

Income: $387

Monthly Net: -($741)


Two Month Total:

$692 (Income) – $2,662 (Spent) = -($1,970) 


Week One Net: -($178)

Despite some big nights out, we still came very close to sticking to our $200 budget. We rented a scooter for a day, ate a big meal of beer fish, and had a date night with a fancy Indian dinner and two import beers. We spent $202.

We reached our goal of 2,000 views on the blog for the month of January. I’m still not famous, but I feel pretty awesome!! I even made a little bit of money from AdWords (the annoying advertisements on the bottom of the page) of $0.46! May not be much, but that is enough for a small breakfast here.

Josh had a couple of long-term jobs on UpWork, so he was only able to close one contract for the week. We made $24.

Week Two Net: – ($149)

Week two was a travel week. We caught a taxi to the bus station in Yangshuo, a bus from there to the train station in Guilin, a train from Guilin to Chengdu, then a subway to our hostel in Chengdu. That adventure set us back ¥100/$16. We stayed at The Mix Hostel in a dorm room for a couple of days. The price was decent, but we lacked for comfort.

But the exciting news of the week was our house sitting job!!! We moved out of the hostel and moved into our house sit in Southern Chengdu where we watched a dog in exchange for a free place to stay. So, we went rent free for the next 12 days!! Whoop! In addition to our free accommodations, we had a great kitchen that allowed us to buy groceries which also saved us a ton of money. We spent $171.

It was another slow work week. We made $22.

Week Three Net: -($493)

In general, we did pretty awesome this week. We had one day where we spent nothing and three other days that were under $14. We really got into the swing of things eating more at home and only purchasing what we needed, when we needed it. However, as you can see from the sub heading, we still had a couple of really big purchases. First was a new charger for Josh’s computer. We tried to put it off for as long as we could, but both realized that we were selling ourselves short by sharing a computer. So, we bit the bullet and purchased a new charger at the Apple Store for $99. We also purchased our plane tickets to Kuala Lumpur for $313 (two direct flights). The ticket prices are amazing, but really cut into the budget. We spent $525.

Josh wrapped up one project for $23 and I made $10 on my Amazon.com eGift Cards link!!  We made $33.

Week Four Net: +$78

This was our hardest week due to the move out of our house sit, into a hostel, then into the more expensive city of Kuala Lumpur. Even with a $50 gift card applied, we are still paying 58RM/$15 per day for the 14 nights we booked at our KL hotel. That only leaves us with 43RM/$11 left to spend on other expenses per day. Thankfully, food and transportation are fairly cheap, but still not enough to keep us under budget. We have gone over our 101RM budget every day since we have arrived in KL. We spent $230.

Fortunately, all of those big projects Josh has been working on are finally getting wrapped up. He edited a woman’s non-fiction novel, wrote an essay about intermittent fasting, researched and wrote an article about drug testing, and summarized another research paper for CannaHealthWe made $387.


For our second month overseas, we still have not met our budget goals, but we did get much closer AND came in under $800 for the month’s total net. Overall, we feel pretty good about it. Some learnings this month were:

I have 50% of the rest of our journey booked with house sits. My goal is to bump that up to 75% by the end of next month. That should save us quite a bit of money on food and lodging, but will add to the travel costs (although that was going to be an expense regardless).

Josh and I also had a long talk about his UpWork “career” and have decided to pull back a little bit. He is going to continue to write for CannaHealth, but will otherwise focus more on his short stories. We put together a plan for the month that would have him doing brand building and creative writing for at least five hours per day. I think he will enjoy this much more and, if we start now, will hopefully start making some money at it within the next few months. It’s a risk, but one we are willing to take. I’ll update you on his work in a couple weeks.

Please check out our new branded Facebook pages:

The Places We Live Facebook Page

J. Brandon Lowry (Writer) Facebook Page

Travel Day – Chengdu to Kuala Lumpur

It’s that time. We have maxed out our visas and have to leave the country before the start of the month.

It’s that time. We have maxed out our visas and have to leave the country before the start of the month. After one final night of exploring Chengdu and taking note of the places we need to come back to this summer, we grabbed a ticket for the metro and were on our way.

Grassy park with flower landscaping and panda statues in Chengdu, China

Check-in and customs were no trouble at all. We zoomed right through without any problems. Our flight was on Air Asia, one of Asia’s discount airlines. The plane was large and clean, but there was a strict note on the website, on my ticket, and in the ongoing announcements that no outside food is allowed on the plane. I was a bit worried about this, but assumed that meant they would feed us.

Unfortunately, it was a very Chinese style flight. The passengers rarely listened to directions, talked loudly throughout the entire flight, and paid absolutely no attention to the no outside food rule. To top it off, the airline only provided items for purchase… including WATER. That’s right, I went on a five hour plane ride without water because I was told not to bring any on the plane. What?! I guess I should have read the fine print… or ignored the large print.

I don’t think it will come as a surprise when I say that we were a bit cranky upon our arrival in Malaysia. We ignored the polite greetings from nearly every staff member in the airport, half-listened to the delightfully artsy and charismatic Uber driver, and barely showed our impatience to the kind and giggly hotel clerk. We were tired, we were hungry, and I needed some damn WATER!

Our hotel is in what looked liked a bad side of town. Our room faces a night club that blared music all night. There are ants on our floor. We got two twin beds instead of one queen. Our internet access was spotty. Despite how tired we were, we knew it would be a long and sleepless night.

Then we fell instantly and completely asleep.

We woke up refreshed and with a completely different outlook. The weather was warm and sunny. We had a delicious breakfast at the hotel, complete with real drip coffee. And in the daylight, our neighborhood isn’t really that bad. Heck, we’re in walking distance of an IKEA. We took a long walk around this afternoon, and as of right now, I feel pretty confident that we are going to love it here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is a brand new country for us, with a whole host of new adventures, and we can’t wait to get out and experience it all!

Woman sitting in front of "I Heart KL Tower, Malaysia" sign

 

 

China Brews

China isn’t really known for their beer and it is obvious why at the first sip. Now, that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my beer in China, because I absolutely did. I enjoyed it the same way I enjoy a refreshing Coors Light. Sometimes I just really want a Coors Light, sue me.

China isn’t really known for their beer and it is obvious why at the first sip. Now, that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my beer in China, because I absolutely did. I enjoyed it the same way I enjoy a refreshing Coors Light. Sometimes I just really want a Coors Light, sue me.

My favorite brew of China was Guilin Liquan’s 1998 LiQ beer. It was very smooth, refreshing, and a great price at only ¥10 ($1.55). I would also put Guilin Liquan as my favorite brewer in China. I tried two of their crafts. I couldn’t taste much of a difference between the two, but they were both better than the others I had.

On our last couple of days in China, we bunked with a Chinese brewer at the hostel. He was in the middle of a brewery tour in Chengdu. He gave us a list of places to try and talked to us about the growing micro-brew culture in China and how he sees it around the world. It was super interesting to talk to him and we are looking forward to our next trip to Chengdu to check out the breweries he suggested.

I only got a taste for the flavors around me. Please share your favorite China beers in the comments, and if you’re an Untappd user, add us as friends!

Top UnTappd Badges Earned This Month


Brew Update – China

New China Flavors: 9

 New China Breweries: 8

Flavor Life List: 51


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Beijing Yanjing Brewery – Beijing, China

  • Yanjing Beer North American Adjunct

China Resources Snow Breweries – Beijing, China

  • Snow Beer 8.0 P Lager

Harbin Brewing – Harbin, China

  • Harbin Beer Pale

Master Gao Craft – Nanjing, China

  • Baby IPA

Panda Brew – China

  • Outlaw Witbier

Shandong Hande Brewing Co. – China

  • Baishi Royale Lager

Tsingdao Brewery – Qingdao, China

  • Tsingtao Pale

Yanjing Pijiu (Guilin Liquan) – Guilin, China

  • 1998 LiQ American Light
  • 10P LiQ North American Adjunct

Trusted Housesitters

Since we’ve been here, we estimate that we have saved around $200 on accommodations alone. But there are other perks as well. Not only do we have lovable Lucy to hang out with, but we have a bike to use ($5 savings) and a kitchen to cook in ($50 savings). In two weeks, we have saved over $250 by staying here with Lucy.

As mentioned in my Places We Live – Chengdu post, we are currently staying in an apartment in Chengdu, for free, in exchange for dog sitting. I learned about this type of exchange online and was able to get involved through Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects travelers with free house sitters.

We booked house sit a few months ago after sending messages back and forth with our host and doing a Skype interview. We had a lot in common and hit it off right away. She booked us a little after that, then a few months later, we showed up at her door. She introduced us to her wonderful dog Lucy, hosted us for dinner, and showed us the ins and outs of her apartment. Then she left for two weeks.

Since we’ve been house sitting here, we estimate that we have saved around $200 on accommodations alone. But there are other perks as well. Not only do we have lovable Lucy to hang out with, but we have a bike to use ($5 savings) and a kitchen to cook in ($50 savings). In two weeks, we have saved over $250 by house sitting in Chengdu with Lucy.

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With this is mind, I have been working diligently to get us more bookings. I sent out about a dozen house sitting applications last week and have finally booked three more sits! Next up, we’re heading to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to enjoy the company of an adorable pup named Molly.

Scratch Google Sheets

As you can see, we’re coming back to Chengdu too! I applied for a house sit in Chengdu thinking it would be a good layover on our way to Tibet or something later this summer. I told the woman I was currently in town and was able to meet up for a face-to-face interview if she wanted. Turns out, she is friends with my host and lives just down the block! She invited us over for a chat and also the next day for dinner. Her and her husband had lots of fun stories, a beautiful home, and about the sweetest kitten I have ever met. We can’t wait to come back for the sit.

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Maybe I am getting ahead of myself (this is only a our first house sit), but I think this is going to be a game changer. It has already shown to be a great way to save money, provide privacy to get our work done, and boost our social stimulation. Look out world, here we come!

Refer A Friend TrustedHousesitters com

 

 

Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base

Guess what we did today?!! We woke up bright and early this morning to make the hour long trek to see China’s national treasure, the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base!

I read a lot of reviews that suggested we visit as soon as the park opens at 8AM. That is when the pandas are most active and the crowds are smaller. We left at a way too late 7:30, walked to the metro, hopped Line 1, switched to Line 3, got off at Panda Ave, then caught a shuttle to the entrance of the research base. It took us a little over an hour and cost ¥7 plus the ¥55 entrance fee each, putting us at a total of about $20 for the morning. But then, we were in.

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It was similar to Disney World in that everything was brightly decorated, only this time with pandas, and there were large crowds of impatient and excited people everywhere. The park is laid out in loops surrounding the various enclosures. The giant panda areas included a section for the babies, one for breeding, and one for nursing… I think. Each of the enclosures were of a decent size and the pandas looked to be in good health and well treated.

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Although we did arrive quite early, there were very few active pandas. The crowds were a bit smaller in the morning than in the afternoon though, so that was nice. But the crowds were still enough to alter the way I like to explore a zoo. Like the picture above? Here is a shot of me taking it:

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Not ideal.

Our favorite section, however, held the red panda enclosures. The crowds were smaller in this section. I say the people who skipped it missed out. These guys were so cute and active! There were a few different enclosures with several pandas in each, roaming around on the ground or climbing trees.

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There was even one section that was walled off for the guests to walk around in with the red pandas! We did not realize this was the case until I turned a corner and screamed with surprise (and let’s be honest, a little fear). Josh came running to find me standing face to face with a red panda only a few feet in front of me. It climbed up a tree and my shouts attracted the attention of the crowds, but it was still cool.

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We finally had a blog-worthy adventure in Chengdu and it was awesome! The pandas had so much character and the park was very pretty. After another full hour trip home, it was really nice to plop on the couch and look through all of our fun pictures.