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

 

 

The Places We Live – Chengdu

When I envisioned how this trip would go, I saw us living our normal lives, but with different scenery. It worked out great when we were staying with our parents in Florida and Idaho, but since we’ve been here, we have found ourselves living in hostels and hotels. And, as anyone who travels a lot for work can attest, that is not living. We have been having a great time, but I feel like a vacationer rather than a traveler or a roaming expat.

Thankfully, today is the day! We’ve temporarily moved into an apartment in Chengdu, and woke up today with our own space, breakfast at the table, and computer time on the couch. We could not be happier.

Chengdu is the capital city of Sichuan, China. There are between 7.8 and 14 million people living in this city, depending on who you ask, which makes it the 5th most populated city in China. It is the home of Sichuan spicy food, Giant Pandas, the largest building in the world (by floor area), and so much more. I can not wait to explore this city!

If you get the opportunity, check out Places Unknown with Anthony Bourdain, S8-E3 where he goes to Chengdu. It is a great representation of what we are living through.

We are living on the South end of town in an area popular among expats. How? With house sitting! That’s right. We are staying in someone’s house… for free… for two full weeks! Our host is an American teacher at an international school. She has taken off for the Spring Festival holiday and left us with her lovely home and her adorable dog, Lucy.

Jen with black dog, Lucy on couch. House sitters

Our home is in an area of town called American Village, which is a popular spot for expats. There are several other foreigners in the neighborhood, an American international school, and plenty of western restaurants. The apartment itself is on a mid-level floor in a high-rise building. It has two bedrooms, den, one large bathroom, large living room, small kitchen, and a Chinese-style laundry balcony.

The apartment was provided to our host by her work. She estimates the price to be around ¥400 ($64!) per month. It came lightly furnished in a Chinese style. During her 1.5 years here, she has added some Western flair and comforts of home (hence the coffee maker). It still has the feeling of almost right that many expats feel about the Chinese attempts at westernizing. Although the lighting and accent wall papering is elegant, the painted walls are still unevenly painted and cracked. The sinks have a nice faucet with working hot water, but the seams aren’t properly sealed, so it has a tendency to leak. There are two working elevators for the 20+ story building, but there is constant debate about turning one of them off. It has its quirks, but is overall pretty great.

The little perks of home have been wonderful. We bought some groceries and have been eating home-cooked meals. Lucy is very loving and has been keeping us entertained. We even have Netflix again. After a long day of walking and enjoying Chengdu, it was wonderful to sit and stretch on the couch in front of the TV.

We are already on our last week here in Chengdu and I don’t want to leave. I already put in an application for another house sit here for this summer. Chengdu is a very cool city and I can’t wait to explore some more. What’s on the list today? Maybe a trip to see the pandas, the opera, the wetlands, the giant buddha??? There are way too many options. One thing’s for sure, we definitely won’t be bored here in Chengdu.

 

 

 

Budget – January 2018

I feel pretty good about our first overseas month. We did not achieve our goal budget nor were we able to offset it enough with our income. However, I think we learned a lot and are ready for the challenge that February brings. 

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!


Our goal budget for this journey is $200 per week, putting us at $1,000 to spend for the month of January.

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: $10
    • Includes three meals, one cup of coffee, and two cans of soda or beer.
  • Average Daily Lodging: $12
    • 1/3 of the month in a hostel dorm and 2/3 in a private room.
    • Includes WiFi with VPN, English speaking front desk, and free water.

Money Spent: $1,534

Income: $305

Overall Net: – ($1,229)


Week One Net: -($507)

We had a difficult start to the month with a number of unexpected expenses, along with the travel expense to Guilin (which was planned as a temporary overage). It’s been much colder here than we anticipated, and therefore needed to purchase jackets. The AirBnB apartments I had picked out for our time in Guilin didn’t have heaters in them, so I ended up booking a slightly more expensive hotel for us to stay at. And Josh had some technical issues that required a purchase of Microsoft Office. We spent $507.

Due to Josh’s technical issues, we were unable to make any money to offset the expenditures. We made $0.

Week Two Net: -($123)

Week two was much more acceptable. The big purchase of the week was tickets to the Seven Star Park at $17 each. We spent $138.

Josh was very excited to have a desk to work at and immediately took on some jobs on UpWork. They each take a while to pay out, but he was able to get a quick article written for a client. We made $16.

Week Three Net: -($95)

Our major purchases for the week were a cruise to Yangshuo for $24, new hair clippers for Josh for $20, and birthday breakfast for me at Starbucks for $12. We ended the week spending a tiny bit over budget. We spent $209.

Josh really got into the swing of things this week, with plenty of time to write and only a couple of hours a day for UpWork. Those couple of hours earned him an article on CannaHealth and a job writing biology lesson plans for a charter school. We made $114.

Week Four Net: -($106)

We transitioned from Guilin to Yangshuo this week; normally that would mean the purchase of train tickets, but in this case we used the Li river cruise tour bus as our transportation. The food in Yangshuo is a little more expensive than Guilin, cutting into our meal budget a bit. Still, our only big purchase of the week was the advance payment of our private room for the next week at $99. We still wrapped up the week slightly over budget. We spent $256.

Josh edited a CV for a client and wrote another CannaHealth article, collecting us $145 for the week. The USD and CNY conversion dropped this week, which was a bit of a bummer. The earned $145 gives us ¥927 to spend in China, but last week, the same $145 would have given us ¥943. A ¥16 difference isn’t much, but amounts to a six pack of beer, 8 trips on the bus, or a large breakfast for two.

In some exciting news, I made $4.66 through my Amazon links! Thank you guys so much for using my link to buy your Amazon.com eGift Cards!! We made $149.

Week Five Net: -($321)

This was another good week. We watched our spending a little more closely and were able to spend more of our time hiking since the sun finally came out. Our big purchases of the week were train tickets to Chengdu at $125.

As it is the first month of the year, we also had a couple of subscriptions come due that we had forgotten about ($15 for New York Times and $95 for our Visa annual fee). We spent $341.

It was a slow week for work, pulling in only $20 on UpWork. We made $20.


This is our first month overseas, and overall I feel OK about it. We did not achieve our goal budget, nor were we able to offset it enough with our income. However, I think we learned a lot and are ready for the challenge that February brings!

Adventures With Jen – Guilin

Not every adventure can be epic, so here is a montage of some of my less than totally awesome Adventures With Jen.

After breakfast, the routine is for me to take a shower, then either spend some time doing research or hit the street for an adventure. Besides for the Fubo Mountain hike, most of my adventures haven’t been blog worthy. Not every adventure can be epic, so here is a montage of some of my less-than-totally-awesome Adventures With Jen:

One adventure I was particularly excited about was the Bird and Flower Market, located a little ways Northeast from where we are staying. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I found there was nothing particularly special about it. It was more of a collection of plant and pet shops. As with any pet shop, some were nice and I could tell the animals were loved and well taken care of. Others (most) were quite difficult to see, with cages packed to the brim with birds or tanks so full of fish that they were constantly getting flicked out by other fish.

The most noteworthy part of the walk happened while I passed a middle eastern food truck. I, of course, walked by just as the stall worker decided to kill a large sheep right in the middle of the sidewalk. I have a good appreciation and understanding of how my food is made, but I’m not sure if I will ever get used to seeing the moment of passing right before my eyes. Not the best way to end an adventure.

I caught Josh’s cold the following morning and was pretty well bedridden. I still got up for meals, though, and went for short walks through some side streets near the hotel to get some air. I particularly enjoyed one walk where we stumbled across the wholesale food market.

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I love looking at all of the interesting fruits and vegetables, the dried herbs, and the variety of meats. As someone who has had a food handler’s card for the last 20 years, I also find the food safety to be quite… interesting. Meats are stored on the same table as vegetables, and fruit baskets may or may not be stored directly on the ground. It is a nice reminder of just how resilient to germs the human body can be.

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The variety of fresh meat is so interesting to look at.

After a couple of days, I was feeling better and back on the road. I spent most of my time researching and filming a walking tour (get excited), but I did take a break to hit another new stop: The Botanical Garden.

Guilin’s Botanical Garden is located at the South end of town and costs ¥32, but apparently that only applies to me. I watched everyone else just walk through the gate. They didn’t flash a pass to the guard or anything, they simply walked in like it was no big thing. I, of course, got stopped and was forced to pay. This is one of the few times being a foreigner in China didn’t pay off.

As a garden, I would say the place was pretty “meh”. It did make for a decent park, though. It was quite large and had quiet little hide-outs all over the place for people to be loud in… yes, that is what I meant to say. Everywhere I went, there was a little courtyard or hidden picnic bench with someone either practicing the trumpet, singing into a microphone (with the speaker turned on full blast, of course), dancing to loud music, or jamming with their friends. I do have to admit, it was the perfect place to find a quiet spot and fill it with noise.

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The “European Garden” was much quieter and filled mostly with exercisers.

I would guess the place is quite nice and full of flowers in the summer time, but in the middle of January, it mostly just looked like bushes to me. I did enjoy the long walk through the park, and managed to get in some people watching and bird spotting.

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A lone Koi fish heading upstream to visit a child throwing crackers.

 

My favorite thing to do in Guilin was to walk along the rivers. I walked at least four miles per day while we were there, and most days it was done along one of the many rivers or lakes. Where the rivers run through the city, there are beautifully decorated water-side paths. I really enjoyed checking out the variety of bridges, the excitement of the tourists (mostly from other cities around China), and watching the occasional fisherman. If it wasn’t for the air pollution, I would guess these river walks would make amazing river runs.

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Also, have I mentioned we’re famous? There are still many Chinese people who have either never seen or met a foreigner. We are still a pretty rare sight outside of Shanghai and Beijing. We get a lot of stares and children shouting “Look, foreigners!” On some rare occasions, we even get asked for pictures… which usually leads to more people asking for pictures… which turns into a full-on paparazzi moment. It is a little weird, but kind of fun.

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So there you have it, my less than successful but still noteworthy adventures in Guilin! I really enjoyed it there and feel so lucky to have had the chance to live somewhere so beautiful and full of adventure. Stay tuned for the next installment of Adventures with Jen!

The Eagles Have Landed

We’re here! Despite a couple of small hiccups, it was a surprisingly easy travel day.

We’re here! Despite a couple of small hiccups, it was a surprisingly easy travel day. Our plane had some technical issues in Seattle causing us to be grounded for the night. It was a wonderful little side trip though. The airline booked us in a decent hotel near by with some food vouchers. We ate well, slept well, and woke up refreshed for the next day.

Everything went off without a hitch the following day. The flight from Seattle to Beijing was a quick(!) eleven hours. We were fed more than we needed and offered beer and wine regularly. I tried the Yanjing Beer, but mostly enjoyed one of my final opportunities to enjoy copious amounts of coffee for the next couple months.

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We landed in Beijing about 30 minutes late, but customs went quickly and we made it to our connecting flight just as it started boarding. We were two of only three foreigners on the plane. The other one sat between Josh and I for some reason. She was… different. Needless to say, we made it pretty obvious that we were not with her whenever we could.

The flight from Beijing to Guangzhou was a very long(!) 3.5 hours, but once again we were fed way more than necessary and able to keep pretty busy despite the fact that we had to power down our cell phones… not just airplane mode… POWER DOWN.

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We landed in Guangzhou just a little past 1:00AM. We hit the bathrooms, the ATM, and grabbed a taxi to downtown. Due to the delay in Seattle, I had to cancel our reservation at our hostel and just showed up this morning hoping they would have space. Thankfully, they did, but in separate dorm rooms.

[I’ll get you all a full rundown on the hostel once my roommate wakes her lazy butt up.]

We kissed good-night at the top of the stairs and agreed to text each other once we got settled into our bunks. Of course, it wasn’t until we got into our bunks that we experienced some of our first issues with the Great Fire Wall of China. I messaged him in every medium I could think of. I eventually got through to him by commenting on one of his beer tastings in Untapped.

I had a short, but nice sleep. I only had one roommate and she did not get in until 4am. Josh and I met again in the morning, got him worked out with Skype messaging (the best way to get a hold of us currently), got dressed, and went on a hunt for breakfast.

There are plenty of things that turn me off to China, but the food is something that just keeps bringing me back. Even just a walk down the crowded and dusty street after very little sleep was punctuated by greatness from all of the sights and smells of the food stalls and restaurants.

We ended up eating at a little hole in the wall place serving up some of my favorite breakfast pastries. Since we are in Southern China, they also had a nice collection of dim sum. Everything was amazing and immediately got me excited for the day.

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Left to Right: red bean paste stuffed sweet pastry, egg and green onion pastry thing, steamed bun, and some pork yummies.

The plan for the day is to run a couple of major errands, but otherwise take it pretty easy. I’m not totally stoked on our hostel, so we are going to head to the train station and book our tickets to Guilin. Then we need to do some shopping to pick up some little things. Besides that, our only other goals are to eat delicious food, meet a couple of the other hostel guests, and maybe/hopefully take a nap.

That’s it. We are safe, well fed, not particularly well rested, but ready to adventure.

Flying to Florida – It Begins

Today is Friday, our fourth day in Florida.We’re starting to feel a little more settled, but have definitely had some learnings along the way.

We did it! I can’t believe it actually happened, but it has. We quit our full-time, great paying jobs, narrowed down our belongings to a single carload, and left our lovely apartment to start a new life as Digital Nomads.

We cleaned our apartment and took off with all of our belongings stuffed into our Nissan Altima on Sunday. The drive to Boise was long, but exciting. I think everything really hit me once we got to Boise and I realized I was, technically, homeless. That was a bit of a creepy feeling. We spent two nights in Boise unloading the belongings that weren’t traveling with us, then flew to Florida for the month.

Mom lives in a cute little house only a block from the beach on the Space Coast. We’ll be spending the whole month of November couch surfing with Mom and her roommate, S. We have a near-private room with a pull-out bed and access to the backyard. We’ve been sleeping with the numerous windows open and enjoying the warm breeze and sounds of the ocean.

Today is Friday, our fourth day in Florida.We’re starting to feel a little more settled, but have definitely had some learnings along the way.

WiFi is a MUST. We spent a grueling 24 hours without internet or phone service. We faced the usual challenges expected from our other Millennial friends: anxiety, loneliness, and a serious case of FOMO (feelings of missing out). I know it sounded to Mom like we were just over-dramatizing our First World Problems, but when our entire livelihood is online, it really did feel like our lives were on pause. No work (literally; Josh works online) and no play (honestly people, Stranger Things Season Two just came out) makes us dull boys.

Being hosted means readjusting. We felt pretty confident about our spending habits and our routines, but those routines have already gone out the window since we have been here. I want to hang out with Mom and she wants to hang out with us, but that means adjusting our schedules. It hasn’t been a bad or difficult adjustment, but it has been impactful. Finding work has taken a little extra time and I’m behind on my blogs and language study.

As Josh and I aren’t particularly great at catching social cues, I think this will be an ongoing struggle for us when couch surfing. The solution we are working with so far is to stay honest with our host about our needs and finances, be good to our host by doing chores and making family meals, and staying positive and sharing our adventures whenever we can.

Find fun everywhere. This is one of the things I knew we would be good at. No gym? No problem! We have been walking as much as possible, doing Yoga with Adriene, and making the most out of the world around us (like exercising on the playground jungle gyms).

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For our evening at the pub, we decided on Pub Trivia (Iron Oak Post) so that we at least had a chance at winning a free bar tab… and we did! Ever met anyone famous? Now you have. Meet the winners of this week’s Trivia Nation 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s Trivia! It’s a big deal.

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The Great Purge of 2017

“OMG, we still have WAY TOO MUCH STUFF!”

A week ago, I really wanted to take one more trip to Zion. The drive is a little over five hours which just pushes my tolerance for a single-day trip. So I thought to myself, “We’ve gotten rid of a lot over the last few weeks, but I bet I still have enough supplies for camping.” I went through the list in my head: tent (check), sleeping bags (check), flashlights (check) .. cooking supplies (check) … camp chairs (check) …. “OMG, we still have WAY TOO MUCH STUFF!”

The Purge started two months ago with the entertainment items. Books and movies were the first to go. I separated them all into groups:

    • Donate – Entertainment items worth less than $0.50
    • Low Sales – Entertainment items worth $0.50 to $3.00 received_10159520086060293
      • sellbackyourbook.com – A convenient way to sell all of my low priced books. I scanned the UPC on my phone, was usually offered between $0.60 and $1.50, then packed everything up using their free shipping label.
      • Amazon Trade-In – The down side is that they only pay in gift cards, but let’s be honest, I will 100% use those gift cards. The search setting isn’t particularly convenient. I had to type in each individual item, confirm that the product details match, and verify the quality. Amazon offered me between $0.69 and $13.00 for most of my dvds and blu-rays along with the free shipping label.
      • High Sales – Entertainment items worth more than $3.00
        • Facebook Marketplace – In Oregon, I had far more luck selling locally on apps like LetGo, but not so much in Utah. People here were using the marketplace. It had the usual problem of people texting me at 2:00AM with “I’m interested” then never responding again. It was one of my best resources for selling furniture, but not so much for the books and movies. On average, I made between $1.00 to $6.00 per movie.
        • EBay – Besides for the furniture sales, we made more money selling books and movies on EBay then anything else. USPS Media Mail ships for an average of $2.50 per envelope. I had to spend some time researching the value of each item, but the time was well rewarded. Each item was put up for auction with a Buy Now option and free shipping. The Buy Now price was the full value of the item parked at slightly less than the average of similar items for sale that day. The auction price was set a little less than half of the Buy Now Price, but always greater than $3.50 (to make sure I got at least $1.00 in profit after shipping). My best selling entertainment item was an original copy of Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King for $19.50!

      Everything else (non-entertainment) was separated into Keep, Sell, and Donate. The majority of our things were donated in six carloads full. The Sell pile was put individually on Facebook Marketplace and posted on the Facebook wall of my apartment complex. Neither were particularly large successes… until Thursday night.

      Thursday night, I posted a small flyer on the community board and on the apartment Facebook wall that we would be have an Open Door Sale. Josh and I placed our bets as to how many people would show up. I bet two total and Josh bet zero. We had two hours planned for the sale that day; we spent the first hour and a half watching TV, because no one showed up.

      And then, a miracle.

      12 Chinese people walked in and immediately started buying EVERYTHING. They purchased all of the furniture and 75% of everything else that was on sale. In one hour, we sold all of the big ticket items (minus the bikes and computer) and were left with only one more car load full of donation items. We were left without a mattress, dishes, and chairs for the last three days before moving, but backaches and awkward eating seemed like a small price to pay for such a lucky visit.

      Our goal was to pack as light as possible. We ended up stuffing the car to the brim and were forced to donate two boxes worth of stuff at the last minute, but we managed to fit it all in. The five hour drive to Boise was tight and slow, but we set off into the sunset with a car packed with everything we owned and our hearts were free.