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.


 

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

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!

Our First Scooter Adventure – Moon Hill

We rented an electric scooter, braved the Chinese traffic, and set out for a hike up Moon Hill near Yangshuo.

One of the more interesting things we’ve seen since arriving in China is the swarms of electric scooters buzzing about on the roads. I’ve been wanting to try one out for a while now, but Josh has been a bit nervous about driving in the insane traffic (the only rule seems to be “don’t hit anyone else”). Our hostel in Yangshuo rents electric scooters for ¥50 (~$8) per day, so on one particularly warm morning I finally convinced Josh drive me around to see the sights.

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I had a nice, comfortable ride on the back.

Our destination was a stretch of road known as the Ten Mile Gallery. I have no idea why it’s called that, but it seems to be a generic name for these sort of scenic drives. This one was nowhere near ten miles long, but it was certainly scenic, with ornate Chinese-style gates at each entrance and beautiful scenery throughout. There are also many little places where you can pull over and explore a bit. I sat on the back and took pictures while Josh piloted us around.

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View from a bridge we crossed

There’s limited access for cars and trucks on this road, so we had very little traffic to contend with once we got through the gate. Electric scooters are considered bicycles here, so we simply rode through the gate without stopping. We scooted down the road next to tandem bikes, walkers, and other scooters. The ride was easy and the view was out of this world. We stopped at only one of the side excursions on this trip (there will be more), a nice hike up to Moon Hill.

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Moon Hill from the street

We paid our fare of ¥14 ($2) each to get in, then parked our little scooter inside the gate. We were immediately accosted by women trying to sell us overpriced drinks, but they were very friendly and did eventually let us go our own way.

The hike was broken up into three marked trails: Moon Palace, Moon Pagoda, and the strangely named Dresser. We started up the Pagoda trail and was shouted at by our new soda-hawking friends at the bottom to take the Palace trail instead. As per usual in China, the trail was less of a dirt path and more of an ongoing set of stone stairs, swept clean of any leaves or debris.

Halfway up, we decided to veer off and take the Dresser trail. At least, we think that’s the trail we took; there were two signs at the fork, one saying “Dresser”, and one saying “Vanity”. Regardless of the name, it looked like a fairly easy climb (fewer stairs), and headed toward a nearby rise that looked like it would give a view of the Moon Hill arch. It was a short climb, and at the top, we were indeed treated to a nice view of the arch.

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Moon Hill from Dresser Trail

After our short detour, we turned around and continued up the Palace trail. The stairs became narrow and uneven as we neared the top, and the angle was quite steep, turning our comfortable walk into a strenuous climb. But, right when I thought I wasn’t going to make it, we arrived. We turned a corner and, BAM, we were under the arch.

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View from under Moon Hill

It was much larger than I expected. There were stalactites hanging from the top, dripping onto our heads, and looking ready to tumble at any moment. The arch itself was quite lovely, but the view of the surrounding valley and neighboring mountains was even better.

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View of the surroundings from under Moon Hill’s arch

Aided by gravity, the climb down was much easier than the climb up. We bartered for a coke at the bottom, bringing the ladies down to ¥5 from their requested ¥10 (our hostel sells them for ¥3, but we were pretty thirsty). We bundled ourselves up, enjoyed our delicious soda, and headed back to town. We got there just in time, too, because it started to rain just before we arrived.

I had so much fun riding on the back of the scooter, feeling free and adventurous. The Ten Mile Gallery has a lot of other fun side trips and scenery to offer, and I can’t wait until the sun comes back out so we can go on another scooting adventure!

 

 

 

 

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.

20180117_112841
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!