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

Work Update

An update of our work and income for the month.

If there’s one question we’ve been asked more than any other, it’s “How can you afford this?” Most people are a little hesitant; after all, it’s a bit taboo to just ask about someone’s finances. For us, though, it’s not an uncomfortable question at all. We completely understand that this lifestyle is new and confusing to just about everyone, including us!

Basically, this trip is our attempt to follow our life-long dreams and give one final shot at being “everything we always wanted to be” before settling down with a white picket fence and a yard full of dogs and kids. Both of us have goals that we’ve never even tried to reach before, and we found ourselves with an opportunity to really give these new careers 100%. The trade-off is that we lose some stability, for a while at least. For now, these are our jobs, and how we plan to keep on living.

When I grow up, I want to be a travel show host… or at least a travel writer like my heroes Rick Steves and Samantha Brown. I’m writing this blog, spending at least 2-3 hours on social media each day promoting the blog, and planning adventures that are blog-worthy. Right now, my official work title is Travel Blogger and I make money whenever my readers click on ad links on my page. This month, I made $0.57!!! It may not sound like much, but I did literally nothing more than exactly what I wanted to do. As someone who has spent many years getting paid to do things I didn’t want to do, this is a pretty big deal.

WordAds Earnings ‹ The Places We Live — WordPress com
This is my payment summary for the month: $0.57!!!! I’m famous!!!!

Josh wants to be a writer. He is quite a bit more cautious than I am, and therefore doesn’t feel comfortable without having a little bit of “real work” on the side. So, Josh does a little bit of science and freelance writing on Upwork making an average of $200 per month so far. One of his ongoing gigs is translating scientific papers about cannabis research as a PhD news author for CannaHealth.org.

News CannaHealth org
One of Josh’s first publications for CannaHealth

Josh’s real focus, however, is on creative writing. He is 55,000 words (159 pages) into his novel and has written several short stories and flash fictions. His goal is to publish as many of his shorter stories as possible to improve his exposure and improve his chances of signing with an agent. So far, his publications have been limited to “exposure pay”, which means he gets a place to post his stories where a lot of people will read them, but it doesn’t pay any money. He has been applying for paid publications and has been rejected from a couple, but he has been keeping his head high and continues to submit.

He got his very first exposure piece published last week through The Weekly Knob, a website with over 9,500 followers that “prompts writers to write.” Every week, it provides writers with a random prompt to write about. Last week’s prompt was “Bowling Ball.” The submitted stories must be central to the prompt word and is recommended to be under a six minute read. Josh submitted his embellished story about the time he stole a bowling ball in college and was awarded with Editor’s Choice!

The Weekly Knob
Josh’s first publication on The Weekly Knob

Not including the sale of our car and all of our wonderful Christmas gifts, our income was $216 this month. It is not even close to our goal of $800 per month, but we are trying to remember that we are starting over with our careers. It took us a long time and a lot of work to get the salary we wanted with our last jobs. We are going to be patient and stay determined to give our dream jobs everything we have!

Chasing the Dream

Last night, I submitted my first piece of fiction for publication.

[Originally posted on The Academy]

A while back I ran across this excellent cartoon depicting a section of “On Writing,” by Stephen King. The first few panels really hit me in the feels, because it depicts King describing his “dream” writing desk. Growing up, I always told people I wanted to be a scientist of one sort or another, because even then I knew writing wasn’t a practical career choice. Everyone wants be to something when they grow up, but how many people actually get there? What reason did I have to think I was any different? So I went with the achievable and smart choice, when really I was fantasizing about my writing room.

Let’s take the tour.

The first thing you’ll notice is the view from the window.  Sometimes there’s a lake, sometimes there isn’t, but the pines are always there, close enough that I can watch the squirrels chase each other up and down the trunks, but far enough away to allow for a nice yard. Under the window is my desk. It’s a little bigger than necessary for its function, but I like to decorate, so I need that space. The desk, like everything else, is a dark cherry color. It’s got everything a desk needs: a blotter; a brass lamp with one of those green glass shades; a decorative typewriter that I’ll try to actually use once and just end up making a huge mess with; and quirky desk toys scattered about for character. To the right is my little library, with bookshelves built right into the wall and soft leather chairs for reading (and maybe enjoying the occasional scotch and cigar). To the left of the desk is one of those old-fashioned refrigerators with the white, clamshell doors and a latched handle. This is my sanctuary, my little hideaway where I can slip into other worlds for a while and no one will notice that I’m gone.

Sadly, this place doesn’t exist. Yet. But I’m working on it. Last night, I submitted my first piece of fiction for publication. It’s a short story, a psychological horror tale about an incarcerated protagonist whose life is slowly becoming a waking nightmare. It’s got a little bit of social commentary, maybe some insight into the realities of life, and even some science. Also bugs. Lots of bugs.

I have no idea if it’s going to get picked up. I wrote it, after all, so of course I think it’s good, but it could be a real stinker. It’s just under 6,000 words, and I had to fight for nearly every one. It went through 4 drafts (one was eaten by the Microsoft OneDrive cloud gods — curse you!) before ending up in its finished state, and even now I’m thinking about making a couple tweaks. As the saying goes, “Perfection is the enemy of the good”; it’s time to let it go and see what the editors have to say.

This is the first time I’ve felt like I’m really treating my hobby as a career, and it feels good. All the little things that have been rattling around in my brain are finally starting to coalesce into something real. This first submission, while a small step, is the first one toward making my writing room a reality.

I can’t wait to break ground.

Learning to Fish

Note: originally published over at The Academy

When I was a kid, my parents took me out fishing on a pretty regular basis. I was terrible at it. I didn’t like how dirty my hands felt after baiting a hook. I didn’t like sitting and waiting with nothing to do. I didn’t like not catching anything. At that age, I didn’t have an appreciation for the time that comes in between casts, waiting for that little tug on the end of the line that signals something exciting is about to happen. It just wasn’t for me.

I’m learning that freelance writing is a lot like fishing. First, you have to scope out the waters, looking for the right place to throw out your hook. Then you have to dress up that hook as best you can and drum up a little interest. Once you get a bite, you have to play a game of back and forth until you can reel them in. If you’re successful, you get to eat. If not, you get to come back and try again the next day.

For the past month I’ve been using Upwork to try and find freelance jobs, with mixed success. I managed to land two jobs last month, and the experiences were as different as night and day. The first job was creating a powerpoint presentation for a business professor who was speaking at an academic conference. She was presenting one of her lesson plans and the benefits of using her particular approach. The process was really straight-forward: I sent her an application explaining why I would be the best choice, she interviewed me, I gave her a time estimate and a quote, and then I came in under budget. Easy-peasy.

My second job, less easy. It was supposed to be a quick job, a 500 word “statement of purpose” for a college application. The job post said that they wanted an Expert, which I am, so I applied at my usual rate. She got back to me, and was interested in having me do the work, but was unable to afford my rate. I bid her good luck, and thought that was it. But then she contacted me again a few days later, saying that she’d already gone through two freelancers who said they could do it for $50, and neither of them had delivered, and she REALLY wanted my help because this was her dream school. We went back and forth several times; I’d lower my price, and then the job would become more difficult. In the end, I wound up doing an $800+ job for $100. Not only that, but she had high expectations that she was unable to clearly communicate, and was completely inflexible, something I didn’t find out until AFTER we’d signed the contract and it was too late to walk away. In the end, I think the statement we crafted was really well done, and I’m still waiting to hear if she got in or not, but this was definitely an experience in negotiation and sticking to my guns.

There are plenty of fish out there, if you’ve got the skills to land them. Unfortunately, I’m still learning those skills. But I’m getting better. I’m being selective about the jobs I apply for, my cover letters are becoming more targeted and easier to write, and I’m refusing to sell myself short. It’ll take time, but success breeds success, and the more jobs I get, the easier it’ll be. I just have to learn to be a little more patient and to enjoy the time in between.