Meet Kevin – a 27 year-old Australian with a business degree.
What is Kevin doing? Posting travel photos on Facebook? Skyping a friend in Adelaide?
Kevin is teaching himself Programming.
He does this for 8 hours a day on a simple desk, outside a room he shares with 3 other travellers (when the beds are filled) in a remote hillside village in Vietnam called Sapa.
Kevin’s been at it for 1 month now and says he’s motivated as ever.
He takes breaks, eats at local market stalls and can walk into the mountains if he feels like it.
Why is he doing this? Because Kevin has a plan that doesn’t involve working a 40-hour weeks just to earn an income that will barely sustain an average Adelaide lifestyle, let alone afford him the “luxury of travel” (travel really should be mandatory). That, plus the fact that he realised soon after graduating that the world of business just wasn’t for him. He wants to travel and learn and grow and meet new people and he doesn’t want to do this after hours and on the weekends, in between admin, food shopping and washing.
So he went into the business of educating himself in the lifestyle he wants to create and set about making it happen. For himself. By himself. And for him that includes travel and learning. After a few months, he will return home, with a new skill that didn’t get him into student loan debt. Once there, he will gain the experience and money he needs over the course of a year (his estimate) and then go to south America, where he will live for two years, to teach himself Spanish. He plans to have enough skills to do some work remotely and earn an income that is more than his living expenses.
I have one phrase for you: Disposable Income. Learn to keep your income equal to or above your monthly expenses and you will have all the business knowledge you need to sustain yourself and your chosen lifestyle.
Kevin isn’t trust funded. He just looks at his life from this principle. He put his valuables in storage, cut out all unnecessary expenses back home and headed to a cheap country. And then, after two months travelling on a motorbike with five strangers across the country, he settled down to the business of attaining his programming skills through “remote learning”. You don’t get much more remote than Sapa.
By living in a shared room (he would share a house in Adelaide) and eating local, Kevin is able to live on $10 a day. $300 a month. He says that wouldn’t cover his rent back home. I know it wouldn’t cover mine. Okay so Kevin does it really really cheaply. But take me for example, I live on $30 a day and that includes having my own room and bathroom, eating pretty well at a mixture of restaurants and even travelling once a week to a new place. That’s about R9000 a month, which I can get down if needs be. If I stayed in one place, I could easily do R6000 a month all in. Because like Kevin, I got my expenses back home down to the bare minimum but unlike him, I work remotely a few days a week to sustain my fabulous R9 000 lifestyle.
Kevin and I are not alone, or even trailblazers. There are tons of digital nomads – people who have worked out a way to work remotely in areas with great WiFi. Vietnam is just one of them. Ubud (Bali) and Chiang Mai (Thailand) have become the hot spots for remote workers. But you don’t have to follow their trend. There are plenty of places that have great WiFi, beautiful scenery, cheap food and accommodation and….here’s the key for South Africans…. easy visa requirements. Some like Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Laos give you visas on arrival. Vietnam is easy to get at home or you can pay a bit more and get one on arrival by flying in. and it’s pretty easy and cheap ($30 a month) to renew your month visa. Or move to another country.
Many travellers and alternative thinkers (why it’s still thought of as alternative after the economic crisis is beyond me) are marrying these simple business principles to their life principles. I have come across traders who work online during the week and travel on the weekends. I have met couples in between careers or projects, some with kids in two, travelling for months at a time. Others who work at home for six months, and travel the rest of the year. Marriage and toddlers are no longer the excuses they used to be. And don’t discount gaining a few good business ideas along the way. Anyone want to develop live Skype tours of remote and historical sites? Let’s talk.
Back home, I find middle class white South Africans love to tell you (in subtle and not so subtle ways) how much they earn. They are proud of their big fuel-guzzling cars, big price tag toys, houses in all the best areas and will bed over backwards to show you pictures and videos of all of these on various screens and apps. Even their toddlers have their own devices and can upload songs on YouTube phones, even if they have never made a patty cake out of dirt and water. The point is that if you took one look at their monthly expenses (car, mortgage, petrol, and general lifestyle) you can bet their disposable income looks a lot like yours, even if their salary doesn’t. Because all that materialism comes at a huge cost to your bank account and personal freedom.
I don’t know about you but I got sick of talking about the accumulation of money and assets like they were guaranteed to keep you safe from crime, currency volatility and corrupt government. Did pension frauds, corporate greed and the global economic recession not teach us anything about placing out trust in systems that don’t have our best interests at heart. I know where my personal security comes from and it sure as hell aint money or anything that could be found externally. But that’s a topic for another day.
I hope this brings you a little closer to your truth today.
Misses and kisses from the mountains.