Minimalist

Money was a major theme when I kicked off this blog (33% of dickz, dollarz & killin it), but aside from tracking my expenses in this sheet, I haven't been writing all that much about it. 
I attribute this to 2 things:

  1. After paying off my college loans and credit card debt in October 2015, I quit my job and have been making more than enough to survive as I've been traveling - I just don't think about it as much now that the burden is gone
  2. Living out of a 50L bag reduces the chance that I'm going to buy shit. If I buy something I usually have to get rid of something - the Sophie's Choice of consumer manufactured products
 must love salt water

must love salt water

Last week, on the shared Kindle account I have with my mom, I found The Minimalists. As a result, I am fully engrossed in re-visiting my thoughts on possessions. The read was also timely because part of why I'm in Montenegro is to work on an app that focuses on people's unused clutter with a charitable component. As a result I've been thinking a lot about possessions and why people (me) have attachment to those things. 

I live out of a 50L bag, yes, but I still have 8 bins of clothing and shit stored at my dads. For the most part this stuff is out of sight, out of mind, yet somehow I still feel tethered by it. The Minimalists have connected me to many great blog reads and ideas (like the Project 333 clothing challenge, relevant once I'm past the bag lady phase of life). Accordingly, I'm pivoting in their direction with the following:

  1. When home for Christmas I'll try to sell 80% of my possessions (Poshmark, eBay, not a garage sale, etc.). What I can't sell in that time will be donated
  2. I'm going to limit my purchases to things that are necessary to make me more efficient in my work (digital marketing freelance and kayak/SUP/bike tours). Wishlist includes: contact lenses, polarized sunglasses, a charging brick and potentially a new laptop if my $350 Thailand-bought Acer shits the bed (but does I really NEEDZ a shiny new Mac, precioussssss-s-s?) 

Oh yeah, Montenegro! I lead some kayak and SUP tours, live in a coworking-hostel, work a bit of freelance and am kicking off the app. A few months ago I saw a Facebook post on a digital nomad group recommending the space and Montenegro for travelers who've maxed out their 3 months in the EU.  With no other promising options on my plate I emailed the owner to see if he'd be up for a trade. He was, so I booked a flight to this country and am yet again, winging it! So far, so good!

Needs

 beach yoga = free

beach yoga = free

Anyone who knows me has heard my rants, a skill I credit to Mr. John Anderson aka Dad. A recurring rant of mine has been Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and how they play into happiness. Low and behold Mr. Money Mustache covered these Needs this week (please note: required reading) and their relation to spending. In typical MMM fashion, he goes on about flexing your frugal muscles and cutting down on non-essential spending as a source of happiness.

In the last 2 years I've made drastic changes - I'm obnoxiously frugal, debt-free, a digital nomad, a vegetarian. When looking at the Needs, I've always met the basics (food, water, sleep). After the basics I've done ok too, I've maintained friendships, stayed in touch with my family, feel like I'm part of quite a few communities, fought off bed bugs successfully, am always doing something creative and artsy, and feel pretty secure in who I'm shaping up to be as a human.

 walking everywhere = free

walking everywhere = free

I'm even doing alright financially, if you follow along on my tracker you'd notice that from January thru May I spent $5,354 on necessities and $1,633 on toys (camera, bike, tattoo, cancelled flights). What isn't in there is what I've made! Since I started working part time in mid-February, I've earned $7,476, plus a nice tax return of $2,794. My motto of "I'll travel til the money runs out" hasn't caught me... yet! 

Once the basic Needs have been sorted, us humans have the chance for Self Actualization. It comes as a result of creative pursuits, service and giving back. Now, by no means am I a saintly person - perhaps not eternal damnation bound, but growing up I spent countless hours on the Bad Chair in the corner, in detention, and banished to my room. If there were equivalents to these as an adult, I would still be putting in hard time. Yet I have an infinite soft spot for dogs. 4 days each week I've been volunteering at two bike-able sanctuaries here in the Algarve.

The first is ADAPO, where there is a run of 6 dogs plus 4 wild dogs who I feed, water, love and hangout with. The second is Goldra where there are on average 120 dogs. I do the same things with these guys in addition to cleaning cages, bathing, grooming, and photographing so that perhaps they might be adopted (or sponsored, here's a link to sponsor one if you want to help out!). Some of these pups have big issues - behavioral, blindness, hit by a car, or as many puppies in Portugal are, left in a dumpster. Troubles and all, I love them. Each and every one. As I spend time with each one, I start daydreaming about adopting him or her and how happy we could be and the mischief we could get into. Perhaps we could explore the U.S. in a cross-country road trip to see everyone I love and miss... Just like John Steinbeck & Charley.

Reality check: I can't provide a stable dog-home right now because I'm not sure what's next, but for the next few months I've found a home here in Portugal and I can spread my time amongst an entire dog family. And guess what? Although NEXT is completely up in the air, I think I'm on the right track. 

BONUS: I've updated my goals. The exercise around this is one I learned when I worked at lululemon, it's shaped me and my decisions since 2010. I've still got to drill down on the next 2 years but I am in LOVE with where I'm headed. Let me know if you would like to do the same and I can coach you!

Baby Steps

I keep booking travel. And making decisions.

danang-vietnam-blog-girl-beach-american-digital-nomad

But my body and brain are resistant (LIZARD BRAIN DOESN'T WANT CHANGE). In Saigon I would hit snooze 2-4 times each morning. And although my work doesn't require me to stay in any one location, I stayed there for 2 months (aside from a short vaca in Phu Quoc with Maggie). During my time in Saigon, I lived in 2 apartments and chose to work in the same coworking spot almost every day. Building some consistency helped me normalize after the combustion I created when I broke up with my ex. 

But as visas tend to do, my Vietnam one expires in under a month. For some reason I kept avoiding making a decision about where to go next, as though the decision solidifies the fact that I now lead a solo life...

 saving the planet. one coffee at a time.

saving the planet. one coffee at a time.

Enter a new Twitter-friend, Flystein. A crew of travel hackers who (for a small fee) work with your miles and travel checklist to build out a shockingly affordable package. These guys came and visited me one day at Dreamplex and we had a chat about where I would wander off to after Vietnam. They recommended I try Da Nang before I leave, so I promptly booked a flight for $46. Easy.

But still, no plans to leave this country. With no real intention in mind, I logged into Flystein and casually entered details for Europe. In under an hour, I had custom itinerary to get to London for $22. 

"I'll book it this weekend." Me (& my lizard brain)
"Book it now." Flystein

So I booked. And a flight to Faro, Portugal ($42). And a flight to Dalat ($51). And from Cape Town to Buffalo for Christmas ($220). It would seem I am now addicted to booking travel. I went to Hoi An and Da Nang last week. I'm typing from Hanoi ($35).... WHAT?!

All this from the girl dubbed as "A dumb American traveler" from an ex not-to-be-named.

P.S. Still tracking the expenses down to the penny, if you'd like to follow along! Also, I chopped 80% of my hair off. I feel really awesomely spunky sometimes and then like a troll that will die alone at other times. Amazing how closely we link our identity to our hair...

I'm Rich Bitch

Find out how to travel the world + make money - it's simple!

 "gucci" sunglasses, duh

"gucci" sunglasses, duh

Bullshit. Bullshit I say. As a savvy digital marketer who is trying to define what a healthy stream of income looks like (and how much of my free time I will let it take up), I can tell you there isn't a simple source of cash flow, sitting there, just waiting for you to quit your job. Oh no.

I've been lucky with my work, I can do it just as well from this coffee shop in Ho Chi Minh as I can from a desk, in a cubicle, in a boring office building, in the 'burbs of Boston - actually, even better. But it is not EASY to find the right work and the right blend of clients with mutually beneficial expectations.

As I see them, these are the options:

  1.  Sign-on for a location independent Full Time Job: Work at nifty shared workspaces and coffee shops in foreign lands. However, the reason I chose to be a #digitalnomad is traveling with an enhanced freedom - something that sitting at a computer 50 hours/week detracts from.
  2. Balance multiple clients with varying needs: This is not a bad option unless the needs for multiple clients ramp up at the same time, which can be stressful. Also, building up a client base requires a lot of groundwork (networking, dead ends, consultations, etc.)
  3. Land one part-time client, average 20 hours/week: Timing to ebb and flow based on their needs + your own travel. Maintain a few additional clients for small projects as needed. This option seems heavenly...

To note, these clients are not waiting patiently for you with a pretty cash flow. Nope. Finding these relationships requires hustle, trying different clients and roles on for size, and patience. I'm still searching.

In the interim, I've been having a blast traveling and experiencing all sorts of wild and crazy things... But don't be fooled, I am incredibly budget conscious (see financial tracker here) and look for opportunities to work at dive shops, hostels and WWOOFing to defray the costs of travel.

Just like the couple who quit their jobs and now scrub toilets to get by, my ex and I did our share of un-glamorous work to earn a buck! For example: 

 earning a buck

earning a buck

  • Worked 4 shifts/week at Pai Circus Hostel for free accommodation + a few meals (I welcomed guests, he was a security guard)
  • I traded my social media skills to defray some of my diving costs for Deep Blue Seafari. My approximate rate? $11 / hour. Quite reduced from my old 80k salary.
  • The ex works at The Hideout Hostel here in Ho Chi Minh. For $300/month, free beer at the hostel and a shift meal he gives them 6 (!!!!!) nights each week. He runs bar crawls, pours bottles of liquor down backpackers throats + gets home late at night. This was less than ideal for a few (ahem) reasons... And one of the contributing factors to the break-up.
  •  We made money when we sold our motorbikes. Even after I crashed and dented the Palawan bike we sold it for 1000 pesos ($20.95) more than we purchased it for. That's money saved avoiding rental costs and *hopefully* leaves a nice little profit at the end
  • Still looking into WWOOF, HelpX and Workaway options, but slightly underwhelmed so far by Vietnam's options (more on WWOOF here)

The net-net? Although not washing toilets (yet), the diet consists of plenty of packets of ramen and as shown above, I have done plenty of sub-minimum-wage work to make this possible. It's not all fun and insta-filters!

Day Trippin' from El Nido

The Province of Palawan, Philippines is majestically beautiful. However, when looking for cheap backpacking options in Southeast Asia, Palawan and specifically El Nido should not be on top of your list. Despite this, it is a beautiful small town and not overly touristy (yet).

 the views north of El Nido

the views north of El Nido

As two budget-conscious travelers, my ex and I were averaging about $41/day for 7 weeks (see the breakdown here) - we grocery shopped and stayed in the housing provided through our dive shop (774 pesos/night).  High season begins in December which is right around when we arrived and we found that the hostels were typically more expensive than the homestays (pensions). A non-aircon, single room in a homestay ranged from 500-900 pesos per night, whereas 1 dorm bed ranged from 400-700 pesos per night. Also, most of the places to stay are not listed online - just get to town and walk around, you'll find something!

Once in "downtown" El Nido you'll see the bay and many small boats. Warning: this is not where you want to swim. It is murky with boat fuel spillage and a couple sewage drains that seem to drain directly into this area. Sexy. Options for getting to El Nido are:

  • Flying directly into the tiny airport (pricier option)
  • Taking a van or bus from Puerto Princesa (the road is 95% paved as of Jan2016, apparently funded by American oil companies)
  • Boats + ferries from Manila or Coron (watch out for seasickness on the smaller boats)

Some of the best times in Palawan were the day trips that we went on. Many require a motorbike or renting a tricycle, but are definitely worth it!

 sunset at Republica

sunset at Republica

  1. Marimegmeg Beach: Known to locals as Las Cabanas Beach. Just south of El Nido and only a 15 minute tricycle ride that should cost 100 pesos for 2 people. This beach is clean and has perfect views of the limestone islands. There are two reasonably priced bars that serve right on the beach. The only annoyance are the local kids selling fake pearls at an insane markup - you'll be asked no less than 10 times to buy them...

  2. Republica Sunset Bar: On the way back from Las Cabanas - this is the best place to watch the sunset just outside of El Nido. The San Miguel pilsner is 60 pesos and the view is perfect. The owner is Spanish, so you'll find their menu is European fusion + the sangria is amazing and the chill music they played was great. Follow them on Spotify (@republicasunsetbar)!

  3. Nacpan Beach: This beach is a 45 minute tricycle or 30 minute motorbike ride north of El Nido.  If you're looking for something more remote than the beaches in El Nido proper then this is a good option (although many tourists do head here). There is a 100 peso/person conservation fee once you arrive. The beach is pristine and is lined with small bars, restaurants and places to stay.

  4. Deep Blue Dive Seafari: A great PADI dive shop in El Nido. The staff is knowledgeable and professional, which is why we dove with them for 1.5 months. They offer day diving, night diving and occasional Seafaris to Coron for wreck diving + other remote sites. 

  5. Boat Tours: Boat tours to island hop are a popular option for everyone visiting El Nido. Almost every corner has a travel agency where these tours can be booked - most including a freshly prepared lunch. Additionally, there is an option to charter the entire boat and pick the specific islands you'd like to visit. When booking, make sure to find out how many people are on your boat - some are overcrowded (up to 16ppl). Although most of the tours leave at 9am, I'd recommend pushing for earlier and get to the best spots first. I went out with a wonderful Dutch family on Christmas day and they had chartered the boat just for us, it was one of the highlights during my time there.

  6. Duli Beach Resort: We never went to this spot, however I heard good things! It's a 60 minute motorbike ride north of El Nido (tricycle drivers will not take you there). It's quite remote with a small resort at the end of the beach that sells beer and food. Expect to pay 50 pesos per person to cut across a local family's land to get here. Another option is to charter a boat from El Nido, but this would definitely be pricier (unless you have a larger group).

  7. Verde Safari Beach: A 90 minute motorbike ride north of El Nido - and the trail is not for beginners (dirt roads, steep hills, etc.). This pristine beach is a reminder of what Palawan was 10-20 years ago, undeveloped, remote, tourist-free, gimmick free - just clean sands and the clear water. Make sure to bring snacks because there is nothing for purchase on the beach. 

  8. San Fernando: A small village just north of Verde Safari Beach. This tiny village is remote Palawan with local flavor. The friendly locals looked surprised seeing foreigners but were friendly wherever we stopped. There is almost no wifi and the cell phone data coverage is quite slow (but will work). Great place to get off the grid and disappear for awhile - especially Casa Felicidad, we stopped here for a beer and to check out their cocks (ahem, roosters...).

P.S. Don't miss Nagtabon Beach, about 45 north from Puerto Princesa. Pics + details here.

verde-safari-beach-palawan-panoramic

VIP Machete Service

hyatt-manila-philippines-backpacker-ocd

Luxury. I don't need much of it to be happy. That being said, there is a time and place where it can be quite appreciated. Like after an overnight ferry on wooden bunkbeds in Southeast Asia.

I was lucky enough to redeem a reward night at the all gold errythang Hyatt in Manila for our last night in the Philippines. And indeed, this luxe last night tradition is one I would like to continue. Between the hostels, overnight buses, ferries, non-AC shared housing, and general backpacker nature of our lives, there was just something so magical about the following, not necessarily in order of import:

  • Sitting on a marble floor to shave with a waterfall shower sprinkling HOT water over you 
  • The robes, oh those robes. I love thee
  • Being upgraded, allowed to check in early + treated like a queen - even though we were in our dirty backpacker uniforms 
  • Laying out all of my possessions in order of what they are - just 'cuz

And the best part? The very best?

Going through the medical detectors and having T's machete "checked" at the lobby. They didn't make a scene, take it away or call the authorities - just simply gave us a valet receipt ❤ 

 check yo machete @ the door

check yo machete @ the door

Rum + Money

A bottle of Tanduay rum is 95 pesos. That is $2.02 usd at the time of this writing. Other things that are quite cost effective:

 Palawan views

Palawan views

Speaking of Tanduay rum, when you move to *the rest of the world* plenty of the same bullshit troubles you had before tend to find their way to where you are. I don't have a drinking problem (and in fact take months off at a time for health reasons), but sometimes... as an OCD perfectionist with loop-like thoughts, I prefer to take the edge off (although the MME method is usually enough - meditation, masturbation, exercise).

Whether it be my mom's up and coming tell all book (my parents are divorced, so you can understand the implications), my frequent injuries, getting to know the ins-and-outs of a new boyfriend while living together and sharing finances, or realizing a few G's into a dive program that you prefer the operations end of things, sometimes a nice stiff drink is exactly what you need. Or sometimes adding that depressant into the mix just leads to a crying mess who misses her bulldog. 

Depressants and depressing things aside... The traveling and nomadic lifestyle is AMAZING. Living this way is really interesting and life-changing, in the best way. Every day I question what my purpose is, what I want to do, and how to keep it going. These aren't typical thoughts that really have to be faced on a daily basis in the States. And let's face it, even if Tanduay is made with gasoline - it's pretty awesome that a whole bottle costs less than one craft beer anywhere else in the world.

Pimp My Hut

hut-bungalow-pai-circus-hostel

Circus life continues. Free lodging in exchange for a few shifts of "work" per week. Me coloring on chalk boards while showing guests to their room, T staying up late night and hushing guests/breaking up debaucheries of all sorts... Sex on the trampoline + fist fights to name a few.

Our bungalow (hut?) just got pimped out (like pimp my ride but more of a glamping twist). I was whining about my sore back and trying to get a back-rub out of the deal but somehow this inspired T to renovate our space (and once began he was a man possessed). AKA borrow mattress pallets + plastic rug + fan from empty staff bungalow next door, rotate bed and bug net horizontally for optimal space utilization, check on-site storage for odds and ends to score a coffee table and re-jigger our clothes line inside so towels would be out of head range. Plus I scored the backrub as well.

Benefitz of pimped bungalow:

  1. Cozy environment to invite in others for a smoke of Indonesia's finest
  2. Babe magnet, "So you're T... I hear you have the best bungalow and you pimped it out... Can I see?" - "Probably not a good idea, my girlfriend is in there sleeping right now." "Oh"... I WILL CUT YOU
  3. Menta l health and less of a feeling of transient-homelessness

Mental Shift

It a mental exercise to remember what side of the road is the correct side to drive on. It's the opposite in the States and sometimes I just can't remember!

Another mental exercise is redefining my worth. I never put a ton of stock into being a "career woman" but I was fairly successful in <5 years of digital marketing from going from $18 per hour to $80+k. Now I am looking for scraps and odd jobs for freelance work and volunteering at a circus for free room + shift meals. This is not a complaint or a bad thing, however it is a weird mental shift. It's the space between.

elephant-girl-pai-thailand-travel-wander

The space between finding a place to live for a few months and getting divemaster certified.

The space between defining my budget and what I can earn.

The space between knowing for certain (or as certain as we can) that we should stick together as a couple or if we will part ways amicably or catastrophically.

I didn't save much to begin this lifestyle - in fact I basically only have what was budgeted for November's rent. So in terms of being an equal partner with finances I feel like I'm on really shaky ground. This isn't an issue between us, it's my issue. a lack of control and mobility. I'll have it back once there is a defined stream of income, but currently there is a certain scramble-mode in my brain.

The easy solution is pack-up + head back to the states, save some money, define income streams that are sustainable overseas... The creative solution is one where I find a way to create an sustainable income that allows me to save + live. The kickass part? I am debt free + that isn't going anywhere. I can live on very little and be happy. Pairing down my belongings to always fit in my 50L bag is an exhilarating feeling.  The rest? Ha, just noise. It will work it's way out.

Crash

My nickname at 16 was crash. Cute right? The Botzenhart Brothers (our mechanics) named me that after frequent (monthly) visits to their shop to fix my 3 (4?) car accidents that year. Now at 31 my grand total is 14, and 3 of those accidents totaled said vehicles. 

Yay money! Yet somehow I worked it so that in high school to always had 2 jobs which covered the accidents and insurance premiums, and then in my twenties it just seemed like insurance rates couldn't keep up with me. The frequent moves? Constantly changing aliases? Sex operator phone skills? However all that spending had to have had its toll. Now for the first time I dive into the true ramifications of putting me behind a wheel... (numbers are approximations due to prompt destruction of records post-calamity):

  • Accident 1: hit the house with the neon, damage to siding and car - $350
  • Accident 2: ranger, hit the cement barrier in the garage at the galleria - $200
  • Accident 3: ranger, falling off of a cliff in canandaigua - $250
  • Accident 4: ranger, hydroplaned into another vehicle - $250
  • Accident 5: ranger, totaled by a semi truck - $0 (it wasn't my fault!!!!!)
  • Accident 6: totaled a rental car - $0 (thank god for rental insurance...)
  • Accident 7: scion, let dumb bf drive and he ran a red, got t-boned - $500 + renting a car $300 (yes I paid, my poor dating decisions is a separate topic)
  • Accident 8: scion, reversing back into an intersection - $500
  • Accident 9: equinox, rear ended a truck - $0 (no damage)
  • Accident 10: equinox, side swiped a guy who was high as a kite, totally my fault but when I mentioned a police report he peaced - $0 (same day as accident 9)
  • Accident 11: mini cooper, hydroplaned after intersection - $250
  • Accident 12: mini, side railed by another vehicle - $0 (woooo, not my fault)
  • Accident 13: mini, took a left turn into a vehicle passing me - $500 
  • Accident 14: mini, totaled on the pike - $500 + miscellaneous broken foot fees... $1000?
  • Insurance ranged $60-120/mo during this time and I was not driving during 4 years while in college: $90 x 12mo x 11yr = $11,880
  • Car payment years were 2006-2014 ranging $250-450: $350 x 12mo x 8yr = $33,600

Assuming an 8% interest rate and compounded interest from the middle age of my driving years (16-31 = 23 years), this $50,080 would equal $1,269,001.25 at retirement. 

And that is not including gas, excise fees, planned maintenance and tolls...

OK, so kill me.

This is part of why I chose to be car free as of 8.6.15.

car-bike-commuter-eco-boston