How I Afford my Life

Bhutanese Prayer Flags

Bhutanese Prayer Flags

Since I retired three years ago I have had a lot of people ask how much it costs to fund my travel adventures. I have always been hesitant to answer that because what a person “needs” is a very personal thing and the way I live may seem, depending on where you are coming from, either extraordinarily extravagant or miserably deprived. I truly am fortunate because most of the choices I make are lifestyle decisions and not ones of finance. Finance is of course important but because for now because I choose to live very simply it isn’t much of an issue.

Also, living my life with what is — from my previous perch anyway — a minimum of possessions, I have given myself to a lot of freedoms that I didn’t know existed. The time and money that I used to spend acquiring, maintaining and housing all of my stuff is now mine to spend on other priorities. I don’t worry about property insurance because I have no property to insure. I don’t worry much about fashion because I only have a few suitcases. I don’t buy big screen TVs or home-entertainment systems because I don’t have time for them and just the act of owning them would restrict my mobility and my freedom. Below is an example of how I am living now — it could change tomorrow. That is another freedom I am giving myself; the right to change my mind.

Temple in Mrauk U, Burma

Temple in Mrauk U, Burma

I am currently based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. My fixed living expenses; including water, electricity and Internet are around $350 USD a month but I know people that spend less than that. For this I have a simple but newly remodeled 15th floor studio apartment in the center of town with city and mountain views that is a five minute walk to most events and many restaurants. For transportation I rent a late model Honda PCX 150cc motorcycle for $120 USD a month that I turn in to the rental agency when I am traveling so I don’t have that expense, or worry, when I am away. I could save a little money by cooking at home but, because Chiang Mai is such an affordable and diverse food town, I choose to eat most of my meals out. Even so, it is a rare when my food costs exceed $15 USD a day; including a beer or a glass of wine with dinner. If I wanted to be a bit pickier and only eat local I could easily keep my food costs below $5 USD a day. Entertainment is generally free or inexpensive but to give you an idea, seeing a first run movie (in English) in a modern theatre with reserved seating costs about $3 USD.

Buddha Day in Chiang Mai

Buddha Day in Chiang Mai

Also, I usually choose to travel “close to the bone” and experience life a little bit closer to the way the majority of people on the planet do. That is not to say that on occasion I don’t indulge in, and completely enjoy, a little extravagance and luxury. My main objective is to live outside of the mind-numbing bubble of perceived entitlement, privilege and convenience that I used to spend most of my time in. I want to expand my comfort zones — not devote my time and money to making them more plush and constrictive. Consequentially my costs on “on the road” generally don’t change that much except for transportation costs. For example, see “What Does it Cost to Live in Bali for a Month?”

I have never intended this blog to be an accounting of costs or a self-indulgent, “You Must Live the Way I Do” screed. Everyone’s situation is different and I am just hoping to tell people my thought process and help them look at different possibilities and see some alternatives to how they are doing things now. I also enjoy sharing my experiences and showing what is available to anyone looking for something different. Next week I may be sleeping on the floor of a homestay in remote Indonesia or spending a few days back in the bubble of a six star resort, but whatever it is I will be trying to make the most of my most valuable asset — time.

 

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Author: Jonathan Look

In 2011 Jonathan Look decided to change his life and pursue adventures instead of comfort and possessions. His goal is to travel the world solo; one country at a time, one year at a time. To accomplish this he got rid of most of his possessions, packed up what little he saw as necessities and headed out. His goal is to spend ten years discovering new places, meeting new people and taking the time to learn about them, their values and their place on this tiny planet. He embraces the philosophy that says a person is the sum of their experiences and rejects the fraud of modern consumerism that makes people into slaves of their consumption. He doesn't intend to be modern day ascetic, just more mindful of his place in the world and to make decisions according to that new standard.

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