Notes from Chile: Lodging and Transportation

Our trip to Chile is coming to an end. We’ve been here almost three weeks and have enjoyed a trip to the most arid desert in the world, plus lots of sightseeing in Santiago, the country’s capital, where we’re staying.

Where are we staying, exactly? Santiago has tons of AirBnBs, hotels, and hostels. But we didn’t want to spend money on those options when Mr. ThreeYear’s whole family lives here. So we’re staying in… our apartment!

San Miguel

Thirteen years ago, Mr. ThreeYear and I bought an apartment for his mom to live in, right before we left Chile to live in the US. All of the details of our purchase and payments are detailed in this post.

The apartment is located in one of Santiago’s 37 comunas. We’ve argued about the best way to translate this word, but I think they’re best described as neighborhoods, although they are official units of governance within the city. Mr. ThreeYear says the correct translation is municipalities.

Comunas de
Santiago is divided up into 37 “comunas,” or neighborhoods.

The “best” comunas are in the Northeastern sector of the city–La Reina, Las Condes, Vitacura, Lo Barnachea, and La Dehesa, a community so exclusive it isn’t even on the map.

Our apartment is located in San Miguel, a comuna that’s right in the middle of the city (which I never realized!), just under the big red Santiago comuna. San Miguel is famous for, among other things, being home to Los Prisioneros, probably Chile’s most famous rock band from the ’80s. It’s where Mr. ThreeYear grew up, and where a lot of his family still lives (it seems like every other day we run into a distant cousin when we’re out walking). Continue reading “Notes from Chile: Lodging and Transportation”

Our Trip to the Desert: San Pedro de Atacama

Merry Christmas! The ThreeYears are currently in Chile. We just got back from a side trip we took to the San Pedro de Atacama desert, in the northeastern part of the country, close to the Bolivian border. San Pedro de Atacama is the driest desert in the world by amount of rainfall received, but it’s also nestled in the Altiplano of the Andes mountains, so there are mountain-fed rivers and streams and salt lagoons everywhere.

Our Trip to San Pedro de

Mr. ThreeYear is from Chile, and his entire family lives here, so we visit as much as we can, usually for about three weeks. We plan a side visit to one or two spots we’ve never visited for each trip, so that we can see somewhere new in South America. This year, we picked the San Pedro de Atacama desert, because Junior ThreeYear wanted to visit a desert and see an observatory.

San Pedro de Atacama Desert is a tourist destination, so it’s quite pricey. Here’s what we did to plan a great trip without breaking the bank.

The Flight

Luckily, in the last few years, a number of discount airlines have sprung up in Chile. We eventually decided on JetSmart, an airline with several flights per day from Santiago to Calama, the airport nearest San Pedro. We did an online search from the US just a week before our trip, so we could have gotten better rates if we’d planned ahead more. We looked at JetSmart and Sky, another discount carrier in Chile, and eventually chose JetSmart for its prices and flight options.  JetSmart is definitely no frills, as we found out. The planes are new and clean, and you have ample space between seats, which was very nice. However, if you took anything bigger than a small carry-on (8 kilos or less), you’d be charged for it–about $16 online per bag, $21 at the ticket counter, or $37 at the gate (the prices increase as you get closer to the plane). Also, you have to print your own boarding passes or download them to your phone, or you’ll be charged $8 per boarding pass at the ticket window. Soft drinks, coffee, and a small selection of snacks and sandwiches are sold on board (a Coke or a small container of Pringles is $2.50).
Our plan with JetSmart, which we took to Calama.

The four of us carried two backpacks and two carry-ons, one of which was over the size limit, as we found out at the gate (the website where we booked the tickets was not clear about size limits of carry-ons). Luckily, the gate agent took pity on us, and said she wouldn’t charge us since it was close to the right size. We boarded the flight and flew two hours up to Calama, a small mining city in the middle of the desert.

We paid a total of $540.12 for four tickets from Santiago to Calama. We probably could have gotten a better deal if we’d booked earlier, but we thought $135 per person was reasonable.

The Rental Car

By far the best decision we made during our trip was renting a car. We booked the car online via Priceline, and paid $115.49 for four days and three nights. We rented through the local company Econorent and booked a four-door Nissan Sentra.

At the airport, we picked up the car, then drove to San Pedro de Atacama, after getting directions, because Mr. ThreeYear didn’t have cell service in the airport (he has an international plan through work). Driving through the desert was eerie, at first. Everything is so vast, dusty, and rocky. Continue reading “Our Trip to the Desert: San Pedro de Atacama”

How Much Should You Spend on Travel?

Do you love to travel as much as my family does? For some people, travel is icing on the cake. For others, like me, it gives me life blood and makes everything else I do worthwhile. Long week teaching? That’s okay; our trip in a few months will give me time to rest and see new sites. But how much should you spend on travel each year?

How Much Should You Spend on Travel?

There are so many rules of thumb for other expenditures: 10% of your income on food, 20% on savings (ha! laughs the personal finance community–we know that number should really be 50-70%!), 10% to charity. But there are no good rules of thumb for travel budgets.

Like most expenditures, how much you should spend on travel is highly personal. If you’re still paying off debt, should you allow yourself to travel at all? How much debt do you have? Should you travel if you’re working towards early retirement? Let me just say, to get it out there, that I am assuming you’re able to pay for the vacation outright with cash. Putting a vacation on a credit card is probably about the worst idea ever (although Mr. ThreeYear and I did just that on our honeymoon to Greece. Yes we did. We were dumb).

Full disclosure: Mr. ThreeYear and I have always traveled, even when paying off our $38,000 of credit card and car debt. Continue reading “How Much Should You Spend on Travel?”

My Inspirations for Location Independence

Location independence, or being able to travel or live anywhere independent of a job, is something that has always appealed to me. Part of the reason is that Mr. ThreeYear’s family lives on one continent, and mine on another. So we always feel caught in-between. But even before I met Mr. ThreeYear, I dreamed about dividing my time between two places, or traveling the world.

My Inspirations for Location

Along the way, I’ve been inspired by people who have lived a similar life.

The flight attendant from my TESOL program

In August of 2001, I traveled to Montreal to complete a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) training program before I moved to Chile. I met a Colombian flight attendant while I was there, and asked her where she lived. Her answer astounded me. “I divide my time between North and South America,” she told me. She lived in Montreal for the summer and fall and Colombia in the winter and spring. Her children were older, I remember, already in college, and she and her husband split their time between two places they loved. Continue reading “My Inspirations for Location Independence”

Interview with Mr. ThreeYear

Mr. ThreeYear, apart from increasing the height and attractiveness genes of my children (thanks, honey!), is one-half of the brains behind our location independence plan. He also has an incredible story of growing up in difficult circumstances and working very hard to make a better life for himself.

Interview with Mr. ThreeYear

Since normally, I write the blog and Mr. ThreeYear just reads it, I thought I’d turn the reins over to him and allow him to share his thoughts on location independence, overcoming obstacles, and reaching financial independence.

Can you tell everyone a little about your background?

I was born in Santiago, Chile, in the mid-seventies. I grew up under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Our family was not really political; however, it was clear to see that it was not a smart idea to publicly oppose the government because of the consequences it would bring to your family.

I was the youngest of four siblings. I have two much older sisters who married and left the house early. My brother was also older, by eleven years. We lived right next to my grandmother. The country was very economically depressed. It was hard to get jobs. Unfortunately, my dad was unemployed for a long time, which made my mom the main breadwinner, working three jobs at a time (she was a special education teacher). We never starved, but it was clear to me that we were at the lower end of the financial spectrum. Continue reading “Interview with Mr. ThreeYear”

What Money Can’t Buy

Last week, the boys and I returned back to New Hampshire from a month-long road trip in the Southeastern US. The Junior ThreeYears and I had taken our trusty Prius down to North and South Carolina to visit family, go to the beach, and soak up the sun and humidity. I find that when I get Southern heat and humidity a bit in the summer, winters in New England are easier to get through. To me, it never gets hot enough for long enough here. I need the “walk out into a sauna” experience to feel like I’ve truly had a summer.

What Money Can't

We were on our way from the coast of South Carolina to Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit my sister, on a busy stretch of interstate near Columbia, the state capital. It was around ten in the morning on a Monday, and traffic was heavy.

Up until then, we’d had almost two full summers of uneventful road travel. Everything had gone just swimmingly. But luck was against us that morning. I was in the left hand lane, and was completely surrounded by fast-moving eighteen-wheelers and cars. Suddenly, right in front of me, I saw a piece of tire that had come off of a semi–they’re called road gators in trucker parlance–and I realized there was nothing I could do to avoid it. I thought about veering left, but there was no shoulder on the road. I couldn’t get over to the right, because I was hemmed in. I slowed down as much as I could so that the huge truck beside me wouldn’t plow into me, and ran over the piece of tire. Continue reading “What Money Can’t Buy”

Why You Should Spend Money on Travel

One thing I’ve learned about the journey of personal finance is that it’s personal. We all have different priorities for our money.

But today, I’m going to argue that everybody who can finagle it should spend money on travel. Whatever you call them–get aways, mini breaks, vacations, holidays–no matter how close or far from home you go, I believe there are major benefits to regular travel.

Spend Money on

Our family has been a fan of traveling for a long time. Because, what better way is there to prepare for a life where you can travel anywhere than to travel, well, somewhere? If you’re interested in becoming location independent, I recommend making it a priority to take at least one trip or mini-trip per year.

Yes, there is always debt to pay off, emergency funds to fill, and possessions to pare, but the benefits of travel are many. Taking a small percentage of your take-home pay and reserving it for a trip each year, even a brief, close-to-home one, is worth delaying those other goals by a few months.

Mr. ThreeYear and I took a weekend trip to Montreal several years ago, and it was nectar to our traveling souls. We’re only three hours away by car from Montreal, so we booked a hotel using our credit card rewards (thank you SPG card), drove up, and spent a fabulous weekend exploring the Museum of Fine Arts, the eponymous city park Mont Royal with the fabulous view of the city (boy were my legs tired after that climb!), and the heart of Old Montreal. We ate delicious ethnic food (including Korean BBQ and Szechuan) and drank lots of cappuccinos. Our trip lasted three days, and cost us about $350, but it reminded us why we love to travel so much and why we’re working so hard to become location independent.
A long weekend in Quebec was a balm to our parenting-weary souls.

Michelle from Making Sense of Cents recently highlighted a blogger, Penny from Penny and Rich, who spends $53,000 a year on her family of six, with $22,000 of that going to pay back student loans. Even though the family earns so little income that they qualify for federal food assistance, her family makes travel a priority. They set aside a little less than $2500 last year for vacations for their families. Some snarky commenters gave Penny a hard time for spending money on vacation while qualifying for food stamps, but I believe she has her priorities in order. Here’s why you should spend money on travel: Continue reading “Why You Should Spend Money on Travel”

Location Independent, International Jobs: Ruby from A Journey We Love

Hello! Welcome to “Location Independent, International Jobs,” the Wednesday series where I showcase stories from people who have become location independent, work internationally, and/or continuously travel (check out previous stories here, here, and here!). They’ll be sharing how they became location independent or how they got jobs abroad, but most importantly, they’ll share how their lifestyle has positively or negatively affected their finances and how they got to the life they’re living now. 


The reason for this series is to showcase people who have already achieved what the ThreeYear family is working towards: location independence and/or securing international jobs. Since we’re not sure which route we’ll take, we thought we’d hear from people who’ve already achieved one or the other, so we can learn more.  

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Ruby from A Journey We Love. Ruby and her husband are thirty-somethings who travel a lot, even though they have full time jobs and are working towards FI before 45, thirteen years from now. Once they reach financial independence, they plan to become location independent and travel full time. Ruby says, “We want to have more of our time back to do what we want and focus on our passions instead of trading our time for money at a traditional office.” I’m with you there, Ruby, and I look forward to sharing your story with our readers! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I was born and raised in the Philippines, and only immigrated to the US four years ago because of a job opportunity. I met my husband in the US, and we’ve been married for a year but together for nearly four years. We don’t have kids yet but we plan to!

A Journey We
Peter and Ruby from A Journey We Love

I was from a middle class background. I lived in the Philippines most of my life – I studied there from grade school until uni and also started my career there. Well, until that day when my employer in the Philippines (a multinational bank) sent me to the UK (this was in 2008). I met a lot of people who loved to travel and that inspired the travel bug in me. I got another opportunity to go back to the UK in 2011 (also through said employer), and I realized I didn’t want to go back home but wanted to live full time abroad. In 2013, the opportunity to move to a new office in Florida came through. It was an expansion and it was relatively new and I jumped at the chance. This contract was only supposed to be for three years, but they took me on as a full-time worker here in the US after I got married to Peter.

It was always my goal to leave the Philippines. Back when I was thirteen, I knew I wanted to go, but always thought I’d end up in Singapore, which was a first world country that’s close to the Philippines. I decided that if I looked for work, it would have to be at a multinational company to gain more exposure (and boost my resume if I wanted to look for jobs abroad).

Peter’s story is a bit different than mine. He was born in Bratislava, Slovakia and lived there until he was eleven. Then in 1997, his family moved to the US when they won the green card diversity lottery and has lived in the US ever since. I met him through work – we were working for the same multinational company that sent me to the US!

Not only did said company make my dream of moving abroad come true, it also gave me the opportunity to meet my husband!

How did you and your family make the decision to become location independent/move internationally?

My husband moved to the US when he was twelve from Eastern Europe, so he is fine with moving to different countries just to feel what it’s like to live there and be one with the locals. We also love to travel, so why not become location independent where we can earn a bit of money to sustain most of our travels? Well, that is the goal, but we’re not there yet!

Moving internationally is also a big plus for us, especially since we don’t have children yet. It goes to show potential employers that we are open to change and we are okay being uprooted and being thrown into a brand new destination to get used to other cultures and integrate with other people. It’s not as bad as you think either! You may also get to be exposed to multiple opportunities.

Where do you travel? (within the country, internationally, etc). Favorite place? Least favorite?

We travel anywhere and everywhere: it could be a state park in the city where we live in, it could be to visit family in the Philippines or in Slovakia. We also go wherever the sales are: we booked trips to Asheville, Memphis, Richmond, and St. Louis, just because the ultra budget carrier had deals for less than $100 roundtrip per person. We don’t have a least favorite place because every single destination we’ve been had something to offer: be it culinary treats or sightseeing. My favorite place would have to be London – I personally had a chance to live there for a few months. It was expensive but it was subsidized by the company I worked for at the time so it wasn’t so bad.

If you have kids, how have they adapted to the moves? Best part of traveling for them? Worst part?

We don’t have any kids yet but if we do have them, we’ll want to make sure that travel is part of their life. Expose them to the world that’s out there instead of isolating them inside the house or a community where they get too comfortable. If you are uncomfortable, it actually helps you grow and learn your real self. It also helps them to see the real world instead of just watching a manufactured world on TV.

How has becoming location independent positively (or negatively) impacted your finances (since this is a personal finance blog)?

When I first moved from the Philippines to the UK, and the US, it definitely impacted my finances! I am now earning much more than I was back at home, and so I’m saving more too. There are many more financial products I can invest in here in the US, and I can get to “travel hack.” There’s definitely plenty of other opportunities to earn and save more if you move from a third world country to a first world country! Plus, all those signup bonuses by opening bank accounts + credit cards. Oh my!

We’re not normal FI folk who cut a lot of “fat” out of their budget. If you look at our blog, we have a LOT of travel posts… and even though we want to be FI, we’re not cutting back on our travel… far from it! We actually travel more and more even as we try to achieve FI.

First off, we do travel hacking to offset our travel costs. Other specific things? We save 50% of our income by contributing the max for our HSA, 401(k) and our Roth IRA.

We also try to earn more by Airbnbing a spare room in our house. Yes, we don’t have as much privacy but who cares? The money that’s coming in from our BnB helps to pay off some of our mortgage, utilities & HOA bills. We also have a rental property which we rent out to help pay off the mortgage + a bit extra that we put towards principal pay down.

If we have a cash surplus, we save it and invest it in Vanguard funds or as a downpayment for another rental property (we’re still looking for our third property).

What are your future plans for your family?

Be able to travel more, and have more time for us to enjoy our lives without thinking much about money :slight_smile:.

Ruby and Peter have some very cool travel plans for their lives. Check out their adventures on their blog, A Journey We Love, where they record all of their travel adventures, or on Instagram (what a beautiful feed!!!) or Twitter.  Comments or questions? Ruby will be responding directly in the comments section so fire away! (No pun intended! Ok, maybe!). 

Location Independent, International Jobs: Adriana of Money Journey

Hello! Welcome to “Location Independent, International Jobs,” the Wednesday series where I showcase stories from people who have become location independent, work internationally, and/or continuously travel. They’ll be sharing how they became location independent or how they got jobs abroad, but most importantly, they’ll share how their lifestyle has positively or negatively affected their finances and how they got to the life they’re living now. 


The reason for this series is to showcase people who have already achieved what the ThreeYear family is working towards: location independence and/or securing international jobs. Since we’re not sure which route we’ll take, we thought we’d hear from people who’ve already achieved one or the other, so we can learn more.  

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Adriana, who blogs at Money Journey. Adriana and her boyfriend have lived in Italy for the past nine years. When Adriana first arrived in Italy, she had no job, spoke very little Italian, and hadn’t even finished college! Now, nine years later, she has a freelance career, has traveled all over the continent, and even occasionally gets mistaken for an Italian! I think you’ll find her story very interesting, especially if you’ve ever considered living abroad. 


My name is Adriana and I’ve been living in Italy with my boyfriend for the past nine years.
Adriana of Money Journey, with Switzerland behind her

We’re not married yet, nor do we have any kids or pets.
Continue reading “Location Independent, International Jobs: Adriana of Money Journey”

Location Independent, International Jobs: Steve of Think, Save, Retire

Hi folks! Welcome to the second post in my Wednesday series. These are real stories from people who have become location independent, work internationally, and/or continuously travel. They’ll be sharing how they became location independent or how they got jobs abroad, but most importantly, they’ll share how their lifestyle has positively or negatively affected their finances and how they got to the life they’re living now. 

The reason for this series is to showcase people who have already achieved what the ThreeYear family is working towards: location independence and/or securing international jobs. Since we’re not sure which route we’ll take, we thought we’d hear from people who’ve already achieved the life, so we can learn more.  

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Steve, from the blog Think, Save, Retire.  Steve very kindly agreed to share his story when I reached out to bloggers on the Rockstar Finance Forums (check them out! Tons of financial nerd types like myself discussing all aspects of financial independence!).  

Steve retired at age 35 and he and his wife Courtney currently travel the United States in their Airstream (a.k.a. my dad’s dream mode of transportation). Steve has given up traditional employment and now blogs about how he and his wife created a life that freed them up to do more of what they really value the most–namely, travel. 

Without further ado, take it away, Steve!!

Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where you’re from, how long married, degrees, pets, etc.

I’m 35 and recently retired from full-time work. I worked in the information technology industry for my entire career doing things from computer programming and database administration to being the Director of Information Technology at a not-for-profit organization. I was born on the East Coast, but I’m definitely more of a West Coast kind of person, so I moved out here in 2007 after starting my first real job in Virginia. I’ve been married for almost three years, and my wife and I live in our 30′ Airstream Classic with our two rescued dogs, Patti and Penny.

Steve of Think, Save,
Steve and Courtney enjoying the good life!

I don’t consider myself to be a “smart cookie.” No prestigious degree (I have a degree in Information Technology from a no-name school in Colorado). I’m not published in journals. My ideas haven’t been studied by industry experts. I’m a normal person just like anyone else. The main difference is I chose a very different life for myself. Continue reading “Location Independent, International Jobs: Steve of Think, Save, Retire”