Location Independent, International Jobs: Kara from Provincial Table

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.

Kara Provincial Table winery Germany vineyards www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
In today’s interview, you’ll hear Kara‘s story. Kara is a mom of 4, married 22 years to her college sweetheart, and a simple living blogger. I asked her to tell me her story after I kept seeing her amazing Instagram accounts of her European trips. 
This interview will cover:
  • how Kara and her husband TJ are able to travel around Europe for a month at a time
  • how frugal living has allowed them to pursue their love of travel, even while raising four kids
  • how they keep their spending low, even in a HCOL area and with kids at home and in college
  • best tips for low-cost travel
For the complete story of how Kara and her husband take month-long trips to Europe, read on! 
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I don’t consider myself an expert in travel, money or simple living. My blog is a space to have conversations about ideas that can add value to life. Sometimes I talk about money, and other times the topic is growing vegetables. It’s really about all the activities that are necessary to live well; food, exercise, money, goals, self-investment, travel, gardening, minimalism and lots of other things. Habits can have a big impact on our quality of life; everything really is related. Working toward financial freedom and living frugally doesn’t have to mean operating from a place of scarcity. I’ve been so inspired by others’ stories and it brings me joy to pass it along to someone else. I hope in sharing my thoughts and experiences, I can encourage others to find their version of happy too.

Kara and TJ--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Kara and TJ on a recent trip to Hawaii

I grew up in the Midwest, married my high school sweetheart at nineteen, and had four children. We’ve been married for twenty-two years.

Our oldest daughter is twenty-one and works as a gas turbine engineer in the Navy. We have three boys, aged 19, 17, and 16. Our oldest son is studying software in college and shares an apartment with roommates. Only our two youngest boys live at home now and will both be graduated from high school in two years. Since we started out so young, it seems like we’re on the verge of life 2.0 and it’s exciting! We’ve got big ambitions!

I studied respiratory therapy and worked in that capacity in the hospital setting. When we moved to Colorado, I was ready for a change and went back to school to study science, a field I’ve always loved. I have four more classes left to complete my degree in molecular biology. In order to earn some extra money and keep developing my skills, I’ve done some work part-time as a teaching assistant for the writing department at the university I attend.

My husband TJ manages a product development group for an AV company based in Orange County, California. He works out of their smaller Colorado office and travels to the California office often. He loves the creativity and flexibility of his profession.

We’ve always been frugal and have saved money as we could over the years. A little over two years ago, I began reading more about finance and learned how we could be leveraging our money more effectively.   Paying off consumer debt, downsizing our lifestyle, fully utilizing saving vehicles such as 401k, IRA, HSA and after-tax investment accounts has significantly increased our savings rate and brought us peace of mind.

In order to accomplish this, we live modestly. We own a 2-bedroom townhome and try to minimize our possessions more each year; following a minimalist lifestyle has freed up so much time, space and money. We have one car, a Toyota Corolla; we drive only when necessary. Instead, we bike whenever possible, even to the grocery store. We plan our meals, shop sales, eat leftovers, pack lunches, rarely eat out, and use our chest-freezer to minimize food waste. We use a clothesline to dry most of our laundry. We have Netflix instead of cable TV. We have a wide range of interests and entertain ourselves at home with cooking, hiking, listening to music, reading, and gardening. Rather than a miserly or spartan life, it’s full of life! And sprinkled in between is travel to interesting places. The goal is to invest in and improve ourselves along the way.

Continue reading “Location Independent, International Jobs: Kara from Provincial Table”

Why Traveling Abroad is So Important

 “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

I was recently chatting with a friend who’s considering spending a few months in another country with her family. It’s a big decision and she’s not sure if it’s the right one.

Stupa Bangkok Thailand Travel Abroad www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Couldn’t their travel bug be cured by a road trip within the country? There are a lot of unknowns and what-ifs about up and moving to a totally different country and culture, especially if you don’t know the language!

A few years ago, when Mr. ThreeYear and I were planning an anniversary trip to Southeast Asia, several of my parents’ friends, who have all spent their entire lives in the same region of the US, asked why in the world we’d choose… Asia. My mom asked me over the phone one day, “What should I tell them? Why do y’all want to go to Southeast Asia?”

After she asked me the question, there was silence on the line. It felt like someone had asked me why I drank water or why I ate food every day. Continue reading “Why Traveling Abroad is So Important”

When You Want to Move, But You’re Scared

Sometimes, new opportunities can seem amazing. Becoming location independent, traveling the world, taking a job in a foreign country.

Move Scared Bali Coast Blue Ocean www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

But let’s face it. Those opportunities can also be terrifying. How do you leave a place where you’ve lived, maybe for years? How do you take your kids out of the only school they’ve ever known? How do you leave your family behind?

Related Reading:

With exciting new opportunities come LOTS of feelings. Mr. ThreeYear and I have wrestled with lots of these feelings and emotions during our three year experiment. And it turns out, we’re not the only ones.

Jaime, who runs the blog Keep Thrifty with her husband Chris, is facing the same daunting challenges of leaving what she knows and loves to face the great unknown as her family debates taking another year of mini-retirement, going back to traditional corporate jobs, or moving somewhere new.

Like us, Chris and Jaime are contemplating moving somewhere new or possibly, extended travel. They have lived their entire married lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and are surrounded by their extended families, whom they and their three girls see regularly. They’re facing the uncertainty and guilt of leaving behind their families in the face of a really strong pull towards adventure.  Continue reading “When You Want to Move, But You’re Scared”

Figuring Out the Why

Sometimes we follow paths in our lives for no particular reason–they’re the expected thing to do, or we’ve told ourselves the story of how our lives will look, and so we go about making our lives look like the story.

Boy walking in fall woods Figuring out the why www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

If you’re starting to ask yourself why you’ve made the decisions you’ve made in life, that might be the first step toward realizing you may want to change some things. Our family definitely got to that point after mounting frustration with our inability to spend enough time with our respective families.

We knew that in order to reach our dreams of location independence we would have to make some big sacrifices, ask some hard questions, and explore scary and unfamiliar options. We’d probably have to live in the land of limbo for awhile. Continue reading “Figuring Out the Why”

5 Tips for Budget Travel with Kids

It’s no secret that the ThreeYear family loves to travel. But we have two kids who almost always travel with us, and four travelers are a lot more expensive than two! So over the years, we’ve learned how to keep our travel expenses down.

Here are 5 ways that we budget travel with our kids.

Continue reading “5 Tips for Budget Travel with Kids”

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.

Here's where we stayed and how we got around the city on our recent trip to Santiago, Chile. Check it out if you're planning a visit to South America. @lauriethreeyear #santiago #chile #visitsantiago #santiagolodging #santiagotransport

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--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
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”

Notes from Chile: Entertainment and Food

Hello readers! The ThreeYears are currently in Santiago, Chile, for Christmas and New Year’s. It’s summer here, so the weather is hot. Our family of four has been busy visiting family, traveling to the driest desert in the world, and generally enjoying ourselves.

Here's what we did and what we ate, including prices, on our recent trip to Santiago, Chile. If you're thinking about a trip to South America, don't miss this post! @lauriethreeyear #santiagochile #foodinsantiago #entertainmentsantiago #southamericantravel #travelchile

Santiago is a city of about 6 million people, roughly one third of the total population of the country, located in the very center of the long and narrow string bean that is Chile. It’s nestled in a valley between several mountain ranges–the Andes to the east (mountains known as the Precordillera–not quite as tall as the Cordillera of the Andes a few kilometers away) and the Chilean Coastal Range to the west. More mountains, a small range called the Cordón de Chacabuco, which is part of the Andes, are to the north, and to the south, there’s the Angustura de Paine, another thin mountain range that extends toward the coast. So there are giant mountains everywhere you turn. It’s one of the reason people hypothesize that Chileans are want to end so many words in “ito,” the Spanish ending that makes things little, because when you’re constantly staring at giant mountains everywhere you go, you feel smaller.

Santiago is organized into neighborhoods, or comunas. There are 37 official comunas in the city, and some (the best neighborhoods) extend into the foothills of the mountains that surround the city. Those neighborhoods can get to around 1,000 meters in elevation.

Santiago has a thriving economy that leads Latin America–its economy is the second most competitive in the region. The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Santiago the second best city in which to live in Latin America, after Buenos Aires.

For this reason, immigrants have flocked to the country in the last two years. Continue reading “Notes from Chile: Entertainment and Food”

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.

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).

JetSmart--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
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? --www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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?”

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 Buy--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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”