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 practice location arbitrage, as is the case with today’s guest poster.
Today you’ll hear from Moose, who blogs about FI at MSoLife. It isn’t everyday that you meet a fellow Carolinian with ties to Chile who speaks Spanish fluently. We’ve had fun ribbing each other in Spanish over email. I couldn’t wait to hear more about his plans for the future once he reaches FI in a few years.
This interview will cover:
Where Moose plans to move to live more cheaply once his family has reached FI
Who geoarbitrage is right for, and who it isn’t right for
How a mini-retirement can fit into your FI goals
For the complete story of how Moose plans to retire to South America, read on.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I was born in France and have lived in Mexico, the UK, the USA, and
Germany, so it’s hard to say where I’m from, but I currently live in Los
Angeles, California and am from Charlotte, NC. I’ve been married for a
little over five years and we have one daughter, who’s two years old. I was
an Army officer for six years before going to business school and I’ve
worked in investment banking (for a short time and it sucked) and investment research for private equity and hedge funds.
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.
We stay with friends or family.
One major way we travel is to plan where we go around where our friends and family live. We have friends all over the world who have invited us to stay with them. This is a great way to save on the cost of hotels. Our friends generously invite us into their homes, and share their food, lodging, and most importantly, expertise with us.
We make sure to buy groceries, buy them a nice meal, and/or pick up a nice gift to thank them for their generosity.
On the flip side, we open our home to any and all family and friends who want to come visit. We love to host because it’s so much fun to share our region with our friends. If friends come in the winter, we take them to our local slopes and help them get the best package deals possible for skiing. We show them our favorite places to eat and update them on the history and significant sites.
When we travel to our friends’ or families’ homes, they do the same for us. We have built-in travel guides who tell us what attractions to skip and what are must-sees.
One thing we’ve learned over the years is that when we’re visiting, it’s important to take a day or two to explore on our own, to give our hosts a break. We also offer to make dinners or take them out, to give them a break from hosting. The cost of a meal is a fraction of what we’d pay in hotel or AirBnB costs. And the experience of staying with friends, often in the heart of a cool city or country, is priceless.
We know how much we love to host others, so we take people up on their offers when we can. It truly improves our travel experience at least 100% to stay with people we know and love.
You may be thinking, “but I don’t know anyone who lives somewhere exotic!” Do you know someone who lives somewhere you’ve never been? Even if it’s one state over, staying with a friend or family member can give your family a novel travel experience, and your hosts can show you the coolest parts of their city or town.
We visit local supermarkets and cook for ourselves.
One of the most expensive parts of a vacation can be eating out, unless you’re somewhere like Southeast Asia. There, meals can be had for about $1 a person, but in the rest of the world, eating all of your meals at restaurants can add up fast.
Our family chooses to shop at supermarkets and buy ingredients to cook many of our meals at home. When we visited Chile this December, we visited the feria, or farmer’s market, and stocked up on fresh fruits and vegetables. It was summer while we were there, and it was a treat to be able to eat ripe fruits and vegetables that weren’t available back home, where it was winter.
We ate our breakfasts at home, and often made simple dinners or at leftovers at home as well. Since lunches are generally the best eat-out deal in Chile, we’d pick up take-out and eat fried fish, potatoes, rice, and salad for lunch and dinner.
One of the best parts of shopping at local supermarkets is eating like locals eat. When Mr. ThreeYear and I were in Bangkok, we shopped at the 7-Eleven across the street from our AirBnB and found strange but delicious local foods, like Ramen with super-spicy flavoring, instant coffees, and toast-able sandwiches that we ate for breakfast. You can also pick up beer and wine this way at much cheaper prices than at restaurants.
We pepper these eat-at-home experiences with well-chosen eating out experiences. That way, our dining out experiences feel more special and we don’t suffer from dining-out fatigue (have you ever been there? When all you want is a nice fresh salad that you make yourself after eating big, heavy, expensive meals for days on end?).
Many of the best restaurant experiences, especially for families, can be inexpensive, but just as special as gourmet dining. And if you only eat out on occasion, you’ll appreciate wherever you go that much more.
We sign up for airline deal sites.
We are members of Scott’s Cheap Flights, and we get notifications with cheap airline deals every day. We keep our plans flexible, so that if we see a great deal, we can jump on it.
It’s also very helpful if you have flexible dates for travel. We are more flexible in the summertime when neither I nor the boys are working, but if you’re able to jump on flight deals during the school year, you can get some incredible flight deals. I recently saw flights to the Caribbean in the $200s (US) from Boston, which would have been a spectacular winter getaway.
Oftentimes, if you can find cheap flights to an incredible destination (especially Southeast Asia), the rest of the stay can be dirt cheap. We stayed at an AirBnB in Bangkok for just $27 per night while we were there, and meals cost around $1.75US per person! While flights to Asia are long (especially from the East Coast of the US), if your kids are slightly older, they can binge on movies for 15 hours. I’ve seen flights as low as $450 from Boston to Bangkok (with stopovers). While that would be $1800 in tickets for four people, your lodging and food expenses would be just a fraction of that cost.
We sightsee for less.
Many times, when we visit an iconic city, like Santiago, we feel compelled to visit all the famous, but pricey, tourist destinations. While it can be fun to visit the top of the tallest building in South America, it’s also very expensive–it was $81.25 for the four of us to visit the top of the Costanera Center when we were there in December.
However, it’s much cheaper (and often less crowded and more fun) to spend time exploring the free attractions in a city. When you’re in Paris, you can enjoy the beautiful park around the Eiffel Tower without buying the pricey tickets to head to the top.
In Santiago, there are so many cool neighborhoods that you can explore–Bellavista, Lastarria, and Parque Forrestal, to name a few. Kids love to be able to run around and play, so finding a shady park and throwing down a blanket is a way to almost guarantee they’ll have a great time (and if you throw in fountains, it’s definite!).
You can also visit museums and other attractions on half-price days. While this takes a bit more planning, especially if you have a short trip, it’s a great way to keep costs down if you can make it work. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are days more likely to be half-price for museum entry. Just remember to pack a lunch or eat somewhere else if you can, because museum food tends to be overpriced and bad quality!
One of the biggest shifts we had to make with sightseeing was mental. We had to tell ourselves, “We don’t have to see everything. If we ‘miss’ an iconic tourist destination, it doesn’t mean we haven’t had a successful trip.” The best trips involve connecting with a place, meeting local people, and enjoying it as they enjoy it, NOT standing in yet another line to experience some “must-see” overpriced tourist trap.
That leads to our number one piece of advice when you’re budget traveling with kids:
It’s novelty, stimulation, and getting out of daily and sometimes deadening routines. It’s needing some aimlessness and idleness in contrast to my norm of purposefulness. It’s learning new languages, cultures, facts. Meeting new people. A slower pace with less stress. Swimming in a different sea of assumptions, getting jolted out of narrow-mindedness. Tasting new food.
Travel is about seeing something new, experiencing new sights, sounds, flavors. But that doesn’t mean that every moment has to be filled with experiences that cost money.
Our favorite experience from Santiago this December? The feria. The feria is a farmer’s market where locals come to sell the freshest fruits, veggies, seafood, and toys. It’s a place to see and be seen. But it isn’t expensive. In fact, it’s the cheapest place to buy food that exists in the city. And it’s one of the most experience-rich walks you’ll ever undertake over three blocks.
Spending the afternoon in a park, people watching, letting your kids try new flavors of popsicles or ice cream, enjoying each sip of a delicious cappuccino, smelling the aromas wafting around you–all of these inexpensive or free experiences make travel so wonderful.
There you have it–our top five budget travel tips for travel with kids.
Today I’m excited to guest post on Keep Thrifty. Keep Thrifty is a personal finance and travel blog run by Chris and Jaime, who live in Madison, Wisconsin. They’re run some amazing lifestyle experiments in the last few years, including living in half their house, moving to an apartment, and taking a one-year mini-retirement. I love how brave and willing to think outside of the box they are for their family.
In the post, I share how I caught the travel bug, met and married Mr. ThreeYear, and then settled into… life as we know it! I share the reasons we’ve embarked on our three year experiment and what we hope to get out of it as we work towards location independence, or location freedom, as Keep Thrifty calls it! It sure is freedom!! Not being tied down to one job or one place is such a freeing thought. Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it! Continue reading “How We Are Working Towards Location Freedom: Guest Post on Keep Thrifty”
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.
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).
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. Last time we tried vehicle leasing at VinsAutoGroup.com.sg. 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”
Why does my post title sound like a Nike commercial? Just do it. It’s a kick in the pants, is what it is. As I mentioned in a previous post, I tend to go a bit crazy during the holidays. My extended family was here last week and we ate turkey, played laser tag (even Grandpa!), and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The kids tore the house upside down, much coffee was consumed, and we decorated for Christmas. Eventually, my family left, and we were left with cleanup, the extra turkey and dressing, and a huge disinterest in returning to the routine parts of life that we’re somewhat required to engage in to keep the paychecks coming.
Mr. ThreeYear and I dragged ourselves back to work, got the kids off to school, and made lists of all that needs to get done before we leave for Chile in just a few weeks.
As I drove to work, I listened to Afford Anything’s latest podcast. In this one, she interviewed A.J. Jacobs, who I momentarily confused with J.D. Vance, until I read his bio and remembered he’d written A Year of Living Biblically, which I’d read several years ago. In that book, Jacobs spent a year following the more obscure commandments of the Old Testament, such as “wear no mixed-fiber clothing” and “dress in all white.” He grew out a beard and posted the ten commandments on the doorway of his apartment, in order to see how his life changed for the better (or worse). He’s engaged in such experiments many times, both as exercises for living a better life and journalistic fodder. One of the takeaways from the interview was that if you want (or need) to change something in your life, just start doing it. Motivation follows action, or something like that. Continue reading “Just Do It”
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. I’ve interviewed some fascinating individuals who all have slightly different takes on location independence or living internationally. Recent posts include Steve from Think, Save, Retire, Mrs. Adventure Rich, and Mavis, an international teacher.
Guest posters will 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 Heather, a twenty-something ESOL teacher who lives in New Hampshire.
I know Heather from my Master’s program and we have a lot in common, which is why I asked her if she would share her story on the blog. Heather moved to Chile after college, just like I did, and taught English as a Second Language, just like I did, and fell in love with Chile (easy to do!) just like I did. And we both live in New Hampshire and attend the same Master’s program in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). But, our stories are a bit different, and probably more importantly, we’re about a decade apart in age. So Heather is at a different place in life than I am, which is cool, because she can do things like introduce me to SnapChat. Okay, without further ado, I give you Heather!
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I’m from Sandwich, New Hampshire. [Laurie: I love that town name]. I have a B.A. in Italian Studies from Connecticut College.
How did you make the decision to move internationally?
I was finishing up college and was set on working abroad as an English teacher. I had done the CELTA course between freshman and sophomore year and wanted to get a job where I could be the principal teacher since previously I had volunteered or tutored (CELTA stands for Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults–it’s affiliated with the University of Cambridge ESOL examinations). I didn’t apply for any US jobs and put all my energy into looking for something abroad. I figured this was a perfect time to do it since I would be graduating and needed a break from school. Also, I wanted to confirm that TESOL was my career path before jumping into grad school. Continue reading “Location Independent, International Jobs: Heather”
Our family is on a journey to become location independent in three years. One of our plans is to move across the world for a few years. Today, I’ll share the story of the last time I moved to a different continent.
Travel back with me, to many, many, many (ok, not quite so many) years ago. The setting: a shabby chic apartment near my college campus. Two twenty-something women are starting to realize that the real world was closer at hand than they would like: Continue reading “That Time I Moved to a Different Continent”
Last week, I was offered a new gig as a part-time ESOL Teacher. This gig will allow me to work in two schools for a total of about 30 hours maximum per week. But is it a good idea? Does it help us with our three year goals?