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”
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!
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.
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”
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.
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.
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?