Okay, one last introductory post before I start talking about practical stuff, honest!
The first thing I want to point out is that this is not a financial extravagance. Yes, I do hope to do a fair bit of moving around next year, some of it overseas; however, I won’t be spending a fortune to do so, for the simple reason that I don’t have a fortune.
While I’m at it, I should also point out that I’m not going too far in the other direction either. I’m not “going travelling” in the expand-your-horizons, gap-year sense of the term, wearing a giant backpack with a flag on the back (though I will, as it happens, be taking both a backpack and a flag). So I don’t intend to sleep in hostels, airport benches or anywhere else with an overabundance of people and a shortage of sensible internet access (especially since internets are kind of crucial to my job!).
So as I said back in my first post, this whole crazy scheme is being made possible because I’m working location-independently. Now, I’m a computer programmer and sysadmin by trade, which does kind of lend itself to remote working – but I’d like to reassure everyone that I’m definitely not some kind of obscenely-overpaid IT contractor. The company I’m working for is a small, friendly, essentially family business, who have very kindly offered to match what my previous employer was paying me – which, as it turns out, was somewhere around the UK average – so I’m certainly not on megabucks. I’ll be earning, and spending, more or less the same amount as I am now. Which presumably raises the question…
How can you afford it?
It might seem that I’m talking about effectively going on an indefinite holiday, and as everyone knows, holidays and travel are expensive. Right?
Well, this isn’t a holiday, and going places doesn’t have to be expensive – it just usually is. Here are some reasons:
- People usually travel as an occasional treat, an escape from daily life – so they try hard to ‘make the most’ of them. As a result they overspend hugely: eating out all the time, going out most nights, packing the days full of trips and activities, buying gifts and souvenirs. But if moving around is the norm rather than the exception, what’s the rush?
- If you’re only away for a week or two, the cost of travel there and back is a significant fraction of the overall cost. But if you don’t have anywhere to return to, it’s possible to reach the same interesting locations at a slower pace. Long-haul flights can always be a bit pricey of course, which is why I won’t be going overboard on those.
- Perhaps most importantly, travelling when you have a fixed life elsewhere means doubling up on accommodation costs; you pay to stay in a hotel while away, all the while paying the usual costs associated with the place you live at home. But if the travel accommodation is your only place of residence, things start to look a bit more reasonable.
Plus of course, it’s easy to fall into the trap of looking at the nightly rate for a hotel and comparing that with your rent or mortgage – but that isn’t comparing like with like. The hotel rate includes water, electricity, heating/cooling, probably TV, and ideally internet access too, all of which I pay for separately at the moment (plus of course there’d be no need to run a car, which is a non-trivial expense).
So I did some sums, and added up everything I spend per month on fixed outgoings that I wouldn’t need in my new lifestyle – rent, council tax, utilities, and so on – and realised that, for the same amount per month, I could afford to live indefinitely in small short-term lets, houseshares or Airbnb rooms at the very least. And in cheaper parts of the world, things start to look rather more promising…
A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to be sent by a previous employer to work for a couple of weeks in Bangkok. They put me up in a really nice serviced apartment with fully-equipped kitchen, TV, wifi, aircon, laundry facilities and a swimming pool on the roof – which I was astonished to discover cost less than you’d pay for a basic B&B in the UK. Living in one of those for a month would cost more than I currently spend on all my monthly outgoings, but it’s not out of reach – it would certainly be doable, especially if other expenses such as food were also being bought at local prices.
Aside from accommodation, the only other thing I’ll need to pay will be the cost of keeping a small amount of stuff in a storage unit; probably also a phone contract (I’ve yet to work out what to do about that when spending time abroad – please comment if you have any advice!).
OK, so what if you’ve miscalculated?
I don’t think I have, but if something takes me by surprise I’ll deal with that as it comes. And if it all turns out to be genuinely impossible, then that’s fine – there’s always the option to abort, and I’d still have some experiences to show for it.
Isn’t that a bit risky? What if something unexpected happens and you’re stuck far away?
Well if that does happen, I’ve got some reserve money for emergencies – I’ve been saving up over the last few months, plus I had a bit of savings to start with, and a reasonable amount actually came from my recent eBay selling spree (another advantage of getting rid of your stuff!).
When I told someone at work about that, his response was, “oh yeah, saving up travel money?” – but the truth is, I want to try as far as possible to keep within my income; the reserve is just there in case things go wrong.
How will you manage to get any work done?
Well, technically I can work anywhere I can find wifi. I have a small, light laptop and a small, light portable monitor which I can easily take anywhere. But a crucial part of my plan at this point is Regus.
Regus are a company that provide serviced offices for rent. Now I couldn’t possibly afford to rent an office myself, but luckily Regus also have these things called “business lounges”, which are basically large open-plan rooms providing a space to work, many of which contain little cubicles for extra privacy and freedom from distractions. They all have decent wifi for no extra cost, and free refreshments.
Now you normally have to pay for a membership card to get access to these places, but luckily I managed to get my hands on a promotion code which got me a Regus “Businessworld” gold card for free. In the week since I started the new job, I’ve been working almost exclusively from business lounges here in Manchester, and they’re awesome. And the best thing is, Regus have centres in 99 different countries worldwide. (No, they’re not paying me to say this – honest!)
What if you hate it?
No problem; again, not committing to anything. As I’ve said, travel is an option rather than a requirement, and if I do happen to find myself somewhere that I just have to get out of, I’m free to either come straight back or move elsewhere – I won’t be entering into any long-term contracts.
* * * * *
Oh yeah, one last thing – the backpack and the flag. This is the backpack:
…as you can see, it’s far from giant, and will serve as my hand luggage on any flights. And this is the flag:
…seeing as how I’m not willing to give up much luggage space to decorative items, I thought it would serve nicely as wall decoration for any places I might find myself staying in.
The flag is that of Westmorland, which is a county that no longer officially exists, but is nonetheless the closest thing I’ve got to “where I come from”. I wasn’t born there and have only spent a bit more than a third of my life there in total, but it was where I did a lot of my growing up. I don’t call anywhere “home” – after all, as I sometimes like to say, home is where the arse is – but if my figurative heart were to be anywhere, it’d be in Westmorland.