“I feel the mojo spring back to life...”
Have you read Solo Trip Report 50 — Living Life A Little? It includes restaurants to visit in Phuket, everyday uses for natural health products and the feedback from the Solo Trip Report name change survey (which is now Solo Trip Journal). If not, click here.
Solo Trip Journal (STJ) 51 — A Pivot Point, highlights my trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and includes:
Tap STJ51 ⬇️ to see the trip!
Don’t forget to tap “Like” and comment!
Notice how the mountains have bald/light green patches in the foliage? That’s because the mountain was on fire a few weeks back... yes, all the patches, at the same time! It’s been wonderful watching the vegetation grow back so rapidly.
“Sometimes, you have to make a leap of faith.”
In this report I cover:
To learn more about my transition from being high on freedom, travel and adventure to discovering what’s next in my life, read more!
Solo Trip Abroad is a travelogue providing global living inspiration. It’s written as a series for those wanting an insiders look at travel and working abroad. Join the other subscribers from over ten countries in four continents, who receive free updates, subscribe now!
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Given the large amount of free time in my weekly schedule, an impulsive trip to nearby Tuy Hòa seemed a good idea. Throughout the trip, I captured a number of great photos you’ll want to take a look at. I stayed with a local family in the city, had a 4am hike to watch the sunrise and gorged on delicious seafood.
I’m thankful for the type of people around me — entrepreneurs and expats! I believe this is a further manifestation of attracting people who are reflections of my desires, into my life. Such a demonstration teaches me to be really careful with the thoughts I imagine, the words I say and the feelings I project. Although it may always not happen as fast as we wish, I work to remember: “the right things happen at the right time”. A few incidents have recently occurred, which continue to suggest this is happening, even now. Recognizing the signs of when something is in the works, is a skill I’ve been working to develop. Global living certainty provides numerous opportunities to do so. Of course, I’d encourage everyone to try for themselves. You’ll see it happen, when you believe it’ll happen.
On the digital front, I'm dabbling in new fields such as publishing a facebook ad and diversifying into cryptocurrencies Ethereum and Litecoin. This is a great first step into participating in the digital economy and building global financial reserves. I still need to work on which country I'd like to apply for second citizenship, and building sustainable places of residence, but all things comes at the right time. I must remain patient and diligent.
To read Solo Trip Report 36 — Feeling At Home, click here!
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Over the past few weeks I've become interested in volunteering abroad and learned more about work-exchanges.
I share some thoughts on the perks offered by doing work-exchanges, and how they can be of serious help financially.
The international exposure and learning opportunities from this kind of living have benefits on multiple levels. Be a global citizen, live abroad. It's a lifestyle.
2016:Rebirth was about transition, planning, hard work and results! The move abroad was full of change and new experiences. There has been personal development, struggle, success and insight.
As the year draws to a close I am prepared and looking forward to what 2017 unleashes. Travel, adventure, discipline and preparation will be key to goal fulfillment. My confidence levels have been boosted and I harbour an energy that shall thrust me into new heights. I must remember during my forthcoming struggles how insignificant my previous ones have become in hindsight. Facing such challenges with similar resolve will be of utmost importance.
Check out the the video below for all the details and my biggest announcement of the year!
On March 15, 2016 I launched Solo Trip Abroad with the intention of having a record of my travels, adventures and thoughts along the way. This would serve as a way to offer what I learn, provide resources and insight to anyone who is interested in taking action and moving abroad or considering a travel-as-a-lifestyle change.
Anyone reading this likely is of the millennial generation and knows defined benefit pensions (payouts for life or a defined period based on term of employment) from companies have gone to shit and aren't returning. Gone are the days of putting bolts on a car at GM for 35 years and then earning $50k/yr until death... unless you already hold this job or other unlikely scenario. But who really wants that?
A few weeks back I was talking with a new friend and asked about going camping and rock climbing in Beijing the weekend of August 06. I made arrangements to get the time off work, and had the Monday/Tuesday off like normal.
Once the camping plans didn't pan out, I decided yesterday, to make an impulsive trip to Philippines on Aug 06 in the evening, spending Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in Manila and take a super early 5am flight back home to Tianjin, China in time for work in the evening. The idea was to make the trip similar to my trip around this time last year to Vancouver. On that trip, I arrived at 8am on a Wednesday spent a couple days doing my own thing, and left the Friday evening. Short trips like this are great for getting a change of scenery for a few days, and motivating you to prepare for what's next.
On Friday evening, I started noticing signs of a cold. A slight tickle in my throat, was the first sign. I decided not to consume sugary drinks while I had this cold, primarily Coca-Cola. Saturday throughout the day, I have to talk loudly for 6 hours of the day, and caused my throat to dry out. Having a projector shine in my eyes all day started to give me a headache. I felt too lazy to go and get a drink from the store on Saturday and just drank water for the day with the essential oil (lemon) which is good for cleansing the body.
Having a bike to ride my entire life has helped me get around everywhere. Since just before my move Toronto, it's been my default option for commuting around, saving me hours of time and thousands of dollars -- not from not owning a car -- from public transportation! If I took the subway each time I used a bike, the most economical option would be a monthly pass. These climbed from $108 when I first moved out, to when last in Toronto at $138 (about 4-5 years time). At an average price of $122/month, over 48 months, total transit costs would equal $5856. Assume I purchase a monthly pass 3 months of the year X 4 years for a total of 12 monthly passes. This still means I saved $3400 (not including the odd taxi fare each month).
In Tianjin, taking a taxi is much cheaper when comparing dollar/km, and not accounting for relative costs of living here and in Toronto. However, having to pay 40¥ simply to get downtown and back eats up 80% of my daily budget (you get live on a surprisingly little amount of money here)! As a result doing a bunch of inexpensive things downtown not viable as cost of access (the taxi ride) renders them uneconomical when all costs considered vs daily budget. This makes days off challenging as it limits exploring to a significantly reduced travel radius. This confinement is also having an affect on my writing creativity for my blog and reduces my cultural exposure
I've been in China just over 2 months now and finally set up a bank account. There was initial resistance, simply because I had succeeded in budgeting with cash and was proud of my ability to do so.
During this time, and during previous financial accomplishments, I've noticed its most likely to succeed when I had no other options as a fall back. Why? Because when I permitted myself to have a fallback, I used it. When there was no other options, I made damn sure I stuck to the original plan!
Since I have yet to set up a bank account, I went to go pick up my cash this morning. I'd been contemplating a trip to Beijing for the last few days and decided to take it today.
There wasn't much of an intention for the trip other than to explore and see if I could catch a few decent photos. The high speed train from Tianjin to Beijing costs 54¥ ($11) and takes 30 mins. Upon my arrival, I made my way to Tiananmen Square.
Shortly after exiting the subway station, a lady approached me and we started talking. After about half an hour we headed to a tea market together.
For the next hour or longer, we sat and sampled teas inside this shop while a light tea ceremony was performed. The host made the tea, poured it for us, then we lifted it a certain way: Males lift the sampling cup with three fingers, and curl in the pinky and finger beside it while females keep them sticking out -- similar to how you see high rollers drink liquor on TV shows. You pick it up, examine the colour, smell the aromas then drink it in three sips. The Chinese character (which I cannot recall) has three components to it, thus, the three sips.
There is a massive tea industry. With thousands of types, the age of the tea, how it's been processed, which part of the plant is used, which region it's from, amongst others, are all factored into the price and its quality. Imagine the tasting, elements and culture of wine, whisky or cannabis. Tea is the exact same.
This is where my day took a bit of a turn (my own fault). At this point I was asked if I wanted to purchase any tea. The tea is worth the purchase, can be reused, and some ultra high end teas can costs upwards of 40,000¥ ($8000), for 500 hundred grams of tea! I decided to go with 100 grams of a black tea which I quite enjoyed, forgoing the dried fruit tea I really liked. This "tea" was very sweet by Chinese standards, and not really considered a tea. For my purchase the lady allowed me to have a free portion of any tea, I took the dried fruit, and ate the fruit pieces like candy. The tea can used several times over and cost 200¥. Furthermore, we'd sampled 9 teas at 40¥ a sample (between the two of us) totalling 360¥.
My new friend, said she'd cover the extra 60 and we'd split the 300. For some reason, I kept thinking 300 and thus handed the lady 500 (200 for tea, 300 for samples) who made no haste to offer me change. It wasn't until later I realized this error, whereby I should have paid her only 350!
At this point, my expenditures had been the taxi to the train station, the train fare, lunch, two subway fares and the tea. Throughout the rest of my trip, I purchased another subway fare, a meal from BK, the train fare home, a cab fare from the Tianjin train station back home, and some fried rice once home. All in all, about $180! Pretty pricey for sipping some tea and taking several trains! :/
The set back of the tea was really annoying to me. I walked around for two hours after buying the tea before making my way to the train station. There wasn't much I came across I thought photographic and this added to my disappointment.
It's worth noting, the city has 4G coverage everywhere, it's so nice being able to go in the subway and continue using my phone as if nothing changed. For how developed North America is, one would think this would have been an innovation originating from the West. It seems many things are inverted between these regions: China has massive high speed train networks, and underground 4G but can't clean the water. North America has safe water... Well, except for Flint Michigan, but can't figure out how to put 4G in the subway (underground wifi was a MAJOR announcement with TTC, like nobody had put wifi antennas indoors before). And the train system is North America, particularly in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is a joke (but I hold onto hope -- thank you Hyperloop One)!
The most important lesson learned today was to continue to be extra mindful with cash and until you hand it over, there is always the option of saying no. Additionally, doing a few more moments of research on an area I'd like to visit would have been helpful.
Despite the apparent mishap, I still deem the trip to be a positive learning experience. I have expanded my comfort zone and now have a sense of what to expect for transportation costs and time. Upon my next visit I'll be more scrupulous and have done some prior research, or at least know what I want out of the visit.
I also like the fact there are mountains surrounding Beijing! Next month, I plan to visit one with my colleagues and get a serious hike in! I'll provide details as I receive them!
While abroad there are many things you need to learn quickly, and how the locals work with money is a very important one. Here are five tips to help you manage a little easier:
1. Learn the number system in the local language. Pretty near all countries use a numerical system which runs on counts of ten called the decimal system we are all used too. What may be different, is how your destination country counts these ten digits ie. in English we count ten, twenty, thirty... However other languages, such as Chinese, while using the decimal system express it differently in their language ie. ten, two-ten, three-ten. Knowing these differences will help you be able to show the number on your fingers as multiples.
2. Ask other customers the price of something before asking an employee/the owner. The customer has less interest and means to obtain money from you. By asking the cashier, they can simply show on their fingers, a higher number. I've had this happen a couple times when paying for food, granted they only charged me a few extra Yuan (a few Canadian cents to a dollar extra). At this point, there are a few options, you can start a pity fight with a local over a few cents, or pay and help them out a bit. Better to pay it forward. You can also ask for the price, then use an app which converts text via photo to confirm the price. Now if you're straight up being jerked around, obviously refuse. I had a taxi driver say it'd cost me 30¥ instead of ~18¥ for a ride home one night. Just politely say no thanks and move on. It's important to note, many times if you approach a taxi and ask how much it will be. This provided them the opportunity to make up a price. Simply get in the car and express the address of your destination. If they do not turn the meter on, you're not required to pay the fare.
3. Use a photo translation app, preferably one which works offline. This avoids being dependent on widely varying internet connections or restricted services ie. google etc.
4. Negotiate. In many places around the world, prices are negotiable. Always try to get the price lowered, if they want to do business with you, merchants often will. Especially street merchants.
5. Discuss and finalize price before pulling out your money. This way, the seller can't see how much you have and push you upwards if they observe you have many funds. You can use this in the opposing direction and only display a smaller amount of funds; making such an impression of what you have available and negotiate downwards.
To my Canadian friends, it takes about 2 seconds to become used to not having to calculate taxes! Once you're some place which displays prices with taxes included, it's a dream come true!
While living in Toronto, I had bank accounts at multiple banks and had investment accounts split between multiple companies. Each offered various benefits, however, over the course of time, this became time consuming, burdensome and a lot to manage. Everything from multiple statements, differing apps, a variety of policies and requirements, it all becomes a lot to handle. You may not notice as it cumulatively builds up, the process happens slowly.
After my move, I have intended to set up a bank account with Bank of China though didn't get around to it. While living in NA I loved the convenience of having a debit card, and one with tap for payments especially. This comes with a downside, I had to pay for unlimited transactions each month since I was with a major big 5 bank, yes, I could have signed up with an online only bank and have no fees; which I ended up doing, and chose ZenBanx. Unfortunately, it wasn't until after I signed up I discovered I cannot make purchases with the card online or in person outside of Canada... Kind of pointless for a bank with the slogan "Around the corner, around the world". They do however let you withdrawal from any ATM *GASP* just like EVERY OTHER BANK! 😱 They do hold a major advantage of seamlessly allowing and transferring multiple currencies in the same account (up to 5). Then I arrive in China, go to withdrawal from an ATM with my ZenBanx card and it doesn't work -- wtf.
Whatever, so far, I have used an ATM for withdrawals while waiting for my first pay check. Oh how I hate to say "wait for my first pay check" -- when I should be earning passive income which occurs more frequently, and equates to more, then a pay check does.
When I received my first pay, it was prorated based on number of days I'd worked, out of 30. Dido with the housing allowance. This is enough to get me by until next cycle. I took the cash, and divided it into 4 (for each week), then took 10% of each week to budget for savings.
Physically seeing the cash really helps, it creates hesitancy to hand it over. I think seeing the money both in hand/wallet and handing it over has a strong psychological effect.
It's been an effort getting out of the habit of converting to dollars and simply thinking purely in terms of Yuan. The tendency is to gauge cost relevancy in your home currency, understandable. Here's a different trick though, think of the local bills as flat units without currencies and treat them solely as the number. Ie. Instead of seeing the 100¥ as the $20 it's worth, see it simply as 100. This way, you don't start looking at a 100¥ and going "nbd, it's only worth a $20 bill". Then, save and stack them up.
I plan on saving the majority of my income (70%-80%) for a backpacking trip near the end of next summer throughout SE Asia which will last at least 1-1.5 years. Longer if I can make it happen. Seeing the savings pile up will have a major positive impact on my mindset for the trip, especially if I break the savings up into monthly components. My colleagues, who are all expats and have done a decent amount of traveling, say approximately $1000 should be more than enough, this is what I'm aiming for.
I'll keep my ZenBanx account and eventually put the funds in this account before leaving. This is for several reasons:
1. They pay 1.5% on deposits each month. On say, $15,000 this equates to $225/month. I've seen people get by fairly well in Thailand for $300, so this will take care of most of my expenses each month there.
2. It prevents me from carrying large amounts of cash. $15,000 is a lot to carry in dollars, let alone RMB or other currencies worth significantly less than the dollar. This protects it from loss, theft and physical damage such as rain.
3. Easily exchange currencies.
I look forward to this new aspect of my life, and similar to nearly everything, the decision is easily reversible. Many of us are afraid to do something different and new, as if you are the first to do it, and as if you cannot reverse this decision. This paralysis leaves many in a state of in-action, the worst state of all. Many are so afraid of losing a little bit of money, but have no problem losing time. Unfortunately the inverse is true, money can always be made again. Once your appointment with deaths arrives, your time is up. I've been listening to a lot of Seneca lately (see the Resources section of my site), he says (para.) it is not the last drop which empties the bottle, but the emptying of all the drops which were poured out before the last.
I leave with this personal thought of mine: Whether you are liberated through life or death is your decision. If it is life which liberates you, live fully. If it is death, settle your accounts and die with courage. But if you do not die, and do not live fully, then you shall be paralyzed and condemned to purgatory, and this is worse than death itself, for even death lives actively.
For those of you thinking of saving money, whether it be for school, or as a down payment, or simply building up reserves, the traditional way is to get a job, decrease your quality of life in the name of saving money for later. And you're welcome to do that. Bear in mind, if its popular, than the market is over saturated and will yield little result.
Here's why you may want to change your mind:
1. Unless you have a solid job, you're likely living pay check to pay check and your biggest expense is likely your rent. Consider teaching English in Asia (particularly China), where many schools offer a housing allowance! Biggest expense - removed.
2. Utilities here are dismal, and may be covered by your school as well. Every little bit counts. Hydro in China costs me less than $10/month. In Toronto monthly hydro is on average around $25-$35. More if you use AC regularly.
3. Food. It's easily one of the largest expenses many people of our generation have. We love to eat out and try new places, and always want the convenience. Eating out in China can add up, especially if you visit western restaurants (their prices equate to the same in dollars as in NA), but eating at Chinese restaurants and street vendors is so cheap, it's nearly not worth it to cook meals at home (depending how simple you get - not much is cheaper than rice and beans).
4. Private tutoring. If you come over as an English teacher, spend a few months learning the ropes at your school, then add private tutoring on the side. Inexperienced teachers are earning anywhere from 150-300rmb an hour ($30-$60/hr) to sit with a kid and essentially follow your lesson plans you make from school. The teachers who do private tutoring mostly live on their tutoring income (which doesn't take many sessions), and save all their salary from the school.
5. My colleagues figure they can get by on roughly $500-$600 a month. Yo! A MONTH! That includes meals, transportation, going out once or twice a week, etc. When looking at my projections, I figure I can save anywhere from $14,000-$18000 a year just on my school job (where I work 13-18 hours a week, on salary). I mean, that's your tuition right there. Saved in a year. While travelling and getting life experience. Add tutoring and this can dramatically increase. Earning $30/hr tutoring means you only need to work 4.5 hours a week to cover your $500/month in living wages! Self employment also means setting your own schedule. Perhaps you'd like to work for 20 hours over two days, use the 4.5 hours of those two days to cover living expenses, and use the rest for travelling?
Maybe you're not saving for school, maybe you're done. Well, what better way to pay off that five digit debt and pointless degree than to travel, learn a new culture and language, meet amazing expats and locals and earn some solid money simultaneously? Remember, it's not about the amount of money being earned. What I earn in China won't get you anything living in Toronto, it's about the ratios. The amount earned to the cost of living.