Traveling and going on vacation, used to be a luxury expense. It used to be that only the rich could travel. Some people still believe that. Maybe you know a family that goes away every summer vacation to the Hamptons or winter ski vacations to Aspen. Maybe you know people who talk about Paris in the Spring or escaping to the French Riviera in the colder months. It’s true, some travel can be expensive. But not all travel.
We lived on a tropical island off the coast of Thailand for 3 months in a beach front villa at a fancy resort; spent 3 months in the north of Thailand hills of Chiang Mai in an apartment hotel and have also stayed in a villa on a 5 star golf course for 3 months in Spain.
My bf and I have lived in places that people dream of vacationing at for a week or two a year, and we did it for less than they ever would. We did it without having ‘jobs’ so time was no restriction. The only restrictions were visas or having to meet up with friends in other places.
My Mum used to say, ‘You have the lifestyle that only people who win the lottery can afford to have’. That’s the misnomer. People who work for others often dream of winning the lottery. Well, I’m here to be a wake up call to you.
You don’t need to have a job to make money and you don’t need to be rich to travel. People who work for themselves aren’t buying lottery tickets every week. They know they have more control over their lives and can probably make more than they can ever win as long as they hustle for themselves.
Besides, you’ve got more chance of getting hit by lightning than winning the lottery. Not that you’d wish to.
So, I guess you’re wondering how we did it. Well, there are a lot of little tips and tricks that I’ll discuss more of as they come up on this blog. But, the core reason that we can travel like people vacation is this… we are flexible and we budget everything.
When you work from your laptop, the world is your oyster. It’s the ultimate freedom. Workcations are the new vacations. All you need is a laptop, a power outlet and a wifi connection. That is literally the minimum you need to make money, once you’ve set up your online business that is.
You could probably even get by with just a tablet or mobile device if you just need to maintain the business. We travel with laptops because we do a lot of design work.
So we have flexibility of location but we also need flexibility of time. The reason why it is so affordable to live in these luxury places is because we go there in the low season and we stay for longer. If you’re travelling to fit in with your job’s schedule, the season or to impress your neighbours, then you will probably plan your vacation for the peak time.
People tend to travel more to sunny locations in the summer months. The problem with that is, you’re competing for accommodation, the beaches and restaurants are always full of tourists and you’re probably paying up to three times more for the privilege.
The Secret Reveals
If you go in low season, you can have your pick of accommodation. The beaches and restaurants aren’t so busy, so you save a hell of a lot on everything.
Spain and Thailand are exotic beautiful places, where the sun’s always shining and it’s also cheap. Food and living expenses are not going to cost you much and that all helps with the budget. So think about the country in general.
Also, I never use a travel agent for anything these days. It seems that they all just have the same access to the sites we do. They may get special deals or allocations on certain things, but it just means that they are obligated to certain resorts or airlines where they get a cut, so, not really in the customer’s best interest.
If you look hard enough, you’ll find accommodation or flights cheaper than the travel agent anyway. You just need to be flexible. You can even sort out your own travel insurance online easily. We like to use World Nomads.
For flights, I usually look a few months in advance and track the trends, but I don’t buy till a few weeks or days before I leave. I use Skyscanner. You can see which days are cheapest at a months glance. Whenever you’re checking flight prices make sure to use a private browsing window like incognito (for chrome) or else your constant browsing will affect the prices you’re shown (sneaky b*stards).
For accommodation, I shop around. I like Hotels Combined as they source a lot of other sites, so it saves a lot of time. Also, keep an eye out for specials at the hotel itself, they might have deals that they don’t give to third party sellers.
Of course there are also places like Airbnb, name your own price on Priceline.com, home swaps like Home Exchange or house-sitting with Trusted Housesitters for example, to consider. Shop around to get something that works for you.
On the Thailand island of Koh Lanta however we had an unorthodox approach that might also work for you. We became friendly with one of the locals who negotiated a rate with the resort manager of Amantra Resort and Spa (I assume he got a cut).
The resort was going to shut down for the low season (for some of them it’s not worth staying open) but changed their mind for us. We paid 17,000 baht a month and they kept the resort open. This worked out to be around US$500 for the month, for 3 of us.
We pretty much had the beach to ourselves. It was never crowded and we lived like the locals did – you know… but in a fancy villa with free wifi, cable tv and scooter hire when we needed it.
For Spain, it was just a matter of looking online. Many people invested in these villas when the resort was being built and now rent them out privately. We went before the summer rush and got a great deal on a villa at La Torre Golf Resort Murcia, for 400 euros a month.
That price included access to the award winning golf resort, a variety of pubs and restaurants, the swimming pools and onsite supermarket. We had free wifi and cable tv, walked to the local town centre and caught the local buses to get to the beach.
There were plenty of sunny days, even though it was low season. Even on the rainy days, it was better spent in a villa at a resort than home. Spending so long at these places, we were able to get so much work done. We also got to see how the locals lived, immersed ourselves in the culture where we could and had plenty of days where we enjoyed our surroundings.
When you live on foreign shores, every day is an adventure.
Budgeting on Workcation
With each stint we know exactly how much we need; how much we’re going to spend; what our expenses are for accomodation, food, local travel and enjoying ourselves and we don’t splurge on unnecessary things.
We don’t go shopping extravagantly. We don’t eat at fancy restaurants and we don’t get drunk every weekend. To live in a lux place is treat enough for us, so we save wherever we can. Of course, the more money you make on your online business, the more lax you can be about your spending.
We cook our own food, do our own laundry, walk to get around and to get groceries, wherever possible. We are pretty self sufficient. It’s nice. Before long, you’ll create a routine of your surroundings and you’ll know what to expect. You’ll settle into the place where you’re staying and what’s near you.
You can’t help but make friends with the people you see all the time and feel a connection to where you are. That’s not something you usually get to experience on vacation in peak season. You’re so rushed for time that you just meet other tourists and do the typical sight-seeing things.
I love these workcations. This is the type of life that we plan on continuing with again soon. Currently we’ve set up basecamp while working on our online businesses. But we’ll be doing more of the travel-working thing next year and I can’t wait.
It gives me the freedom to explore, to travel, to see more of the world and learn more of its culture. To travel and live like this, invigorates me creatively and the unknown is exciting. Stay tuned to see where we go next on our digital nomad escapades.