How we’re doing it

A lot of friends and family have been asking me how it’s possible to go overseas, especially for such a long period of time. I thought that answering this question publicly might be beneficial to others and might even inspire a few of you out there to pack your bags. Before diving into the logistics, I would recommend reading my previous post entitled “The Plan.

First, there are some things you need to know about me to understand why it went down this way.  I’m 32, and I have a beautiful wife named Erica and a two-year-old daughter. I’m the co-founder and CEO of a startup called Few. The bank and I own a house together, we had two vehicles, and a hefty amount of debt.

For us, the primary issue getting in the way of long-term travel is expendable income. Basically, car payments, house payments, and credit card payments were eating up the majority of our income. I created an Excel spreadsheet called “Expendable Income Reclamation Project” where I listed out every possible monthly expense that could be reduced or removed. Here’s a breakdown of everything we did:

  • Cancelled every monthly service that wasn’t absolutely necessary.
  • Changed cell phone plans to the insanely cheap but great for travel Project Fi.
  • Sold the more expensive of the two vehicles.
  • Cancelled car insurance for the sold vehicle.
  • Used the profit from the car sale to pay off two credit cards.
  • Refinanced the house to lower monthly mortgage.1
  • Posted an ad on Craigslist two months in advance to rent out individual rooms in our house. We have four bedrooms total, and we have thus far rented out two rooms. The third room is spoken for but no contract has been signed yet.2
  • Started debt snowball on all remaining debt.
  • We’re having a garage sale to sell off pretty much every non-essential item we own.
  • Anything that’s super important to us but that can’t be taken on the trip will be stored in the attic.

You can imagine how much all the above was able to drastically increase our expendable income each month. It’s interesting because this process has been very cleansing as well. There’s so much junk that we don’t need and just weighs us down. I think about the debt we’ve accumulated and then I look at the huge pile of stuff we’ve set aside for the garage sale and it’s like a switch flipped in my head. I just want to live a simple life. I’m not going to buy this crap anymore. It isn’t worth it. After only having one car for the last couple of months it feels embarrassing to say it but we don’t even need a second car. The more stuff we get rid of, the better I feel.

Additional line items added to the Expendable Income Reclamation Project included costs that we incur today that we will not incur abroad. For instance, we won’t have vehicle maintenance costs, because we won’t have a vehicle. Nor will we pay for fuel, car insurance, or a bunch of other little costs.

Now that we’ve maxed out our expendables, it’s time to compare that with the cost of living of other countries. We used a free service called Expatistan which has first-hand cost of living data from expatriates all over the world. Comparing Little Rock, Arkansas to Bangkok, Thailand for instance shows the following:

So right away we can anticipate our newly expanded expendable income to increase in overall value by something like 21%. That’s pretty substantial. Now let’s compare Little Rock with Bali, another destination we’re very interested in:

It’s pretty obvious that many countries in Asia will allow the dollar to go way further than it does at home. We’ll save this income to offset future costs in Europe, which will likely be at or well above the cost of living in Little Rock.

But how will we make that dollar while we’re away? If you read my last blog post, you may have noticed that I’ve spent 20 years honing my craft in an industry that makes working remotely no problem at all. I basically just had to prep my team and my clients and that was all there was to it. That being said, I know of a LOT of people who go overseas and teach English or try their hand at farming. There are lots of options to make money while living abroad.

A word about vaccinations.
We went to the CDC’s website to review what vaccinations we would need. Then we went to the doctor to get a quote. They wanted $2,000 USD PER PERSON. Since our first stop is a big city that is an extremely low risk for all the diseases listed by the CDC, we decided to check out what it would cost to get vaccinated while in Bangkok.  We came across this awesome blog post about how it costs about $27 CAD (or ~$21 USD) per person.

The bottom line
If you really want to travel abroad, there’s nothing stopping you from shedding all the stuff holding you back and just doing it. I should also note that there’s nothing unique about what we’re doing. We learned it all from a subreddit called digitalnomads. Check it out!

Footnotes

  1. We did not finance the equity. We were able to lower our interest rate by almost 2% saving us hundreds per month.
  2. We chose to rent out individual rooms instead of the entire house so that if one roommate didn’t honor their agreement, we would still have the income of the others. It’s basically a safety net. Further, if something terrible were to happen and we had to come back, we would always have a “backup” place to stay since we aren’t renting out the fourth room (currently the office) in the house.

The Plan

It started when I was just 12 years old. My parents had just purchased a brand new family computer, and I was excited to learn everything about it. Unfortunately, straight from the packaging, it wouldn’t boot up. My dad was getting ready to send it back, but I decided to take a crack at it without his knowledge or permission. Wires literally melted when I tried to turn the computer on, but I’ll be damned, it worked. To this day I’m not sure what I did. I was hooked. While I started diving into the hardware, my brother started working on software. He learned programming languages like Turbo Pascal and Delphi. Out of sheer brotherly competition I started to learn how to code, but I took a slightly different path. I decided to learn how to build websites instead, which had really only just become a thing. To put it in perspective, Internet access was still paid by the hour and most people I knew did not have email addresses.

As I started learning to build websites, an idea buried itself within my mind and never left. I could build a website from anywhere in the world. I could travel. I could spend my life traveling and building websites for a living. I wasn’t sure why I loved to code, or why I was so inclined to travel, but I knew it was going to be a primary driver in my life. You know that kid going to college that doesn’t know what their passion is and can’t pick a major? That was not me. I knew exactly what I wanted at 12 years old.

I took a little dip into travel by going to Amsterdam first in my early twenties. I could only afford one week, even at a $10 per night hostel. I went with my best friend, Jon. I know what you’re thinking… You’re thinking that we went to Amsterdam for the debauchery >:) The truth is, we went to Amsterdam because I was making minimum wage and found miracle round-trip tickets for $550. Debauchery was certainly on the (dollar) menu, but I had already been saving for months in hopes of finding a ticket, any ticket, that cheap.

A few years of poverty later, I lucked out and made a smart purchase on a new home, collecting a huge tax credit during the housing crisis. I left with my girlfriend (now wife and co-writer of this blog) to Ireland along with my brother and three other friends. We trekked all over Ireland for two weeks. It was incredible. Unfortunately, two weeks was just enough to take my desire for travel to a whole new level.

I quit my job and made what I thought at the time was an ingenious move. I worked with my brother to create a special software platform for my previous employer that would save them hundreds of thousands of dollars, while providing me with the passive income I needed to go overseas for years. It was the perfect plan. I was going to marry Erica and take her overseas on a multi-year honeymoon. Achieving my lifelong dream was within my grasp. Three months into the software contract there was drama. A new board of directors had taken over my previous employer and that board decided to straight up drop the five-year contract without cause. Devastated, my brother and I begged them to keep their end of the bargain. They said no and that we couldn’t do anything about it because “we couldn’t afford a lawyer”… So we sued them. I had never been in a lawsuit before. It would be almost five years of pain and anguish before we got justice, and in that time I had to work overtime to pay a lawyer that I couldn’t afford. Travel would have to wait, and it really, really messed me up.

I married my wife before the lawsuit ended. I don’t know what I would have done without her love and encouragement during this difficult time in my life. I was, per usual, super broke so we decided to have a small wedding in a beautiful little park in Little Rock. We paid a Justice of the Peace $50 to marry us there. We spent all of the money that would have been spent on a typical wedding and reception on two plane tickets to Venice instead. Neither of us regretted it for a second. Venice is the most beautiful man-made place I’ve ever been (so far). Unfortunately, the cost of Venice is very high and we could only afford to stay a week.

A year later, we would muster up the cash to head to Spain. We visited Madrid, Salamanca, Seville, Trujillo, and some other little random spots. It was a 10 day trip and it was as exhausting as it was incredible. Seville was the most wonderful city I’d ever been to and I felt like I was home. Unfortunately, we had to come back, and again, far short of what I felt would satisfy my wanderlust.

It wouldn’t be long before we found out that we were pregnant. This was one of the happiest moments of my life. For nine months, we had a lot of doctor visits, parenting classes, and anxiety. Then, my beautiful daughter was born. Only a new father can know what it felt like for me. A full heart wouldn’t explain it. My heart was overflowing with love and protectiveness and a renewed strength. It wouldn’t be long before I decided to start showing her the world.

Just after her first birthday, we went back to Seville; this time with our little muñeca. We stayed one glorious month. Throughout the entire trip, my daughter was wide-eyed and amazed at everything she saw. Hell, so was I. It’s Seville after all; but this trip was a test. Could my new startup last with me working on the other side of the world for a full month? Sure enough, it did. In fact, things went better than usual. I’m a better developer and a happier person when working remotely. I always have been.

After coming back far too soon, we invested heavily in a new startup with promise. I spent all of 2015 helping to raise a baby and two startups. I cannot overstate how wonderful but incredibly difficult 2015 was for me. All of this brings me to my main point… The plan. THE plan. The plan has been to travel for the long-term since I was 12. Here I am, 20 years later, and I haven’t yet accomplished it.

Well, my friends, I’m writing today to announce that we just purchased one-way flights to Bangkok, Thailand on July 6th. This will be our first stop of many across Asia and Europe. Of course, we’ll have to hit up Seville again as well. We’re going to stay out for at least six-months, but I’m going to level with you here, I’m going to give it my best shot to be gone as long as possible. If you want the full breakdown of where we’ll be and when, I’m sorry but we don’t have that kind of plan. We’re basically showing up and we’ll go from there.

If you know of a place we just have to see, or if you have friends or family abroad that you think would enjoy hosting a dinner or going out for beers with a big, beardly startup dude and his family, please let me know in the comments or tweet me @_davidhudson.

I love it when a plan comes together.