How I Went from Broke New Yorker to World Traveler: I saved $20,000 in less than a year to quit my job and travel.
I knew I wanted to travel long-term for years but I was too scared and too comfortable. Up until 2017, I spent the last five years living in my dream city–NYC. As a manager at a tech company I was earning a solid income, and traveling every few weeks–I’d spend two weeks in Dublin four times a year, and was going to conferences and leadership seminars in places like Barcelona and Las Vegas. I’d even relocated to Sydney for 6 months when my employer opened an office there. I loved the company’s values, worked with some wickedly smart people, and lots of my colleagues were (and still are) my friends.
But I’d worked at the same place for seven years and wanted to know what else was out there. The longer I worked there, the more I felt like my personal life was taking a backseat. And I wanted to travel freely–without the pressure of feeling like I had to cram a whole country into a one-week trip or between work events. I wanted to get know other cities the way I know NYC (pizza rat and all). And I wanted to see if I could make it as a digital nomad.
I knew I wanted to travel, but for a long time I didn’t know where to start. And I see this from a lot of others in solo travel forums and Facebook groups: ‘I want to travel but I don’t know how to save’; ‘I’m afraid of what others will think if I quit my job to travel’; ‘Will I have a hard time getting hired again if I take a career break?’; ‘Am I crazy for wanting to do something so risky?’ Continue reading “How I Went from Broke New Yorker to World Traveler in a Year”
How to Find Your First House Sitting Job and get Free Accommodation
My First House Sitting Experience
I’ve been in Christchurch, New Zealand, for several weeks and decided I want to stay longer. I fell in love with the trekking, Kiwi lifestyle, and never being too far from both the mountains and the beach. The problem is it’s peak season here, and on my budget I can’t afford to pay $25+ per night for an Airbnb. A hostel is out of the question (I need my re-charge time), and since I’m planning to stay a while and work (more on that later), I either want roommates or a place to myself.
I explained my situation to an American friend who lives here, and the first thing she recommended was house sitting. Before committing to a long-term rental, she used house sitting to try out different neighborhoods. I couldn’t believe some of the amazing places she’d stayed at for free.
My First House Sitting Job with Kiwi House Sitters
My mom and I were holed up in her little apartment, cracking open brittle, plastic takeaway containers from a Thai restaurant down the street. She was getting over jet lag from the New York flight to Melbourne, and I was just starting to feel like myself again after an ungodly bout of Bali Belly that sent me fleeing to Australia–a souvenir from months in Southeast Asia. ‘Try it–it’s not spicy at all’. I passed her my green curry. A few seconds later she had a coughing fit and I realized I’d nearly poisoned my poor mom with what probably tasted like lava. A month in Thailand will have you eating fire.
Thai food wasn’t at the top of my eats bucket list when I left for Southeast Asia. I dreamed of crouching on a tiny plastic stool again on Nowhere Street, Vietnam, over steaming bowls of salty-sour Pho and vinegary, crunchy salads with exotic herbs and mountains of cilantro. But my second trip to Thailand converted me to a fanatic, in no small part thanks to a woman I met, named Yui.
Thailand is home to amazing food, beautiful beaches and over 400,000 Buddhist temples. One of my favorite things about Thai culture (after the food, of course) is the Buddhist influence, and some cities have dozens of wats (temples) where visitors can pay their respects to the Buddha and his students, and seek blessings from the resident monks.
In Chiang Mai alone there are over 300 temples–from the relatively tiny, tucked away Wat Pansao, decorated with golden sitting monk statues, to the massive, crumbling Wat Chedi Luang. You could spend months trying to visit them all!
Halfway into my stay in Chiang Mai I decided to do a multi-day silent meditation retreat where I could learn more about meditating and Buddhism. I’d been practicing meditation here and there with the Insight Timer app and could sit through 10-minute sessions but I squirmed through anything longer and my legs always turned into bricks from going numb. I was a baby meditator at best.
I chose a two-day retreat run by Monk Chat University (MCU), which is based in Wat Suan Dok in city center, but you can find retreats lasting anywhere from one day to several weeks in or near the city. I highly recommend this experience for anyone looking to get outside their comfort zone or learn more about Buddhism and what it’s like to be a monk.
Our group of 20 met at the Monk Chat University office at the temple, where we started with an introduction to Buddhist philosophy by one of the resident monks. He explained that Buddhism is a way of living, not a religion, and shared the 4 Truths of Buddhism and what to expect from the retreat–lots of time sitting, lots of practice. We went around the room with introductions. There were lots of singles, early-20’s backpackers, and two couples. A handful of people had been to other retreats but most were also ‘baby meditators’. Continue reading “A Two-Day Silent Meditation Retreat in Chiang Mai, Thailand”
What do you do if you’re an expat living abroad or traveling for a long time but still need to receive mail or packages? You might be able to use a friend or family member’s address, but if you don’t have this option or receive a lot of mail, a mail receiving service makes it easy to view and manage your mail while you’re away–it’s a digital mailbox you can access wherever you are. There are a few mail receiving services and I’ll explain what I use, how it works, and why I chose it over others. Continue reading “How to Manage Your Mail While Traveling: Traveling Mailbox Review”
Like a lot of people, I chose to make a long stop in Chiang Mai, Thailand because it’s cheap, easy to get around, and the food is amazing. I spent a month there in two different neighborhoods–first on Loi Kroh Road, and then in an area called Nimman.
During the first week in Chiang Mai, I had a place on Loi Kroh road, on the Southeastern corner of the city square. I chose it because it’s a busy area within walking distance of the night market, where you can gorge on street food and all the coconuts you could ever want, and there are lots of street food vendors, little shops, and restaurants.
I’ve been in Chiang Mai, Thailand for the last two+ weeks before I head to Indonesia. It’s my second time in Thailand and my first in Chiang Mai, which is in the North of Thailand just over an hour away from Bangkok by air. Chiang Mai is pretty isolated and feels secluded within the surrounding forest. It’s perfect if you’re looking for nature-related activities and a break from big cities. Save for some traffic jams, it’s very peaceful and the slower pace is growing on me (New Yorker, here!). The vibe keeps me wondering when I’m going to run into a beach. Maybe it’s all the flip flops.
I’m here for a month, and like many others, I chose it for a long-term stay due to its developed tourism infrastructure (easy transportation ftw!), consistently warm weather, and budget-friendliness; You can eat and sleep well and still include activities on a budget of $50/day here, and in Thailand in general (though it’s a bit harder–but still doable–in the capital city of Bangkok).
I’m sharing my tips from my time here to help you prepare for your own trip to Thailand. Note that most costs I’ve cited are based on Chiang Mai prices — expect to pay more in a larger city, like Bangkok.
Fortunately, a 30-day tourist visa (for the US and citizens of many other countries) is free and easy to get upon arrival at the airport. Compared to experiences in some other countries, clearing immigration was a breeze for me. Depending on the immigration agent and your country of origin, you may need to show proof of onward travel (a ticket out of Thailand). This time, I was not asked–the agent and I spent our quick exchange talking about his favorite local food (thanks, dude!). Continue reading “Tips for Traveling to Thailand: What to Know Before You Go”