If You Want Comfort, But Not Break The Bank, Consider Moving To A Developing Country And Telecommute

Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: Would becoming homeless be a good strategy to cut costs? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.

Photo by Gabriel Cubbage
The view from my “office” in Sa Pa, Vietnam.
Photo by Gabriel Cubbage

Consider telecommuting from a “developing” Asian country for a while. The benefits are non-obvious and kind of amazing. (I speak from experience.)

If you’re the type who’d consider voluntary homelessness (“houselessness” really) to cut costs, you’ll find it’s actually cheaper to travel in southeast Asia than it is to live in the United States.

“Developing” doesn’t mean what some might assume. Many people in southeast Asian countries have skipped over traditional telecommunications infrastructure straight to email-via-mobile and shared wi-fi. They’re smart, helpful, flexible, and their food is fantastic.

Nevertheless: Cheap. You can get a delicious phở bò from a Hanoi street vendor for about 3 USD. Made right there before your eyes by someone who transports their cooking pot to-and-fro by bicycle.

“Cheap” also includes plane tickets. They’ll set you back at first, but the cost averages out to near-nothing after a couple months. For people with U.S. rent, leases, and insurance to pay for, an Asian trip is a huge expense.

But if your day-to-day expenses are your only expenses, the math turns on its ear.

Some rough, top-of-mind numbers

  • $1200: Round trip flight to Vietnam (or Thailand, etc.) Consider one-way tickets if you’re not certain how long you’ll be there. Again, the added cost averages out to little if you’re staying long-term.
  • $10-15/night: Air-conditioned room to yourself, if you avoid the westernized, Hanoi hostel-type places. In the (cooler!) Sa Pa region in the northwest, $14 gets you comfort and a spectacular view. Secure a long-term rate up front. Everything is negotiable, especially if it’s the off-season or you simply notice they have a lot of rooms open.
  • $0/day: Wi-Fi. Pick your hotel carefully. Many have spotty connectivity, so test that up front. I mean literally ask to go stand in your room-to-be, fire up your computer and play something on YouTube while the clerk stares at you.
  • $10/day: Eat. Well. Actually you can do better than this if you’re dead set on saving and stay in the same area for weeks and months at a time.
  • $0-5/day: Daily travel. If your goal is to live and work remotely, saving money all the while, then you should have few, if any, public or private transportation costs. If you have sporadic need to travel distances over 5km, consider the occasional motorbike (and helmet!) rental. No license necessary.
  • $30-$40/month: Mobile. This could vary all over the place. If we’re talking a jailbroken, GSM iPhone, then ditch your contract (or put it on vacation hold) and buy pay-as-you-go cards while in-country.

    Don’t speak Vietnamese? Me neither. Just befriend your hotel clerk (their English is always good) and tell them what you need. For a song — probably nothing — they’ll send someone to go find exactly the type of refill card(s) you need, navigate the phone tree for you, and activate your calling plan.

    If you’re friendly and clear, you’ll be fine. Be the kind of person you would want to deal with. People here are not looking to get you out of their face. They want to do their jobs well.

  • $200, about every 3 months or so: Travel visas. It’s easy to do “visa runs”, meaning temporary exits and re-entries over the border to legally renew your visa(s). Just ask around or look online. (Or just jump back and forth between, say, Vietnam and Thailand.)
  • Passport fees if you don’t have one.
  • $30-$50/month: Miscellany.
  • OPTIONAL but recommended:
    $100/month. Travel insurance (e.g. WorldNomads.com) that includes emergency medical costs, evacuation, etc.
    I have a Manhattan PO Box I can check from anywhere in the world, courtesy of EarthClassMail.com. It’s a secure mail scanning service that enables you to read, recycle, shred, forward and store physical mail. They’ll even deposit checks for you.

Pack very little. Find the biggest, single piece of baggage you can comfortably carry, and fill it 90% full. That’s it. You’ll still be your resourceful self when you get there. Anything you bring “just in case” will remain literally just that.

In fact, the longer you stay, the less you need. More time means more flexibility.

  • Get away with a tiny wardrobe. Bring microfiber trousers, socks, etc. and do your laundry in the tub with coldwater Woolite packets. Buy a portable clothesline and set it up permanently in your bathroom.
  • You’re not a traveler; you’re a long-term visitor. Get to know the locals and develop a daily routine. As you become more comfortable, you’ll feel less need to be “self contained”.
  • Find and replace things as you need them. As long-term visitors, most of us would be better off showing up naked, with nothing, and acquiring what we need on-site. We’re terrible at predicting what the “necessities” really are.

If you’re particular about your shaving needs, consider bringing your fancy-shmancy blades of choice.

If you’re female, consider a menstrual cup in lieu of tampons or pads (e.g.DivaCup.com). It takes a little getting used to (you might feel the need to pee more often at first), but it’s a great little invention. More environmentally friendly, too.

People need pretty much the same stuff to live life everywhere the world over. If you need it here, they have a version of it there. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

This answer originally appeared at Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge.

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