Many people wonder how my wife and I can afford our location independent lifestyle. Savings are part of it, I also do some part-time consulting. However, the key ingredient is that we don’t spend much money. This is a difficult concept for many to grasp: you don’t have to work much if you don’t spend money. My wife and I cut our expenses to about a quarter of what they used to be, now I have the flexibility to only work on projects I care about.
Long-term traveler, Roni Weiss has perfected the art of frugality. By keeping his living expenses extremely low he can maintain a travel lifestyle that is only a dream to most. Roni shares his story in this interview.
Please tell us about your travels.
My first big solo backpacking trip was in 2004, two months in Western and Central Europe. It could have been longer, but I chose not to bring a laptop, something I changed two trips later. Sharing hostel computers is for the birds. Now, I have been to 70+ countries, including every country in Europe, as well as every continent except Antarctica. 40% of the countries in the world.
How many months of the year are you out of the country?
From 2007 until the end of 2010, I spent most of my time outside of the States. This year, I’m writing while on my first trip abroad of the year, Senegal. I’m not sure if I’ll be traversing oceans so much in 2011, but I will definitely be going to Canada and might be going to the Caribbean and parts of Latin America. It’s still in flux. Then again, I could be back in Africa in the next few months. My life isn’t so planned out.
Do you have a home base somewhere?
My home base is technically Everett, Washington. It’s where my driver’s license is, where my credit card bills go, etc. Depending on the situation, my father helps me with stuff back home, but I’ve had other people do that, as necessary. My Washington State health care does not cover me overseas, so I have bought Atlas Travel Health Insurance in the past. I’ve taken to buying the lowest coverage, with no deductible.
Please tell us about your blog, RoniWeiss.com.
I’ve had a website since 1999. My blogging before was more personal stuff, stories of my day. Though I did have movie reviews, as well. In 2008, I moved to Chile to teach business English. Around that time, my then-girlfriend and I broke up and I needed something to fill my mindspace. So I started blogging in a Web 2.0 sort of way and got involved in podcasts. My blog is mostly my travel stories and political commentary, but I go into other subjects as I feel the need. For a while, I was on wordpress.com. Once I started becoming more regular and getting more traffic, I moved over to wordpress.org. I don’t pay for hosting costs as I use my boss’s server in France. I’ve gotten offers to put ads on my site, but none felt particularly right. I had a Google Adsense ad up for a bit, but it wasn’t very prominent, so I wasn’t generating much from that. And now, I never will from them, as they banned me. I’ll probably write a post about that at some point. For now, I’m thinking I’ll stay ad-free until something makes more sense.
How do you earn an income now?
Money is a somewhat abstract concept to me. I try to spend as little as possible whenever possible. I make money through working for my boss in France, creating English language teaching materials. (Un)fortunately, I’ve been so busy with cool, unpaid things that I haven’t had time to sit and do work. I have done a lot of summer jobs in the past, wherein I get room and board paid for, don’t spend any money for months and come out of it with a few thousand dollars in my pocket. That’s served me well in the past.
Do you have many social media clients?
Right now, I’m helping with social media for the Africa Travel Association. We’ll see how much of my time in the future is doing social media and how much is freelance writing. Your guess is as good as mine.
Please tell us about your English teaching experiences?
I’ve taught English in Italy, Taiwan, France and Chile. They were all really different, based on what the jobs themselves were and what my living setup was. I did an interview about my English language teaching here.
What do you estimate your yearly expenses to be?
Wow. Uhhh. Yeah, I just don’t calculate it that way. There are days where I spend no money. There are days where I spend $5-20… And every so often I have to pay car insurance or flights. I’m so bad at this, really. When I’m traveling, I start trying to figure out how much I’m spending, but it feels like my expenditures per day fluctuate so wildly that it’s hard to say. And it depends on where I am in the world, too. If I’m Stateside, I have to pay for gas. In some countries, I ride black on the public transport; in others, I don’t. I’ve hitchhiked, but not all the time and not always successfully.
Generally, I spend nothing on accommodation, which does help. Really, it’s just such a variety. My goal is to always try to minimize expenses. The biggest challenge is trying to not let my nutrition suffer too much because of it.
How do you keep your expenses low?
I try to not spend money if I don’t absolutely have to. I stay with friends, family, people from Couchsurfing and have started doing hotel write-ups. A lot of times, friends and family give you food. They’re nice like that. That helps you save money. Hitchhiking has helped. I just started doing that more frequently at the end of last year. Recently, I’ve been putting up my Iraq hitchhiking posts.
Have you had any major problems on your travels?
I wouldn’t call them major. Getting ripped off by a taxi driver and his compatriots in Chile, which then got me on the biggest investigative journalism show in Chile. I’ve never had my life really threatened, never got beaten up or successfully mugged. In Chile, I stupidly had my money belt in my pocket. That story is here. And then there was the time at the Peru-Ecuador border…
How long do you plan on continuing this lifestyle?
My lifestyle is in flux. I’m moving away from the in-one-place English teaching and moving toward freelance writing and social media management. It’s really unclear if I’ll be spending time in Los Angeles or having enough work on the road that staying in one place doesn’t make sense.
What are your future plans for earning an income?
The hope is to earn more than just free stuff from blogging. Dunno how plausible that is. If I do spend more time in LA, I might make an effort with entertainment, too.
Do you have any advice for aspiring world travelers?
Know what you can handle in terms of creature comforts. Don’t try to drive yourself crazy being on a budget you can’t handle, but if you need to be staying at nice hotels and carrying lots of stuff with you, you’ll probably have to scale down your plans. Or just fall into debt, which I don’t recommend.
Here’s a plug: Travel Talk on Twitter. I help run a weekly Twitter event where we have five questions about a travel topic and anyone can tweet their answers. It’s every Tuesday at 9:30 AM/PM GMT. Great place to share/get ideas. And a lot of people seem to come out of it with potential plans for new places.
Roni On Location (Roni’s YouTube travel web series.)
Follow Roni on Twitter
Political podcast: dontworry.tv or look for Don’t Worry About The Government (or Roni Weiss) on iTunes