While We Worked At Our Desks, He Worked On All 7 Continents

In 12 months, Kareem Mayan traveled to all 7 continents and brought his laptop along so he could keep doing his job from the road. The whole trip cost him under $30,000, so he actually grew his savings while he lived the adventure of a lifetime.

I invited him to Mixergy to talk about how he did it and what he tells skeptics who are too afraid to try being digital nomads.

Kareem Mayan

Kareem Mayan

digital nomad

Kareem Mayan is a freelance technical product developer and digital nomad. Previously, he co-founded eduFire. Earlier in his career he worked at ESPN and FOX Interactive Media.

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Full Interview Transcript

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Andrew: Hey everyone! It’s Andrew Warner. I am the founder of mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. Kareem Mayan is a buddy of mine who is here on Mixergy back when I got started. Back when it was just an audio interview. And he was setting out as a digital nomad. I invited him on to talk about what he learned and some of the tools he used to travel the world and work at the same. And I invited him back here to find out about how it went. Over, I guess in less than a year he told me, you traveled, Karim tell me if this is right, to all 7 continents?

Interviewee: Yup, that’s right.

Andrew: Alright. That’s all we have, right? 7 continents? No more than that?

Interviewee: No more than that. Not as far as I know.

Andrew: Alright. Well, there is a lot of technology, a lot of improvement in the world. You never know. They may have created a new one since then. So, all 7 continents you were telling me about a scene that you described a scene before from one of your trips. Can you tell people about that one?

Interviewee: Sure. I was on the South Island of New Zealand, and we were in a place called – I’m probably going to butcher the name – but its called Lake Tekapo. At the top, or in Lake Tekapo there’s a mountain called Mount John, and at the top of it there’s a cafe and in the Lonely Planet they said it was probably the best cafe, or the cafe with the most beautiful vista in the world. It’s 360 degree views. It’s all glass. So I was up there doing some work & it’s just overlooking this sort of toothpaste blue lake. It’s absolutely gorgeous. So we’re up there doing some work and then stepped out of there for a few moments, laptop in hand and snapping some photos. My girlfriend actually snapped the photo that I feel captures the kind of essence of the digital nomad. Kind of these beautiful vistas in the background, laptop in hand, just taking photos. Sort of taking a 5 minute break from doing some work.

Andrew: Were you actually able to work up there, with that beautiful scenary, and with your girlfriend around, and with so much new that you want to explore?

Interview: It’s always a tough balance. But what I found, when you know, generally speaking in life, when you know what you want, you make it happen. And so I wanted to be able to keep living that life, and I had client obligations and I had experiments of my own that I am running. Those are the things that I wanted. You know, spending…it oftens sounds a lot more romantic than it is, but, you know, I lived in Budapest 3 months and I spent the vast majority of my time in coffee shops working. The upside, of course, is when you leave you’re in Budapest and you have a whole new city to explore. A whole new part of the world to explore.

Andrew: Yeah, when you first came on Mixergy and you talked about this, I was skeptical. I think I was even pushing back during the interview, and even if I was it wasn’t as much as I would have wanted to because to me the whole thing seemed crazy. You’re going to get up and you’re going to work in a different country. If you are going to work, go to an office. Be like a normal human being, as my Dad might say. But here I am in Buenos Aires, partly inspired by the interview that I did with you, and I am finding that I am so much more productive here than I was back home. And I’ve got a few theories on that. I was wondering if you found the same thing happened to you?

Interviewee: Definitely. I think the biggest thing for me is as much as I love my friends and I love being in a place where I know a lot of people, it actually helps, to some degree, to really accomplish, to really get things done…

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Interviewee: When you don’t have a huge social circle and lots of demands on your time. It’s not like there are demands on your time, u want to go out and see these people and have fun and enjoy yourself. But, in a kind of weird way social isolation helps you or me accomplish more

Andrew: Ya, that’s what it is, social isolation and when I say it, it sounds kind of rude to my friends don’t you like them enough to hang out with them. What’s wrong I having friends around. But, it doe become a distraction for even during the day when I was not seeing my friends. There will be obligations that’ll pop up and routines that I would slip into and here I don’t have those obligations or routines. I could just get into work and go for it.

Interviewee: yea, you can be really selfish with your time when you don’t know a lot of people and really choose how you want to spend it. Whether its traveling, whether its working, whether its meeting new people, whether its learning a new language or whatever it is. It’s a luxury Andrew, I think. We all have to really be able to be selfish with your time if you want. In my opinion that’s the most valuable thing we’ve got, right. So its an important thing to be able to decide how you want to spend it.

Andrew: Lets talk about expenses; I’ve done several interviews here with people who swore up and down that it is cheaper to travel than it is to live an ordinary life in the US. Not like they were living in mansions or castles back then in the US and suddenly they were slumming it in hostels. I said no, better lifestyles, better standard of living at the same time, did you find that?

Interviewee: Definitely, I was going to quote blog post about this but I’ll give you the exclusive Andrew. I made about 30 grand this year and I’ve lived on five different continents and I have saved a couple grand as well. So, you know, I made 30 grand and actually saved money.

Andrew: Usually people wait for me to push them a little bit before they tell me how much they made. But, you are open, you are saying $30,000 is what you made in 2009.

Interviewee: Ya, you know, I’d rather share that information. One of the most common questions that I get is “how can you afford this?” and vast majority of people who ask me this make more than $30,000 a year.

Andrew: Ya, actually you should be making more than $30,000 a year. You’re a developer, right.

Interviewee: Product manager, but I develop on the site as well

Andrew: What does it mean to be a product manager?

Interviewee: Its to basically understand what the customer needs are and what the business needs are and make them work together and then I kind of find a team and project manage the team to get the product out of the door

Andre: Okay, S.G Andrew who’s watching us online now is asking for a little more details on your work

Interviewee: Sure

Andrew: You do this remotely and working by yourself but the team you’re managing and working with are they all in one place.

Interviewee: Nope, everybody works remotely; I’ll go into a little more detail. I have one client in Vancouver, I’ve been working with them for about a year and a half and when it was started it was just me working with business visionary, who’s my main client. I found the designer who is in Vancouver actually Dave Shae who is actually a very well known Vancouver designer and then a developer, a great developer who’s also based in Vancouver. But everyone works remotely, we do Skype calls probably once a week, at least once a week when I am away and when I am here we all come to the office every couple of weeks. But ya, so everybody works remotely from their own setups from their office space

Andrew: And it was on company you were working with the whole time

Interviewee: Yes

Andrew: So going back to the point I made earlier, you were top developer lot of experiences you co founded “Edufire”, you worked at fox interactive and ESPN. From my sense you could easily command in the US over $100,000 salary, no.

Interviewee: yup, when I was working at the fox I was making $120k a year and that was in 2007. so like is aid earlier time is the most valuable thing that we’ve got and at this stage of my life as long as I can cover my bills and make a couple grand and make a little bit money to put aside in a rainy day fund. I am content to do that and sort of use the time that I’ve got to really experiment with the products and ideas that I’ve got and see where those can go.

Andrew: frankly, I’ve got friends who make over $100,000 a year, live in the US, stay in the same place, live a fairly conservative life or for what to them seems fairly conservative and they are in debt and so they are not banking anything, the way that you are while you are traveling. Do you think that you could’ve kept that salary…

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Andrew: Do you think that you could have kept that salary, or anywhere near that salary while travelling?

Interviewee: Yeah, I definitely think so, I mean, I spend a lot of time working on my own things and experimenting and trying things and learning and so yeah, I could have probably made more than that.

Andrew: Ok, so what we are saying is that you intentionally took a salary reduction, you could have gotten a job that paid over hundred, 128 the previous job if you stayed in one place, if you wanted to travel but willing to commit more of your time to work you could have gotten more than the 30 that you made last twelve or so months.

Interviewee: Definitely.

Andrew: You made this decision you said, there are all these options available to me, one of them is to leave the country and go travel, another is to reduce my salary so that I can experience more the rest of my life.

Interviewee: Sure, exactly.

Andrew: Ok, so let’s see what else people are asking here, you didn’t have any clients that you need to meet face-to-face right?

Interviewee: No, I mean the clients, the biggest client that I had was comfortable with me working remotely. So whenever we needed a face-to-face we’d do what I and you are doing here with videoscape.

Andrew: We are in different continents; I think I’ve interviewed people from every continent except Antarctica and the connections always been solid, rock solid! Being away, being in a different country doesn’t seem to limit my ability to communicate, what it does keep me from being able to do is have appear with somebody and really talk about some of the secrets that they may not reveal in a phone call, may not reveal even on videoscape. Other than that, I think I can have the same kind of interaction I do back in the US. Ok, can other people do this too, or is it your unique situation where you can command a high salary in the US, so even if a fraction of your time is worth a lot where because you are a developer and not a sales man for example, you can travel the world and do this, is it unique to you or can others do it too?

Interviewee: No, other people can do it too, I’m just a guy, the key is really to figuring out how to make money while living elsewhere, there is a bunch of ways of doing it inside the country you are in right now, so if you wanted to go to Japan teaching English there is incredibly, I mean teaching English anywhere actually is an incredibly calm way live else where and to make money, if you wanted to something that was more saleable which is to say not trading your time for money on an hourly basis you could sell products online right, there are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people who make good money on eBay or who set up yahoo shops selling anything and everything. I was reading I don’t remember where I was reading this but I was reading a story recently about a guy who sold bowling balls online and made a million bucks a year. So you know, there is really as long as you are willing to learn and push your boundaries to figure out how you can do this, you can do this, you can absolutely do this.

Andrew: You know what, I’ve done interviews with people who have made money in 3 ways, one doing what you do which is the same job they did back in the US but do it remotely and find a way to work out a deal with their boss or with their clients, the second thing is I’ve seen people who start companies and they say ok, the first six months to a year building the company, there is probably not much revenue coming in so I need to figure out a way to cut down as much as possible my spending and if they travel, if they come to a city like Buenos Aeries where I happen to be in, there are single guys who can live in a simple place, they cut it down tremendously, I have heard of other places in the world where they can cut down their expenses as long as they have internet access they can work, and the third thing that I’m seeing a lot is, once they do, once people become digital nomads they are able to teach others how to do it and they start making money by teaching others how to do it, creating eBooks, creating courses, creating training programs and resource guides and as you say, you don’t need that much money to live, so you don’t need to earn that much online.

Interviewee: It’s interesting that you mentioned that, it one of the sort of part of the bigger vision why John Bischki who is sort of a visionary, I’m sorry, who is a visionary behind the edge of fires when I started edge of fire, because we felt like there is really sort of vast amount of knowledge that anybody and everybody have and we want to provide a way for them to reach their audiences and make money out of it by teaching, but yeah there are, its interesting that, so there is sort of the old jobs, there is ecommerce and then there is teaching people how to be digital nomads, those are the sort of three models you have seen.

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Interviewee: It makes sense, there is lots of people, I think you saw it with Tim Ferris in the Fireworks recoming, that book was a big inspiration for me in being able to figure out how to do this, I met him when I was in Argentina 3nova cagen, I think on my 3rd or 4th night down their, which was the first experiment I ran to actually see if this was liable and that book I think inspired me a lot of people to be able to do this kind of a thing.

Andrew: Yeah, it also inspired a lot of skepticism because of its title, 4 hour work week all of a sudden seemed like phony baloney and marketing get rich quick book, but seeing people like you take up the ideas in the book and actually do them, talking to entrepreneurs and seeing them actually carry it through and get the results is what added a lot of credibility to that book and started to make all those ideas come to life, the idea that you can travel and live cheaply. So we talked a little bit about the revenue, I want to talk more about the expenses, how do you keep your expenses low when you are travelling, so we’ll start with Buenos Aeries, just flying to Buenos aeries right now could cost a thousand plus dollars no?

Interviewee: I suppose it could if you flew at a bad time, I mean one of the nice things about this kind of lifestyle is that you have flexibility with reference to when you travel, so flying on a Friday or a Saturday, flying on a Thursday or a Friday will cost a lot more money than flying on a Tuesday or a Thursday for example. So you know there is kind of ways to go about saving cash given that you have more flexibility than an average traveler or vacationer.

Andrew: I see, you know it sometimes feels like you don’t have flexibility because you have your mind set on when you want to leave and where you want to go but if you are going to keep your cost low then you have to have flexibility that you are saying.

Interviewee: It’s definitely important and you have a lot more flexibility than you know the average vacationer who has a weekend to get away or a long weekend to get away or a week, who really needs to cram things in, leave on a Friday come back on a Sunday kind of thing.

Andrew: Ok, what about housing? I know how to find a hotel room if I’m travelling to a new city I can just go on to priceline look for the cheapest place but that’s too expensive if you are trying to be a digital nomad and its also not permanent enough, how do you find cheap housing?

Interviewee: I see your question, I actually think there is no, depending on where you go there are sites, so for example in the UK and Australia there is a site called Gumtree.co.uk which is kind of like Craigslist except it is nicely executed but still has critical mass of people and apartment listings, it really depends on where you are going, but very often there is a site that you can sort of central craigslisty type site where you can often it is craigslist, there’s also a lot of short term vacation rentals, websites for pretty much every city in the world and if you find something you like, you can very often negotiate a deal right, you are not staying for a week or two weeks, you are staying for 2 or 3 months, so you can get in touch with the land lord and negotiate a deal for a much better price than what you would be paying for staying for a week or two, But as with a lot with this lifestyle its really about finding stuff on the web, and googling and being resourceful that way.

Andrew: S.G.Andrew suggesting airbnb.com which I think is fine but I don’t think you can get a long term place that way, I don’t think you get the flexibility that you sometimes need but I guess if you… I guess you need to be flexible to get a place from Airbnb, Liby and I when we came here, we couldn’t go with airbnb because we needed a full apartment, we needed to have a dog, and we needed to have it for specific dates, we weren’t flexible there and Curson Winkler suggesting justlanded.com. What I’m finding is that there isn’t a single place that covers the whole world, every city seems to have its own local websites and I wished somebody would create one resource for the whole world where if you are travelling anywhere you go online looking to find a place to stay and maybe airbnb as it gets more listings will be that place. What about finding people there, we talked about the benefits of not having a social life when you are travelling because you get to work during the day but at night you want to go out and get to talk to somebody, you want to be able to reach out to someone who you can speak English with, how do you do that?

Interviewee: I think in any community or any city I have been in there is an expat community, it’s just a question of tapping into that and once you tap into that its just, it’s super easy to…

Andrew: How do you tap into that?

Interviewee: Google, I’m also lucky in that I have friends….

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Interviewee: I have________ network and so I have friends of friends of friends in probably pretty much any part of the world that I’ll be traveling to. So, you know, when I go to a new place, I tap into that and very often I’m lucky enough that they include me in, you know, whatever party or bar they’re going to on a given night and I meet other people and kind of go from there. Facebook, small world, I mean, just reaching out and randomly picking people saying, “Hey, I’m coming to your town, would love to go for a drink or coffee and learn more about, you know, why this place is so special.” That’s had decent success.

Couch surfing actually is a great way to meet a lot of locals. I know Buenos Aires, I think, is one of the biggest communities in the world, but in Budapest this summer, we met up with a bunch of couch surfers who were great. Couch surfers are interesting because they are a group of people who want to meet people who are not from there and show them, show them, you know, what’s so special about their town. So it’s kind of a self-selecting group of people who’ve opted in to wanting to meet other people.

Andrew: I see. How do you know what cities to go into? How do you know which ones are going to be cheap, which ones are going to fit your needs, and why find all that?

Interviewee: Yeah, that’s a great question Andrew. Sometimes what I’ve done is made a list and why cities are on that list sometimes are completely arbitrary reasons, right. Sometimes it’s because they are cheap with a high quality of life, like Buenos Aires. Sometimes it’s just because something in the back of my head has said, “You need to go to this place.” Like Budapest was like that for me. For example, the reason I chose Budapest was, you know, partially because I wanted to go there but also because I wanted to be in Europe in the summertime and I didn’t want to spend London or Paris prices, so I went to Eastern Europe.

I went to Australia in October and I really should have done my homework before I went. We landed in Melbourne and it turned out a short-term, furnished one bedroom rental, the cheapest one we could find, was 2500 a month and so we ended up… You know, I wanted to live there but we ended up, for those of us that would rather live in New York and San Francisco, so we ended up just traveling around for a bit and then coming to Vancouver where it’s a lot more reasonable. But, you know, it’s a good question Andrew and my advice after the Australia experience would be, do your homework a little bit more than I did in that case.

Andrew: Do you lock in a place before you get to the city?

Interviewee: It’s been about 50/50 lately. When I’ve come to Argentina, both times I did; when I went to Budapest, I didn’t. I had an acquaintance from university that I stayed with for a few days, just random that he was there but he has become a great friend. So, I stayed with him while we pounded the pavement looking for a place. Same with Melbourne and Sydney. We were debating staying in Sydney and we stayed in a hostel. I haven’t stayed with couch surfers but had some near misses. So, you know, between sort of friends of friends of friends, hostels, and couch surfers, like you can pretty much be OK for, you know, about a week or two weeks before you find a place, if you haven’t locked one in beforehand. The reason I’m tending towards not locking one in is because I’d like to actually see what the city is like, get a feel for it, get a feel for the areas, town, and kind of get a feel for, you know, where I’d like to live rather than just go in totally blind.

Andrew: And I asked you earlier about how you meet people and one of the answers you gave me was that you’re just fortunate to have contacts around the world. If anyone is thinking of doing this and wants to contact you and ask for an introduction, you’re up for that?

Interviewee: Yeah, sure, definitely.

Andrew: OK, I’ll include a link to whatever site you want on Mixergy when I post this and we’ll see who can contact you and start traveling a little bit.

Let’s get into some of the fear, some of the fears that people tell you when they hear that you’ve traveled and when you suggest to them that they can do it too, are what?

Interviewee: The biggest fear is, how do you afford it? It sounds glamorous; it sounds exciting; it sounds expensive. So, how do you afford it is the biggest, you know, biggest, biggest thing that people need to get through; it’s the first question on their minds.

Andrew: All right. So, let’s spend some time on that. We talked about flights. Even if you’re looking and waiting for the perfect flight, it’s still going to cost you, I think, $400 to get into a new country, true?

Interviewee: Yeah, I mean, it depends where you’re going but I …. Yeah, I mean, it could be. Let’s say, I flew from New York to Argentina the last time, it was probably in the $450-500 range.

Andrew: OK. So, you travel, may be, 10 times a year, that’s $4000, that’s not that much.

Interviewee: Right.

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Interviewee: Right

Andrew: Ok, by the way do you have a breakdown of all your expenses from this trip?

Interviewee: I dont, no. I’ll see if i can put together a ballpark thats coming up on your end, sometimes I like to do that. Let me see if I can throw something together with mint and if I do I’ll share it with you for sure.

Andrew: Oh cool, ok. Alright so we got the flights. What do you think you spend on average for a hotel room or wherever else you stay?

Interviewee: I can use real numbers in Budapest. The first place we stayed at was 500 euros a month. So 750, 800 US a month for a two bedroom.

Andrew: Wow

Interviewee: I was splitting it with my girlfriend, so about 400 bucks a month. Food was a lot cheaper than the US. We eat in a lot, just partially because its cheaper but also partially because we’re fairly good cooks, so we eat healthier and it tastes better and its cheaper. It’s interesting, when I was living in LA my place was 1350 a month. I was splitting it with my then girlfriend so it was 2700 a month so it was 1350 each. So you lose 1000 of that by living in Budapest. And that covers your expenses to get there and any kind of entertainment. Beer is dirt cheap compared to the states and cost of living speaking, if you pick the right cities, youre going to live a lot less and your quality of life will be higher. Youre experiencing that in one of those areas I’m sure?

Andrew: Yea actually, and it costs a little bit more because I’ve got my dog and cat with me and there arent a lot of places that are willing to take a dog and cat. But you should see the place that we’re going to be moving into in a couple of weeks. Its a one bedroom, huge living room, this huge outdoor area overlooking the park and the city. Theres a hot tub and this and that. Its incredible, 1400 hundred bucks for that. And when I saw your videos with Tim Farris here he was pointing to the steak and saying the steaks cheap here and I said well how cheap can a steak can be? Sure enough you get steak for under 10 bucks. Lets see most steaks here will go from 30 to 40 pesos. Thats under 10 bucks or 10 bucks tops. Thats incredible and thats a big meal. Thats not like the burrito I had earlier today when I was working.

Interviewee: Well what would that steak cost you in LA?

Andrew: Ide say instead of 30 to 40 pesos it would be 30 to 40 dollars. And then Ide have to get all the extras that go with that. So yea its true, it is as cheap as people says it is. What else, what other expenses are there? Theres food, there is housing, theres also going out alot. When youre in a new city you want to go out and you want to explore and things tend to get expensive that way no?

Interviewee: Again, depending on where youre going out. If you wanted to do a lot of the tourist attraction stuff, it can get expensive. What I like to do is if I know I’m going to have guests or visitors while I’m there, basically dont do those things until. My parents came to Budapest so we did a bunch of the touristy stuff, stuff I was going to do with them anyway so I just kind of waited until that happened. Generally speaking Andrew a lot of it comes down, my experience, a lot of it comes down to picking the right city. Picking a cost effective city, like in Melbourne I think its like 3 or 4 bucks to ride the subway, each way. And that adds up pretty quick right? In Budapest it was 80 or 90 cents. So in Argentina from what I can recall it was next to nothing to ride the bus or subway.

Andrew: 40 cents to take the subway.

Interviewee: Yea. So alot of it really comes down to picking the right city. And what I tend to do, cause I worked from home, spend a little bit more money on a nicer place, eat in a lot, and then kinda wait until to do the touristy stuff until I have visitors come through. Just dont spend alot of money. Generally I dont spend a lot of money. I dont buy a lot of stuff. I focus on experiences because I think those are the things thatll make you happy, a lot happier than buying things.

Andrew: Yea me to, I hate stuff, I hate stuff, I hate the culture that says you have to get stuff and get and give stuff for Christmas and holidays and birthdays. I dont want it. Even the benefit which Im supposed to get. You spend all your year getting the people you want gifts and then once a year you get them all returning to you. Getting it all returned to me is more painful than giving the gift in the first place.

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Andrew: Getting it all returned to me is even more painful than giving the gift in the first place, because now I’ve got a whole bunch of crap I’ve got to pretend I like it and what I really want to do is take it and throw it right in the garbage. I don’t even want to go across the street and donate it or throw it in the garbage.

Interviewee: Yeah it’s interesting I think it becomes an artifact of the sort of… minimalist lifestyle is sort of an artifact of traveling a lot or living without a lot of stuff because you realize how little you actually need

Andrew: Yeah if you move around a little bit and start looking at the things you have to take with you or put in storage or dump, you start to realize… you start to really reevaluate them, you say did I need to buy that did I need to get that in my life? The only thing I miss is… and people who have seen my interviews for a while now will remember this… all the books that I had behind me… the ability to just go and grab one off the shelf. But I’m loving Kindle, I read now on my iphone Kindle all the time.

Interviewee: Yes me too, it’s great I love the iphone… I have an ipod touch but the ipod touch and actual Kindle combination is great.

Andrew: Alright let’s see what other expenses are there. I don’t think a lot, you know you mentioned the touristy stuff and you wait for somebody to come in from out of town so can do it. What I found is, I’m in a whole touristy country anyway – if I go fifty blocks from here that’s hugely far from here and the whole city changes. When you think about Manhattan or Los Angeles where I lived you go fifty blocks in any one of those cities and the whole scenery changes and it’s like you’re in a whole different country almost. Same thing here, I don’t feel the need to go and do the touristy things, or go away for as many weekends, I thought I would I thought every weekend Olivia and I would be traveling someplace different. But we go away to a different part of town it’s someplace different here

Interviewee: Yeah it’s one of the beautiful things about living in any place – you have so much to explore and you’re only there for… odds are for a few months. And so around every corner is a different experience – one that challenges you and that is also probably pretty interesting and you might have a good story or two from. So you don’t have to spend money for those kinds of things, right, just walking around a new neighborhood can be pretty exciting because it’s so different and new.

Andrew: Alright, Chris Dritt is watching us live and he’s got a question. It’s a great question by the way Chris, it says what about health insurance when you’re traveling abroad, isn’t that more expensive?

Interviewee: Well I’m in Canada right now and we’re covered. Let me think, if I can remember back, when I was in L.A. and I wasn’t at Fox anymore I was at Jafar, I think I was paying about a hundred… a hundred to fifty to two hundred a month for health insurance. When I was traveling I was using a company called… I’m not sure what it was called it was called Bupa or IHI, but they’re based in Copenhagen, or Denmark rather, and they have incredibly comprehensive insurance so I was going to do things like diving with sharks and sky diving so I wanted to be sure that I would be covered for everything. And I think the only thing they don’t cover you for is driving like, F1 racecars or something… something very niche like that. And I paid… I think it was about the same actually. Like it was, if not a little bit less… it was definitely less than two hundred a month, and it was fully covered actually I was at the gym in Budapest and hurt myself a little bit and went to the doctor and was covered… went to a physical therapist I think for four or five sessions and it was all covered. And they direct-billed it so it was no money out of my pocket that had to be reimbursed. It’s a great question and I would definitely not do this without health insurance, but, you know, especially if you’re coming from the U.S. it’s probably on par if not a little bit cheaper than what you’re paying at home.

Andrew: Actually what we ended up doing was just keeping our U.S. health insurance because it’ll cover us here for emergencies only and we thought we’d figure it out once we got here. But I kind of wished that I had signed up for health insurance before I got here because I think you get better plans and better options if you sign up before you get into the city you’re traveling to… before you take off from where you live. In fact a buddy of mine came down here… he took a wrong step and broke his leg. Actually it was… it was painful but he went directly to the hospital, they saw him within minutes, he said he had this incredible experience everything… it was liking going to a hotel here he said. The health insurance he got, because he broke his leg, and they felt that he needed a little more space on the airplane, got him a business class flight back.

Interviewee: Sweet!

Andrew: And all the miles he used to get down here went right back into his account

Interviewee: That’s the little trick for you I guess to get upgraded on a flight

Andrew: I almost would break my foot if I signed up for that health insurance just to get all the amenities.

Interviewee: Listen man the way a lot of those airlines treat their customers… it’s not a bad technique.

Andrew: And there’s another thing that you said the last time I interviewed you that was extremely helpful. You said get a credit card or an ATM… get a bank accout…

The transcript for minute 35 till minute 40 is BELOW this line.

And there’s another thing that you said the last time I interviewed you that was extremely helpful. You said get a credit card or an ATM… get a bank accout…that is international. And I thought that since I was with CitiBank and CitiBank has branches all over the world, that I would have the same services here at the same prices I had them at the U.S., but it turns out that each country’s banks are owned by a separate division of CitiBank. So it is like I am a stranger when I go to CitiBank here, even though I’ve got the CitiBank card and everything seems the same. So what I did was, I ended up signing up for Charles Schwab.

Interviewee: Right.

Andrew: They have an ATM card that doesn’t charge you fees when you go to the ATM, that doesn’t charge you fees when you use your credit card at a restaurant or use your ATM as a credit card in a restaurant. They have a bunch of little benefits like that, and I highly recommend that. I don’t think I could have done that before I started traveling and it has been extremely helpful. Especially since as a foreigner the banks seem to just take advantage of you. Everything from high fees for taking your own money out, to conversion rates which sometimes seem suspicious to fees for just using your card.

Interviewee: Yeah. I’ve had with HSBC, they bill themselves as the world’s bank or you know the global neighborhood bank or whatever it is. I would definitely recommend going with the Schwab credit card. I had the exact same experience as you Andrew, when I was overseas the second time. And it just sucks to get dinged with a three or four dollar fee every time you use the ATM. I mean I was in Istanbul and used HSBC ATMs and still got dinged the fee, and it’s like what is the point, right?

Andrew: Yeah, whats the point of being the world’s bank? What does it mean to be the world’s bank? What you are doing is showing off and saying, “haha, we have bank branches everywhere .” Because you don’t get any extra benefits because of those extra branches abroad. And I got suckered into that. I actually went to HSBC, I scrambled at the last minute to get an account from them and then I found out just before we did it, that it would be completely useless. So I said forget, I don’t need that.

Interviewee: Yeah, that is a great call man. I used my card at a machine that had a scimmer on it, and so they basically shut down my card without telling me. So I am in the middle of Budapest, I am going to need some pretty hefty cash to actually pay up front for the apartments and can’t get access to it. So I was like “Why don’t you guys just mail me my new ATM card to a HSBC here?”. And they were like, “We can’t do that. We can only send one to a Canadian address.” So it was just this whole big pain in the butt to get that done. So I would definitely recommend the Schwab credit, I’ve read good things about it. It is interesting that you have an experience with it.

Andrew: Yeah, very helpful. What else? What else are people afraid of when they are considering doing this?

Interviewee: Money is part of it. I mean the biggest thing is people see this move as this huge, life altering decision that they have to make. And I would really encourage people to just try it. Like don’t sell your apartment, rent to a friend or sublet it. Do a home exchange, try living somewhere else for one, two, three months and see whether it resonates, see whether you take to it. If you are not planning on getting a job in the new country, or you don’t have some source of income, then save up for it. Save up to live on a couple grand a month in the new place you are going to go to, just try it. Like a lot of people really see this as some massive decision to sell everything and get ride of their place and say goodbye to their friends for goodness knows how long. But if you look at life as a series of experiments, with learning as the goal, it becomes in my experience a much more interesting and a much less scary way to approach things than making these huge decisions.

Andrew: Again Chris Grit[sp], who is watching this live, is suggesting Earth Class Mail, and Earth Class Mail is something you suggested last time I interviewed you. It’s a service that you have all of your mail forwarded to. You can then go online and see what mail you have gotten. And you hit a button, and they will open up the mail for you, or if you want they will also shred it for you. And then lots of cool little features of it, but it also seems like they nickel and dime you. I looked into it and it seems like there is an expense for signing up, and an expense for doing this and an expense for being a part of that, an expense every time they open something and maybe one every time they shred. And it just seemed like there were too many fees for too many things and I don’t know how much mail I am going to get while I am here. I don’t know what it is going to be and I don’t want to sign up for something that is just open ended like that. And that is what kept me from doing it.

Interviewee: Yeah. They actually had a CEO change recently. The founding CEO decided to leave or was pushed out, it is unclear. The new CEO came in and basically they, for me, double prices. For some of their earlier customers it doubled prices. So it definitely left a bad taste in my mouth Andrew. I have the same, the experience of being nickeled and dimed is true so I am investigating alternatives right now to Earth Class Mail. Their service is good, but their prices are pretty high for what you get.

Andrew: What are you looking at?

Interviewee: You know, let me see if I can pull it up…

The transcript for minute 40 till minute 45 is BELOW this line.

Interviewee: I’m going to see if I can pull that up. There’s a service that looked pretty reasonable. And their customer service is, well, their pre-sales customer service was really, really zippy. But they seem to be capitalizing on the air class mail, kind of price increase. It’s called, I think it’s called SBImailservice.com. You know.

Andrew: If anyone who’s watching us live has tried it, let us know.

Interviewee: Yeah.

Andrew: Or even if you’re watching us on the, or listening to us on tape delay, let us know on the comments on Mixergy, if you use them. SBI, what is it called?

Interviewee: SBImailservice.com. It’s called Saint, Saint Brendan’s Isle, I think, Mail Service. Saint Brendan’s Isle Mail Service. And they do basically the same thing. They seem to be, based on their website alone, they seem to a little bit less polished than Earth Class Mail, but they provide all the same services. So I haven’t investigated it, but it was kind of there, at the top of the listing, when I top the list, alternative to ECM when I looked into it about a month ago.

Andrew: I’ll tell you what I’m thinking, what I’ve been doing. And I think this is going to be just fine for me. I’ve had a Mailboxes Etc. box for years. And I just pay them to ship my mail wherever I am. And some places take a while. I think, they had to come to the south of France once with my mail. And because I guess mail in France is slow, and overseas mail is slow in general. It took a few days to get to me. But it was fine, and once I got it, I got it. I actually had them ship to another Mailboxes Etc., because I didn’t have a permanent address there. And I think that was a bit of a problem. Again, a company with the same name, different branches, but because they’re owned by different people, it’s not like the same one, unified company. I had to bribe them just to pick up my mail.

Interviewee: Right.

Andrew: But for the most part, you have a place where you can get mail sent, and it’s fine to just have it shipped over. I wish we never had to deal with paper mail again. I wish it was all digital, and nothing else ever came by paper. But until that day, for me, Mailboxes, Etc., is just fine.

Interviewee: Amen, brother, about the, about the paper mail stuff. It’s funny, too, like when you start doing this, you realize how, how much crap that is sent to you. And people give me receipts. And I’m like, keep the receipt. I’m just going to throw it out. Like it’s. I found I’ve become a lot more conscious of just taking on stuff, whether it’s big or small. And mail is definitely a part of that.

Andrew: Yeah, there’s just so much freaking stuff. Everything right down to the receipt.

Interviewee: Uh, um.

Andrew: Now it shouldn’t bother me that it’s a receipt. It’s just another piece of paper. But I don’t want another piece of paper. I don’t want more stuff in my life. I want the things that I care about. I want ideas. I want more money. And I want more, like things that I care about. I should probably throw in, I want more love.

Interviewee: [Laughs]

Andrew: I want more people to watch my live interviews, and come to the recorded ones. I want more sponsors.

Interviewee: There you go. [Laughs]

Andrew: Without crowding the ones that I have now. But I don’t want more stuff. And…

Interviewee: Yeah.

Andrew: Part of the reason why I love traveling, why even when I lived in New York, I would move every, every year, as soon as my lease was up, if I could. It’s because it forces you to throw old stuff out, and just start fresh.

Interviewee: Yeah, it’s a great thing. We’ve recently moved into a place in Vancouver. And I’ve got a one-year lease for the first time in, since I was in L.A. My last one-year lease I probably signed in 2006. So basically, three and a half, four years later. And it’s interesting how quickly you can accumulate stuff if you’re not sort of paying attention. And so, it’s good. I mean I think you know, like I said before, I think just being aware. Traveling and living elsewhere with not a lot of stuff makes you aware of what you take on. And so just to be able to pay attention to that and say, Well, do I actually need this ironing board or all my shirts non-ironed because they’re awesome, Merino wool T-shirts from Icebreaker? So, you know, I actually don’t need this ironing board. Forget about it. Kind of interesting. Just makes you aware. I guess awareness is kind of the, kind of the key, you know.

Andrew: All right. Well, we have a just a couple of minutes left. Beyond awareness, what’s the biggest benefit that you’ve gotten from traveling and working?

Interviewee: The opportunity to live my life now, and not defer it. I mean, that’s easily it. There’s that, and then learning. You know that sort of cliche is learning about yourself while you travel. And travel, it puts you in, it forces you to be in new situations where you have no idea what to do, and you’re not comfortable. And realizing you can get through those things and thrive is great. So that’s, you know, that’s a huge part of it, for sure. But generally speaking, it’s awesome. Like it’s great. It’s so much more. In my opinion, it’s so much more interesting than living.

Andrew: So why did you stop?

Interviewee: Well, we haven’t stopped as much as we’ve put it on hold for about a year.

Andrew: Why?

Interviewee: The biggest reason is my girlfriend has an established client-base in Vancouver. And so she’s coming here.

The transcript for minute 45 till minute 50 is BELOW this line.

and so shes coming here, we’re coming here, um so that she can get, um she can fund the growth of her online business. Um, so that in a year when our lease is up we can decide whether it makes sense to stay here, or whether it makes sense to go to a place like Buenos Ares or Cape Town or wherever, so its. For me this wasn’t just 2 years or a year and a half just kind of doing this and then moving to a conventional sort of life, it was let’s see if this can work let’s go with it for a little while and now let’s sort of press pause on it and go do it again in a year or two the other thing, Andrew is like, I feel like you can bring a traveling mentality to wherever you live, right talking to people on the street, being more friendly and outgoing on the street, more open more aproachable and not getting stuck in your routine and your ways as I was certainly in L.A. and so if you can bring that sort of mentality to your hometown it actually makes life alot more interesting.

Andrew: Alright well lets leave it there, I’d like to hear peoples feedback what do you think, I’ve done now several interviews, and you say that’s not me I’m married, well I did an interview with a couple, with a women whos traveling with her husband and her young daughter and her daughter is still going to school, in fact she’s going to local schools, she’s learning the violin while she’s traveling. Do you think that’s not you, I’ve done interviews with single entruepernuers whowho decided that they were just going to forget about bringing in revinue for a little bit, focus on their business and bring cost down, so there are lot’s of different people who’ve done this. I just want to keep introducing myself through these interviews, and my audience to the possibility, but I’d like your feedback too, if you’re listening and you’ve got any ideas on this or any critisism or sugestions here

Hey Andrew, quick question for you, do you know Mia Frost down in Buenos Ares?

I don’t think so

She, her story is great she and her husband moved from Oregon to Mexico with four daughters, and they’ve now since relocated to Buenos Ares and they’re last daughter has just graduated from highschool wich just wrote a book that’s called the global student, but they’re really, really interesting people that have a great story about being able to do this kind of thing with kids, with four kids all sort of high school or university aged so I’d be happy to make an introduction, I think you guys would certainly hit it off

I’d love it, this obviously isn’t the focus of my interviews but every few months I want to do an interview with someone who is actually traveling and working or persuing a passion and still doing it agian you know?

So we can be exposed to new avenues and new options, so we can just see what is available to us coo well, thank for doing this interview with me and for those of you watching live I’m using a new setup I’m actually using JustinTV instead of Ustream, how’s that working for you guys I’m actually still a little iffy on it. Alright thanks I’ll see you all in the comments.


  • juanchaparro

    Great awesome interview!….I use EarthClass Mail too and had feel the price increse…it's painful.
    Some other great tools that I use to make my travel is Google Voice redirecting to Majic Jac…so I pick up any phone calls like If I was in the US and if im away of a computer doing an outdoors activity I setup the system to transcribe me the message and send me a text message on my iphone….so I know if it's urgent or can wait until Im back on my mac.

    I head of zumbox.com as new way of receiving mail online. Havent try it yet.

  • Great interview, as usual! Definitely something to aspire to in the new year!

    Have you ever thought about creating a podcast in iTunes so we can subscribe to new interviews?

  • barmstrong

    Nice interview Andrew, I'll have to reach out to Kareem – we're both doing education related startups! Thanks for bringing him to our attention.

  • God every interview I see, I learn and grow each time. I absolutely think this kind of work situation can work for many, especially developers and designers. I do it myself…although my clients are not in another country or state, the majority of my communication is done via email and phone. But now that I think about I could do the exact same thing in another country.

    On a side note Kereem talked about two countries I love Budapest because that's where my mother is from and Melbourne Australia because that's where I live! I love Melbourne, it's an awesome city…but he's right it is expensive.

  • Enjoyed revisiting Kareem's experiences and can certainly concur with a few of them as I have been traveling since May 2009. The point about time being a non-renewable resource is so true and I have spent a bit of time thinking about how my life has changed. Basically I now divide my time into work and play. All the other pressures on my time have disappeared and I don't miss them at all. Likewise, I don't miss all the things I thought I 'needed' when living a more traditional lifestyle. There is actually less pressure to buy stuff because there is nowhere to put it anyway.

    I've said for a long time that most places are great to visit and less appealing when living there, probably because you get into the rut or a normal life. Spending 2-3 months in new locations is a perfect way to enjoy everywhere. And if you still don't like it, just move somewhere else.

    Regarding health insurance, I organised mine through World Nomads (via a recommendation on the Lonely Planet website and a couple of others). Enough flexibility and unlike many of the other travel insurance products, there isn't a limit to the length of each trip. Most I looked at had a 90 day limit. I was able to suspend my Australian health insurance and can reactivate it when I return to Australia, be it voluntarily or even if I have been medically evacuated out of another country. Cost for the World Nomands policy was about the same as my health insurance.

    By the way Andrew, what did you do with all your books? Mine are in storage.

  • illumin8

    Great content. Great interviews.
    But dude. Please. Im not hating. But seriously….
    Stop trying so hard to sound “professional” stop trying to talk so fast.
    Just be yourself. Relax.

  • This inspired me to the point i had to get up and pace.
    Thanks

  • I've had moments like that. I'm proud that my work could help inspire
    that kind of passion. Makes the tough times worth it.

    Email me if you want to talk about it Aaron.

    Sent from my mobile

  • Am I still talking too fast and too excitedly?I thought I was making
    progress with that. Where did you see that in this interview?

    Thanks for telling me. I know you're not hating and I appreciate the
    help.

    Sent from my mobile

  • I didn't notice you talking to fast. I just dislike it when you probe people too much about their profits ;)

  • After hearing the section on getting dinged on ATM's, I'd have to recommend getting a Fidelity MySmart Cash account. They refund ATM fees, and I can use any ATM. I regularly use the Bank of America ATM on campus, and I have never had to deal with ATM fees.

  • tp

    Nice One! Thank you both.

  • alena01

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Alena

    http://smallbusinessgrant.info

  • kareem

    glad you enjoyed, budapest was an awesome place to spend a summer.

    the only short-term furnished 1br rentals i could find in melbourne were ~$2500/m (on gumtree). 6m or 1y unfurnished places were a lot more reasonable. wish i could've found something cheaper, it would've been another good adventure! if you have any ideas on where to look, please let me know – i'm sure i'll be back. thanks!

  • kareem

    work and play is a great way of looking at it. never thought about it but that's what i do, too – thanks for helping me see that.

    one of the interesting things for me about valuing time highly is that it's become a lot easier to say no to things i don't want to do… cuz i know i won't be getting it back.

    re: insurance, i've heard great things about world nomads but their coverage depends on where you're from (when i looked at them either skydiving or diving with sharks wasn't covered, so i passed on them). i use http://www.ihi.com – they're on the pricier side but have 100% coverage for pretty much everything and they made things super easy when i went to the doctor a couple times in hungary.

  • kareem

    hehe, that's one of the things that andrew does that i love. i feel like people are too tight with that kind of information anyways.

  • kareem

    awesome to hear, aaron! what andrew said re: emailing if you want to talk :)

  • kareem

    fantastic, thanks for the tip kevin. i will have to investigate- $3 per withdrawal adds up after a while.

  • Will check out IHI when I come to renew. The skydiving and diving with sharks wasn't a problem for me. Fortunately I stick to activities that are under the radar, although just as dangerous.

    Re the time thing and appearing selfish about saying no to things. What it does is free up time to really enjoy and give 100% to the things you do, such as an afternoon with friends, without stressing about all the other things you should be doing. Explain it that way and I've found more people tend to understand.

  • kareem

    being able to be present with good friends and family is one of the surest ways to be happy. i love the way you frame your explanation james, good stuff!

  • @Andrew, which credit card are you advising in your interview ? I couldn't catch the name, something like “schwab .. “. Indeed in France i use to have an Openjazz account from Socgen but not that convenient, was going to switch to HSBC but will reasess this choice.

    For travelling regularly around Asia, i would advise travelers or anyone dying to have his great adventure abroad like Kareem did it to make sure to pick up a good health coverage before taking off. 2 years ago, on my way back to New Delhi i ended up in hospital after a food poisoning, i was really happy not to have to think about how to pay for a thousand dollar bill.

    Cheers

  • davidbaer

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  • rbreve

    Great interview, I lived in Buenos Aires for 2 years working remotely too, I could do it because immigration laws are not that strict, I just traveled to Uruguay every 3 months to reset my tourist visa, what about Budapest, how long can you live there with a tourist visa?

  • Pingback: The nomadic private equiteer: it’s possible in theory | A Private Equity Blog()

  • Frank

    Great interview.

    I am also a former Earth Class Mail customer that was forced out by the pricing adjustments. I went from ~$200/year to close to ~$800/year due to the “required” add-ons.

    We switched over to Virtual Post Mail (http://www.virtualpostmail.com) and have been extremely happy with the service so far.

  • jtrankin

    Great interview! I'd like to ask what you do with your cell phone while traveling? How are you able to use your US cell phone abroad without paying exorbitant prices or do you purchase a local phone when getting to your destination?

  • davidbaer

    . Build Traffic!
    Here is an old rule! If you want to be really successful in affiliate marketing, you ought to drive traffic to your website. The more visitors to the website, the higher the probability of click through. Many affiliate guides forget to mention that it is always prudent to build traffic first and then consider affiliate marketing. There is no magic potion. If there is no traffic, there are no profits. Don’t worry, if you haven’t got hordes of visitors, even a few visitors will do initially. Once these visitors start trickling down the web drain, you can place banners and advertising in appropriate places to get the results. A good affiliate marketer doesn’t care about the number of clicks but on the average number of clicks per visitor.
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  • davidbaer

    Here is an old rule! If you want to be really successful in affiliate marketing, you ought to drive traffic to your website. The more visitors to the website, the higher the probability of click through. Many affiliate guides forget to mention that it is always prudent to build traffic first and then consider affiliate marketing. There is no magic potion. If there is no traffic, there are no profits. Don’t worry, if you haven’t got hordes of visitors, even a few visitors will do initially. Once these visitors start trickling down the web drain, you can place banners and advertising in appropriate places to get the results. A good affiliate marketer doesn’t care about the number of clicks but on the average number of clicks per visitor.
    Such techniques, slowly but surely brings success. And with it comes a potential for much higher rewards

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