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Martinique

It’s time for the October issue of Perceptive Travel, home to interesting travel stories from wandering book authors. This month we visit three exotic sounding places with lyrical names but go beyond the usual lyrical waxing about attractions and icons.

Beebe Bahrani returns for another tale from Spain, this time in Tarragona. She and a friend sit down for a lovely lunch in an outdoor cafe, where all goes great…for a while. See A Spanish Death in the Afternoon.

After years of talking about it but never making it there, I finally spend some time in the Mexican city that is a dream destination for food lovers, mezcal aficionados, and handicraft buyers. See Handmade in Oaxaca.

garnache Oaxaca

Darrin Duford visits the Caribbean island of Martinique and tries to trace back the places music heritage while ignoring the smog in paradise. See Following the Grooves in Martinique.

Susan Griffith checks out new travel books on Asian food, motorcycling and memorable walks.

Laurence Mitchell spins some new world music albums from Europe, the USA, and South America.

Perceptive Travel Readers are Winners

Each month we give away something cool to our readers who take the time to enter our contest (not a ton, so your odds are pretty darn good). Last month I gave away a Committed package and a book copy for A Better Life for Half the Price. Congrats to Brenda R. and Mark G. who came out of the randomizer.

savory snack barsThis month we’re giving away something that everyone with a mouth can enjoy: three, yes three readers from the USA or Canada will win a box of 25 Strong & Kind savory snack bars from Be Kind. Hey, get your 10 grams of protein every day and they’ll last you almost a month. I tried these at an event where they were pairing them with different beers and I can attest that even if you don’t think you like healthy snacks, these are delicious.

As always, if you’re on our newsletter list, you just watch your inbox (or check your bulk folder) to find the monthly newsletter. If not, you can follow Perceptive Travel on Facebook and hit the “most recent” option on your timeline so you’ll actually see the notices.

 

living in Guanajuato

A morning view from my office

“What are you doing down there?” is the first question I get about living in Mexico. (Half the time followed by “Is it safe?”)

“Same thing I was doing in the other places I lived,” is my stock answer. I worked for many years to put myself in a position of being location independent, so all that changes from a work standpoint is how fast my internet connection is and what kind of view I’ve got outside my window.

There are lots of people in my position though. Graphic artists, translators, online professors, marketing consultants, sales reps, technical writers, systems analysts, and on the list goes for at least a hundred jobs. Then there’s the big one: entrepreneur. Create your own job and say adios to the cubicle forever. You can then cut your expenses in half (and lengthen your start-up runway) by moving somewhere cheaper. That’s what I talked about with Jen Leo, Gary Arndt, and Chris Christensen on the This Week in Travel podcast. You can get it on iTunes or click on the pic below to stream it:

This week in travel podcast

OK, first we talked about fights over reclining airport seats and a public statue you can get sued for publishing a photo of, but after that we get into lots of info about moving abroad. After you’ve listened, go here and you could win a free copy of the book or the Committed package: This Week in Travel promo.

Sabbaticals and Long-term Travel

But what if you only want to take off for a while, not permanently? That’s fine too. I’ve done it many times. Here’s a great BootsnAll article from a year ago that I and lots of other people were quoted in with their experiences. It’s called Why a Travel Break Can Be the Best Career Move You Ever Made and it dispels some of those myths about how your career will take a nosedive if you go traveling for more than two weeks.

A gap on the resumé? Better to have actually done something during that gap than to have been one of the millions who sat around waiting for the phone to ring. If you spin it right, that trip or living abroad experience can set you apart from the pack also. For many it’s more of a positive than a negative when they go back to the grind.

Where to travel for cheap? You’ll have to close the “50 Hottest Sex Tips” pop-up ad to get to this Men’s Health slideshow article, but there are some good ideas on bargain destinations from yours truly. (They decided I knew more about that than how to pick up women or get six-pack abs.)

You need to hold onto your money though and keep it from prying fingers. I’m quoted in this article from Nora Dunn on 14 Ways Travel Experts Carry Cash While Traveling.

Speaking of safety—and false perceptions—I’ve said before that a lot of people avoid Mexico City for outdated reasons. Here’s an article I wrote for American Airlines’ magazine on how to have a great 48 hours there.

Burma boy monks

Yes, it’s time for a new issue of Perceptive Travel, bringing you interesting travel narratives from wandering book authors since 2006.

This month we visit three continents and explore areas that aren’t usually on the tourist map. Camille Cusumano returns with a recounting of her time teaching tango to disadvantaged youths in a rough part of Kenya’s capital. With the program running on donated funds, it’s not a happy dance when the money starts lining pockets. See Dance of Betrayal in Nairobi.

Michael Shapiro exits the well-worn pagoda trail in Myanmar and visits Kalaw, once a British hill station. He lucks upon a two-day event meant to anoint new monks to be, from ages 4 to 11, before they enter the monastery. With parades, grand costumes, and head shaving, it’s a colorful glimpse into local culture. See Rites of Passage in Myanmar’s Tribal Highlands. Farmer Tom

Becky Garrison goes on a very strange press trip when she hooks up with Kush Tourism for a “Cannabis Grow Tour.” With Washington State being the next in line to legalize marijuana, farmers and vendors are gearing up for a green gold rush. See the full story here.

Every month we feature round-ups of new travel-related books worth checking out and dive into some world music worth downloading to take on the road. William Caverlee reviews a book on riding the seas on a gargantuan warship, going from the top of Everest to the sea by paraglider and kayak, and yet another pictorial list book from Lonely Planet.

Graham Reid does the music honors, spinning a rare union of NYC and Guinea, time-travel in India on a collection from the vaults, classic old soul from Africa, and a surprisingly good compilation of African blues from Rough Guides. See them all here.

better life abroadEach month our newsletter subscribers and Facebook followers have a shot at winning something useful and in August it was Don L. of Alaska. He scored a new pair of Pickpocket Proof nylon business pants, which are my current faves. He’ll be holding onto all his valuables when he heads off to Southeast Asia next month.

This time we’re giving away my new book, A Better Life for Half the Price to one reader, while another will get the Committed package that comes with a lot of extra insider access goodies ($89 value). If you are already on the newsletter list, watch your inbox. If not, pay attention to the Facebook feed. Subtitled “How to prosper on less money in the cheapest places to live,” it’s essential reading for anyone contemplating a life upgrade by moving abroad.

 

half price living Granada

$1,800 for two is “extravagant” here…

Are you happy with your finances? Are you content with how much you’re paying for your basic expenses each month? Does the future look cheery and bright where you are in the USA, Canada, the UK, or Australia?

I’ve been dropping hints and asking for sign-ups all year for my latest book, A Better Life for Half the Price, and now it’s here. It’s filled with stories from expats who have made the leap and are living large—or at least not going broke—in some of the cheapest places to live in the world.

I’m one of them myself, of course, kicking back in the highlands of central Mexico and enjoying a gorgeous climate. I’m also enjoying having twice as much money to work with as I had before, without having to work more hours to increase my earnings. If you want to see my view, my dining room, and our cool Mexican kitchen (plus my $15 electric bill), here’s a video for you.

 

There are plenty of other places on this big planet where you can do the same though. I interviewed couples easily coasting on $1,500 a month or living extravagantly for less than $2,000. You can find shoestring backpackers getting by in Chiang Mai, Thailand for $500 a month, but those who are spending more than $1,000 are often having the times of their lives. I spoke with singles, couples, and families who cut their expenses in half (or more) as soon as they got set up in such diverse locations as Argentina, Portugal, India, and Vietnam.

If you’re curious about how this would all work, pick up the e-book and see.

4 Additional Reports from Experts:
Besides this e-book, which is the paperback equivalent of 300 pages of great info, you’ll also get some worksheets from me on choosing your ideal spot, plus these special reports:

The Best Tools for Mobile Workers by Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur
Negotiation for Expats by T.W. Anderson, author of The Expat Guidebook and editor of Marginal Boundaries
How to Get Free Accommodation (when you’re scoping out your ideal spots) by Nora Dunn of The Professional Hobo
Getting Started With Working Online by Christine Gilbert of Almost Fearless

If you’re committed to ditching your high-priced life and finding a better way, there’s a package with all that plus webinars, audio interviews, and a private Facebook group for sharing answers and ideas.

If you’re ready to go all-in, you can avoid all the pitfalls and really do it right with all of the above plus live online sessions and one-on-one coaching from me.

See the options here

This book has been in process since 2013 and to give you an idea of how robust it is, when it comes out in paperback form at the end of the year it will be more than 300 pages. It’s filled with expat stories, details on important things like visas and costs, and lots of resources to turn to for more depth.

To get the full scoop and decide this is something you’d like to pursue, see some tales from the expats here.

moving-500

If you’re going to move abroad by choice rather than for a job posting, it can seem overwhelming to view the sea of possibilites and narrow it down. Some people use this as an excuse to not take action, others send me e-mails or leave blog comments asking for a short cut answer to “Where should I go?”

Now I’ve got a book I can send everyone to for answers, with some consulting options for those who need it. Here’s an excerpt from there about where to start.

There are three main criteria most pros and cons about a destination fall into. There are head items, which are factual “must-have” factors you can easily substantiate from the comfort of your sofa with a laptop or tablet in hand. Then there’s the question of “What can you afford?” That one’s pretty cut and dry, once you have good information on the costs for basic living expenses and setting up residency. If you’re lucky to pull in $1,000 a month, head to Cambodia, Nepal, or Nicaragua. If money is no object, you can pretty much ignore this part and just look at the head and heart items. Most people fall somewhere in the middle though.

The heart factor is the hardest one to work out remotely. Sure, you can collect e-books, watch Travel Channel shows, check out YouTube videos, and join Facebook groups or message boards for that destination. Really though, none of those things will fully prepare you for how that place will make you feel.

Let’s look at each factor on its own.

Head

If a place doesn’t meet your main criteria for an ideal place to live, you’re probably not going to be happy living there. As a travel writer who visits ten or twelve different countries each year, I often ask myself when visiting a new place, “Could I live here?”

Usually the answer is no for some very specific factual reasons — my head reasons. It’s too cold, too hot, too cloudy/rainy, too isolated, too overrun with gringos, too ugly, too unfriendly to pedestrians, and so on. For others, there may be no such thing as “too hot” or “too overrun with gringos,” They may think a steamy hot place where they can speak English every day with their fellow countrymen and women is perfecto.

Puebla at night

If you have health issues though, this may be the first place to start in narrowing down your choices. If you are allergic to mold, you may want to seek out a dry climate. If you have limited mobility, you don’t want to live in a city built on the side of a mountain. If you’re someone who just doesn’t want to die young, you’re probably not going to want to live in Beijing, where pollution levels are frequently 20 times the levels considered healthy and you can’t see more than two blocks away because of the smog. If you’re a retiree, you probably also don’t want to be in some remote location that’s a day’s drive from the nearest decent hospital. In almost any area where you find lots of people in your age bracket, there will be at least one good medical facility in town and many other larger ones you can get to in a couple hours or less.

What’s on your checklist? Think about climate, culture, food, air connectivity, land connectivity, and apartment/house options. What’s a deal breaker?

Lisa Niver Rajna of We Said Go Travel has lived in multiple countries for three months or more at a time and says it’s important to listen to the signs, to be willing to scratch your plans if something better arises. “We never would have gone to Ko Samui in Thailand if a friend of a friend hadn’t invited me on Twitter. Once we got there, it just felt right. Look for something that fits with you and matches your passion.”

“If it doesn’t feel right, move on. We had planned to live in Panama for six months, but after 13 days we left and were in Costa Rica. When we wrote about our feelings on the blog, we got a lot of negative feedback and people saying, ‘You need to give it a chance.’ But we did give it a chance. We went to five different locations and compared to Thailand where we fell in love, Panama was a big disappointment.” It wasn’t right for them, so they moved on. For someone else, it may be just right.

Wallet

While you may be dreaming of retiring on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, on the beach in the Virgin Islands, or in a nice slopeside chalet in Switzerland, your bank account might not agree with those plans. You need to find a way to combine your checklist of ideal factors with places you can actually afford.

If you picture yourself in a lakeside cottage looking up at jagged snow-capped mountains, you don’t have to spend $100,000 a year in Switzerland. You can move south of Bariloche in Argentina and live for one-fifth that amount instead. If you want to be on a warm-water beach with hot weather, there are 100 choices in Latin America and Southeast Asia that are a fraction of the cost of a Caribbean Island residence.

cheap place to liveFor most of the cheapest places to live, a pair of retirees living off two social security checks or an equivalent pension can get by just fine. In some countries, if you earn $1,500 for one person, $2.400 for two, you’ll be living on far more than the average middle-class local. That may not sound like a lot where you live now, but it will be double, triple, or quadruple what’s considered a good local salary. If you’ve got more than that coming in, you can be choosier about where to go and can upgrade your living standards.

Keep in mind though that there are major variations within a country, especially a big country like Mexico. The more expatriates there are in an area, the higher the prices will probably be: witness San Miguel de Allende. The more of a tourist destination it is, the higher prices will be: witness Los Cabos.

Also, just because you can live on $1,500 a month doesn’t mean the government thinks that’s enough wealth to grant you permanent residency. In Nicaragua a retiree only has to show monthly income of $600 a month, but in Mexico you have to show $2,000 for you and another $500 for each dependent. There are ways around this sometimes if you can show other assets or finagle a work permit, but do keep these restrictions in mind before making big plans.

Heart

The authors of Freakonomics and Think Like a Freak do a regular podcast on NPR and in one episode they answered a listener’s question about how an economist would pick the perfect place to live. Stephen Leavitt said some of his most important factors — what economists would call “amenities” — were access to golf courses, fast food drive-throughs, and houses with big yards. He didn’t care much about museums and cultural activities, but he could never live in a place without easy access to a golf course. In other words, he was meant to live in the suburbs, and specifically an American-style suburb.

Steve Dubner lives in New York City and said his most important factors were the density of ideas, people, and creativity–and the resulting spillover effect. Without being in a big city where people interact a lot, he wouldn’t get any of that. “I could never live in a place without a good diner,” he added.

In the end, they decided that choosing a place to live was only an economic decision when it came to finding a place with the right amenities: childless couples don’t care about schools, but for parents it may be #1. Otherwise, it’s a decision you make with your heart.

beach living

Most “heart” factors can vary a lot even between couples who are on the same page in most other attitudes and ideals. A place may feel “just perfect” to one of them, while feeling like “a total s#*thole” to the other. As you can imagine, this can be the beginning of the end if they ignore these differences and try to plow forward.

For all these factors, it’s worth taking some quiet time with no distractions to talk them through, maybe even writing down the answers mind-map style. When I’ve asked people what they love about a place, there’s often a mix of head and heart in the answers and the heart ones can end up being really esoteric. Some cite a specific yoga teacher, a local hike they love, or the kind of pottery they use in their kitchen. One left the first place she lived because “the coffee really sucks there. I was annoyed every day.”

For couples, talk out loud when you’re traveling about why a place would be a good place to live and why it wouldn’t. The time to argue about what’s important is before you move, not after.

Then go do a trial run to see if what looked good on paper really pans out in person. More on that later…

Hear how other expats are living a half price life abroad on the Cheap Living Abroad site.



cheap living abroad