Do you ever dream of being able to run a business from anywhere in the world? Have you ever found yourself looking online for different ways you could travel abroad and somehow make an income while you were half way around the world.
Over the past decade I have been perfecting this skill. The truth is that it is not as easy as it sounds. This is especially true if you are used to a 9 to 5 standard day job. The dream of one day quitting that job and breaking free from the chains of the corporate world can be elusive and fleeting.
When I was 22 I left the country for the first time. I had always wanted to travel but I was a troublemaker growing up and spent the later part of my teen years in rehab getting sober. By the time I was 20, I had been sober for a couple of years and my life was back on track, so I decided to leave America and embark on an adventure.
I signed up for a study abroad trip to Spain, paid the money and prepared to leave home. To be perfectly honest, this trip wouldn’t be my first time out of America, I frequently went to Mexico in my teen years growing up in San Diego. None of my trips to Mexico had any real cultural importance. In fact, I don’t even really remember what transpired during most of those trips and never really made farther the the Tijuana bars on Revolution Blvd. This trip was going to be different, I was with college kids, and there was some structure, so I figured that was a good place to start.
I remember getting off the plane in Madrid. I was bustled away from the group with my host mom who didn’t speak a lick of English and was given a room in her little apartment. I was super jet lagged and had never been on a flight that long in my life so I passed out immediately. When I woke up it was dusk outside. I walked down the 4 flights of stairs and sat out on the side walk in the neighborhood I was staying in listening to all of the sounds of the city and taking it all in. The smells, the cars, the food, everything was different, I didn’t know anyone around, and I was far from home. I was in LOVE.
This first encounter of Wanderlust was intoxicating to me. I vividly remember it and I was so grateful to be in that moment experiencing life again in a new way for the first time.
I thought to myself, what if I could do this all of the time, what if I could just travel a lot? It was sometime on that trip that I decided I was going to need to find a line of work that was going to allow me to do this. About a week before the program ended, I told my professors running the program that I wouldn’t be accompanying them back to America, and stayed in western Europe an additional 4 months traveling around Spain, Italy and France.
Once I ran out of money, I came home. At that time I was running a Mortgage office which surprisingly was still standing after my almost 5 months of me being gone. It didn’t matter though because I came home in September 2008 just in time to watch the housing market collapse completely. I was screwed. I had done really well for a kid who dropped out of college to get rich but it was all back firing now and traveling was the last thing on my mind.
After the dust settled I was about $190,000 in debt and in need of a new career. I had decided to go back to college a year earlier and had about a year and a half left for my undergrad degree so I figured I would spend the next 2 years finishing college and finding a career that would set me up to travel the globe and make money while I was doing so.
The first business that I found that worked really well for me was multi-level marketing. It seemed like a great fit, I was recruited in to a company being sold the dream that if I spent a couple years working hard at building an organization, it would eventually take off and continue to pay me residually. This was PERFECT. I could build the business for a couple years to about $100K per year then disappear to Indonesia
For a first timer in MLM, I did incredibly well, and I build that $100k per year income in a short amount of time but it was short live. The first company I was with asked me to leave and the second company I joined eventually went belly up. Also every time I would leave the country on a trip, I found myself on my phone or laptop the whole time putting out fires and that was just plane stupid.
When I finally walked away from the industry I decided to put my entrepreneur hat back on. I had raised some money for a tech start-up and was actively learning how to trade currencies in the FOREX market.
I never lost site of my desires and dreams of being able to make money from a Laptop; I just needed to be a little more resourceful. I found that as long as I can offer real value to a client even being a great distance away, that my capability to earn money anywhere where I was in the world would be there.
So over the past 5 years I have been doing just that. Most of the consulting work that I do is never from an office, maybe my home office. I do keep an office at the Currency trading school that I have a long-term contract with but they have always been cool with me leaving and making my own schedule. Again, I attribute that leniency to the results I am able to deliver. The moral of the story is that there is a million ways to make money and add value to a person, place or business, however you need to be resourceful if you are going to do this from a laptop half a world away.
I have put together my top 5 tips to finding your own way to take your business on the road with you for good. Read “Top 5 Tips to Working remotely.” To see what it’s all about
If you are like me and are a nomad traveler that works remotely then having a working smart phone is an absolute must. Aside from getting work emails, checking the market and other tasks that you may use your smart device for on a daily basis, your phone is the most incredible travel essential for a remote nomad.
Imagine being in Viet Nam for the first time and you need to rent a scooter to find your hotel you booked on kayak, well imagine if you could get turn by turn directions from your iPhone with out having to ask a sole for directions.
Or, what if you are in Indonesia for the first time ever and are trying to haggle with street vendors to buy a shirt or exchange American Dollars for Indonesian Rupiah but you have no idea what the exchange rate is? Imagine being able to jump on to the XE currency app and know exactly what your $20 USD is actually worth.
Smartphone owners spend an average of more than three hours per day using their devices. That doesn’t necessarily stop when they go on vacations or work trips outside of their home countries. But if it’s not done right, international mobile internet access can be sketchy and it can cost a lot.
Here’s everything you need to know to get affordable access to data while abroad.
Find out what you’re working with
International roaming has gotten easier and cheaper over the past few years, but some older phones may still have issues. The vast majority of smartphones in the world run on a common type of network called GSM, but some older phones from the US and other countries use a different, incompatible technology called CDMA, which could limit where they might work. (Most newer phones sold by CDMA carriers, including Verizon and Sprint in the US, are “world phones” that can use GSM networks.) When it comes to newer, faster “4G” networks, most operators use a format called LTE, which has other compatibility issues between wireless bands. But roaming often still happens on older, slower networks.
If you know your phone will work where you’re traveling, next check to see if your phone is unlocked, which would allow you to switch SIM cards to another operator. Many carriers still lock phones to their networks, especially when they subsidize the price. In the US, nearly all Verizon Wireless smartphones are sold unlocked. Some providers, such as Vodafone in the UK, also need to be told if you’re leaving the country, so make sure to check if you need to let your provider know before you leave. If you bought your phone unlocked, or have unlocked it through an unlocking service, then you’re all set.
Figure out what your provider offers
Most mobile providers have international partners and offer international calling and data plans. And while they continue to come down in price, most are pretty expensive—and some are absurd. In the US, for example, AT&T charges $30 for 120 megabytes of international data use—which could last hours or days, depending on your mobile-data frugality. Sprint is worse, charging $80 for just 85 MB of international data. WIND in Canada charges C$8 ($7) per day to lower its international data rate to C$1 per megabyte—which is still rather expensive. The worst are plans or countries that still charge very high amounts per megabyte. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, Verizon Wireless still charges $20.48 per megabyte, which is prohibitively expensive for almost all uses.
Some providers offer a flat daily rate for international use, on top of regular charges. Vodafone in the UK charges £5 ($8) extra a day when you use its phones abroad. The European Union recently slashed data maximum roaming rates allowed across the region, so if you’re traveling from one EU country to another, you can find out the maximum that your provider can charge you.
There are a few providers that have international roaming—to select countries—included at no cost in their plans. Recently, T-Mobile in the US started offering unlimited roaming to over 120 countries, with the catch that download and upload speeds are capped at slow speeds. (It’s fine for most uses, including email, maps, and social media, but it won’t work for video or VoIP calls. But you can pay more for faster speeds—$50 for 500 MB over 2 weeks.) Three in the UK offers free roaming in some other countries, such as the US, France and Australia. Japan’s SoftBank recently launched a promotion that allows customers to pay the same rates when using Sprint’s US network (which SoftBank owns.)
Buying a phone abroad
If all you want to do is make calls while you’re abroad, there are some countries where you can buy a cheap pay-as-you-go phone. In the UK, you can pick up a simple phone for just 99p ($1.50). Some of them even have some amazing Siri-like features. In most countries, however, the cheapest phones won’t be less than about $50, so it would make sense just to stick with getting a new SIM-card for your own phone, or using a Wi-Fi-calling app on your smartphone.
Buying a SIM abroad
If you’re going to be somewhere for more than a week, or plan to use a lot of data, it may be worth buying a local SIM card. At London’s Heathrow Airport, for example, you can buy a variety of SIM cards from vending machines after baggage claim.
For the best deals, you’ll be better off heading to the local high street or mega-mall. With Vodafone UK, for example, you can buy a £10 ($16) top-up and get 500 MB of data and 100 minutes that you can use for 30 days. In France, Orange sells prepaid SIM cards at its stores, and 500 MB data top-ups for €10 ($12). If you’re visiting the US, T-Mobile offers prepaid SIM cards for $10, with an option to pay by the day for unlimited data for $3 a day. In Japan, B-Mobile offers relatively inexpensive data-only service to foreign visitors.
Some providers, like Three in the UK, also offer short-term contracts that you can cancel after the first month that are equally affordable. Just don’t forget to cancel them when you leave the country. China Mobile offers a SIM that works in Hong Kong and mainland China for 90 days for HK$120 ($15).
Some countries have mobile resellers, like the UK’s Carphone Warehouse, which will have options for multiple mobile providers. Find a sales representative and ask them to help you figure out which option works best for you. If the country doesn’t have resellers, many will still have standalone stores for each mobile provider. If you’re buying a SIM for your phone, figure out which providers are compatible with your phone before you go in. If you don’t speak the language, it might be helpful to write down some basic requests, like “nano-SIM, 1 GB data”—or look for their sales pamphlets.
If you’d rather have everything sorted out before leave home, GigSky is another option. For $19.95, they’ll provide you with a SIM that lets you access data networks in most countries. But their rates are generally higher than buying a SIM from a local provider.
There are some downsides to using a foreign SIM. Most notably, unless your phone has two SIM slots, you likely won’t have access to your home number, or calls or text messages that go to it. And certain services tied to your home number, including Apple iMessage and WhatsApp, may need to be reconfigured—an annoyance at best.
An O2 mobile store in the UK. Mobile stores are often clumped together, so make sure to shop around.(Reuters/Luke MacGregor)
Many countries ask for a passport for identification when you buy a mobile service. In some countries, such asSouth Korea and South Africa, it’s difficult to purchase any mobile service without a local address or a visa that lasts longer than 90 days. If you have a friend in the country you’re visiting, ask them if you can use their address to sign up for an account. If you have no contacts, check to see if there are options to rent a phone from a local provider. Otherwise, you may have to rely on Skype and messaging apps over Wi-Fi, or whatever roaming your home provider offers.
Using your phone
Make sure to test out your new SIM card before you leave the store. Usually, you’ll need to restart your phone before the new service will start working. (Sometimes, it could take hours to activate—less ideal.) It’s a good idea to send a text or call someone just to make sure everything is working. You’ll also need to figure out the country dialing code for the country you’re in so that people back home will know how to reach you.
Penalty fares for going over data limits are severe on most carriers, so make sure to choose a plan that will cover the amount of data you’re likely to use while abroad. AT&T has a calculator to help you estimate how much data you use if you’re not sure. It’s probably best to avoid doing anything too data-heavy while abroad, like streaming music or videos, or downloading games.
Calling home will be expensive on almost any plan you purchase. You can check to see if the provider you’re using offers any international dialing plans that you can add on to your service. In the US, AT&T’s international dialing plan is an additional $5 a month. In the UK, you can add an international dialing package to a PAYG plan for £10 ($16). Alternatively, you can stick to Wi-Fi options, like Skype or Apple’s FaceTime.
There are also apps you can use to call from abroad. Roamer lets you make and receive calls from your regular number, even while you’re out of the country. Vonage also offers cheap VoIP calls through its apps for iOS and Android phones.
Other things not to forget
Bali is one of my favorite places to travel to. The first time I went back in 2010 I fell in love and it stole my heart. Since then I have been back multiple times, and I currently in the process of looking for a villa to buy so I can live between there and San Diego a couple months out of the year. I have been there so any times now that I have become somewhat of an expert on making your way there and how to avoid some of the typical tourists traps. Reading this blog will save you a couple of hours sifting through trip advisor and lonely planet. Enjoy!!
You can find flights from the US ranging from about $650-$1400 round trip for a standard economy ticket.
Bringing surfboards boards can make or break your travel budget. YOU MUST CHECK TRAVEL AND BAGGAGE RESTRICTIONS on all airlines. For example. China Air charges $100 per board each way when EVA air will charge $100 for a board bag (up to 2 boards) each way. You can find a really cheap ticket and end up paying $400 to get your boards to and from, so make sure you check before you buy.
Also, I have simply bought a surfboard when I got to Bali and sold it when I left, you lose about $100-$150 on the resale of the board, but it usually ends up being a wash.
I have included a short list of all the popular places that people usually stay. If the name of the city is not on the list below, don’t stay there. For a group of 4+ people of mixed surfers and non-surfers, I suggest Canggu or Seminyak through Airbnb. Should be about $150-250 for a 3-5 bedroom place. Uluwatu is cool to stay at but there isn’t much to do on that side of the island exact go surfing.
Here is the break down:
One thing that you will need on your trip is access to $. I use a capital one account that charges no ATM or international fees and the best part about it is that if you use this link to sign up for the account, then you even get a $20 bonus just for opening it up.
The checking account has no FEES, No minimum balances, no gotchas or any other bullshit, it is my GO TO travel fund that I have used for years. So everyone reading this please follow this link, open an account with enough time before your trip to make sure you get your Debit/ATM card before you leave.
I’ve got it figured out to where you can pull money out of an ATM in Bali getting NO FEES ON EITHER SIDE!!!!
Here is what you can expect to be spending daily and what things cost.
I take out a travel insurance policy anytime I leave the country. I have ended up making a claim on it about 50% of the time. Travel insurance covers everything from Broken Boards, Smashed or Stolen Go-Pro to lost and delayed baggage and trip cancellation and or Medical expenses. Some people think their credit card covers this shit but it doesn’t. On average a travel insurance policy for a trip that we are taking is going to run you about $80-$120 and is worth EVERY FUCKING PENNY!
I usually go directly to my local AAA office and do it there, however if you are not a AAA member, here is the company I have used and they are solid and have paid out all the claims when I made them http://www.allianztravelinsurance.com/
For your convenience, I have included my packing list I use for Indo trips, this will cut down on you bringing a bunch of extras stuff and ensure that you have all of your really important items. (Click link to download the excel spreadsheet)
Cell Phones and Calling Home
You can get a cheapo phone in Bali to use to make calls locally or you can do what I do and get and “Unlocked” phone and buy a pre-paid sim card for it. Usually your best bet is to get an old iPhone, like a 5 or 5s (around $100) and just use it there. They are really convenient to have because you can get internet on them and use Google maps feature for turn by turn directions while you are navigating around on your scooter. Just makes sure that it is unlocked and you are good to go.
Otherwise you will be using Skype to make phone calls home, so if you don’t have an account, set one up and put $10 worth of credit on the account. Thats all you will need to call home, unless of course you have Mac or what to use FaceTime from your iPhone which is free with Wifi.
Here is a breakdown of the time changes so you can make calls.
Ok thats all you need to know. Your welcome as a bonus, I threw in the surf guide.
It’s a wrap, we’re married!
Keeley and I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for sharing this chapter of our life. The wedding was absolutely amazing. Better than Keeley and I could have ever imagined or anticipated. We hoped and planned for the best, but what transpired over the week in Costa Rica went far beyond our expectations.
All of this could not have been possible without the love and support from our friends and family who graciously made the journey from all over the world to join us on our special day. Our hearts are filled with gratitude and we are so elated over the entire experience. We rode zip lines in the jungle, surfed in the warm Central American water, did lots of yoga and got married on the beach with our toes in the sand and an amazing Costa Rican sunset as our backdrop.
The most amazing part of our wedding week in Tamarindo was how everything just flowed. The weather called for pouring rain on our raining day, it didn’t rain a drop. We were able to spend time with all of our guests who came which was important to us because everyone made a long journey to get to Costa Rica.
To top it off, not only did our guests get along, they all made friends with each other which is so cool. I don’t know if I can attribute that to the quality of friends Keeley and I have or if we just got lucky on when it came to personalities that just jived. Either way, I have never seen a group of people in my life get along and engage with each other so well especially with such a diverse group of people from so many different walks of life. It was just really neat to experience that!
I am writing this final newsletter/blog from Santa Teresa, Costa Rica (about 4 hours south of where we got married). I have finally had some down time to take in the entire wedding experience. As I look through the photos, and see the posts coming through on Facebook and Instagram, I am filled even more with gratitude. I can honestly say that this wedding was the best day of my life. To be able to share this beautiful country and our wedding day with our families and closest friends meant the world to me.
We were able to capture this experience in time and essence of the entire week through photos and video of the wedding and all of the activities leading up to and after the wedding. As a result of this, I am going to make a very cool video outlining the entire trip. Look out in the next couple of weeks for that as I will put it up in another blog post along with links to download all of the photos from the wedding.
Also, keeley and I have decided to have two different receptions sometime this summer in San Diego and North Carolina for all of the guests who simply could not make the trip. We will send out a newsletter announcing that when we choose the dates.
Until then, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for everyone who came, it was absolutely magical!!!
Love Steve and Keeley.