How I Live and Travel the World With Zero Savings (With Love From Dubrovnik)
"Because you are alive, everything is possible." - Thich Nhat Hanh
“How do you fund all these adventures around the world?”
I hear this question a lot. People must assume I’m a trust fund baby or something, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve been a nomadic world traveler for two and half years now, and it suits me well — the endless adventure feeds my Soul — but I have to say it’s REALLY hard work too.
In the past two and half years I’ve traveled to more than 15 countries in Latin America and Europe, and lived for at least three weeks in 11 of them. When I find a location that feels right I like to stay for a month or more — I've found that's when the magic and energy of a place really starts to sink in. It also enables me to live affordably and get more work done.
I’ve been searching for my own version of paradise since embarking on this great adventure on February 29th, 2012 (leap year day!). I don't do boring, but it could have been different. I could have stayed in my cozy mountain getaway in Ashland, Oregon, or dug my heels into one of the many seaside cities near my hometown of Los Angeles.
But then I wouldn’t have been able to live in some of the most breathtaking places in the world — like Lago Atitlan (Guatemala), San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua), Manuel Antonio (Costa Rica), Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Stockholm (Sweden), and Edinburgh (Scotland) — I wouldn't have met my dreamy Ginger, and I definitely wouldn’t have experienced anything near the life of my dreams. (And isn't that what it's all about in the end?!).
Today marks two weeks in Dubrovnik, Croatia, an ancient Medieval city with a fascinating history and a vibrant cultural heritage (beyond being the gorgeous setting for King’s Landing in one of my favorite HBO shows!*). We arrived by bus from the oceanside city of Split, and we were quickly whisked away to a lovely guest house with an ocean view balcony and good wifi (at a reasonable price no less!). I was relieved to get a good string of solid work days in these past couple weeks, punctuated by delicious home-cooked meals and regular visits to the old city.
So, how do I do it?
You might be surprised to hear that I live simply, and my costs of living are lower than most people in Europe or the US. I work long hard hours, and make my income from a combination of creative Soul Work projects (like the Fire of Love Experience and my new 30 DAYS of FUN & FLOW), private sessions (healing, consulting and “life-work whispering”), and a very selective group of online/brand development clients.
As it is for many, food and rent are my highest regular expenses. Monthly business costs -- mostly for essential software services like GetResponse (email list), Basecamp (project management), Soundcloud (streaming audio), E-Junkie (product sales), Lunarpages (web hosting), etc., and Netflix of course -- manageable, though they do add up over the months!
Travel costs can also run high, but I don’t spend much on entertainment so it balances out. Every day is an adventure when you live abroad! My favorite diversions are: Spending time with a good book or show at "home", or playing my uke and swimming at the beach. Cost: Free. (As long as you don't count the occasional Kindle book splurge!) ;)
As for the cost of rent, I rarely pay more than $500-600 a month -- usually somewhere around half that amount in the developing world. If I don’t have a place lined up when I travel to a new country, I’ll tend to stay at an inexpensive hostel until I find an economical furnished room or apartment at a monthly locals rate. I shop where the locals do, and I cook my own healthy meals as often as possible. No mortgage or rent to pay back home so that helps a lot, but I know a number of people who sublet their places for part of the year on extended work travel, so that's always another option.
It takes a lot of guts and major TRUST to live this lifestyle -- I have no fixed income, and I don’t receive regular payments from any pre-existing sources, investments or other dividends. It’s all on me hearing the whispers of my Soul and showing up, along with the people who are drawn to participate in my work!
So, yes, you could say I have a Trust Fund: I put my trust in the calling of my Soul and do the work, and the universe provides the funds.
I had a big revelation in the past few days about how I run my business, though....
I've come to realize that despite all good intentions to the contrary, I’ve been running things based on old economic models that just aren’t 100% aligned with my true Rebel Soul.
Under the traditional Capitalist model you obtain or create a product or service with a certain amount of labor/capital, and then you mark it up for a profit (or in the case of products like software apps, you sell enough quantity to make it pay). You essentially find a group of people with a need to fill, provide what that market needs, and perpetuate the need through strategic marketing. The marketing is important, of course, as it puts your product/service in front of your audience, creating a vacuum and perpetuating a perceived or actual need.
The system works to a degree, but it doesn’t resonate with my highest calling.
So I was inspired when I read a short post by my good friend and fellow truth whisperer, Bhagavati, on money. Ever an interesting topic, I was intrigued by her further explanation of the traditional practice of daana:
“Since the time of Buddha there has been a tradition that those who teach the Dharma are supported directly by their community. In Asia, where it is understood that the practice of generosity (dana) forms the bedrock of spiritual practice, this tradition has evolved into a system where the interdependence of the teachers and their community is implicit.”
This of course is intrinsically different from the Capitalist model, reflecting a deeper trust in the fairness and balance of the universal energy flow. Although I've resisted the label of "spiritual teacher/guide" for many years, I think there is some real value in applying the daana model to my work -- in particular, vidya daana, i.e. teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime, a philosophy I've embraced since starting my first online business in 2008 -- brand consulting and interactive media development for conscious companies.
In My Book: Real Generosity Trumps Clever Marketing No Matter What
From the perspective of providing wisdom, guidance and other opportunities to flourish in the life of your dreams, it's about giving from my Soul without a driving financial agenda or other "big plan". Allowing the universe to provide through the goodness and generosity of those who benefit from my work, without placing restrictions on how that should look, or how many dollars that necessarily entails.
What a relief! This just feels so much more authentic and right on to me. Not to say that I'm literally going to start giving away everything I create, but with some finessing I think this model can really work. It's about: REAL GENEROSITY.
I've never been hot on perpetuating a need through clever marketing, I'd much rather let the work sell itself and grow organically. It may take longer and require more patience, but if the product/service is good enough -- and the person creating/offering it has some real SOUL FIRE in their veins -- it will carry itself.
Tearing Down the Walls
Under the Daana inspired approach, instead of building financial barriers around your offerings and tweaking the marketing to reflect your target market, you’re tearing down the walls completely. Instead of raising your pay wall to the highest price the market will bear, and then creating a stronger vacuum to boost your sales and profits, you open your heart and Soul, and offer the people you serve to drink freely from the well.
So instead of building walls and sucking money and energy into a vacuum, you're digging deeper wells and perpetuating NOURISHMENT....
Isn’t this just so much more inspiring an approach?
I started thinking about how I can bring this more directly into my own work and the business models I employ, and got to thinking.... Early Bird Specials and flexible pricing models like I’ve offered for 30 DAYS of FUN & FLOW enable me to lower the pay wall for my work to be more accessible, while still providing the funds I need to survive. But it’s still not enough...
I want to tear down the walls. I want to LIVE, LOVE & SERVE. I want to reach more people and make a real difference in the world. And I can trust the energy to circle around.
I believe I can still thrive under this approach. It’s been done for thousands of years, and it’s being done now (see TED Radio Hour: Giving It Away). So why can’t I do it too?
(So yeah, I’m working on that -- more to come!)
Bottom line: This lifestyle is amazing, it pushes me to the very edges, it deepens my awareness, it inspires me to create my best work. And it takes a lot of hard work! But it’s a pretty amazing life, and it's worth every ounce of effort (never a dull moment at least!).
Making Space For the Big Dreams
One of my big life dreams I came to realize this past Spring in Stockholm, is that I would love to visit all the greatest historic seaside cities in the world. I also dream of building a hobbit house for under $5,000 somewhere in the mountains of California near the sea. A place to call home for about six months out of the year when I'm not traveling the world, where maybe you can even come and visit! These are the dreams that keep me going...
You gotta make space for the big dreams, and take the necessary action to show up at your best every day you can. Life's too short for small mind, fear-based thinking. Do whatever it takes to bring your Soul Fire alive, and never stop exploring!
So, yeah — lots of good fun ahead, and another big announcement or two coming soon. I will continue to share my journeys and my creative work with the world as best I can, and I hope you continue to follow along and participate in the journey with me -- keep reaching higher and taking action in line with your biggest dreams you gorgeous Rebel Soul!!
Thank you for supporting me in doing my Soul Work, and living in alignment with my highest vision. It’s you showing up through the universal FLOW and joining with me on this great adventure that makes it all possible. You are a key of my Universal Trust Fund! ;)
Love and gratitude,
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30 DAYS of FUN & FLOW FOR YOUR CREATIVE SOUL starts next Monday, September 1st! Let's have a magical month and celebrate the endless possibility of the Creative Spirit: Growth, Renewal, Transformation and entering the Fall with a stronger, HAPPIER step! Come and join me on this virtual journey -- I’ll be leading it from fabulous...ALBANIA!
Flexible pricing: Learn more and sign up here...
And if you appreciate my work, daana with me! I truly appreciate your support. There are other non-financial ways to support my work as well, you can find these listed on the donate page. :)