Financial Case Study: Elaine Mendoza, Online Teacher, Writer, Tour Guide

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Elaine Mercedes Mendoza is a global citizen and world traveler. She is a free spirit documenting her inspirational articles and trips around the world on FinallyElaine.me. Elaine also provides valuable budget travel tips and articles to bring out your wanderlust. She has been working as a freelance writer and teacher for those that benefit from her travel writing and experiences. Learn more about Elaine’s varied career that has taken her around the world (a few times over)!

Financial Case Studies

This post was originally published in 2018. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. 

How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you traveled to?

I have been traveling as a choice since 2015 but I was always a traveler since I was in college. My travels (in general) have taken me to Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Thailand, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas, Spain, the Spanish island Ibiza, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, France, Belgium, and numerous small towns and cities in various places. In The United States I have been to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, and all the states from Massachusetts to Florida on the east coast. I have also stepped into Canada but there’s a lot more to explore.

However, Mexico is becoming more of my home base.

Please describe what you do for income, and how much money you make.

I teach languages online to executives in other areas. My school is European. 80% of them need Business English lessons and about 20% need Spanish lessons. Luckily I am native in both so am able to teach both. I can teach locally to Expats living in Mexico while securing 15 to 25 online hours. I make anywhere between 17 Euros to 34 Euros per class depending on the length and number of people.

However, this is just ONE of my ways I make money. Recently my teaching is bringing about 1500 Euros online per month. That may not seem like a lot to someone living in the USA, but when you consider that the average Mexican family makes somewhere around 10,000 MXN per month or 500 USD, I am considered to be doing excellent in this country. Most of the world would welcome me on this income alone.

In addition, I am a freelance writer. My articles have gone from $50 to $200 USD for one article alone. I have written for Microsoft, Atlanta Bread Company, and International Living to name a few of my clients. I also did some ghost-writing but did not enjoy that route. I felt there was a lack of integrity to it. I stopped doing it. Some months I have no writing work while other months I have more than I can handle. It varies and is very unpredictable.

In addition, I have recently been published as Co-Author in Time To Rise as one of 29 inspiring stories. All the profits go to The Gandhi Foundation to create a more peaceful world for all of us. My writing career is “just” taking off on a more global scale.

Finally, I do foodie tours in Playa del Carmen and design retreats. The retreats are designed around low season so that I can offer competitive prices for my escorted private trips. You get to have me as your host as I take you to some of my favorite destinations. While I do profit off of these trips, my most affordable retreat goes from $599 USD. I negotiate very well with vendors so that my travelers get an experience they will remember at a fraction of the cost. My foodie tours are a free walking tour and depending on the group, I get cash tips for my services. It is not unusual for me to make a decent amount in two to four hours of my time.

When you do not live a routine life, it leaves you open to all of these opportunities that present themselves effortlessly. I have even be asked to sing professionally. There are limitless ways to make an income. Find one or five that you love.

(See also: Ways to Make Money While Traveling)

How many hours per week do you work on average?

Anywhere between 20 and 30 hours per week.

Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?

Knock on wood, yes. The worst thing that has happened to me is suddenly losing a contract due to poor internet at that particular location. I was unemployed for four months and had to scout around for a new contract.

What do you like most about your career and lifestyle?

I love being my own boss. I do not have to ask HR for days off and wait for an approval process. There is no such thing as a commute for me or even work clothes (I do look decent from the waist up for my online classes). I do what I want for as long as I want or as little as I want. I am in charge of my own schedule.

Although I make less money than I used to when I lived in the Washington D.C. area, I do not have the expenses that I used to have. Life is just about my rent and having more awesome travel experiences. With no parking, work clothes, expensive cell phone bills, car expenses, and so on……..I learned to see abundance as freedom instead of material belongings. What price can we put on our freedom?

What are some of the challenges you have with this career and lifestyle?

While shifting from my “old” life to my “new” one, the mental obstacles have been my toughest challenges. At first I thought, “OMG, I was in a six figure income position and now I make less than half of that” but it is all an illusion. I have significantly more time NOW than I use to have. I discovered that time was our most valuable belonging. Also, at times I cannot predict how much money I will make per month. It varies all of the time. However, I am still paying my rent, enjoying many lovely meals wherever I go, and traveling to places I have never been to before. The ball is still rolling.

See also: Lifestyle Inflation: Why Earning More Money Sucks (the Life Outta You).

What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?

Most recently, I have decided to have a home base. I will schedule my travels in the late Summer and Fall. I guess you could say I have gone from being nomadic to being more location independent with a longer term home base in Playa del Carmen. I will be focusing more on my writing career and publishing more books. My goal is now to attract more speaking engagements and be able to share with others four retreats a year to awesome destinations.

(Nora’s Note: I too got a home base and it has allowed me to pursue other career avenues as well as travel in a different way!) 

Any advice for the aspiring traveler about living and working on the road and managing finances?

Yes, make a plan. My biggest advice is to save as much money as possible to carry you through the first year. It is a lot like saving for a down payment on a home. During that year, see it as the best investment you will ever make that may not be tangible. You are making a life change internally and externally. You are giving yourself the time to discover what you want to do and how you want to live. During this year, you will be guided on what to do next. It is a lot like the book The Alchemist. It does not matter what you do or where you go. Life is always happening right now in THIS moment.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Anything that gives you great joy also takes risk, strength, and a leap of faith. My lifestyle has not been easy to build and I sacrificed some aspects of my former life to create this one. However, it came down to “Do I work hard to make someone else money?” OR “Do I work hard to build the life I want?” Once I started seeing things as they really are instead of living off of expectations and illusions, the choice became obvious.

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1 thought on “Financial Case Study: Elaine Mendoza, Online Teacher, Writer, Tour Guide”

  1. Nice Elaine! You seem to have a very down to earth and practical outlook on all this. Thanks for sharing so opening how you went from you DC job to a fraction of the income but way more time. I feel you to a certain regard on that. Having head space is so important. Wishing you well as you continue with all your writing!

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