We all make choices about the money we earn and how we spend it. Inadvertently, this often ends up dictating our lifestyles, taking the power of lifestyle design out of our hands.
Five years ago, I turned the tables, designed the lifestyle I wanted, and then found a way to earn the money required to make it sustainable. In this process, I discovered a huge range of possible lifestyles and options within the scope of financially sustainable travel. I also learned that financially sustainable travel has two distinct yet interrelated elements: income, and expenses. And both involve choice. (Here’s a recent interview I did on this topic).
In Part 1 of this two-part series, I outlined my exact income sources for 2011, along with some of the logistics of how I get paid and file taxes.
Today, I’ll discuss why I don’t make more money, and how I don’t actually suffer for it.
Making More Income
I recently asked a colleague if they had any business suggestions for me this year, and his response was “Make more than $17,000!” (Since my full-time travels are financially sustainable, he assumed I was making only enough to cover my expenses).
And I could. I could make way more than what I made last year.
But I’d have to work more. And frankly, right now I’d rather not. In fact, I’ve recently turned down writing gigs that haven’t suited my agenda; it’s a counter-intuitive thing for a freelancer to do, but I refuse to become so entrenched in work that I lose my (often precarious) work-life balance, forgetting that I’m actually living somewhere different and cool – which is kind of the point of this whole exercise.
My income is a means to my lifestyle, not vice versa.
Over five years ago, I was making a lot of money, and I was working pretty hard for it. I was fully enmeshed in the “rat race”, and my decision to embrace a life of full-time travel was an exercise in getting out of that cycle, in favour of enjoying a slower pace of life and cultural immersions around the world.
As it stands, I still spend a lot of time on my computer; tapping away composing articles, answering up to 50 emails per day, uploading posts, maintaining my site, answering media interviews, and staying on top of social media and personal branding.
But I’m passionate about what I do and my work hours are both flexible and closer to part-time than full-time.
And I’d like to keep it that way.
“Just Getting By”
A reader recently said he liked my “just getting by” travel lifestyle (suggesting that it might be more enriching or authentic than staying in luxurious hotels as he does while on vacation).
Although I’m not lapping it up at the Hilton every night, I’d never actually considered my life and spending choices as an exercise in “just getting by”.
I stay for months in beautiful exclusive Caribbean beach villas (that just happen to be free).
I enjoy epic world-class train rides in First Class (also for free).
And most of my long-haul flights are in business class (for less than the price of an economy ticket).
To me, this hardly feels like “just getting by”!
What’s more: because my main travel expenses (like accommodation and transportation, as above) are so low, I have disposable income to afford other luxuries that are important to me. Basically, when I want lobster – I eat lobster. At the same time, I’m not one for getting drunk at the bar, or blowing a wad of cash at the casino, so in my lifestyle choices there is a balance.
I am far from miserly in my full-time travel lifestyle; rather, I’m choosy about how I spend my money, and where I can save it.
For example, because I carry my “house” with me wherever I go (see also The Ultimate Packing List for Full-Time Travel), I save lots of money by not buying “stuff” since I have nowhere to put it! When I buy something, I have to either get rid of something I have, or find a way to incorporate it into my entourage. This means I don’t tend to buy much, and I’ve realized over the years that we don’t need half the things we think we need.
It’s All About Choice
This conscious approach to both my income and expenses is part of my personal lifestyle design plan. We all make similar choices in our lives – it’s just that for many of us, they’re largely unconscious or reactive.
Let’s open our eyes to the choices we have.
What financial choices do you make in life?