Housing Savings by Living as a Nomad

When I started by overseas adventure I lived in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Among the reasons I chose to move to Malaysia was to save money (from the costs of living in the USA) and to travel in SE Asia.

In some ways it worked well. Living was as cheap as I expected, which actually surprised me. I figured I would find costs were not as low as I was able to estimate from online sources. I didn’t travel as much as I planned though.

The lack of travel could be overcome by just being more diligent about making it a priority. But I tried and it just didn’t happen. Partially I think I subconsciously delayed things due to cost. I starting looking into a nomadic lifestyle and decided to give that a try.

I don’t think I am particularly well suited to a nomadic life. I like the stability of a home. I do like to travel, but I also do find I put it off or just don’t get around to it as much as I would like (while I had a real job it was even worse, which is part of the reason for moving to SE Asia in the first place). But while I am not particularly well suited to the lifestyle I also figured I can possibly try it (while for many it just won’t work at all).

View from the porch of my cabin in Luang Prabang, Laos.

View from the porch of my cabin in Luang Prabang, Laos. I had a 20 Gb data cell plan that was excellent for under $25.

One of the big advantages of a nomadic lifestyle if you want to travel is you eliminate your primary housing expense. So when you are traveling your housing expenses are just the place you are staying while you travel not that plus your main housing.

One of the big attractions to a nomadic life in low cost areas, for those from high cost areas, is the financial savings. People can go very cheap for housing or middle of the road or enjoy luxury housing they couldn’t afford in a high cost area. I go more for the middle of the road choice, which to the budget people seems extravagant luxury and the those getting very nice places for much less than they could at “home” see as unnecessary hardship.

I had a somewhat nice condo in Johor Bahru on the 16th floor with a view of Singapore and a pool and basketball court. I could walk to places downtown or take short taxi rides for a couple US$. That cost about US$850.

So if I traveled while there (as I did for a couple weeks each to to Cambodia, Borneo, Indonesia, twice, and China) my housing costs were the hotel costs plus $850. So if I stayed at places for around $30 a night my costs would be about $1,750 a month.

Since I started life as a nomad the $850 a month cost is gone. My local housing costs have averaged about $600 (About $450 in Thailand, $900 in Laos [only 1 month] and $600 in Cambodia). Both cost include broadband internet (my internet has been better in each place than I had in Malaysia and cheaper).

These figures include 5 days in Bangkok before I settled in Chiang Mai but not a large amount of side travel. I wouldn’t be surprised to see my housing costs increase.

view of my studio rental - microwave, refriderator, AC, desk, large screen TV.

My 1 room rental in Chiang Mai, Thailand with a nice balcony and very good internet.

My goal initially was to travel 3 weeks every quarter. That hotel cost would be approximately 21 days * $40 = $820. Add $270 to my $850 cost and in my non-nomadic lifestyle lodging would cost $1,120. If I spent $40 a night that would be $1,200 a month and my cost would be about equal to the non-nomadic setup.

When I can arrange a short term stay $1,200 is likely to be a very nice place. So far I was only able to do that in Chiang Mai (and my cost was about $450), otherwise I have just been in in regular hotels. Basically for $1,200 a month budgeted for lodging I can get places that are perfectly fine for me while I travel and really most of the time I will be saving money, often quite a bit. This also allows me to exceed $40 a night which, in my experience so far I will do some of the time.

It is also true I haven’t had places that are as nice as my place in Johor Bahru. It is often hard to find those places for short term rental. In Luang Prabang I don’t think there are any (though I didn’t look much, I liked the place I was at, see photo). In Siem Reap, even if they said monthly on the web site, I didn’t find any that would let you stay for less than 3 months (several apartments, if you did stay for 3 months, seem like decent options for $600 or so).

I realize you can live much more cheaply if you wish to in all the places I have been living. And if you live very cheaply the advantage of the nomadic lifestyle is actually less. If you don’t have an expensive home base, the cost of paying for it while you are not using it isn’t much (because the cost isn’t much). Frankly even my US$850 isn’t a huge amount, but it is an expense you can eliminate (granted to largely be replaced or slightly exceeded by new lodging expenses).

The advantage is only there if you are traveling a good deal. But if a big goal is to travel then by eliminating a home base and traveling as a nomad frees up some cash to be spent on your travel lodging.

The nomadic style does also add travel expenses. Those can be reduced, and minimized a great deal with bus or train travel. But I don’t find that enjoyable so I have been flying and the tickets are $100-$200. The visa expenses are often not trivial. I wouldn’t be surprised if I am spending close to $60 a month on those.

Related: Finding Places to Stay to Stay with Decent wifiTreehouse, Permai Rainforest Resort, Damai (outside Kuching), BorneoSwiss-Lanna Lodge, Chiang Mai, Thailand

One thought on “Housing Savings by Living as a Nomad

  1. Pingback: Should I Sell or Keep My House When I Become a Nomad? | Freelance Lifestyle, Finance and Entrepreneurship Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *