In 2015, I had the idea of living abroad. It wasn't exactly a new idea for me, as I've considered it before. But it was then that I moved it from an idea to a goal. As such, my "Vision 2021" plan is something I designed and actively working on to prepare myself for an eventual move.
Now, when I say move, I'm not talking about getting rid of everything here in the U.S., and never coming back. The U.S. will be a base for me for income and other purposes. But I am talking about uprooting myself for the long haul which includes coming back to the U.S. for important things I need to take care of.
Nonetheless, the search for a new home began the minute I started traveling again back in 2015. From Egypt to Italy, I was travelling to enjoy but at the same time, considering if any of these places could be a possibility for long-term living.
In December of 2015, I visited Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. From that time until now, I've visited Rio about 5 times, staying in total about 6 months in the marvelous city. At the end of 2016, Rio moved up on my list of places to live, in 2017, I was sure I'd be living there and Rio would be the place I'd end up at the end of my "Vision 2021".
I really loved Rio, I still do. It is a city of contrasts, but something about Rio drew my heart near and dear. It's a beautiful city with its fair share of problems. My heart aches for some of the things that occur there every day. But I believe in a better Rio, with less corruption where people are not stigmatized by where they live. At the same time, I love the what is happening there, I love the social movements. I love to see the people rising up and striving to push the change that is necessary and long past due. It's such a magical place to me...and I can feel it. The moment I arrived in Rio in 2015, I felt it. Have you ever felt a place? Feel it on the inside of you? I can't think of another place outside of my hometown, NYC that I can actually feel. Even though I was a foreigner, I never really felt foreign. Even though I didn't speak the language and I had to learn a lot and still there is much to learn, I just felt as if somehow I once knew this but forgot as if I had been away for years.
Actually, in December 2015, I had planned to visit Moscow, not Rio! Rio was not even on my list of places to visit, it was nearly accidental that I went to Rio...but that is another story for another time.
And for personal reasons, I will not be moving to Rio. To say I am heartbroken would be an understatement. I wanted with nothing more than to make Rio my second home. To learn Portuguese, to participate in a gainful activity that would add value to people and communities living there.
I leave there all the hopes and plans I had for Rio and for me being there full-time. I give it over to the universe and good-will. As it has come time for me to dream a new dream.
I almost said its back to the starting board, but it is not. I learned a lot about myself in this process. What I want, what I don't. I'm pretty sure I need to be near an ocean (even if I never get in) in my new home...somewhere in this wide world. And warm weather is needed, but maybe not super hot!
So, I reluctantly, begin my search again. I know that I was drawn to Rio for a reason, and that is is all part of a divine plan for my life. I know I did not just happen to wind up in Rio and I know that none of my experiences there were for nothing.
Even though it wasn't my desired outcome, I know there is an entire world out there that I have yet to discover. New places, new people, new experiences await. I believe in the Divine guidance over my life and that all things are working for a purpose I may not yet understand, but will ultimately be the best thing for me.
I hear Portugal is nice with a low cost of living, Cape Town is stunning and near the ocean. And of course, Italy deserves a second look. Or maybe, I'll fall in love with a new place that I didn't even think of... I am considering signing up with Wander Year or a similar program to travel for a year with a group to different places around the world.
I want to live somewhere that I can continue my social impact work and try to do my part to make a positive difference in this world.
And, eventually maybe I'll settle somewhere and open a little flower shop, that sells wine and chocolates. It would be a place welcoming to the local community and visitors that employs people who may have difficultly finding jobs elsewhere. I can see it, I can hear the bell ringing when someone opens the door, I can see the single stem roses arranged for sale in front of the shop. I can see the smiles and hear the laughter.
Even though one door has closed, I know there are thousands more open to me...waiting for me to uncover what is behind them. Though my heart aches, I move on as new adventures await.
Thank you, Rio for the experience, you will always be a special part of my heart.
I'll cut to the chase. This post will be short and sweet. I just wanted to offer a bit of advice real quick and possibly expand on this in a future post.
I am so tired of the notion that travel is prohibitive for those who have the disposal income and ability to do so, it is not. This not an everyone can travel post. Everyone cannot, I get that. But for those who want to, are physically able and have some money to allocate to travel but still somehow deem it too pricey, I'm just here to give you some information that will help you think differently.
Here's the thing, a little bit of forethought, strategy and patience can work for you if you want to travel and aren't without spending tons of money.
Before we proceed, please read this article I wrote for Elixher. I don't repeat the information same here and reading that article will set the foundation for what I will say in the next section.
I paid less than $60 for my one-way flight from Rio to Washington, DC using miles I've accumulated on Delta.
For every airline I fly I make sure to sign up for their frequent flyer program (in some cases when I fly airlines that are part of a network of airlines, I choose a primary carrier and transfer miles from the partner airline to the primary carrier). I'm always accumulating miles when I fly. These miles turn into free flights in the future. My trip was funded by my flight miles, which saved me about $900 (the price of the ticket had I paid cash). The $60 were taxes which vary based on the flight route.
How To Accumulate Miles
Well, by flying, of course. But this is not the only way to accumulate miles by far. You can do so with credit cards, riding with Lyft, using Airbnb and many more activities that most people do everyday. Delta is my preferred U.S. carrier, so I have the Delta Platinum American Express credit card and fly with them often, especially because I get free upgrades. So I buy the coach ticket and I'm almost always upgraded to Delta Comfort or First Class which always welcomed!
There are many credit cards that offer amazing travel benefits. I suggest researching to find the card that is right for you should you go this route. You don't need to get a card specific to an airline. There are plenty of cards that have travel benefits such as the Chase Sapphire, American Express Platinum that can help you accumulate miles for free flights.
I just want you to know that you CAN earn free flights, by doing things you do everyday. Your next online purchase or Lyft ride can give you points that you can use for free travel in the future. There are options, there are choices and there are a myriad of strategies to use for cheap travel. If you think of travel as something you work to fund daily (without much effort), instead of just something you do in infrequent intervals, you will have a lot more options to travel with less cost.
Preparing for a financially flexible international and intentional life means making lifestyle changes to help make the goal a reality. In this post, I'm outlining things I've done/doing on the savings front to help me get to my desired goal. Sharing in case it is helpful to you. There are many other pieces to this puzzle including investing, career choices etc... But for now, I'll talk about savings managing the money I have coming in as this is a key piece of the puzzle. I wanted to give you something other than the "skip the latte" advice. I
Here are other ways I save money/trim expenses:
Here are some other things I do that help contribute to my goal of financial and location independence:
I cut cable, I get creative in the kitchen using what I have instead of running out to buy things all the time, I meal plan (sometimes), I coupon (smartly) and shop sales (as long as it makes sense), I shop through portals such as ebates and use ibotta. I shop farmers markets and small businesses (these don't save me a lot, but I feel I get better items and support enterprising people). I unplug items when I travel (this saves on electricity costs), I use my local library, I think about things before I purchase them, waiting 48 hours to avoid impulse buying. Sometimes, I'll pay upfront to avoid incremental costs (for example, usually companies give you a break when you pay your car insurance for the year as opposed to installments). I use my credit cards to accumulate miles and points for travel on everyday purchases, paying them off immediately to avoid interest charges.
Disclaimer: Affiliate links are included in this post.
Who says that you have to work from 9-5, Monday-Friday and repeat? This work week design has been assigned to us and most do it without question and without challenge. Now of course some have workweeks where they work 4 days, get off 3 or some variation. There are more than enough "dreading Monday" posts, meme's and t-shirts (and other related items) that lead me to believe that most people are not happy with their current work situation.
So, if you aren't happy. Why not do something to change it? Are most people to comfortable with something they know they don't enjoy but are afraid to let go of what is familiar?
But as I type this post, I'm sitting in a co-working space in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Not far from the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. There is sun and heat, lots of heat. At the same time, I spend my days in a co-working space because I am working my job remotely. And, to be honest, I'm not sure I like it.
Now, what is interesting is that I realize its not the norm that most people can take their jobs with them. Most people have an assigned location their job is performed. So for me to "complain" about working from Rio will probably fall on deaf ears and rolled eyes. Though, I not complaining per se, just getting more to my truth and understanding better what it is I want for me.
My life has been, for quite some time now about challenging the operating model. If it wasn't I would be home or in the office of my job instead of here in Rio. I'm always asking "why" about things most accept without thought.
While I'm working towards multiple outcomes including Vision 2021, I am thinking of ways in which I can continue to improve upon/pivot my current operating model. I've already challenged the need to work from a specific location...but now I am challenging the notion that I need to work a full year. I don't need to work 12 months out of the year necessarily. I could in fact, work 6 months and then take off 6 months to travel, take classes, continue my language studies or all of the above and more. I can then work again for 6 months, take off, 6 and repeat as much as I want. This would require of course taking contract positions for 3 months or 6 months but it is certainly doable.
I'm not sure 100% that I will do this, but it is an option. Again, I am really re-thinking traditional paradigms and challenging them and creating a life on purpose. And to do this, I am brainstorming a multitude of ideas.
I'm 100% committed to living a life on purpose. I refuse to life by norms that society dictates that may or may not work for me.
Are you living a life on purpose? If so, how?
I am enjoying learning you (most days). Because even on my 5th visit, you are still a mystery to me.
Your streets remind me of New York City, busy, crowded, too small for the amount of traffic and quite often the whiff of some random stench catches me off guard. Your trees reminds me of tropical paradise roots that twist and bend in every way imaginable that flaunt leaves that are equally impressive.
I'm addicted to pastel now, its delicious!
I remain in awe at how things work here (and how they don't).
I am still learning you. The question remains to be answered, are you my future home? Only time will tell.
Most people want positive change. We want businesses that do good for not just their shareholders, but their stakeholders and world community. We cringe when there is an oil spill or when some corporation gives a poorly performing CEO a Golden Parachute yet can't manage to give workers adequate maternity/paternity leave. In short, we don't like businesses that operate without regard to social, environmental and the economic affects of what they do.
The more I travel, the more I realize that doing good and supporting business that do good is important. One of the most powerful things I can do to help bring about change is to support those businesses that are socially responsible. That is, instead of investing in Monsanto, I invest my money in a business that aligns closely with my values. Through the investing platform, Swell, I can even invest in companies that stand up to Donald Trump! More on this later...
I am proud to say I am a socially responsible investor. The majority of my retirement funds are in a targeted social impact fund mix. Likewise, most of my non-retirement funds are allocated to invest in socially responsible companies.
If you are interested in socially responsible investing, here are 3 companies that can help you get started.
But before we get in to that, I just want to level-set for those who are new to socially responsible investing. Below is a summary of what it is and how it works, they are links to other sites, so once you finish reading come on back! If you already know this, go ahead and skip over it and get to the 3 companies that I think are good places to start.
What is Socially Responsible Investing (Wikipedia)
How Socially Responsible Investing Works (Forbes)
And now for the deets...
Aspiration offers both banking and investing options. According to their website, Aspiration believes that "everyone deserves a financial firm that brings you fairness, great products and the chance to both make money and make a difference".
With Aspiration, you decide the fee you want to pay for your banking or investing account. You decide what you think is fair, even if that is zero. Aspiration offers a "Redwood Fund" which is a mix of socially responsible companies that have incorporated impactful environmental, employee and governance policies. They also vow to keep their operating expenses to 0.05%. Funds are FDIC insured.
Full disclosure: I am invested with Aspiration. Based on the amount invested, my dividends are quite handsome. So yes, you can do well and do good. If you want to give them a try, feel free to use my link to join here. Joining nets you and I both 25 "Do Good Dollars", which you can use to donate to a charity of your choice.
Swell Investing calls themselves the "investing company that helps you invest in high-growth companies solving global challenges".
Swell offers a brokerage account which allows you to invest taxable funds that you can withdraw whenever you want. $50 gets you started. In addition, they offer a suite of IRA's; a Roth, Traditional and SEP. They offer six portfolios allowing you to pour your money into funds ranging from green tech, disease eradication to healthy living. They have an annual fee of 0.75%, which is $3.75 per $500 invested. Securities in Swell Investing are protected up to $500,000.
To learn more about Swell Investing, click here.
OpenInvest is a robo-advisor that allows you to invest in causes you believe in. You can invest in companies seeking to combat gun violence, companies that stand up to Donald Trump, companies that actively work to support women in the workplace, pro-LGBT companies and more.
OpenInvest imposes a 0.50% annual fee, with a required minimum account opening amount of $3,000. They offer traditional brokerage accounts as well as IRA's. Click here to find out more.
I hope this sheds some light on options for sustainable investing. Do visit the websites to learn more about each brokerage and what they can offer. The main question is...what matters to you?
You got me feelin' kinda high. You got me feeling like the breeze...coasting over ocean waves. You're like a salve to an open wound. You're like a fresh lemonade on an open porch on a summer day. You're like the full moon in all its glory just waiting to be seen. How hard it is to turn away from a full moon or a sunset where the burnt orange rays dance over the horizon. Rio, if you didn't know already, we go together. Like peanut butter and jelly, like macaroni and cheese, like crystals and sage.
I really want to stay with you, but I know I need to go. Or, do I?
My "Dear Rio" series are short blogs about my time here in Rio. I'm on my 5th visit to this amazing city and I wanted to chronicle some of the things I face, my ideas and thoughts, struggles, challenges, triumphs and all that good stuff.
You confuse me.
You confuse me in a fascinating and sometimes frustrating way. This is my 5th time in Rio, but like India Arie sang, "The more I know the less I understand and all the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again...". Though I try, I have yet to understand your dynamics...the many facets of Carioca life. So many things I have to remember to do-or not to do-in order to adhere to the specified culture dynamics here. Dynamics that were here long before me and will be long after me, so I'm not complaining but at times its frustrating.
But I guess this is the fun in traveling and discovering new places. It's like learning things new again, the same things you've known and have come to accept are completely different in another place. It's a child-like amazement and wonder. Though sometimes its frustrating becomes sometimes its easier to default to what you know...but what I know doesn't work here. So really, its the constant learning...even when I don't want to. I am frustrated and exhausted learning Portuguese. And, I do want to learn. But its not like home, where I can turn off the language video or disconnect Duo Lingo. Here, I am constantly surrounded by it, there is no off button. Here, I am confused until I figure out what is being said. Google translate is not the move in 1:1 conversation.
I take comfort in the fact that I will leave Rio a bit better, a bit more well-adjusted, a bit wiser (I hope) and a much better Portuguese speaker. Rio, you confuse me...but this is temporary.
I am creating an intentional life that I love.
Which means coming up with creative ways to turn the most mundane, every day activities into something enjoyable.
Clearly, I enjoy traveling. But I also enjoy the opportunity to have a change of scenery. And because I swear I am a Carioca (person from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), I try to visit Rio as often as I can.
As for work...
Currently, I work from home. My project is such that I do not have to come into an office. So I figured, since I'm working from home I can work from Brazil just the same. I am really careful about the projects I work on. I am looking to work only on those projects that do not require me to physically come into an office every single day. I can't not for the life of me life that life. The cubical is a killer, I swear that keeping people in a box for 9 hours a day as negative emotional and mental side effects. Now, I don't have a cubical, I have a shared office and that is much better; however, sitting in that office for 9 hours is not for me. I need autonomy, freedom and flexibility.
And really, it doesn't/shouldn't matter much where I work from. I'm working from home anyway, so whether I'm home or on the other side of the world it shouldn't matter where I work. Now, sometimes, there are meetings I need to attend and be physically present for. But that is rare and half of those probably don't require my physical presence anyway!
So, I try to get in 3 weeks of working from a location outside of the U.S. (or more, if I can). And its pretty easy to do, I've had project leaders who have been cool about it. The only thing is is that my company now requires them to clear anyone who is taking their equipment (my laptop is owned by my job) outside of the U.S. They do this for security reasons and I understand...to an extend. That part is annoying, and requires unnecessary authorizations which at some point in the future, may put a monkey wrench in my globe trotting.
This year, I spent 3 weeks in Brazil. One week in Sao Paulo and the other 2 in Rio. What is interesting is that people don't understand that I am working. They think I am on some type of vacation. I just changed my location, but I am still working. And they aren't saying this because I'm not getting work done. They are saying this simply because I'm out of the country. And what shines a light on is how some are unable to process anything that doesn't fit into their box of what should be done. The idea that leaving the country is always a vacation is the only one they know. Just going to work in another country, is a foreign concept. The entire time I was there, I was pretty much glued to my laptop all day, just like at home. There was no sightseeing...there wasn't any of these things people typically do on vacation. All I did was change my country code. It's a bit annoying because I felt a cross of jealousy and ignorance with a side of "who does she think she is?". This is why I don't tell people when I travel, because I don't need their 2 cents when it will be negative or passively aggressive. Unfortunately, my project team does need to know because I work with them. And they know I will not be showing up for meetings during this time.
It's interesting how some have a small mindset. But its proof that taking my own path is critical. Because I don't want what these people have...I want a new thing, a different thing. And I'll keep taking my "working vacations" and people can call it what they want. Such is life, the only thing that matters is what you know to be true, because folks will have something to say, regardless.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, we (in the U.S.) are inundated by mass amounts of negative and misleading "news". CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc... never have any good news to share. Everything is a "breaking story", everything is always spun in such a way where we are always on edge, always bracing for the next big fiasco. Social media makes it worse. People share inaccurate information all the time. You can't log in to Facebook today without seeing the whatever hot topic of the day is that is designed to make people inflamed and angry.
Then, to add insult to injury we are bombarded with advertisement that tries to sell you on the idea that the solution to your problems lies in the newest fancy phone or gadget, cars, etc... It's a vicious cycle and mentally draining. I swear, more than half of the U.S. population is ready to go off about anything at any second. Why? Because we have been conditioned to do this. We have been conditioned to be on edge. We are offended at the slightest of things but yet, somehow, fail to understand what the root cause of these things are. And how can we? We are ushered from one emergency to the next from one salacious news story to the next. There is no time to process anything because we are constantly being bombarded with everything.
This is madness.
I am reclaiming my time!
Complex issues and even those that aren't so complex require more than a meme to understand them. But we've been conditioned to receive information in soundbites, I feel we've lost our appetite for the time it takes to gather facts and to process information critically and rationally.
Luckily, travel saved my sanity. It gave me the ability to see the matrix for what it is because I was able to step outside of it.
Travel Gives Me Perspective
There are a lot of people across the world dealing with situations that I couldn't fathom. There are people who have overcome situations that I probably would have needed a team of medical professionals to help me through. We tend to look at "3rd world" countries and pity people because they are poor. But I've met poor people who are richer in peace and love than many people in the U.S. who have everything. Travel allowed me to see things from a different viewpoint. And many things that I once thought mattered, simply don't. Period.
Travel Exposes My Privilege
I think some of my fellow Americans are short-sighted at times because we only understand things as they affect us. But people around the world have to understand things that happen here because it affects them too. I find that we are insulated and we don't have the information about what is happening in the world around us. We are largely ignorant of U.S. Foreign Policy, we simply have no idea how the U.S. operates in other countries. And I can go on at length about this, but maybe another time.
This is why when the current U.S. President was elected people around the world cringed. Not because they simply thought it was a big mistake, but because they realized how they can possibly be negatively impacted. We are not impacted by an election of a new leader in another country as much as other countries are impacted by us. It is a privilege not to have this worry. American privilege is real.
The USD is accepted everywhere
We can travel without needing a visa to most countries
Our credit cards are accepted everywhere
Our currency is stronger than many countries
It is much easier for us to move around the world, when the barriers are really low or non-existent. Other people, aren't so lucky. They have to think through and plan out everything. They can't use their credit card in case of an emergency, because it may not work outside of their country. They can't exchange their cash in another country because no one will take it. This requires them to move and think different of us...and to us, this is rarely an issue. It is American privilege. The awareness of this makes me a bit more humble and understanding of what others endure, that I never have to think about. And this does keep my sane because I realize again that everything that I'm seeing on the news and social media in the grand scheme of things, isn't even a big deal, even though they want me to react as if it is. Nah...I'll pass...reclaiming my time!
Travel Taught Me The Power of Personal Choice
One thing about travelling, especially solo is that you learn quickly that some things are outside of your control and its okay. I learned that I don't have to see all the "must see" things in a city, and that is OK. If I want to sit at an outdoor cafe all morning or visit a bookstore, that's OK. Travel has taught me the power of choice. I can choose what shows up in my life...and even when I can't, I can choose how I respond. And when I'm outside of the U.S., I am removed from all the noise and the chatter of the news and media here. And when I realized that I was becoming overwhelmed with the issue of the day, when I realized I was being manipulated into responding and being angry with things that don't matter, I remembered that I had the power of personal choice. And I can choose to opt out. And so I did. And its OK.
I'm getting better and better at exercising my choice to opt out. The more I travel abroad the more I see how insane it is here when I come back. And the more, I understand what matters and I seek to be at peace in my life and anything that costs me that peace its too expensive.
I have to thank the Italians, particularly the Southern Italians who helped me to slow down and enjoy while I was in Amalfi, Italy. I watched the passeggiata sitting on the steps of the Duomo in Amalfi, Italy. I saw people greeting each other (and me!) taking time to scroll through the streets and chat with each other. I watched children play and be throughout entertained by a piece of paper. I also have to give a shout out to my Brazilian peeps, who have reminded me of the beauty of community, something that for me, got lost in the hustle and bustle of trying to achieve in life. I thank all the teachers I met around the world, we didn't know they were teaching me...but I learned and I'm better for it.
If you're feeling overwhelmed but what is happening in this country, turn off the TV. Disconnect from mainstream media. I know it seems hard, even crazy. It did to me at first. But give it about 3 weeks and come back and tell me how you feel. I'll place my bet that you will feel better.
I'm what happens when you don't let fear deter your dreams. World traveler, entrepreneur, creator.
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