I woke up on Friday feeling inspired and ready to write. Unfortunately, I had a to-do list a mile long that stretched into the weekend. Now, the weekend is technically over, and not only am I late to posting, but I’ve forgotten the topic I felt so inspired to write about. I hate when that happens and really should have written it down at the time, but alas, I did not.
So, instead, I’ll discuss a topic a lot of people have been curious about. When First Worlders learn of my travel adventures, I am often called “lucky” or they say they wish they had as much money as I did to travel. Sometimes, I let this slide. Other times, I point out that I started my travel adventures on a Third World salary.
When I lived in Jamaica, my annual take-home pay was the equivalent of roughly US $8,640 per year. Yet, not only did I spend my last few weeks on the island travelling around without a care in the world; I also booked my flight to Atlanta and continued my adventuring there. So, how did I pull that off without robbing a bank and ever owning a credit card?
Re-Homing My Pets
Next year, I’ll be moving across the country. When I do, Shadow will be riding shotgun in the car with me. The idea of leaving my cat behind — though Mom has repeatedly offered to watch him — would not sit well with me. Yet, there was a time when I had to make the difficult decision to part with my pets in Jamaica.
At the time, I had a black labrador retriever named Skittles and a cat named Saosin. Five months before I left, I allowed one of my close friends to take Skittles home with her. It was tough saying goodbye to my dog, but that decision saved me a lot of money. Those dollars and cents went toward getting me set up to leave corporate behind.
Giving Up My Apartment
Giving up my dog saved me money, but the biggest expense I had was still my apartment. Paying rent accounted for nearly half my monthly salary, which as you can see, was already not enough. So, I spoke to one of my close friends and she told me to give it up and move in with her.
I bartered and sold almost all my things, I re-homed my cat with my grandma and then moved in with my friend. She had a small studio apartment, but we made it work. That was almost half my paycheck back in my pocket.
Relying on Friends
That friend was not the only one who offered to put me up. In fact, I had offers from friends even in the U.S., who were fascinated with my seemingly reckless decision and wanted a hand in it. I ended up bouncing between apartments, never staying anywhere long enough to need to pay rent.
I was glamorously homeless! Still, I made myself useful. I bought groceries, cleaned up, and offered to help out however I could. When my parents’ apartment in Atlanta got added to that list, I chipped in for a bill or two as that became my home base.
Focusing On Business
When I finally decided to settle in the U.S. for the long haul, I had no work permit. That meant even my U.S.-based clients could pay Third World pay and almost all of them did. Some months, I was lucky to walk away with $1,000. Other months, I was looking at $450. Most of that money went toward the now $5,000 in immigration fees that I’ve paid to USCIS.
I will never forget one wealthy tech client in particular who terminated my contract after I asked to be paid the U.S. minimum wage. When I got my work permit after 15 months of this, I terminated all remaining contracts. That time spent building my business on U.S. soil was not in vain though. Now, I have clients who actually value my time. My work pays my bills and I can work from the road.
Purchasing a Micro Home
While I was still playing the waiting game with Uncle Sam, my Mom and I bought a home together. My parents kept the two top floors and the attic, while we kept the semi-basement floor. My share of the mortgage for the 628 feet we occupy in the house is barely worth mentioning. And, when we leave, my parents can rent it out on Airbnb for extra income.
Over the past few years, living in that space — even factoring in the cost of renovations — has saved us a lot of money compared to renting. You can’t beat paying into something you own versus paying someone else’s mortgage. I don’t care what economists say about how much cheaper rent is this year. It’s almost always better to buy.
I’m no longer on a Third World budget. My salary is several times what it was in Jamaica. Still, I don’t make a killing. Much of the work I do are pet projects as opposed to moneymakers. This … is an excellent example! But, as long as my business can afford to give me several more years of 21 days’ worth of paid vacation time for international travel, you won’t hear me complaining.
I also want to point out that had family and friends not stepped in, I’m not sure I could have managed. They all roll their eyes when I say this and point to my tireless determination as proof of otherwise. But, in my opinion, they don’t give themselves enough credit.
How did you save up for your first big adventure? Tell me all about it in the comments below!