“Travel Hacking: How I Live Without An Income” (From Accountancy to TEFL #6)

"Travel Hacking: How I Live Without An Income" (From Accountancy to TEFL #6)

About the ACC to TEFL Series: In this series, I recount my journey, logic and reasoning behind making the shift from accountancy in Reno, NV to TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) in Bangkok, Thailand.


How To Prep (Financially) For After College

When I was in Reno as an accountant, my colleagues found my lifestyle (from what they could see) strange. Up until that point, I had spent a lot of time in college reading personal finance blogs. 


Safe to say I had a solid grasp of basic finance that was supposed to have been taught in school (but wasn’t):

  1. Save 10% of your income (I saved 50%)
  2. Put these savings in sound investments
  3. Say no to credit card debt (credit cards are like fire, they can be your friend if you know what you’re doing)
  4. A theoretical knowledge of stock investment and rental real estate
  5. Understanding of the power of compounding interest and how it can work for or against you
  6. Knowledge is how to read financial statements

Saving After College

I was lucky and escaped college with 4 figure student loan debt. Entering the work force I knew I didn’t want to stay long term. So I saved in all the ways I could think of at the time. 

  1. I didn’t have a social life so I didn’t have a clubbing/alcohol expense (I read books and wrote a book instead)
  2. No eating out, cereal for breakfast, 2 hot pockets for lunch and a microwave meal for dinner (sometimes in the supermarket I would debate whether to stick with the standard $3 meal or splurge on the $4 one.)
  3. I cut my own hair (still do.)
  4. Basic, unfurnished studio apartment without cable or internet in a sketchish, partially boarded up part of town. I furnished it with a brokenish chair I picked up off the street, didn’t have a table. I started off sleeping on the floor with a sleeping bag, I eventually bought a camping cot because I tired of my mom moaning about me sleeping on the floor. 
  5. I didn’t have a car, so I made the 30 minute walk to work (which is what my colleagues found strange) in scorching heat to Sierra Nevada snowstorms. One time I remember I was walking in a foot of snow during a snowstorm. One section of the sidewalk was cleared of snow with a steep driveway cutting through it. It was super icy and I slipped and fell right in front of a car pulling out. I crawled out of the way to let the car pass. 
The chair I picked up off the street. I wiped the mud off it.
Camping cot for a bed. Better then a sleeping bag

All the while I read travel blogs to prepare myself for the time when I would make my move. Research included locations, accommodations, gear (which I listed in this post), visas, common scams, budgeting, and travel hacking

Detailing All The Gear I Brought

Guide to Travel Hacking


Many credit card companies offer large sign up bonuses as incentives if you spend a certain amount. Easy, no need to spend more. What I did was:

  1. Sign up for Venmo (similar to PayPal),
  2. Set up a Venmo account for my mom (she’s not tech savvy),
  3. “Pay” her with the new credit card that is linked to Venmo,
  4. Once the money is in her account I transferred it back to myself less fees.

This process is called “manufactured spending” amongst the travel hacking community. 


These hacks are enough to allow several transcontinental flights between the US and Asia for me and my mom plus a handful of complimentary airport lounge passes. 

COL (Cost of Living) Arbitrage


Even as a teacher in Thailand after I left the States. I learned I was being paid 3 times the salary of a local teacher (as I outlined here) even though I was trained as an accountant not a teacher. This was because of basic supply and demand (lots of local Thai teachers and very few native English speakers). 

All the while I lived like a local:

  1. I lived in an apartment complex where I was the only Westerner
  2. I ate street food, in local restaurants, 711s
  3. Took the metro/buses

This allowed me to save close to $10,000 in less then a year in the Thai capital.


The savings between these 2 jobs allows me to live in developing countries without an income for the next 3 years while I work on making something happen. All the while exploring the world, it’s people and careers. 


At the cost of a car, a (real) bed, fancy grub and nights out partying. 
I don’t know about you, but I’m more then willing to make this trade off.


So one more housekeeping item to take care of in Reno, NV. February 2019, I sent the toughest email I’ve ever had to send in my life,


3 Week Notice.


Next stop,

Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Last Day As An Accountant, March 2019. Just a starry eyed youth with big teeth and bigger dreams.

What do you think? Would you do the same things I did?


Previous Posts:

“Going Practical” (From Accountancy to TEFL #1)

“Caught in a Rat Race” (From Accountancy to TEFL #2)

“Plan But Leave Room For Adjustments” (From Accountancy to TEFL #3)

“A Wrong Does Not Right A Wrong” (From Accountancy to TEFL #4)

“Are You Part of the Cargo or Member of the Crew?” (From Accountancy to TEFL #5)


10 thoughts on ““Travel Hacking: How I Live Without An Income” (From Accountancy to TEFL #6)

  1. As a mother myself, I can sympathize with your mom worrying about you sleeping on the floor. I can only imagine how she felt about you living in a sketchy neighborhood and jeeze, I hope you didn’t tell her about slipping in front of that car because I would have had a heart attack if one of my kids went through that. (They’ve actually had their own “let’s give Mom a cardiac” adventures; I guess my heart is stronger than I give it credit.) But I do give you credit for being so focused on saving money towards the goal of traveling. A friend’s son bought a BMW (used) shortly after he got his first job out of college; not only was he on the hook for $450 a month payments, but he was still making payments on his student loans. Then the car broke down while he was on vacation at a ski resort; he had to pay $250 to have a tow truck bring it back to civilization, then borrow money from my friend to get it fixed, which wasn’t cheap. He’s now back living with his parents until he’s paid back the loan he took from them, plus his car and his student loans. I don’t think he’s taken a vacation in a while, either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing the story about your friends son, I knew and suspected so many classmates that were in a similar boat.

      And haha, no I never told my mom about falling, there were (and still are) many phone conversations I have with her and she asks me a tough question and I answer “uhhhhh, kkkkkkkkk, you’re breaking up mom gotta go!”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: “The Heart of Loneliness” (From Accountancy to TEFL #7) – Kingston S. Lim

  3. Pingback: “Align Principles With Action” (Wiser Next Week: On Goals and Persistence) – Kingston S. Lim

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