The 40L Life

After a brief vacation in the U.S. for my sister’s wedding, I have quickly left to Latin America once again.

This time returning to Colombia to meet up with my friend Lucas as we experiment with actually working full time while abroad, instead of only stringing along travel with minimal income.

The idea is to take out month rentals through AirBnb in different cities around Latin America and get to know new places while having a more normal life. Instead of just passing through and hitting only tourist spots, we want to work and explore the cities on nights and weekends while making friends along the way.

As we’ve found, there are many ways to make money online, but our jobs are hardly a typical 9-5. In fact this experiment is trying to figure out how to avoid the 9-5. To our advantage, price levels in Colombia are much lower than in the U.S. That means that the dollars we have coming in go a lot further down here.

Due to this I am able to work a lot less in things that actually have a guaranteed hourly rate and focus on projects that can one day turn into a viable living. It doesn’t initially seem to make sense, but I actually had to leave the U.S. in order to have the time to work on projects like Los Pinche Gringos and learn new skills for my next career (I seem to like changing it every year or 2).

In the U.S. I would have to work full time to support my living there, and honestly, I probably couldn’t afford to live there with my freelance writing and editing alone. I certainly wouldn’t have the time to be learning new things or spending the majority of each day reading or creating new things.

People often ask me how I afford to travel so much. The truth is that I pull it off by living simply. I don’t have a mortgage, I don’t own a car, I have zero monthly bills, I don’t have kids or a family to provide for… I have a 32L backpack and a smaller one to wear upfront  bringing me to about 40L of earthly possessions.

This simplified lifestyle makes it easy to travel but it also frees me up psychologically from the temptation to buy new things. Where would I put that? I don’t have any extra space.

I am at full capacity, if I buy something new, I need to get rid of something old. When I put it that way, many of my old things seem to be sufficient and therefore I don’t waste money on things I don’t need.

That is not to say I don’t spend money and that I am a miser. I still spend quite a bit and I DEFINITELY enjoy it, but it is usually on experiential items as opposed to material. I know that I receive much more utility from new experiences as opposed to new things. That is how I afford to travel so much, I only apply my resources to things associated with it.

It really comes down to what you want. But sometimes you have to think outside the box to accomplish your goals.

Slimming down my life to 40L has made it possible to stay on the road. Not many people can or would do that to travel.

Many other people also wouldn’t leave the country without a substantial savings account. I used to be that way, but now I know I can make money from anywhere and I am trusting that this new-found free time will allow me to figure out the next big thing. Through that I can use my funds to invest in different things instead of sitting on them in savings and ensuring that they won’t be used for anything besides mental insurance.

I am also trusting that the money I invest in travel is giving me an education that not many other people will ever experience. I am already a 1-percenter as far as travel is concerned, and I’m not done yet. What I really want is to create something that impacts the entire world for the better. I still have no idea what that will be but I know that new stimuli and experiences will one day illuminate that lightbulb.

This is now my main goal in life and travel is a tool for accomplishing it. A few years ago travel was the main goal, accomplishing that goal inspired a new bigger (and better) one.

Just for kicks here’s a list of my scant earthly possessions:

2 backpacks

7 shirts (1 week’s worth)

9 undies (better safe than sorry)

5 pairs of socks (sandals are better)

1 pair of jeans

1 pair of shorts

1 pair of workout/swim trunks

1 hoody/jacket (which I will throw out after leaving cold Pasto and moving to warmer climates)

1 pair of boots

1 pair of running/hiking shoes

1 pair of sandals

1 Loofa (saves on soap, removes dead skin)

10 million flossers, 1 tooth brush, 1 stick of deodorant, 1 bar of soap, 1 tiny bottle of mouth wash

GoPro and some other camera equipment for Los Pinche Gringos (all tiny and GoPro sized)

1 computer

1 iPad (for reading books)

1 electric buzzer (to keep the beard in check and hair off my head)

My most important item: A U.S. passport

And that’s pretty much it. As a bald man I have it easy — no shampoo costs or “product” — and my toiletries bag is smaller than most ladies’ Coach clutch (I think that’s what they are called). This simplified lifestyle allows me to remain mobile and not be tempted to waste money on superfluous items that won’t fit in my bag. Thanks to all the new apps and websites out there, we really don’t need to own much and I’m happy not to. You can rent fully furnished places, a snorkel mask, climbing gear… whatever, it isn’t worth lugging around for the few times you will use it.

Money is easy to make, easy to spend… use it to make your life more fun instead of spending your whole life trying to make it. Time to do the things you love is the most valuable resource of all, spend it wisely.


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