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The Hourly Income Needed to Live like Royalty in Cheap Countries Overseas

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It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

Dragging yourself out of bed every morning.

Slaving away at a boring job. Day in and day out.

All just to watch your hard-earned money magically vanish when the bills are due.

It sucks.

And the worst part of it all?

Most of us have accepted it as “normal.”

It’s just what responsible adults do. If you want to afford the good life, you gotta make sacrifices. Gotta put in the time. It’s how being a grown-up works.

But tell me, what is this “good life” you speak of?

Because from where I’m sitting, it looks pretty crappy.

Let’s do something. Let’s fire up the old imagination for sec.

Let’s imagine a world where you can work shorter hours, where your money goes further, and where you aren’t a slave to your bills.

What would you do with that kind of freedom? What have you always dreamed about doing, but never had the time, money, or courage to do?

Maybe you’d finally learn to play the guitar, spend a year traveling the world, or take that million dollar idea rattling around in your head and start your own business.

Whatever it is, answer me this:

What’s stopping you?

If your answer is “money”, I got news for you.

You don’t need more money to live out your dreams. There’s another way. And you’ve been overlooking it all along. In fact, the only thing standing between you and your dream life is a choice. A choice you have the power to make.

It’s actually pretty simple.

But, when you’re in the day-to-day grind just trying to survive, it’s almost impossible to see. I sure didn’t. Luckily, my life took a U-turn leading me straight to it.

The secret?

Pay less for your bills.

Less bills = Less money needed to live = Less hours working = FREEDOM

I know, I know. Profound, right?

But, let me be clear. I’m not talking about penny-pinching or sacrificing quality of life.

So what am I talking about?

Let me show you.

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A “Lavish Lifestyle” is Different For Everyone

Before we dive into the nitty-gritties, let’s look at what a “lavish lifestyle” really means.

For some, it might mean living a basic, comfortable life, but only having to work 10 hours a week — freeing up loads of time for side-projects, hobbies, and passions.

For others, it could be continuing to work normal hours, but having enough money to live a “high-class” lifestyle. 5-star restaurants, live-in maids, cruising around town in UberBlack instead of UberX. You know, baller stuff.

fancy restaurant in Colombia
A fancy meal I could never afford back home

No matter what your lavish life looks like, one thing’s for sure:

Unless you’re earning six figures or more, It’s not gonna happen in the US (or other first-world countries, for that matter). It’s too expensive. Plain and simple.

Sorry “Average People” of America, no lavish life for you. At least not here.

Luckily, all hope is not lost. You just need to start thinking outside the box.

The Magical Places Where Your Money Lasts Forever

OK, maybe not forever. But definitely way longer.

For the following countries, I’ve included:

  • The approximate cost of living for a comfortable life (i.e. a one-bedroom apartment in the city center with all the luxuries a typical middle-class Westerner is accustomed to) OR our cost of living based on personal experience
  • The full-time hourly wage needed to pay for it
  • (Note: Does not include the cost of healthcare, insurance, or taxes)

From there, let your imagination run wild.

If you had a digital nomad job where you earned 3x, 4x, or even 5x the wage needed to live a basic, comfortable life—what would you do?

Spend more time on the activities you love? Upgrade to a luxurious life? Save up to travel around the world?

It’s all possible with an open mind.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is the #1 most popular destination for those looking to build their dream nomad life. Because of this, it’s easy to find support from other Westerners who share your life goals. That said, while Chiang Mai might be slightly cheaper, we found a super cheap luxurious apartment when living in Bangkok.

  • Average monthly expenses: $914
  • Full-time hourly wage needed: $5.68/hour
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Seoul, South Korea

While not the cheapest country on the list, South Korea is known for being one of the most lucrative places to teach English. To teach in South Korea, a college degree and TEFL certification ($50 tuition discount for my readers*) is generally all that’s required. This is one of the easiest and most popular ways to transition into international living.

(Note: Costs would be significantly lower in smaller cities)

  • Average monthly expenses: $2,004 (but only $1147 if you’re a TEFL teacher with rent included in your contract)
  • Full-time hourly wage needed: $12.50/hour (or $7.17/hour if you don’t need to pay rent)

Rethymno, Greece

South America and Asia aren’t the only cheap places to live. If you think Europe might be more your style, then Greece is a no-brainer. It offers the best value in Europe by far. You don’t need to make $10k a month to live in luxury here.

  • Average monthly expenses: $952
  • Full-time hourly wage needed: $5.95/hour
picture of navagio in greece
Navagio, Greece

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Does the thought of traveling to the other side of the world seem a bit intimidating? Luckily for Americans, you can start digital nomad life by simply crossing the border to our southern neighbor, Mexico. Here, your money instantly becomes more powerful, and you’re only a quick flight from home.

  • Average monthly expenses: $1,575
  • Full-time hourly wage needed: $9.85/hour
Tulum, Mexico

USA (van life)

This may sound crazy, but if you’re interested in van life, you can actually live a pretty awesome lifestyle in the U.S. for cheap. We were shocked at how little we spent per month, (see details in our full monthly van life expenses breakdown), while still eating yummy food and visiting loads of amazing places. It was super easy to cover these expenses with our van life jobs.

  • Average monthly expenses: $1440 (for two people)
  • Full-time hourly wage needed: $4.50/hour (per person)
Roadtrek camper van parked in front of Grand Teton mountains
Grand Teton National Park, USA

Cali, Colombia

The last destination on our list has a special place in my heart and is my personal home base. Cali Colombia is less touristy than the other cities we’ve looked at, so your money will go even further. Here, in the “Salsa Dancing Capital of the World” — life is good, and life is cheap.

  • Average monthly expenses: $784
  • Full-time hourly wage needed: $4.87/hour
Discoteca La Topa Tolondra, Cali, Colombia

And more…

This is by no means an exhaustive list. For even more ideas, check out these 15 countries where you can live on $1000 per month or less.

So, What’s the Catch?

Seem too good to be true?

It’s really not. But, there are some things to consider.

Right now, you earn in US dollars (or CAD, EUR, AUD, GPD, etc). These are strong currencies. That’s why all these places seem so cheap.

But from a local’s perspective, it’s a different story.

Spending $250 for rent seems like a steal for us. But what if the average full-time salary in that country is only $500 per month?

Not so great.

So, before rushing off to buy that plane ticket to come live the dream life with me in Colombia, take a deep breath, and let’s do some planning.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll just pick up any old job in your new country and live happily ever after in Luxuryville. Do this, and you’ll find yourself stuck in the same trap as before — working long hours just to get by.

But that’s not the idea. You want freedom. Luxury. A lavish life. Remember?

So, here’s a better plan.

The Secret to “The Good Life”

The key to affording your dream lifestyle is earning in a strong currency while living in a “cheap” country (i.e. with a weaker currency). The bigger the gap in currency strength, the more your money will be worth.

It’s that simple.

But how do you do it?

Well, you’ve got options. There are tons of travel jobs out there. Most fall into one of three categories:

1. Save. Travel. Repeat.

Work and save in the US, move to a cheap country, live like royalty until your money runs out, return to US, rinse and repeat.

This strategy looks different depending on your earnings, lifestyle, and the country you’d like to move to.

But, let’s say by cutting expenses and working extra hours, you’re able to save $5000 in 3 months. With $5000, you can live comfortably in Thailand for at least 5 months. More likely six or more once you learn the tricks of living like a local.

Get the idea?

2. Work remotely

Find US companies that hire remote workers. Remote work is becoming more and more popular, and there’s tons of opportunities out there.

Another option is to set up a remote working arrangement with your current employer.

Don’t think that’s possible? You’d be surprised. (Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek, will show you how)

Whichever you choose, just make sure to use a bank designed for digital nomads that won’t rob you in fees whenever you need to receive a payment or transfer yourself money.

3. Start your own online business

Harness the power of the internet to either:

  1. Sell products and services to customers in first-world countries.
  2. Teach English online to students in foreign countries.

This strategy allows for ultimate flexibility. You’re the boss. Work from wherever your heart desires as long as you have an internet connection.

To do this, you do NOT need a business degree, you do NOT have to be a computer programmer, and you do NOT need a lot of money to invest.

In fact, you can learn everything you need to know using free resources on the internet (just be careful who you listen to).

Your best bet is combining the above strategies in whatever way feels most comfortable and works best for you.

(Want to learn more about starting an online business you can work on from anywhere in the world? Check out the Location Rebel website and my Location Rebel Academy Review for tons of great resources and advice).

The cool part about these strategies is instead of taking from the local economy, you are supporting it. This is one of the reasons why tourism is so important.

Can “Normal” People Actually Live Like This?

First of all, if you were a “normal” person, you wouldn’t have read this far. You made it here because you don’t want a “normal” life. You’re different. You want more.

And you’re not the first. In fact, there are millions of people living their dream lives in amazing countries that have lower costs of living. Awesome people like:

Nick Wharton & Dariece Swift

Photo: Goats on the Road
  • Left their boring lives behind and flew across the globe, where they were able to save $21,000 in one year teaching English in China (working only 20 hours/week!).
  • Taking this first step outside their comfort zone opened up opportunities they never imagined possible.
  • Now, they live like royalty running one of my favorite travel blogs, Goats on the Road, from all over the world.

Amy Scott

Photo: Nomadtopia
  • Built up her savings before quitting her office job to travel the world — completely changing the trajectory of her life.
  • Settled down in Argentina, where the lower cost of living gave her some breathing room while she built her editing business.
  • Today, she’s living her dream life in Mexico City where, in addition to her editing work, she runs the inspiring Nomadtopia podcast and community helping others create and thrive in their location-independent lifestyles.

Caz and Craig Makepeace

Photo: Y Travel Blog

  • Left on a 5-year honeymoon three days after getting married and were living the dream.
  • That dream came crashing down after losing $500,000 in a bad real estate investment forcing them to move back in with their parents—riddled with debt—in their mid-30s.
  • Through grit, determination, and a passion for their work, they’ve risen from the ashes and now run one of Australia’s most popular travel blogs—allowing them to travel the world permanently with their 2 daughters.

Yours Truly

And then there’s me.

This “secret” has literally changed my life.

I left the US three years ago completely burnt out. My life consisted of waking up before sunrise, working until after sunset, scrambling to run errands and do chores, and finally trying to squeeze in some sleep. Day after day after day.

Sound familiar?

Free time to pursue a passion or start my own business? Ha!

Fast forward to where I am now. I can’t pretend to have it all figured out, but I have been able to:

  • Travel for 10+ months through Central and South America
  • Spend the last two years learning to start my own online business while working minimally to support myself
  • Use my newfound free time and extra money to take 2–4 hours of salsa dancing classes almost every day for the past year
  • Hire a nice lady to cook, do my laundry, and deep clean my apartment once a week
  • And wake up to this every morning
beautiful view Cali Colombia
Good morning, Colombia 🌞

All for less than $1000 per month.

And none of it would have been possible if I wouldn’t have stepped out of my comfort zone and left the US.

Most of you will read this, dream for a second, and then forget about it as you slip back into the grind. It’s safe there. You might not be happy, but at least you’re safe. Reading about the secret to building your dream life is great. But actually taking action? Now, that’s just too scary.

But a few of you are going to get it.

You’re going to see how having an open mind unlocks unlimited possibilities. How it’s worth stepping away from your comfort zone to build the life you want. And how it’s not actually a sacrifice, but an adventure.

For those people, the ones who are truly ready for a change, I’d like to issue a challenge. It may seem like a silly exercise at first, but trust me — it’s extremely powerful.

I want you to think back to the dream life you imagined earlier, write it down, and post it on your fridge. (Bonus — add in some accountability by posting it in the comments below as well)

That’s it.

There’s something magical about putting your dreams down on paper. It takes vague thoughts floating around in your head, brings them into the world, and makes them tangible. Being able to see exactly what you want in life in your own handwriting, and seeing it every day —is the first step in making it a reality.

Now go take that step.

For a step-by-step blueprint on how to become a digital nomad, check out the video below:

Like it? Pin it?

The hourly income needed to afford a life of luxury in cheap countries (Title Image)

Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Travel Planning Resources - Everything you need to plan your trip on one convenient page.
Going Cheap Flights Newsletter - Get flight deals from your airport up to 90% off sent straight to your inbox.
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills. - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).


Friday 22nd of February 2019

Hi Mitch! I appreciate your style of writing and sharing things in an easy to comprehend manner. Not only this, most of the articles on your blog are a good read. Way to go man.


Friday 22nd of February 2019

Thanks! I'm glad you're finding them valuable!

Kristen @ One Bag Nomad

Thursday 10th of January 2019

Great post, Mitch! You're right, working remotely or doing the travel-save-travel routine can give you a completely different lifestyle than what you'd be able to have back home. My partner and I have been able to put more money into savings while traveling full time than we ever did living life in the US -- all while seeing and doing amazing things all over the world. If you take the time to create your own lifestyle, you really can live in ways that seem unrealistic to most. It just takes a lot of strategizing and motivation (and, you know, some hard work thrown in)! Thanks for sharing!


Thursday 10th of January 2019

Totally agree! Before I left on my first trip, I NEVER would have imagined all the different lifestyles that are possible (if you're willing to create them). Back then, all I wanted to do was become a Physical Therapist. I was so focused on my goal that I closed myself off to any other opportunities. I think this happens with a lot of people. And once you have those blinders on, it takes something significant to pry them off. You're also completely right about the strategizing, motivation, and hard work (should probably throw patience in there as well). I forgot to mention that in my post. It's an incredible lifestyle, but it doesn't happen by itself (and it's not for everyone). Proactivity is key. Anyway, thanks for the great insights! Cheers!


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