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How To Do Long Term Travel

How To Do Long Term Travel

Over the past two years, I’ve lived in 9 different countries, each for a stint of 1-6 months. To the average onlooker, it would appear that this kind of lifestyle is difficult,  especially for someone of middle class means. It’s easier than you might think.

The underreported story of our time is the affordability and ease of travel.  And even during the age of COVID19, it’s still possible to be an internationalist—or a digital nomad.

I probably don’t need to sell you on the desirability of this lifestyle. Travel is a dream for so many—an integral part of a life well lived in the 21st century. I think it’s entirely likely that Instagram is at least half comprised of ridiculous fetishizations of admittedly picturesque landscapes.  We all want to experience that life, if only a little.

Of course, I assume that aspiring internationalists already have a plan to finance their lifestyle. In my case, I run a fully remote digital marketing agency. In any event, monthly income is a question for another day.  So, for many prospective perpetual travelers, the considerations become more practical.
– How will I find monthly accommodations in foreign countries?
– What will I do for transportation?
– How do I insure myself?
– How do I pursue long-term visas?
– Is the infrastructure robust?
– What about the healthcare systems if I get sick?
– And how can I keep my costs down?

Allow me to summarize the strategies I’ve implemented.

Let’s start first with…

There are two primary accommodation platforms I use to find short-term rentals: Airbnb and Booking.com. With both platforms, I limit my searches in each new city to fully private rentals with
air conditioning and WiFi. From there, I create lists of listings that would meet my most basic needs.

After that, I look at where my listings are concentrated on the map. This gives me an important signal of which neighborhoods I may prefer—then I actually research each neighborhood. At this point, I eliminate those listings that are situated poorly. I’m especially preoccupied with proximity to a handful of cafes and a grocery store. This is important if I don’t intend to rent a scooter, which is often unviable in many places. Finally, I search the neighborhood on Instagram. This gives me a sense of each neighborhood’s vibe.

Once, I’ve settled on a few neighborhoods, I then contact Airbnb hosts individually to make an offer for a three-month stay. In this way, I’ve often secured incredible apartments at hugely discounted rates—probably close to what locals would otherwise pay. I offer to pay via Airbnb or pay in cash upon arrival. Many hosts will prefer the security of Airbnb, but there are also those
hosts who prefer to avoid the fees associated with the platform, which are often 3-5%.

At this point, I sit back and wait for the responses. Half of the hosts consider my offers laughably low; the smart ones think beyond their weekly or daily rates. These are the hosts who I negotiate with and ultimately settle with on various terms. In some cases, they’ll accept my offer on the condition that I pay for utilities. In most cases, my offer is accepted outright.

This strategy has played especially well during the pandemic. Once again, we must all surrender to the immutable laws of supply and demand—in the renter’s favor this time. In my own case, I’ve recently secured three months in Moorea, French Polynesia for a studio apartment at $1,100 per month. Comparably, I used to pay $1500+ to live (unhappily) in Washington, DC.

Negotiate relatively hard. The way your host responds also suggests how they’ll be as landlords. I’m often willing to pay the asking price for responsive, cordial hosts. Trust me, it’s worth the added

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So, we’ve addressed an accommodation strategy.

But what about…

Let’s assume you’re looking to live in Chiang Mai, Thailand. If you’re like me, you prefer to zip around on a scooter.  Travel forums will be your friend in this regard, and some experience with
Google’s advanced search functions will help.

First, start by searching for “Chiang Mai Scooter Rental”, and limit those results to any published within the last year. Without this limitation, you’ll be inundated with outdated threads from
TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet. These forums have their place but will hamper your efforts in this case.

I also recommend that you join local expat Facebook groups and inquire there (this is also an invaluable accommodation strategy). Be ready to check your hidden Facebook inbox, because locals may reach out to you via Facebook Messenger rather than responding directly to your Facebook group post.

Next, let’s consider…

First, it’s important to distinguish between basic travel insurance and travel health insurance. There are a number of travel insurance companies that will protect you against catastrophic events, but you will not be insured for many other costly possibilities.

For long-term travel, it’s recommended to carry both travel insurance and travel health insurance. In this way, you are protected against the risks you face during particular travel periods, while also protecting yourself against any costs for treatments of serious illnesses or accidents. With both types of coverage, I strongly recommend that you purchase coverage that include COVID-19 treatment. Personally, I pay about $200 per month for both types of coverage combined.

Determining questions of infrastructure, quality of healthcare, cost of living, and general convenience is quite easy these days. To get insight into most major destinations, check NomadList.com. There you can determine the average rental prices, the Big Mac Index, and even things like air quality, English proficiency, and popular mobile data providers.

For a second check on cost of living, I use Numbeo.com. You can easily determine the average costs of many categories, although lesser traveled destinations will have fewer (and less reliable) data points. I’ve also recently taken to reading personal travel blogs to glean insights.

One of the best ways to find blogs is by searching “How to Spend 5/10 days in DESTINATION”, “Nomad DESTINATION”, or “Daily Life in DESTINATION.” Good travel bloggers optimize their content for these kinds of searches, and the content is often authentic and therefore more trustworthy.

Finally, let’s quickly touch on…

I can only speak from my experience as an American, but this part hasn’t been particularly onerous. I usually find the rules to extend my tourist visa first from independent travel blogs, which link to official sources—hopefully in English. And to make life easier, I recommend that you carry 10 passport sized photos in all the possible sizes so that you may quickly include those in any visa application.

Travel is made even more difficult in the age of COVID, when many countries will require a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure. But once we get over this health crisis, I look forward to traveling as freely as I have for the past two years leading up to this moment. With the right preparation, you, too, can pursue an international lifestyle. Even right now, it’s not as difficult as you may imagine.

Clint Townsend is a rootless cosmopolitan and citizen of Earth who looks forward to a future without borders and government as we know it. As a solopreneur, he runs a boutique digital marketing and web design agency, and he loves working with companies and projects that advance a freer world.
Follow Clint on Twitter @RovingClint