I'm currently about a month and a half into my life-changing, soul searching, press-the-reset-button-on-life trip to India and I realized that I have yet to announce my plan for the next five months.
The word "plan" may be a little too concrete though; it's more like a rough outline. When I decided to uproot my life and switch to the lifestyle I had always dreamed of living, I knew that I needed some direction.
After all, how am I supposed to book a flight if I don't know where I'm going?
I started out very unprepared and with basically no plans. A month before I left for India, I literally had no idea where on the planet I might be going. All I knew was that I was taking one small backpack and going somewhere foreign and inexpensive (at least inexpensive compared to the USA).
A few weeks before my target date (roughly the beginning of March 2010), I accepted an offer to stay with a friend from India and booked a March 13th, 2010 flight from Boston, MA (BOS) to Bangalore, India (BLR).
So it was settled. I would begin my new lifestyle in India.
But what would I do once I arrived? How much money would I need? Where would I go? When would I return? What was the purpose of this adventure?
These were important questions and without having at least a rough outline for their answers, I might be wasting both time and money. So I came up with answers to those questions and formulated the following rough plan.
The Purpose of Uprooting and Changing my Life
"The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude." - William James
The purpose was simple, but important: To reignite personal growth, rediscover who I was, and to make a childhood dream come true (to explore the world as a nomad).
I lived much of my life with this dream stuck in the back of my head. It sat there, like a patient seed waiting to be watered. A few months shy of my 28th birthday, I suddenly felt something change. I felt that I had come to the point where not watering that seed meant it would never grow, no matter how much water it was given.
I felt that this lifestyle change -- this extreme shift in the way my life operates -- just needed to happen, both for my own inner happiness and so that I could begin using my life to help others. It's a hard feeling to explain, but I knew it was both important and real.
Change inspires growth and my life felt stagnant and unchanged. My thirst for knowledge and exploration and my adventurous spirit were drying up and wilting. I was given a taste of what life would be like if nothing changed and it made me so sick that I just had to do something.
Budget & Expenses, or Frugal World Travel
Having recently gone through a bankruptcy after losing several investment properties to the subprime mortgage crisis, I didn't exactly have a ton of cash set aside to live off of. At the same time, I wasn't prepared to continue working for a few more years to save up enough money -- something told me by then it would be too late.
How much do I plan to spend?
The total amount I'm able to commit to this lifestyle without dipping into my tiny savings and without working to bring in any additional income is $3,000. That's it. Once that $3,000 is spent, I have no choice but to start working again.
Of course stretching $3,000 over six months is no small feat. The round-trip plane ticket alone cost me $1,300 and the passport and visa applications cost me around $200. That leaves me with only $1,500 for food, lodging, and transportation for six months, or $250 a month.
Minimal Living & Low Costs
Thankfully India is a relatively inexpensive place to live when compared with the USA: A cheap hotel costs $4 a night and a meal at a restaurant can be found for $0.30. Public transportation is also relatively cheap: $0.25 for a 10-mile ride in a local jeep or bus and $5 for a 200-mile bus ride in cheapest class (no A/C).
However, living inexpensive also means living uncomfortable. It means spending hours in a hot and humid bus (sometimes without a seat), crammed into an 8-person jeep with 22 other people, or sharing a hotel bed with huge cockroaches.
It means finding a small, inexpensive town and staying there. It means not traveling frequently, staying with friends or friends-of-friends whenever possible, and giving up luxury in return for freedom. It means accepting minimalism and hardship as a way of life.
Minimalism is great and hardship often strengthens us. I've always been a fan of both and I take hardship as a challenge, both mentally and physically. The more hardship I can endure, the stronger it makes me.
Is this sustainable?
The goal isn't to live like this forever. I'm not going to wait until all the money has dried up before I start looking for ways to generate income. Instead, I will use these six months to look for alternative means of income. I will be exploring several options, including freelance work, building my own business, and passive income through the web.
I'm giving myself six months to start making some form of regular income to support a mobile lifestyle. A budget of $250 a month, plus a $1,200 plane ticket every six months, means I need to generate a minimum monthly income of $450.
If I can't make it work within six months, then I will be forced to return to the lifestyle of an employee (which I assure you isn't going to happen).
Countries to Visit
After hearing my budget, you might think I'm crazy to consider visiting multiple countries (I'm beginning to wonder the same). But two other countries are on my list, mainly because I'm already in the area and because I've been invited.
This is where I began my journey. I've been in India for a little over five weeks. I've visited Bangalore where my friend let me stay for my first week. From there I took a bus west to Mangalore and then to the tiny town of Ujire, where I've been living on a remote farm for the past few weeks.
Around the middle of May I anticipate traveling north by bus and/or train through the cities of Goa, Pune, and Mumbai, before going through the state of Rajasthan and on to the city of New Dehli, where another friend has invited me to a wedding around the end of May.
A friend, whose wife is from Vietnam, is visiting for a few weeks in June and invited me to tag along. The plan is to take a plane from New Delhi to Vietnam and spend a few weeks exploring before taking a plane to Nepal.
My former boss invited me to a wedding in Nepal during the month of July. If finances allow, I will try to get a plane from Vietnam to Nepal where I will spend the month of July. Before returning to the USA, I will head back to India and continue exploring during the month of August.
Return Date and What's Next?
My Indian tourist visa allows me to stay in India for a maximum of six months, so when I booked the plane ticket I set the return date to September 10th, 2010.
I've decided that I want to continue living like this indefinitely. I know I'm only five weeks into this new lifestyle and lots could change between now and September, but one thing is for sure: I'm never returning to the consumerist life of things, bills, and "normal work".
My rough plan when I return to the USA is to visit family and friends for a month or two before heading back out.
Where I go after that will largely be determined by my finances and by the invitations I receive from friends around the world.
If no plan is perfect, then a rough outline is even less so. I anticipate plenty of challenges along the way but I'm ready to face all of them. After all, I'm living my childhood dream. What more could I ask for?
I will continue writing about this journey, the challenges, and the roadblocks along the way. Starting with next week, I will write monthly trip updates that include a financial report of how I spent my $250 monthly budget. (Update: The first Frugal Travel Report for March 2010 has been released.)
If you haven't already subscribed, please consider grabbing the RSS feed or subscribing to e-mail updates. If you have any questions or you're curious about something that I didn't explain, please leave a comment below or contact me.