Posts

How I Lowered my Debt and Reduced Spending to “Afford” Traveling the World

Luisa and I are trying something new. We are going to work together at least three-times a week to share our knowledge and we are stepping out of our comfort zones to create content in different formats.

This week, we are focusing on the basis of our ability to travel and work remotely, managing our finances. Listen to our story in this podcast!

What is a Fair Wage for Digital Nomad?

I want to talk about two things: Privilege and the Support of the Internet

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, ocean, outdoor and nature

Let’s talk about the first one.

First, I am the definition of a digital nomad, a popular term that came about as a result of people being able to make money online. It’s cool, but it’s hard.

In the last year and a half, I have transitioned from having a full-time job to finding freelance work, to structuring my business around what I want to do–travel. Do I make a TON of money? No. I actually make a lot less than before. But I spend my time doing the things I want to do. I’ve seen 12 countries, and I’ve learned two languages.

Why don’t I make more money? One cool thing about being American is that I have the PRIVILEGE of being a citizen of a country with a strong economy. Economies are so cool for us because we can make 50 dollars, and it spends like 100 dollars parts in South America or like 150 dollars in parts of Asia. But when you travel, you learn to see your privilege, and you shouldn’t flaunt it. You appreciate what you are given and humbly accept it. A South American would have to work twice as hard to make money and travel. In parts of Asia, it’s nearly impossible.

True digital nomads know how to use economies, and they play their money that way. But when you work online, your job–no matter what you do– is oversaturated with competition.

When I began my life digital nomad, I immediately took to writing. Why? All you need is a computer and some writing skill, right? After all, I have a degree in writing. That automatically makes me qualified. In fact, I taught writing for nine years. Who wouldn’t want to hire me?

Logistics:

It takes me about 1.5-2.0 hours to write a 500-word blog. From inspiration to SEO optimized. It comes out with a specialized tone, a custom call-to-action, proofreading, and unlimited revisions. I am a fast writer by most standards. If I were working for minimum wage, that article would be $14.50. However, in the age of the internet, the average article of 500 words from a website like Freelancer or Fiverr is $5.00. Mind you, the quality of writing is nowhere near mine. Never the less, who is going to pay 15 dollars when they THINK they could pay $5.00?

This works because of economies. The native language in most parts of India, Singapore, and Kenya is English. In Kenya, an average meal is less than 5 dollars. They can work for less money, because the US dollar has more value.

The reality is, I can only afford to Freelance online and travel if I stay in countries with emerging economies.

Does this mean social class should limit the freedom of being a nomad?

Thankfully, my business has grown. Now, I do more than writing content for the internet. I’ve been blessed with some amazing opportunities to showcase my skills, and I am now a communication consultant. But I still get asked to write from time to time.

Shocker, I have to outsource my writing.

I recently made a post in a digital nomad community:

“MAKE MONEY WHILE TRAVELING!

I am looking for a contract writer. The writer would work remotely and make $10-35 USD weekly. Great opportunity for digital nomads. Prefer US Citizen of legal age to work.

The company specializes in communication strategies, making sure businesses project the right message to grow.

The writer I am looking for would provide white-label blog articles for companies. This means his/her name will not be associated with the article, and the article and ideas belong to the client.

We have a profile of all of our companies, including their website, an overview of the company, their target audience, and the tone they would like to use. Sometimes the client will provide references, but this is not always the case. We also keep sample articles on file for each company.

Articles are 500-1000 words long and relatively error-free. They must be 100% plagiarism free. I edit every article before submitting it to the client, and I may provide feedback on your writing. A good opportunity to become more professional in your writing skills.

If you are still interested or know someone who is, we can run a test on his/her writing. It is a test not only of writing skill, but his/her communication, problem-solving, ability to complete tasks quickly, and whether or not he/she LIKES my process.

If both agree it is a good fit I will pay $10 for any article after the sample. What do you think? Do you want to give it a try? Message me.”

In a community that supposedly understands the economics of travel, I was laughed at. Not a single comment was positive.

“Should I think of this as an opportunity?”
“Guys, what am I going to do with all that cash?”
“Wow! It looks like I can quit my 9-5.”

Is it a fair wage?

Let’s say no. Let’s say that by breaking it down by the hour, it is less than minimum wage (and it is less than $7.25 per hour). As one person put it, anything less than 10 cents per word is ridiculous. After all, he works in translation and never has charged less than 13 cents per word.

How many of you would pay 65 dollars for one page of writing? Let’s imagine is takes him 30 minutes to translate one page. Are you willing to pay in 130 dollars per hour to translate a page? Yes, you would if that document were worth 3000 dollars in new clients. But the reality is, someone in Bangladesh would do the translation for 5 dollars and be thrilled. Someone in college would to the translation for 5 dollars in be thrilled.

When I offer to pay 10 dollars for 500 words, it’s not a fair wage by privileged American standard. But let’s be honest, $10-35 is never meant to be a 9-5 job. But it is DOUBLE the average on freelancer websites. Mind you, I still have to manage the writers, edit their work, and forward it to the client.

 

The reality:

You can’t pay an amateur writer “fair” wages. No one is willing to pay “fair” wages. But you can offer work for its market value. I lived off of its market value. Maybe that’s why it upset me so much.

I call it a “great opportunity” because when I was first starting out my life as a digital nomad, 10 dollars would put a roof over my head for a day.

For the jackasses who want to laugh at 10 dollars, the job clearly is not for you. Being a digital nomad provides you with the privilege to see to the world. Why don’t you take that opportunity and use it to realize that 10-35 dollars weekly is nothing to laugh at. People are struggling for money all over the world. Some someone traveling around the world could, at times, live off of $10-35/weekly.

I can take that work and use it to buy three articles and pay even less “fair” wages by spending it on Fiverr or buy I can offer to buy one article from a person in a group that I share common interests and values with.

Now I want to talk about the support of the internet. You think that because you are hiding behind your computer you are free to say what you want and act how you want. If you were standing in a room full of people and someone said: “Hey, I have to an opportunity for someone to make a little extra money, who is interested?” How appropriate is it to laugh and make fun? To openly criticize? Statistics say that 38% of Americans are financially unstable. In a room full of 4000 (about the size of the group), 1520 are financially unstable or worse. Statistics show that 532 of those people are actively looking for opportunities to make more money.

In a real room full of people, you’d keep your laughs among your privileged groups of friends.

Give me Energy

Yesterday I stood in line with Luisa waiting to have her schedule approved at the University. I stood in this same spot with her last year in August, and we hopped line to line, laughing in frustration at the inefficiency of the system.

I recall it taking a full day to register for classes, have them approved, and pay for them. With no data attached to my phone, and with the looming danger having nice electronics stolen, last year I sat in line bored, unable to talk, and hungry. I entertained myself by talking to Luisa and wondering what the people around us thought of my presence: a strange girl at the local university who couldn’t speak Spanish.

I was parallelized by the fear of walking 12 steps away to a shop selling sandwiches. Despite my hunger, Luisa was prodding me to ask for sandwich: “me vendes un sándwich por fiz.” She stuffed bills in my pockets, repeating the phrase over and over, nudging me. Be Brave. But I couldn’t do it. I handed the money back to her and asked her to step out of line to do it for me. When she came back, I was disappointed in her for not thinking to buy water. And I was disappointed in myself for not stepping up to ask for my own food. Is not that the basic skill of survival?

Yesterday, After staying up late, and standing at a street corner for 45 minutes waiting for a bus with standing space, we were tired. Luisa mentioned how maybe a Gatorade would provide her with the energy to enduring the stupidity of the waiting process. I was just bored.

I scanned the area looking for anything to relieve us, and I saw a store across the street. “Wait here,” I told Luisa. “I am going to go get us something to drink.”

When I approached the old woman running the 40 square-foot storefront, she greeted me the way it is customary in Colombia. When they say hello, they do it three times. When they say goodbye, they say it 5 times: “Buenos dias! Bienvenido. A la orden.” Her skin a lovely golden brown, and her voice both soft and harsh. Good morning! Welcome. I’m at your service if you need anything.

I asked her if she had drinks, and she pointed me to glass shelf which displayed the 6-8 options–not like the 50 choices in a US convenience store. Of the few options, half of them were juice. Not high-fructose corn syrup juice, real juice with sugar and water. For me, an apple juice box sounded good, and I got an energy drink for Luisa. I asked the woman how much I owed her and was surprised to hear only 1200 COP, the equivalent of about $1.40. I tucked my change in my pocket and wandered back to Luisa, who had advanced one place in the line since I left.

While I knew I did not want the energy drink, I offered her both drink options out of courtesy, and she left me with the apple juice. She offered me a sip, and I obliged, even knowing I hate energy drinks. They are syrupy and overly sweet. Their intense carbonation burns my nose, and they leave a sugary coating on my teeth. I took a sip anyway, and was surprised to find that it was quite different from what I expected. Yes, sweet, but not like drinking kids candy. Slightly effervescent, and citrusy. Certainly, nothing to make me cheat on my apple juice, but better than I’d thought.

I plunged my straw into the box and sipped away carelessly reflecting on the ease of my purchase. Just a year ago in nearly this same location, I was too paralyzed to buy a sandwich. Now, the act seemed natural: When you want something, go buy it. I not only learned the minimum vocabulary to make a purchase, I learned courtesy of saying hello and goodbye, how to tuck my cash away in the store before I stepped foot into the street to be safer, and how to entertain myself in line by talking to people I never could before.

When we got all the paperwork finished, we took a bus back to the house. Buses are so full in Bogota, that you are considered lucky to get a seat. We made due by sharing a seat on the way back. As we did, I realized how much I have truly changed in the last six months. Not just my accent nor my experience, but I am a braver person than I ever thought I would be. Of course, it does not require much bravery to order a sandwich or ask for some drinks. But those little braveries led to big ones, like traveling to Peru by myself and climbing Machu Picchu. Boarding buses to unknown cities for the sake of adventure.

It’s been a hell of and adventure, and I am proud of how far I have come.

Skinny: Not a Fancy Title

I have a confession to make. I make this confession not as a writer, not as a traveler, not as a business person.

 

I know more about working out than any gym-goer I know. I know more about nutrition than my athlete friends. But I will never tell them. When I was was a teacher, I remember having a conversation in the teacher’s lounge over lunch about how tough it is to get into the mindset of healthy eating and going to the gym regularly–She was in her mid-thirties, not fat, but not skinny.  I was in my mid-twenties and thin by most standards–I tried to give her some tips and empathize with her, but she cut me off, clicking her tongue: “You’ve never struggled with weight in your life!”

 

But I do.

 

I make this confession as a woman who has struggled with my self-image all of my life.

 

For as long as I can remember, I have had an unhealthy relationship with food. When I was 11, I kept a bucket under my bed so I could throw up my dinner at night without my parents knowing it. I would wait for them to fall asleep and go to the bathroom to empty it, rinse it out, and use it the next night. I read blogs studying the best laxatives for weight control. Now, I have to drink Miralax at least every-other day to make sure I can regulate my digestion. I do not know if its a result of my youth eating habits or just coincidence. I’ll never ask my doctor.  

 

I love food. I love to cook. I love to experience new tastes and cultures.

 

No one knows this torture inside of me. My family does not know. My friends do not know. My clients do not know. Sometimes I worry, “does my dentist know?” My girlfriend once told me about her ex who she thought was immature for being bulimic, and I said nothing for a week about my teenage years–even then, I only mentioned my teenage years…Not my daily arguments with myself about food, water, and exercise.

 

What qualifies as healthy? Just because I LOOK healthy. I EAT healthily. I EXERCISE…It does not mean I am healthy. I am constantly tangled in a battle, balancing the healthy body with the healthy mindset. Is is healthy to obsess over anything?

 

I have an eating disorder.

I would never feel comfortable saying it aloud to anyone. I didn’t have an eating disorder. I HAVE an eating disorder. It’s always with me like a phantom sucking my soul. I do not know how to get rid of it. To my alcoholic readers, I know what it is like to struggle every day with the decision. Do I eat it? If I do, how will I recover?

 

Do I purge it? If I do, how will I recover?

 

Food is like a drug for me. I tell you I do not want to go to a buffet because I do not have self-control. I will eat. I will even over eat and justify it as a celebration with my loved ones. I can only have 2-3 plates because you will want me to “enjoy myself” or “make the money worth it.” I do it for you. But I will come home and step on the scale to shame myself. I will spend an hour in the bathroom making myself feel bad. Why didn’t I stand up for myself!? Like food is the bully breaking me down. I do not puke anymore. But I think about it every day. I fight the urge every day. Usually, I win the battle. But not always.

 

When I was 11, I started eating all of my meals with egg spoons to slow down my eating pace. It’s not a cute quirk. It’s a tool for self-control. At home, I eat all of my meals off tea platters leaving at least two centimeters of porcelain around for the edges. Yes, this is a healthy portion, but again, a tool for self-control.

 

Even when I am eating healthy, I am counting. I know how many calories are in the yolk of a large egg; I know the difference between 4.5 ounces of chicken and 6 ounces without weighing it. I know exactly what two tablespoon of mayonnaise looks like. And I try to be discreet. I hope no one notices how often I say “Man, I ate too much!” I do not want anyone to hear my internal battle. I worry about what they would THINK  of my obsessions.

 

I know I have a nice body. I know I am not fat. I have a beautiful face when I wear a size 14, and I have a beautiful face when I wear a size four. To my transgender friends, I know what it is like to look in the mirror and be disappointed by what you see. To be so unhappy in your skin that you want to die. That was me four years ago at my peak weight of 178lbs in the morning. Broke down on the floor of a Gordman’s dressing room, I would stop at nothing to change the reflection looking back at me.

I overcame my fear of gyms and learned a new obsession.

You may tell me, “Kelli you are skinny! You are beautiful.” But even when I am being “healthy” I’m not. Don’t assume it’s easy for some people and not others. I weight myself every day. Twice a day, sometimes three or four. Always naked. It is the first thing I do every morning; I pee to relieve myself of water weight; I take off my clothes; and I step on to wait for the diagnosis. When I step on the scale in the morning, I can determine the quality of my mood that day based on the number I see. When I go to bed at night, and the scale says 136.4, I know exactly how much I will weigh in the morning if I get 6 hours of sleep versus 9 hours of sleep. Sometimes, I sleep three extra hours to avoid thinking about food for three more hours. When I have my period, I hold arguments with myself over whether it is water weight or that slice of cake. No. I cannot even enjoy a beer because I am thinking about the cost. And when I look in the mirror, I can physically see the difference between 129 and 132. My scale is like a drug for me.

 

No one looks at me and says, “Kelli, you look like you put on 2 pounds.”

 

I am not telling you this for you to remind me how beautiful I am. Nor do I want you to think I am crazy. I am saying this to let you know that yes, I am a happy girl. I am a lovely girl. I am a smart girl. I am kind. And I have a horrible affliction, one that someone could easily judge me by. Please do not.

 

Everyone has a horrible affliction.

 

I hate our culture for serving up huge portions and making fun of my decisions to share my dinner at a restaurant and order water. I am not cheap.I am sparing myself the judgment of overeating, and now I hate to worry about the judgment of you thinking I am poor or just do not want to tip more.  

 

I judge too. When I see an obese person, I think to myself “why do they not have more self-control?!” And I am no better, because I fight too hard to gain control, that in the end, I lose it.

 

I judge my sister. Not for her weight; I tell her all of the time, “you worry too much! Why are you so anxious? Why do you care so much about what other people think?” Why do I say these things to her? The person I judge the most is myself. If I knew who ANYONE judged her the way I judge myself, I’d kill them. I want her to be free of judgment. I want her to be herself.

 

I lie to other people when I tell them that I do not have anxiety as bad as her. I just control it in such a quiet way. This control is like a drug to me. I HAVE to have it. To have self-control is to be poised. Lovely. Lady-like.

 

I want to be skinny like the girls in Paris, but I am not a small-framed woman. I have a small waist, but a big butt, big hips, naturally large breasts. In my culture, to be pretty is to be girly. To be girly is to be small. I curse myself sometimes thinking “It’s not fair.” Why do I have to work so hard to feel like a woman?

 

Moreover,

 

Why do I have to feel attractive to feel in-control, or in-control to feel attractive…to feel I have power in my life.

 

This is my point. Body shaming is not just a problem for just heavy women. Shaming is a problem. Period.

 

Believe me; I am a SMART woman. I know the difference between rhetoric that builds up a society, and rhetoric that makes us feel self-important. Sometimes judgment comes from the standpoint of love and wanting something better for ourselves and others. But more often, we shame others and ourselves just to feel successful. Here is my confession:

 

I am not a nice person all of the time. I know what it is like to feel ugly, fat, out of control, crazy, sexy, powerful, and skinny. And I am guilty of saying every one of these things:

 

She is so fat!

She is so skinny!

She is so ugly!

She is so poor and still makes bad money choices!

She has a beard!

She is huge!

She is tiny!

She is an idiot!

She has done nothing with her life!

She is so awkward!

 

And every one of them feeds the mindset that you have to be perfect: skinny, symmetrical, hairless, rich, and reserved to be a successful woman.

 

I would like to say this mindset does not apply as much to my generation. We are moving away from gender roles. We are moving away from strict gender identity. We are moving away from dichotomous sexual orientations.

 

Then why do I still feel the way I do? Why do I still say these things even knowing they break other people down? Why do I still let the things other people may or may not say or even think about me change the way I think about myself. Why do I have the shave my legs and wear makeup to go to a sales meeting? Or wear high-heels to go to an interview?

 

What makes an Essay Good? The Unspoken Hierarchy

Ashes, Ashes

Brother Underwood

Sick of Being Sick

How to Survive Peru: Cusco

Letters to Myself