Adventures Abroad and the Costs of Long-Term Travel

Koh Tao

One of my favorite parts of any trip is when the plane breaks through the clouds and you can see the new world you’re about to enter. The buildings are different, the landscape is different, and it’s the first time you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore.

This experience is even better after a really long flight because the sleep depravation and drastic disruption of routine only adds to the surreal feeling of entering another world.

We were lucky to have that experience multiple times over the last few months during our incredible Early Retirement Preview.

We visited Czech Republic, Cambodia, Malaysia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Israel and we spent over a month living in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Travel Perfected

You’d think that after traveling to over 45 countries and living on three continents, my wife and I would have perfected this travel thing long ago but this is the first time I’ve felt like we finally have it figured out.

Here are some things that made this trip our best one yet:

Travel Gear

This is the first time we decided to travel with carry-on luggage only and it was amazing! We saved a fortune on luggage fees, our bags didn’t get destroyed by baggage handlers, our valuables were never out of sight, and it was so easy to pick up and move since everything we had could be comfortably carried on our backs.


For Christmas, we bought each other new bags specifically for the trip and they were perfect. My wife Jill got the Osprey Farpoint 40 and I got the 43-liter Kelty Flyway.

Me and Jill with our Carry-On Backpacks

Me and Jill with our Carry-On Backpacks

We flew on some budget airlines during the trip and we had no problem bringing either bag onboard as carry-ons but both were spacious enough to hold over a week’s worth of clothing.

Both bags are panel-loaders, so it was very easy to get things in and out of them, but mine has a laptop holder and a separate compartment at the bottom for shoes and dirty laundry (I don’t like when dirty clothes mix with clean clothes but Jill is gross and doesn’t mind).

Packing Cubes

The things that made the biggest difference on this trip, second to our bags, were our packing cubes. These cheap, simple cases made our lives exponentially easier. Rather than deal with a bunch of loose articles of clothing, I instead just had to deal with three cubes – one containing t-shirts, one containing boxers and socks, and the third containing all of my cables and chargers.

I can’t believe they made such a big difference but trust me, they really did.


So what does over two months of non-stop traveling cost?


Here are our flight costs (per person):

Origin Destination Airline Miles Used Cost
Glasgow Prague British Airways 4500 BA $27.50
Prague Bangkok Air France $276.70
Bangkok Siem Reap Cambodia Angkor Air $57.77
Siem Reap Kuala Lumpur Air Asia $93.00
Kuala Lumpur Chiang Mai Air Asia $83.44
Chiang Mai Koh Tao Nok Air $90.88
Koh Tao Bangkok Air Asia $66.07
Bangkok Tel Aviv Various 27,000 AA $68.60
Tel Aviv Glasgow British Airways 12,500 BA $125.46

The Prague to Bangkok leg was part of an amazing $276 USA-to-Europe-to-Asia flight that I booked.

The best flight on that list, however, was the flight from Bangkok to Tel Aviv. Thanks to this article by my favorite travel-hacking blogger, Travel Is Free, Jill and I were able to fly from Bangkok to Tel Aviv on some of the nicest airlines in the world…in business class!

Now, I’ve never spent extra miles to fly in a premium cabin before (because I’d rather save my miles and take more trips in economy instead) but as Travel Is Free describes in his article, it’s only an extra 7.5k AA miles to fly in business class (30k vs. 22.5k) on what is actually a really long flight from Southeast Asia to the Middle East so it’s worth it.

Since we didn’t have any time pressure, we decided to really maximize the value of our business class experience so rather than flying directly to Israel, we built up an incredible one-week trip for the same price!

Here’s what that leg of our journey looked like:

  • Bangkok to Columbo, Sri Lanka on Cathay Pacific (3.5 hours)
  • Columbo to Doha, Qatar on Qatar Airways (5 hours)
  • [21-hour layover in Doha]
  • Doha to Dubai, UAE on Qatar Airways (1 hour)
  • [23-hour layover in Dubai]
  • Dubai to Amman, Jordan on Royal Jordanian (3.5 hours)
  • Amman to Tel Aviv, Israel on Royal Jordanian (1 hour)

So not only did we get to explore Doha and Dubai, we got to experience over 14 hours of flying in some of the best business class cabins in the world and we got to enjoy tons of free food and drinks (including some 40-year-old port) on the planes and in the different airline lounges.

It was definitely worth the extra 7.5k miles and it was a bargain at only 30k AA miles. Actually, I got 3k miles back because I have the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select credit card so it was only 27k miles each!

Bonus: If you are a resident of the US and want to learn about the best credit cards to get for traveling, sign up to my Travel Card series!


Since we stayed in Chiang Mai for over a month, we had planned to get a long-term rental but when we got there, we decided to just hop around the different parts of town instead so we ended up staying in hotels and guest houses for the full two months. This definitely increased our costs quite a bit but as you’ll see, it was still pretty cheap.

Aloft Kuala Lumpur

Rooftop Pool at Aloft Kuala Lumpur

I kept track of every room we stayed in so I can tell you the average quality of hotel was 3.22 stars and we spent an average of $32.99 per night.

We didn’t do any hostels and we always had a private room and bathroom to ourselves but the rooms ranged from basic guesthouses to 5-star hotel suites with multiple bathrooms (why that’s necessary, I have no idea but I’ll take a free upgrade anytime I can get one).

Koh Tao Sunset

Koh Tao Sunset from Our Balcony

In addition to the costs mentioned above, we also spent 33,597 Club Carlson points and 5,625 SPG points but we earned 898 Amex points and over 57,605 IHG points (thanks to their “Set Your Sights” promotion).

If I use those IHG points for their Point Breaks hotels, which cost only 5,000 points per night, that means we earned enough points for 11 free nights (I’m also half way to a free night so that number is actually 11.5)!

The beauty of long-term travel is that hotel cost aren’t an additional expense like they are when you go on vacation because you aren’t paying rent or a mortgage back home.

We luckily sold our house in Vermont a week before we left for our trip so that meant we had absolutely no recurring expenses to worry about. It was an incredible feeling knowing that the only dollars being spent were the ones I pulled directly out of my wallet.

It was also exciting to discover afterwards that it was actually cheaper living out of hotels on our trip than it was to live in our modest home in Vermont! When you factor in all the homeowner expenses like utilities, property tax, and maintenance costs, it worked out to $40.77 per night in Vermont (over 23% more the nightly cost of our trip)!


Food was ridiculously cheap and delicious in Southeast Asia so that meant we ate out for all three meals every day (sometimes I would even fit in a fourth meal) and we’d also stop for fresh fruit shakes in between meals.

To give you and idea of how cheap things are, here are some Chiang Mai prices:

  • Pad Thai – $1.06
  • Watermelon Shake – $0.76
  • Fresh Coconut – $0.91
  • Thai Curry with Rice – $1.52
Mango Sticky Rice

Mango Sticky Rice – Cost: $1.82

Here are our daily food costs (per person) in each of the places we visited:

City Avg. Food Costs
Prague $14.66
Bangkok $8.44
Siem Reap $13.84
Kuala Lumpur $13.26
Chiang Mai $11.49
Koh Tao $15.93
Doha $10.65
Dubai $10.96
Tel Aviv $21.17

The reason the Doha and Dubai numbers are low is because we didn’t eat much there, since we had been stuffing our faces with so much free food in the airport lounges and on the planes.


The rest of our trip costs were for transport ($327.49), alcohol ($155.88), entertainment ($433.33), which included a cooking class and a visit to an elephant sanctuary, and other miscellaneous expenses like sunscreen and bug spray ($337.86).

Trip Summary

We didn’t hold back or watch our spending at all on this trip so our ~$1,750 per person monthly average is high considering where we were but it was an amazing experience and I wouldn’t have changed any of it.

Rice Paddy Sunset

Sunset Over Rice Paddies in Thailand

Based on our daily costs and having talked to people who have long-term rentals in Chiang Mai, I think it’d be easy to live a very comfortable life there for less than $500 per person, per month.

That means you’d only need a FI savings of $150,000 to cover your expenses (using the 4% rule)!

That’s pretty incredible, considering how great the quality of life is there!

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86 comments for “Adventures Abroad and the Costs of Long-Term Travel

  1. Leigh
    March 16, 2015 at 10:09 am

    The fine print on Fidelity’s Cash Management Account says “Please note, there is a foreign transaction fee of one percent that is not waived, which will be included in the amount charged to your account.” Have you seen this in your account records? This is my primary motivation for keeping my Schwab account around when I need the Fidelity account for something else – Schwab doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees AND reimburses ATMs worldwide.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 16, 2015 at 10:42 am

      Hi Leigh, I see no fees whatsoever so maybe they just charge a foreign transaction fee when you use your card as a debit card while abroad? I’ve only ever used my card to withdraw money from ATMs so I’m not sure if that’s the case or not.

      I’ve compared the currency conversion rates to what Google tells me are the market conversion rates and Fidelity’s rates are nearly identical so they aren’t making any money off the transactions via a big spread in the rates or anything either.

      • Jeremy
        March 16, 2015 at 1:17 pm

        I use the same Fidelity account. The 1% is in the currency exchange rate, which is actually a pretty reasonable fee

        • The Mad Fientist
          March 16, 2015 at 2:00 pm

          Is it really? I remember checking immediately after an ATM transaction posted and the rate they used was nearly identical to the current market rate (I guess the rate could have shifted by 1% in the time it took to post but I figured that was unlikely).

          I’ll give Fidelity a call to get confirmation and then I’ll update the post, if necessary. Thanks!

        • The Mad Fientist
          March 17, 2015 at 4:22 pm

          Jeremy and Leigh, you’re both right. I just chatted with a Fidelity rep and there is a 1% fee (apparently charged by Visa) that is automatically withdrawn but not mentioned in the account history.

          I removed that section from the article, since the account is not completely free and may not be the very best option (even though it’s still a really good one).

          I plan to open one of the Schwab accounts so I may write about that once I’ve had a chance to try it out, if it turns out to be the best account for foreign ATM withdrawals.

          Thanks for keeping me straight!

          • Leigh
            March 18, 2015 at 12:43 am

            I’ve used the Schwab account to withdraw cash in Japan, Canada, and New Zealand. I actually saw no ATM fees in Japan and at some ATMs in Canada and have been reimbursed for all ATM fees I have been charged. They’ve also had decent exchange rates and there are no foreign transaction fees on purchases as well. It’s served me well in my travels, though I don’t use it as my primary checking account since I have a great local credit union one that reimburses US ATM fees and has a good network anyway.

          • Jeremy
            March 19, 2015 at 2:41 am

            I would assume the Schwab account would have the same fee due to the real costs of maintaining assets in multiple currencies. If you discover it doesn’t, that would be worth making a change

          • Dan23
            April 19, 2015 at 3:44 pm

            This site lists the foreign exchange on credit cards and debit cards:

            Schwab is one of the few debit cards that is an outright 0.

            I have Fidelity. I did check some withdrawals against the published exchange rate once and it matched exactly as if no fee, but they do say 1% fee.

            I considered switching but found at least one place online where someone tested both on a trip and said the Fidelity card worked at more ATMs (at all tested actually, while the Schwab did not work at some where the Fidelity worked). Given that even 1% is fairly low and I am abroad for <1 month per year, I am okay sticking with it. If I lived abroad for a while I would get the Schwab but keep a backup in any case.

          • The Mad Fientist
            April 22, 2015 at 11:54 am

            My Fidelity card worked everywhere and I didn’t have to call or anything in advance so it was great. There’s nothing worse than needing cash and not being able to get it because the bank disallowed the transaction.

            I also didn’t have to call to get the international ATM fee rebates so I’d probably take the 1% fee rather than deal with that kind of hassle with the Schwab card.

            Like you, I checked a few international withdrawals against the market exchange rates and I didn’t compute any sort of fee but the Fidelity guy I spoke to did say a 1% fee was there somewhere. Hopefully he was just wrong!

            Anyway, thanks for that useful link!

  2. Chris @ Flipping A Dollar
    March 16, 2015 at 10:15 am

    Osprey bags are the best. We took a similar one to Thailand for our honeymoon. Being able to compress it and wear it as a backpack was just fantastic. Then just flop it in the overhead too! We still use it whenever we’re visiting anyone.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 16, 2015 at 10:46 am

      Yeah, my wife absolutely loves hers. It really is a great way to travel so hopefully we’ll be able to be carry-on-only travelers from now on.

      Where did you visit in Thailand while you were there?

      • Chris+@+Flipping+A+Dollar
        March 16, 2015 at 11:19 am

        This was right after the big floods, so we actually moved everything around. We started out in Bangkok (originally would stay there 5 nights but switched it to a longer time in our next stop). Then we took the sleeping train (such a neat ride) up to Chiang Mai which was the best stop out of everything. We stayed outside of the city proper, somewhere walking distance to the Mee Chok shopping plaza. Literally the best phad thai I’ve ever had was there. I ate two servings and got one to go. MMMM. Also went to the Patara elephant farm. Incredible experience riding your own elephant up a mountain and then swimming with it in a waterfall. It was really humbling for some reason.

        Then we finished it up in Phuket just lounging on that beach. Every few hours we would walk to 7-11 and grab a few more beers and wine. Such a great trip. The only negative is the flight, and the worst part of that is the in US part. Air China was really enjoyable even though it was long.

        Love following all of the trips you guys are doing!

        • The Mad Fientist
          March 16, 2015 at 1:00 pm

          Sounds like a great trip!

          Man, I miss it so much already. Can’t wait to go back!

  3. brooklynguy
    March 16, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Great post and welcome back from your first taste of early retirement! This is exactly the kind of content I was hoping you would put out as you transition into early retirement.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 16, 2015 at 10:50 am

      Hey, thanks a lot, Eric! Really glad you enjoyed the post.

      Hopefully I can convince my wife to go on more of these adventures so that I can put out even more stuff like this!

  4. Brad @
    March 16, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Hey Brandon — awesome post, I really enjoyed this! I especially liked the gear recommendations :)

    Hope you and Jill are doing well and looking forward to catching up!

    I’m having a lot of fun helping people get down to Ecuador and I think we’re even going to get Jim there in first class!

    There’s an awesome MIA-UIO flight on the 24th for 10k Avios if you’re interested…not sure where you’re coming from at that point.

    Really cool that you guys will be down there; Laura and I are thinking about attending, but next year looks more likely.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 16, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks, Brad! Also, thanks a lot for offering to help people get to Ecuador cheaply! You’ll have to let me know if you end up putting Jim in first class.

      Now that we’re back in Scotland, we should try to organize a Skype call at some point. I want to hear how all your travel coaching is going and I also want to bounce an idea off of you.

      That MIA-UIO flight may be perfect, actually! I could go visit my parents in Florida and then hop on that flight down to Ecuador. I’m definitely going to look into that more so thanks for the heads-up!

      • March 16, 2015 at 1:19 pm

        Sounds good about the call — shoot me an email and we’ll set it up! I have a bit of time these days :)

        I just checked at BA and there are at least 7 of those MIA-UIO seats left for 10,000 Avios, so you will definitely get it. The outbound fees should only be ~$6/person, so no reason not to book now. Even if you had to cancel you’d get your Avios back and just lose the $6. Is Jill heading down there with you (I’m laughing out loud over here about the suitcase compartments by the way)

        • The Mad Fientist
          March 16, 2015 at 2:17 pm

          Good call, Brad! I’ll just go ahead and book it tonight so that I’m not kicking myself later.

          Jill sadly won’t be able to join me in Ecuador so I’ll just be going solo this time.

  5. Fervent Finance
    March 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Thanks for the great update! It’s amazing how low the COL is over there, even when not really monitoring your spending. I bet selling the house in Vermont was a big weight off your shoulder. Are you staying with family in Scotland now?

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 16, 2015 at 1:26 pm

      Oh you have no idea! It was on the market for nearly 9 months and we had two offers fall through so I was convinced it was never going to sell. Combine that with the fact that it was sitting empty as winter approached in one of the coldest, snowiest states in the country and my stress levels were through the roof.

      We signed the papers (actually, our attorney did since we were in Scotland) on December 23rd and it was the best Christmas present I ever received. I can’t even imagine how different our trip would have been had we had an empty house sitting back in Vermont.

      Now we’re staying with family in Scotland but it’s looking like I’m going to need to come back to the States for a bit to apply for my spouse visa so we’re just trying to figure all of that out now (visas are such a pain).

      • Fervent Finance
        March 16, 2015 at 1:50 pm

        One of the cons it seems of owning a home in a rural area is it is not as liquid as the burbs. But glad you got it done!

        I work with a lot people from all over the world, and I’ve seen how much of a pain visas can be. Good luck with yours!

  6. Justin @ Root of Good
    March 16, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Wow, excellent comprehensive trip summary. I’m hoping to take a scaled down version (with less destinations) every summer or every other summer with our three kids. We seem to have similar travel habits (mixing miles/points redemptions with cash to maximize value) and tend to spend very little, too. We’ll probably camp out somewhere for longer term (in a 2 BR apartment) since the per night rates are much cheaper and hopping on and off planes, trains, and buses with kids is less fun than doing it with just the two of us adults. And flight costs add up for 5 people. :)

    I’m with you on slow travel costing less than a permanent residence. We noticed we spend about the same or even less than we do at home with a little travel hacking thrown in. And since everything is new to us where we visit, it’s like free entertainment just walking around the city or countryside.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 16, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      Yeah, had we settled down in an apartment, our costs would have been dramatically lower. We met a couple in Chiang Mai who had an apartment in a nice part of town and they only paid 5500 Baht (~$170) per month. I never went to see it but they seemed happy with it so I can’t imagine it was too dingy.

      You’re exactly right about free entertainment. We were in Chiang Mai for over a month and we mainly just walked around a lot. With so much cheap, good food, eating took up an enjoyable majority of our time :)

      • Justin @ Root of Good
        March 16, 2015 at 5:40 pm

        That’s awesome. From my Airbnb dreaming in Chiang Mai, I saw plenty of incredible places for around $150-200/wk and $300-500/month (for 2-3 BR). When luxury is cheap, we would probably spend the extra couple hundred for a swanky place for a month. And skip a 5 star hotel in a very expensive city to cover the luxury.

        I just read aloud the highlights of this post to my (Thai) wife while she’s working out on the treadmill. Her comments: sounds awesome. Then: oh, it’s just the two of them, they don’t have kids.

        I forgot all about those cheap BA avios redemptions in Europe where everything is relatively close together. 4500 pts from Scotland to Prague is incredible since those cities seem far apart.

        • The Mad Fientist
          March 17, 2015 at 4:31 pm

          Yeah, kids would have changed our trip a bit but I imagine it’s definitely still doable. We saw quite a few parents with small kids traveling around and they didn’t look like they were ready to kill each other or anything, haha.

          Sadly, the cheap BA redemptions are getting more expensive soon. Currently, they don’t charge extra for routing through London (even though it’s two flights), but soon they will. So that nice 4500 trip from Glasgow to Prague with a free stopover in London we took would be 9000 after April (4500 for GLA-LHR and then 4500 for LHR-PRG).

          Luckily, I can book at the current prices for trips into next year so Jill and I are going to plan and book the rest of our trips next month.

          • Justin @ Root of Good
            March 17, 2015 at 7:53 pm

            I don’t know how those people with 2 year olds do big trips. Those 2 year olds must have much better demeanors than my 2 year old! He’s getting better though.

            I remember getting something about the change to Avios pts for redemptions. Too bad they are watering it down.

    • Michael Landgrebe
      November 12, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      Hello Justin,
      It seems that you and Mad Fientist are both fans of renting to free funds and time to traveling. I am currently renting, but am looking to buy my first home in the next 4 years. Do you have any advice on finding a balance between owning and traveling?
      Thank you for your time,

  7. Jeff
    March 16, 2015 at 11:40 am

    That sounds like you had an awesome time. After your recommendation I’ll have to give the travel cubes a try. They look like they are pretty handy. I hope you guys are getting back settled in and enjoying everything.
    Also, nice job on the BKK-to Israel flight. That’s some impressive travel hacking.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 16, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      Definitely give the cubes a try! It really made such a difference, especially since we were packing up and moving so often.

      I still can’t believe they let me book that BKK-TLV flight. I spent hours researching all the options/combinations and then I put together what I thought was a valid itinerary but I was still shocked when she ticketed it without raising any objections!

  8. Mr. 1500
    March 16, 2015 at 11:54 am

    “I don’t like when dirty clothes touch clean clothes but Jill is gross and doesn’t mind.”

    Someone is sleeping on the couch tonight and it isn’t Jill.

    “Rather than deal with a bunch of loose articles of clothing, I instead just had to deal with three cubes – one containing t-shirts, one containing boxers and socks, and the third containing all of my cables and chargers.”

    No pants? You were in mostly warm weather places, so perhaps pants were not needed. Thankfully you at least went with boxers. Being naked from the waist down would have brought your expenditures way up (lawyers aren’t cheap) and I’ll bet you wouldn’t have had a private bathroom in jail.

    Joking aside, those are some awesome adventures! Can’t wait to hear what else you have lined up in the years to come. Have you signed on to go to Mars yet? :)

    • Jeff
      March 16, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      I too thought that was hysterical Mr 1500. I dont think that jill will mind having the bed to herself for a night.

      • The Mad Fientist
        March 16, 2015 at 12:57 pm

        I find it worrying that it’s the two people who have actually met Jill in person that are saying these things :\

        • March 16, 2015 at 1:05 pm

          I wasn’t going to wade into the “Jill is gross” conversation!

          Thought it was funny that you wrote that though and can picture the look on her face when reading it :)

          • The Mad Fientist
            March 16, 2015 at 1:16 pm

            Haha, well she’s on her way home now so I’ll get to see that face soon.

            We used to share a suitcase and that was a nightmare. I’d insist that all dirty clothes go into the lid but she always seemed to sneak something into the “clean” bit, probably just to drive me nuts. I’d then lament that the purity of the main compartment was compromised and she would say, “What do you think is going to happen…the germs and dirt are just going to leap off of my clothes and contaminate everything you own?”

            It’s good we have separate luggage now :)

        • jlcollinsnh
          March 16, 2015 at 3:39 pm


          Make that three. :)

        • Jeff
          March 16, 2015 at 11:20 pm

          I actually didnt think she was gross at all. I just found it amusing you’d say that.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 16, 2015 at 1:53 pm

      Haha, nothing gets past Mr. 1500! I usually wore the same pair of shorts everyday so I was able to put my backup shorts (can’t be too careful), jeans, long-sleeve shirt, etc. underneath my packing cubes.

      • Mr.+1500
        March 16, 2015 at 10:30 pm

        Ah, got it. I wear my shorts and jeans for days on end too. No use washing them unless I’m sweating a whole ton or getting dirty.

        TMI ALERT: My big issue is that I always forget to pack freakin’ underwear. I hope that scientists find a cure for this genetic anomaly some day. Unfinished basements are uncomfortable and when this happens, I do change my shorts or jeans daily.

        PS: I hope you are still alive.

        • The Mad Fientist
          March 17, 2015 at 4:48 pm

          Haha, I have no problem remembering underwear and I usually always bring an extra pair, just in case.

          Now Jill has always given me grief about the “extra boxers” because I never used them but the one time I didn’t pack extra, I needed them!

          Now, you’re probably thinking something really gross happened but thankfully, that’s not the case…

          It was a very cold New Year’s Eve on the east coast of Scotland. We were having a great time with friends when we decided to tap into the bottle of strange liquor we brought back from a recent trip to Latvia.

          Next thing I know, I’m skinny dipping in the North Sea after midnight (by myself, mind you) and getting my photo taken, which meant for a very sad start to the New Year when I looked at them the next day.

          Anyway, it turns out I didn’t recall where I put my boxers when I decided to dive into the frigid North Sea so I could have really used an extra pair of boxers on that trip! Always pack extra!

          • Mr.+1500
            March 17, 2015 at 9:52 pm

            Notes to self:
            1) Don’t ever drink Latvian liquor.
            2) Don’t drink (or go swimming) with the Mad Fientist if he is drinking Latvian liquor.
            3) If the Mad Fientist ever wants to show you some selfies (shrinkies given the cold water) on his phone, don’t look.

          • The Mad Fientist
            March 18, 2015 at 3:04 pm

            Haha, very wise :)

  9. Jeremy
    March 16, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Those are some sweet flights!

    Your dining out budget looks very similar to ours. Now you know why we eat out 2 to 3 meals a day :)

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 16, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      We ate so much in Thailand, I wasn’t hungry the entire time we were there. I’d wake up full but we’d go out to breakfast anyway because it was so delicious!

  10. Cody
    March 16, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    Hey Brandon,

    Sounds like a great event. Really wish I could attend! All the speakers are top notch! Have a great time. Hopefully I can go in a couple years :)

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 16, 2015 at 2:12 pm

      Hey Cody, good to hear from you again! Hope you’ve been doing well.

      That’s a shame you can’t make it to Ecuador this year but I’m sure Jim and Cheryl will keep doing it since it’s been so successful and well-received. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be there again in a few years’ time too.

  11. Adam Chudy
    March 16, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Trip looks amazing.

    My favorite new travel tool is Autoslash. It tracks your car rentals and automatically will switch you to something lower if it pops up before your trip.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 16, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      I think I heard about that a while ago but then I heard that the car rental companies complained and then it wasn’t as useful or something?

      So it still works well?

      • Adam+Chudy
        March 16, 2015 at 2:17 pm

        I just used it for a trip a month ago. It changed my rental twice, lowering the bill each time. So at least for my trip, it seemed to work well.

        • The Mad Fientist
          March 16, 2015 at 2:26 pm

          Nice! I’ll definitely check it out next time I have to rent a car then.

  12. Even Steven
    March 16, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Is that the first picture you have posted on the website or was I just not paying attention? Face with name, thanks.

    My wife and I always hear about Thailand and other Asian locations, didn’t really know it could be that well priced, that’s great.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 16, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      It may be, actually.

      Yeah, I had heard it was cheap over there but I never expected it to be that cheap!

  13. Done by Forty
    March 16, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Just shared this link with our couple friends we are travel-hacking with in May. My wife loves her Osprey bag, too (though I’m keen on my little REI pack). Thanks for the recommendation on those boxes, too…they’re now on their way from Amazon.

    I usually hate carrying cash to exchange abroad, and may try out the Fidelity account (or Schwab’s, based on the comments). Thanks for this super-helpful post!

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 17, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      Let me know what you think of the packing cubes after you’ve had a chance to use them on a trip. They’re so good!

      I checked today and the Fidelity account does charge a 1% foreign transaction fee so maybe try out the Schwab account first.

      Where are you heading in May?

      • Done+by+Forty
        March 17, 2015 at 5:48 pm

        While Schwabb couldn’t tell me specifically if they bake in a % upcharge into their rate, I am assuming they must because, hey, TNSTAAFL. More digging may be necessary, but I think 1% is pretty good.

        Those cubes are on their way. Thanks again for the recommendation!

        We’re going to Central/Eastern Europe this May. Here’s a little write up:

        • The Mad Fientist
          March 18, 2015 at 3:09 pm

          That’s going to be an incredible trip! I love that part of Europe so I’m sure you will as well.

          Have a good trip and let me know how the packing cubes work out!

  14. Adam
    March 16, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    We just took a trip to Costa Rica and it was our first time doing carry-on luggage only with travel cubes (I have the Kelty Flyway, my wife has the Women’s Redwing). It was awesome! I thought the travel cubes were stupid when the wife first mentioned them, but they make packing and unpacking so easy. And it was great being able to go somewhere and just walk around with our backpacks on once we got there, instead of immediately trying to get rid of our heavy roller luggage. I don’t think we will ever go back to using checked baggage if we don’t have to.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 17, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      I thought the same thing! My wife said she wanted some packing cubes so I got them for her for Christmas but I didn’t buy myself any because I didn’t see the point. Once we hit the road though, I realized what I was missing so I picked up some in the airport before we flew to Thailand and I’m so glad I did.

      I can’t imagine ever going back to roller luggage either!

  15. The Roamer
    March 17, 2015 at 12:13 am

    This is super amazing and inspirational. I wish I could go. I wish I could go. The price just feels a bit steep. :)

    But if it keeps going I’m thinking maybe in 2016 or 2017. I have family in Ecuador so I’d like to bring kids too.

    I hear they are trying to see if the figure something out for families.

    Oh I wish I could go!

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 17, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      Haha, if you can’t go this year, I’m sure you’ll make it eventually. You should definitely plan a longer trip when you do go if you have family down there. I wanted to try to extend my trip but I don’t think I’ll be able to this year.

  16. Jeremy
    March 17, 2015 at 6:15 am

    What a wonderful trip summary chalk full of great advice. We’re planning a similar trip, although with a 4 year old, so I’d welcome anything you can think of, or have heard of, that would help with a kid involved. I look forward to learning more from your experiences. Best,


    • The Mad Fientist
      March 17, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it, Jeremy.

      Where are you headed?

  17. Will
    March 17, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    you’ve sold your home, and only brought carry on bags.. do you keep your belongings in a storage unit back in VA, with the wife’s family, or have you gotten rid of everything that didn’t fit in 2 bags?

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 17, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      We got rid of nearly everything!

      We left all our furniture in Vermont, because the house hadn’t sold yet when we moved back to Scotland so we wanted it to look nice for viewings. During the final negotiations, the buyers asked if we’d just include everything in the sale and we said yes because we didn’t want to have to come back for it.

      We took a few boxes to my parents house before we left but everything else we either sold, donated, or brought with us to Scotland. We then just stored the clothes that wouldn’t fit in our carry-ons at my wife’s parents place while we were traveling.

      I don’t miss any of it!

  18. Brian @ Debtless in Texas
    March 17, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    That looks like it was an awesome trip, thanks for sharing. That food looks delicious, it seriously made me hungry.

    Scotland is probably the most beautiful place I have ever visited – make your way to Islay ASAP and you will never want to leave. Lagavulin, Laphroig, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Bowmore oh the amazing list goes on.

    40 year old port on a plane?! That beats the hell out of sneaking miniatures through security.

    Hmmm, I just noticed that both of these comments were about alcohol so – y’all will have a blast in Ecuador, I don’t know if one country can handle that much financial awesomeness without imploding.

    I’m sure there will be good booze too….

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 18, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      I haven’t visited Islay yet but I’ve been there many times in spirit (pun very much intended)!

  19. EL
    March 19, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Hey that is a cool update on your adventures. I cant believe its that cost effective to live in Chaing Mai. THe Equador trip sounds cool, and meeting all the FI Experts is def. worth it.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 24, 2015 at 3:43 am

      Yeah, I was actually surprised how affordable it was in Chiang Mai. Man, I want to go back!

  20. Eduardo
    March 22, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    Thanks for the great article. I’m planning a trip with my girlfriend to Thailand in May, and I see you took a couple of Air Asia flights. Did you have to pay any fees for your backpack as a carry-on?
    I was looking at Air Asia and the dimensions allowed are a little smaller than your backpack’s
    I would also like any recommendations of places to eat and visit in Chiang Mai, food looked delicious on your twitter pics.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 24, 2015 at 3:49 am

      Hi Eduardo, neither of us had to pay any fees and nobody even looked twice at our bags.

      Our favorite restaurant in Chiang Mai was a place near the night market called Lemongrass. We also went to a restaurant called Cafe 29 a lot because it was really cheap but also really tasty. You could get a fresh watermelon shake there for only $0.77 and a nice curry for less than two bucks.

      Have a great trip!

  21. Yabusame
    March 23, 2015 at 5:25 am

    I loved reading about your travels; I’m so jealous ;-)

    Now that you’re living in the UK, do you plan to write about UK rax issues and travel hacking? I really hope so.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 24, 2015 at 3:54 am

      Possibly! I have to do a lot of research into my own tax situation, since I’ll be earning US dollars while living here, so I imagine I’ll write about the interesting things I find out!

  22. Mihai Pintilie
    March 23, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    What an incredible trip you had. And the costs are so small. Ok, life in Asia is cheap but anyway, you got it well. Congrats!

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 24, 2015 at 3:55 am

      Thanks! Yeah, it was definitely an incredible yet reasonably-priced trip.

  23. Liquid
    March 24, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    Thanks for the very detailed summary, TMF. It inspires me to go traveling too. By the looks of it I can probably retire in 5 more years and move to S.E. Asia indefinitely given the low cost of living in some of those countries. I just hope I can get use to the food lol.

    By the way, I’m polling personal finance writers for a future blog post idea. If you know your Myers-Briggs personality type would you mind sharing it with my readers? I’ll link your results back to your site. You can take the test here if you don’t yet know your type.

    I’m an INTJ by the way. Thanks.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 30, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      The food is the best part!

      I just took the test and I’m an INTJ as well. Let me know when you publish your post because I’d be interested in reading it!

    • SteveO
      June 23, 2015 at 11:51 pm


  24. Roger
    April 8, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Ha! You’re always one step ahead of me! Or both one step ahead and behind, in this case. I recognized the cover photo of Mango Bay on Koh Tao immediately. Love that spot. Hoping (planning!) to get back there soon.

    • The Mad Fientist
      April 10, 2015 at 9:37 am

      I am hoping and planning to get back there as soon as I can as well! Incredible!

  25. BCBiker
    April 23, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    It is not uncommon for people to spend almost as much as you did while on this amazing adventure just on their daily commuter car (well usually its a truck).

    I estimated that my bike commute actually saves me >$40 per daily commute compared to the cost of owning and operating the average commuter car in my city.

    My bike keeps me on track for FI! I really like your material on your blog and podcast. I recently re-listened to the podcast you did with Joshua at Radical Personal Finance and I have to say that podcast is truly some essential listening for folks interested in this stuff!

  26. Blaine
    April 29, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    I love the recommendation. I am going on a trip in 1 week and will use a similar cellular-free GPS app called copilot. You have to pay for the maps in advance, but then you can operate with no wifi, which would be needed for goggle maps. This app has turn by turn directions, so that is a big plus. I think it is worth it to not have to deal with a separate piece of gear.

    • The Mad Fientist
      May 2, 2015 at 10:45 am

      I believe also has turn directions so you should check it out, since it’s completely free!

  27. Ambertree
    May 24, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Today I spoke for the first time to my wife on geographical arbitrage,renting an apprtment for holiday. The first reactions were not negative… That positive. Thx for wroting these posts, it brings ideas to our discussion at home.

    Keep travelling

  28. Smart Money MD
    June 13, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    I would second I usually don’t obtain a SIM card while traveling abroad, so it comes in handy. I disable cellular data on my cellphone, so there is still a GPS functionality that tracks where you’re at. It allows you to navigate international cities without being totally lost.

    I hope that one day I’ll be able to attend these conferences!

  29. Jay A.
    September 15, 2015 at 5:41 am

    Hello again.

    What if I’m unable to accrue air/hotel miles/points with a credit card? I don’t think any credit cards issued where I live, Israel, offer these benefits. I’m a US citizen, but I do not want to open a US bank/financial account, which in any case is becoming difficult if you permanently reside outside the US.

    Also, I’m glad someone asked about storage. The issue is academic right now and will likely be for at least the next few years. However, I’ll need to address it if I want to take any adventures abroad that involve giving up my Israeli residence, and I have no family in this or any nearby country. One thought I had was purchasing a property, storing my stuff in one or two rooms, and then renting out the rest.

    Finally, it’s too bad I didn’t know about your stop in Israel. I hope you had a great time here!

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