What is Freedom?

According to Webster’s dictionary, freedom is:

Freedom: noun free·dom \ˈfrē-dəm\ the quality or state of being free: such as

a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action : liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another : independence: the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous freedom from care: ease, facility spoke the language with freedom: the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken answered with freedom: improper familiarity : boldness of conception or execution : unrestricted use gave him the freedom of their home

As we can see, freedom has many meanings. Independence is probably the most accurate definition of freedom from my point of view. To be free from all cares and from everything is to be independent.

Thesaurus.com ranked the following as the highest rated synonyms to freedom:

  • independence
  • ability
  • exemption
  • flexibility
  • immunity
  • opportunity
  • power
  • privilege
  • right

So what is freedom really?

Here at Atypical Life, we strive for freedom. We strive for personal freedom, to decide where we want to be and do what we want to do when we want to do it. We are pursuing financial freedom, where we will be able to live out our days without having to worry about working anymore.

Merriam-Webster got it right saying, liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another. As a society, we have become slaves to our money. Because of this, we are also slaves to jobs we do not like and do not want. Thesaurus.com concurs with its highest ranking synonym, independence. That is what we are truly seeking.

Freedom Defined by the US Constitution

In society today, we are told that we are free. The US education system does a good job of educating us about the freedoms that we have in the United States. We have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, right to own guns, right to be represented in court, right to own property, among others. All of these freedoms make it seem like the US is the pinnacle of freedom and that we all should feel free our whole lives.

The US has many rights and freedoms. However, these rights and freedoms seem only to free the fringe of society. Why are the rest of us left to be slaves to work?

Why do we not feel free? Society strangles freedom.

The freedoms afforded by the US Constitution and its amendments are a good start, but corporate and societal culture need to transform to produce a culture more centered around personal freedom.

Too many people spend their lives with their head to the grindstone to earn a living just to get by. They buy things day in and day out that society says you mush have to be happy. They get married to a spouse that they love, but after months and years of continuing to push through work, their marriage falls apart. Oh well, that is what happens in such a cutthroat society. One day they wake up and they are 70 years old and wonder where their life went. What happened to all those years I was going to have to enjoy retirement and the American dream?

I watched a good Youtube video last night about a couple that was chiropractors in the US and they were miserable. They both worked 12 hour days non-stop and when they returned home from work, they were too tired to enjoy each other anymore. They had become slaves to work and to money. They sold everything they had in the US and moved to Costa Rica where they reignited their love for each other and began to love life again. She wrote a book Happier than a Billionaire detailing their journey to a happier life. The best quote from the video was this:

We are all miserable. It’s okay to be fat and hate your wife. Join the club. In society today, it’s what it takes to get by.

They decided that was not true and pursued an alternative.

Today, the typical middle-class American is brought up in society knowing their path in life consists of:

  • 1-2 years of preschool
  • K-12 = 13 years of primary schooling
  • 4+ years of college (5 or more is okay because you are figuring out your life, right?)
  • Now at age 22-23 start work for 40-50 years
  • Buy a house
  • Get married ($$$$$)
  • Have children (done right costs >$250,000 per child)
  • At 62 if you’re lucky probably closer to 70 RETIRE!
  • Live out the rest of your days tired because you worked your life away during your most vibrant years

For the first 15 years of schooling, we are probably going to school for free. Our parent’s taxes pay for public schooling. School teaches us the fundamentals of all kinds of academic pursuits and gives us a good basis to figure out what we enjoy. During these years, the government has decided for us what we need to know and what we do not need to know. Is that freedom? During our formative years, we probably do not have enough knowledge base to decide what we do and do not need to know. Still, it is not freedom for others to choose for us.

During our years in middle and high school, we are told that college is the way of the future. If you do not have a degree, then you will just be an unemployed bozo on the side of the street begging for money. They neglect to show us the other ways to make money to achieve freedom, so the majority of us from the middle class and above head on into college to pursue higher learning.

I was lucky enough to have chosen a highly employable bachelor’s degree in engineering, so I was able to get out of college after “only” 5 years. 1 year consisted of co-oping work, so I only really attended school for 4 years.

After graduation, we are now expected to get a job. But wait. Most people got a degree in an unemployable field, so what is the answer to that? Let’s go to grad school and get further in debt. We should not worry about student loan debt since it is in pursuit of education which will gain us a salary for life. Many people pursue grad school because the employment opportunities were not there when they graduated, or they didn’t play the employment game correctly to land the big job. So now they are stuck in school gaining more debt and lengthening their time to freedom.

When we finally do graduate, we are expected to get that big time “real world” job. Our wonderful government in the US decides for us what retirement age is. This age is not actually the age that you are allowed to retire, but it is the age that we can start collecting on social security. Since many people are still a slave to their money at 60 they cannot retire until they can collect on full social security which now comes around 67 or higher for my generation. Myself, I do not factor social security into retirement savings projections because of the uncertainty in it. We will provide for ourselves. If social security is around for us, all the better.

By the time we have reached retirement age, we are finally free. We are no longer beholden to the man and can pursue what we want when we want. However, since we spent 40-50 years grinding our most vibrant years away we are too tired to really enjoy what the world has to offer.

Yes, we can now enjoy the company of our family and our loved ones more often. We can even enjoy the freedom to travel around and see the world. But just ponder the days, when you were 25-40. The fittest and strongest days of your life. This is the time that Atypical Life aims to be free for.

This is why we feel strangled by society. We feel that the expectations set by society have to be followed. To go against the flow of society is to be a social outcast and to not be accepted. We are taught that acceptance in society is important, so we need to follow the flow and fit it with everyone. Because too many people just accept the status quo, our personal freedom is strangled.

Personal Freedom

We have the freedom to live the life that we want to. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise!

In order to live the life you want, you have to cast away society’s feelings and decide for yourself what you want most in life. We still have to live within the laws of the world, however, it is not difficult to design a life for yourself that fulfills and surpasses your wildest dreams. If your dream is to live where you are now and do what you are doing, congrats you are already free. But if you are tired and worn out from work, do not hesitate to change. We have to make personal freedom a priority because no one else will do it on our behalf.

Here at Atypical Life, personal freedom is being location independent. We want to be able to pick up and move around whenever we want. This does not mean we will not have a house/apartment wherever it is we are located at the moment. We want to be free from the obligation to be located in a certain place because of work. We want to travel and see the world. To do that, we need the freedom of location.

Financial Freedom

In the US we often hear:

Freedom comes at a price.

I cannot agree more with this statement. It usually means a human sacrifice in war, but for financial freedom, it has a more direct meaning. The price for financial freedom is your expenses for the rest of your life. There are too many investment decisions to talk about here, but the point when your investments are able to grow and become self-sustaining is when we have financial freedom.

Financial freedom seems like a dream to most of the societal drones that go along with their heads to the grindstone. However, if we save our money and invest it wisely, we can free ourselves. The more we pursue financial freedom and actually put real effort towards it, the quicker it comes.

In the pursuit of freedom, less is more.

Financial freedom does not mean buying everything you can possibly dream of and never running out of money. It refers to being able to cover your reasonable living costs forever. At this point, we have the freedom to tell people, we don’t need your money, you don’t own me. This is the truly liberating feeling that comes with financial freedom.

Freedom

Whether we know it or not, freedom is what we all want. Innately, we all want the ability to choose for ourselves what we want, when we want, where we want. Society has thrust itself upon us trying to tell us this is not possible. We need to take it upon ourselves to make freedom a priority because no one else will. Freedom means different things to different people, but we should all strive to achieve our own version of freedom.

Here at Atypical Life, freedom is paramount.

I would love to hear your thoughts on freedom.

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freedom, what is freedom,

Top 8 Reasons to Buy Forever Items

In the pursuit of financial independence many of us try to save, save, save. That means forgoing almost all purchases in the hopes that one day we will have enough money to leave the workforce and enjoy the atypical life of freedom.

But I am here to tell you, it is NOT ALL ABOUT SAVING.

Every item we buy has a purpose, or at least it should have a purpose. If we buy something with no purpose, then why did we buy it in the first place?

Without further ado, here are the top 10 reasons that you should buy forever items.

1. You will only have to buy the item once.

This should be obvious from the name, forever items. However, many of us on the path towards financial freedom are extremely frugal and are trying our best to find the cheapest way there. The cheaper we can be the sooner we can leave the rat race, right?

Most of the time, this is true. But when you buy a forever item, it may be more expensive, but you will likely never have to buy it again. This far outweighs the downsides of paying more for the item upfront.

2. Resale value stays high.

When we buy our forever items, they are  items of high value, but they also allow us to resell them in the future. A good example of forever items is camera lenses. We buy them because we enjoy photography and to help us achieve financial and personal freedom sooner, despite them being expensive items. Sometimes they cost $500+ each, which seems outrageous. However, camera lenses, as long as you take care of them never wear out. You can keep one for 10 years and then resell it for nearly the cost you paid for it.

We are getting ready to sell our Nikon camera system because we switched to Olympus. Our favorite wide angle lens, a Tokina 11-16 mm f/2.8, sells for around $400 new. We bought it for $330 used, and I expect to sell it for the same amount I bought it for after having it for an additional 4 years. This is the true power of forever items. Value lasts!

3. Quality is second to none.

When we buy a forever item, we know we have done our research and have found the best item available. A forever item is expected to last forever, thus it requires the quality to be second to none. A forever tool, like a set of Snap-on wrenches for your workshop, have a lasting quality to them that can be used over and over again without ever wearing out.

4. Forever items are in the eye of the beholder.

Not every forever item needs to be the top of the line purchase. Does the hobbyist really need industrial grade tools to work on cars or are the regular Craftsman tools sufficient? Obviously, if you are not going to use your tools on a regular basis, then the cheaper ones will last a lifetime and that makes them a forever item for you.

5. Most forever items come with spectacular warranties.

Back before I started my journey towards financial independence, I just wanted to buy things. And buy things I did. I needed a blender, and after doing hours of research, I landed on the Blendtec Blender. You may have seen the youtube videos from “Will it Blend“. I decided that this was the blender that I needed, and $400 later I had my very own Blendtec blender. Now, I have had it for over 4 years, and this past week, the blade’s seal wore out and we got rubber seal in our smoothies. This was very disappointing coming from such an expensive piece of equipment. I remembered though, Blendtec has an 8 year warranty on their blenders, so I filled out the  warranty information on their website, and the next thing I know, I have a confirmation of shipment for a new jar. No haggling, no complaining, just great customer service. This is what you can expect from top-end forever items.

6. You will save money.

Because a forever item lasts forever, you will save money on the purchase. The upfront purchase price may be high, but the fact that you will not buy another one in your lifetime means that the cost is averaged over your remaining lifetime. My Blendtec blender, bought in 2013, now cost approximately $100 per year. By the time the warranty on it runs out in 4 more years, it will be at $50 per year. I was going through $30 and $40 blenders once or twice per year, so in the end, it is cheaper for me to have purchased the high quality forever item.

Another way to look at the cost of ownership is when you plan on reselling it. If you buy a forever item for $500, own it for 4 years, and then resell it for $400, then your cost was only $100, or $25 per year. Because of the high resale value, your cost of ownership of forever items comes way down. The caveat here, is that you must be willing to resell it. But because I know you are all pursuing financial independence and minimalism is a value held by us, I know all of us are willing to let go of items.

7. You can buy forever items used and still have a long life expectancy from it.

Because the quality of forever items is so good, you are able to buy them off the used market. Ebay and Craigslist are 2 of my favorite places to buy items in the US. If you are patient, you can score great deals on these sites for forever items. If the original MSRP cost is $1,000, like our new camera the Olympus E-M1, but you get it used a couple years later for $500, then you can enjoy the item for a lifetime well without the cost of it new.

One of my favorite methods to save money on the journey to financial independence is to let someone else take the initial value out an item before we buy it used. The first 30% or more of an items cost is markup, so we might as well let someone with money to burn take that cost out for us, especially on forever items that last a lifetime.

camera

8. You can pass on your forever items.

Everybody likes to get things for free. Your kids and later your grand kids will appreciate acquiring quality forever items. One of the most common forever items to pass on is quality cookware, currently from the 1930s and 40s, however the idea continues to apply. A forever item can be passed on and appreciated for generations to come. No one wants to receive garbage hoarded for years, but will genuinely appreciate a lower number of quality items.

Conclusion

As you can see, buying forever items does make sense even for a frugal family pursuing financial independence and freedom. By spending more upfront, you save money in the long run and cost over a lifetime is what really matters. Spending money to save money is a concept that is normally passed over, but there are times, when it can make sense. Buying forever items is one of those times, and I encourage all of us to consider purchasing forever items when the option is available. Not everything we buy needs to last forever, just always keep in mind lifetime cost.

By keeping an eye towards the end goal, financial independence, and we can guide ourselves to the right decisions. Let me know in the comments if you agree or disagree.

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 buy forever items, top reasons

Travel Slow, Travel Cheap, Travel Forever

Why do so many people feel they need to rest when they get back from vacation?

The problem with vacation and travel in general is we are going about it all wrong. We have a set amount of time, say one week, and we try to jam as many activities and as much sightseeing as possible into our limited time. This creates a great environment for stress and high cost.

The solution:

Travel slow, travel cheap, travel forever.


So what is slow travel?

Slow travel is going to fewer places and really experiencing them. When we traverse quickly from one place to another we miss out on all of the cool little things that make a place interesting. Slow travel is about spending the time to see the little things, to talk to the locals, and to experience life as locals.

When we travel slowly, we get to spend more time doing and experiencing and less time traveling. The travel part of traveling, the bus rides, plane flights, train rides, etc. is enjoyed by few. When we decide to travel slowly, we are consciously deciding to spend more of our vacation experiencing and less of our valuable time away getting transported from place to place.

The pace of slow travel depends on the person and the constraints on vacation time. If we had the choice, we would go to places for 1-3 months at a time to really get to know them. Currently, work constrains us to a max of about 2 weeks on a vacation, so our itinerary gets cut back a lot. If we tried to fit in everything and “see a whole country” in 2 weeks, like we did in Greece, then we get to spend half of our time traveling, and the other half recovering from that traveling.

Slow travel does not only apply to the retired

Even a one week vacation can be spent traveling slowly. If you choose to go to just one place, then a one week vacation to another country or another city is enough time to get to enjoy yourself and not feel like you are flying from one place to another.

Sure, 1-3 months per location would be preferable, but one week allows for time to get to explore the back streets, and the local cafes if you are not rushing from one place to the next. In a week, you can start to develop a routine and enjoy the relaxation.

Everybody takes week long vacations. Most of us have at least 2 weeks of vacation per year in whatever job we have. If not, maybe we should reevaluate what is important to us. We can work with our bosses to get entire weeks or 2 weeks in a row for a longer trip. Don’t let limited vacation time discourage you from enjoying the experience of slow travel.

I talked with my boss and my boss’s boss recently about vacation and needing more for traveling while we are living in China. 3 weeks is simply not enough time to travel while we are living abroad. After talking with them, they offered to allow me to take at least one additional week of vacation over the year and also to work a little extra to accrue more if needed. You will never get more time off unless you ask. The worst they can say is no.

There is time for slow travel, even if you have a job with little vacation.

Slow travel is cheap

The entire premise of slow travel is minimizing your time traveling, so you can experience a place. Travel is expensive. So by minimizing our time traveling on planes, buses, trains, taxis, etc. then we are lowering the cost of our vacation substantially.

Our recent trip to Indonesia, is a perfect example of this. We toured by bicycle, which I still consider slow travel, even though it is moving most days. Despite traveling by bicycle our biggest cost on the trip was transportation and travel. That includes travel hacking our way to cheap plane tickets (~$200) for the 2 of us. Travel hacking saved us $600 on flights alone.

[wpdatachart id=6]

As you can see, transportation was the largest cost. If we extended the trip another 2 weeks, than our transportation cost would remain the same while becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of overall trip cost.

The longer you stay in a single place or move about by free transportation, the cheaper your trip will be. Plane flights are always a major expense, unless you travel hack your way to cheap or free flights. The only way to truly minimize your travel cost is by minimizing your travel time and to travel slowly.

Conclusion

The question you have to ask yourself is this:

Why am I traveling?

Am I traveling to get photos of all the sites to show to my friends and family? Or am I traveling to experience a new place, experience a new culture, taste new foods, experience wonderful scenery, and learn a new way of life?

Asking yourself these questions will let you know if you are ready for slow travel. If you just want to maximize your photo opportunities at all the well-known tourist attractions, then fast travel is for you. However, if you want to experience life in a new way, then slow travel is the best way to reach your goal. Slow travel will allow you to travel forever!

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Is College the Only Path?

Why does society push us towards pursuing college?

Is college really the only path to freedom out there?

Society pushes college as the answer to everything. Yes, I went to college and got an engineering degree. After college, I got this big fancy engineering job with an international manufacturing company before moving to China on the expat package with the same company.

As an engineer, the skills I use most from day-to-day are those skills learned in the first year of engineering courses if not in high school. Were all 4 years really necessary to get to where I am today.

A degree is really nothing, but proof to employers that you can commit to something for four years. ~Anonymous

Mrs. Atypical came across this quote yesterday, and I immediately loved it!

It seems most employers don’t really care about what you learned in college. They are just looking for a check mark on your resume to say, yes, you went to college. The job requirement says BS degree in something. You are qualified!

Since I learned all of the essentials to my degree in one class, the introductory class, did I really need 4 years? I could have started working 4 years earlier (I went to college for 5 years because of a co-op job for one year), had way less student loan debt and already been retired at 28. Because society and employers value that piece of paper so much, I had to remain in school for the 4 years of classes, not to learn about engineering, but to demonstrate my persistence.

So after 4 years or more at an influential college, you now have a pretty piece of paper that you can show prospective employers. That pretty piece of paper proves nothing other than your ability to persist through 4 years of classes. It is the same paper regardless of your grades and regardless of your knowledge.

diploma

Hiring Young

Employers are scared to hire someone young. I hear the young bias on almost a daily basis. We are bringing in a 3rd party contractor to evaluate some equipment at work. He is my age, 28. My co-workers are scared. Since he isn’t 40+, he must be an inexperienced idiot. Being young must mean that you don’t know anything! I was ecstatic that our hired help is young because he has less of a chance of bias from too much experience.

Employers are scared to hire someone out of high school because there is no proof that they can stick with something. Just finishing high school is not proof because it is nearly required these days. By spending 4 years grinding your gears away, paying a college so that you can study and work for them, “proves” that you have what it takes to make it in the real world.

When we take a job in the real world, we are making the 2nd biggest commitment of our lives. Second only to marriage. As the employee, we know that we are going to help out our employer the best that we can, but employers don’t seem to believe it without proof from that piece of paper called a diploma. It shows that we can persist, and perhaps, that we have matured from our naive high school days.

What else is out there?

Despite society’s leaning towards college, there are other options out there for moving though life without a college degree. Sure a college degree, in an employable field, makes it easy to get a “good” job and make the big bucks, but it is not the end all.

Remember,

In the pursuit of freedom, less is more.

In this spirit, how can we get by without college?

The trades offer an excellent bypass of college and also a ticket to freedom. Going into the trades takes less time from your life to get certified and the pay is excellent. It also is applicable to almost anywhere you want to go because everyone needs an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter, etc. Learning to work with your hands and build practical things is a surefire way to bypass college and start pursuing your freedom earlier.

Starting your own business is another way to bypass the HR requirement of needing college. For those of us that are pursuing freedom, there is no better way than self-employment. It allows us to set our own schedule and live our own life instead of being beholden to our employer. There are a near infinite set of possibilities for self-employment that I will not list here. Suffice it to say, if you have the passion and the patience, self-employment can be the answer to bypassing college.

Can we change corporate requirements for college?

At this point in 2017, probably not. College has been driven home for too long and promoted too well, to be able to convince corporations that we are qualified despite no college degree.

Even though the probability is low, we should still do our part to convince corporations that college is not necessary to prove our worth. We go to college for 4 years, yet our future employers still require nearly 6 months of training and possibly 2 years of working experience before they find you beneficial to the company. If it takes 2 years of training after you just completed 4 years of training (college), why do we need the initial 4 years? Bringing this kind of solid argument to the table can help to influence change.

The transition to more reasonable requirements at work and better work-life balance has already started. The millennial generation has been hard at work getting flex-time schedules, more flexible vacation, remote working, and many other amenities. If we keep pushing our employers to focus on our potential and not on our qualifications, then we will be able to move towards a society where capability is king, not education.

Conclusion

College will always have its place in society, especially for knowledge for the sake of knowledge. However, we should not believe that it is the only path in life after high school. There are other ways to progress towards freedom.

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Capitalism is Killing Us

He who dies with the most toys, wins. ~Pops

I couldn’t help but love this quote and write about it when I heard my wonderful dad utter the words. To die with the most toys seems to be the pinnacle of capitalism. We should acquire more and more toys all through life until we have so many we do not know what to do with all of them.

As we grow up, our parents by us toys. They see us enjoying ourselves with these toys, but many times they see us enjoying the box more than the toy itself. Oh well. The answer to that is to buy us better toys!

After we have grown to an age where we no longer need kids toys, the products evolve to adult “toys”. I am not talking about sexual risque toys, but the gadgets and gizmos that we all seem so obsessed over these days. In the millennial age, we have grown to expect information to always be available and for us to always be connected to the world. In order for this to be possible we need a huge list of toys:

  • smart phone for me
  • smart phone for wife
  • tablet
  • 2nd tablet
  • laptop computer
  • 2nd laptop computer
  • Desktop computer for hard computer processing tasks
  • camera 1
  • camera 2
  • etc…

electronics

At this point, the best thing to do is to buy a storage unit to keep our older toys in and continue down the path of buying more toys.

Where else are we supposed to keep all of these things?

I suppose we could always buy a larger house to accommodate all of the toys. Now, since we have a larger house, we can buy more toys to fill it up. It is unacceptable to have a space look empty. We definitely need to buy something to fill the space.

As you can see, there is a never ending stream of toys that need buying to be accepted in society today. To be seen as influential and successful, you must have all of these things. These things are what truly define us. It’s how society can know that we are successful. And everyone wants to be successful, right?

Capitalism is Killing Us

Actually, capitalism and the acquisition of toys is slowly killing us. It has a stranglehold on our lives and is slowly taking away any hope of freedom, instead delivering us to the man. In a world of constant connectivity, we are bombarded with more and more capitalism every day. This drives the world to believe we need more possessions.

We cannot let our possessions define who we are. We, ourselves, are the only ones capable of truly defining who we are.

If we succumb to the powers of capitalism and buy more and more goods, then we will be overcome by them and they will own us instead of the other way around.

I am unsure as to whether my dad was serious or not when he spoke these words. “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” However, I know from experience that he a frugal man. He also taught me everything I know about the DIY philosophy and working with your hands. If we are able to fix something or make something ourselves, why should we pay someone else for it?

I grew up in a frugal household where we did not buy too many possessions. The ones we did buy had meaning. My parents also gave me an allowance in which to learn my own spending and saving habits. The freedom of having my own money allowed me to succumb to the powers of capitalism and buy a stereo that I didn’t need and other miscellaneous things. I eventually learned to only spend on the things that matter most.

Certainly, we all have to make the decision of what level of possessions is enough for our tastes and attitudes. To do this without the intervention of advertising is extremely difficult. We have to sit back and reflect on ourselves and what we want most in life to truly answer this.

Just ask yourself this question:

Will this (insert purchase here) bring me closer to my desired life?

Wait and ponder about this purchase for a month or 2 and then, after that time, if you still decide that you truly want it, you might just need it. Having time to ponder the wisdom of a purchase allows us to back away from the marketing and advertising hype and answer for ourselves whether we want something or not.

Freeing Yourself from Capitalism

Too many times we fall to the whims of marketers that tell us what we want and need. We are letting someone else decide what is best for us.

Is this freedom?

I think not. Freedom is deciding things for yourself. If you want to have someone else decide for you, then that is also your decision and you are free to do that. However, when marketing is forced upon you, it is hard to avoid and freedom of thought is lost.

Capitalism has been shoved down our throats and is plastered in our faces all of the time now. Anytime we consume TV or the internet, we are thrust face first into the capitalistic tendency to always want more. We have to do ourselves a favor and take a step back to free ourselves. It is okay to view the advertisements, but we cannot let them decide for us what is best for ourselves.

Freeing Yourself from Possessions

The second part of freeing yourself from capitalism is freeing yourself from possessions. Very few of us were born into a family that truly embraces less. Most of us grow up having expectations surrounding ourselves of what we are supposed to do and accomplish in life. We are expected to be successful and to be a contributing member of society. In doing so, we are expected to have a house full of things and have all of our own belongings so that we can be “free.”

Do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with buying things and, as you can see from my 2017 Goals, you know that I have a problem with buying way too many things.

In order to free ourselves from our possessions we must start to let go of sentimental value they hold. Look at them as just things and decide whether you need them or not.

Growing up, I was taught to be frugal and to not buy what we can make. However, the lesson that was missed was about getting rid of things. In our household, growing up we only bought the things we needed for the activities that we were pursuing, however, we never got rid of the things we no longer used. This created quite a collection of things, my favorite of the bunch, a 30 year old 8 foot wing to a RC model airplane. It has sat in storage in my parent’s house my entire life never to be used again, but it certainly was cool…

We have started getting rid of many things in our house trying to pare down on the amount of stuff we have.

In the pursuit of freedom, less is more.

 

The less you have, the more freedom you have to move around and decide for yourself what in life truly matters. We have decided here at Atypical Life that we would like to be location independent, and having less is key to accomplishing this goal. One only has to look to the Buddhist monks for guidance. In their classical rules, they are only allowed these 8 possessions:

  1. an inner robe
  2. an outer robe
  3. an additional robe to protect from the elements when necessary
  4. a bowl
  5. a water-strainer
  6. a razor to shave his head
  7. a needle and thread
  8. any necessary approved medicine

buddhist monk

The Buddhist monks are models of minimalism. I don’t expect myself or many others to follow such strict rules on minimalism, however, we can take as an example all that is required to live on. There are no excesses in the Buddhist approved list.

In Conclusion

Capitalism is slowly killing us. It restricts our freedom of choice, while convincing us that we still have a choice. In order to combat this, we have to make freedom a priority for ourselves. We need to relinquish the stranglehold that our possessions have on us. We cannot let others decide for us what we want. We have to decide for ourselves what is important. By deciding what is important to us, we have taken the first step towards freedom.

We cannot let our freedom come second!

How is your pursuit of freedom coming? Let us know in the comments.

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capitalism is killing us

Why I Decided to Share Our Finances

Sharing your finances, your income, your expenses, and your lifestyle with the world is seen as taboo. We all grow up hearing that it is unacceptable to ask how much money someone makes. But if we all started to share our income and expenses with each other, I believe we can liberate ourselves and help each other grow towards the atypical life of freedom.

When I shared Atypical Life with my parents, the first comment was:

Do you really want to share all of this information online? What about your family? Who is your target audience? ~Pops

I appreciate my dad’s input and understand where he is coming from. In his generation, it was seemingly unacceptable to share one’s income, even with their own family. I never learned how much money my own dad made until he was retired. I will not share it here, since sharing income is a very personal decision.

I hope to answer his concerns below.

Do you really want to share all of this information online?

scary man
What the media wants us to think all people are like.

Of course I want to share my finances online. The world is full of people that are scared by the media. The media does their best to make the world seem like a scary and unsafe place to live. The internet is only full of trolls and those trying to steal your personal information, right?

I am an optimist and do not believe all of the scare mongering that the media likes to put out. People are good at heart. I have no qualms about sharing my finances online. I have an engineering degree from a renowned university and make a reasonable salary for that degree. I have taken the chances that have been afforded to me and have been rewarded for taking those chances. Why is this something to hide?

If we all were to share our finances online, then we would be able to better compare how we are doing against the rest of society. Is the job we are doing underpaid in comparison or are we living the good life with a good company paying above average wages? This question and many more could be answered if we had access to the information that I want to provide to all of you.

The human resources department of every large company does market research to determine wage levels and set pay grades. This allows them to make sure they do not “pay you too much”. It goes to show, the information is out there and shared anonymously between companies, but is not available for the public, to do their own fact checking.

glassdoorGlassdoor is a company that allows you to share your income and job titles anonymously. This website is a great way to post your income levels for all to see, if you don’t want people to know your identity. You can contribute to the benefit of all by sharing your income and job, so we all can do comparisons across industry and the economy. It is also a good way to research prospective companies since you can leave reviews on the company culture and other information that is not easily available online.

Why I Share my Atypical Finances

I want to share my financial information to help people. Living the atypical life is great, but being able to help others achieve the atypical life is truly exciting! Through this blog, detailing my finances and tips on how to live the atypical life of freedom, I hope to inspire more to pursue freedom on their own terms. I will share my income while I am employed by my company along with the other benefits of employment.

The second part to sharing my finances is sharing my expenses. There are 2 reasons I want to share my expenses:

  1. to help my readers see that low expenses really are possible.
  2. to help keep me accountable and lower my expenses further.

mr money mustacheMr. Money Mustache was the first financial independence retire early (FIRE) blog I came across and he inspired me to pursue the atypical life of freedom. One of the main takeaways is that the lower your expenses, the less money needs to be saved for early retirement, and the more money you can save each month. These 2 effects compound together to bring freedom super quickly. By sharing my expenses with my readers and the world, I hope to inspire you to reduce your expenses as I reduce mine in the pursuit of freedom.

As seen from my 2017 goals, I hope to lower my monthly expenses by $300 per month on miscellaneous expenditures. By blogging about my monthly income and expenses I hope to control my own habits, so that we can live the atypical life of freedom from the man sooner.

By sharing my investment strategy and investment contributions, I hope to educate you about investing. Investing is always shrouded with mystery and portrayed as something best left to the experts. I hope to share my own journey through investing and show the endpoint that is super simple. I will be sharing all of the information that I wish I knew, when I started out on this journey 7 years ago. By sharing this information, I hope to shorten the length of time to investment enlightenment for all to follow.

Identity Theft Concerns

I am not concerned about identity theft. Atypical Life is anonymous (obviously my name is not Atypical), and will certainly stay that way until at least I leave the workforce. Sharing my income, expenses, and investments is just sharing values. In order for identity theft to happen, a thief would also need account numbers and lots of my personal information that is not available. Because of this, I am not concerned.

Atypical Life Target Audience

I will answer my dad’s final 2 concerns here. My target audience is all of my readers and the public that wants to know about freedom.

I hope to help people through my openness about finances and share with others our story about how we achieve freedom.

I would love to share Atypical Life with my family, however, there is the concern that they may be jealous because of the income level I am at after only working for a few years out of college. I understand the concern here, and will likely share this only with my family that I think would enjoy the read and learn something along the way. There really is no reason to be jealous of my income because it was all earned and deserved. Because of my engineering degree, my starting salary out of college is significantly above the average college graduate, but actually low to median for engineering salaries. This coupled with my acceptance of an expat assignment in China has allowed us to pursue an atypical life.

In Conclusion

Yes, I will share my finances here on Atypical Life. Sharing of our finances both income and expenses, I hope to inspire my readers to reduce their expenses, increase their income, and achieve the atypical life of freedom sooner. Sharing your finances online and in general is a deeply personal decision, and I believe the benefits to ourselves and society greatly outweigh the risks.

Thanks Pops for sharing your concerns and helping me to realize that freedom is paramount. blog post text

Do you have a blog? Do you share your finances online as well? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.

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finances, sharing, income, expense, savings

Minimalism: Living with Less

Minimalism is the act of living with less and the pursuit of living with the least amount reasonable in each situation. While away on vacation in Indonesia, I got a chance to relax and reflect on where I am in life and where I want to be. I read a wonderful book by Ben Night titled “Adopting the Minimalist Mindset”. Here at Atypical Life, we follow almost all of the suggestions in the book when it comes to managing money and frugality, however, we have also been overcome by possessions.

If you have read my 2017 goals for the year, then you will remember that I used to spend $600 per month on things or shopping. This budget over the past 4.5 years has ballooned our possessions to the point that we have lots of things and many that are just sitting around.

Minimalism is all about spending your time with the most valuable people and objects in your life. ~Ben Night

Ben pointed out what we already know. Pursuing the atypical life of freedom, we know that the time for experiences and the time for family and friends far outweighs the benefits of many possessions.

Because of our many possessions, I get to spend much of my time each week on maintenance and upkeep of all of these possessions. The main takeaway from Ben’s book for us was the below point:

Find something in your house each day and trash it, donate it, or give it away.

His book detailed lots of ways to declutter your house and had sections on each area of the house and how to declutter your life. I was struck by the above quote because, in general, instead of throwing things out or getting rid of things when we no longer use them, we stick them in the drawer or in the back of the closet in the distant chance that we may one day use them… You never know, right?

This hoarding habit has created a stockpile of stuff in our apartment here in China. Luckily, we had the chance when we moved here to donate a huge load of possessions to Goodwill. Not everyone gets this chance. Moving is a great opportunity to remove unneeded things. We were able to remove old kitchen appliances, sofas, beds, tables, kitchen cookware, clothes and many other things in the move.

Somehow we still ended up with junk boxed up by the movers and delivered halfway around the world to China!

If you have possessions that have been in the box for 3 months and you haven’t needed or used them, do you really need to keep them or should you just trash them?

I say make the atypical choice and get rid of them. The choice is up to you which method to use to liberate yourself from possessions.

  • Donate it
  • Trash it
  • Give it away

I have started going through our belongings each weekend and enjoying the process of getting rid of things. My first foray this year into freedom of possessions was to go through my clothing. I was able to donate nearly 30 lbs of clothing and free up space in my dresser and closet. I had been holding on to clothes that I didn’t like, weren’t comfortable, or didn’t fit, just because I paid for them. Maybe I thought I could wear them later and they would magically be better?

I have been cycling for nearly 15 years and acquiring clothing for nearly that long as well. I still have some clothing from my early days of riding, but it rarely if ever gets used anymore. It feels liberating to remove this old stuff and get rid of it. The goal for me now is to remove items and not to replace them.

This past weekend I spent some time going through our junk drawers. We all have these. It’s where we throw all of our small trinkets and whatchamacallits. We have 2 gigantic 4 drawer office filing cabinets full of files and junk. I went through most of these and was able to get rid of more old things that will never be used again. It truly is amazing how much stuff you accumulate over time.

Why do we keep all of this junk?

Its hard to understand the psychology behind hoarding, even in small doses. All of us have some small emotional attachment to our possessions. This small attachment makes us feel that we cannot possibly throw whatever it is out.

Maybe the attachment is rooted in the fact that we paid for it.

“Aunt Rosie” bought it for us, and even though we don’t like it, we can’t possibly get rid of it. She might notice!

I don’t use it now, but maybe, just maybe, in the future, I can find some use for it.

I was raised going to Boy Scouts. I love all of the experiences that Boy Scouts gave to me and the morals it instilled. The Boy Scout motto is:

Be Prepared.

The Boy Scout motto definitely influenced me. I try to always be prepared for anything that can happen, or any activity I want to participate in. I do my research and acquire the gear needed, even if it could be rented. The outrageous prices that vendors charge for renting gear, steers me to buying and bringing my own. Personal gear can be just the right size and suited just for you. Because of the my desire to be prepared, I have certainly accumulated quite the collection of outdoors gear. It also stops me from getting rid of it because I feel I may one day need it again even if I have already upgraded to better.

In Conclusion

I have started to free myself from my belongings. The atypical life of freedom not only applies to freedom of the man at work and financial freedom, but freedom from belongings. It is okay to maintain belongings and be prepared for whatever may come your way, but there is a time when it is time to let go.

I have just started this process. Ben Night suggested to get rid of one thing each day, and after a year or 2, you will be down to a reasonable amount of things. This journey is just beginning for me, but I already feel better knowing that I am releasing the stranglehold my belongings have over me.

Join me on our pursuit of freedom. Can you get rid of something everyday? Once per week? Let me know in the comments.

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minimalism, living life with less, less is more

2 Weeks in Paradise: Cost Review of Indonesia

One of the benefits of living abroad as an expat in China is the Chinese New Year’s holiday. We were able to spend 2 weeks off on a wonderful vacation bike tour in Indonesia because of a week long holiday mandated by the Chinese government. I spent one week of my vacation and we were able to travel for 2 weeks. Chinese New Years (CNY) goes along with the lunar calendar and is the annual lunar new year. It is between mid-January to the end of February each year and lasts at least a week of festivities for the Chinese. It is also the largest human migration annually in the world, as lots of Chinese head to their home towns to visit family and celebrate another new year.

We took our chance to escape the chaos of China and the huge migration by leaving before the new year stared and returning after the government mandated holiday. This allowed us to miss some of the crowds.

How did we decide to travel to Indonesia?

We were planning a trip to Thailand to go visit Chiang Mai and the elephant sanctuary that is located there. However, when I learned from my Chinese co-workers that Thailand is a major travel destination for the Chinese, we changed our plans and set our sights on Indonesia.

Who knew, when we started planning this trip, that Indonesia is the 4th largest country in the world behind:

  1. China                     (1,376,830,000 people)
  2. India                      (1,289,690,000 people)
  3. United States       (323,675,000 people)
  4. Indonesia             (258,705,000 people)

The vast majority of the inhabitants of Indonesia’s 17,508 islands live on Java, the main island, and our destination for our 2 week adventure.

 Bike Touring to Save Cost

We brought our coupled tandem road bike with us. This was our main form of transportation once we arrived to Indonesia. We used it to tour various sites around Yogyakarta and also used it to travel across Indonesia and eventually end up in Bandung at the end of the trip where we took a bus back to the Jakarta airport.

Bringing your own transportation on a trip really frees you up to explore on your own terms.

  • It is free, since it takes no fuel.
  • It also allows you to see the countryside and stop at any location you want.
  • You get to interact with locals instead of blowing by them.
  • It is a great conversation starter.

Like the view on the side of the road where it says no stopping? Go ahead and stop and take a picture of the scenery before you continue on your way.

Mt Merapi

There are certainly downsides to bike touring:

  • It takes longer to get places than on motorcycles or buses.
  • If you are tired, the last thing you want to do is ride your bike 50 km one way to go see a sight outside of the city you are staying in.
  • While having a “real job” and a set vacation time, you “waste” valuable days riding from one place to another.

The negatives are outweighed by the positives of freedom and choice. We get to explore on our own terms.

We were able to save hundreds of dollars on bus and motorcycle rental fees by bringing our bike and traveling the way we did. One destination, Sri Gethuk, a beautiful waterfall outside Yogyakarata, certainly had no buses going to it. The only way to get there is by motorcycle or bicycle, and we were able to go on our own schedule and get to experience it.

Sri Gethuk

Bike Touring Across Java

We started our trip in Indonesia with 4 days in Yogyakarta. While here we got to explore a number of very cool sites. The first was a small waterfall that is reminiscent of the Antelope slot canyons in Arizona called Luweng Sampang. Riding there was a brute of a bike ride with a 20% climb that was over 2km long. After getting there, the riding was all flat, so the day was relaxing besides the beginning. We were able to jump off the waterfall into the canyon below, only after watching some of the locals do it. After refreshing in the water, we headed to Prambanan to see the Hindu temple complex. There were actually multiple temple complexes at the site we got to see.

We also spent a day riding over to Sri Gethuk to visit the waterfalls and the cave. This was another 40 km ride there and 40 km ride back over steep difficult terrain. The waterfall was definitely worth it, since I got to swim and enjoy the water for an hour. The last day in Yogyakarta was spent eating pizza, relaxing and then checking out some more local temples. We had big plans for seeing other places, but our fatigue held us back. That is the one downside to travel by bike. When you get tired, you really do not want to go anywhere but to eat.

Borobudur

Leaving Yogyakarta we headed up to Borobudur on the bike and explored for the day. Borobudur was a very cool and unique Buddhist temple. Another benefit of the bike is there are no parking fees, usually. Borobudur was one of the tourist traps that we went to see in Indonesia. It is renowned as the world’s largest Buddhist temple, which we can attest to is 100% misleading if not completely disingenuous. Many of the Buddhist temple complexes in China put the size of Borobudur to shame, however, it was a very cool place nonetheless.

Borobudur

Dieng Plateau

After a day at Borobudur, we continued on to Dieng Plateau, where there is lots of volcanic activity. The ride to Dieng was extremely difficult. We found out in Yogyakarta, that the hills and mountainsides in Indonesia are dangerously steep. After reviewing the route, we thought it would be okay on the way to Dieng. We were wrong. The hills were still super steep and we were super tired by the time we reached the bottom of the 1000m climb up to Dieng. We rode around until we were able to find the bus up the mountain and loaded up our bike on the bus rooftop, in order to reach Dieng. We prefer to ride, but when the time comes to call it quits, we have started to accept it.

We found a little homestay in Dieng upon arrival that happened to be our cheapest accommodation of the entire trip. It ran us 75,000 IDR which is equivalent to $5.62, quite the steal. Granted this certainly wasn’t a luxury accommodation, but it served our needs of a roof over our head and a bed to sleep in. Exploring the plateau, we saw a beautiful green volcanic lake, multiple temples, and a very cool volcanic crater that reminded me of the small ones at Yellowstone in the US. All of these locations charged to go see, them and I felt like I was getting nickel and dimed to death. In the end, their charges were equivalent to $1 or less for most of the locations, so it wasn’t very expensive.

Dieng Lake

Enjoying Pangandaran

Leaving Dieng Plateau, we spent 2 days riding across the country to Pangandaran, so we could live in the lap of luxury at $13 per night for a secluded beach inn. Our ride across the country started with more of the steep craziness, but we were able to make it to Purwokerto in one day, where we couldn’t find a place to stay except for 450,000 IDR ($36). We felt ripped off here, but it was a very nice place and we were able to dry out our clothes after being soaked for a couple of days from rain.

We also hit up the local bike shop for parts and repair. I can fix all my own gear, however, when parts break, there is no other option. My front derailleur cage broke and we needed a new one. At the shop, I was able to get a new one and get it installed along with adjustment of the disc brakes. The bike was not responding well to Indonesia and needed these parts to feel safe riding in the mountains.

Riding from Purwokerto to Pangandaran was a very nice ride besides the one crazy mountain (not steep) where the drivers were all over the road and seemed intent on running us over. We got rained on for several hours, but it was still a beautiful ride. We arrived to our beach paradise, and decided in the end to stay here for 3 nights. Given no schedule we would have stayed longer, but we still wanted to make it to Bandung at least.

We had a very nice day on the river with a guide company taking us up and floating down the Green Canyon. This included jumping off 15m high cliffs along with floating through rapids. It was a beautiful experience and one of a number of experiences that are budget friendly in Southeast Asia. I prefer no-cost fun on the bike, but trips for adventure excursions are still very fun.

The next day we spent a day lounging around on the beach and exploring the mangrove forest. It was very nice to just hang out and relax after several long days of bike riding. The fatigue we built up so far on the trip was starting to get to us. I got to spend my birthday lounging on the beach enjoying the clean air, beautiful water, and quiet surroundings.

Pangandaran Beach

Riding and Exploring Bandung

We were sad to leave Pangandaran, but the roads were calling and we were rested. The ride from Pangandaran to Tasikmalaya took us along back country roads that should have been very nice pavement had they not all been washed out from the heavy rains. We managed to stay upright the entire time, but the roads were doing their best to throw us off. We climbed up several mountains under the beating sun to reach Tasikmalaya. We feasted on roadside fried goodness on our way and made it to town after 94 km and running out of water.

The next day was our last ride of the trip. It was an okay ride to Bandung. We were on the “major” highway, highway 3. It was only a 2 lane road and was not supposed to be steep, but the 2 mountain passes we went over certainly qualified as steep (10-15%). It would have been a lot nicer of a ride, but the clouds were up and visibility was low. Also, the final push to Bandung was through unending suburban sprawl, which is no fun to ride through. In the end, we made it to our hotel in Bandung and set about figuring out an activity for the next day.

We found a volcano to go hike up, Tangkuban Parahu. It is the most popular volcano in Bandung, and is a terrible ripoff for foreigners. It cost less than $2 for locals, but the cost for foreigners is 10x the local cost! We still trekked up there on buses and by foot, refusing the many offers of additional transportation. The crater at the top was very cool and the views from the top were second to none. In the end, I felt stabbed through the heart at the time for 10x local cost, but we spent a total of $144 on entrance fees and attractions for 2 weeks, which is not too bad at all.

Tangkuban Parahu Crater

Our last day in Indonesia involved riding our bike to the bus station, packing it all up and then taking the bus back to the airport to fly out the following morning.

Cost Review of 2 Weeks in Indonesia

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Transportation Costs

We flew in and out of Jakarta on our adventure to Indonesia. Because of CNY, flights are usually astronomically priced during those weeks, so we had our first foray into travel hacking and flying on rewards points. During our investigation into living in China we were flown over to China by the company multiple times and we were able to rack up 56,000 rewards miles on Cathay Pacific. Nearly enough points to fly both of us round trip to Indonesia. The tickets for this trip were supposed to cost $400 each, but by using rewards points the cost was $90 in fees. We also had to purchase points, which is a major rip-off at $60 per 2000 miles, for a total round trip cost for 2 people to Jakarta, Indonesia from China of $210. I did not see us using the Cathay Pacific points anytime soon and they were set to expire as well, so purchasing points to travel made sense in our situation and it worked out for the best.

Along with the round trip flight to Jakarta we also were scammed into a higher cost in-country flight from Jakarta to Yogyakarta (Jogjakarta locally). When I went to book the $35 flight in Indonesia, it would not accept any foreign credit card. I had to book via a travel agency raising the cost to $50 per ticket. This is one of the drawbacks to traveling on a schedule set by work. If we had time and freedom, we would have just arrived to Jakarta and then booked the ticket to Yogyakarta.

Our trip worked out to be more expensive than I expected, but very cheap in terms of time-limited vacations. 40% of our cost was transportation, and of that 40%, 92% ($467) was just to get to there and back. This goes to show, that the longer the trip is, the cheaper it is per day. Our trip was 40% transportation cost, almost entirely spent on getting there and getting home, so if we had doubled the trip length, transportation cost would drop to 20-30% of trip cost depending on increases of food, housing, and activities.

Housing Cost

We paid on average $20 per night for accommodation for a total trip cost of $297. $20 is the upper limit of what I like to spend per night on accommodation in locales in Southeast Asia and it affords pretty nice hotels. We got ripped off a couple of times because we were staying in a tourist trap and because we didn’t book ahead. We learned to book at least a day ahead using Agoda to secure the cheapest cost and to find the lowest cost hotels in a city/town. Our favorite stay in Pangandaran in a small house by the beach, with included breakfast and the sound of geckos all night was $15 per night.

Food Cost

Food in Indonesia left something to be desired. Everything was fried, which is pretty good when you start, but after awhile gets old. One thing I will never get tired of though, is a dinner cost for 2 of $2.25. No the food is not exquisite, but it is not bad either. Indonesia does spicy right. Just one dab of their hot sauce is burn your face off spicy.

Want a fried hush puppy? Here is a handful of fresh chilies to go with it!

We had an “expensive” seafood dinner one night for Mrs. Atypical with tiger prawns and fresh fish for a total cost of $18. In the end everything was very cheap in Indonesia. Even though the meals were usually not enough to fill us up, we could stop at a convenient store for snack foods and still be way ahead on cost, even compared to China.

Activity Cost

Activity cost in Indonesia is outrageous when compared with the local prices. As a foreigner, you can expect to pay 3-10x the local price to go see any and all attractions. They believe because we are foreigners, we have lots of money to spend and they all want a part of it. Our big ticket items here were Borobudur temple complex ($39 for 2), Prambanan temple complex ($35 for 2), and Tangkuban Parahu volcano ($30 for 2). The one high ticket activity we paid for, that I thought was worth it was the Green Canyon float trip with lunch ($34 for 2). All the other locations we visited were just nickel and diming us, instead of outright scamming us.

Souvenirs/Goods Cost

We like to bring back something to remember each country we travel to. Since we are on the bike, these items must be small and not break easily or we will never get to enjoy them at home. We were able to pick up 3 pieces of Batik art for ourselves and our family in Yogyakarta. The first one, we paid the same as the next 2, and they were all the same size! This goes to show, that the sellers are really just out there to scam us as best they can. The quality on all of them were the same and they were beautifully made and colored. The total cost for these was $60 and the rest of our goods cost was in fixing the bike and attempting to fix our broken camera. Our wonderful Olympus E-M10 camera had its shutter freeze shut at Borobudur, so we went more than half of the trip without our nice camera.

In Conclusion

We had a fantastic and relaxing trip to Indonesia. Living in the high stress environment of full-time employment working for the man, coupled with living in a city when you are country-folk, leads to a desire to escape. Indonesia filled that desire and then some. We were able to relax and enjoy ourselves for 2 weeks all on a reasonable budget.

We spent a total of $1,264 over the course of 2 weeks on this trip, which worked out to $74 per day. This is a sustainable forever travel budget, and I still feel it was on the expensive side with transportation cost so high. In the future when the Atypical Life family reaches personal and then financial freedom, we will be able to explore the world on our own terms at our own speed.

Have you been to Indonesia? Let me know about your trip and costs and we can learn from each other.

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Indonesia, Java, Borobudur, cost review, finance, budget