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How to live a six-figure lifestyle in Asia for a quarter of the price

· Travel,Money

Imagine: being able to spend one full day a week at a relaxing spa, and eating dinner every night out in local restaurants. On the weekends, you have your choice of hiking or skiing in the mountains, or heading to the beach. Those are just the scenery options though: you can head to the local island for water sports, or the fashion metropolis for shopping and partying. About once a month, you fly to an exotic country like Thailand, Japan, or Indonesia to spend the weekend. You work 15 hours a week, and you have a five-minute walk to work. Your coffee, snack and lunch are prepared for you at work by what is basically the culinary equivalent of someone’s grandma (no packaged nonsense), and it’s really, really, really good. It’s also super healthy and you typically get all of your fruits and veggies in within one meal. In spite of only working part-time, you earn a good salary, relative to cost-of-living, so you’re easily able to put away $1,000/month towards investments, with another $200 going towards your travel fund. You have 4-6 weeks of vacation, but you work on contracts year-to-year, so you have the flexibility to take a year off, and then return (or take 6 months off, and then return). Regardless of whether you stay onboard for one year or five, whenever you leave the country you get a nice-sized check: one month of severance pay (equal to one month’s pay) plus $200/month for every month you worked returned to you thanks to the country’s mandatory pension system.

How much would that cost in the US? Using average figures for Charlotte, NC for example (a metropolitan area with roughly 1 million people):

  • Monthly vacation to a neighboring country (within 2-3 hours distance) (Mexico, Canada, Cuba): $800-$1,000 (assuming ~$600 for flights, $200 for hotel, $200 for food and entertainment)
  • Full-day at the spa per visit: $500 per visit or ~$2,000 per month
  • Dinner out at local restaurants: $20 per dinner or ~$500 per month
  • Apartment that is downtown / five minutes away from work on foot: ~$1,500/month
  • Investing $1,000 / monthly into brokerage = $1,000 /month

Monthly total = ~$6,000+ / month after tax

This lifestyle can be attained living on a part-time teacher’s salary in a lucrative market (key word: lucrative. There are teaching opportunities in virtually every non-English speaking country, but countries like Spain or Thailand typically only pay enough so that you can afford to live but not necessarily splurge and have massive savings. There are exceptions to this rule: international schools in many countries can have significant salaries (some teachers are able to save six figures annually) but they don't fit the part-time requirement. Lucrative markets (where the pay is the highest and cost of living is lowest) are countries like South Korea, China, and United Arab Emirates.

In short, this lifestyle is possible because of the low cost of living in these areas (a relaxing day at the spa can be $10, a meal in a local restaurant can be $5), the cost-effectiveness of intercontinental travel (weekend flights to Japan, Taiwan, and China can all be found for less than $150 round-trip), and the fact that your apartment and insurance are paid for by the employer, which is customary.

This will allow you to comfortably save about $20,000 / year. How? Starting with a base of $2,000 per month: $1,200 goes to savings/investments, $350 is funneled towards travel, $300 is dedicated to food, $100 is dedicated to beauty and entertainment (spas) and $50 is set aside for phone bill and other miscellaneous expenses. On top of that, recall that $200/month will be refunded at the end of the contract, plus severance, and we have a grand total of $19,000-$20,000 saved for the year depending on the exchange rate. Colby at That Charles Life saved something close to this and detailed his teaching and saving experience over on his blog.

Some people do this for a year or two; others do it indefinitely. Regardless of the time frame you choose, the perks are undeniable. You get to live internationally without stressing over making visa runs, immerse yourself in a culture and make friends, learn a new language, travel in your free time, and make a meaningful impact on the lives of a community that is seeking to learn from your native schools to advance their own education. Thanks to part-time hours and a lack of commute, you'll also have abundant time outside of work to work on passion projects and discover (or rediscover) your purpose.

Would you ever consider taking a sabbatical to do this? If so, where would you go?

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