Living overseas is more than just luck

It’s 6pm. I’ve just finished my nightly glass of wine following a trip to the market for fruit and vegetables and my husband is cooking dinner (I’m lucky like that). As I sit on my little porch taking in the Cambodian sunset through the lush greenery of my front yard I am thinking about how ‘lucky’ I am to live the life that I’m living – well at least that’s what everyone says…

Part of living overseas means that we utilize internet phone services to contact our friends and family back home. Sure it’s hard sometimes, being away from our loved ones during Christmas, but with today’s technology of being able to pick up a headset and make an internet phone call (to those who aren’t yet savvy with video calling) is great. The thing is that we actually have to use a messaging service first to let them know that we are calling just so they pick up. Reason being that internet phone services typically come up as either a blocked number or throw up a random Australian number on caller ID. If you’ve ever been in debt you will understand how a blocked number automatically means the bank – or worse, a debt collector. We talk to family & friends back home from 21-61 and there is a universal theme through all of the conversations… “I’m broke and hiding from the bank”.

5 years ago I was exactly the same. Living from paycheck to paycheck and absolutely freaking out when my car registration or house insurance bill came in the mail. Of course I knew that these bills were coming and roughly how much they would be, but I couldn’t save for the life of me. Every cent I had went on other bills, food and actually trying to live my life. Result: I climbed higher and higher up the corporate ladder in jobs that I hated, just so I could earn enough to live my life and pay those horrendously high bills.

This month is typically the most expensive month of the year for most households and so we decided to record all of our outgoings – every cent we have spent on everything from shampoo to champagne. We don’t exactly live conservatively, even though we are still trying to nail down those contracts that will make us money in this country – its just not our way I suppose. We go out, we have fun and we buy luxury items from the western markets here. It’s just not worth living such a different life if you are not going to enjoy it. We have savings and back up money, but the reality is we are going to need to find our income sources pretty soon if we want to stay here.

On the flip side to our fun way of living we still wake up at a reasonable hour from Monday to Friday and we both sit down and work – just like everyone else. We work at building multiple income streams to maintain our lives. Lives in which we are not subjected to power-hungry bosses in industries that we hate. We are working towards building a life that we enjoy that makes us enough money to live on. I’m fairly certain that by next month those income streams will be steadily in place and it will have taken us 2 months to get truly settled here and have created a whole new life for ourselves… 2 months!!! The beauty of this is that we don’t actually need that much to live on in Cambodia. Our total expenses for December (barring the $25-$50 we will spend on New Years Eve itself) come to a grand total of $1323.55USD (roughly $1820AUD) for everything from rent to bills to entertainment to food.

There are 2 schools of thought as to how we choose to live our lives. On the one hand there are the people who think we are insane and love to criticize how we live. The type who take personal offense by our choices and are pushing us away slowly, over time. Then there are the ones who tell us we are so lucky to live the way we live. Well, lucky is debatable when you consider that we spend most of our time trying to nail down income sources and (this month at least) put in a solid 5 days work, every week, without pay. Lucky isn’t exactly the term I would use for what we are, determined might be more like it.

So as I sit with my glass of wine reading a popular Australian investment newsletter about people’s financial problems I realized: we are not lucky to live the way we do, we are smart! We have the ability to choose how we live. We are not trapped by social norms anymore and we have enough travel experience to understand what it really takes (and how much it costs) to actually live your life. We thoroughly enjoy every day because even if we are working, we are working in a place where we can take a 2 minute tuk tuk ride and be in a city that we can enjoy living in without the price tag that you have to sell your soul to meet.

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