EDIT: This was written in 2016. A lot has changed in my life. You can follow me on Instagram: @jonajournals
First, let me tell you a little story. My older sister, a single mom who is raising her two sons alone, bought a piece of land some months ago. She works at home by teaching English to Koreans and the Japanese. The construction of her own house in her own land is undergoing right now.
Now, why did I bring it up? If I recalibrate my priorities, my travel fund is actually enough to buy a small lot in a small town in Cebu where I can build my own little dream house. Yet, I choose to follow my own fernweh [the ache for distant places]. My sister chooses stability. And I admire her for that. While in my case, I’m thirty and own nothing but books and some pans and cups.
I am not here to spark envy and jealousy among those who dream in setting off on their adventure. Traveling, as I said, is not the ultimate goal; it is a medium, a bridge that links you to your passion or purpose. In my case, it is my creative process that ferries me to the many worlds of the written word. [My first poetry book got published last August!]
For an ordinary Filipino, Php180K is not a small amount. It is the biggest money I have ever had. And certainly it did not happen overnight and certainly, it will not cover the whole trip. Based on my personal experience, I approximately spend Php45000-Php55000 ($1000-$1200) a month on my trips abroad. So this Php180K, if I stay lazy and unproductive, is due to deplete after three months of traveling.
I started the Money Talk series on BWAB with an honest detailing of my finances—hoping that by doing so I can inspire my fellow Filipinos, especially the young ones, to have a closer look on their finances and their lifestyle. I do not come from a middle-class family. My father used to be a farmer and fisherman rolled into one. Mama owns a little sari-sari store.
As I said, for us to talk about traveling, we must talk about money.
Let’s me focus on the following questions I am often asked.
Because I am a popular travel blogger? [Insert a haughty tone here]. You know, I am practically paid to travel! Haha! I wish!
So how could I? Does my afam [a local gay word for foreigner] pay for my trips? I wish! Kidding!
To put it mildly, I work my ass off. Living a multiple version of myself [I called it the multitab personality—you know, like having many different tabs on your browser], I juggle different lives and roles.
I have been teaching literature to awesome humans for the past two and half years. I have been writing for TV5’s Interaksyon, Rappler, and anywhere else who would have me in their team. I shoot weddings and prenuptials for an affordable price. Together with established literati in Cebu [I’m not worthy], I sometimes panel writing workshops in Cebu. I handle one-on-one writing tutorials after work. I used to teach basic English online as well.
I’m a certified raketera. I have no shame when it comes to making decent money.
If there is one advice I could give to my younger self who did not know anything about the Internet, it would be this: Learn to diversify your skills. Be the modern Jill or Jack of all trade. Learn HTML. Practice Adobe Indesign.
In a way, yes. Little they may be, these paid opportunities allow me to continue traveling around the Philippines while saving for my year-long trip abroad and while maintaining [or trying to] a day job.
I made a pact with myself that I would never go out the country without exploring our own beautiful yet flawed country first. Despite not reaching as far as Batanes and Tawi-tawi [two polar destinations], I think I did a good job.
I did not get my passport until June 2015. [READ: A letter to my developing country passport]. In a year, I have been to ten countries. Six [Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, and Sri Lanka] were spent with Tobi; while I traveled solo in Malaysia, Myanmar, Japan, and Singapore.
I consider myself lucky; some freelance writers in the Philippines are paid Php1000.00 or less for a 1000-word article. For a 500-word article, my usual rate is Php3000.-Php4000.00. I have been writing pseudo-travel guides and hotel information for a foreign client.
For the past two years, I got stable writing assignments from them. I earn about $500-$600 a month. My client has its own payroll system and bureaucracies that it takes them up to three months to wire the money via Paypal.
Serious about my intention of traveling long-term, I created a separate travel fund account and connected it to my Paypal. I never touch it. I treat it like it does not exist. [IMPORTANT READ: Do you end up broke after a trip? Check the breakdown of my finances]
So reaching Php180K does not happen overnight. It took me two years to save up. It took four jobs and paid opportunities here and there. It took a lot of sleepless nights, coffee, and unlimited rice to reach this amount.
I’m transitioning to becoming a full-time digital nomad. What does it mean? It means I am going to work online and stalk freelancing sites. Haha! I am not doing that cliche “I Quit My Boring Job to Travel the World.” I am bringing work with me.
Honestly, I’m scared. This would be the craziest thing I would ever do in my life. For the first six months, we have Australia [Got my visa within 24 hours!], Papua New Guinea, Indonesia (Sulawesi area), the Philippines (of course!), Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Myanmar, Nepal, and Mongolia.
But this is subject to change, depending on our finances and resources.
If you want to know more about our journey, know about writing and digital nomad opportunities, and more personal stuff we do not normally share here, subscribe to our love letter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram!
I’m super excited for you. I have some hesitations re your 180k budget though. Like you, I’m a freelance writer transitioning to the digital nomad lifestyle, and I also spend about $1000+ every time I travel abroad. So how do you plan to make the 180k work? I’m not saying it won’t work ha, just curious kasi I want to do it for myself din.
Also, I’ve read lots of articles from other digital nomads and it looks like many of them budget 125k for monthly expenses living abroad, w/c includes rent and utilities. Anyways, I’m really looking forward to your post about this whole trip, and how you plan to make the 180k work… Or is it just savings for initial expenses, then your salary will cover other ongoing expenses? Hmmm…
Hi there, Cha! Yeah, based on my past trips abroad, I spend $1000-$1200 [Php40-Php60K] a month. MY savings should solidly cover the first three months while the passive income from various writing gigs trickles in.
One of the many worries I have right now, what if a client decides to end the content-writing project I’m currently in. That would be a big blow to my finances. Will have a monthly update on finances on BWAB. Thank you, Cha, for dropping by.
Hi Jona.. I am an avid reader of your blog posts.. Like you, I wish to travel abroad and explore different cultures but I am so hesitant because of the budget.. I hope I could find practical ideas from your next post, most especially, on your 180K budget for travel! Take care always, Jona. 🙂
Hi there, Xien! I’ll record my expenses and finances more and tips on how to do it! But some travel bloggers have done it no? Kach of twomonkeystravel did a good job on detailing it and Aileen of iamaileen as well. But I’ll pitch in my own story on the road.
Amazing you found such a great freelancing gig! I’m slowly working on becoming more location independent and I’m trying to find more freelancing gigs so I can work while traveling.
Hi there, Carmy! Yeah, but the project won’t last forever. So looking for more freelancing stunts here and there. 😀
BIg time inspiring post! I hope to find some good freelancing posts too soon! Hopefully as good as yours to help me travel eventually 😀
There is a lot of freelancing stunts, but the competition is steep!
Travellers frequently raised several eyebrows, people assume we dug a treasure trove somewhere in our backyard. Only we know how we struggle to save that every penny. Happy for you that you are able to hold on to your dreams. And all the best for future finances and endeavors
Indeed, Rashmi and Chalukya! Some did not know the struggle in keeping such a lifestyle. Thank you!
How exciting for you Jona! I’m working towards making money from my blog and getting freelance gigs. Ideally I’d love to spend the summer in Ireland running my own tours (I’m a tour guide) and when the season is over, travel and make money from writing. Good luck with your venture ☺
Oh, happy for you too, Marteen! I’m thinking of charging people for elaborate travel guide/advice! Haha!
This is a refreshing perspective! On taking work with you instead of quitting the job to travel the world ( =D) I’m looking to transit into a digital nomad eventually too, fingers crossed that our dreams will come true!
Crossing all fingers for us, Kristine! Thank you for dropping by!
How incredible that you have saved so much for this trip! Your first six months sound incredible. I have wanted to go to Cambodia and Vietnam and Papua New Guinea for ages!
These are very affordable countries, Janine! Heading to Cambodia this December!
Fellow Filipina here! and I am inspired with your honest story and admire your skills as certified Raketera!
Hi, Blair! And I could tell that you are a raketera yourself! 😀
I think that’s commendable you have made decent money to fund your travels! Especially since it’s writing on a topic you are clearly passionate about and have fresh new content from doing just that – traveling!
Yes, Shane! I treated it as a paid writing exercise! Hahaha!
I am always annoyed when people assume that because you are a blogger someone else is paying for your trips or that you must be rich in order to afford to travel. But only we know how much we work in order to afford to travel and be free. Nobody ever asks how many jobs or projects we take and how our spare time is non existent. We choose to travel instead of spending our hard work money on take away meals, restaurants or fancy clothes.
Yes, yes, yes, Joanna!!!
Such an important topic to talk about, irrespective of the place we come from. Traveling looks glamorous and is so rewarding, but can definitely be a big burden on financial resources. I’m trying to out together my own travel fund right now, and while its a small amount, I’m hoping its enough one day to drop everything and hop on a flight somewhere. thanks for sharing 🙂
Good luck, Anju! Let’s share tips on how to grow each other’s travel fund! Thanks!
Wow! Thank you for writing this post. Finally, a lot of people will get to understand how travel bloggers make their dream come true, and do not rely on some one else to fund their dreams.
This calls for dedication, planning and discipline.
Kudos to you!
Hi, Divya! I think we travel bloggers have to be transparent about our finances, so our readers would understand how we could afford our trips. Thanks for dropping by.
Maka-inspire kaau. I took my job here in SG hoping that it’ll be my starting point towards traveling SEA. But then I got stuck with work, and priorities (family). But now, it’ll all change. 😀
Hi there, Synz! I know your struggles! I really talked with my family; that I would prioritize traveling over them. Yeah, of course, I sometimes feel guilty. But this is what I want!
As much as where to travel is important, how to save up to travel to these places is equally important.
Thank you for these unique tips on saving up. lot of dedication is most important.
Indeed, dedication is very important, Indrani!
That is incredible how you worked so hard to save money so that you can do what you love. I am in the same boat as you and am working as much as I can to build my blog and my online business, so that I can continue to do what I love so much – travel. Thank you for sharing your story!
Indeed, Soraya! Me too, I set up a small online business before leaving for my year-long trip! Thanks for dropping by!
How I wish naa koy afam of my own to travel with me. Haha! I’ve been to Malaysia, Hong Kong and Macau with friends in 2013 and 2014. I’ve been to Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, back to Japan in 2015 and Taiwan in 2016 all solo travel.
Hahaha! You would love to hear how Tobias and I met. Chika nya ta!
Well done on your poetry book been published ! I like you work as much as I can to save and travel. You arw very inspiring. I look forward to following your travels.
Thank you, Verushka!
Very inspiring . I totally respect the way you have bared your story. Thanks for the handy tips and here is to more travel your way.
Thanks for reading through, Ami!
Good job Jona!, you really are very hardworking. I guess that being a blogger is really not that simple. It’s amazing how you can manage to do all your work, well the good part is that you can travel at the same time. thanks for sharing! and keep it up!
Thanks, Gazle. So, what do you think of the rate I gave you? 😉