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MONEY TALK | I Fear of Going Broke in a Foreign Country

TAINAN, TAIWAN | It’s been eight months since I left the Philippines. It’s been eight months since I left my beautiful life in Cebu, moved my four urban felines and books to the countryside, and gave up my little apartment in Cebu City. I’m here in Taiwan for a month before flying to Myanmar. And after that, I don’t know where my depleting bank account, feet, and restless mind bring me.

Traveling non-stop is costly. Financially. Emotionally. The more you travel, the more you spend. I constantly worry. Especially financially. Although my IG photos will say otherwise.

Three months ago, I decided to stay longer in Vietnam and did not travel to China with Tobias. For a reason. The status of my finances alarmed me. I only had Php30 000.00 ($600) in my Paypal with mounting credit card bills to pay. That, after traveling to Australia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Earlier this year, as predicted, the writing project (that allowed me to save up to Php180000) was stopped. So the constant paid writing gigs ran dry. I had to find a different income source.

Poor but still smiling for a photo. Haha!

So I stayed longer in Hanoi and volunteered as a teacher while hustling writing jobs online and teaching English on my free time. I managed to raise my Paypal fund to $1000.00 and with around Php50000 in my bank account. Then it was time to move again. I flew to Nepal to travel around (Kathmandu-Pokhara-Khopara Danda trek) for a month. Nepal is not a cheap country, especially when it comes to food and accommodation. We love food and the hotels we stayed in weren’t the cheapest either. Oh yes, I may backpack with a book, but I’m not your cheapskate backpacker. I misrepresent my blog, eh? Haha!

When my travel fund is below Php50000 ($1000), I start feeling worrisome and fidgety. I know I have to do something about it. And I am in that state right now. My remaining travel fund can be stretched till Myanmar. But if I won’t find other resources by then, my fear of going utterly broke abroad is going to get real.

So I weighed in some options. So far, there are three options available to me.


I stayed in Hanoi for a month and exactly did this. As you may know, Workaway is an awesome website that offers volunteer programs all over the world. You only have to pay for your membership (around $29 annually, if I’m not wrong) and you can access all different volunteer programs. Usually, the host provides accommodation and food in exchange of your services. Do understand that you should be qualified for the program you are applying for.

I understand your desire to save as much as possible, but the students pay too to improve their English skills. I sometimes felt that they were guinea pigs for foreigners [I’m not an exception] who ventured to Vietnam to teach English and started as volunteer teachers. [Will write more about this soon.]


Hopping from one place to another is costly. So I desire to slow down, live like a local, and work online. I actually miss waking up with nothing much to do but write and read. I intend to live in Hanoi perhaps for six months, teach English, continue working on my poetry and short story manuscripts, grow container garden on the terrace, and stuff myself with all the Vietnamese goodness. Of course, with all the legal paperworks in hand.


Not bad a plan, actually. To have a place I can call my own is my ultimate dream. It must be a disappointment for a traveler. Haha! But I just miss gardening, my books, and cats that this idea of having a home doesn’t revolt me at all. But in order for me to do this, I need money. So I might work in Vietnam first, before I can realize this ultimate goal: to retire at 35, read, write, cook, and garden.

How about you? What are your worries? What makes you ache the most? What’s your story?

Mother Nature, lead me to a path of paid writing gigs!

I’m in Taiwan until the 4th of September! Of course, there is Postcard Poetry Project: Taiwan edition! Email your name and address to with the subject above (or below) on or before August 30, 2017, 12MN.

Those who want to surprise a friend, a family, or a dear one, you can submit their address and names as well. Of course, you have to inform me that it is not you receiving the postcard.

I don’t send generic postcards. I either collaborate with a local artist (trying to find one in Taiwan) or I send photos I personally took with little stories or poems at the back.
Share this to those who might want to receive a postcard from Taiwan!

Thank you!
Jona of

Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona, originally from Cebu, Philippines, had live in Hanoi, Vietnam, and now currently based in Munich, Germany. This blog used to house thoughts on life and books, but eventually it morphed into a travel blog. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at For essays, creative nonfiction, and others, find me elsewhere.

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  1. Doi says:

    I guess you just need to know what your priorities are Jona. Something has to be given up I guess. You must sacrifice something in order to live the life you want to live. I hope everything works out for you. 🙂 Amping pirmi ha ^_^

  2. Teesh says:

    I hope you get to retire at 35, with your cats and your garden! Having a home where you feel safe in, and a sure place you can go back to after exploring parts of the world never sounded revolting to me too. 🙂 The future never fails to give me anxiety and in turn, sleepless nights. Even if there’s no reason to. I feel bad whenever I complain because I always feel like I live a privileged life and there’s really nothing to complain about. I don’t like the feeling, I know it’s unreasonable, but it’s also something I have a hard time controlling.

  3. Sarah says:

    Thanks for sharing this. Everyone thinks the life of a traveler is so glamorous and all fun but there are many stressful parts. Good luck with figuring everything out!

  4. Tasha Amy says:

    I know the struggles of trying to make money last as well! Though I have never tried working abroad. I generally save up enough money for however long and continue until I run out of money. I had to cut out India from my recent trip and head back home as I only had a few hundred left. Totally agree about accommodation not being cheap in Nepal as well, that was a major surprise for me!

  5. I really love reading personal stories like this – thanks so much! It’s really refreshing to see someone writing straight from her heart. I think – yeah, as the Bon Jovi song says: who says you can’t go home? I believe in doing what makes you happy, not necessarily what others expect of you. All the best, girl!

  6. I’ve never done that kind of long term travel, partly because my travel style is a bit more expensive (my compromise, I know), so there’s a limit to how long I could travel. Longest was a 9 week trip, which was wonderful. I think these days I could probably do 2-3 months without problem but not endless. I too would be scared of running out of money, and my main job is not one I could do on the road… I am always full of admiration for people like yourself who make this work for themselves and have the determination and flexibility needed. I’m also a home body though and love to have my garden and friends around me!

  7. perri says:

    Wow this was just what I needed to read right now as I am verrrrry far away from home.. with a dwindling bank account. Sometimes there is so much pressure I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest. One day we’ll both look back and laugh at this chapter of our lives.. so grateful we took a risk! Cheers and good luck to you all the way from Vienna! xo

  8. Denisa says:

    Oh my, travelling can be tricky. I hope you’re alright! You’re going to make it, you’ll always find the way. 🙂

  9. ian says:

    After floating around in limbo in this so called life for the past few years. Now, I am on the verge of traveling long term. I don’t know how I got here but maybe destiny has taken me to this direction. I am at my middle thirties, thinking that I wasted half of my life on a serious relationship that prospered into nothing. But I am thankful, though late as i came to the party because of that relationship, it was the one that broke me only to rebuild my self to who I am today. #sorryifitdoesntmakesense.

  10. […] know, I know, you want to travel for as long as possible, the prospect of heading home to ‘real life’ right now is frankly not an option. So you’ve […]

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