Day 159
Creative Commons License photo credit: Xelcise

When we think about dream lifestyles it’s tempting to picture in your head an image of the lifestyles of the “rich and famous”. The sort of lifestyle where you attend Hollywood movie premiers, date a model, live in a huge mansion in Bel Air and have a collection of supercars to choose between.

But truth be told this lifestyle is unlikely to make you much happier than you are now – at least after the novelty has worn off.

For most people dream lifestyles are less about “things” and more about “experiences”. Sure, you might want to own a nice house. You might want a hot tub or to own a classic E-type Jaguar.

But you also want to have the freedom to spend time doing the things you love. You want stronger relationships. You don’t want to have to worry about a boss or office politics. You want variety, adventure and satisfaction. More than anything, you want a feeling of freedom – of being in control of your own destiny.

And these things cost far less than the typical “millionaires lifestyle” that gets flashed around on TV or in the newspapers.

Take the example of relationships for a moment. Assuming you manage to quit your job so you have all the time in the world available to you, how much would it cost to have better relationships or more friends?

Frankly, little or nothing. Sure it’s nice to be able to treat people sometimes – a day out at the zoo or dinner in a nice restaurant – but even these things don’t have to cost much. It’s really all about having the time to spend with these people, to put the effort into your relationships and prove to them how much the people around you really mean to you.

Lets take a personal example of my own. Those of you who I know personally know that I love nature. I love to be out birdwatching. Turning over logs looking for insects. Taking photographs. Learning more about the natural world.

What are my costs? Again, I already own some binoculars, a selection of books and a camera. Sure, it would be nice to upgrade to a professional camera and to buy myself a microscope but even that shouldn’t cost more than a thousand dollars or so. Apart from that all I really need is a little cash for memory cards, new books and so on and the freedom of time to be able to spend as much time as possible out in nature.

Let’s look at another example which features in many people’s ultimate lifestyle plan – the fine art of travel. Surely jetting off around the world for extended periods of time is the pastime of the rich and famous? Well certainly if you want to stay in five-star luxury in Vegas, Monaco and the Maldives you *will* be needing some serious cash. But there are alternatives.

Flights can be the most expensive part of going abroad. A flight from where I am in the UK to Australia can cost $2000 without breaking into a sweat. Better seats can cost twice that. But local travel costs less, and if you choose your location well your living expenses once you arrive can be very low indeed.

I know someone who spent three months travelling around India and spent less than $1000 in the whole time (excluding flights). When I spent a month in Costa Rica sampling everything the country had to offer the first hotel I stayed in cost $22 a night for both me and my girlfriend. That’s $11 a night each. And it wasn’t the cheapest hotel in town either. Other people are travelling around South East Asia and South America for next to nothing.

This is the concept of “geoarbitrage” – that quite simply things cost more in some countries and less in others. If you can set up a website that makes money from Westerners with their high cost of living and high incomes, then spend those profits in a country with a low cost of living then you can live like a king on a tiny fraction of what it would cost you “back home”.

As an example I recently heard about a guy renting an apartment in Thailand for less than $100 a month. Even with food and other minor expenses ontop, you don’t have to be very successful online to be able to afford that kind of lifestyle.

Imagine waking up to warmth and sunshine every morning. Spending a few hours working on your website(s) and then having the rest of the day free to explore, write a book, go out with friends and so on. And all for next to no money.

The fact is that as the flight can be the single most expensive part of international travel if you do it right, it actually makes sense to travel for longer periods of time. The fewer flights you have to take, the more cost-effective your travels become.

Many people are using this concept of geoarbitrage to quickly escape from the rat race and live a more exciting, fulfilling life. Whilst you may have to be quite successful creating a location independent business if you want to live where you are now and cover all your regular expenses, if you focus on reducing your outgoings either by downsizing, paying off debt, eliminating unnecessary expenses or moving to a cheaper country then escaping from the rat race is within most people’s reach.

Tim Ferriss, the author of the now-famous 4 Hour Work Week discusses a topic he calls “dreamlining” in which once you have decided on what your perfect lifestyle actually looks like you take your plans a step further. In this secondary step of dreamlining you actually do some serious research and put together a budget to see just how much (or hopefully how little) your dream lifestyle will actually cost you.

Try it as an interesting exercise and I think the results could surprise you – and that with a little forethought and some creativity you may well find that creating your ultimate lifestyle does actually cost you far less than you may initially think.