Budget Tips Digital Nomad Life Guatemala Life & Reflections Mexico

Monthly Life, Budget and Earnings Update: August 2017

And just like that, it’s the first of September and exactly 6 months since we left South Korea! August was another busy month for us. After settling down in Guadalajara for the most part of July, we were on the move again in last month. We visited lots of the places we were looking forward to seeing in Mexico and even did our first overland border crossing into Guatemala!

Here’s where we’ve been and what we’ve been up to!

Mexico City

Our time in Mexico City was jam packed! We had 4 days there and, honestly, could have spent a week and still not scratched the surface. Of course, we had to see the pyramids of Teotihuacan so we got there early to beat the heat and the crowds with our new Ozzy pal, Stacey. Afterwards, we went on a bit of a bar crawl having some pulque, tequila, margaritas, micheladas and even Belgian beers. So pretty much ever Mexican drink and a bit more…. There were serious headaches the next day!

Since Veeran and I have been trying to do more foodie travel experiences, we did a street food tour in Mexico City with Eat Mexico. This was an awesome way to try out a lot of different foods from the hawkers in Mexico City. Street food is huge in Mexico but the choice is pretty overwhelming. It’s easy to go for tacos over and over again. Luckily, we discovered loads more treats on the tour- my favourite being the blue crab! Our guide Anise was so fun and such a wee foodie- she has a blog all about food in Mexico and around the world which I don’t recommend reading if you’re hungry! This girl knows her stuff and it was amazing to have her show us around her home city!

We also took part in a cycling tour while we were there. Mexico City is trying to become a more cycle friendly city but it’s clear that this will take a few years to catch on! Drivers will be drivers and, no matter where you are in the world, they seem to have a vendetta against cyclists- I even got hit and knocked off my bike by a car, an ajhuma on a bike and a drunk ajjeoshi pedestrian in Korea!

Regardless, cycling is a great and eco-friendly way to really become familiar with any city in a short frame of time. Traffic is bad in Mexico City so buses and ubers aren’t the best choice for impatient people like me. The tour was perfect because we managed to see some of the sights and local life around the city and also sample some amazing tacos and chocolate tamales. (Yum!)

In Mexico City, we stayed at Stayinn Barefoot Condesa which is a great hostel in one of Mexico City’s coolest areas, Condesa. This district reminded me a lot of the west end of Glasgow: it’s where all the best new bars and restaurants are, it’s safe, arty and leafy with some nice parks, too. It’s probably one of the most liveable places we’ve visited on our trip and I definitely didn’t think I’d be saying that about Mexico City!

Disappointingly, we didn’t manage to do a lot of the touristy things in Mexico City due to a combination of time and terrible hangovers. Hopefully, we’ll be back, though, as I really want to visit Frida Kahlo’s house and get to experience more of this vibrant city!

Oaxaca

I knew I was going to love Oaxaca as soon as I heard about it and I’m glad to report that I wasn’t disappointed. The food at the mercados was amazing and the rooftop mezcal bars were the perfect place to grab a nightcap!

I expected to go there and just eat everything but there is a lot more to Oaxaca than the food. The city itself is gorgeous with colourful streets and colonial architecture but, for us, some of the best things were out with the city’s boundaries.

We spent one day taking a trip out to Monte Alban which has been our favourite archaeological site so far. What made these ruins so cool was that they’re set up on a mountain with an amazing view out over the Oaxaca Valley. I’ve got a post about how to visit Monte Alban in my drafts so keep your eyes peeled!

Another trip that we loved outside of Oaxaca was our trip to Hierve al Agua, the petrified waterfalls. When I say that we loved our trip, I should probably specify that we loved the waterfalls themselves and not so much the trip. We had heard that it was difficult to reach the falls by public transport and took that words as gospel so booked a tour. The tour only spent an hour at the waterfalls and the rest of the day we were dragged around a lot of other places that didn’t interest us. We spent 10 hours getting dragged about from place to place on our day off work. Let’s just say, we needed a beer when we got off the bus!

If you do want to visit the falls, it’s actually pretty simple to do it yourself so I would advise doing that instead! You could easily spend hours there, hiking around the area and chilling in the natural infinity pool at the top.

In more work focused news, Oaxaca was also where we had our first foray into co-working! We spent some time at a co-working space called Convivio and I loved it. It was perfect for people like me who get serious guilt camping out in coffee shops without spending a fortune on coffee but love being around other people! Our coworking space was only 100 MXN per day with unlimited tea, coffee and ahem, mezcal! We’re probably going to join another coworking space when we get to Antigua, Guatemala, as we found ourselves to be much more productive in that atmosphere.

Puerto Escondido

Having visited the Caribbean Coast of Mexico, we knew we had to check out the Pacific. Mexico’s Oaxacan Coast has some beautiful beaches and, if you have the time, it’s definitely worthwhile checking some out on your trip. We only had time to visit Puerto Escondido but weren’t disappointed- this is a bit of a surfer haven, too, so we met a lot of Aussies while we were there! (Actually, almost everyone we’ve met on this trip has been Australians escaping winter!)

Although places like Tulum and Isla Holbox were undeniably beautiful with their white powdery soft sand and turquoise water, I loved the raw beauty of Puerto Escondido. Swimming in the water and being able to see green cliffs lined with palm trees was much nicer than seeing rows of hotels and resorts. Plus, things are much cheaper in this part of the country so you can eat as much ceviche as you like with no guilt!

San Cristobal de las Casas

Our final destination in Mexico ended up being my absolute favourite! San Cristobal is a tiny little mountain city in the South of Mexico with an interesting blend of colonial architecture and a huge indigenous population. Little did we know before going, but this city has a really sad history. The indigenous people suffered years of oppression at the hands of, first the Spanish, and then the Mexican government. In 1994 they fought back during the  Zapatista Uprising. They have a lot more rights now than they did back then but it’s still baffling to think that such a thing needed to happen so recently.

We learned all about the history on an amazing free walking tour- the best walking tour I’ve ever taken, actually. Our guide took us to some cool spots around the city like a coffee shop, a veggie restaurant, an art gallery and some look out points. Since it was a good mix of things I like and educational things, I actually listened to the historical parts! We even finished the tour off with some pox, an agave based drink local to this region.

The rest of the time in San Cristobal, we just did yoga at our hostel, worked from coffee shops and did a day trip out to a canyon where we saw a crocodile! It was a properly chilled out time! You meet lots of people there who came for a few days and never left- the city is contagious and, if we didn’t have our accommodation booked in Guatemala, it might have sucked us in, too. Even though San Cristobal was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, I didn’t take too many photos. Some things are better left to memory!

Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan

Santa Cruz is our new home and where we’ll be spending the best part of this month. We’ve got a gorgeous little Air BnB looking over Lake Atitlan with an amazing view out to San Pedro volcano. And, best of all, this whole place costs less than I was spending on rent for a room alone in Edinburgh.

Our little casita is pretty secluded. We need to take a boat into the next town to do our shopping or even use an ATM! Because of this, we’ve been much more focused on our work which is ideal for us, really.

I don’t have much to report back on regarding things to do around the lake but, next month, I promise I’ll be armed with tales of SUPing, hiking and more!

Any Other News?

I’m Korea Sick

As much as I’m loving the carefree vibes and colour of Latin America, I have been getting a little bit Korea sick recently. I’ve said this before and I think it’s natural because I lived there for so long. We’ve become addicted to the K-Drama, Chicago Typewriter and I even bought some kimchi. Veeran thinks I’m a very confusing person because I always complained about Korea when I lived there and now that I’ve left I miss it! But little things like seeing people bowing to each other on TV or using certain words makes me feel all kinds of nostalgic.

how much can you save teaching english in south Korea

Korea and I have always had a bit of a complicated relationship but I do think we’ll go back- for a short holiday, not forever. There are reasons why I wanted to leave so much and I won’t forget about that! I would love to live in another Asian country, though. Preferably Japan since I’ve always been obsessed with it and would love to learn the language and more about the culture. If we did that, I’d definitely want to take frequent trips to Seoul (with an extra large suitcase for all my K-Beauty products!)

I’ve Started Online Teaching

I recently wrote a post about our digital nomad lifestyle and mentioned how important it is to diversify your income streams. I don’t want to always be relying on writing for money (or, for that matter, always writing) so I thought it would be fun to start teaching online. Most of my students are based in Taiwan, Japan and Korea so I have a lot of fun talking to them about their culture. I actually really miss the social side teaching so these little adult conversation classes have been a nice addition to my schedule!

What I’ve Been Reading

I’m now 26 books into my Goodreads 2017 challenge! Here’s what I read this month.

A Little Life

Oh my god, this bloody book! This is was such a well written and touching piece of fiction but, man it was quite difficult and depressing. The story follows 4 ambitious friends in New York from their high school years into adulthood. I don’t want to say too much without giving the story away but this book touches on a lot of sensitive subject areas. It’s clear from the start that the main character, Jude, has had a difficult childhood and a lot of those issues have carried over into his adult life, affecting everyone around him.

 

If you feel like things are going a bit too well in your life at the moment, and need to be brought down a peg, this is the book for you! Honestly though, even though parts are depressing, you’ll love the characters and won’t want to put it down.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

This is the third book I’ve read about North Korea this year and I was very impressed by it. The book was written by an LA Times journalist who travelled to North Korea in order to learn more about the regime. While she didn’t learn much from her government run tour of the country (surprise, surprise), her time speaking to defectors in Seoul taught her a lot.

Her writing focuses on the stories of 6 defectors, all from the same post-industrial town in the Northern part of the country. One thing I find striking about books about North Korea is how similar the defector’s stories all seem to be. There were so many times in this book where I found myself nodding along and even felt myself getting desensitised to elements of the regime. If that’s what happens to me from reading a book, someone who has lived a very comfortable capitalist life, what must it be like for the people who live through it every single day?!

What I liked best about this book was how it gave a well-rounded picture of North Korea. It follows life from the days of Kim Il Sung right through to the death of Kim Jong Il and the uprising of Kim Jong Un. The other books I’ve read about have been memoirs focussing on the struggle of one family in one specific time frame so I’d say this book is a much better starting point for anyone hoping to learn about North Korea! Parts are heartbreaking and it’s difficult to learn about so much human suffering but it’s worth reading if you want to learn more about the hermit state.

Saving and Spending

So, as promised, I’m going to start being more transparent about how much it costs to live this lifestyle and how much you have the potential to earn as a digital nomad.

Going forward, I’m going to be publishing a small income report here along with a report of everything we spent this month! I hope this can help some of you decide whether this lifestyle is right for you and even encourage you to take the leap for yourself.

Don’t Miss my Post Answering All your Qs about our Digital Nomad Life!

I’m also going to outline how much money we saved through sponsorships from my blog. Our spending isn’t exactly similar to regular travellers since we do get some perks like free hotel stays and trips so I’m going to put that into another section.

Spending

Veeran and I tend to put our money together each day and split things 50/50. Sometimes, I’ll want to buy myself some souvenirs and this usually gets taken out my own money. The following breakdown is per person.

Accommodation: $240/£180 per person

Food: $314/£243 per person (includes drinks with dinner & lunch)

Drinks: $61/£47 (alcoholic drinks at our apartment and at bars- this includes a serious wine bar binge night!)

Transport: $156/£119

Activities: $70/£54

Coffee & Coworking: $44/£63 (A.K.A our office costs for the days we decide to work outside of our accommodation!)

Other: $45/£34 (includes things like toiletries, new headphones and visa costs)

TOTAL: $930/£716 per person or $30/£23 per person per day!

We’ve been trying to stick to a budget of $25 per day on this trip so going over by $5 each wasn’t a huge deal- especially considering the amount of moving around we’ve been doing! We wanted August to be our chill out month. We didn’t want to cook for ourselves and wanted to live like we were on holiday. I thought our food spending would have been much higher but I’m pleasantly surprised- it came out to just over $10 per day including drinks which wasn’t too bad.

Sponsorships

Accommodation: $111/£86 per person

Activities: $210/£162 per person

Earnings

This is an overview of what I made this month. I wasn’t completely work focussed as we were mainly travelling around but I still managed to make much more than what I spent!

Here’s a breakdown.

Writing: $939/£723

Wee Gypsy Girl Earnings: $358/£277 (Sponsored Content)

Travel Planning: $147/£114

Teaching: $94/£73

Pinterest Consulting: $39/£30

Total: $1517/£1217

So, as you can see, I’m not making the kind of money that you dream about making but, I’m definitely making enough to support my lifestyle. I think this is a realistic amount of money to make as a newbie digital nomad. Some people make much more than this and others make much less. To be honest, everyone’s journey is different when it comes to freelancing. But, like anything, if you’re dedicated and ready to put in some hard work, there’s no reason for you not to succeed.

One of the difficulties that I’m facing at the moment is building up steady clients. A lot of my time goes to pitching which is frustrating but it’s paying off as I’m getting more and more good reviews on Upwork and more people are approaching me outright. Every month, I find myself making a little bit more than the last so I’m hoping to be steadily making $2k+ by the end of the year.

A lot of digital nomads also own their own business and this is a great way to make a substantial amount of money on the road. It’s something that I’ve got on the drawing board at the moment, too!

New on the Blog!

Most Popular IG Photo

People seem to love that candid mermaid washed up on the beach look, huh!

What’s Next in September

Most of our month is going to be spent here at the lake and we’re going to make an effort to visit more of the little villages and try out some activities around here.

When we leave, we’re making our way to Xela where we’re going to Spanish school! Since we’ll be staying with a Spanish family, we have no choice but to learn SOMETHING! The school that we’re going to be studying at is Spanish Xela– I can’t wait to tell you all about it! Maybe my next blog post will come to you en Español!!

As always, I’d love your tips about things to do in Guatemala and your input. What did you think of my finance reports? Did they surprise you or were they similar to what you expected? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Until next month!

Nicole x

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Rachel Minshall
    2nd September 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Sounds awesome! It’s now giving me the urge to go see more of the world! ?

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      3rd September 2017 at 10:01 am

      Awww thanks, Rachel!!! xxx

  • Reply
    Melissa Douglas
    26th September 2017 at 9:45 am

    I miss Korea! I’m actually going to be heading back there in December for a short visit – probably not the best time of year weather wise but I just miss the food and my friends there! For the longest time I found it so difficult to snap out of bowing to people outside of Korea. I would literally walk into shops in Italy and bow so the owners probably thought I was on drugs! Some of them even did a confused bow back Haha

    Do you use a particular app for teaching online? I downloaded Palfish and taught a handful of lessons but I had a lot of writing work last month so just focused on that. Maybe I’ll give it another try!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      26th September 2017 at 3:04 pm

      I really miss it as well! I’d love to go back for a short visit. Top up my face mask collection lol. Have some barbeque lol. The bowing is so difficult to lose, the last time that I went home I was handing my card over with 2 hands every time I bought something. So funny! I still do peace in photos all the time, too!

      For teaching, I’m using Cafetalk. I applied to Palfish but they didn’t accept me. Is it good?

      • Reply
        Melissa Douglas
        30th September 2017 at 2:08 pm

        Haha I miss the skincare stuff! I saw they’re starting to sell Korean face masks in Boots when I went home but they’re soo expensive!
        Well, I signed up for Palfish and you set your own rate, so after getting a few students I was like “This is great! I’m so in demand!” but then I noticed after I’d had the classes that the app lets students “trial” a teacher for a few hours first before they have to pay the full price and they had set my trial rate as £2 an hour! I just deleted it after that but maybe I’ll have a look at some other online apps.
        Melissa Douglas recently posted…Where To Stay In Seoul: A Local’s GuideMy Profile

        • Reply
          Nicole Louise
          2nd October 2017 at 4:04 pm

          Whhhaaaaaatttt £2 an hour is slave labour! That’s horrendous. With Cafetalk, I set my own rate and decide how much to charge for trial classes- which is like $5 for 15 minutes lol.

  • Reply
    Anais M
    5th October 2017 at 10:08 pm

    Hey there! thanks so much for the shoutout!
    Will foerever be jelous about your lifestyle 😉
    Wishing you all the best!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      12th October 2017 at 1:18 pm

      Hey girl- no probs! Will forever be jealous of all the food on your doorstep in DF! <3

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