Budget Tips Digital Nomad Life Guatemala Life & Reflections

Monthly Life Update: September 2017

Hey, everyone- welcome back to my monthly life updates, where I can give you a more accurate picture of what I’ve been up to recently. My blog posts are rarely in sync with my real life and are sometimes even a year behind! I love this little monthly tradition that helps me to connect with you all so thanks for always reading!

We spent all of this month in Guatemala; a week studying Spanish in Xela and the remainder in Lake Atitlan. Travel-wise, it wasn’t too hectic but in every other department of life, it was. I actually have a huge announcement in this post about what the rest of the year is going to hold for us. But, for now, here’s what we got up to!

Where We’ve Been

Lake Atitlan

Oh, Lake Atitlan, you were gorgeous but pretty damn frustrating! As a newbie digital nomad, I feel like I’m constantly learning more about what I need from a place. You might remember from July’s update that I was determined that Lake Atitlan would be the perfect place for me. Well, I soon learned that things weren’t actually meant to be. Sketchy electricity made it difficult to get anything done and I had a harsh reminding that I don’t really thrive in such laidback places.

It’s not all negative though because the lake is, undoubtedly, one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been to in my life. (Sorry, Loch Lomond!) We were lucky enough to explore it by paddleboard with SUP Atitlan which I loved so much. Potential new hobby? Other highlights of the lake were simply exploring all the little villages by the public lancha and just drinking wine on our veranda. It would have been the perfect place to unplug and spend a few days- I just didn’t realise that I’d be spending so long unplugging!

Xela

We spent just a week in Xela and it went in too waaaay quickly. I genuinely didn’t want to leave! Xela is a gorgeous little colonial city in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. It has the perfect balance of everything. It’s not too busy, it’s not too hot, it’s not too touristy. Everything about it is just right! Most people head to Xela to practice Spanish and that’s exactly why we were there, too.

We had a(n almost) fully immersive week of Spanish at Utatlan Spanish School. Xela is one of the cheapest places in the world to learn Spanish! For just $175 a week you can get 20 hours of classes and a homestay with 3 meals a day, along with free afternoon activities! It’s ridiculously good value for money. We loved actually having a family and a community as well as getting the chance to really brush up on our Spanish, even it was just for a short time. I could have used months more practice but a week was definitely helpful.

Any Other News

We’re Leaving Latin America!

So, during our frustrating month in Lake Atitlan, we made the decision that maybe Latin America isn’t the best place for us to be at the moment. We’ve realised that, as much as we love travelling here, we don’t love working and travelling here. At the moment, my aim isn’t to tick off continents and countries. It’s to work and live a location independent lifestyle. And, for me to really thrive, I need a base. When we were talking about things, we realised that our dreams of Latin America involved travelling and going on adventures more than settling down and living here.

But, now that we’re here, we’ve realised that we want to do it all. We want to travel. We want to work. And, we want to be settled. But, really, both of us have our sights set on work aims at the moment and we need to put that first.

Sooooo, at the end of this month, we’ll be East-bound again!

WE’RE GOING BACK TO ASIA!

But, instead of backpacking, we’re going basehunting. We’re on the hunt for a place with a yoga studio, a community, some great co-working spaces and a relatively cheap cost of living. It should be no surprise then that the first city we’re going to test drive will be the digital nomad hotspot, Chiang Mai! We also want to try out living in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. If anyone can suggest any other digital nomad friendly cities in Asia, I’d love to hear them! Nomadlist suggests lots of Korean cities but, personally, I think it’s a bit soon for that!

New on the Blog!

Saving and Spending

Last month’s office space!

Following on from what I said last month, I’m continuing to be transparent about exactly how I fund my lifestyle! A lot of you got in touch with me to say how helpful you found last month’s update which was amazing! If anything would make putting how much you earn on the internet for all to see seem like a good idea, that would be it so thanks!

And, in keeping with that sentiment, I have to tell you that September wasn’t a great month for me in the earnings department.

If you watched the news, you’ll have seen that Mexico got hit by 2 earthquakes and Guatemala got hit by one. This was pretty scary for me- someone who comes from a country that never really has Earthquakes. And, it was pretty inconvenient, too.

We were out for the best part of a week which left me with a huge backlog of work to catch up on. Luckily, my clients were pretty understanding of the situation but I still felt bad having to let people down and return work late. And, luckily, neither of us were hurt at all.

I also took a week off work for my Spanish course- something I had planned to do and that wouldn’t have been an issue otherwise. But, combined with the week with no power, that’s half a month of hustling out the window! To be honest, it wasn’t a huge loss since Guatemala is cheap but not ideal, either because, ya know, I like making money!

Spending

Here’s everything that we spent this month! As usual, this reflects my portion of the spending. Veeran and I split most things 50/50 but pay for personal things like hair cuts, souvenirs or whatever ourselves.

Accommodation: $188/ £145

Activities: $70/ £55

Alcohol: $100/ £78

Food: $325/ £256

Souvenirs: $46/ £36 (I went on a bit of a binge….)

Transport: $36/ £29

Total Spent: $765/ £599 per person or $26/ £20 per person per day

Honestly, before we got to Guatemala, everything we read said it would be the cheapest place in Central America. We found, though, that most places, especially Lake Atitlan, have been much more expensive than Mexico! In August, we moved around loads and ate out every day. In September, we stayed in one place, cooked for ourselves every night and only spent about $4 less per head per day than we did last month in Mexico. Definitely a turn up for the books!

Sponsorships

Since I get some little perks through my blog for companies that I review, I put the value here. They’re not part of my actual spending but still contribute to my life on the road!

Activities: $25 per person

Accommodation: $95 per person

Earnings

Despite the obstacles of September, here’s what I managed to earn!

  • Writing: $787/ £606
  • Blogging: $160/ £124 (Sponsored content/ affiliate money)
  • Teaching: $70/ £54
  • Pinterest Consulting: $20/ £15
  • Travel Planning: $46/ £36

Total Earned: $1083/ £834

As much as I am disappointed that I made a lot less money than I did last month, I’m pleased that I managed to make over $1k in just 2 weeks. Plus, I spent a lot less than I made so really, it wasn’t a huge setback at all for me.

What I’ve Been Reading….

…. is absolutely nada!

I didn’t read a single book this month. Got a bit obsessed with Goblin and Chicago Typewriter. It was a k-drama kinda month. (Will try harder next month!)

Plans for October

We’re currently in the gorgeous colonial city, Antigua, where we’re spending a week. We got a private room in an Air BnB and it turns out that we’re in a huge mansion with just the cat for company! After last month’s drama, it feels like Guate has really thrown us a bone 😉

The rest of the month is going to be a bit crazy with us crossing 2 continents! Here’s what we have planned!

Guatemala

Semucy Champey

Hiking, gorgeous limestone pools and a hotel in the jungle. Pretty excited for this part of the trip!

Flores/ Tikal

We’ve visited 3 different Mayan ruin sites now but we’ve heard that Tikal is the best. Curious to see how these compare!

Belize

A new country that we didn’t expect to visit. But, since the best flights that we could find with no transfers in The USA leave from Cancun (South Africans need to pay a whopping $160 to step foot in any USA airport), we’re heading North again to catch our flight. To make the most of it, we’re going to spend a bit of time in the gorgeous Belize!

San Ignacio

For cave tubing, zip lining and exploring skeleton infested caves. We’d never considered visiting inland Belize but when we started doing research and discovered San Ignacio, it seemed like a must!

Caye Caulker

One of the main draws to Belize is this little Carribean Island and I’m excited to chill here for a while! Definitely going to sample plenty of lobster and rum while we’re there.

Mexico

I knew I’d return to Mexico. I just didn’t realise it would be so soon!

Bacalar Lagoon

We both knew we wanted to spend a bit of time in Mexico before catching our flight but didn’t really want to return to somewhere we had been like Tulum or somewhere hectic like Playa del Carmen or Cancun! I read an article by my friend Allison from Eternal Arrival who said that Bacalar Lagoon was amazing. It’s like the Maldives of Mexico and when I showed Veeran the photos, he was completely sold, too.

Europe

The most economical way to fly to Asia from Central America without an American transfer is to go through Europe. We’re spending a few days between our flights to explore and recharge our batteries!

Ghent

I’m an unintentional Belgium enthusiast. I’ve been a ridiculous amount of times- one time was actually by accident because of a mistake on the Ryanair website! I love it so much though. Particularly, for the beer, the chocolate, the chips and the moules! Ghent is one of the few cities that I haven’t been to so I’m excited to explore it.

Paris

The cheapest flight out of Europe towards Thailand leaves from Paris, so we have an unexpected couple of days in Paris. Ooooh la la! It’s only a few hours away from Ghent by train which is absolutely ideal! I’ve been twice when I was just a little girl so I’m excited to visit as an adult.

Thailand

Bangkok

And, finally, we’ll get to Thailand! I’ve never actually visited Thailand before so I think it’s about time for me to go. We’ll be arriving into Bangkok and spending a few days in the city. As a city girl, I’m really excited to see Bangkok for myself! It’ll be nice to at least recover from the travelling before heading to Chiang Mai.

I’m actually pretty exhausted just from looking at that and typing it- we have so much travelling ahead of us once again. We’re literally about to almost circumnavigate the world but it will be worth it when we get to Thailand and have the opportunity to settle down.

If any of you are based in Thailand, please get in touch. It would be great to grab a drink- tea, coffee, beer,  kombucha or whatever is your drink of choice! I know that a lot of you live there and I’m on the market for some new pals!

Until next month,

Nicole x

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Michelle
    5th October 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Wow you have a busy month ahead of you! Can’t wait to hear all about it. Safe travels!

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

      Thanks Michelle!

  • Reply
    Stacey
    5th October 2017 at 2:50 pm

    So excited for you guys! Can’t wait to hopefully visit you in Asia 😉 xxx

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

      Thanks Stacey! Maybe we could have a reunion on Gili! Haha x

  • Reply
    John Marc Ramirez
    16th October 2017 at 2:01 am

    I’m a first-time visitor here. Reading this blog post of yours is very refreshing, and it makes me want to go and travel different places. Thank you for sharing this. 🙂 You have a new blog follower in me.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      20th October 2017 at 5:58 pm

      Thanks so much, John! That’s lovely to hear and put a smile on my old face 🙂

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