We are coming up on my (and just past Rachel’s) 1 yearaversary in Seoul (this time.) Both of us are re-signing for another 6 months, give or take.
We came to Korea to save up for a grand adventure, and have spent this year planning on what we will do next. Making plans is probably the most exciting thing possible and we’ve had a lot of fun doing it. But first a word about how achievable this is.
I make 1.9 million won (about 1600 USD) a month. In a year, that means I make 22.8 million won (about 19,000 USD). It’s not a lot in the overall scheme of things, but it is definitely enough if you save. How well have we done at saving, you ask? Good question.
I’m happy to say that we’ve done a pretty good job: from May 2011 to May 2012, I have spent 6.8 million won (about 5700 USD). (Rachel makes a little more and has spent a little more, but we’re remarkably close.)
It’s a lot of saving. The crazy thing is that I could have saved more. I spend a fair bit on food (minimally 50 bucks a week on groceries, and I go out for beers and to a restaurant at least once a week.)
What I haven’t done:
*Paid rent: This is obviously the most crucial factor. My accommodation is part of my salary, though I do live in a dorm without my own kitchen or bathroom.
*Taken an international trip: This is a real perk of working abroad, and it’s hard when everyone I know goes to Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, etc.
*Taken many cabs. If at all possible, I walk or catch a bus/ride the subway.
*Bought a smart phone. My phone costs ten dollars every month and a half. I figure this saved me close to 1000 dollars.
*Bought any clothing. The morality of cheap clothing is something I’m struggling with, and the utter decadence of expensive clothing is something I’m sure I don’t want. Not to mention that we need so much less than society tells us.
*Bought much of anything. In a year, here’s everything I bought (apart from food and drink): 1.5 holographic posters, 1 broom/dustpan, 1 toilet cleaner, 1 mug, 1 badminton set, 1 kitchen knife, 1 notebook, 1 pair of headphones, 1 computer mouse, 3 washclothes, a blonde wig and a pig nose (Halloween costume) 1 NBA league pass (huge luxury, probably shouldn’t have but I do love it), 1 pair of tennis shoes. Oh I did buy a kindle, but that was with an unexpected work bonus. And I made my Kindle cover myself. Altogether, it’s under 400 dollars, though obviously much of it wasn’t needed.
It’s probably another post in itself, but minimalism is really the way to go. We all suspect that experiences are greater than material goods, but it’s so hard to get the balance right when our society is maximized to make us want stuff. When you think about it, there’s so little that we spend money on that we will even want or care about even a year later.
My entertainment comes from lots of walks, hikes, outdoor games, indoor boardgames, reading, and watching movies. And writing, of course.
A year gone by and it’s hard not to get antsy. Teaching kids takes energy and it’s hard to work withought recharging. It is increasingly hard not to jump on a plane and fly to a beach. But we have a carrot dangling in front of us that is far too tasty to ignore.
(This comes with the caveat that our plans are, by design, meant to be very flexible. We want to be open to new things and take what the world gives us. But, as of now, our post-Korea plans are as follows:)
Three months in New Zealand: We will camp and stay with Rachel’s family, exploring the hell out of the North Island, hike the Tongariro Crossing, go swimming, meander through Wellington, celebrate Kiwi Christmas on the beach, drink L&P, and much more. New Zealand is expensive and I can only get a 3 month tourist visa, so then it will be time to head on.
We will spend the next 2(ish) months in SE Asia: We didn’t make it to Northern Thailand, Vietnam (especially excited about Halong Bay, pictured above) or Laos last time. Plus we’d love to return to Cambodia, Malaysia, and Southern Thailand. It’s not a lot of time for so many countries, but we have to move on because….
We will hang out for 2 months in Nepal. We are planning on hiking some part of the Annapurna and perhaps to Everest Base Camp as well. This will be two great, 20+ day hikes, and Nepal is one of our most anticipated destinations. Hiking season is limited to 2 months, so this affects how and when we travel, to a large extent.
Then it’s the Trans-Mongolian Railway. The plan is to hop on the train in Beijing, get out at Ulan Bataar to allow a week or so in the Gobi, then hop off again at Lake Baikal for another week or so, and then take the damn thing all the way to St. Petersburg. This is maybe my most anticipated part of the trip, but the visas (considering neither of us will be in our home countries) are daunting.
From there, it’s even more flexible. I’d like to take the ferry to Finland, and then cross down to the Baltic countries for a few weeks, couchsurfing our way through Estonia, Latvia, and, Lithuania.
And then we will bus or train our way into Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Wwoofing our way through Eastern and Central Europe. This is to save money, but more importantly to allow for a better exploration of each country. Some of our most anticipated parts of this trip are Ljubljana, Prague, Krakow, and Plitvice Park.
About a year after we started, we expect to end up in Turkey, broke and ready for another English teaching job. The entire trip will cost us about 1000 dollars a month–a lot certainly, but for many living of 12,000 a year would be tough, and we are planning on crossing Eurasia with it. We may run out of cash, but if so we’ll just skip ahead to Turkey from where we are and start teaching a bit earlier. Getting to Turkey a bit early is no hardship.
We’d love to welcome anyone to join us for any leg of the journey. If you fancy a hike in Nepal, or some time on Thai beaches, or a ride across Russia, let us know! Now that you know how little money it takes, there aren’t any more excuses.