Travel

7 Tips to Living Like a Rockstar for $25 a Day In Southeast Asia

Total Reading Time: 8 minutes
Everyone who’s been knows, and everyone who hasn’t has heard: Southeast Asia is cheap.

You can live like a rockstar for a fraction of what you normally spend back home (if you’re smart).

But, all too often, people visit Southeast Asia expecting everything to be cheap and that’s simply not the case. There are a countless number of ways you can get ripped off or pushed into a more expensive option when it’s simply not necessary.

A lot of these learnings simply come with experience and awareness. I personally learned a lot during my time there, specifically 5 odd lessons from long-term travel.

Nonetheless, a few tips can go a long way to help ensure you have that rockstar experience and are able to get the most ‘bang for your buck’.

1. Eat the street food

Whatever preconceived notions you have about street food need to be left back home. The food is delicious, sanitary, and cheap!

Eating food from these street stalls and carts is almost always the best option. If you want your foreign currency to go a long way, this is a must.

A lot of people have this idea that the street food is more likely to get them sick—wrong!

After over three months of traveling through Southeast Asia I got sick twice. Both times from pizza. Never from the street food.

In fact, most travelers said the same thing: it was the Western food that got them sick.

In Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos you can usually have a delicious meal for about $1-3. Throw in a beer and you’re looking at the cheapest, most economical meal you’ve had in a long time. [Read more…] about 7 Tips to Living Like a Rockstar for $25 a Day In Southeast Asia

5 Odd Lessons Learned From Long-Term Travel. #2 Was Hard to Swallow.

Total Reading Time: 8 minutes.
I’M HOME. 97 days. 24 cities. 7 countries.
Words can’t explain how amazing this trip was. The perspective an experience like this gives you is truly priceless. I learned a lot. I learned about human beings. I learned about myself. And I learned that most of what I’ve been taught was wrong.
I learned more in three months traveling the world than I did in four years of college…wait I mean five (I went to a party school). Living, traveling, and working in different parts of the world was something I’d been dreaming of doing since I was 16 years old—and I finally did it.
During my adolescent years, my rebellious, non-conformist ideas of what life should actually be started brewing. I struggled a lot with trying to balance what society wanted for me, and what I truly wanted for myself. I think we all do in some way. So I started trying to do both. It didn’t work very well.
I was working at jobs most people would do pretty much anything for. I had a “legit” job at 3M coming right out of college. Living in Manhattan, company car, expense account—the works. And eventually got recruited to work at Google.
But, deep down there was a little fire smoldering. For many years I watched others with envy living the life I dreamt of, running right past me and splashing kerosene on my little fire.
When I finally did make the leap, I thought long and hard about what my founding principles of this site would be.
I decided I would make my work feel like play, and my play feel like work.

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.

— James Michener

So you might be wondering—is it possible? To travel and work (productively) at the same time? It’s more than possible, friendo. I even took it to the extreme and scheduled a product launch in the middle of my travels throughout Southeast Asia.
I learned how to stay sane (which doesn’t mean I didn’t go slightly insane) during one of the most important phases of my business. I believe it’s safe throughout these travels I packed my bags and hit the road at least 30 times.
I’d like to share some odd and somewhat surprising lessons that I hope serve useful for you.
My attempt is to make these lessons somewhat general. So no matter what stage you’re at in your life, business, or career, it will give you some tangible takeaways you can apply today.
 

Lesson 1: Your perspective is wrong

It’s a tough one to swallow. Practically everything you have invested yourself into emotionally in your life is based on one single standard and one perspective. The one with which you were raised and taught being the ‘right’ way to see the world.
And this, unfortunately, is wrong. We all live in bubbles. We judge others based on this perspective. We even judge our own lives based on this. Ever heard of the phrase “first world problems”?
Well, that’s just the first step. So what if you acknowledge your bubble. What are you going to do about it? In my opinion, your perspective could be sabotaging your life. I know that’s a bit hyperbolic, but think about how grateful you could be if you had the right perspective.
There’s only one cure—travel. Far too often we’re stuck in the details of what we’re doing. This may cause you to feel alienated and just constantly suffer through the minutiae of your day.
No one wants to live in the fog. No one wants to feel like a chicken with its head cut off. Traveling taught me that what I valued as the most important aspects of my life, my business, and even the small tasks of my day, were actually not that important.
Listen—just to be clear—I’m not saying this because I did a bunch of drugs and had some spiritual awakening suddenly. And I didn’t go on this trip to “find myself”. Seeing the way others live their lives, on a day-to-day basis, can dramatically change your perspective.
If you can learn to see things from a more macro level you may find that you’ve actually been focusing on all the wrong areas. If you find yourself stressed or stuck in the details, take a break and think bigger.
Stop and ask yourself:

What’s my outcome?

Ask yourself that question daily. It will always guide you in the right direction.
 

Lesson 2: No one will care that you’re not around

Seriously. But don’t freak out. I don’t mean your family and best friends. They care. You’re nice. What I mean is  your colleagues, co-workers, business partners, employees, etc. It’s simply not as important as you might think it is to be there physically in person.
Isn’t it funny that that’s one of the things people stress about the most when deciding if they can and should go on a trip? Trust me—people will get used to it and many won’t even know you’re gone, especially if they don’t normally see you in person (and if you don’t tell them).
You can actually use this to your advantage. Be free! The hard part is adjusting to a schedule that works for you, your travels, and/or your business.
Personally, being in Southeast Asia and needing to speak with people almost daily in the Pacific and/or Eastern time zones was sometimes difficult, yes. But, definitely manageable. And so worth it.
 

Lesson 3: You’re spending way too much time

You don’t need nearly as much time as you think to work.
If you give yourself 40 hours a week, you’ll use it.
If you give yourself 60 hours a week, you’ll find a way to use it.
If you give yourself 25 hours a week, you’ll find a way to use it well and for only the most important tasks.
“But, Arman…I have so much to do and there’s never enough time in the day!” I know, I know. See, I found that less time was actually a good thing.
As the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) says, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. So in this case only 20% of our time spent working will create 80% of our results. I made sure to keep in mind I would only have 3-4 hours each day to get things done.
I even emailed Chris Guillebeau—a role model, world traveler, best-selling author—and asked:

Do you have any tips on how to balance working while traveling?

Here’s what he said:

Well, I perhaps work from everywhere. I think an important thing is dividing the time a bit. When I’m in a new place, I do want to appreciate it, but I also want to keep working on my stuff since that’s what sustains everything. In a typical situation, I’ll do things like work in the morning and then go off exploring in the afternoon — or vice versa, it doesn’t really matter as long as you are able to make time.

After reading his response I realized how much I was stressing about something that was not yet even a problem. So, basically, just make time. There’s no secret formula. Just do what works best for you.
Once you decrease your available work time in front of the computer, you’ll get really good at finishing the ‘musts’ and stop wasting time on Instagram.
 

Lesson 4: Everyone is fighting their own battle

People are generally good. Learn to respect other human beings and acknowledge the individual battle they are waging. If you show a little genuine interest in others, you will be blown away by their intelligence and experience. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll learn something enlightening, or at least develop your perspective a bit.
How about my friend Mr. Why Not from my guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia? Mr. Why Not was a child during Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime and mass genocide in Cambodia. His entire family was killed and only himself and one brother survived. He was raised in a village and eventually came back to the city as he got older to make a living for himself. First, as a tuk tuk (taxi) driver.
He then began working at a guesthouse led by an Australian lady, who became his mentor and friend. Eventually, he started running the place. Throughout all his life whenever he has been faced with an opportunity to do something new, or someone asks him whether they should do something, he always has the same response:
Why not?” Well, the name stuck. Mr. Why Not is a real person. He lost his family. He’s a good person. And he taught me a lot. I haven’t been to every country in the world like my hero Chris, but I’m pretty sure he would agree with me on this thought:
People are generally the same everywhere. We go through the same struggles, the same worries and fears, and we’re each waging our own individual battles.
There are more good people than bad in the world. And deep down, everyone just wants to be happy and successful. What this means is that we need to acknowledge people on a human level way more often. We need to “appeal to the nobler motives” as Dale Carnegie famously said.
Many times, when we’re so busy battling through life to reach our next destination, we don’t take a moment to stop and realize these people we’re dealing with are on the way to theirs too.
This small change in my perspective and outlook has helped me forge closer relationships with people I work and interact with daily. When people can see and feel that you are genuinely acknowledging them, they will acknowledge you back.
 

Lesson 5: The best way to keep in touch

There’s Skype. There’s texting. There’s your phone. And there’s at least another 100 apps and methods to stay connected with people. These days, the options are practically unlimited. But far and away email is still the best way to keep in touch. It blows them all away.
Personally, I rocked my 97 days away and was able to pull off the product launch successfully. I attribute this mainly to my ability to handle email and communication so well.
You need to make email management and email writing skills a priority in your life. I watched so many people drop the ball while I was traveling. It was sad. And they’re the ones at home with super-speed wi-fi connections working 8+ hours a day.
Over and over again, through the years I’ve learned that communication is the #1 skill you can have. Don’t undervalue this.
So, the question at the beginning…is it possible to work and travel? If you’ve ever, ever thought about attempting a similar type of adventure—just go. Don’t even think twice about it. GO.
Stop asking people for advice on where to go, how to do it, what to pack, etc. It all works itself out, I promise.
Every single little village, city, and country in the world is amazing for its own reasons. Just let go and allow yourself to have a real adventure. Everything you need and/or are worried about is waiting for you at your destination. Don’t worry, they have Q-Tips in Nepal. Well, generic ones, probably.
I ended up visiting Bali, Myanmar (Burma), and Singapore all last minute simply because I was open to it. You never know where your adventures will take you.
And please, be nice to tourists. I for one will always treat visitors with respect and make sure they absolutely love my country. I cannot explain how important that is for our world image and how people feel about a place during their visit.
Photo: Cambodian BoyCC License
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Throughout this experience and many other travels I tested many travel apps. If you want to find out what the 10 must have apps are for any travel lover, check out this article.

Everybody Needs a Good Slap: The Real Wake Up Call You Need When Traveling

Total Reading Time: 5 minutes
Everybody — and I do mean everybody — needs a good slap.
After a 12 hour flight to Japan, the impending (and equally long) layover was well worth the cramped legs and famished tummies we were left with after our United Airlines flight. The bread rolls and margarine, which were about as appetizing as what I’d imagine food to taste like in Guantanamo Bay, only helped build our appetite and excitement.
Osaka exceeded all expectations, and jet lag probably only adds to the amount of bewilderment and amazement one may experience when first entering the downtown of Osaka.
Osaka is a colorful, vibrant, young, extremely trendy, slightly wacky, and incredibly clean city. The Japanese in this town are some of the most fashionable people I’ve ever seen. The styles are progressive and reminiscent of a European city, but with an Eastern twist.
The height of my awe occurred at the 2nd floor of a Starbucks, as I was drinking a green tea matcha frappucino. This Starbucks was actually more of a social gathering of 176 young Japanese hipsters, and the people watching was top-notch. As I sat there in attire far more suitable for Southeast Asia, I was able to really take in the dynamics of their culture and experience a typical day in the Dōtonbori district.
The entire day I saw only five foreigners, which made me like the place all the more. Additionally, I wonder if the lack of foreigners is connected to the the fact that the Japanese speak very limited English. No one we met spoke more than a few words.
With their fancy toilets, pristinely clean sidewalks, and massive billboard advertisements, the Japanese culture is one to experience. The sushi is obviously exquisite, and the shopping (if that’s what you’re into) is world-class.
As the layover came to an end, the next stop was Bangkok, the landing base for most travel to Southeast Asia.
It was here, on day one, where I experienced my magic moment. These are the type of moments that bring me back to why I even started my Freedom Lifestyle in the first place.
No matter what you’re doing in life; whether you are traveling, on a day-trip, or just experiencing something new—a good slap to the face doesn’t hurt. In fact, I believe it’s completely necessary.
Now you may be wondering, “what the hell does he mean by that?” Do I mean it metaphorically, or literally? Well, that depends on you and how you’d like to receive it, to be honest. 🙂
You see, a good slap can come from yourself, but it can also come from a good friend. A good friend is the one that’s there with you saying…

“This is it. This is life right here! We need to be present and enjoy this to the fullest, hold nothing back!”

And then…
SLAP!
Now wake up, and don’t take this sh*t for granted.
My slap and magic moment came during the difficult task of attempting to find and explore the beauty of Bangkok’s lesser traveled roads. Being a massive tourist destination and huge, developed city, meant it was a bit hard to get off the beaten path. But opting to walk rather than hop in a cab or the BTS Skytrain meant all paths were options waiting to be taken.
As we walked along a railroad next to a creek for a few miles, getting stares from the families living along the water in homes made from raw metal scraps, we knew we were on the right path.
As the scorching Summer heat began to takes it toll, we discovered a small family that had converted the front of their home/garage into a space for locals to gather and watch Muay Thai and drink a beer. Bingo, bango, bongo.
The ice cold (literally, they serve it with ice here) Singha beer and atmosphere was priceless. The family was extremely generous and treated us like royalty, which was the complete opposite of the general tourism and hospitality population that deals with thousands of tourists daily. Here, I finally felt like a traveler; and here, I finally got my slap.
The journey has begun…
As of today, I have been to Osaka, Japan; all over Bangkok, Thailand; and a night train and five hour ferry ride (yes I did get sick) to Koh Samui. So far, finding a decent, free Wi-Fi connection has not been an issue, and I’ve been able to keep up on all my projects and business-related activities.
Managing this from abroad will not be easy. I know it will take dedication, and that’s why it’s important to stay connected as I travel.
The travel bug is full on engaged and being treated. This trip will be at least 3 months, and I plan on exploring Northern Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, at the very least. I’m currently on the island of Koh Samui, where I spent the day on a motorbike touring the entire island, and found some pretty incredible sights along the way.
The island is pretty popular, and therefore full of tourists, so I’ll be hopping over to Koh Pha Ngan next, followed by Koh Tao to get my scuba diving certification. I also find myself on the island right around the full moon, which is in just a few days, and will be on the party island in time for it.
It’s still not certain whether I’ll join the 40,000 completely wasted neon-colored party kids, or look for a party on the island that may be more suitable to my style. Maybe I’ll even be able to have a conversation with someone. 🙂
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Photo: Off the beaten path in BangkokCC License 

The Travel Bug: How You Know When It's Time to Travel

Total Reading Time: 3 minutes
Over the past few years, I’ve started to really admire people who have strict regimens, routines, and habits that they’ve implemented into their lives. Their commitment is impressive, and then tend to be really good at getting things done and staying on track.
I used to despise routines and saw them as being boring, monotonous, and lacking one of my favorite things in life: spontaneity.
You see, when you travel, you’re really igniting that part of your life that desires uncertainty, spontaneity, and the unknown. As much as we love being in control and being certain, we also crave uncertainty.
Routines with work, exercise, friends, family, and so on; allow us to be very productive and we get into the habit of, well, being habitual.
This is good. We feel good. We feel in control. But, what if you start to have too much control?
Maybe you’ve lost your spark and your ability to really enjoy the moment? Perhaps you’re feeling like you’re starting to lose your patience more often? Or maybe you’re in a situation right now where every little thing seems like it’s the end of the world? Have you lost the fresh perspectives you once learned from new friends or recent travels?
If you go too long without travel or just switching up your routine, you’re sure to start to feel like you’re living in a fog. It’s easy to fall into this pattern, it happens to almost everyone.
When you live this way, your life starts to lose that spark, and everything becomes a little too easy, a little too relaxed, and you get stuck in all the minutiae of everyday life. Your senses seem to almost go on vacation.
All of a sudden you may get the urge to switch things up. To make a change, create a new routine, or get out and leave your hometown. That’s where the travel bug comes in—we’ve all felt it.
Traveling reignites the passion for life. It gives you fresh perspective. It awakens all five of your senses. When you don’t know what you’re going to see or experience next, you feel extremely present and aware.
When you travel, you feel alive, awake, with unlimited amounts of energy. When I travel, I barely need any sleep. How can that be?
And if you, like me, have embraced the particular type of travel where you’ve tossed the itinerary and travel guides, and you simply land in a destination and just figure things out as you go, then you are truly going to feel alive and have the time of your life.
If you’re feeling like you’ve been drifting along, or can feel the travel bug coming on, then it’s probably time to get out there and explore. Give yourself the gift of seeing a new place, and meeting new people from unique cultures with different values.
If you’ve never left the country, or haven’t been somewhere the average person wouldn’t go, I recommend you try a new place.
And when you come back, bring the same excitement, openness, spontaneity, and passion to your everyday life. It’s not 100% necessary to travel in order to live the type of life I’m describing, but it definitely helps.
Where are you going next? 

Get Rid of ATM Fees Once and For All

Total Reading Time: 3 minutes
ATM fees are unnecessary. We shouldn’t have to pay them, and if you use the strategy below you never will again.
Not only do ATM fees happen way too often, but it’s essentially like paying a tax or interest rate on your own money. I can’t stand having to go directly to a bank (which has limited locations) and withdraw from their ATM. Like many of you, my laziness results in using third-party ATM’s inside liquor stores and pizza shops that hit me with extravagant fees every time I withdraw. Not only do you have to pay a fee to use the ATM, but most likely your bank charges you an additional fee also. Many people spend hundreds of dollars in ATM fees alone.
Through the years, people have often asked me how I’m able to stay so organized and control my finances so effectively. Practically everything I do is automated. I have savings accounts for all types of expenses: travel, clothing, investment property down-payment, and long-term savings, just to name a few. All my finances are automated and I never have to think about whether I can afford a new camera or a trip abroad. This is an essential aspect of the self-directed living.
All that aside, one of the things that puts a big smile on my face is: walking up to a random ATM (anywhere in the world), withdrawing my money from my checking account, and completely ignoring the “$3.00 ATM fee” warning—then I smile and go on with my life. So, how do I do all this?
Just like most things, it’s truly quite simple. Regardless of where you currently bank and keep your main checking account, you can begin taking advantage of this amazing perk.
I highly, highly recommend banking online with Capitol One 360 (formerly ING Direct). You can use my link to get a bonus when you open your free account.
In addition to having an amazing Capitol One 360 account as your main checking/savings, you can have all the perks below with just one more step.

  • No ATM fees worldwide: Unlimited fee rebates
  • $0 monthly service fees
  • $0 account minimum
  • Free checks and Visa Signature Platinum Debit Card

“Okay, Arman, I’m sold! Tell me already!”

The answer is: immediately open a Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account.
Click here to check out Schwab.
It’s that simple, folks. Open an individual or joint High Yield Investor Checking with Charles Schwab Bank and start reaping the benefits.
Your account will automatically be set up with a linked Schwab One brokerage account. You do not need to actually use the brokerage account and there are no requirements to fund it. In your main account summary page you’ll see your checking and brokerage account.
Personally, because I recommend using Capitol One 360 as your main bank, I don’t use my Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking as my main account, and therefore, only transfer funds to it as needed. In other words, the majority of my actual checking account money is with Capitol One 360 (or any bank of your choice), and I transfer money (for free) to my Schwab Checking as needed so that I can access those funds from any ATM with no fees.
Link your existing checking account to your new Schwab checking and fund it right away.
Big hat tip to Ramit Sethi and his book I Will Teach You To Be Rich. A lot of the personal finance strategies I use came from his book. Corny title — yes — but very informative read. I also recommend his blog, check it out.
If you have any questions, please post in the comments below.