Can I live on the road for <$45/day only including hotels
September 27, 2013 10:20 AM   Subscribe

How can I find out more about the economics of living in certain parts of the United States or in other parts of the world but for short time periods (i.e. likely 3 month to 6 month intervals?) Limited to places that would cost a max of $45/day.

I've been a freelancer for almost 5 years now, and I don't need to be tied to any location for my clients, as long as they can reach me and communicate with me by phone and/or computer.

I really enjoy traveling/exploring new places, but for the last years, have lived in NYC so I don't have the flexibility in funds to rent a place here AND travel like a nomad (I can take vacations, but not pay rent for 3 months and travel).

I recently read an article about people who rent hotel rooms for a week to a month, get a better rate, and travel this way. I think that this solution could work for me (i.e. not renewing my lease/living out of a hotel room in 3 month or so intervals), so I could travel and have a base to work.

I'm still limited by economics and want to continue to save money, so ideally I would like to limit my search to places that I can afford a hotel room for a max of $45 dollars/day, which would include electricity/cable/safety/phenomenal internet connection from the hotel room. From there, I will later pick places that meet interests/other requirements, but for now I just want to find out if this is economically feasible or a pipe dream.

So here are the relevant questions that would me address the economics aspects of traveling and living on the road as a freelancer:

• If you do this now, do you know of regions of the world that are in this price range or lower? Or do you know of others who have recently done this in region X of the world.

• Are there other resources to use that you would recommend? (I did google for blogs/books, but I know that many of these searches are turning up garbage, and I am having a hard time assessing whether someone did this/or just made a book or product to sell).Part of my search is complicated by the fact that I would absolutely need internet connection, and I'm having a hard time assessing this for other parts of the world.

• Are there websites that you would recommend to do a search by price? I'd rather search by price and look at locations from there, but when I pull up websites it makes me starts with location, then dates, and then look at prices ... and this will likely take forever:I don't want to search every city of the US, for example.

• Any other tips as to how one could make this work economically? (Besides move; the goal is to live in a city for a few months, move on to another city/place, etc.). The 3-month limit is because of visa limitations in other parts of the world.
posted by Wolfster to Work & Money (18 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter

The author of that book also has an amazing travel blog that I think you would benefit from reading, although it doesn't seem like this would be possible by staying in hotels and at a budget of $45/day.

Have you considered other means of accommodation? A website like HelpX allows you to stay in people's homes in exchange for a few hours of work each day.
posted by signondiego at 10:28 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

How do you feel about camping or RV-ing? State parks and most campgrounds charge less than $30 a day and this includes the use of bathrooms and showers. Most places have great wifi access as well.

You could get a membership to KOA campgrounds, or something similar that would allow you to travel to their sister properties for cheap.
posted by jacindahb at 10:31 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Camping is pretty cheap - daily rates as low as a couple of bucks, though your maximum stay may be capped at a couple of bucks. Rig a van up William Least Heat-Moon style and go full nomad with a DirecTV for Travelers subscription. Use your phone as a hotspot and you're good wherever you can find decent cellular coverage.
posted by jquinby at 10:32 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Perhaps you can do housesitting, pet sitting to help off-set some of the expense.

Go onto Care.Com and and create a profile.

See if that might be a thing that would work for you, hell, you'll get PAID just for being there!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:37 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I lived in Shanghai for ten years, and most of the time I was spending less than $45/day. In fact, not counting international vacations, my wife and I together lived on less than $45/day for the past three years. Hotels are more expensive than apartments, but you could probably still stay within your budget.
posted by bradf at 10:39 AM on September 27, 2013

Best answer: South East Asia is really popular for this sort of thing, but Mexico and places south, Africa, Eastern Europe, and India are all possibilities. Legal Nomads has a great list of resources for world traveling, including a bunch of budgets.

$45/day is ~$1350/month, which is very doable for a lot of the cheaper parts of the world, even including airfare.
posted by Renegade Duck at 10:42 AM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

How reliable must the internet be to keep this up? Something to factor in, especially if you go the RV route.
posted by tilde at 10:44 AM on September 27, 2013

Have you considered WWOOFing? Though the expanded acronym suggests farming, there are a lot of non-farm opportunities out there and you can go all over the US and the world. Room and board should be covered in exchange for a set amount of services, but it is not supposed to be a full workday, leaving you time for clients.

(Before anyone suggests it, some people do live this kind of life through couchsurfing, but as a host I find this a bit moochy and unpleasant, and no longer host this genre of traveler.)
posted by whatzit at 10:49 AM on September 27, 2013

45 a day for everything or just for accommodation? Because that's well over a grand a month and gosh yes, you can snag a nice 3 month sublet that will work well for you in that budget, easy. I randomly selected Charleston and hit up Craigslist sublets and there are loads including utilities for 1 - 1.3500 per month.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:22 AM on September 27, 2013

Response by poster: Just some followup information since this has been requested:

-$45/day is for accommodations only,not food, checking out the local area, transportation, etc.

-The internet connection is very important (I do everything from research, download PDFs, and need to send info back to the client).

Thanks a million for all the suggestions/recommendations so far, please continue with others, but hopefully the update helps.
posted by Wolfster at 11:36 AM on September 27, 2013

Best answer: I have a freelancer friend who's been doing this internationally for a few years now (Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Lisbon, Istanbul, Madrid). After finding some places through random internet searches (like corporate stay apartments), he ended up relying primarily on and Many locations offer very good rates for long-term stays, much better than the posted per-night rates. And many of them were simply beautiful. All had internet, and you can search for locations with wifi. He's gotten so comfortable with it that he just picks a place on the map and goes with it.
posted by mochapickle at 11:47 AM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

$45/day is $16425/year. You could buy a cheap van, insure it, live in it, and only drive it between cities, and afford good food.

if you plan long-term, it becomes very do-able. If you want to do it for 6-months, it would be harder.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:34 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To expand my previous comment:

$45/day just for lodging is a lot of money — you might be able to get an apartment in San Francisco for that. It would involve haggling and you would have to live somewhere foggy, but you could probably do it. So, you could probably go almost anywhere.

The Internet connection is a lot harder to be sure about globally. I've heard anecdotally that Internet access in Latin America is less reliable than South East Asia (“SEA”), but I'm not sure how to evaluate that. One resource is the Pay as You Go Sim with Data Wiki — if you bring a world phone that can work as a hotspot, or a dedicated personal hotspot like a MiFi, you can use that as a backup connection.

“Digital nomad” seems to be the most common term for people who traveling globally while doing freelance work over the Internet. There is a big community of people doing this, though most of the visible ones are doing affiliate marketing, SEO, or writing travel books and leading tours. By and large the bloggers I've seen (and all the ones I link below) seem to have gotten into it for the traveling, and making money for it seems to have just sort of worked out. Some other things you might want to think about are health insurance (I plan to keep my US health insurance if I travel), and possibly medical evacuation insurance (try SquareMouth to find plans). I seem to be in the minority in that I don't think comprehensive travel insurance is worthwhile (because the only thing I can't pay out of pocket is medical evacuation).

Also, be aware that you will still have to pay US federal and state taxes even if you live entirely abroad. If you have a work visa (most people travel on tourist visas), you will pay taxes in the foreign country and then deduct those from your Federal taxes and possibly your state taxes. For tourist visas, you just pay taxes as if you were still in the States. Different states have different rules about that, for example California is reputed to be very aggressive about trying to keep people on their tax rolls.

Best of luck!
posted by Renegade Duck at 12:37 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

$45/day is for accommodations only,not food, checking out the local area, transportation, etc.

Well then I don't see the problem at all. Browse Craigslist if you're interested in short-term (like 3 months or under) stays in the US. You'll quickly grasp the economics of a given area; for example, you're going to see that you probably can't do Denver in the winter or L.A. ever, but huge bits of the country are wide open to you, like Charleston, New Orleans, Nashville - there are plenty of places that are fun and interesting for a couple of months even if they're not your kind of town long-term. You can detail your search to include the word "internet" which tends to also find the results with all utilities included. Reliable internet is pretty standard.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:38 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

To increase your budget, can you sublet your NYC place (or list it through AirBnb) while you're on the road?
posted by carmicha at 3:12 PM on September 27, 2013

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is pretty cheap! PM me for details on a couple areas.
posted by coolsara at 7:58 PM on September 27, 2013

Anecdotally (personal experience as a traveller and from those who I know who live there) In many parts of SEA internet connection reliability is an issue. This is true for most accommodation, not just cheap places. In developing countries the reliability of most infrastructure, including even electricity, is a
common issue. While fast internet is possible, the cheaper the country in general, the less likely they are to have well set up Internet, as a very general rule. In my experience this means it cuts out more than you would like, and getting it fixed is not easy and is often not a priority for locals who might be quite poor and fairly unsympathetic to your need for the internet, compared to the reaction you might expect in Australia (where I'm from) or presumably, the US.
posted by jojobobo at 4:26 AM on September 28, 2013

Check out International Youth and other Hostels. They can be quite affordable, pleasant and sometimes in great locations. Hit up libraries and check out the travel guides. 45/night is do-able, and you may have fun staying in a variety of places, sleeping cheap often enough to splurge on an occasional great place. In the US, van camping is very cheap outside of cities where parking is difficult, and even then probably manageable.
posted by theora55 at 9:40 AM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

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