As I wrap up my three weeks of living on the beach in Spain, and get ready to fly out to Australia for at least two months of living an equally beachy life there, I took a moment to reflect upon what makes my entire lifestyle possible.
As a digital nomad, I get to live a fairly rich lifestyle, without having a multi-million dollar net worth. Just in the past month, I’ve explored the beaches of Normandy, drank the best French and Swiss wine, and stayed for several weeks in a comfortable condo just half a block from the Mediterranean Sea.
You would think that spending this time in Europe would be horrendously expensive, especially considering the fact that the exchange rate is not in my favor. Western Europe comprises one of the most expensive groups of countries on the planet, and the weak US dollar doesn’t help. So how is it possible to spend this much time abroad without going broke?
Here’s the reality: Living life as a permanent traveler is cheaper because of what you’re NOT spending money on.
The average American, even as a single person, spends a staggering amount of money to maintain a middle class lifestyle. Most of the time, people don’t even realize how much they’re actually spending. When you take into consideration all the expenses that they pay for each month, it often ends up being cheaper to simply leave the country, even if you choose to travel to industrialized nations like I generally prefer to do.
Let me show you how this works mathematically. I’m a tax nerd, so numbers are part of my life, but I promise I’ll keep it simple.
My predominant professional activity is representing people and small businesses that owe money to the IRS that they can’t afford to pay. When working with individuals and families, one of the necessary elements is comparing their living expenses with what the IRS considers reasonable. The IRS publishes extensive tables of what they consider reasonable living expenses based on county of residence and family size, all across the country. These tables, called the IRS National Standards, are based on the literal definition of middle class: The median income for a region. In other words, half the people make more, and half the people make less. This also means that some people will look at these expenses and be surprised at how little they are, and some …