Cost of Living: Chiang Mai, Thailand

I haven’t been posting Income Reports for the last few months, mainly because there hasn’t been any real income to report. I have, however, been tracking my expenses. After spending a month in Bali with my fellow Battutas, I decided to settle into a slower travel pace and focus on my pet projects while doing some contract work. I had briefly visited Chiang Mai in February for the Nomad Summit conference and felt it would make a suitable destination.

Though there are many YouTube videos discussing the cost of living here, with some people pushing the boundaries of feasibility, I’ve provided some detailed numbers on how much I’ve spent over the three months

Expenses Chiang Mai 3/15/17 – 6/15/17

Category Cost Avg Month
Lodging (3 night AirBnB -$79 and 3 month lease @ $462/mo) $1465.21

 

$488.00

 

Utilities $200.98 $66.99
Food & Drink $768.53 $256.17
Visas (from March 15 – July 10) $348.34

 

$116.00

 

Entertainment (incl. elephant park, Chiang Rai and Golden Triangle tours) $200.00 $66.78
Misc. $288.99 $96.33
Total $3261.30 $1087.10

Notes:

  • My 3-month lease of a luxury apartment (The Nimmana Condos in the hip Nimman area of Chiang Mai) was on the mid to higher end of what was available. It’s possible to find nice accommodations for up to half the price but I wasn’t price shopping. IMG_2889
  • My utilities ran a bit higher than they would for most as I ran the AC more than I should have. It’s hot and humid here but in hindsight, I should’ve purchased a fan. The electricity ran about $66/month while water was $2.81/month
  • I did 2 visa extensions locally a cost of about $70 each (including transportation to/from the immigration office at Promenade Mall). I also made a border run to Kuala Lumpur which cost about $220 for airfare/hotel.
  • I had high-speed internet service (50Mbps down/20Mbps down) installed at apartment for $21/mo plus $28 installation/deposit. With that, I stopped to going to co-working spaces or cafes.

Food & Drink Breakdown

Location Cost (# of visits) Avg. per Meal
Street Food $101.46 (39) $2.60
McDonald’s $156.70 (30) $5.22
Maya Food Court $11.44 (6) $1.91
Restaurant (meals w/ beer) $82.48 (11) $7.50
Restaurant (no beer) $207.81 (36) $5.77
$559.89 (122)
Drinks  Cost (# of purchases)  Avg. per Item
Soda $6.00 (15) $0.40
Water $32.28 (23) $1.36
Beer $93.86 (33) $2.84
Whiskey $76.50
$208.64
Total
Food and Drink: $768.53
Costs w/o alcohol: $579.14

Notes:

  • Though the best price was the food court in the basement at Maya Mall, My favorited dishes were the street vendors and sit-down restaurants in the area.
  • I ate a lot more McDonald’s than I would like to admit but in my defense, they have fried chicken here and it’s pretty tasty. Also, the food is made to order so it was consistently hot.
  • Wine is cost prohibitive for even the cheapest bottle, which is why I opted for beer and whiskey.  If you don’t drink, you can eat quite well on a modest budget. I never cooked and only kept cereal and fruit at home.

 

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What’s In Your Bag?

Bag lady, you gon’ hurt your back, draggin’ all them bags like that. I guess nobody ever told you all must hold on to is you.
Erykah Badu

Remote Year ended for me in mid-March. Though the program was officially over in January, I continued to travel with my fellow Battutas, keeping the dream alive (and the cult together) for as long as we could. As I packed my bags to depart from Bali, it was apparent that I couldn’t continue to tote this much weight. My last two trips required me to remove items from my checked baggage to avoid fees. In assessing what should remain, I realized the excess baggage as much mental as it was physical.

IMG_1683
I thought I’d make it the entire time with these bags.

So after 14 months, what did I end up putting down?

* Two cars, a house full of possessions, and the very idea of “home”

* A ridiculous Russian nesting doll of bags starting with a 120L duffel used to carry a 90L duffel, 35L duffel, a wet bag and a tote bag.

* Ideas about who I was and my place in the world. Some were inherited, others were freely accepted over time but all were occupying the space needed to forge a new direction.

* Past hopes, mistakes, disappointments and missed opportunities. Continually beating myself up over these things was a waste of mental space.

* Relationships that didn’t work or weren’t healthy. Some of these were hard to let go of but essential to moving forward.

* Fears about changing at this point in life.

It’s important to periodically take stock and make sure that what you’re carrying is essential for your journey.

Excess baggage is costly.

So pack light (oooh, oooh)

February 2017 Earnings Report for The Cocoa Nomad

Revenue

Consulting:                        $0

Still haven’t received payment for the work in January. The additional project that was supposed to come about also didn’t materialize. I’ll turn my efforts onto freelance and check out sites like UpWork. My plan is to blog/vlog my experience with online work as well as any other income streams I attempt.

iOS App Store:                   $16.40

I just listened to the latest episode of the Under the Radar (https://www.relay.fm/radar/71) about Apps as Annuities. the primary theme is that apps afford revenue even though they may not be constantly updated. David Smith, one of the hosts, does note that in his experience unmaintained apps tend to decay in terms of sales at a rate of about 0.5% per month. While not a scientific measurement, it’s convenient way to think about the income stream from the app portfolio. My app income does not strictly adhere to this principle as it rose 50% over the previous period but the numbers are two small to try to draw any conclusions. I am confident that the next 2 months will show a change in these numbers.

Amazon:                            -$12.18

The lack of sales and mounting storage fees here means that I’m going to have to get rid of my inventory. I’ll start by deeply discounting the prices (probably 40-50%) to see if I can get any takers. I’d rather recoup some of my money than taking a complete loss. I’m not giving up on Amazon (though I am done with retail arbitrage for the foreseeable future) but I will have to change my product offering.

Total Revenue:                 $4.22

 

Expenses

Rent                                        $744
Food                                      $375
Travel                                    $305
Biz Services                          $264

Total Expenses:              $1688

I split my time in February between Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, so my travel and lodging expenses were much higher than I expect for the next three months, when I will be settled into Chiang Mai, Thailand.

“Fake it ’til you make it” is BS

“Fake it ’til you make it” is a popular and oft repeated phrase offered to people that are scared of making a significant change or embarking on something new. The statement gained traction as people began embracing the facade of success in an effort to build confidence. Popular media reinforces this approach, suggesting strategies that will help you “fake it” and evidence to support its effectiveness.

The seduction of pithy axioms like this are hard to deny. They’re sure to draw more attention than the rough, unvarnished simplicity of the truth.

The truth is that it’s you don’t need to fake it.

Confidence is gained through competence. And competence is a result of consistent action.

“Faking it” is about outward appearance, how you look to others. It’s a needless distraction.

For proof, look no further than any construction site. Whether it’s greenfield development or a rehab project, a process is followed from beginning to end.

Are the builders faking it during construction? No. They don’t have to.

When you’re laying a foundation, you’re making it.

When you’re putting up framing, you’re making it.

When you’re adding the final touches and flourishes, you’re making it.

Each day in which action is taken, you move closer to completion. “Making it” is not about the finished product. It’s about the concrete steps you take to get there.

Focus on what you are building, not on what the passersby see.

Don’t “fake it ’til you make it”.

Make it until you’re finished.

January 2017 Earnings Report for The Cocoa Nomad

Consulting: $0

I did pick up consulting work in January but because I use cash basis versus accrual for accounting, it won’t show until next month. I was able to do some work for a former client who is finally shutting down the project but needed some final artifacts delivered. There may be additional work via referral in February as well but I’m not counting on it. I’ll keep networking to pick up some small projects to sustain me while I work on my primary apps.

iOS App Store: $10.77

A further decline in sales for my neglected apps. Fact is, I absolutely deserve this. I’m contemplating a shift away from paid apps to freemium or ad-supported, a decision that pushed back my release of the Capoeira Songs update. Team Tryouts update is also on hold.

Amazon: -$7.17

First the Falcons lost in the Super Bowl, now this. While I didn’t expect to recover all of the sales from the previous month, I never expected a negative. It’s a dead period for shopping in general and toys in particular (I guess the kids haven’t broken those Christmas gifts yet.)

Total: $3.60

Ouch! I went from pocket money to couch cushion money. Actually, I’m more bummed about the Falcon’s loss than my earnings. I’m back to working on a steady basis after the final month of Remote Year. New products are coming soon and I’m still excited about the future. There may be a new category for the earnings report as early as next month.

What About Expenses?

After the last earnings post, I was asked why I didn’t include expenses. The primary reason was that I just wasn’t thinking about it (it’s an earnings report not an income statement). The secondary reason was that I didn’t want to skew the expenses with the Remote Year costs (avg. $2041 month in program costs, much higher that what I will be spending going forward). Now that my gap year is over, I can provide a clearer picture of what it actually costs me to live and build my leveraged income streams. Those costs will be included in the Feb 2017 report.

Super Bowl LI and Making Changes

When the Falcons managed to reached their first Super Bowl in team history in 1998, I was beyond excited. I hosted a party at my apartment and invited many of my friends. My disappointment in the loss was mitigated by the events portending defeat leading up to kickoff. Delays in getting the food delivered and losing both the power and cable had already dampened some of my excitement but the Broncos were always in control of that game. It’s easier to deal with losing when things start out poorly.

Far more heartbreaking was the Duel in Dixie. In 1981, I watched the game in my living room, in my red Falcons cap and “Steve Bartkowksi” pajamas. It was a ritual I held onto long after I had outgrown them and the PJs started to look like a baby’s onesie on me. The team was playing well, taking a 14 point lead into the final quarter. Despite this, the Cowboys managed to score three touchdowns and mount a comeback victory.

The Falcons would return to the big game after 18 years. In that time, I had “grown up”. I bought a house and had a real career. I had settled down. I was no longer that kid standing on the couch, screaming at the screen.

And yet after an epic collapse on Sunday, I was an 8 year old again, back on that couch. What 44 year old man cries after a Super Bowl loss? I didn’t play in the game. I’m not employed by the organization. I’m don’t even live in the city anymore.

For the majority of the game, the Falcons were doing the right things.

Post game, there were tons of armchair coaches, who “knew” what the team should’ve done.

Down 28 – 3 at halftime, the Patriots had the advantage of knowing they needed to change. It’s an easy decision when things are not working. Choosing between staying the course and making huge changes for the future is difficult. That’s what makes this particular loss so hard to take. I’m writing this from Thailand, having quit the best job I’ve ever had and sold most of my possessions to become an location independent entrepreneur.

I was doing all of the “right” things before I left but still felt it was time for major adjustments. I’m certain there are armchair coaches questioning my decision as well.

What major adjustments are you willing to make though things are going well according to your game plan?

A Remote Year of Fitness

Staying in shape is a challenge regardless of your living/travel situation. It becomes even more difficult if you are constantly changing locations. One of my goals this year was to at least maintain the condition I was in when starting Remote Year. fat_boysTrying all of the local cuisine (and beverages 😉 )throughout the year , I knew that if I wasn’t careful, I could easily eclipse my pre-RY peak of 202 lbs (aided in no small part by my inner fat boy’s love of chicken & waffles and large country breakfasts).

 

 

Keeping It Simple

Despite gyms in every city we lived in, I needed an even simpler option. I’m simply not that motivated to go to a gym on a regular basis and paying for something that I won’t use is a non-starter. My goto exercise needed to be simple and fast, hence my preference for HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and walking.  I used the 7 Minute Workout  and Pedometer++  apps as my baseline. Confident that I had everything I needed to maintain this regimen wherever I went, my basic goals were to walk 10,000 steps each day and do the 7 minute workout 3 times a week. Everything beyond that was a bonus.

South America

Everyone was keen to get the year of to a good start, so there were lots of informal groups formed around fitness such as football, running, basketball or general fitness workouts. I tried to participate in as many as possible to supplement my basic routine. Fellow Battuta, Anton was a boxing
enthusiast and we began a boxing workout that img_5747included a run to/from the parks where we would train. This definitely helped kick things up a notch and we were pretty consistent until months 3 and 4, when we moved to the higher altitudes of Bolivia/Peru. We did finish strong as a group by starting the Insanity workout program in the 4th month using the high altitude to take our fitness to a new level.

Europe

The workout routine that I developed in South America was disrupted by the departure of a number of remotes. I began month five in London with a daily 5K. Runs along the canal were a nice break from my cramped living quarters. I managed to make the best of it by successfully continuing the 7 Minute workouts in my room.img_5761 I reasoned that if I could do the exercises in such a small space there was no reason I couldn’t to them anywhere. Europe was also the place where I started playing football. Full disclosure: I’m crap at football but I enjoyed being part of the group.
Don’t underestimate the positive aspects of a social group for maintaining a fitness routine. I took this to heart and created a boxing club for those who wanted to learn the basics and add a little variety to their workout routine.

Asia

The first month in Asia was similar to the other first months of the previous legs. Getting adjusted took time and I reverted back to my 3x a week basic workout of 7 Minutes plus a basic boxing routing (sans heavy/speed bag). Because the first 2 months provided pool access, I decided to add a bit of swimming. img_0316It’s definitely something that I will keep as a part of my routing when available. It’s a great full body workout. The highlight of this leg of the trip was by far my ability to train Muay Thai in Thailand. I don’t have many things on my bucket list but this was one of them. While in Koh Phangan, I truly thought I’d achieved fitness nirvana. I rode my bicycle 30 minutes each way to train for 2 hours. Despite my excitement, injuries did slow me down. I sprained my foot while training Muay Thai after executing an almost perfect counter leg sweep. This began the downward spiral that would be the theme of my Asian segment. My football career ended sadly on a pitch in Phnom Penh, much like my basketball playing days in Prague. By the final month of Remote Year in Vietnam, I’d racked up shoulder, knee and foot injuries that would reduce me to simply walking for exercise.

RY Results

In spite of the injuries, this year was epic from a fitness standpoint. I had fun working out with others and participating in the various fitness programs and sports. I ended up about 15 pounds less than I did when starting the year, halfway to my target (170 lbs). I’ll spend the next the few months with the base routine and a focus on diet. I’ve spent the last 12 months eating and drinking pretty much whatever I wanted and I need to reduce and improve my intake. Now I can spend time recovering from my injuries in preparation for more training while in Asia. I’ll also be a including a lot more preventative measures such as stretching, yoga and wearing ankle and knee braces.

Earnings Report for the Cocoa Nomad

Why Share This?

When I started blogging a few years ago about my development experiences, it was about sharing information. The iOS dev community was particularly welcoming and always willing to share with me. Additionally, I’ve always appreciated the transparency of developers and entrepreneurs who shared their sales data. It’s important to show the entire transition so as to never incorrectly access future successes as instant.

Documenting this experience is also about accountability. I’m making lots of mistakes by commission or omission and making note of them is only part of the process. Quantifying those mistakes is equally as important as sharing them. As Peter Drucker famously stated “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”.

December 2016 Report

Consulting: $0

I’ve not done any consulting work. After leaving my full-time job, I took a 6 month sabbatical as I needed to recharge and wanted to explore other business opportunities. This will most likely change in the next few months as I’m working toward a balance between my passion projects and some paid work.

iOS App Store: $17.20

This number is not the least bit surprising. My existing apps haven’t seen updated in 4 years and the sales reflect that. I have an updated version of Capoeira Songs that needs a bit more art work and it should be ready for release soon. While I don’t expect a huge increase in revenue for this app, I felt the rewrite was worth the effort. Next up is the Team Tryouts rewrite.

Amazon: $13.92

This is the most disappointing figure. My experiment with retail arbitrage has not been nearly as successful as I’d hoped. The toys (which few exceptions) have not sold well and the expected Christmas bump just didn’t happen. I naively assumed that everything would be gone by the new year. I may have been too aggressive/optimistic in selecting products. I could’ve paid closer attention to the sales ranking of certain products instead of focusing so much on margin. What good is high margin on a product that doesn’t sell? I’ll be faced with decisions about how to handle the inventory if the storage fees start to become a problem.
Total: $31.12

You probably have more money in your wallet right now than I made last month. Despite the low numbers, I’m pretty excited about 2017. I have a renewed interest in development and the amazing travel experience of 2016 was vital to that.

Uber Drivers Are Side Hustle Inspiration

In the past year, I’ve used many modes of transportation. While the opportunities to speak with pilots, bus drivers or train conductors are rare, Uber drivers are frequently open to conversation. Typically our talks are about our respective hometowns, what the city is like, tips about venues to see and me constantly checking the route to see if we’re going the right way. The best rides are when the conversation moves beyond the basics. More than just what jobs we have but why we do them. While it’s great to travel the world, it’s not a permanent vacation for me and I’m curious about what other people are doing to make ends meet. For most of the drivers that I meet, Uber isn’t their only job. In fact, it’s usually their side hustle.

My most recent encounter was with Alonzo, a driver in Charleston, SC. His story reminded me of my grandfather, who for many years in New York simultaneously worked at a hospital, drove a cab and had a dry cleaning business. Alonzo told me about his various gigs outside of Uber: a full time job at a local college, a fragrance business, a truck detailing service and selling on Amazon/Ebay. Once we discovered that Amazon selling was something that we had in common, we started sharing our respective experiences and swapping tips. I realized that I was missing some very profitable categories in retail arbitrage and he learned about the advantages of Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA).

I’m not only nomadic in my travels, I’m moving fluidly amongst my roles in pursuing business opportunities. At any given time, I am a mobile app developer or a market researcher or shopkeep. Getting comfortable with the frequent transitions has been helped by my experience in moving from country to country. The languages and customs change with each venue but in gaining confidence in my ability to navigate the world, I am more prepared to face the myriad challenges in making my new life work.

My Retail Arbitrage Experience

I’ve now gone out three times to find products to source for retail arbitrage (RA) via Amazon FBA. I’d heard about it on a few seller podcasts/YouTube vids and wanted to see firsthand what the experience was like. I’ve decided to provide some answers to questions that I had when I started. Perhaps they can help you.2016-10-19-16-20-21

Is it hard to get started? No. I created an Amazon Seller account and in less than 30 minutes and was listing my books and electronics. I had boxes, tape and a printer to package what I needed. I didn’t even have to pay the UPS shipping costs up front. I’m currently doing RA from the road and do my label printing via available business centers (hotel/apartments). Unlike the books I originally sold, I only needed to print a shipping label for each box.

What is your game plan? Each day, I map put an area of town that has a number of retail stores (Walmart, Target, Kmart, Big Lots, Toys R Us). My main focus has been toys as I heard it was a great category for bargains. Some tips:

  • Set a target value for the day. For example, try to get $400 (sale price) worth of  products per day. You can always go over but this gives you a good baseline
  • Set a profit target per item. I’ve heard various opinions on this one. Some people want $10 per item. Some are happy with $5. Others simply want products they can sell for 3x their acquisition cost (approx. 1/3 of that will go to Amazon/shipping costs).
  • Scan each item if you find similar items that are a different color/size. I bought a bunch of markers only to find out that Amazon won’t let me ship the yellow ones (the green and orange are fine). I’m sure it’s a bug but it was a reminder of the old carpentry adage: measure twice, cut once.
  • Upgrade to Pro Seller Account if you think you want to keep doing this. I missed out on many deals simply because I was restricted from a category based on my account type.

How much time do you spend doing this? I try to spend no more than an hour per location and sweep through the clearance sections. After about 4-5 hours, I’m usually ready to call it a day. I’m sure a more savvy shopper could come right behind me and fill a shopping cart with deals that I didn’t think to investigate. Total time in 3 trips was less than 15 hours (including shipping).

How much does it cost/Is it really worth it? I can’t say what the actual ROI is for my time/costs until the products are all sold. Through 3 trips, I’ve spent about $520 for products that should sell for about $1418.

Will you keep doing this? No, as I will be returning to SE Asia in a few days. It’s a fun activity I do each time I’m stateside but I’ve already accomplished my goals in doing RA, namely:

  • Learning more about selling on Amazon
  • Provide first hand experience to anyone interested in trying it for themselves
  • Getting product ideas for private labeling, online arbitrage, wholesaling (all of which I may try at some point)
  • Breaking out of my comfort zone by doing something else to make money.
  • After using existing tools available for doing RA, I now have an app idea to pursue. I constantly joke that my motto is ABD (Always Be Drinking) but in reality it’s ABT (Always Be Thinking of new product/service ideas)

Overall the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s basically a real life scavenger hunt game show with real cash and prizes awaiting you in the end.