akratic's ERE journal

Where are you and where are you going?
akratic
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Post by akratic »

@sshawn, Yeah, I love duolingo! My Spanish learning is from that and from when I talk to locals to like buy dinner or ride the bus. There is a huge chasm between what Spanish I know and the speed that people talk at though, as well as their vocabularies. I need to buckle down and get serious about my study, as well as probably pay for lessons.
@MadHermit, thanks. The Chicago weather was really getting to me honestly. But then it's too humid here, so maybe I'm just picky/slow-at-adapting.
@jacob, yeah Panama hats are pretty sweet, actually. Because I could be doing freelance programming at like $50-100/hr or whatever it is that super qualified software engineers make, it's kind of inefficient for me to do anything income related besides programming (especially considering I still actually like programming). I don't need more money though.
The real business opportunity I'm excited about is finding a destination that only locals travel to, then buying a business there for cheap like a restaurant or bar or hotel, then growing the town and attracting international travelers, and suddenly you're charging first-world rates and paying third-world expenses...
I'm so impressed by this business model that I like want to convince a friend to go try this, but none of my friends have the skill-set for it. Honestly anyone with the skills to run a bar or restaurant, and also the skills to travel the third-world looking for not-yet-popular locations.... should be doing this. INTJs need not apply. Maybe like an ESxP?


LiquidSapphire
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Post by LiquidSapphire »

I was just thinking about you in Ecuador the other day and was wondering how that was going; sounds like pretty all right so far so I'm glad!
What did you figure out about health insurance and mail?


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C40
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Post by C40 »

I'm jealous! Have fun and keep updating us


akratic
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Post by akratic »

After spending the first few weeks in Ecuador on the coast, we spent the entire month of March in Cuenca. Cuenca is one of the top expat retirement destinations in the world due to a combination of good weather, low cost of living, and safety. I've seen estimates that there are about 5,000 retired expats here of about 500,000 people total. The main reasons we moved to Cuenca were to get a better internet connection by being in a bigger city, and because we have a good friend who has lived here for the past two years teaching English.
I made this breakdown of my budget for another thread

and the only question now at the end of the month is what my discretionary spending ends up being. I'll calculate that tomorrow or Monday by counting how much cash I have and comparing it to all checking account withdrawals. (I'm used to tracking my spending via credit cards, but Ecuador is 100% cash, so this is the new system.)
A typical day in Cuenca:

- 8am wake up (to the sound of my girlfriend giving an English lesson over Skype in the living room), grab my laptop, stay in bed

- 9am breakfast: granola and yogurt (both locally made and tastier and cheaper than in the US)

- 9:30am leave for the gym, walk to the bus

- 10am - 11am CrossFit workout, totally exhausting due to being out of shape + being at 8,000ft of altitude + CrossFit being hard

- 11:30am get home after showering at the gym

- 12pm - 1pm eat out for lunch ($1.50 - $3.50)

- 6pm - 7pm eat out for dinner ($1.50 - $3.50)

- 11pm go to bed
In the unstructured time I either browse the internet aimlessly, learn spanish, work on a freelance ipad app I agreed to do for a friend, play video games, read, watch TV (I like Parks and Rec now) or play bridge (I've found some retirees to play with! and I learned that you can play online as well). I'm waiting until I become a little less lazy and a little more relaxed, and then I may start a business in this spare time.
We also see our good friend a few times a week, sometimes just the three of us, and other times with his social network of English teachers. I like the English teachers; they are "life smart" as my girlfriend would say. They have low-paying (~$400/mo) low-stress (~18 hrs/wk) jobs that help other people and let them pursue adventures and their dreams. They are decidely not caught up in materialism and other aspects of the rat race. On their salaries they simply break even here, but they live a good life.
It's strange for me to have higher monthly expenses than my peers, after spending considerably less than my peers my entire adult life.
My girlfriend's business is continuing to take off. She's up to around eight paying clients now, which makes her filthy rich here in Ecuador, and probably gives her more spending money per month than I have, although she's mostly saving it. I've enjoyed working on the business with her, doing just the tech stuff and high level strategy. Apparently she's already nearly a top result in Saudia Arabia for English Teacher, which is fantastic. To support her growing business we had to pay up for top-of-the-line internet. We are paying $125/mo for a corporate tier plan! Residential tier plans start at $25/mo and Business tier plans start at $70/mo, but they're not very good. We agreed to split that expenses 40% her business, 30% me, 30% her.
The major obstacle right now is visa related. We are about 2/3s through our 90 day tourist visa, but we would like to stay in Cuenca for 4 more months. There are a number of options available, but they're all pretty bad:

- apply for an official visa, but it's expensive and can take months to get through all the red tape, and we only have 38 days left

- try a visa run where we leave the country and come back, but apparently that no longer works in Ecuador (for getting an extra 90 days), unless you bribe the border guards AND get lucky

- stay here illegally, in which case we'll be fined later when we eventually leave, and we'll be illegal
In other news, I still need to do my taxes (ugh), and rebalance my portfolio (buy bonds, buy gold, sell cash). My portfolio does have quite a lot more money in it than when I started this trip, but it's too early for that to mean much.


akratic
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Post by akratic »

I'm not too sure what to journal about anymore. I'm not tracking my actual expenses, just my cash withdrawals, since everything is cash-based here. I withdrew $800 in March and $300 in April. May will probably be $600. These numbers are a little noisy with the big, infrequent cash withdrawals. They're also so comfortably under my theoretical investment income (on average) that it's not really worth worrying about them.
Things I've been doing, in rough order of usefulness:

- crossfit 4-5 times per week

- creating a flash based video game

- sleeping in

- seeing our one friend and making small efforts at becoming friends with his friends

- learning Spanish (so slowly that I'll never be fluent in time)

- started and finished a freelance iPad app

- reading

- playing bridge

- browsing the internet

- occasional touristy stuff like visiting famous places

- watching TV and bad movies

- playing video games
I dunno. One ERE related observation is that I've noticed some pushback from my girlfriend when I "waste" a day. An example day might consist of crossfit in the morning, meals with my girlfriend, lots of internet browsing and video game playing, and say 30 minutes of Spanish learning. In my girlfriend's eyes it's somehow not cool to spend a day like this, but I don't see the problem with it. I could be doing more useful stuff, but I don't see that I really need to. It's not a major problem though, more just like a difference of opinion or perspective I guess.


George the original one
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Post by George the original one »

Kick the language learning into gear and, rather than browse the Internet, browse the local scene? Maybe write about what you find in more detail? Readers here certainly find your general adventure interesting.


mikeBOS
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Post by mikeBOS »

I'm with Bertrand Russel, "Time you enjoy wasting, isn't wasted."
I'm on your side but I think there are a lot of people around here who are going to side with your girlfriend. There seems to be this pervasive belief that if you aren't always striving to better and perfect yourself, or the world around you, then you're somehow on a road to ruin, or you're wasting something. I think the real waste would be to force yourself to do something you don't want to do just because it will make you "feel productive". Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think.


secretwealth
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Post by secretwealth »

Akratic, I'd love to hear about your experiences with the local expats and how difficult/easy it is to befriend them and integrate into their society.
Also, one suggestion: next time the girlfriend says she doesn't approve of how you spend your time, say you don't approve of how she spends her time. I find that approach works approximately 21-23 days out of the month (and absolutely not for the other days of the month)


JohnnyH
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Post by JohnnyH »

"One ERE related observation is that I've noticed some pushback from my girlfriend when I "waste" a day. An example day might consist of crossfit in the morning, meals with my girlfriend, lots of internet browsing and video game playing, and say 30 minutes of Spanish learning. In my girlfriend's eyes it's somehow not cool to spend a day like this, but I don't see the problem with it. I could be doing more useful stuff, but I don't see that I really need to. It's not a major problem though, more just like a difference of opinion or perspective I guess."
I'm kind of scared about this myself... I've had girlfriends in the past that made me feel lousy about being leisurely. Then the outcome was changed by the observation. I couldn't just do what I wanted, I had to worry about how they would react. It would poison the bursts of output I normally got between periods of leisure.
I worry that no matter how much I get a partner who accepts my ERE that they won't be able to overcome their per-conceived notion that anybody who doesn't work a full time job is without value... The guy who does some detrimental full time job and spends more than he earns is some kind of puritan hero. Meanwhile I'm a louse for finding a way out.
IDK, just rambling, not trying to derail. Anyway, I hope you come to a good conclusion on this.


George the original one
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Post by George the original one »

> I think the real waste would be to force yourself

> to do something you don't want to do just because

> it will make you "feel productive".
Agree. My comment was aimed more at how to incorporate the present opportunities for entertainment rather than productive-ness. For instance, assuming that learning Spanish is a desireable end, then turning up the wick a bit would seem to be warranted due to the timeline, but if you're finding it a chore, then just cut it out of the routine.


spoonman
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Post by spoonman »

I'm thinking of making Cuenca the place of my first ERE adventure. The stuff you are currently doing from day to day sounds like what I'd want to do, at least in the first few months after pulling the trigger. Just refer your girlfriend to the New Escapologist website and she'll understand.


m741
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Post by m741 »

I make myself feel lousy for leisurely days, so I guess I can see where you're girlfriend's coming from. If you really enjoy days of crossfit/videogames then you might as well take advantage of that :).
Maybe your girlfriend feels like she's doing an unfair share of the work (regardless of how you share expenses, it could feel this way if she just sees you lying around all day). You could put in an hour per day on your flash game (presumably something you hope to monetize eventually), at a time when the effort would be most visible...


mds
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Post by mds »

Honestly, going to Crossfit 4-5 times per week is an accomplishment in and of itself. You've only been there 3 months, right? When you add a freelance iPad app in there, that's more than most people accomplish in a year (pushing paper in an office).
Either way though, I can relate. I'm not FI, but my SO does see me lounging around a lot, reading, listening to podcasts, but that's usually after a short, but intense coding session. I've found that the source of the friction is actually me being around the apartment too much. I've been making an effort to get out and work in coffee shops, so she has some time alone in the apartment. It's easier said than done because I'm definitely more comfortable in my own space when working. In college, I literally never studied in the library. I like to be able to take power naps, make tea, randomly do some pushups without witnesses, etc.


akratic
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Post by akratic »

It would poison the bursts of output I normally got between periods of leisure.

This is the major concern for me too.
Suppose my girlfriend and I were to run a race like we live our lives. She would run the entire race at 8 minute miles, no more, no less. I would alternate between all-out sprinting and walking.
I used to beat myself up about the walking. My fascination with akrasia and my online nickname originated in trying to understand and remove all unproductive habits. But I'm starting to think recently that these periods of walking might be *necessary* for me to sprint.
My girlfriend never walks (or sprints?) so she doesn't understand it.
Also, one suggestion: next time the girlfriend says she doesn't approve of how you spend your time, say you don't approve of how she spends her time.

Actually she never stops running her 8 minute miles, like ever. It's weird. She'll spend entire days or weeks exercising/working/catching up with friends/volunteering with seemingly no need to browse the internet or watch TV or what have you. I don't get it. I don't think it's willpower. It's like a complete absence of desire/need to relax or waste time.
Is she implying that she wants a larger cash cushion for future expenses such as a child?
or
The lack of desire to learn the language signifies that you don't intend to stay?

Neither, she's knows we're fine financially, and we're leaving Ecuador in August. By the way, knowing that we'll leave in August is why learning Spanish isn't fun anymore: I'm already at the point where I can interact with like a waiter in Spanish, and I'll never get to the point where I can have a real conversation with someone before August, and we won't be living in a Spanish speaking place afterwards.
Anyway, basically she finds me lazing around all day to be "unattractive". She asks me to imagine what I'd think about a girlfriend that did nothing but watch reality TV and eat ice cream all day.
Maybe your girlfriend feels like she's doing an unfair share of the work

I think this is part of it, but I find it irrational. Basically my skillset is much more lucrative than hers, which enables me to get money without working nearly as hard. I agree it's unfair, but it's more like the universe's fault than anyone else's, and in my mind it doesn't mean I should do more than 50% of the housework. To be honest though I actually do less than 50% of the housework, mostly because I don't really notice/care if the apartment is messy or if there's dishes in the sink. I should step it up here and at least match her contribution.
Honestly, going to Crossfit 4-5 times per week is an accomplishment in and of itself. You've only been there 3 months, right? When you add a freelance iPad app in there, that's more than most people accomplish in a year (pushing paper in an office).

Amen, brother! Just adjusting to basics like doing laundry or buying groceries in a new country takes a lot of work too.
I've found that the source of the friction is actually me being around the apartment too much.

Yeah, I actually think you're right that getting out of the house would get me a surprising number of "points". A coffee shop wouldn't do though: I'm too introverted to get work done in such a stimulating environment. An empty library would work really well though.... I should look into that... although my gut tells me there isn't much available here.
I think the real waste would be to force yourself to do something you don't want to do just because it will make you "feel productive". Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think.

This one's tricky. What I like to do is wait until I feel like being productive, then be (really) productive. This can involves long periods of waiting around for inspiration to strike though, and it's precisely this waiting around that my girlfriend doesn't understand. It's like in her head the unproductivity will last forever, despite strong evidence from the rest of my life that eventually I always get off my ass and do stuff. It just can't be forced.
Akratic, I'd love to hear about your experiences with the local expats and how difficult/easy it is to befriend them and integrate into their society.

I'm afraid my experience with this is going to tell you more about myself than about the expats, but here goes. There are two main expat communities here in Cuenca: ~50 twenty-something or early thirty year old english teachers, and on the order of 1000s of 55-90 year old gringos.
The teachers seemingly have more in common with me and are where I've spent most of my effort. The main problem is they are pretty much all Artisan/SP, live in the moment, adventure/experience seeker, partier types. Basically their idea of a good time is to get drunk. They're friendly and open people, and all I'd really need to do to become their friends is to drink with them, but I just can't do it. I get really bored/lonely at social events that revolve around alcohol. I attend the non-alcohol events like ultimate frisbee in the park every other week, or if there was a hiking trip I'd go -- but 90% of the socializing involves drinking, and that's just a bad fit for me.
Then there are thousands of old gringos here, and they have an open-invitation gringo meetup almost every night of the week at different restaurants or bars around town. The stereotype for the gringos is a complete lack of Spanish speaking ability, very little attempt to integrate into the local customs, and lots of money. For example the meetups will be at gringo restaurants with Italian food and $10+ entrees and $4+ drinks, when the locals and the savvy travelers normally eat dinner out for $3.50. The gringos typically live in houses in the suburbs and just come into town for events like this. My girlfriend and I attended a few of these meetups, but just had a hard time finding a good conversation or a person that we wanted to keep talking to. We probably met like 20+ old gringos, but didn't hit it off with any of them. On the coast of Ecuador we were friends with an old gringo couple that was really interesting, but we just haven't found any here in Cuenca.
The thing is I am incredibly introverted (not in the shy sense, but in the preference for time alone sense) so I have really high standards for socializing. I'd almost always rather be alone than with company, unless I can find a really fascinating conversation, or a competitive game with just the right mix of intensity/socializing. So I haven't made that much effort to integrate into either community.


spoonman
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Post by spoonman »

Got a question for ya: how did you find the apartment in Cuenca? Did you use some sort of apartment rental agency or online service? Or did a local friend help you out?
Thanks in advance!


akratic
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Post by akratic »

@spoonman my friend found the apartment for us. He speaks fluent Spanish and had lived here for two years.
You can find some listings on gringotree.com gringopost.com or even craigslist, but anything in English targeting gringos is going to be overpriced.
The person I know with the best deal on an apartment found it in a local newspaper.


akratic
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by akratic »

Not too much has happened the past couple of months.

I'm still doing CrossFit four times a week and some kind of activity on the weekend like hiking or ultimate frisbee. I've made major progress on my fitness and how I look, but I still have a long way to go.

Over the past few months I got some leisure out of my system by watching all five seasons of the Wire, all five seasons of Parks and Rec, and the last two seasons of The Office. I also played a bunch of League of Legends.

After all that leisure, I did buckle down to do some serious work. I taught myself flash and made a prototype tower defense game based on an idea I've always wanted to see implemented. Once I finished the prototype I showed it to my friend who is in the industry. I was pretty excited about the potential of working with this friend, because he and his partner specialize in the business, design, and artistic aspects of making games, which are exactly what I need to combine with my engineering skills. Unfortunately, my friend has been more successful than I realized, and now employs 21 engineers, artists, designers, etc. Basically it no longer makes sense for him to team up with someone like me and give up equity in the games he works on, when he can just pay salaries to his employees and keep 100% of the upside of his work.

I did learn a lot from the conversation with my friend though. I knew flash was a dying technology, but I didn't know what had replaced it outside of iOS / Android. He gave me the answer: Unity. So now I'm learning Unity, and it's been pretty fun. I'm making a puzzle game that should be demo-able in the next few weeks.

My girlfriend's online business continues to succeed. She's up to 16 regular clients that each have lessons 1-5 times a week. This is almost full-time work for her now, and she's saving a bunch of money here in Ecuador. The major challenge now is to grow this business beyond just her time. We're trying to subcontract out to friends we have here in Ecuador. They're native English speakers and make around $6/hr teaching here. We can charge the clients $20-25 and pay the teachers $12-15 and pretty much everyone wins. That's the theory at least, and I redesigned the website to support multiple teachers. So far though the subcontracted teachers haven't managed to land any paying clients, but it's probably just a matter of time. If this subcontracting thing works, it could potentially be pretty lucrative, as we have 10+ people lined up to work for her business, and there's really no limit to the number of people on the internet trying to learn English.

It turns out my girlfriend's income stream is much more robust than my Permanent Portfolio, which hasn't done so well. Because of PP losses, I've lost 2.25 net worth years, and my SWR changed from 2.61% -> 2.77%. (This is using my Chicago expense level, not my Ecuador one, which is about half as much, but not really relevant since I won't stay here.) I still like the philosophy of the PP though, and will wait a few years before re-evaluating. It's good that I had some buffer I guess, and if the numbers ever look terrible I can just get another job. I hadn't checked my net worth in over a month before I wrote this post, so I guess I'm doing a good job distancing myself from that.

Our plan is to leave Ecuador July 19th, spend the summer with our families in the US, and then fly to Hong Kong via Tokyo around September 6th. We'll probably spend a week in Tokyo, a month in Hong Kong, and then about a year in Thailand or Taiwan or something like that. We're trying to decide which city has the best combination of cost of living, internet quality, weather, people, food, and crossfit.

spoonman
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by spoonman »

Over the past few months I got some leisure out of my system by watching all five seasons of the Wire, all five seasons of Parks and Rec, and the last two seasons of The Office. I also played a bunch of League of Legends.
Right on!

I visited Tokyo 10 years ago and loved it. I stayed there with an uncle of mine, so I wasn't paying much attention to costs. It'll be interesting to hear your assessment of Tokyo as viable ERE city (I'm guessing life must be cheaper in the outskirts of the city).

BlueNote
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by BlueNote »

Here are some money saving tips if you are going to visit or live in Japan:

Good sushi / sashimi is sold in grocery stores. If the grocery store is not a 24 hour operation they almsot never keep it overnight to sell in the morning. The grocery store I shopped at (Jusco) would mark down the price of sushi , constantly in the last couple of hours of operation in order to get it all out the door. Sometimes I would walk out with a huge platter of tuna, salmon and other stuff for like $500 yen (about $5 USD/CDN). The longer you wait the less selection but the better the price.

Ramen is japanese fast food, it is usually cheap, tasty and quick.

Avoid any restaurant that doesn't advertise prices, it will be expensive but probably good too.

Don't ever take a cab if possible. For transportation biking is great but if you need to go longer distances the surface train is a better price then the subway. The cabs are ridiculously expensive and I rarely ever used them.

Don't leave a tip anywhere in Japan, it is against their customs even if you mean well.

All you can eat is called Tabe Hodai (Tah-Beh-Hoe-Dai) and there are defiantly some great all you can eat Korean BBQ places with great prices and food around Tokyo.

Even better is all you can drink, you couldn't do this in Canada and make money. It's called Nomihodai (Noh-mee-hoe-dai) and is awesome. I couldn't believe it when I was offered this, as much beer as I could drink in a 2 hour period for a flat rate.

The police in Japan can put you in jail and hold your without charge for a long time. Don't piss them off, they are generally harmless but I have heard horror stories. Generally Japanese people are extremely friendly to foreigners and will likely want to practice their English on you. Often they will buy you food and/or drinks as a friendly gesture.

English is spoken widely in the major cities so you shouldn't have to much of a problem communicating in Tokyo.

dan23
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by dan23 »

Second sushi from grocery stores in Japan - superior to what you get in most restaurants in the US, large size, and relatively cheap.

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