Technology is Making it Easier Than Ever to Become F.I.

Wanderer
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Wanderer

The Wanderer retired from his engineering job at a major Silicon Valley semiconductor company at the age of 33. He now travels the world, seeking out knowledge from other wealthy people, so that he can teach people how to become Financially Independent themselves.
Wanderer
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Every so often, I wake up and there’s a brief moment of confusion where I have no idea where in the world I am. Wait, am I in Panama, or Greece, or Singapore? Oh wait, none of the above. I’m in Latvia.

And that feeling is quickly followed by an overwhelming wave of happiness and wonder that this, travelling the world perpetually with my best friend and doing what we both love, is my reality now.

When people remark about how lucky we are to become F.I. at such a young age, I make it a point to stop and correct them. We didn’t buy Apple at $10, or build Snapchat in our garage. Luck had very little to do with it. Becoming F.I. is simply the process of tracking your expenses, following some simple, reproducible steps to investing your savings, and then letting the power of MATH propel you to freedom.

But one thing I must admit we are very lucky about is something we all share: being born in this century, in this time period where technology has advanced to a point where this crazy nomadic lifestyle we live is even possible.

Today, I can board a plane in Athens, be in Singapore the next day, and have a place to stay, friends to meet up with, and things to do, all while having complete and uninterrupted access to my family back home, my money, and my online businesses via a plastic-and-glass square that fits in my pocket. That is nothing short of miraculous.

It didn’t used to be this easy. 18 years ago, a movie named The Beach was released featuring a shirtless Leonardo DiCaprio travelling across Thailand and discovering a secret, secluded island paradise. Adventure and sexiness ensue, as is often the case with Leo D, but in the movie he is completely cut off from the rest of the world until the end when he finds his way back to the mainland and re-establishes contact with his friends/family using an Internet cafe (remember those?)

Here we are on the exact same beach in Koh Phi Phi.

 

At no point did we lose 3G service.

10 years ago, there was another movie named A Map for Saturday, a documentary about what it’s like to travel the world for a year. The name comes from the fact that when you’re travelling, every day feels like a Saturday, a feeling I have become extremely familiar with.

Anyway, it’s a great movie that you should totally watch if you want to see what it’s like to be us, but some of his frustrations in that movie are just completely alien to me. Using a paper guide book? Showing up to a new city and getting lost? Not understanding street signs? Whaaaat?

So I thought I’d use today’s article to give a bit of a shout out to all the awesome technology out there that makes my life so fricking easy.

AirBnb

Oh, AirBnb. No one company has impacted our lives more than this one. When people ask us “Where do you live?” FIRECracker likes to answer “AirBnb.”

We basically live on AirBnb now. In Asia there are still hotels that we book using services like Agoda.com, but in Europe, North America, and South America, AirBnb is king. Because not only do we get a space we can call our own, we get a kitchen which allows us to cook and keep our food costs down. Plus, we often get a host who is more than happy to show us around the city. We still keep in contact with some of the people we’ve met via AirBnb, because we’ve become friends. You don’t get that with hotels (or landlords).

And AirBnb works the other way too in helping you become F.I. In our travels (and especially our Chautauquas) we’ve met so many people who have used AirBnb as a way to monetize their spare rooms. Or rent out their investment properties via short-term lets (avoiding the headache of a bad tenant who refuses to vacate). Or even forming a business around linking up maid services and property managers with AirBnb hosts who don’t want to physically manage their property. A business like this wouldn’t even have made sense just a few years ago.

If you’re thinking of travelling somewhere and using AirBnb, click here to get $40 USD off your first trip.

Car Sharing Services

I hate cars. I may be the only engineer in the world that hates cars, but the financial burden of owning one of these damn things stresses me out. The cost of gas, maintenance, depreciation, insurance. Ugh. It made my spreadsheets cry.

And that’s why I never owned one. Instead, I relied on public transit, happily paying the $140 a month it costs for a monthly Metropass in Toronto if it meant I never had to deal with getting shaken down by some shady mechanic.

But sometimes, I needed a damned car, to haul groceries, or pick shit up from IKEA, or whatever. So what was I supposed to do then?

Car sharing.

I haven’t written extensively about these, but essentially how a car sharing service works is first you sign up and give your driver’s license and other information. Then either through the website or (increasingly) an app, you sign out a car for a specified block of time. Once confirmed, you go over to the lot, find your car, tap your card or dongle or whatever on the windshield and it unlocks for you. You only pay the hourly fee for the time you actually spend using it. All the other costs (gas, insurance, maintenance) are included in that hourly fee.

Using car sharing services, our auto-related costs totaled about $20-$30 a month.

If you’re interested, click the banner below to get 50% off your first month.

The Global Financial System

Now, I don’t like giving credit to the banks. Most of the time, they’re trying to screw people over and that is not cool. But when it comes to travel, I have to give the Global Financial System props.

20 years ago, travellers had to rely on these stupid things called Traveller’s Checks. They were these stupid, cheap-looking paper slips that you bought from American Express before you got on your plane, and when you landed you prayed that you could find someplace to cash these things and get pounds or liras or whatever back. And if you didn’t spend all your cash? Well, too bad. Now you had a pile of worthless bills to show off to your friends all the places you’ve gone.

Now? I can use a credit card to make most purchases, and that credit card will convert from euros or baht or whatever back to my local currency at the posted XE.com exchange rate. If I need cash, I can slide in (heh heh) my debit card into any random ATM in the world, get cash out at the posted exchange rate, and have any ATM fees I incur refunded at the end of the month.

Want to know more? Here’s an article we wrote about exactly this.

Life is Awesome

Truly, this is a wonderful age we all live in. Financial Independence is a pretty great idea just on its own, but the ability to travel the world and do what you love at the same time is just mind-boggling. And all thanks to the tech companies of Silicon Valley that helped make me rich in the first place.

And the most exciting thing about all of this is: What is your retirement going to look like?

Because technology is just going to get more and more advanced. And the (very minor) struggles that we face these days are just going to get more and more miniscule as time goes on. Our retirement has been awesome, but that’s just going to get easier and easier as time goes on. One day, when you retire, you’re going to look back on the two of us having to use our primitive phones to figure out where we’re going and laugh at the absurdity of it all.

What do you think retirement will look like when you pull the trigger? Let’s hear it in the comments below!



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  • Airbnb helped us save over $18K/year! Click here to get $40USD off your first booking.

  • Click here to find out why you need travel insurance (it saved us $3000 in a family emergency!) and to get a quote.



Full disclosure: the above links are affiliate links so I may get a commission if you apply.

43 thoughts on “Technology is Making it Easier Than Ever to Become F.I.”

  1. Yasssssss. All of this is so true. It did not take luck. It took years of hard work and delaying gratification etc.

    Ugh is it time to pull the plug already. We have had that exact same feeling of waking up and not exactly remembering where we are. It’s hilarious when you almost pee in a random corner of the room in the middle of the night because that’s where the bathroom was at the last place you stayed…. Bwahaha.

  2. We definitely live in an amazing age where we are able to live in a way even our parents can hardly understand. Have you met anyone traveling globally with young kids and do you have any thought or resources for that cohort?

  3. It’s an amazing time to live a FIRE lifestyle, that’s for sure. Technology makes things so much easier. I’ve never had to use a traveler check, though. That scenario is probably 30 years ago instead of 20. I used to withdraw cash from the ATM and just pay the fee.
    I just set up a joint account for my mom at Fidelity. This way, I can deposit money here and she can withdraw it in Thailand and avoid the ATM fee. Hope it works out.

  4. It certainly was a lot harder to travel in the past. I remember one trip to Mexico (over a decade ago) where I had to walk miles to find an ATM that would take one of my cards. It took the better part of the day just to get a few pesos.

    Now, things are WAY easier…except in places in Asia where they still use cash almost exclusively. Largely we have technology and capitalism to thank for the improvements.

    How do you guys manage SIM cards when you travel? Just get a new one in each country? That’s what I’ve done while traveling, but you guys move around so much it might be a bit of a drag.

    Heh, I said drag. 🙂

    1. I was just in Mexico last month and mostly spent cash (but not really much of it, and not because I was staying in an all-inclusive… those are weird). There were definitely lots of ATMs but also warnings about how they might be less than trustworthy?

      I do think most of my foreign spending is on credit cards though.

    2. Yup, totally. Though, even in Asia I’ve still figured out how to withdraw money frictionlessly from ATMs now.

      And to answer your questions: new country, new SIM card. Though in the EU it’s been a lot easier lately since they’ve adopted roam-like-like-home requirements for their telcos. I might write a post about that.

  5. Speaking of getting around, how about the awesomeness of map apps. Land anywhere in the world, whip out the phone and start heading to your next stop.

    I also keep a basic Garmin GPS in my backpack for those times when I’m in a remote location without wireless service.

    We are heavy users of Airbnb and Uber. I almost freaked out when I found out that Uber is banned in Germany. Damn taxis were expensive. But our 4 riverfront Airbnb’s were awesome. 🙂

  6. YAAAAS! Completely agree with all of this. I was just wondering the other day what I would do if AirBnB didn’t exist and I still wanted to be a nomad in retirement. I guess move only once a year if it’s an annual lease and find furnished places?! Not sure.

    Also one thing I would add to this list (though it’s a little tangential to what you’re talking about) is the rise of the Internet. I would never have learned about FIRE or thought it was possible without being able to read and watch other people do it online.

    1. People have done it before AirBnb’s, using sublets, or VRBO’s (Vacation Rental By Owners), but I do have to say it’s so seamless now I don’t think I can go back 🙂

  7. I have used Airbnb all over the world and it has been great (almost) every time. I don’t expect perfection because things happen. It’s such a great service though!

    In fact, my first solo international trip was to Thailand back in 2012 and I stayed at an Airbnb in Chiang Mai. The hosts were so wonderful and took the time to show me around the neighborhood and tip me off to some of the local “secrets.”

  8. Funny that you mention the movie “The Beach” because I was just recently thinking about it. It harkens back to simpler times. I did my first travels to Asia, including Koh Phi Phi, after seeing that movie, back in summer 2001.

    It also was released before 9/11, when the world was a simpler, more optimistic place.

    I’ve been following your story and am so impressed with all that you’ve accomplished. The greatest hurdle is the mental/emotional aspect.

    I wish I had the same revelation when I was in my 20’s and starting my career!

  9. “I can board a plane in Athens, be in Singapore the next day, and have a place to stay, friends to meet up with, and things to do, all while having complete and uninterrupted access to my family back home, my money, and my online businesses via a plastic-and-glass square that fits in my pocket. That is nothing short of miraculous.”

    Absolutely!

    Still, as one who traveled extensively before any of that was possible, being completely disconnected and having places like that beach all to myself was pretty damn miraculous too.

    Even more so in the days of Hemingway. 🙂

    1. You can also get that by turning off your phone.

      Seriously though, I have a tremendous admiration for you boomers who did what we’re doing, but back then. You guys had balls man!

      1. Wait.

        You.

        Had tremendous admiration?

        For Boomers?

        You?

        Yer just yankin’ my chain, right?

        Trying make my old heart soar and then just seize, right?

        Still got balls, BTW. 😉

    2. I remember when I started traveling in the 90s, in Central America you had to physically go to the phone company in the capital to make a collect call. I went months without talking with friends and loved one. Would be easier to send postcards and keeping a journal. Same when I lived in rural village in Mali which had no water and electricity. Today, when I go back to visit, despite the infrastructure being the similar, I have 3G to keep up with work email. Hard to disconnect!

  10. Not a fan of traveling:
    getting up at the wee hours to catch a flight,
    having a 6 hour layover at some airport,
    being exposed to numerous unknown pathogens on those dirty airplanes that they clean once every 4 years,
    having your flight delayed for 8 hours because of weather,
    sitting on the tarmac for 1.5 hours waiting to take off,
    sitting on the tarmac for another hour after landing waiting for a gate to open up,
    finding they have lost your luggage,
    having all of the above happen to you on the same trip,
    etc.

    1. The late Andy Rooney (from 60 minutes fame) had the greatest line about traveling – “The best part about traveling is talking about all the things you did once you got home”

  11. Banking is such a breeze these days. I tried to explain to my kids we used to have to go to the bank for all transactions and they look at me funny! Now they can set up several accounts, keep track of their transactions by category, deposit via their phones. They have no excuse for not keeping track of their money!
    Uber, Airbnb, VRBO, car sharing…what’s next? Crazy to think we didn’t have any of it when I was growing up…not even the internet! And I am not that old:)

  12. The post is a bit of bait and switch. The title is “TECHNOLOGY IS MAKING IT EASIER THAN EVER TO BECOME F.I.” but the entire post is about hour technology makes your traveling (i.e. post FI life) easier. In other words, you achieved FI without relying heavily on these technologies. They have limited positive contributions to achieving FI.

    1. Point taken. This article was a bit too weighted at those that were already FI. Technology has also made it easier for people who are still getting to FI. I’ll be sure to write a new article addressing that too.

    1. You should check with your host for the house rules.

      That being said, if you invite the sluts/whores on AirBnb on your reservation and the host absent-mindedly accepts, you are good to go my friend!

  13. This post is basically just an excuse to sell affiliate services.

    “luck had nothing to do with it”

    All skill! Happen to be suited for the highest earning undergraduate degree at the best engineering school in Canada, meet and marry someone within the 10% of female engineers who is also willing to live like a peasant and even encourages you to do the same, pretend this is achievable by any Joe Blow, sell them ads and affiliate services on your website to maintain your nomadic lifestyle! Anyone can do it!!! What a joke.

    1. It IS achievable by any Joe Blow, just not by YOU, because you choose to see the choices of others who disagree with you as beneath you.

      Live like a peasant? I’m a millionaire who travels the world full time. If you don’t want to come along, then kindly F off. Our blog doesn’t need readers like you.

  14. Hi Wanderer,

    Totally agree. Technology facilitates the FI journey to some extent.

    It also removes the hassle of one making the extra effort to connect especially in the foreign places.

    WTK

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