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How to get to (and from) Montpellier, France – Trains, planes and… buses

How to get to (and from) Montpellier, France – Trains, planes and… buses

Montpellier, France is a wonderful place! Full of cobblestone streets, cafes, croissants, and almost too sunny for its own good, to me it’s a little slice of paradise. But, being a small town, isn’t particularly well connected (no direct flights here from Canada, for sure!) so […]

Does working remotely make you more productive?

Does working remotely make you more productive?

It’s common knowledge that working from home is more efficient than working from the office, right? Yes. BUT. When you work remotely all the time, are you really more productive than working from an office? It depends. What do you mean by being more productive?* […]

What *NOT* to do when you buy an e-commerce site

What *NOT* to do when you buy an e-commerce site

I recently sold an e-commerce site I owned. The buyer had plenty of time to ask questions before the sale and was happy with the price. He didn’t even negotiate.

The transfer included not just the site with all products + suppliers, but also the facebook page and the ad data. I showed the buyer which products did well, how to turn the successful ads back on, and how to check their performance.

Happily Ever After?

I wish.

Last week, I got an email from the buyer. He was frustrated with the site, said the products didn’t really sell, that he’s run some ads but they didn’t work, that the site isn’t working and he doesn’t know what to do with it now.

So, I looked at the site. It’s is a great example of what NOT to do after buying an e-commerce site.

How to kill a successful e-commerce site:

  1. Change everything
    1. Remove things that the seller recommended keeping to increase conversions
    2. Add things that could decrease conversions, like higher shipping prices
  2. Spend almost nothing on new, untested ads
    1. Ignore the proven ads included in the sale
    2. Ignore how much the previous owner spent on ads
  3. Be surprised that the site isn’t wildly successful with your “improvements”
  4. Blame the seller for selling you a “bad” site

My first thought was that this is one isolated case. This can’t be common, right??

Surprisingly, this actually happens quite often when new owners take over successful websites. When I think about it, some of my early non-success online even followed a similar pattern.

Ouch! I’m guilty of it too.

Common mistakes after taking over a website:

  1. Assuming you know what will work
  2. Underestimating the value of continuity
  3. Changing many variables at once
  4. Changing things before you have established a baseline to compare
  5. Not investing enough; unrealistic cashflow expectations

Here is what you SHOULD do after taking over a successful e-commerce website:

  1. Continuity is key! At first, keep everything as close as possible to how the old owner had it. Even if you think you can improve, make sure you can replicate their success first. You bought this site for a reason- make sure to use every bit of their know-how to get it running at least as smoothly as when you bought it.
  2. Once you have a baseline, NOW you can make changes. Make small changes, one at a time, and monitor their success compared to the baseline. The things you thought would work might not, and the things you thought wouldn’t might work well.
  3. Track your progress. Keep notes on what helped your bottom line and what didn’t. Remember that humans aren’t perfect, our memories and impressions are biased. Only the numbers tell you when you’ve really improved.
  4. Don’t be afraid to invest in the data you need! One day may not be enough to see if a promotion is working or not. $5 spent on ads may not be enough to see if they are working. If all else fails, put things back exactly the way the previous owner had them.
  5. Plan your cashflows realistically! Especially with businesses driven by ads, remember to put in perspective how much the previous owner was spending to generate their results. If they were spending $2000 per month but you’re spending $500, you can’t blame them for your lower sales… Figure out how to replicate their results first, then see about improving performance.

Taking over a website is always more complicated than you think. It’s easy to get caught up and lose perspective. Hopefully these tips will help you (and me) not to make the same mistakes next time we buy an online business.

What is gate-checking a bag? And is it bad?

What is gate-checking a bag? And is it bad?

A few days ago I flew home from London with Easyjet. I was one of the last passengers to board, and was carrying a big backpack. An employee told me the flight was full and I would have to gate-check my bag. At first I was […]

When can you celebrate success?

When can you celebrate success?

As I was walking to work with my husband this morning, we had a conversation we have often. It always goes something like this: The Ambitious one: “I hope that X deal happens and Y deal happens and that Z project makes us $abc” The […]

How Much Money do I Need to Quit my Job and Travel?

How Much Money do I Need to Quit my Job and Travel?

A good friend asked us this lately, and I wrote up a whole Google Doc to answer his question. I tried to keep it brief, I swear! Then I thought this might help someone else, so here it is below.

The context is that our friend is interested in earning a living online so that he can travel and be location-independent. He has some skills and has had a few clients online, but not enough to take the leap and quit his 9 to 5 just yet.

We’re all residents of Quebec, so that is reflected below and the prices are in Canadian dollars (exchange rates here).

How much money do I need to travel?

ie, How much do I need to save before leaving? And how much do I need to earn to keep travelling indefinitely?

  • How much money you need depends how much you spend.
  • How much you spend depends on where you are + how fast you move around, but mostly on your personal spending habits.
  • In short, your spending is flights + insurance/visas + your day-to-day cost of living.

This is a good place to start to get a ballpark daily living budget for different destinations.

You could spend more or less, depending mostly on your spending habits. Going out, restaurants, touristy activities, etc can add up depending on the destination. You could go to the cheapest place on the list and still spend $100/day.

How much did B & V spend?

Here is our spreadsheet showing what we spent during our first year of travel. (actually reduced to 288 days because at that point we “moved” to one place temporarily so we weren’t really “on the road” anymore.)

The “Summary per date range” tab shows what we spent per person in different cities. The gross number in column F includes everything we spent while in a city, so not just the daily budgets but also some inter-city transit (flights, trains, buses) and other expenses.

The Goal budget in column G is the goal “daily” budget for each city, per person. Overall, our net daily budgets (once you exclude inter-city transit and other expenses) were just slightly above this number.

You can see more details of what we spent in each city on the “All spending” tab. At first, we were tracking every cash expense, but then later we would just count:

[what we took out of the ATM] – [cash left over] = [that’s what we spent]

Overall, we were careful to track our budget, cooked most of our meals at home, didn’t go out too much, etc, but we still had a good time, met up with friends, drank, took lots of Ubers, did some touristy things, and we don’t feel like we missed out on anything.

I know it’s a bit messy, originally this was just for us to track what we were spending for our own reference. Let us know if anything is unclear!

How much will you spend?

You could spend more or less than we did. If you want to live cheaply and maximize your runway, you can stay in each place for 1-2 months at a time and live well for $1000-1500CAD per month + the cost of travel. This means your daily living expenses could be $33-50, which is plenty in most places if you live simply. This is especially true in places like:

  • Vietnam (sooo cheap)
  • Thailand (especially the North. We were in the “more expensive” South, you can still get plenty of restaurant meals there for $4-6)
  • Indonesia (we spent $300/month for a room in a nice villa, $60 for a scooter. Food was ridiculously cheap, $1-10 per meal in restaurants. Surf board rental is $5 for a half-day, a coconut on the beach is $1.50)
  • Malaysia
  • Philippines
  • Eastern Europe (depends where, but some places like Bulgaria are ridiculously cheap http://coworkingbansko.com/)
  • South America! We haven’t traveled there enough to recommend many specific places yet 🙂 Coming soon!

As a rule of thumb, if you’re somewhat careful with other costs (transportation, food, etc), expect your accommodation to be 40-50% of your total daily spending. For example, if you can find accommodation for $15 per night, a reasonable daily budget for that city might be $30 per day.

We found almost all of our accommodation on either Airbnb or Hostelworld.

The best deal we found for long-term travel insurance for Quebec residents is World Escapade, here. (Most big insurance carriers that offer long-term travel insurance, World Nomads for example, won’t cover Quebec residents. Lucky us!)

We really just wanted something so we wouldn’t go bankrupt if one of us (probably me) needed to be hospitalized abroad.

How much do you need to make to keep traveling indefinitely?

Eventually, if you want to keep traveling forever, you’ll need to make enough to cover your expenses + taxes. This calculator estimates personal taxes for Canadians based on different income levels.

(Try not to cry comparing Quebec to the other provinces)

Hopefully, you’ll pay less tax by deducting business expenses, etc. But this should be a conservative place to start for now.

In short, if you’re careful you can travel and have a great time for $20-25K per year. Since you pay less tax on lower incomes, you only need to make $30K to have $25K after tax. You could spend less than this if you need to.

How you make that money depends. The goal would probably be to have a few ongoing contracts, or a few really big one-time contracts/projects per year.

But if you wanted to consider a worst-case scenario, if nothing else works out and you’re really stuck, a little bit of income goes a long way when your expenses are so low.

There are jobs like teaching English online at a place like VIPkid. It would probably suck… but even at $14-17USD per hour there, you could cover a big part of your living expenses working 15-30 hours per week.

How much do you need you save before you leave to travel?

This depends on you, how risk-averse you are, and how long you think you’ll need before you’re making enough money to cover your expenses.

I’d say:

  1. Conservative option: enough to cover all travel & living expenses for one year
  2. Medium: Enough to cover all travel & living expenses for 6 months
  3. Tight: If you already have some stable income that will continue for the next 3-6 months (Say a $500/month ongoing contract), you could leave with 3 months’ travel & living expenses + enough for an emergency ticket home if needed. But this isn’t ideal.

I’d recommend somewhere between options 1 and 2. If you’re having trouble getting to 2, I would plan to reduce expenses while on the road, for example staying somewhere really inexpensive the first 2-3 months and focusing on work until you get some income built up. Even better would be to have option 2 covered + secure as much income as possible before leaving.

Would you like to make more spreadsheets?

Why yes, I would! Here is a template to track your cash-flow, so you can imagine how long your savings will last at different spending and income levels.

Note there are 2 tabs, a really simple version and a more advanced version. Make a copy and play with the numbers in green to see how they affect your bank account balance.

I hope this helps! Let us know if you have more questions 🙂 

How do you plan a year of travel?

How do you plan a year of travel?

We planned to travel for a year, starting in June 2016. As it turns out, we’re still going! (with some stops along the way). If you’re planning to travel long-term, how do you plan? How much should you plan? With lots of time comes a […]

When to Buy Cheap Things vs When to Buy Expensive Things

When to Buy Cheap Things vs When to Buy Expensive Things

This is something I think about a lot. Sometimes buying something cheap means you’re spending less money, which overall is a good thing. You can’t buy “expensive” everything- with no limits, unless you’re Jay Z you’d eventually run out of money. Other times, investing in […]

Managing Travel Budgets when Traveling as a Group

Managing Travel Budgets when Traveling as a Group

Managing your budget when you’re traveling alone or as a couple isn’t easy, but when you meet up with friends things can get waaay more complicated.

B and I know from experience that when we meet up with friends on the road, we spend much more than when it’s just the two of us. That’s ok, because we plan for it and know how to stay within our limits without limiting the fun, and of course, because we always have a blast when we get to meet up with our friends!

Still, for us it’s one of the most challenging parts of travel budgeting and something we’re always trying to improve.

Here are some tips to help you navigate the budget side of planning a trip with friends:

Set expectations

This is really the key to having a happy trip. Ideally, you would sit down with everyone who is coming on the trip (ok, a FB messenger group is more realistic. That works too.) and talk about what each person’s expectations are for the trip, what activities you want to do, where you want to stay, what types of meals you want to have, etc.

In a perfect world, based on everyone’s expectations you could come to a consensus about how much you want to spend and how those costs would break down (accommodation, transit, food, activities, etc).

Ok, but it’s not a perfect world. I know it can be hard to have this chat, especially the money bit, but it really is key to everyone feeling comfortable, having fun, and not feeling uncomfortable, regretful or resentful.

So, what happens if your group’s expectations don’t quite line up? What if one friend wants to stay in 4-star hotels while another has the budget for hostel dorms? Glad you asked! See point 2:

Choose the right friends, the right time, and the right type of trip

The reality is, your budget won’t always match up with your friends’, and that’s ok. We’re all at different places in our lives, have different expectations for our travel experiences, and perceive value differently.

For a start-to-finish trip (ie, you leave from point A together, go to point B together, and return to point A together), choose friends whose budgets and expectations match up closely with yours. If there is a big difference in expectations, consider planning a different itinerary and meeting up in one city for just a few days or a few activities.

If you are the lowest-budget friend:

Trust me, I’ve been there! When you’re traveling for a year but your friend is on a 3-day weekend, you’ll probably have different budget expectations. Just be up-front, plan for it, and set expectations so your friend won’t feel disappointed if you need to turn down certain activities, and you won’t feel pressures to over-spend or guilty for missing out.

  • Share your budget early on. I try to say something like “I’m traveling long-term so I’m sure my budget is different than yours. I usually stay in Airbnbs and cook most of my meals at home. My going-out budget is much more “corner pub” and less “ballin’ in Vegas”. Is that ok with you?” I’ll still make concessions and allow for a lot more spending money for the days I’m with friends, but it’s important to set expectations because my “high” budget will probably be lower than what they would expect, or what they would have spent if they didn’t think about it.
  • Take the lead on suggesting destinations and activities that work within your budget
  • Share an Airbnb. If you’re traveling as a group this is often one of the most budget-friendly options. Discuss how much you’d like to spend per person per night, and take the lead in finding 2-3 properties within your price range that could work and ask the group which they prefer. It’s nice to “live” in a house together (feels like college!), plus having a kitchen makes it easier to cook and have few drinks at home rather than going out all the time. If you’re trying to minimize restaurant bills, offer to cook!
  • Food, food, food: food is a game-changer for any budget, so take the initiative and suggest cooking at home or picnics when appropriate. Check out Groupon deals for restaurants. Plan which specific meals to have at home (“how about we have dinner at my place on Thursday? I’ll make lasagna” Offer to cook! Buy beer!) and which meals and activities to go out for.
  • When eating or drinking out, unless everyone is having roughly the same thing, suggest each having your own tab so everyone pays for just what they order. This way everyone can order what they want guilt-free.
  • Plan time apart: if you can’t agree on accommodation or think you’ll get sick of each other after too many days, consider different accommodation and just meeting up for some activities. This is a good idea anyway so that everyone has their space, but also allows you to join the activities and meals that are important to you and skip the rest
  • Remember that your friends will probably be relieved to spend less. I think we tend to imagine that our friends want to spend much more than us, or feel guilty for “making” them spend less (because less money means less fun, right??), but the reality is that unless they’re saving TONS of money every month (hint: they’re probably not), they’ll be relieved to have a blast with you without killing their bank account.

If you are the highest-budget friend:

Be understanding of your friend’s budget, and try to be flexible. When suggesting a restaurant or activity, try to tell estimate the cost for them and propose lower-budget options if possible. They’ll appreciate it!

How to split expenses:

When appropriate, have everyone pay their own tab. For example, when we went to Nabu in Las Vegas, we each ordered whatever we wanted and paid our own bills, so everyone could get what they wanted and spend what they wanted.

Find a simple way of splitting group expenses fairly. In this case, I’m talking about any bill you would want to split evenly, say groceries, beer, or a lunch where everyone has almost the same plate and we split a bottle of wine.

For splitting group expenses, you can go either the cash route or the plastic route.

The cash method is: everyone puts the same amount of cash into an envelope. Use the money from the envelope to pay for group expenses. Great for relatively low spending (less than $100-200 per person) or places where cards aren’t commonly accepted. Also great for keeping track of how much you spent- if you started the day with $200 and have $50 left, then you definitely spent $150, regardless of what you remember. Only works for expenses split evenly within the group (each person owes an equal share of the bill)

The plastic method: use an app like “Splitwise” to keep track of what everyone paid for and their share of each bill. Can be a bit complicated and you need to remember to enter everything you paid for and each person’s share of the bill. Great for larger budgets, places where you pay by card, or if some bills need to split unevenly.

DON’T do this: “I paid for the groceries, you paid for the lunch, she paid for the rental car, but then I also paid for the gas so… if you two split the cab we should be about even.” Seriously, this method seems simple at first, but in the end, each person feels like they paid for more than everyone else. It’s a disaster and no one knows where they stand. Try to avoid this!

Challenging but worth it!

I hope this will help you plan your next group travel budget. I love meeting up with friends on the road, I find that spending a few days together (especially when things go wrong, especially when you get lost or caught in the rain, especially when you drink $3 rum on the beach instead of going to a fancy nightclub), it makes for a much deeper connection than just meeting up for a few hours at a time back home.

Setting expectations for the budget can seem daunting at first, but when everything matches up it makes for an irreplaceable experience. Enjoy!

Decluttering… in your head

Decluttering… in your head

Today feels a bit different than a usual workday. Yes, I have things to do. Yes, I’m procrastinating a little bit. But… for the first time in a long while, I feel entitled to a little bit of a mental vacation. This isn’t to say […]

The Adventure Continues

Welcome Aboard! / What is this about?

Welcome Aboard! / What is this about?

Good morning,

Nice to hear from you. Thanks for reaching out about…

This is how I start A LOT of my emails. It’s a bit trite, but it works for me. I feel pretty awkward about writing a blog, but I can write a decent email, so to make things easier for both of us, I’ll just pretend that you’re my friend and you asked me a question and that I’m writing you an email. Kay? And we can keep doing that until this gets less awkward for both of us 😉

Oh, did I mention that I over-use emojis? You’d better get used to it 🙂

So, what will we be “emailing” about? Well, I’m not quite sure… I just spent about a year traveling, a year before that preparing to travel, and my whole life dreaming about travel. A big part of that for me is planning and saving for travel. I feel like I had (am having) a great time, and that planning and saving for travel is something I’m pretty good at.

People will often ask me how I travel (at parties, etc), and my ideal answer would be a 90-minute tirade about the philosophy of money vs happiness…. but the person at the party isn’t necessarily into that. SO, I figure I can do all my ranting here and you can serve yourself buffet-style to the bits you like and ignore the bits you don’t like. (Just like some people and religion! I hope you don’t mind my jokes…) Deal?

Sounds great. I think we’ll get along just fine.

I look forward to hearing what you think (that’s how I end a lot of my emails),

Have a great day! (oh yeah, I do that too)


Captain Carry-On