Abundant Michael: Travel

11 travel security tips

I have had stuff stolen from rooms twice over three years traveling in South America. Tips for better security:

  • Don't leave valuables out in the room - some maids are light fingered
  • Close windows, even if they have bars someone can put their arm through to grab stuff. I left a room for 10 minutes with window open. Bag under window was grabbed through window.
  • Keep two wallets - main street one with just some cash and photocopy of passport. Second one with your credit cards and more cash that you hide in your room. I only take a credit or ATM card when I plan to use them. Getting a lost card replaced can take a week or more with DHL here.
  • Keep your passport either in a money belt or hidden in your room. A stolen US or EU passport is worth about $2000 on the street...
  • Follow your intuition - if a street feels bad don't go down it.
  • Walking around drunk at 3am dramatically increases your risk of mugging. Pay for a taxi if you want to go out drinking. Leave valuables at home when you do.
  • Don't display a lot of jewelry in poor areas
  • Separate your cash stash into several hiding places in case you loose one, you will have the others.
  • If you are renting long term get bars put on windows if you are on ground floor. Get a better door lock and metal lock protection installed (this prevent crowbar attacks).
  • Change the locks. I have several friends who woke up to hear thief in next room who had got in with old key. If in backpacker room use a door stop. A chair under the door handle works too.
  • Back up your camera memory card and laptop photos and documents  - at least if you loose them you won't loose your data too

Why entrepreneurs who are permanent travelers should start an offshore company

You have decided to be a permanent traveller, moving around the world, not resident in the countries that you work and play in (Five Flags approach). You are entrepreneurial - perhaps a freelance writer, programmer, photographer or marketer. Or any job that you can do remotely via Skype, gotomeeting and email. You decide to create a company in your home country to present a professional image to clients and to limit your liablity. Stop!


Creating a company - good idea

Doing in in your home country, where you were born and have (one of your) passports from - bad idea

Why? Because the chances are if you are from a Western country (USA, CAN, AU, UK, EUR, JAP) that there are

  • lots of company taxes
  • lots of forms to fill out and delays to start your company
  • lots of forms each year at tax time
  • lots of regulations about how you chose to run your business (eg around hiring and firing workers in France and Germany)

If you were living and working in your home country then perhaps it would make sense to open your company there. (And if your company will pay you a salary in your home country expect it to be taxed there!) But you are permanent traveling and you have more options! You can live and play in one or more countries, have clients in a second (or with internet marketing in many other countries), incorporate your business in a third country and have your company bank account in a forth.


The advantages are:

  • many fewer forms to fill out to start and often one day incorporation
  • low or zero company taxes
  • few or no annual reporting forms
  • few or no regulations about how you run your business

If you use an incorporation service firm you do not have to travel to the country in question to incorporate - you fill out forms online, scan passport and any other supporting documents (and mail notorized copies). In many cases the firm will help you open bank and brokerage accounts for your company remotely too.


Costs: figure on USD $1000-2000 to incorporate and around $1000 per year in renewal fees. If you pick a country that requires accounting and other annual reports allow for those expenses too. You can pay by credit card or wire transfer.


My favorite offshore company locations. My personal current pick is the Marshall Islands due to low annual paperwork, privacy and reliablity.

  • Hong Kong
    • Pros
      • enterpreneurial country, business orientented government
      • low tax regime (16.5% for HK income, zero for non-HK income)
      • absence of foreign exchange controls
      • political and economic stability
      • fast and easy offshore company setup 5-7 days
      • not viewed as a tax haven by OECD
      • Directors can be Hong Kong residents or non-residents
      • English is used for business lanaguage
    • Cons
      • Company secretary must be a local individual or corporate resident.
      • A HK physical address that is not a PO Box is required as the registered address.
      • No bearer shares allowed
      • Ongoing Compliance including annual audit of company accounts; intimating the Companies Registry of any changes to the company or its members; filing annual returns with the Companies Registry; filing tax returns with the Inland Revenue Department; holding timely AGMs; maintaining company records, accounting records and other business documents; renewing business registration certificate;
    • More info on process and a service firm to help
  • Singapore
    • Pros
      • enterpreneurial country, business orientented government
      • low tax regime (8.5%-17% for SG income, zero for non-SG income, 3 year tax holiday on startups)
      • absence of foreign exchange controls
      • political and economic stability, transparent, corruption free
      • English common law system
      • fast and easy computerized offshore company setup 1-2 days
      • not viewed as a tax haven by OECD
      • English is used for business lanaguage
    • Cons
      • One of the Directors must be Singapore residents
      • Company secretary must be a local individual or corporate resident.
      • A SG physical address that is not a PO Box is required as the registered address.
      • You must engage a professional incorporation firm to register a Singapore offshore company.
      • No bearer shares allowed
      • Ongoing Compliance including annual audit of company accounts; intimating the Companies Registry of any changes to the company or its members; filing annual returns with the Companies Registry; filing tax returns with the Inland Revenue Department; holding timely AGMs; maintaining company records, accounting records and other business documents; renewing business registration certificate;
    • More info on process and a service firm to help
  • Marshall Islands
    • Pros
      • enterpreneurial country, business orientented government
      • low tax regime (8.5%-17% for SG income, zero for non-SG income, 3 year tax holiday on startups)
      • absence of foreign exchange controls
      • political and economic stability
      • English common law system
      • fast and easy offshore company setup 1-2 days
      • No corporate taxation or reporting required
      • not viewed as a tax haven by OECD
      • No local requirements for shareholders, directors or secretary. Can all be one (foreign) person - you!
      • bearer shares allowed
      • Directors and owners are confidential and information does not have to be provided to either the Government or the Public.
      • Legal system simlar to SG and SG banks are used to working with MI companies
      • English is used for business lanaguage
    • Cons
      • A MI physical address and registered agent is required as the registered address.
      • Annual corporate renewal fee
      • Grey area on tax haven status
      • Few people have heard of it
    • More info on process and a service firm to help
  • Panama
    • Pros
      • enterpreneurial country, business orientented government
      • low tax regime, zero for non Panama income
      • absence of foreign exchange controls
      • political and economic stability
      • fairly fast and easy offshore company setup 4-5 days
      • No corporate taxation or reporting required for offshore income
      • not viewed as a tax haven by OECD
      • No local requirements for shareholders, directors or secretary. Can all be one (foreign) person - you!
      • bearer shares allowed
      • nominee directors allowed if you want extra privacy
      • low annual fee $500
    • Cons
      • Under the influence of the USA and potenially the IRS
      • Spanish is used for business language
      • Napoleonic legal system
    • More info on process and a service firm to help


Note: if you are a US citizen or resident you are required to file and pay the IRS where ever in the world you live based on your worldwide income. Addionally the IRS and US Treasury have lots of paperwork requirements for offshore companies and businesses owed by US citizens. This makes offshore company much more attractive to non US-citizens passport holders.


How to handle postal mail when you travel long term

I use Earth Class Mail  to handle my postal mail. I signed a form and the post office redirects all my personal and business mail to them. I get an email every time I receive a letter and I can control what happens with my mail - open, scan, shred, recycle, forward or store. They can even deposit checks. It is not the cheapest such service however I have found it to be efficient and reliable. It works better for me than having a friend deal with mail because it is available 24/7 and doesn't make mistakes.

Earth Class Mail web interface
I save all the scanned PDFs of mail in a folder in Evernote so that I can easily search for mail on my laptop, web or smart phone plus it provide a second backup of the scans (they are stored by ECM too).

How to travel with a family of four around the world for a year

This is a family with two children who are traveling around the world for a year that stayed in the same building as me for two months in Cusco Peru. Might give you some inspiration and ideas.

map of their world travel plans


They have hiked the Four-Day Inca Jungle Trail Trek to Machu Picchu mountain biking, white water rafting, ziplining across valleys ready for a 5am start to Machu Picchu. Attended Spanish rock concerts, volunteered at a Peruvian after school place and learned Spanish as a family. And generally learned that happiness does not come from working long hours at a job, paying a large mortgage and owning multiple new cars and other consumer stuff. And even if the shower doesn't always work, or buses arive late that doesn't mean you can't have fun!

The van Loens at Machu Picchu

When they were planning this trip this is what they said was their vision

We are calling this [web]site “The Journey is the Reward” because that pretty much sums up our family philosophy; both for this adventure and for our life in general. Even preparing for the trip seems a journey in itself. (see the map above for our currently planned itinerary)


We’ve been talking about this trip for a number of years, and our vision is for a sustained perspective-shifting family experience. We hope to meet new people, experience different cultures, face challenges, serve others, learn, grow, try, and have some adventures along the way.


We are building the trip around two long-term volunteering opportunities (one in South America, and one in Southeast Asia), with a number of other stops along the way. The general goal is to spend time together as a family, learning and growing together, and expanding our horizons beyond our comfort zone (especially for the kids).


The four of us have been living happily in the Pacific Northwest for the past 12 years. Our two kids are Alex (11) and Leah (9). Noah works in IT program management, and Anne is a teacher (part-time) at Alex and Leah’s school. We also have three dogs Zillah (black dog), Kona (Australian Shepherd), and Lucas (Mom's poodle) -- and what to do with them is one of our many challenges.

During the 18 months of trip preparation they invited family and friend to meet up with them for mini vacations along the way, social networked for connections in the places their were going and spent a few months giving away stuff and preventing more paper coming into their home while they were gone (which then rented out for 12 months). They planned a "career break" from their jobs as a contract software project manger and part time teacher, plan home schooling on the go for their kids and organized four long term Voluntourism gigs for the trip. They also chose to get used to shaking up their home life and learn some Spanish by having a home stay student from Chile stay with them for a year!


And if you want to travel but are using your "family", "job","pets", "other" as an excuse not to travel then it provides some food for thought. (And they chose to overcome plenty of resistance to traveling not only from themselves, but from family, friends and I believe bosses too.). More on their adventures at http://anvl.travellerspoint.com/ andon their Facebook fan page


(quote from Randy Komisar's book "The Monk and the Riddle")

How to minimize airline baggage fees when you have a lot of stuff?

As I move my stuff from my storage locker to my apartment in Cusco Peru I often chose to pack as much as I can. Three tips that have helped me get more than the weight allowance on a flight: use a duffel bag, be friendly, and try a different check-in agent if the first one doesn't work.

I recently traveled on American Airlines and LAN from Washington DC to Cusco Peru. I had a 69 lb suitcase, a 58 lb duffel bag and 15 lb backpack and a handbag. I was concerned at having to pay for two overweight bags at $100 each according to AA's website. I knew the minimum fee would be $30 for one extra bag (AA gives you one 50 lb bag for free on international flights).


I prayed to the travel angels, connected with the light, expanded my heart and asked myself "what would it take to pay $100 or less in fees". Then I smiled and kept a positive and friendly attitude with the ticketing agent and struck up a friendly conversation with her. And when I put the duffel bag on the scale the ends must have been drooping off the edges of the scale because it only showed 42 lbs! The suitcase showed the whole 69 lbs that I was expecting so the scale wasn't broken. Then the agent researched the fees and discovered that instead of paying the $100 AA overweight fee I could pay the $90 LAN overweight fee. Yippee!


Update: My flight was canceled and I had to return the next day. I could have left my bags to travel without me and picked up in Cusco but I wasn't keen on leaving them at the carrousel in Peru for hours without me so I took them overnight to a friend's house and checked back in the next morning at curbside. This agent was not so friendly and he put the duffel bag on the scale himself end up instead of me putting it on with the ends hanging over the edge. The true weight of 58lb showed. I asked for a break due to flight delay and when he said no I just went inside to check in at the ticket counter instead. This time I showed the agent that I have already checked in and had luggage tags - she just printed new ones and put them on without reweighing. So sometimes it pays if you don't get by the first agent to try another one...

How to pay for traveling indefinitely

It has been a while since my last email on my adventures. I will give some catch up emails another time, meanwhile one question I have been asked is: How can you travel indefinitely (if you are not Bill Gates)? One way is to save money by visiting low cost countries, cooking your own food and using buses rather than planes. I have done this when I lived in Bolivia and had a good time on less than $500 per month.


Image from www.escapenormal.comLooking at the other side of the income-expense equation of traveling there are many ways to make income while you travel. I make more than I spend per day by running my business remotely via skype and email. I have met other travelers who can cover their travel costs indefinitely by travel writing, selling photos, teaching English, doing import-export of local handy crafts or working in local tourism businesses. Once I have paid off all my old business debts and credit cards I will be making more money than I spend. Yay!


Even if you don't make enough to completely cover all your expenses it can let you travel for longer than you could just on savings. Some of the travelers I have met work 8-16 hours per week to cover the week's expenses because they are paying expenses in a low cost country like Peru and earning money remotely in a high pay/high expense country like the US or Europe.

Another approach is the "4 hour work week" (Tim Ferris) one of working for a few months then taking a 3 month mini-retirement of traveling. Rinse and repeat indefinitely. His book and website also have lots of info on starting your own online business or negotiating to work remotely.  I have met some Australian miners who earn enough in a year to travel for two years without working. I have also read of some miners in Australia who work 14 days straight and then take off 14 days living in Bali and traveling in SE Asia - again they do this indefinitely.

More ideas and travel tips at Travel Stack Exchange - a great place to ask and answer travel questions by the way! And other ideas on travel and money from  Benny Lewis, the fluenent in any language in 3 months guy.

What are you long term travel tips?

25 Tips on How to Travel and work Abroad more easily.

I spent a month in March 1989 driving along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, staying at small hotels along the way. I didn't have plan - if I liked a place I would stay there a few days. Then I had to quit my job to get travel time, now with remote internet working "from home" you can work while you travel. Here are some travel tips for longer term travel doing remote internet based work based on both that trip and many I have made around the world since then.


While I mention Spain a few times below, most of this advice applies to all countries.


At the time it was not aways easy to find a working ATM, especially in small towns. Not sure if that has changed. So I recommend you have some Euros and dollars as back up when traveling. Also recommend you have several ATM and credit cards because sometimes your bank will cancel your card due to "suspicious activity" which is really just you spending money abroad. They will do this even if you tell them by phone ahead of time of your travel plans. So some back up cards come in handy while you wait for you bank to either reinstate your card or FedEx you a replacement. I have read that some automated ticket machines in Europe don't like US credit cards (except for Amex) because they want to see a chip on the card. More on that here 


I recommend you scan all your passports, IDs, cards, tickets etc and put in a secure, password protected place such as Evernote so you can access them if you loose any originals. And put a backup card and cash in a separate place in case your main stash is stolen. Keep an eye on bags at all times. Do not assume that a hotel room is 100% safe. 99% of the time all is fine and people are honest but it makes sense to be safe.


I would recommend figuring out your backup strategy in case your laptop is stolen. I use a USB external drive plus an internet backup solution. And I encrypt my data using TrueCrypt. I also bring a laptop cable lock to prevent casual walk in thieves from walking away with my laptop. With 25% unemployment in Spain I would not recommend flashing expensive computers, cameras or jewelry around. And in the event you see any riots or protests I recommend walking the other way no matter how interesting they appear.

Computers and phones

I think you will find wifi in most places. I imagine it is free but not sure. I have found my Boingo account useful at airports and other places where I would otherwise have to pay for wifi (about $10 per month). Your computer power adapter will work with the 220 V electricity in Europe but you might check any other electronics that you bring with you - sometimes they are 110 V only and plugging them in will short them out and smell bad! A mini US power strip can be handy if you have several items to charge and then you only need one power adapter to plug the power strip into the wall.

It is a lot cheaper to get a local SIM chip for your (unlocked quad-band) phone or buy a local phone rather than using roaming which can easily add up to thousands of dollars in voice and data fees. Skype is great too and they have a flat rate plan for calls in US and many other countries.

Costs and housing

I have read that it is pretty expensive in Madrid with high prices and 20% VAT (sales tax), so you might want to get out in the countryside. If you are going to stay in one place for a month or more it will be cheaper to rent an apartment. You will get a better price if you can enlist a local to help call the ads in the paper. Not all places are advertized on the internet, so this is best done on the ground once you are there. Another way to get free housing is to do a house swap with a local who wants to live in your house - there are several websites for this kind of thing. House sitting is another way to score free housing.


I am pretty sure you can enter Spain on US passport and get 90 day tourist visa entry. You can probably visit another country after that and get another 90 days if you desire. Don't tell the immigration people that you plan to work while you are abroad- it only causes excitement and might get you barred from entering the country. And in truth you are working in USA while you travel. Just say you are tourist if asked.



While many people will speak English you will find many people who do not, especially outside of big cities. So some Spanish will come in handy. You can get a Spanish-English dictionary and phrase book for your phone or a paperback works well too.

Traveling light and resources


The less stuff you carry the easier your trip will be - most items can be bought abroad if you really find out you need them.

The travel stack exchange is good for researching and asking travel questions  I recommend reading the 4 hour work week and Vagabonding on traveling light longer term travel. Those resources and more here.

How to travel and work abroad straight out of college

This article is by a girl who has traveled and worked her way around the world straight out of college. If she could do it with no experience perhaps you could too.

Next week marks the two-year anniversary of the day I graduated from college.

Holy cow, does time fly.

In that time, I’ve lived in two countries, traveled across three continents, and had too many adventures to count — and (except for one six-week period) I did it all while holding a job abroad, or with another one lined up.

Not only does she tell her story of how she did it, she also gives some tips on how to do it. Including:

  • Scout out places where cost of living is low.
  • Research visas and working holiday passes.
  • Take a TEFL course online while you have free time.
  • Buy a one-way ticket.
  • Set up online billing and payment
  • Don’t be afraid to look in unconventional places for jobs.
  • Give yourself a deadline and a back-up plan.
  • Make yourself useful/Volunteer.
  • Step out of your comfort zone.
  • Don’t be afraid to say yes to a job or opportunity.
  • Be passionate.
  • Network, network, network. Even if you were shy before.
  • Be patient and flexible.
  • Take risks.

I would add that if college doesn't inspire you then it would be possible to do this straight out of school too and people have done exactly that.

Long term travel resources

If you are interested in traveling long term here are some resources that I have found useful

  • http://www.sovereignman.com/ - escaping from single sovereign nation to have multiple flags - practical advice on money, passports, doing business in other counties. Free blog and newsletter, paid in depth actionable info, monthly teleconferences and local resources rolodex if you become member
  • http://www.internationalman.com/ - forum and newsletter for permanent travelers. Some good reports if you register. Similar content to sovereignman at less cost. I use both to cover more bases.
  • http://www.qwealthreport.com/ - blog and newsletter for internationalizing yourself and your finances. Free website and paid membership.
  • http://www.tynan.com/ - nomadic life style tips and ebook. Good tips on saving plane costs and traveling ultra light, his annual gear reports are fabulous!
  • http://www.locationindependent.com/ - how to get started traveling and working abroad, good on dealing with emtional objections, first steps, family issues. blog and (paid) ebook.
  • http://www.vagabonding.net/ - practical tips on traveling freely and light. blog and book
  • http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/ - 4 Hour Work Week - how to spend less time working and more time doing what you love. Tips on mini-retirements, outsourcing, starting your muse. Blog and book. The second edition has lots of on the ground tips from readers.
  • http://freelanceswitch.com/start/a-comprehensive-guide-to-starting-your-freelance-career/ - a free good step-by-step guide to starting your own freelance business (in English and French)
  • http://100startup.com/ - how to start up your (remote) business for $100 or less, 6 free PDF guides under the Resources section
  • The travel.stackexchange.com/ - travel stack exchange is good for researching and asking travel questions. Free site. Quick response to questions.

Vagabonding quote from Lavinia Spalding

"Don't think about it too much. Don't make pro and con lists. Pro and con lists are nothing but trouble. If you think about it too much, you'll just end up staying home. … My family and friends often say to me, 'I'm living vicariously through you.' Don't ever live vicariously. This is YOUR life. Live."

If you have any other website or books that you find helpful let me know

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