Friday, March 1, 2019

Are Digital Nomads Wasting Their Lives Sheckelling?

What's sheckelling? I came across this word recently and I believe it's the term for somebody who works their ass off trying to make a few cents here and there online. I guess it comes from the word for Israel's currency, and the fact that in popular culture Jews are thought of as being good at making money.

Anyway, this blog post was inspired by Roosh V's amazing Roosh Hour #34 - "Man Up" show live streamed on the 24th February 2019. Watch it below:

It's 2.5 hours of essential listening for any red pilled Happier Abroader, or for anyone else who wants to improve their lot in life.

At the 23 minutes mark he comes round to the topic of Digital Nomadism:

that's for people who have an internet business and decide to travel for ever and for ever because it's better than being stable

Roosh is the master of saying it like it is.

Anyway, he shows us a video from a 35 year old German digital nomaddess who is starting to question her lifestyle because she's "starting" to run out of time to have kids.

I used "starting" a couple of times in the previous paragraph because as Roosh points out, she doesn't have much of a plan. In fact she comes across as really having no plan at all.

She says she's so deep into her travelling lifestyle that she can't meet people. She spends 2 months here, 2 months there. I guess she has to keep making visa runs, because she's too much of a short term thinker to get a longer term residency permit. So by the time she meets somebody it's too late because the next day she's off to the airport to fly some place else.

Not that she has much time to meet people (whereever she is), because she's too busy doing "media stuff" on her MacBook and trying to grow her business.

Roosh: "Can someone tell her the bad news".

We shouldn't single her out because she's not alone. Uh, bad choice of word because she is alone due to all that nomadding. But she's not alone in a sense because digital nomads are legion in some parts of the world. When I lived in Bangkok I found it funny that Starbucks was always full of digital nomads:

I used to imagine that every single one of them was blogging about blogging about Thailand.

That was six years ago.

How many of them are still making money today? How many of them ever made any money at all?

I've noticed that a couple of dating site guides made by digital nomadders have now gone offline. The KingsOfThailand and CupidsLibrary sites used to be pretty good, but now they're gone. I don't know if the former site ever made much money, but I know the latter did.

So maybe it was all a waste of time and the former site owners are back in farangland selling car insurance from some grey slab of a call centre building.

Online is dead.

Sure, you might be able to start a new online business from scratch.

Then again you could just as soon make some decent income by buying some lottery tickets instead.

I think the odds of winning the lottery are lower than they are for establishing a profitable website from scratch.

Am I right?

Check out the Niche Site Project 4 that's been going on over at Niche Pursuits.  Of all the participants only one has made more than $1000 in a single month. And this guy has a team of software developers working on his site, so that means it's highly unlikely that he's making any money at all.

All of the others are just sheckelling - like Ben who made $23.53 with a 48 page site, or Andrew who made $7.07 with a 75 page site. And there's Jobe, who after 3 months of building his site made precisely $0.54 in an entire month. That won't even pay for the electricity his MacBook Pro consumes.

Again, online money making is dead.

I pretty much gave up with the whole making money online thing back in 2015. Now I just build websites for fun. Like this morning I built this map of Thailand showing how many Thai Cupid ladies there are in each province. Now I'm writing this blog post. Nobody reads this blog and I'm not going to make any money from this post. I just wanted some essay writing practice so I can improve my teaching of English writing.

In the past I used to worry about how much money I made online each month. In 2014 I got banned by PayPal and I thought it was the end of the world. Now I would give zero fucks about what their call centre drones decide to do with my account. Here's my income summary for February 2019:

  • Teaching job salary: $1600 (54.9% of total income)
  • Apartment rental income: $650 (22.2%)
  • Investment dividends: $490 (16.8%)
  • Online income: $175 (6.1%)
Total: $2915

Guys - the internet is over. If you want to make money, then look elsewhere!

I'll also point out here that February isn't a great month for dividends - I made $1125 in January. Also, while my online income has shrunk by 12% a year since 2012, my dividend income is actually increasing by 10% a year (that's assuming no new money is being invested, which isn't the case). My rental income is also growing year on year.

Also bear in mind that I've been making websites since forever. I can do everything myself, so I hardly ever have to spend money outsourcing.

Sure, you could in theory still make money by being a digital nomad. If you already had an established business that's relatively location independent then that could work.

But the digital nomads' favourite location of South East Asia is a pretty terrible place to be if you have international clients, or want to freelance for your current or previous employer. Living in East Asia is a lonely existence. We're the first people to wake up, and by the time most of the world has started to think about making lunch, we're pretty much cooked for the day.

If you want to digital nomad and be in contact with clients then you've really got no choice but to work in the evenings. Which means that your social life will really suffer.

It might be better if you have your own income producing websites. For example maybe you're like Winston and you made a site 50 years ago and it's still around today. Then you might have a steady income stream. But I'm sure even Winston must be squeezed as dating site affiliate earnings shrink year on year. For example last year I paid $132 for an annual China Love Cupid subscription. This year I think I'll make do with TanTan, which is just $12 for the entire year. Or I could spend a couple of bucks on a Roosh book and improve my game so I wouldn't have to use these darned dating apps at all.

Are there any alternatives to digital nomadding? Here's two things you could do instead.

1. Hold Your Horses

So you're in your teens or twenties. You want to go abroad and check out the dating scene (if you're a dude then why else would you go abroad?). What do you do?

My advice is to get a career going. Sure I am a TEFL teacher now. Before that I was a software developer. It was a great career for stacking coins.

Most of the teachers I work with have had "proper" careers. Or they've been "proper" teachers. In fact one TEFL teacher I worked with last semester quit the game and now has a job working for a media company in Asia. That's got to be better than digital nomadding. He has a lovely apartment, a regular salary and a residency permit which means he never has to do visa runs.

If you absolutely must go travelling in your early 20's then by all means get a TEFL job. But get a job somewhere you can make some decent money. Read up on compound interest and rental property so that even if you don't manage turn ad-hoc TEFL jobs into a career, it's OK because you don't need to work for an employer anymore. Ben Teaches English Overseas is a good YouTube Channel to subscribe to if you want to learn how to maximise your income while TEFL'ing.

Stashing money away really does work, and the younger you start the better. How you earn the money doesn't matter. It doesn't even matter what you invest in or what the interest rate is. The amount of time you stay invested is key.

My war chest keeps growing:

There are plenty of ups and downs along the way, but the general trend is up.

The only time it took a major hit was when I put cash into my rental property.

In fact I've got so good at stashing cash away that if you look closely at 2013 you'll see I largely broke even while I was in China and Thailand for a year.

2. UnDigital UnNomadding

I call this idea UnDigital UnNomadding. Basically there are two rules: stay in one place, and don't rely on the Internet as a source of income.

As you might know I quit my boring cubicle job in early 2013 and went to live in China. Well I soon got fed up with that place and turned a fortnight's holiday in Thailand into a 6 month extended stay.
As far as dating went the best time I had was those first 4 months I spent in China. Because I'd just quit my job, the last thing I wanted to do was to write more code.

So most of my time in China was spent in the offline world. The only time I really went online was to line up some more dates on China Love Cupid, or to troll Odbo on the Happier Abroad forum.

It definitely paid off living in the real world because I did pretty well dating in China. I also started to make a pretty good social circle - again real people not internet people.

If I'd have stayed the course then things could have worked out for me. But in the end events conspired to take me to Thailand.

In Thailand I felt I was ready to spend a bit more time on IT. It was too freaking hot to go out during he day. So I settled into a lifestyle where I coded by day, and dated/partied by night.

I seemed to be turning into a digital nomad.

Usually I worked on my own projects. I did a bit of freelance work but the guy turned out to be a shithead and I had to fix code written by an idiot. In other words, it was just like my old cubicle life I'd given up everything to leave.

Then I worked for a cruel woman (is there any other kind?) who only wanted to pay me for the seconds I spent on the actual task. So when she said "making that image should take you literally 5 seconds", she only wanted to pay me for those 5 seconds.

After those experiences I closed my UpWork freelancer account and never bid for another contract. Instead I did my own thing, which is what I'm happiest doing.

The websites I built in Thailand weren't terribly successful from a financial standpoint. One is now an authority site and gets a stack of traffic but it's proven impossible to monetize. One makes a bit, but not very much. It did well in January, but sales died in February. I let the HappierBackHome domain expire but the content lives on here.

Eventually I was spending so much coding and for little in return that I ended up going back home and coding for a decent salary. I'm glad I did because in the four years after qutting Thailand I achieved the following:
  • Paid off $46,000 in mortgage debt
  • Put $27,000 into high yielding investments
  • Got a 120 hour TEFL certificate and then a CELTA
  • Spent 5 months living in Spain and Germany
  • Got to spend loads of time with my friends and family
  • Worked in both the City of London and City of Westminster
I would have achieved a lot less if I'd have stayed in Thailand. So much for digital nomadding and working ever harder just to stay still.



Back in 2013 I think my plan was a good one. I quit my job and went to live in one place (China). Actually I ended up living in two places (China + Thailand), but that was an unexpected bonus.

Taking a career break worked really well. I focussed on the new opportunities (dating, learning a language, living in another country, having fun) while not having to worry too much about money.

I tried digital nomadding but after a few months realised that I was having to work longer and longer for smaller returns. Heck, I'd have been better off back in the UK earning a decent wage.

So that's exactly what I went and did next.

If you're a digital nomad caught on the treadmill of working harder and harder for smaller returns then wake up and smell the (Starbucks - of course) coffee. Shut down your MacBook and get a plan together. Hopefully that plan will involve doing something in the real world. 

Do you dream of quitting your boring life and travelling the world? Have you wasted countless hours trying to make a few cents from people clicking on ads on your blog? Do you listen to Roosh's Roosh Hour show and think yup, that guy speaks the truth? Does anyone remember Odbo from the Happier Abroad forum? Leave your random thoughts below.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Xiongmao in Zhejiang 2.0. Another Year In A Freezing Hell Hole Or Dating Paradise?

Xiongmao re-reporting in. Last year I reviewed my first 4 months living in Chinas's Zhejiang Province.

When I lived in Guangdong I found it was a dating paradise. In fact I was so much like a kid in a candy story that notorious HA Forum member Odbo trolled me for being like a kid in a candy store.

Sadly, Zhejiang has been a big fat disappointment, although some things are better than they were in Guangdong.

Anyway, here's a review of another 12 months of living in Zhejiang Province, and of trying to be Happier Abroad.

Yes, despite all the woes I ended up renewing my contract. More than anything it was a case of "better the devil you know". It was quite a smart move because by renewing I got all my paperwork done before I returned home in the Summer. Plus they paid me a retainer of around $750 a month during July and August even though I didn't have any teaching hours. Finally I was able to leave a load of stuff in my room, and didn't have to rebuy stuff I'd already bought.

On the "better the devil you know" thing, I read so many scare stories about fake jobs in China and the penalties are so harsh so leaving a legitimate job to move to another one is way more risky than it is in another country.


Well dating in Zhejiang sucks. I've still had zero dates in what is it - 16 months now?

I've had a couple of almost dates. I chat to one lady sometimes but she left Shanghai and went back to Hunan. She comes to Shanghai sometimes but I think I'm old and wise enough to not spend $150 going to see her one weekend.

Not that anywhere else would necessarily be better of course. Last Summer I spent 20 days in Bangkok while on the way back to the UK. I only managed a single date in those 20 days. I fared much better in the bars in Nana Plaza though 😍. Ha ha I fell in love every night there.

What's making Zhejiang such a dating wasteland? I think it's just a numbers game, as my research here shows. There are eight times less ladies from Zhejiang on China Love Cupid than there are from Guangdong.

To summarise my research:

In 16 months my experiences have been:

  • China Love Cupid - just not enough ladies to chat to in Zhejiang. I've chatted to some Shanghai ladies, but the place is too Westernised to be a great hunting ground for wife material.
  • Jiayuan - I finally got my profile made on this Chinese language only site. It has a lot of members (even in Zhejiang) but I'd say 99% of the ladies on the site aren't really looking for a foreigner husband. If your Chinese is at HSK 3 or greater level you might do OK on here, but as I just said, they're not really looking for foreign husbands on this site.
  • TanTan - this Tinder clone is really popular but I've not had much success on here. It requires a lot of daily swiping and the wifi in my room is so poor that I just can't be bothered with it.
I should just add that TanTan has recently added a VIP option and it's super cheap. It's just like $12 a year or something though the App Store. Whether I'd get more luck with a VIP option I'm not sure - maybe it's like or Jiayuan when you pay once then they demand even more money to make your profile more visible.

A Better Social Life... Then It Went Sucky Again

After I posted my last article my social life in China got better. I met a group of Professional Expats and hung out with them a couple of times at a 5 star hotel bar.

Well it was nice to drink cold beer and watch stunning Cantonese waitresses, but I never really gelled with the other guys. They were around a decade older than me and we didn't have that much in common. I met a few Chinese guys there but they were just so boring with their talk of money and house prices and stuff.

One highlight came from this - I appeared on local TV. It was a cool experience and something that would be difficult to do back home.

The best thing that happened to me since the last article was that a sociable outgoing teacher joined our school last September. He found out more about China in a few weeks than I managed in a whole year! He taught me how to pick up Taobao deliveries (something that has transformed my life in China), steal unlocked ofo bicycles and introduced me to the expat nightlife scene here.

Well the nightlife isn't that awesome to be honest but we had a few memorable nights out.

I use the past tense because he dropped a bombshell in December - fun laoshi thought Zhejiang was too boring and now he's gone off to work in a major Tier 1 city.

Teaching Is Great... Never Going Back To My Cubicle Of Hell

It's weird. Back in 2013 I lived in Thailand and loved that, but I was never seriously considering going down the whole TEFL route.

I did actually apply for an IT job in Bangkok but the guy said he would only pay me a local salary and I didn't want to move halfway around the world just to go and live in another cubicle for 40 hours a week.

While I was in Bangkok I almost got as far as ordering some books about teaching English. But the whole thought of doing something as daunting as the CELTA terrified the hell out of me.

To be fair, doing the CELTA at International House a couple of years later DID terrify the hell out of me. Lesson two was marked not to standard and I thought things were going to fall apart just as my IT career had twice during 2014.

Somehow I made it through the CELTA, but it would be another two and a half years before I would go back into the classroom.

In the intervening couple of years I tried to get my IT career going again. The CELTA made me much better at job interviews. I ended up completely dominating a couple of interviews. These weren't at your average employer either. One was at a financial services company with offices beside the River Thames, the other was a leading cash management company who service two immense FTSE 100 companies.

Sadly when it came to actually doing the job I sucked and had the humiliation of two more firings to add to my career total of five.

Was I ever good at programming? Is any programmer any good at programming? It's probably the career path with the most amount of imposter syndrome sufferers in it.

Maybe as many imposter syndrome sufferers as there are in teaching.

I still worry about whether I'm a good enough teacher. But I seem to be doing OK. I got observed three times last year and of course one of the lessons was an absolute disaster. I did do some teaching of IT though as well as ESL, and the IT stuff seemed to go pretty well. My mantra in the classroom is are they actually learning anything?

Now I'm happy to be a teacher for a while. I've definitely come to terms with IT being a young man's game. My bestie back in London is trying to stay in an IT career past the age of 40 and it's car crash viewing really. He should really think about the TEFL route too.

It's cool that 20% of my IT students in China are girls, but I still think they'd have been better off studying on the Accountancy stream instead.

The Medium-Long Term Plan Looks Great

Well despite the boredom of  Zhejiang and the cubicle firings I tend to give zero fucks about anything but the longer term picture.

I've had so many "important" work meetings over the years but I can no longer remember what any of them were about.

Only one thing matters - the plan to achieve financial freedom. Well in that respect I have largely achieved that goal:

Maybe I'll do another post about this chart because I know there's a lot of interest in how I managed to stash so much cash away.

Incidentally, the large drop in 2006 wasn't the financial crash, it was when I bought my rental apartment and had to put down 20% (the other 80% was financed with a mortgage). I had another crash in 2016 when I paid off 40% of the remaining mortgage debt.

Anyway, I've done pretty well in Zhejiang. I'd have done even better but the financial markets have not been kind to me in the last 6 months.

Can I Escape My Island And Go Elsewhere

Yes of course Zhejiang isn't strictly an island, but with so many rivers maybe it is. Anyway, I feel much like Winston and his rants about how boring and dull Taiwan Province is.

Last Spring I did have a job interview for a job in Chiang Mai. I did try to escape Zhejiang! Chiang Mai would have been a great place to live and at least I wouldn't have to mess round with VPN connections to actually post here like I'm having to do right now. But the job's salary wasn't great and there was no apartment. I did some rough math and realised that I'd barely have broken even there. Meanwhile in boring Zhejiang I can save around half my salary (~$750 a month).

This year thanks to fun laoshi being the missing link in my being able to buy stuff on TaoBao I've been able to save even more money. Like Tesco/Vanguard sell pillows for ~170 CNY but I got a hotel quality one on TaoBao for ~69 CNY (including free delivery!).

So that kind of wraps up another year in Zhejiang. I've still got the Spring Semester to come (it starts next week).

I'm not mentioning the weather in this post. Last year it was freezing cold and went down to 8°C in my room. This year it's much warmer as I invested in an oil filled heater on TaoBao instead of relying on the crappy airconditioner unit to heat the room.

At least last Winter was sunny so I could go out and about exploring. This year we've had two sunny days since New Year (the Western one, not the Chinese one). The rest of the time it's been cold, grey and wet.

My neighbours have got cabin fever and keep yelling at each other - a good advertisement for NOT getting married to a Chinese women or any woman for that matter.

Well I'll wrap it up now, who knows what will happen in the 16 more weeks I am in Zhejiang. Probably nothing at all I guess...

If you have any comments or questions about China, teaching or financial independence then post them here. And remember to check out my Chinese dating maps - province by province and numbers of ladies to date per province.