When Stephanie Lee walked into her manager’s office in September 2015 to quit her editor job, she wasn’t entirely sure of her next step.
But the California native and blogger behind FY!S soon found herself on a one-way flight to Japan, where she took up freelance writing gigs to fund her travels around the country.
Her new lifestyle felt adventurous and thrilling, and she quickly crafted a plan to make it sustainable.
“It turned out to be a lot cheaper for me to be a laptop-hauling nomad, bouncing from Airbnb to Airbnb around different countries and cities, than setting up camp in one set location,” Lee, 30, wrote in a recent article published on Thrillist.
Over the next 11 months, she paid a total of $A13,170 for weeks-long stays in Airbnbs in Paris, Tokyo, London, Barcelona, Seoul, Taipei, Singapore, and Honolulu. Compare that to the estimated $A26,866 she would have spent in a year on an average one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles at $A2,238 a month, and the savings is nearly $US10,000, Lee said.
“At this point, I saw it simply as paying ‘rent’ as if I were living in Los Angeles but without commitment and in other cities around the world,” she told Business Insider. What’s more, transportation — mostly trains and cheap domestic flights throughout Asia and Europe — cost her a total of just $A1,975 (another $A1,053 worth of flights were paid for by a generous client).
Currently, Lee is spending time back home in Los Angeles with friends and family.
Below, learn more about the professional freelancer and traveller’s life in Airbnbs and her strategy for finding the perfect rentals (and negotiating the cost).
Back in early 2016, Lee was travelling in Japan and realised some Airbnb hosts offered monthly rental options. This seemed to her like a more comfortable and potentially affordable way to travel long-term than staying in hotels or hostels.
Mt. Hallasan, Jeju-do.
As a professional freelance writer and blogger, Lee simply needs her computer and reliable Wi-Fi to earn money. Airbnbs, she realised, could double as temporary office and living space, and afford her the opportunity to experience living like a local in different cities.
In Paris, France.
By February, Lee started Airbnb-hopping. She said she searched for rentals in hip and safe neighbourhoods with cafés, restaurants, groceries, and transportation within walking distance. 'I wanted to live somewhat close to the tourist spots -- but not quite in there to pay the high prices of those areas -- and still be able to live like a local,' she told Business Insider.
Bukansan National Park in Seoul, South Korea.
Lee typically rented private rooms in Airbnbs where the host was still present during her stay. As a solo-traveller, it's nice to have company, she said. 'Some hosts were so blasé about the arrangement they walked around in their underwear,' Lee writes on Thrillist. 'But other than a few, 'wow, I'm glad this is temporary' moments, my experience was positive.'
Even if Lee found the perfect Airbnb listing, she would often negotiate for a discount on their weekly or monthly rates. She wouldn't push too hard, but during low-season hosts are typically more willing to lower the price if it means occupying the room, she said.
Hiking on Lantau Island in Hong Kong.
'It's worth noting that experienced hosts tend to scoff at negotiations because it's a sign the guest could be trouble, so the key is to stay cordial and friendly in negotiations no matter where they lead,' Lee writes on Thrillist.
Hiking Diamond Head in O'ahu.
All told, Lee ended up shelling out $A13,939 for living accommodations in eight countries over 11 months and $A1,975 for flights between cities. Had she remained in Los Angeles, where a one-bedroom apartment can range from $A2,238 to $A3,029. without utilities, she would have spent more than twice as much on rent, plus hundreds of dollars more in car-related costs.
In Lourdes, France.
Because she was saving thousands on rent, Lee decided to spend a bit more money on food -- as little as $A25 a day and up to $A130, depending on the city (Tokyo was more expensive).
In Paris, France.
But that doesn't mean she was spending frivolously. One way she decides if something is worth buying is comparing it to an experience back home. 'If I would, say, go to a quality Korean BBQ place in LA for $80 then of course I'll go to a Korean BBQ place in Seoul for the same or cheaper price,' she said.
In Ximen, Taiwan.
Lee is currently back in Los Angeles to visit friends and family and dreaming up her next adventure. 'I use my parents' home as a thoroughfare between returning from my last destination to the next thing,' she writes on Thrillist. 'I've chosen to eschew pesky rental agreements and mortgages for the sole purpose of being able to pick up and just go with the wind, wherever in the world it may take me.'
In Honolulu, Hawaii.
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