Sept 2018: Travel & Income Report from Las Vegas and San Francisco

This has been an exciting month traveling and visiting home, friends, and family in California as well as checking out the coworking scene in San Francisco. I started the month in Las Vegas kicking off our first ever U.S.A. based conference for digital nomads the Nomad Summit and it was a blast. I got to meet over one hundred people mostly from around the U.S. and Canada who are already working remotely, working from home, or wanting to quit their jobs to become a digital nomad and travel the world. Financially it was a huge gamble as there would have been a chance we could have had a huge profit or a huge loss from it, but luckily, it was more break even than anything.

I'll breakdown some of the financials in this month's income report below as well as how much online income, passive income, and investment income I made while traveling this month. I'll also break down my expenses of flying back to the US, and how much I spent there during my trip home.

Even though it's now officially October 1st as I'm writing this and I'm back in Thailand, this month of being back in California really hit me hard. For the first time in years I went home not being tempted to stay forever. In the past, I've always thought about buying a car, or getting an apartment, and making just one last trip out to Thailand. But this time, even though the economy is doing well and everyone I know is enjoying life, going out to eat, drink and driving nice cars, I honestly couldn't wait to get back to my life in Chiang Mai. For the first time in a long time, I really got reminded what the rat race looks like and how many people wish they could escape it.

Even though it's really nice to visit, I've now realized how still it would be for me to voluntarily join it again. Coworking out of Silicon Valley and checking out Spaces, the nicest coworking space there, I imagined what my life would be if I stayed.  Keep reading for all of the details in this month's September 1st, through 30th, 2018 Travel and Income update.

Travel and Thoughts

For some people living in or simply going to California is a dream. I know it's a great place and won't deny it. I had an amazing time visiting friends in Los Angeles, but here's the thing. As I mentioned in my blog post about Odessa, Ukraine even though I'd go to the beach every week during the summer there as it was so easy to get to.

In my entire month in California, I didn't even go once and most of my friends didn't go either this entire summer so far. Sure there are people who go everyday, and people who make it a priority, but here's the thing, it's not convenient. Firstly you either need a car, or you'll need to spend $25 each way sharing an Uber or Lyft there. Even if you drive, you'll most likely spend a $15 on parking anyways. Either way, the 16mile (27km) trip will take an hour each way in traffic. But honestly, plenty of people still manage to go all of the time. People will prioritize to live on the westside, closer to the beach, or prioritize their day going.

California in general is an amazing place to live either if you're broke, taking advantage of the government subsidizes, rent control, and have little to no income to tax, or if you're super rich, or at least pretending to be and taking advantage of what the city has to offer. It's a great place to network, and live like Dan Bilzerian or at least pretend to. Las Vegas is the same way, but with just the nightlife scene as even though there's no state income tax, I would never want to live there year round. San Francisco and the bay area itself is also really nice but it's so overpriced it's laughable. With a family making $130,000 a year still qualifying as low income and starter homes costing over $1 Million dollars, it's not a place I want to be.

The funny thing is, I actually have two places to live for free there, one being my room at my parent's place in San Francisco, or an entire 2 bedroom 1 bath cottage in Silicon valley that my sister has kept empty for me just in case I wanted to live there. She'll probably rent it out in a couple of months after she realizes I'm not coming back, but while I was there, I had an entire house to myself. So why wouldn't I stay? Am I crazy for valuabling location independent and travel so much that I'd leave a $2,000 a month house empty instead of just living there?

The short answer is yes. As nice as it was to visit friends and family and eat all of the amazing food California has to offer, and do all the fun things Las Vegas has, I can say with 100% certainty that the freedom is worth it. Being back in America is like having shackles on, whether it's signing annual contracts for everything, or the higher costs of living, needing insurance, and all of the other crap that comes with "normal life" back home. Living out of a suitcase and traveling the world while earning money online, is where I belong, and where I'm the most free and am the most content.

Great seeing my buddy Sonic and my cousin Jacob in Vegas!

It was fun having lunch at Google HQ San Francisco

Having Hot Pot at my old friend Albert's house!

Seeing my parents off at the Airport at SFO

Expenses and Costs of Living

It's a really strange feeling knowing that even though I technically have way more money in the bank than the average person in America or even the world, I'm also super cautious with spending it. In my 20's I would live paycheck to paycheck and often even buy big purchases like cars with future income and money I didn't actually have yet. Now that I'm more financially savvy, I'm also super conservative especially since right now I'm focusing on projects that aren't yet cash flow positive and may require me months or years before they are. 

More on that later, but I'll explain in my video update why I'm being so frugal with my spending. Ironically, even though I was trying to save money this trip by flying economy and taking buses and public transport, I ended up scoring a business class flight from San Francisco to Thailand for 90% off, more info in the explainer video and tour below.

Here are all of my expenses from September. 

Bus from LA to Vegas: $5.50 (FlixBus, MegaBus) 
Hotel in Vegas: $699.02 (Expensed by Nomad Summit)
Eating in Vegas: $10 - $70 meals (Buffets in Downtown vs. the Wynn)
Going Out/Drinks $300 (Bars/The Strip/etc)
Lyfts/Ubers: $80 (Airport/General)
Flight from Vegas to SF: $80.98 (Southwest Air)
Rental Car in SF: $187.17 (Turo
Accommodations in SF: $0.00 (Family) 
Eating in SF: $15-$30 meals (on average)
Public Transport: $35 (Bart/Muni)

Flight SFO to Bangkok: $617.00 (HKAir Biz Class Deal!)
Hotel in Bangkok: $21.00 (The Phoenix) 
Flight BKK to CNX: $50.73 (Thaiairways)
Hotel in Chiang Mai: $37.14 (Chaya Place)
Condo in Chiang Mai: $469 (monthly apartment
Coworking Space: $19 (TCDC)
Coffee Shops: $45 (Lots of coffee)
BJJ Gi: $93.75 (Pure Grappling)
Motorbikes: $859.38 (two scooters)
Donation to Isaan Muay Thai: $15
Money to my Parents: $1,000 (Mother's retirement)

Total Expenses: It's a bit hard to calculate this month as a lot of the travel I expensed to the conference as it was the main reason for me traveling back to the U.S., and since the last half of it was in Thailand I don't have a full month's expenses yet to calculate. But I filled in the above to give you an estimate of the costs of living and travel for the month.

Income for September: 

These past four months my main project was putting together the Nomad Summit Las Vegas. Even though everyone else involved including the videographers, and various staff members got paid during this time, I didn't take a salary. I knew it would be a big financial gamble as I was the one putting it all on my credit card and the fact that food and the venue was 3x the price of the conference in Thailand, I knew it'd be a struggle. But at the same time, I knew that it could have also been a huge win. Fitting for being in Las Vegas, I know.

The scariest part was that up until 2 days before the event started, we were running at a net loss which meant that I would have to lose money out of my pocket if we didn't sell a few more tickets or figure out another way to generate some income. Luckily, we got a few last minute workshop sign ups, sold a few books and after all of the expenses, staff travel, hotel rooms, videography, food, paypal fees, coffee, a/v equipment, etc, the total profit from the event was a small positive at $1,143.57. The bad thing was that the venue, the Downtown Grand, somehow ended up charging me an extra $952.10 just a few days ago, almost three weeks later. That meant, that even though I had already finalized the accounting and paid everyone out, I got stuck with another huge bill. That meant that my already small profit, is now even smaller at just $191.47 which I ended up using to fly to San Francisco and rent a car.

My personal income has also significantly dropped these past few months as I was busy focusing on the conference and not growing my own income sources. But before anyone feels sorry for me, I don't regret my choices for a second. I'm super grateful to be in a financial situation right now where I can afford to live cheaply off of passive income and continue to take big chances like this to grow something that may have a huge payoff in the future. I'd love to see the Nomad Summit one day be a hugely profitable event with thousands of attendees, but honestly even now, I had such a great time putting it on, and met some amazing people during the process. The fact that everyone who attended got a lot out of it and I was able to help support some digital nomads as staff financially to be able to travel and take part has made the whole thing worth it.

Total Income for Sept: $3,464.54

*decrease from $3,654.96 in August, 2018. 

Amazon Associate Commissions for Products

Other Affiliate Income: Case Studies in Income Boss

New investments into Peer Street loans

Income from my Youtube Channel

Lessons and Thoughts

Overall, I had a really great month full of friends, family, and getting to be part of something really cool, the first ever Digital Nomad Summit in America. It was a super cool event, and from the feedback we've gotten, the attendees really got a ton of value from it and going there, meeting each other in person, and learning the foundations from those who have been successful has already changed lives. These are things that money alone can't buy, which is why I'm okay with my personal income dropping down so low. To be honest, a huge part of me just wants to live off grid for a few years and not worry about business at all. I daydream about #Vanlife and driving around the country with a dog and a girlfriend. I often think about living off grid and building a tiny home somewhere. And now that I have enough savings and passive income to do it, I could easily just say f it, I'm done working and building, it's time to just relax and enjoy.

The only problem is. I get bored. As much as I loved living for just myself as cheaply as possible on a $600 a month budget so so many years as I wrote about in 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap. That part of my life is now over, and I've moved on to different things. I don't want to ever go back to being broke. I want to continue to be able to put a smile on my parent's face every month sending them a $1,000 check, and to be able to pay their property tax each year as a Christmas gift at the end of each year. I want to continue to be able to be generous with friends, and help inspire others who are starting out or trying to get to the next level.

I also want to have enough money to have the option to stay in nice places, fly business class on long international trips, and see the world. That's why I continue to grind and work hard even though I'm sure a lot of people in my position would just cash in and say that's enough. Honestly it is enough, but only for me, and only for right now. I'm no longer thinking about just myself and today, I'm planning for the future of myself and everyone in my life. That's why I continue to work, build and grow. Watch this month's video update for more info.

With Love from Chiang Mai,

Johnny FD

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  1. Ask anything or leave a comment here. =)

  2. Thanks for sharing! Do you happen to have a post sharing your experience using PeerStreet? I'd be interested in reading it!

    1. Hey Elizabeth, it's been going fine so far. We did a review here a while back that still holds true:

      Check the Quarterly updates on the podcast as well.

  3. Would be curious about the costs of the conference in the US..

    1. It was a lot! It was $10,452.10 just for the venue + food, coffee, water. So over $100 per person as we had 100 people, and on top of that we had to pay the videographers, for hotel rooms, travel, flights, printing, t-shirts, banners, etc. etc.

  4. Well done Johnny. Always good to see bloggers prospering.

    1. Thanks Ryan! Hope you're crushing it as well!

  5. Hi Johnny,

    I'm still a little fuzzy on how you came across that deal on Hong Kong Airlines. Was it just pure luck or is there some kind of alert service for deals like that?

    1. I wrote about it here in detail, part luck, part service:

  6. Hey Johnny, really appreciate all the work you put in for your income reports and videos. Also out being a digital nomad in Europe/Asia. In a similar situation too, where my parents in SF have an empty apartment waiting for me to come back (it's been over 2 years now!). The lifestyle and $ savings working for yourself out of CA is hard to turn down :) But I'm still a CA non-resident for tax filing purposes and since many of my clients are in CA I'm still paying a good amount of CA tax.

    1. Ouch Justin, that sucks to have to pay CA Tax still. But i'm pretty sure you can qualify for out of state earnings, talk to Grace Taylor or another expat tax accountant, it might save you a lot of money.

      P.S. Tell your parents to rent out that apartment!


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