When I tell people I am going to live in Asia for the summer, and volunteer my time teaching nursing there, the most frequent question is “how can you afford to do this?”. I usually tell them I make money and I wish I had figured it out years before I did – but then, that’s sort of a falsehood. It does cost money, but far less than you would think. I am still going to eat wherever I go, for example, but in Nepal I pay $2 for a meal that would cost $10 here.
Unique circumstances allow me to escape this way. I teach fulltime and have the summers off with automatic deposit of my paycheck during that time; I don’t have that many other bills; and most of all, I can easily sublet my apartment since I’m in a desirable area. At the beginning of the summer I step out of my life, handing the keys over to a stranger, shedding my possessions about as fast as some people change into a bathing suit. When I return I shake hands with my sublettee, take the keys and resume as if I was only away for a weekend.
The biggest single expense of the trip is the plane fare. Next is extra baggage fee for all the books. HOWEVER, this year I did some “creative fundraising” to cover the baggage fee. I had too many books no matter what I did, so I sold a bunch to a company that resells textbooks. Enough to cover the cost of seven boxes.
The key is the differential in housing costs. It is dramatically less expensive to live in Nepal, so much so that I can pay the airfare out of the money I save by not paying rent here. If I still had to pay my rent here in Honolulu I would go in the negative numbers or perhaps be forced to hold a bake sale. This town has a pool of people passing through and I am close to the University (a faculty colleague got me my sublettee – a “hanai relative” of hers). My sublette this time is a professional firefighter who owns a house in Hilo but is taking fulltime paramedic classes at KCC. His wife and kid will now join him here.
All my bills save one are on autopilot. Deducted by the bank. No need to check the mail and write checks. I can check my accounts online, even from Nepal. Another faculty colleague, Willie Marshall, takes my checkbook and a small number of blank checks that I presign, to cover the unexpected or one-time-only expenses. Last summer he emailed me a photo of the mail whenever there was a question.
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