Author Topic: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.  (Read 6409 times)  

Offline JaydenHunter

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Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« on: July 12, 2017, 09:10:26 AM »
In his excellent book, How To Become a Famous Artist and Still Paint Pictures, by Windsor Joe Innis, the most shocking--and perhaps hardest to follow advice--is that you must leave the country (America--or your country of birth) to blossom as a painter.

He explains why, and I won't go into the details here--however I highly recommend his book to creatives.  It's similar to Pressfield's War of Art, in that the advice often works across different creative endeavors.  How to Become a Famous Artist is mostly about creating fine art, but one of the things he explains is why it's important to "get out of Dodge" as a creative.

So, all that said, I wanted to give a "one month in Mexico" report and I'd be happy to answer any questions about it.

First off, I owe credit to an indie who ex-patted to Mexico some time back and has been willing over the last year or so to answer some of my questions and address some of my concerns.  He is pretty forthright on his Facebook (in fact, I made this decision and got advice completely on posts in public threads).

So, with some encouragement I took a train to San Diego, a metro-link to the border, and I walked across the border into Mexico.

What I came with:  A few thousand USD, a MacBook Pro, and a 57 pounds of personal belongings (everything I owned in the world fit in a rucksack).

I got here, Guadalajara, after a 40 hour bus ride from Tijuana.  I did not know anyone in this city when I got here.  I did not speak Spanish (beyond taco and cerveza).  I had no place to stay, and I didn't even book a hostel until after I got to downtown Guadalajara on day one.

Today:  I am in an apartment (I rent one room for $250 a month US).  One of my room mates is a German who works an online business and  is here studying Spanish, he has a local (bi-lingual) girlfriend, and they've invited me out to dinner, clubs, etc.  I'm in a nice area, the main street has stuff going on all the time, it reminds me of San Francisco (but at about 1/3 to 1/5 the cost, depending...more if we're talking rent).

I made some friends, three America guys who graduated from UCLA, UCSD, & Santa Barbara and decided to come here and open a restaurant.  I set up a Meetup with locals wanting to speak conversational English at their new restaurant.
I joined an art society and I display paintings on Sundays with them.
And, yes, I'm studying Spanish.

NOW,,,,,what does this have to do with WRITING as an indie...

Well, for one thing, with a little savings and some traction with a series (or two) you can live here without a day job.  That's the main key.

I just launched my second LitRPG, if it does anywhere near what the first book did, I'll be able to afford to live here comfortably for months...if the third book gives me the "third in a series" bump, I'll be good into next year.

Granted, this isn't going to the fancy restaurants and buying electronics, it's still living on a tight budget, but no day job...

Of course, with even moderate success, I can live like a king here, I'll effectively be in the upper middle class with an income that wouldn't even let me live in a major US city.

Back to writing and art:

Being full-time has it's own challenges.  Being somewhere fun is also a distraction...

Things I've learned being here:

I can dedicate a good amount of time to producing work, but still have a social life and not go crazy (ie as an introvert locked in a closet).

Long term, the benefits of being out of America's political mess and high taxes means I keep more of my earnings and feel better about my life.  Because of the lower cost of living, it's just a win-win all around.  This isn't a post about politics, but it's something to consider, I am going to structure my business side to avoid (legally and above board) as much money from the American war machine as possible.  This makes me a better and happier artist.  To each his/her own on the politics, I'm merely mentioning that to me, it's a major relief being here.

The safety concerns you hear about in the states about Mexico are exaggerations (in case anyone was wondering).  Yeah, there are bad neighborhoods (like any major US city) but where I live is reasonably safe.  I've never felt in danger, and I've been out at 3am (with friends---uber or taxi to get home, of course).

I've read the stories of famous writers living in their cars (or horrible shoe boxes in New York) while they slaved to get out art.  This is better, in my opinion.  I actually considered being homeless in the states...I'm glad I didn't go that route.

Now, one more thing:  I've received several different offers for jobs or potential jobs (and I wasn't even looking) since I've been here.  Once you start networking, things happen.  As it turns out, as a safety precaution, I have agreed to a 3 week sales and writing gig in Texas in September.  My landlord owns a magazine....

Things happen when you leave port and put up your sails.

I hope this will encourage someone...

Oh, P.S.  I did consider Cambodia, I have a friend of a friend as a Facebook friend and he said he'd show me around.  So Mexico isn't the only place to consider going to live cheap.  I like it here and it's close to the states and family, but there is a big world out there.



 

Writing in multiple genres, because "Reasons."
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Offline MKK

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2017, 09:21:16 AM »

I don't have much to say beyond, "Sounds like a lot of fun. I hope you rock out with itand keep the thread updated."



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Offline doctorshevil

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2017, 09:40:42 AM »
Guadalajara's a great city.

Thanks for the book recommendation. I'll probably pick it up and give it a read. My own plan with my husband is to become an expat at the end of 2018, though our plan to be expats predated my beginnings as a writer (and was actually part of the reason I started writing in the first place, as an idea for a remote job).

It's a cool idea to think that the confluence of these two things will help my success as a writer.

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2017, 09:41:51 AM »
Glad to hear it's working for you. Certainly an option for some folks. With a family and mortgage and so forth, I don't see myself packing up for South America any time soon. :D

Offline Jessie G. Talbot

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2017, 09:44:30 AM »
Wow, that took guts. Keep us posted!


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Offline Travelian

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2017, 09:52:44 AM »
I'm considering the expat lifestyle. But to get the full tax benefits you have to be outside the US for at least 11 months each year. Not sure I can be away from family and friends for that long.

Offline SeaHansen

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2017, 10:04:48 AM »
Very inspirational! Interested to see how that works out. After reading Happier than a Billionaire, it made me want to leave it all and go to Costa Rica. Good luck to you!

Offline Teresa Rook

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2017, 10:15:33 AM »
Thanks for sharing, Jayden! I've been seriously considering doing something like this. But in all my research, there's one snaggle I haven't been able to iron out...

I have a cat who I am under no circumstances leaving behind. Do you know any expats with pets in Guadalajara? Any thoughts on how pet-friendly it is down there, particularly when it comes to renting accommodation?

Oddly specific question, sorry!


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Offline Anarchist

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2017, 10:26:57 AM »
Here's a decent tool for comparing the cost of living between where you live and where you aspire to live: https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - Sun Tzu

Offline Brad__W

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2017, 10:38:42 AM »
As others have said above, many thanks for sharing. It's a thrilling adventure and I wish you all the best & lots of productivity in your writing.

I'm living as an Aussie expat in Ireland with a young family and the experience here is different again.... After putting out several books when first living here in Ireland and working full-time, I found I could never write back home in Oz when we returned for a few years. Too much had changed, we had changed, and we missed the European lifestyle and travel too much... plus I guess it didn't really feel like the place I had grown up in anymore and was familiar with after living in Ireland for the best part of 8 years.

So, sure enough we came back to Ireland wouldn't you know it, and I'm writing again and finding there really is something in the water here - or the sense of getting out of Dodge (home) and living somewhere else triggers the writing bug. Going home (Oz will always be home) just didn't give me the same urgency/atmosphere/je nais se quois as it does living elsewhere.
The cost of living can be high for some things here, but then it is swings and roundabouts compared to where I was in Oz which was also expensive. At least the US and Europe are only a quick flight away compared to the distances in Oz.

Good luck in your journey of writing more outside of Dodge!

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Offline C. Gockel

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2017, 10:39:40 AM »
I've heard that one of the best reasons to "expat" oneself is for the boost to creativity living in a different environment can promote, but the cost of living could be an incentive too.

Right now we're sticking to Chicago. I did look into living in Costa Rica. It's pretty easy to get residency there, the health care is first rate and cheaper, but we'd have to either homeschool both kids or send them to private school. It still is almost cheaper. My husband says that if we lived in Costa Rica no one would take him seriously, tho. (He has a web shop that specializes in midsize businesses that require custom apps--he might be right.)

Oh, also have a writer friend who has lived in the U.S. and Canada. She says that even with the housing bubble in Canada and higher taxes she still winds up paying less than living in U.S. because there isn't the additional FICA tax to pay and healthcare is rolled up into those high taxes.


I write books about Change, Chaos, and Loki
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Offline lsjohnson

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2017, 10:51:09 AM »
I'm glad you're enjoying Mexico, and expatting is definitely on the radar for spouse and I (they're from the UK originally). Certainly it sounds like it was a great move for you, and I hope your work continues to flourish.

However, I gotta say that the idea of having to "get out of Dodge" to be an artist makes my hackles rise. Plenty of amazing, capital-A Art has been made through the centuries by people who never even left the house they were born in. If it works for you, that's great, but it irks me when a book presents this as some kind of necessity. At best, it could give a beginner artist pause about pursuing their craft; at worst it could deter them completely, while also dismissing the many great works that have come from artists who stayed local. Just my .02.


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Offline KhaosFoxe

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2017, 10:54:14 AM »
Moving to Prague certainly did my creativity the world of good. England never quite felt right, whereas Prague was home, and that feeling of home made everything that little bit better. We've since moved to Ireland and will likely move on again at some point, wandering does both me and my husband good.


On the financial side, Prague was wonderfully cheap. We could live quite well even with my husband's medical needs and both us being freelance. Ireland is... more difficult, but the change of scene and friendly people make up for it.

Offline Steven Hardesty

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2017, 11:07:23 AM »
The reverse is also true - I spent most of my life expatting but really got the writing juices flowing when I came back to native soil.  I think the key is not where you go but the change of going.  As to whether or not that contributes to making a great writer,  ;).


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Offline JaydenHunter

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2017, 01:40:15 PM »
Here's a decent tool for comparing the cost of living between where you live and where you aspire to live: https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living

So I just tried this, comparing Irvine, CA with Guadalajara, and it was considerably off.  It said the cost difference was 119%.

No way is that even close to accurate, so I think two things.
a.  The site doesn't have enough data points
b.  It doesn't take into account lifestyle changes that are natural with such a move.

For instance, in Southern California a car is nearly a necessity.  In Orange County there is very little public transportation.

I was paying about $1000 a month to maintain a car--payment--insurance--plus gasoline in Orange County.  Here, realistically, I don't need a car.  A 20 minute Uber cost about $4.  A bus cost about forty cents and I can do all my shopping between walking and a bus.  A taxi from Walmart cost me $3.  If I wanted a car, it would be 1/5 the cost or maybe 1/3...unless I got luxurious.

I was paying $600 for a single room in Orange County, I pay $250 here, and I'm in prime part of town.  Within walking distance there are 500 bars and restaurants and clubs.

I don't need medical insurance here.  A trip to the doctor is $4.  A broken arm or stitches or something major, maybe $120-$150.

And also the tax situation, this varies, obviously, but my understanding is that $90,000 is tax free.  I haven't been here long enough to worry about that yet.  Long term I'm going renounce anyway, and my understanding is that the tax rate here is effectively about 5% or so.

I'm also an anacap, so I've been considering this move for a long time.


Writing in multiple genres, because "Reasons."
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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #15 on: July 12, 2017, 01:43:43 PM »
Being an expat certainly sounds interesting! 

It seems like something you'd have to be young, healthy, confident, and not have pets to do, but I admire anyone who gives it a go.  I wouldn't want to leave where I live now, not long term, because of family, pets, health, etc.  But it's certainly a fascinating idea, and could be amazing for the right people.

Please do keep us updated.  This is a very educational thread.
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Offline Flay Otters

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #16 on: July 12, 2017, 01:51:32 PM »
Yep, great idea and congrats!
I did this in 1980 when I moved to the US.
Of course I moved from London to New York City, so cost of living was comparable.
But I agree it stimulated my creativity, just being in a new environment.

Never looked back.

Offline Perry Constantine

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #17 on: July 12, 2017, 01:54:44 PM »
I was an expat for nine years and just moved back to America when I got a high-paying job offer. Boy, was it a mistake. I hate the job and now my books are making a lot more money just three months after I left Japan.

I'm planning to go back to Japan on a full-time teaching gig either in the next few months or in the spring depending on how the offers come in. Even with a basic teaching job in Japan (which doesn't pay much), I'd still have the freedom to write and afford basic necessities. The additional income that's started coming in from my books would double that income.

It's still a little less than I make at my current job, but without the stress. And despite what people say, Japan is a lot less expensive than the US, particularly if you don't care about living outside the major cities (which I don't). Plus it's much easier to get basic health insurance for a lower cost without having to worry about things like pre-existing conditions (and it looks like those have a chance of making a comeback in the US).

Outside of major cities in Japan, I could rent a house for about half of what I pay for my current 1-bedroom apartment. Even in major cities, rent would be cheaper than what I'm paying.

And also the tax situation, this varies, obviously, but my understanding is that $90,000 is tax free.  I haven't been here long enough to worry about that yet.  Long term I'm going renounce anyway, and my understanding is that the tax rate here is effectively about 5% or so.

Yeah, the foreign-earned income exclusion is around $90,000. I've heard different things about whether or not this includes Amazon royalties, so it would be best to consult a tax expert to be on the safe side.

You also have the Foreign Bank Account Reporting, which if the aggregate of your overseas accounts is $10,000 USD or above, you have to file a form every year in (I believe) June.

Offline JaydenHunter

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #18 on: July 12, 2017, 02:06:26 PM »
Glad to hear it's working for you. Certainly an option for some folks. With a family and mortgage and so forth, I don't see myself packing up for South America any time soon. :D

It's a big move, but if you Google for blogs (or Youtube videos) there are families that have done this and say it was the best thing every for their children.  One such interview was a guy on James Altucher's show, I think last year.


Writing in multiple genres, because "Reasons."
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Offline JaydenHunter

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #19 on: July 12, 2017, 02:08:27 PM »
Being an expat certainly sounds interesting! 

It seems like something you'd have to be young, healthy, confident, and not have pets to do, but I admire anyone who gives it a go.  I wouldn't want to leave where I live now, not long term, because of family, pets, health, etc.  But it's certainly a fascinating idea, and could be amazing for the right people.

Please do keep us updated.  This is a very educational thread.

Actually the majority of expats are older.

With SS payments you can live really well, there are entire communities of retired American's living abroad.

Writing in multiple genres, because "Reasons."
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Offline Anarchist

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #20 on: July 12, 2017, 02:12:03 PM »
So I just tried this, comparing Irvine, CA with Guadalajara, and it was considerably off.  It said the cost difference was 119%.

No way is that even close to accurate, so I think two things.
a.  The site doesn't have enough data points
b.  It doesn't take into account lifestyle changes that are natural with such a move.

That's good to know. I had heard from a few expats that the numbers were pretty good. But that was a few years ago and none of them were in Guadalajara at the time.

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

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Offline JaydenHunter

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #21 on: July 12, 2017, 02:14:57 PM »
Thanks for sharing, Jayden! I've been seriously considering doing something like this. But in all my research, there's one snaggle I haven't been able to iron out...

I have a cat who I am under no circumstances leaving behind. Do you know any expats with pets in Guadalajara? Any thoughts on how pet-friendly it is down there, particularly when it comes to renting accommodation?

Oddly specific question, sorry!

I can't imagine bringing a pet down here is that difficult.  Perhaps you'd have to get proof of certain shots, although I don't know.

In reality, you can just drive across the border from San Diego into TJ so I doubt that they do pet checks on every car.  If you got stopped, you could try again the next day...

As to renting accommodations...well, for instance...here's how I rented my room:  I replied to an internet ad.   The owner was in the states and spoke English.  He sent me to meet a woman who works for him (who does not speak English).  She showed me the room.  I said, "Okay."
She called him.
I said, "I'll take it."
He said, "Okay, she'll give you a receipt and the keys."
That was it.  No contract, no nothing.  Heck, he has no way of knowing who I even am.  No, do I think he cares as long as I Paypal him the rent.
I could have two dogs and an elephant in here and as long as my room mates didn't complain nobody would ever care...

Now, that said, when you hunt for rooms they will say things like:  "No smoking"  or   "Smoking outside only" or "Women only" or "Students only"

But that's for a room.

If you're renting a house, I think you could bring a tiger as long as you paid your rent.

Writing in multiple genres, because "Reasons."
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Offline JaydenHunter

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #22 on: July 12, 2017, 02:30:37 PM »
I was an expat for nine years and just moved back to America when I got a high-paying job offer. Boy, was it a mistake. I hate the job...

The lower stress levels are something that cannot be accounted for in terms of dollars.

Being in a situation where you end up hating your job (or your life in general) just sucks.  I don't want to be in that boat again.

What is nice about being somewhere that is relatively inexpensive is that you can get by on a lot less.

What is nice about being in certain parts of the world is that you can be on a really tight budget and people are more accepting and there is not the pressure (at least the pressure I felt) being in a middle class American town.

God knows how much money I've spent over the years buying gifts, going to events, doing things...money, money, money....at least it was like this in Orange County in So Cal.  You couldn't turn around and sneeze without coughing up $50.

The other day I went with a couple guys to have a beer.  We paid 150 pesos, about nine dollars, for 5 liters of beer.  That was $3 for my share, and I think I drank about 2 liters....  What's that?  About five 12 ounce pours?  So 60 cents a glass, at a bar in a nice part of town.

Even with a few tacos and bottled beer you can have a very nice evening for under $10.

Writing in multiple genres, because "Reasons."
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Offline Anarchist

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #23 on: July 12, 2017, 02:41:52 PM »
The other day I went with a couple guys to have a beer.  We paid 150 pesos, about nine dollars, for 5 liters of beer.  That was $3 for my share, and I think I drank about 2 liters....  What's that?  About five 12 ounce pours?  So 60 cents a glass, at a bar in a nice part of town.

I think the key question is whether it's possible to get good bourbon in Guadalajara. ;)
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

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Offline Perry Constantine

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Re: Expatting as part of a writer's strategy.
« Reply #24 on: July 12, 2017, 02:52:46 PM »
God knows how much money I've spent over the years buying gifts, going to events, doing things...money, money, money....at least it was like this in Orange County in So Cal.  You couldn't turn around and sneeze without coughing up $50.

The other day I went with a couple guys to have a beer.  We paid 150 pesos, about nine dollars, for 5 liters of beer.  That was $3 for my share, and I think I drank about 2 liters....  What's that?  About five 12 ounce pours?  So 60 cents a glass, at a bar in a nice part of town.

Even with a few tacos and bottled beer you can have a very nice evening for under $10.

Living in SoCal myself right now, I know exactly what you mean. There's a bar nearby with pretty good food. But just going there for a burger and two beers and you're looking at a bill of about $30!