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About Me

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Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. These are the best years of your life and you deserve to be FREE! 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for 5.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York in 2013. You can read my full story here. I’m now living my dream, settled in Bali, Indonesia, fully independent and working happily on projects that support my deepest passion! 

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I now make my living helping others break out of ordinary living and get clear on their mission in life. I get paid to help people MANIFEST THEIR DREAMS like I did — how cool is that?  

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’ve always done things a bit differently and I think there are SO many feasible ways for people to live “off the beaten path”. I hope my blog lets you see what’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Drop me a line at elaina@lifebefore30.com or apply to work with me directly! 

How I Spent a Month in Africa for Just $400

Posted on May 5th, 2018

Earlier this year I spent a month living in a village in Malawi, in one of the poorest districts in one of the poorest countries in the world. I volunteered with a local organization, fundraised several thousand dollars to contribute to the community, and gained a lot of clarity on my international development values. For me, being a globe-trotting nomad comes with some responsibility to give back. 

 

I also spent less than $500 (including my international airfare!) for a month in Africa — so this is something really achievable for anyone looking to plan a volunteering trip abroad.

 

Here’s how I did it on a budget.

 

1. Airfare

The biggest expense for this trip was my one-way ticket from San Francisco to Lilongwe, normally $700+, which I got for $0. I have a Chase Sapphire credit card, which I use for as many expenses as I can throughout the year and pay it off in full every month (smart financial habits 101). With the points I accumulate, I average two free international one-way trips every year. I am NOT a points fanatic and I only have one credit card. In my opinion, this just happens to be the best one for travelers.

 

COST: $0

 

2. Volunteer placement

I found my volunteer placement online through Workaway, after speaking with both the leader of the organization and former volunteers before agreeing to fly around the world to volunteer there. I made sure their mission was in alignment with my values and that my skills would be useful there. I wanted to support a 100% Malawian organization that was well-situated and well-received by the local community.

 

In the end, I was blown away by the integrity of the organization and spontaneously raised over $2,000 from friends and family back home to help support their activities. I also built the organization a new website, developed a strategic plan, wrote grant templates, and assisted with visits to the courts, prisons, schools, and villages to watch the local team in action. It was truly a mutually beneficial arrangement. 

 

COST: $0

 

3. Housing

I lived with a local Malawian family for the majority of my stay. They charged $5 per day to provide a place to sleep and 2-3 basic meals per day. Honestly, the living conditions were challenging. The house was extremely hot and crowded, and the food was definitely not as nourishing or plentiful as I’m accustomed to, even in other developing countries. We were mostly fed bread, plain rice, and some local vegetables and eggs on occasion. Nevertheless, this homestay experience allowed me to see how the locals really live and eat in this part of the world. It was one of the more challenging experiences I’ve had, even considering my extended stays living in countries like Ethiopia, Guatemala, Nigeria, and Mongolia. 

 

COST: $150/month

 

4. Extra food

I wound up having to supplement the food provided by my family. The village marketplace was sparse, but I managed to buy peanuts, carrots, tomatoes, yogurt, peanut butter, coffee, and apples for about $5/day — enough for myself and to share. Once a week, there were papayas in the market (to give you an idea of the limited goods available in the region). This is the unfortunate reality of living in a rural part of a poor country. I am very aware of my privilege to buy additional food and was very grateful to contribute some extras to the family. 

 

COST: $150/month

 

5. In-country exploration

I spent about a week exploring Lake Malawi, staying at a nice lodge for foreigners that was well-deserved, in my opinion, after a month living like a real local in the village. The lodge cost $50 per night, but I was able to talk the British owner into letting me stay for $20/night for the entire week because it was low season. Then, I found out he needed updated photos of the lodge for Tripadvisor, so I offered to take professional photos with my DSLR in exchange for wiping my food and lodging bill clean by the end of the week, saving me at least $200. 

 

COST: $0

 

6.  Transportation

I paid for a taxi to and from Lilongwe airport ($30 each way), a few local bus rides to and from my volunteer placement ($20), as well as bicycle taxis within the village itself (approx. $20 over the course of the month).

 

COST: $100 

 

And that is how I spent a month volunteering and traveling in Africa for only $400. In general, I’ve had other experiences working/volunteering for free through Workaway and they’ve all been positive — allowing me to travel for little to nothing and have a purpose in the community I was visiting. 

 

One of the other things I did before leaving the US was fundraise a few hundred dollars to bring an extra suitcase filled with basic medical supplies with me: bandages, antiseptic creams and sprays, thermometers, painkillers, pre-natal vitamins, and other first aid items. My host family helped me figure out where these would be most useful, which turned out to be splitting the items between the local village clinic and the clinic inside the district prison, which had almost nothing to care for the inmates. This is a small gesture anyone can do before visiting a country where you may encounter impoverished village clinics that could benefit from even basic supplies.

 

If you’re looking for an opportunity to give back or just a chance to travel on an extremely low budget, don’t hesitate to reach out for additional tips and tricks: elaina@lifebefore30.com. 

 

Here are some pictures of my experience working in Malawi.

 

Taking local transport: bicycle taxis. It was too hot to even walk half a mile to and from the NGO office.

 

Fixing my rental bike.

 

Visiting the family of one of the girls we were able to sponsor to attend school that year. With the roughly $2000 I raised, we sent 40 kids to school for a year!

 

Attending a local event where girls had organized themselves and were protesting child marriage. Brave women!

 

Adjusting to the pace of life in Malawi.

 

Dancing with the locals at an outreach event the organization puts on monthly to help raise awareness about the dangers of child marriages.

 

Put on the spot. Sharing my two cents about the importance of cultivating well-educated, independent women in every community. These villages are more liberal than you’d expect! Times are changing.

 

The kids with the school uniforms we had made for them.

 

Sunset over Lake Malawi, post-volunteering.

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About Me

About Me

IMG_5937

Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. These are the best years of your life and you deserve to be FREE! 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for 5.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York in 2013. You can read my full story here. I’m now living my dream, settled in Bali, Indonesia, fully independent and working happily on projects that support my deepest passion! 

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I now make my living helping others break out of ordinary living and get clear on their mission in life. I get paid to help people MANIFEST THEIR DREAMS like I did — how cool is that?  

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’ve always done things a bit differently and I think there are SO many feasible ways for people to live “off the beaten path”. I hope my blog lets you see what’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Drop me a line at elaina@lifebefore30.com or apply to work with me directly! 

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Hey friend, thanks for finding me!

 

I’m sure there’s a reason you landed here. Maybe we’re meant to work together and your whole life is about to flip upside down… That tends to happen with my clients as they transform from the inside out.

 

I work with extraordinary, brave, and self-inquiring souls who are ready to do the inner work required to launch them into the next huge chapter of their life. I work with people who are willing and ready to wake up and become more alive and aligned than ever before! 

 

Does any of this sound like you?

  • Successful on paper but not fulfilled inside
  • Feeling like you’re working so hard but not getting anywhere
  • Knowing you’re destined to do

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