The following is a post from Pauline Paquin, a French girl who blogs over at Reach Financial Independence. Born and raised in Paris, Pauline writes about how she has been traveling the world for the past 10 years, while trying to build wealth and achieve financial independence, and how you can follow your dreams and reach your goals too. You can follow Pauline on Twitter @RFIndependence.

I love France, and especially Paris, my hometown. I love to cycle around and then stop on a bench to people watch. I love to reunite with my college friends in our favorite bar where the owner knows us by name. And, I love picking up my little brother from school. I love the food, the parks, even the smelly subway and the stressed out drivers during rush hour. Most of all, I love that I don’t live there anymore.

When I graduated ten years ago, I decided to travel the world for a year. I then found a job in Guatemala, lived in three more countries, and ended up in Guatemala again a couple of months ago. This time, I am staying and fixing up a little house that should someday become a guest house. I wake up with the sun, swim in a beautiful lake, and lead a peaceful, simple life.

Meanwhile, my friends in Paris are making what would look like good money. Yet, if you consider the fact that they work about 10 hours a day, commute 1 hour to and from work if they are lucky, and live in a 400 sq. ft. apartment, it may not be such great money afterall. They will likely do this until they retire in 35 years – or more – while I keep living my awesome life.


The Sacrifices

Sure, I sacrifice many things for early retirement and financial freedom. I don’t drive a fancy car. I don’t eat out every night.  The biggest sacrifice is that I don’t get to see my family and friends very often. But when I come back, I realize that everyone is so busy running after life that they barely see each other.

Relocating abroad made me see my little French world with other eyes. I was so caught up in it, I didn’t know anything else existed. People wake up, go to work, come back, complain, watch TV, fall asleep. Repeat five days a week for the next 40 years. For what? Like that parable Greg talked about recently, so they can live like me when they retire. I’d rather live now.


The Cost

My life under the sun costs me around $1000 per month. It is actually less, but I include around $2500 for ticket and expenses to go back to France for a month each year. Last year, I lived in a beautiful colonial home, surrounded by volcanoes, for $600 all included (with cleaning and landscaping service!). My share was $300, plus $200 for food and daily expenses, leaving around $300 of fun money for the month, and $200 towards my European holiday.

This year will be more expensive with all the repairs and works on the house. Still, over the course of a couple of years, it will cost about the same as renting.

You can live in many countries for a fraction of your current monthly budget. But money is not my only motivation. Here, I can live a life that fits my values. I wanted a simple life, with no stress, close to nature. I wanted a waterfront or mountain property with a stunning view. A rural lifestyle with a few conveniences, like an easy access to a supermarket or wifi internet. Take that “must have list” to any realtor in the US or Europe and he will tell you that you’re looking at a million dollars or more to get to live like that. So yes, money is part of my decision, in order to start living life on my own terms sooner.


It is Your Life, You Set Your Price

I did not win the lottery, nor did I have a trust fund or a six figure job. I saved a lot, kept my eyes on my goal, and achieved it quickly. Every day, when you buy things, they are confirming your life choices. You choose to buy more stuff instead of retiring a week earlier. You choose to work like crazy to pay for that stuff instead of taking some time off work to spend with your family.

In order to be financially independent, I have chosen to live in a cheaper country instead of working for ten more years and maybe one day being able to afford the same house a bit closer to ”home”. Your choices may not be as extreme as mine, but remember that every penny spent is a reiteration of how you decide to live your life.