In 2014, I received a life-changing wake-up call: I survived an opioid overdose that sent me to intensive care.
When I hit bottom I realized how lucky I am to be alive. I spent some time in my hometown, Memphis, to focus on my recovery and stay sober. Once I felt stable, I had to think of my next move.
My friends knew that I always wanted to live abroad and suggested that I look for a job abroad. So in 2015, I enrolled in an online program for my English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification, which is often required by schools that hire English teachers. I applied to 50 schools before finally getting an offer from a school in Barcelona, Spain.
I taught there for a year before taking my next position in Budapest, Hungary.
When I was in Budapest for two years, I got tired of teaching and wanted to do something new. Then I decided to start my career as a freelance copywriter.
However, I never got tired of life in Budapest. In fact, it has been my home for almost six years now. This is how I started my expat journey, what my days look like and how much I spend:
Get Hungarian Residence Permit as a US Citizen
After my apprenticeship in Budapest ended, I returned to Memphis to build my copywriting business. Once I built a solid customer network, I moved back to Hungary on a temporary tourist visa.
To live and work in Hungary for a long time, you must have a Residence permit for the pursuit of gainful activity. The visa process can be difficult to navigate, so I worked with a small team of immigration consultants that I found through the Hungary Expats Facebook group. For $1,000, they helped me with translations, walked me through the required documents, and represented me in filing paperwork.
First I had to register as a sole entrepreneur under KATA, a flat tax system where you pay a fixed monthly fee – I pay $139 – to cover all your Hungarian self-employment tax obligations. I also had to provide documents such as proof of housing, health insurance and a business plan.
In January 2018 I was approved after three months of waiting.
I am grateful to live in such an affordable city
Currently my average income in Hungary is $10,000 per month. In addition to my copywriting activities, I sell eBooks and consult people on how to become a digital nomad abroad.
Budapest is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is also very cheap compared to the cost of living in the US. For example, my sister lives in New York City, where the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $4,265 per month, according to RentCafe.com.
However, in Budapest it is easy to find a good deal. My apartment, which I found via a Facebook listing, has over 1,000 square feet of space, two floors and a patio. For just $800 a month, my girlfriend and I live within walking distance of cafes, restaurants, bars and some of the city’s most famous attractions.
Here’s an overview of my monthly expenses:
- Rent and utilities: $800
- Traveler insurance (via SafetyWing): $42
- Health insurance (via Generali): $9.25
- Groceries: $173
- Restaurants and takeout: $186
- Recreational activities† $100
- Gym membership: $53
- Entertainment subscriptions: $57
- KATA costs: $139
Total = $1,559.25
I cook most meals at home, but eat out about two to three times a week. Since my monthly expenses are affordable, I have enough money to travel whenever I want an adventurous escape. For the past few months I have visited Portugal and Greece and even made a trip home to see my family in Memphis.
I also save about 20% of my monthly amount for long-term goals, such as retirement and buying a house. I use the Truebill app to track my expenses and automatically transfer money to my savings accounts.
Budapest: what a typical day looks like
I start my day at 5:30 am. The first thing I do is make coffee for myself and my girlfriend.
Then I will take a 30 minute walk through the gardens of the Hungarian National Museum and the charming streets of Budapest’s 8th district. Sometimes I like to go a little further and stroll along Budapest’s lively Central Market.
A nice aspect of Budapest is that there are many English speakers, mainly young locals and expats, so it feels easy and safe to get around the city.
When I get back to my apartment, I work an hour or two before taking a break to do Muay Thai training at the gym, a 10-minute walk from my house. Then I might go home to do some more work.
For lunch, my girlfriend and I cook at home or eat at a nearby restaurant. We love going to Loyola Cafe which is a popular place among the locals for its authentic Hungarian food. The bill usually comes out to about $2.97 per person.
My working day ends at 3 p.m. I spend three to five hours a day at work. Once I close my laptop, I go for a walk through the 7th arrondissement to check out the shops and street art.
Dinner usually consists of home cooked meals. I sometimes use the Wolt app when I feel like having a slice of pizza or KFC delivered.
At 29, I don’t see myself going back to the US anytime soon. I love that there are so many affordable cities in Europe. In addition, it is easy and cheap to travel to nearby countries.
As international travel increases, I plan to take more trips abroad. Budapest is known for its bitterly cold winters, so I’d love to spend a few months somewhere else next year – in a tropical place, maybe Bali or somewhere in Mexico.
Living abroad has taught me to be more independent and open-minded about different cultures, religions and lifestyles. I have learned several languages and am so thankful for the friends I have made from all over the world.
Francis Nayan is a copywriter, author and digital nomad consultant. follow him up Twitter and Instagramand subscribe to his newsletter†
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