How Kevin Cook Saw The World for $20 A Day

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The Income Disconnect

Seeing all of Saigon with the price of a rice cooker.

Kevin had been working in Asia for three years and was just offered a sales job with the Shanghai Warriors football team. Instead of accepting, he did something more brazen. He dropped employment to explore the entirety of Asia. Its’ not something your career counselor would advise. But boy did he have a good time.

Like many web-savvy backpackers, he decided to blog about it. At the time of inception, many blogs already offered similar concepts. Kevin, being an out-of-the box thinker, had to do something different. He wasn’t going to shower the web with the same vague travel tips about packing lightly, finding cheap hotels, etc. Instead, he made a video diary.

Each video showed viewers what they could realistically expect to purchase with $20 in some of the most sought-after cities in the world. Specificity was his competitive advantage. Kevin didn’t miss a thing. Everything from hostels, breakfast, lunch, and dinner was caught on tape and listed online. If $20 wasn’t enough, he stayed on a stranger’s couch for free through Don’t we love the sharing economy?

Kevin’s adventure started in his home away from home: Shanghai. Episode one detailed how he had a breakfast of two bazoi buns for five renminbi (72 cents), a famous fried dumpling lunch for eight renminbi (1.15 dollars) and a fried rice dinner with beer for 30 renminbi (4.3 dollars). He used the metro to get around, which cost him six renminbi (one dollar). His dormitory hostel, the expensive part of his day, cost him 70 renminbi (ten dollars). He saw one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world for what many considered an hourly wage.

Aspiring globe-trotters across the internet fell in love with the concept. The Shanghai video went viral and Kevin became an internet celebrity – his blog, MonkeyAbroad, became one of the largest backpacking hubs on the web. Of course, there were a few bumps in the beginning – haters left some comments. Kevin persisted.

Our Monkey Abroad friend ended up traversing 17 more cities across Asia on the same 20$ budget. In Hanoi, he stayed at Chien Hostel for only $5 a night, including breakfast buffet. By comparison, similar hostels in Los Angeles that do not include breakfast would set you back $61. He squeezed in a day’s worth of bun cha, beef pho, egg coffee, and beers – coupled with visits to the Ho Chi Minh Complex and the Temple of Literature, for only $15. He remarked that Hanoi was the cheapest city he had ever visited – a great deal for a city often called the “Paris of Asia.”

Amazingly, he also found a $5 stay at Saigon’s “The Hangout Hostel,” which also included breakfast. He managed to tour the Independence Palace and the War Remnants Museum, while squeezing in a postcard, meals, and two beers as well. His charge for a day in Saigon was $18. It astounds that an hour’s pay for many in the United States would be enough to live well in one of Asia’s most vivacious cities for a day. As living costs have risen in Saigon, the math is entirely due to Kevin’s own ingenuity.

In addition to Hanoi and Saigon, Kevin also conquered other famous Asian gems: Delhi, Hong Kong, Boracay, Phnom Penh, Koh Lanta, and Bangkok were all seen by our favorite Monkey Abroad for only $20 a day. His entire adventure stands as an incredible feat in both budgeting and audacity. You can view all 18 episodes of his video series here.

But we didn’t just write this article to show you how awesome Kevin is, or how much fun he had. We wrote it to demonstrate the boundaries of what’s possible. Kevin took a dream that many have (dropping his job and traveling the world) but most rarely dare to do, and made it happen with seemingly impossible constraints.

By accomplishing that, he shows many of us who have similar dreams that we really have no excuses. Kevin even abated his worst case scenario (being financially distraught) of unemployment by being creative. He monetized his adventures through video, and established a lucrative content platform as a result. Sometimes, we come up with our best inventions when we are financially constrained.

After perusing Kevin’s video series, you should be more inspired to chase your own dreams of world travel. If you are worried about your financial situation, follow in Kevin’s footsteps. He has plenty of great budgeting gems in his videos. And of course, monetize your travels by creating great content – and your vacation might even pay for itself.

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