The Black Expat: How This Mom Lives In Guatemala For Less Than $1K A Month

PUBLISHED: May 29, 2020 10:20 AM

Jackie O. is a Black expat living in Guatemala where she resides with her daughter Ruth.

She has lived, worked, and traveled through dozens of countries over the last 20 years and in 2019, she decided to leave the USA after resigning from a high paying corporate tech job.

In addition to being a full-time mom and student, she runs a coaching service to help aspiring Black expats come up with their own plan to live and work aboard.

Jackie O recently revealed to the expat community that she comfortably lives in Guatemala with her toddler for less than $1,000 a month.

Her two-bedroom apartment on a cliff overlooking a lake is $453 a month. Her nanny costs $91 per month, food and groceries total $100., Spanish lessons for 40 hours a week costs her $240, and transportation is no more than $5. When you add up her expenses, Jackie O said she spends $935 per month to live in Guatemala.

“I’ve been living abroad for years, and  I have a wealth of knowledge on how to move abroad seamlessly and cost-effectively,” she told Travel Noire. “I’ve lived in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Indonesia, Spain, France, and Germany.

In an interview with Travel Noire, Jackie O revealed her five-step plan for relocating:

Ask myself why I want to move

I write down all the reasons WHY in a journal.  I’ve kept a journal for years now. Understanding my “Why” is such a powerful exercise and it is also really good to reread on the difficult days.

In the same journal, I write down all the things I want in my ideal location

We travel full-time, so my wants can vary, sometimes I want a larger city, sometimes I want a town or village, but I always need decent WIFI to be able to work.  I’m am able to support myself abroad via 3 income streams: a travel coach to other Black women looking to move abroad or travel full-time; an online dropshipping store; and I am a policy and communications consultant to technology companies.

I write down 3-4 places I would like to live and I research them

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We went to Chichicastenango aka Chichi today with the goal of checking out the cemetery and all of its colors. The town is famous for its market. And the market is indeed very colorful and bustling especially right before Christmas. I have been to Chichi market before and I've been to hundreds of markets across the globe. I love them. But what attracted me back to Chichi is the cemetery. Some people shy away from death. I lean into it. Death is a part of my story. If it hadn't been for my first daughter's death, Ruth might not even exist. According to Maya tradition, honoring the dead encourages the living to make peace with the inevitability of death. Chichi is a town known for retaining much of their Mayan religious practices despite the onset of Christianity. The graves are beautifully colored. The colors themselves are steeped in symbolism—white represents purity, turquoise is for protection, yellow represents the sun’s life force, and others pay homage to the favorite color of the deceased. There are offerings of flowers, incense, candles, and chickens everywhere. A sacred text called the e Popol Vuh was discovered in Chichicastenango in the 18th century. This text documents the creation of humankind according to Maya cosmovision. The dead dwell in the underworld of Xibalba, where they communicate with the living through dreams. A person’s transition to the afterlife hinges on the observance of proper burial rituals. If a body isn’t properly buried, some believe the soul becomes trapped between the realm of the living and dead, and lines of communication are severed. I wholeheartedly believe that we have a connection with the death. I've experienced in my own life. I pray for those who lost their lives on the road in Guatemala on Saturday. They were taking a bus like Ruth and I often take. I understand that death is inevitable and I have made my peace with that and that is why I live the fullest life that I can with absolutely no regrets. #blackkidsdotravel #singlemomlife #bereavedmother #parentingafterloss #visitguatemala #cemetery #worldschooler #nomads #blacktraveljourney

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I google ANY and everything I can about those places. I watch Youtube videos.  I follow blogs. If I have already visited those places, I pull out my photos and write down what attracted me to each place.  Research helps set expectations.  

I research the cost of living in each place

I find out how much the average rent cost based on the type of housing I want. I’m all about being comfortable.   I never want to lower my standard of living, so I create a realistic budget to reflect the type of life I want to live abroad. I include things like a full-time nanny and eating out regularly. I’m a single mom to a toddler, so the ability to be able to wash clothes is CRUCIAL.  If I don’t have a washer in my home then I need the ability to get clothes washed cheaply and quickly.

Finally, I schedule a chat with someone who lives in each of those 3 places.

I find these people by asking around.  I post on Facebook.  I reach out to people on LinkedIn.  I have a pretty international group of friends, so I can typically find someone who has lived where I want to go pretty quickly.  I typically have 15 questions prepared to ask these people based on my research.  I keep my calls brief and focus on things that I can’t find out via search engines.  It is also awesome because I typically have someone I can meet for drinks when I arrive at my new location.  The expat and digital nomad community is a very open and welcoming community and people are always willing to share information.

If you are reading this and considering moving abroad and/or traveling full-time, especially with children, know that it is something that you have to commit to and then just do. There will never be a perfect time. You just have to do it.  Make a plan and follow up. Know that every day abroad isn’t perfect, but if you understand why you made the decision to be out, then even the tough days abroad are surmountable.  Whatever your path, I’m rooting for you!