Life as a perpetual traveler: can PTs have a base?

Written by Andrew Henderson

Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

As a perpetual traveler, it’s often hard for people I meet to understand what it is I do.

While blogs about how to quit your desk job and travel the world on $7.13 a day by wearing baggy pants with elephants on them are exploding in popularity in the US and Canada, the rest of the world doesn’t really understand the whole concept.

They know what backpackers are, but if you explain working or investing as a nomad, they zone out on you.

The reality is that most people – whether in The Land of the Free or Southeast Asia – don’t dare to live an exceptional life. They merely follow the path set out for them.

If you’re reading this, you already realize that being different is the way to go. I deem myself a contrarian, whether it’s in investing or in life.

That’s what has brought me to Kuala Lumpur.

While I do travel to a few dozen countries each year, it’s also nice to have a base of operations to call home.

Starting this week, I’m establishing a base here in Kuala Lumpur. Despite the fact that Malaysia is one of the easiest places to start a business and the country is rapidly increasing in pretty much every ranking you can think of, little is spoken of it in the expat community.

Most people who come to Southeast Asia go one of two routes: the young, bootstrapping entrepreneur route in places like Bangkok or Chiang Mai, Thailand, or the corporate expat route in Hong Kong or Singapore.

I happen to believe that the average person doesn’t fall into either category of stuffy investment banker or young backpacker.

And that’s where Kuala Lumpur fits in. As someone who will still spend the majority of my year traveling to places around the world to seek out new opportunities, I couldn’t justify spending $10,000 a month in Hong Kong to have the kind of apartment I’d want.

I’ve written that I believe Kuala Lumpur is Asia’s underrated gem, and know I’m putting my money where my mouth is. To be honest, I enjoy living in a place not totally overrun by foreigners.

In Bangkok, I would be just another “farang” and would attract all of the stereotypes that go with it. Here, things are a bit different.

On top of that, Kuala Lumpur’s airport serves not only as the hub for beleaguered Malaysia Airlines, but also the not-unreliable-enough-to-ignore-their-ultra-cheap-fares AirAsia. A friend of mine here just booked a return flight to Sydney for about $225.

And while Kuala Lumpur is home to cheap flights to all of the world’s most promising places, Singapore is a short hop away if you need even more options for non-stop travel almost anywhere on earth.

But I’m not writing this to tell you all about Kuala Lumpur. As I said, I actually enjoy being somewhat of an outlier, even if this place is full of potential for our readers.

The reason I’m writing to ask you a question: what do you think about the concept of being a perpetual traveler versus having a base?

In my mind, being based in one place does not mean you can not be a perpetual traveler. In strict terms, being a PT is all about using Flag Theory – the idea of removing yourself from government slavery – not about your itinerary.

That’s why PT also stands for “prior taxpayer”. It’s not as much about geography as it is about a mindset that you’re not a milk cow for one government.

A place like Malaysia offers 90-day visa-free travel to most westerners and 30-day visa-free travel to just about anyone from a country not currently under military rule. That means almost anyone can come and spend a good part of the year in Malaysia so long as they come and go.

If you’re like me and you want easier access, you can simply use Malaysia’s easy MM2H visa program and you’ll be able to live here year-round, with as much in-and-out access as required.

Plenty of other countries allow you to do this too. The key is finding a country with either no income tax or a territorial income tax system where money you earn outside of the country (such as in your offshore company) isn’t taxed locally.

That means you can live there as long as you want and not pay taxes on your income so long as you aren’t working there. Not only do countries like Malaysia and Singapore offer this type of system, but much of Central America does as well.

The point is, being a perpetual traveler doesn’t have to mean living out of your suitcase. I can personally attest that as much as I enjoy staying in nice hotels and calling butlers to bring me fresh juice, there are times when visiting 17 countries in a row presents problems.

Especially when you’re running a business. Thanks to your readership, well more than 1 million people have come to our site since inception little more than a year ago. That level of business functions better when you have the ability to be in a familiar place when needed.

For example, my friend Pete Sisco has built very successful online businesses. He and his wife are PTs; he has two passports and permanent residency in a third country. They live in five or six countries a year, usually spending four or five months in the year living in a golf villa or beach bungalow.

They’re not bouncing from place to place every week, but they are able to avoid the crazy taxation in their home countries (he’s Canadian, she’s a US person) by living a perpetual traveler lifestyle.

Don’t think that you have to be dragging your suitcase around all the time to live a lifestyle of freedom.

I’m curious to hear your comments if you are currently traveling, or if you are someone who has considered a perpetual traveler lifestyle. What do you think about the idea of having a base of operations?

Because I’m a real, transparent person – not a fictitious cartoon character – I share with you the real details of what I’m doing to attain my own freedom offshore. Living in a never-ending string of hotels sounds sexy and may be great for marketing but it’s not something most people want to do forever.

I will continue to spend time in a few dozen countries reporting on business and investment opportunities from the ground. Living in Asia puts me in close proximity to, in my opinion, the best opportunities on earth, from India to Vietnam to the Middle East.

Being able to book a $32 return flight to Malaysia’s gorgeous Langkawi island isn’t a bad perk, either.

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Dec 29, 2019 at 3:41AM

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  1. marcdepiolenc

    I never thought that being a PT meant you had no base. One of the six flags (or however many there are this week) was always where you live, or at least where you spend most of your time. The key point was that this was supposed to be separate from your banking, business and other jurisdictions, so that the place where you live would see you as a tourist or a pensionado taking the sun, with money for your maintenance coming from overseas, not being made locally.

  2. eyejean

    Enjoyed the post. I spend time across about four countries a year and recently been feeling the pull toward finding a ‘home-base’. Good luck setting up base in Kuala Lumpur. Look forward to reading more about your experience in the future.

  3. JJ

    “They’re not bouncing from place to place every week, but they are able
    to avoid the crazy taxation in their home countries (he’s Canadian,
    she’s a US person) by living a perpetual traveler lifestyle.

    => Pete’s gonna be ok.
    => I’m so sure his wife can avoid any taxes unless of course he is only one making money.

  4. (Paul) Jianer Shi

    Travelled close to 2 months now, starting from China, then Chiangmai, Kho Tao (Thailand), Bali, Singapore, Sabah, Sarawak, KL. Malaysia is without doubt my favorite. I am really enjoying reading this.

  5. Tom

    Thanks Andrew, great summary on KL!

    I will be heading to Asia myself in January and will be flying there so will check it out.

    Interesting about the VISA situation and it’s awesome that can live there and not pay tax (as long as you don’t work there ;))


    • Gun Hudson

      Well hello there stranger haha. Looks like we are sharing the same trail… first we cross paths registering companies in HK, now checking out residencies in Malaysia 😉

      • Tom

        Haha, so much in common bro 😉

  6. Cheap Travel Dude

    I’d rather just be another farang in Bangkok than stay in KL. I’d even prefer Singapore over KL to be honest. Bangkok has so much more going for it, one major thing is that it’s much cheaper, and if you like a beer then it won’t bankrupt you! I find KL a little dull and everytime I have been there it resembles a building site!

  7. Gun Hudson

    Going to check out KL after a recommendation from my International Tax Accountant, has been nice to hear you’re also residing there on your podcast. Thanks for making these ‘crazy ideas’ seem normal for me Andrew 🙂

  8. lux8x

    I’m a PT living in a country with a territorial tax regime, and I’m from a country that only taxes its residents.

    With this being said, would it be necessary for me to set up an offshore business? I’ve been just getting my income to personal bank accounts (in a third country).