Affordable and Exciting Cities To Move To For A Year

The Question:

What are some of the best countries to live off of savings in for one year as an American?
Next year marks my 7th year as a freelance designer and I’d like to take a year long sabbatical to improve my skills in design and game development.
Nice-to-haves:
1. Affordable living. Don’t want to drain the savings too fast.
2. Fairly comfortable and safe living.
3. Somewhat reliable Internet.

My Answer:

First of all, congratulations on your seventh year freelancing!
If you are looking for a place where your money will go a long way, there are several options. I would eliminate some of the more expensive countries like Australia and most of Western Europe.
My first instinct is to recommend something in Eastern Europe because it has modern infrastructure and is a safe place to live and travel.  One of my favorite cities in the world is Budapest, Hungary. It is so beautiful, it has great public transit, there is lots to see and do, it is not very expensive especially by European standards, and Internet should not be a problem. The architecture and art will definitely inspire your design work! You would have easy access to many other European cities as well as serene countryside and mountains.
If you were hoping for something more “exotic”, maybe you should look into Bangkok. It is very cheap by American standards, but the infrastructure is pretty good by Southeast Asian standards. There is a sizable expat community there, both Americans and Europeans, so there are plenty of resources available for westerners. Of course the food is great, and the culture is lovely. There is a good balance of visual elements to take in as a designer between the old Buddhist monasteries and the modern glass sky scrapers of the central district.
One more suggestion I will offer is Kathmandu. This is the cheapest place I have mentioned as far as living costs go. There is also an established expat community here making it easy to get informational about living there as a foreigner. As long as you watch out for pickpockets and scammers (which is true pretty much anywhere you travel) it is a safe place to live. The infrastructure isn’t quite as good and power outages do happen, but it usually isn’t out for very long and a lot of the buildings in the central area have backup generators. You could take trips out to the Himalayas, tea plantations, and holy sights for Hindus and Buddhists.
Happy travels!
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