July 16, 2024

Mitchel Gilbeau

Hotel Heaven Awaits

How Our European Lifestyle Made Us Happier, Healthier, and Financially Independent


We spent the majority of our lives living in the United States. We had good jobs and made a decent living, but we were never rich. Then, after years of scrimping and saving, we decided to quit our jobs and move to Europe for an extended period of time. We left Fargo with two suitcases, a backpack, and a car packed to the brim with all of our worldly possessions—and it was one of the best decisions we ever made. Why did we decide to uproot our lives? Partially because we wanted an adventure before settling into retirement; partially because we’d always dreamed about living overseas; partially because I had friends who spoke highly from their European experiences; partially because my wife is from Europe originally; partially because she has always wanted to go back there someday…

But mostly because our salaries dropped by over 50{a6d4e250f4dbd7c38290d51a301669b0b15c2bd58d8474132f85a8137f152abc} when we moved overseas: instead of making $100k/year while still being saddled with student loans like most Americans do (or worse), now that money could be used towards building savings accounts instead! And what happened then? Everything else got better!

We left Fargo with two suitcases, a backpack, and a car packed to the brim with all of our worldly possessions.

We left Fargo with two suitcases, a backpack, and a car packed to the brim with all of our worldly possessions.

Our journey began on June 1st, 2015 when we hit the road in our trusty Toyota Camry with everything we owned (and could fit) inside it. The plan was simple: drive across America until we got tired of driving or ran out of money; whichever came first. We had no idea where we would end up but figured that if worst came to worst then there were plenty of motels along Interstate 80 where we could park for free overnight until things got better again…

We spent much less money on rent, food, and entertainment than most people do in the United States.

You might think that moving to Europe would mean spending more money, but it’s actually the opposite. We spent much less money on rent, food and entertainment than most people do in the United States.

Rents are lower across Europe – even in big cities like London and Paris. On average, we paid just $500 per month for our two-bedroom apartment on a quiet street near the beach in Nice (you can see photos here). That was less than half of what we paid when we lived in Los Angeles!

Food is also cheaper in France than it is back home – even if you eat out often at restaurants like ours did during our first two years there! In fact, when we left France after four years of living abroad I noticed how much more expensive everything seemed: food was more expensive at restaurants; drinks were pricier during happy hour; and clothes felt more expensive because they had been designed specifically for America’s larger sizes (a problem I’ve experienced ever since moving back).

We’d spend an average of $17 per day on food and drinks.

If you want to save money on food and drinks, it’s important to plan ahead. You’ll also need a good amount of self-control when it comes to impulse buys and splurges.

Planning ahead involves making sure you have enough money for your daily necessities before going shopping. If possible, shop at discount stores like Aldi or Lidl where prices are low but still competitive with other supermarkets such as Tesco or Sainsbury’s (in the UK). By shopping in bulk at these places instead of buying individual items from the supermarket, not only will you save money but also time since there won’t be any waiting around while they prepare your order in store–it’ll already be done!

We lived in the European countryside where we had access to fresh fruits and vegetables at any time of year.

One of the biggest benefits of living in Europe was being able to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables at any time of year. In North America, you can only get certain produce during certain seasons (i.e., strawberries in the summer). But in Europe, it’s possible to buy fresh tomatoes on December 1st if you want them!

We had a garden where we grew our own vegetables and herbs, but even if you don’t have space for one yourself, there are plenty of markets nearby where farmers will sell their goods directly off their farms or trucks every day throughout most months out of the year (and sometimes even year-round).

Our grocery bills were a fraction of what they would have been if we’d lived in a city center.

If you’re a grocery store shopper like me, then you know that prices can vary wildly depending on where you live. For example, I recently compared the price of organic apples at Whole Foods (a high-end supermarket chain) with farmer’s markets and regular supermarkets in my area. The results were surprising:

The average price per pound for organic apples was $1.69 at Whole Foods; $0.99 at farmer’s markets; and $0.59-$0.79 at regular supermarkets! This means that if I bought all my produce from the cheapest source possible (farmer’s markets), my monthly grocery bill would be less than half of what it was when I was living in New York City ($200/month vs $400).

We were able to live frugally with very little effort.

In our experience, it’s possible to live frugally with very little effort. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were still able to travel Europe and eat out every once in awhile.

We were able to do this because:

  • We lived in an old farmhouse that was pretty cheap (we did have to fix it up ourselves).
  • We mostly cooked for ourselves instead of eating out at restaurants or buying pre-made food from stores (you don’t need much equipment if you’re just cooking for two people).

It’s possible to live comfortably on very little when you’re not paying rent or utility bills.

Once you’re able to live off of a fraction of what you are spending now, it’s possible for you to travel to Europe and live off of a small budget. You can work part time and save money, or even take up freelance writing or tutoring jobs online. It’s also possible that once you become an expat in Europe (or anywhere else), the cost of living will be much lower than it is where you currently reside.

You may even find yourself not having to worry about rent or utility bills at all! If this sounds like something that could benefit your finances and lifestyle as well as allow more flexibility in terms of where and how often you travel – then consider moving abroad!


We were able to live comfortably on very little when we were not paying rent or utility bills. We knew that there would be sacrifices, but we were willing to make them in order to enjoy the benefits of living abroad.