I always say that my quality of life was somehow better when I was in my twenties and dirt poor. I lived in beautiful apartments. There was the private cottage in San Diego with three sets of French doors that led to a private garden around the perimeter of the entire place, and then the 5-bedroom flat with spiral staircase, skylight and view of the Bay in San Francisco, both only $400 per month. My last apartment in my twenties was my favorite. There was a fireplace, a roof deck with a view of the Bay, a backyard with a garden, and a dishwasher! It had really good party karma too. Granted, these all required living with roommates, but they were all quite special finds.
In my thirties, I moved to New York City, where I saw apartments for more than I was paying out west and that were so teeny-tiny that I could cook and shower at the same time. Five so-so apartments later (including one above a karaoke bar), I decided I had had enough of NYC apartment searching and returned to San Francisco (yes, both cities are expensive, but I always scored better spots in SF).
My best rental experience was in a town outside of the US. I was taking art classes in San Miguel Allende in central Mexico and lived with a woman who owned a cooking school there, so my meals were included. The studio I rented was light and airy, with colorful tapestries and French doors to the bird-filled courtyard. It wasn’t fancy by any means, but it was clean and served its purpose. The kitchen was communal, and every morning before class there was a spread of fresh fruit on the table for me. Lunches and dinners consisted of the best enchiladas verde I’d ever had and a chicken mole that she cooked from scratch from about 20 different ingredients. My studio and these amazing meals each day cost me $20 US.
That was six years ago, and I felt lucky to have scored the little studio, considering it was peak vacation time. I had asked my hosts in another town if they knew someone who had a room for my next journey. It’s always good to know someone anywhere you're looking. I was able to get into my building four years ago thanks to a friend who lived next door, and even when I moved in then, my rent was considered cheap.
What was your cheapest rent? Sometimes those places can be the best experiences…or the worst. Share either below!
(Image: Carlos Avila Gonzalez)