When I decided to get involved in real estate investing my goal was in line with most of the motivational posts you see about “firing your boss” living free and controlling your destiny. Freedom has different meanings to all of us but to me it was realized after a trip to Australia. I learned how the rest of the world had been living while I was working nonstop and it was amazing.
When I graduated from college I’d packed a car with my dog and drove to California. It was both the best and scariest decision I’d ever made in my life, it found me 2,000 miles from home with $1000 to my name. It was terrifying, I hated the uncertainty and as a result I spent the next three years working non-stop to get established and build a safety net. Although that was smart, I took it to the extreme and missed out on a lot of life over those three years because I was focused only on money and security.
After a bad break up I knew I needed an escape, I managed to plan a trip to sneak off to Australia for just under a month but it wasn’t easy. I had to miss Christmas with my family (thanks Mum for being understanding) and use every single vacation day I had saved for two years. What I experienced during that trip gave me a glimpse into the work/life balance of other cultures and I soon realized what I had been missing out on.
You’ll be met with two responses from people when you let them know about your extended travel plans. “One month! How are you pulling that off???” and “One month, why such a short trip?” You can guess which will come from friends and coworkers within the states. For some reason in the U.S, vacation is a dirty word. Synonymous with being lazy, self-centered and not being a team player at work. There is a culture that pats you on the back for working all the time and somehow we’re fooled to believe long vacations are a luxury for only the wealthy or backpackers who sold everything with no regard for the future. The truth is it’s for people who make it a priority, simple as that.
Ironically when I quit my corporate job, I found myself working just as much as I had before and I still felt the same anxiety towards taking an extended trip. It was a muscle memory built into me from years of working in an environment and culture that commended you for working all the time and judged you for taking time off. I’d worked to build a business and leave a job for “freedom” only to realize the only freedom I’d gained was if I wanted to wear pants while working (which is pretty cool).
“Hang around dogs and you’ll get fleas” this sounds much cooler when spoken with a southern drawl but you get the point. We’re a product of who we surround ourselves with, professionally, socially and spiritually. Perhaps California is an extreme of this but if you’re a hard worker you are respected and rewarding yourself with nice items for your hard work is totally acceptable instead of taking time off.
That seemed to be the key difference I noticed, the travelers I’d met lived simple they didn’t have the latest and greatest of anything but that allowed them the freedom to be able to afford to travel more and that was a trade off they were content with. To quote a good friend of mine “You have a watch, but I have time”. What an American would spend in a week at a resort others could stretch into a month and see and experience so much more on their travels. They had time to use to explore and pursue their passions while we were racing to stuff everything into seven days so we could get back to work.
What I realized was it simply came down to priorities, give and take. Can you live and get by on less to allow yourself more freedom to do the things you want? We’re selling time, every day to our employers or businesses. How much time do you feel like selling this year? If you live on less, you don’t have to sell as much of your time and you then have more freedom to focus on your passions. For me that would be wandering the world meeting people, finding adventures and spending time with my family. I know there is a balance, I’m not suggesting living on Ramen noodles to allow yourself to work less but when is enough, enough? I know that is a personal question we all must ask ourselves but have you actually asked yourself that? Maybe you should.
For example you may think you see me living the dream on Facebook but that isn’t the whole story. I drive a $3,000 Toyota truck; I rent out a room in my house and try to live as simple as possible to allow myself more freedom to work less. I don’t have cable and I think very hard before I make any big ticket purchases. I run all business costs on credit cards for air miles that pay for all my flights. All of these habits are designed to keep my life simple so I can take off for a month without much consequence. I can live more now and later while selling less of my time so I can enjoy it for myself with the people I care about the most.
I defined what was important to me and pushed past those fears of uncertainty so that I could pursue it. Maybe travel isn’t your thing and that’s okay. This type of mindset can be used for any dream or passion you have in life. Defining what is important to you whether it’s family, personal development, a pastime or whatever. Instead of having the “one day” mindset you can work to structure your life to allow you to experience those things now.
I’m turning 32 in a few weeks and I already feel lazier and less motivated to put up with some of the travel sacrifices of third world countries than I was a few years ago (no hot water, 10 hour bus rides, hostels, bunk beds & sleeping on airport floors). Something tells me when I’m 65 years old I’m not dealing with that, so why would I wait and work my whole life and putting my dreams on hold until an age when I may very well be too old to truly enjoy them. But that is the culture in America, to work now and play later…
What if there isn’t a later? We aren’t promised a certain number of days on this planet that is a gamble we all take if we aren’t doing what makes us happy today in hopes we get to find a chance to do it someday in the future. A little fear of your own mortality is a good thing, we’ve got one crack at this life make it something special. I guess it just comes down to having a target, if you know what you want it’s much easier to hit it. Try defining those things you want in life instead of this vague dream with a “one day” mindset.
I wrote this post because I’ve met a lot of “one day” people recently and I’m not too shy about sharing that I secretly dream of being a motivational speaker. I thought maybe if I put it out there, what thought processes I used to adjust my life and share the insight on how I pull it off it would allow others to realize I’m not special. I don’t have some secret formula and anyone can do the same if they choose to make it a priority. Is it scary? Yes it can be, but the thought of looking back on a life wasted not taking those opportunities to put myself out there sounds much scarier to me. I truly hope this comes across as helpful and not bragging, I don’t have it all figured out and I’m constantly humbled by the wisdom of others who were unafraid to expose themselves and share that wisdom and vulnerability with me, so I felt obligated to do the same.