Will and I moved to Las Vegas last week.
When I say this, people often respond in three main ways:
Will and I moved to Las Vegas last week.
When I say this, people often respond in three main ways:
Hey Rebel Nation –
Last night, a horrific earthquake shook Kathmandu, Nepal, killing at least 8,019 people (UPDATE: official count as of 4 pm Eastern on May 11, 2015). The death toll continues to rise.
Unfortunately, many others can’t say the same. Thousands of children are new orphans today. Thousands of survivors are permanently disabled or homeless. Ancient temples are destroyed. The earthquake triggered avalanches in the Himalayas, killing at least 10 climbers on Mt. Everest, with many more missing or injured.
UPDATE: This trip is sold out! Thanks everyone!!
The most memorable experiences come from combining everything you love:
A small group of us intend to create this space at a 17th-century resort in the lush mountains of Otavalo, Ecuador.
One dozen amazing people, plus four hosts, will spend a week discussing financial freedom, happiness, life passions, investing, real estate, sustainability, generosity and service, philosophy, and living your personal legend.
I’ve been on the road nearly nonstop for the past few months — including trips to Costa Rica and Ireland — and the last 30 days really took the cake: from San Diego to New Orleans to Austin, I traipsed all across the U.S.
These trips were half-work, half-play.
I made speeches and presentations at a couple of conferences, met with a various bloggers, and participated in a few face-to-face mastermind groups. But I also went camping with friends, read loads of books, hiked, kayaked, paddleboarded, and generally soaked up each new location with gusto.
I’m about to tell you something that most travel and lifestyle bloggers are afraid to say.
I’m going to reveal the truth about the “digital nomad” lifestyle.
The term “digital nomad” (or the phrase “location independent”) refers to people (like me) who have the freedom to work from anywhere on the planet with an internet connection. Bali, Barcelona, Belize — the world is wide open. We can roam the globe freely.
Most articles about location independence only highlight the awesomeness. (And to be fair, it’s absolutely awesome.) But most bloggers gloss over the rough edges.
Fortunately for you, I’m not “most bloggers.”
I’ve been in Costa Rica for a week now; a few more days until I fly out.
Believe it or not, I came here for work. I spoke at a blogging workshop for the first five days, at the invitation of a publishing company. About a dozen attendees came to learn about blog writing and tour this beautiful country.
(True to my “one day of freedom for each day of work” philosophy, I decided that 5 days of speaking should be followed by 5 days of beach time. So here I am, literally writing this blog post from the beach.)
In speaking at this workshop, I fulfilled a decade-old ambition: I’m “getting paid to travel” for the first time.
If I’ve been conspicuously quiet on this blog lately, there’s a solid reason: I’ve been traveling nearly nonstop.
One of the benefits of no longer Working for the Man is the ability to do whatever the heck I want, and “what I want” usually involves airfare.
Life hasn’t always been this way. There are three phases in a person’s quest for financial freedom: Start, Accelerate, and Escape.
Four years ago, when I first moved to Atlanta, I focused on building both my online business and my investment portfolio. I traveled very little. Those were the “Acceleration Years,” when I sacrificed all else for the sake of hitting Escape Velocity.
At first glance, Forest doesn’t seem to fit the profile of a successful entrepreneur and world traveler.
He grew up in a working-class neighborhood. He dropped out of school at age 16. He endured a tragedy in his early 20’s.
But our early life doesn’t determine our future. Forest is living proof.
He’s been traveling the world nonstop since 2007, and he runs an independent graphic design business from his laptop.
How did he succeed? And what advice can he offer to aspiring location-independent entrepreneurs and world travelers?
In this interview, Forest shares his story with the Afford Anything tribe.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity, but otherwise the story is told in Forests’ own words.
I grew up in Plumstead, a very working-class part of South East London. Back then, budget airlines and such things were not around. Taking the whole family abroad was well out of the financial reach. We did go on vacation, though, but mostly to the beaches within a few hours drive of London. I was lucky to see Wales on a few occasions.
As a young child, I wanted to be an archaeologist. I knew all the names of my toy dinosaurs and the names of sites around the world where a they had been dug up. My earliest memories include wanting to travel to far-off deserts and join the dusty dig sites, looking for a glimpse into our world’s past.
Then along came Jurassic Park. I HAD to see it, and my mother took my best friend and I to our local cinema for my 12th birthday. We had to queue around the block early to get our tickets.
As soon as the dinosaurs came onto the screen — I wanted to know how on earth they created that effect! From then onwards, I decided to get into movie special effects.
Four years later —
I left school at 16. I did very well up to that level … but I honestly wouldn’t be able to pay for higher education without going into serious debt.
However, I had other ideas.
I found a 6-month apprenticeship in Graphic Design. The pay barely covered my weekly travel card, but it would give me a foot into the industry. I planned to work in graphic design for a few years and then hop over to “moving images.”
I never made that hop! As it turned out, I enjoyed graphic design. My career and pay were doing reasonably well by the time I turned 18. My best friend and I would talk about traveling the world together.
But in late 2002, everything changed.
On my way to work one morning, my phone rang. I remember staring at the phone for a few seconds before answering. For some reason, I had a strong sense of foreboding.
The caller was my best friend’s brother. He told me that my best friend had passed away in his sleep. My best friend had terrible asthma. At least once a year, he would get carted off to the hospital due to an asthma attack. This time, his luck had run out.
My best friend was almost 21. I was 22.
We never got to travel the world together, but I carry his memory with me each and every place I go. I miss him dearly.
For about 6 months, I sat around feeling sorry for myself. But I slowly started to kick myself back into shape. The idea I could just – “not wake up” — played on my mind.
I couldn’t mess around anymore. I needed to embrace each day.
Shortly after that, I flew on an airplane for the first time.
My first flight was to Guernsey, an island off the coast of the UK. Even though I hadn’t even left the UK, it felt foreign! I loved every minute of it. I knew more than ever I had to travel the world.
Over the next few years I took trips to France, Andorra and around the UK. In 2005, I traveled to Banff, Canada. I had never felt so far away from home, never felt such cold temperatures, never seen such high mountains. It was exhilarating.
I knew that “one day” I wanted to live somewhere foreign.
But “one day” still seemed far off. I had a very high paying job and I felt pressure to buy a house and “settle down.”
So in 2006, I purchased a flat in London. I spent the maximum I could afford. I laid down a tiny deposit and started to settle into the life of being stuck with an overblown mortgage for an undersized living space.
Just a few months later, I started to get itchy. My mortgage payments were huge, and I wasn’t happy within my high-stress job. I felt like I was being squeezed by a Boa Constrictor.
I realized I wasn’t enjoying London as much as I used to. And I did not enjoy home ownership one bit!
A good friend of mine was living in Montreal at the time. I decided I was going to do something crazy and just move there. In 2007, I quit my job, left the UK, and spent the next two years living in Montreal and Vermont.
Unfortunately, I left without preparing financially — This is NOT a model I want anyone else to follow.
I struggled for the first two years. I had no savings.
I worked at an Irish pub in Montreal, washing dishes. (I was later promoted to a sandwich cook.) I rented a small basement apartment, which I shared with a few other people.
During this time, my mindset changed dramatically. I learned to relish being frugal.
Back in London, when I had a well-paying job, I spent too much money and lived beyond my means. Traveling changed my mentality about money.
These days — even when I have money — I still tend to live modestly. I have a basic level of comfort, but nothing extravagant.
I thought Canada might become my new, permanent home. But my partner (whom I met in Montreal) decided to enroll in graduate school in Cairo, Egypt, and she asked if I wanted to move there with her.
I said yes without hesitation.
Living in Egypt was so mind-blowing that I realized I’d probably never want to stay anywhere permanently. We had to evacuate from Egypt during the Arab Spring revolution in 2011.
Since then, we’ve lived all over the world – we spent a year in New Zealand. We’re currently in Budapest, Hungary.
I wasn’t sure how to make money. In London, I’d worked as a print designer – not an online designer. So I didn’t think I could work in online design.
I started a small blog and learned web design and WordPress basics – just to get myself set up. People started asking me who designed my graphics. When they learned that I created my own designs, they asked me if I could do the same for them. I started accepting small graphic design jobs.
As time went on, word-of-mouth spread and my client list grew. I learned new skills as-needed (and I continue to teach myself new skills, to this day)!
I have never advertised my services. I’ve always gotten word-of-mouth clients. On occasion, I’ve asked my current clients if they know anyone who needs design work — that’s the most “marketing” I’ve ever done.
Living in a place for a while enables you to soak up the zeitgeist. You get a kind of feeling that you ‘get it,’ you understand this new setting, culture and people. You make friends that often stick for life (I hope).
You find out things you never would have understood in tourist mode, and you get an insight into the aspects of life help you more deeply understand the world.
One of the reasons I didn’t travel for so long is that I seem to have inherited “the worry gene.” I worry things won’t work out, worry that I won’t have enough money, won’t that I won’t be happy, blah, blah, blah.
It’s taken me years of battling to pin this little devil down. Of course, the worry rears its ugly head at times. It’s a constant fight!
No matter how much preparation you do, its always different than you expected. That means you’ll always experience a tiny bit of doubt … but you have to promise yourself that no matter what, you will make it the right move. With this mindset, everywhere is a good place to go!
I think most people have the ability to rearrange their life so they can save enough money and get out into the world. Once you start talking with travelers, you meet people from every corner of the world, from all kinds of backgrounds, all political leanings, all religions. Literally anyone with any background or mindset can benefit from travel.
Traveling away from home has taught me a lot about the place I grew up. I now approach London as a destination, like any other. I can experience people, cuisines and music within the city, and feel like I am traveling without moving far at all.
Travel can happen by walking down a street, attending a cultural event or reading a magazine or website. Anyone can open their mind to transcend their own bubble and see the world around them.
You can read Forest’s story at EverydayNomad.com
But you also want a practical plan.
You’re as pragmatic as you are adventurous. You’re a rebel with a retirement plan.
How do you start?
After last week’s post, several Afford Anything Rebels asked me how to prepare for a massive leap into the unknown.
Some want to travel. Others want to start their own business. Some just want to ditch the cubicle and see what happens next.
In response, I’ve created The Essential 4-Step Guide to Escaping the Ordinary. The steps have an easy acronym: the ABCD Game Plan.
We’ll tackle the steps in reverse order: DCBA.
What do you want to do?
Travel the world? Launch a business? Become a real estate tycoon?
Whatever your goal, you might have some false assumptions about how to get there.
To shatter those assumptions, delve into the subculture of people who are doing the same thing you’re trying to do. Read books, browse Internet forums, and don’t be afraid to ask silly questions.
Once you take this step, you’ll discover new information that will change for plans — for the better.
Let’s take travel as an example:
At this early stage in planning, you might be thinking: “I love the beach. Maybe I should go to Aruba.”
But as you dive deeper into the long-term traveler subculture, you’ll begin to understand that your experience in a particular place is created not just by the photogenic attractions, but also by the average prices, infrastructure and amenities.
If you want the privacy of a spacious villa for less than $10 per day, for example, Southeast Asia might be ideal. But if you prefer a jam-packed hipster party hostel, Europe is your zone.
There’s one more essential component to the “D” Step: Set a Damn Deadline. If you don’t, you’ll never make the leap.
This is the most critical step.
Most people who don’t take a dramatic leap into the unknown cite commitments as their reason.
Here’s the hard truth: Most people enter into commitments without thinking of the long-term consequences on their future flexibility and freedom.
(Hence why so many people are in debt.)
You need to do two things: Break the commitments that you can ethically sever, and renegotiate the ones that you can’t.
This is the most crucial step. I repeat: MOST crucial.
Here’s how this would look:
Debt and relationships are two types of commitments that get special attention, due to their gravity.
Freakin’ pay it off already!! OMG people, is this really a question?
Okay, if you have a mortgage, I get it. There’s no rush to pay down your mortgage before an epic round-the-world journey. Stick a renter in your house while you’re traipsing across the globe, and if you bought correctly, that renter should be covering every dime plus extra.
(If you didn’t buy correctly, sell the house. It’s a chain that’s preventing you from traveling and experiencing the life you love.)
If you have a student loan at some stupidly-low interest rate, like 2 percent (less than inflation), and some token monthly payment, like $40 per month, you also get a pass. There’s no massive rush to pay that off.
But if you have any debt that’s higher than 6 percent interest, start living on ramen noodles and stop making excuses. Decimate that beast.
I hear from a lot of people that they want to do X (become their own boss, spend a year in Italy) but their significant other isn’t on-board.
Now, I’m not a relationship counselor. But I see this as a massive problem in your compatibility. You two have a serious divergence of values and priorities, and those need to get aligned.
Before I began dating Will, I ended a relationship with someone purely based on the fact that I was going to travel for two years. This other guy had a thriving career as a magazine editor and wanted to stay stateside. He had zero interest in traipsing the globe.
I’m proud of him. But we’re not compatible. In my world, “I never want to travel” is a deal-breaker.
So our relationship ended, and I prepared to travel solo. And at the last minute, along came Will. He had recently sold his business and was looking for his next adventure.
Whatever. I impatiently jetted off without him. Paula waits for no man.
Will surprised me by popping up unexpectedly in Thailand, where he asked if I’d become his girlfriend.
The rest is history.
(… Wait, where was I going with this?)
Oh yeah, relationships. So the moral of the story is:
This step is pretty straightforward.
Now that you’ve delved into the details (i.e. you’ve done your homework), you have a rough idea of how much your undertaking will cost. And you know your Damn Deadline.
Divide cost by time.
Easiest. Step. Ever.
“I want to spend 12 months traveling Southeast Asia. I know I can live comfortably on $35 per day. Multiplied by 365 days, that’s $12,775.
“That sounds like a lot, until you consider that it’s WAY cheaper than my cost-of-living here at home.
“Okay, now let’s add a 10 percent buffer to that estimate. This brings us to $14,052. My Deadline is one year from now. This means I’ll need to start saving $270 per week.
“Hmm. My freelance / consulting / teaching side hustle brings in $200 per week. If I cancel my cable, cook from scratch and stop getting plastered at bars, I bet I could save another $70 per week.”
Boom! That’s how it’s done.
Let’s try it for aspiring entrepreneurs:
“I’ve been working this awesome side hustle in the evenings and weekends for the past year. It’s already bringing in $475 every week, or $1,900 per month. And I only work at it 10 hours a week.
“I really think that if I ditched my crummy cubicle job, I could make this a full-time gig.
“Let’s think through this. My cost-of-living is $3,000 per month. I want to save enough to support myself in full for six months.
“That’s $18,000. If I save all the money that I make through this side hustle, I could build those reserves in a little over 9 months. I’ll use cash from my regular day job to pay my estimated taxes during that time.
“Those 9 months will also give me time to seriously ramp up my efforts – to 15 or 20 hours a week – and see if that extra effort yields more income and opportunity.
“Of course, I probably won’t need to tap that $18,000 reserve. After all, when I ditch the cubicle, I’ll already be pulling in almost $2,000 per month or more. Still, I’ll sleep easier knowing that it’s there.”
This is going to seem like the scariest step. But it’s crucial.
You can’t waste your life waiting for someone in your existing network to join you on your adventure. Your current friends are not necessarily the most reliable, qualified or desirable people to accompany you (or to partner with you) on your travel or business idea.
You must be prepared to start this journey alone.
Yeah … alone.
But don’t worry. You’ll never truly be alone.
Once you start along your adventure – whether that’s entrepreneurship, investing, travel, or any other escapade – you’ll meet be plenty of people who will befriend you and help you along the way.
By definition, you’ll meet people who are journeying the same route.
Some of these people will become mentors. Leaders. Trusted friends. You’re on the cusp of bonding with some of the most brilliant, interesting people that you’ll ever encounter.
You just haven’t met them yet.
And you’ll never meet them if you keep wallowing in your living room.
Your success, in fact, will hinge on your connections with this new rockstar network. In business, this is self-evident. But you’ll discover that this is true in non-professional pursuits, such as travel, as well.
In travel, your adventure will be characterized by the people you encounter, not the postcard-gracing attractions you see. Your fondest memories won’t be visiting the Pyramids. Instead, at the end of it all, you’ll remember that time that you got into a water-balloon fight with those goofy twins in the Czech Republic, after which you all went out for banana toffee cake and a cup of lemon tea.
Doesn’t it sound awesome? I can’t wait to enjoy a slice of banana toffee cake with new friends I haven’t met yet.
Or to start that business that I haven’t imagined yet.
Or buy the rental property I haven’t seen yet.
Or, if you’re a contrarian like me, D-C-B-A.
That’s the key to getting started.