It’s easy to get stuck in life’s rat race. You don’t see it coming and when you are there, it’s hard to see the change. When the realisation finally strikes, it feels too late. Yet it is possible and easier than you think. First, you have to recognise the problem, then give yourself permission to dream. This is the story of how I found a better life travelling
In university I developed a test. A way to measure if my life was improving or stalling. Quite simply, every week I would ask myself if I had created a good story to tell. This was great for many reasons:
- I could make any room of people laugh.
- It focused me on achieving goals
- I spent time researching varying areas of interest
- I took holidays and trips away on a whim
If a week went by where I didn’t have a good yarn to tell, it was a sign to pick up the pace. This method was effective for creating momentum and achieving goals. I still recommend it to you. In hindsight I realise it was stifling my creativity. Like Duncker’s candle experiment, it focused me too much on immediate goals. I wasn’t aware of the bigger picture, my dreams constrained by my current reality.
I was living a fast paced city life. I had lots of friends, a desirable job, great apartment and beautiful women. The problem is, my reality was limited to my life in Melbourne. Deep in my heart I knew my life was suppose to be more than that. I’d felt deep pangs of desire when visiting my friend Julian Cole in New York a year earlier, yet it wasn’t my reality
The truth was I was working crazy hours to keep the business afloat. I felt stressed constantly. My rent & staff costs were crazy, I was being pulled in a million directions by a million different people. My so-called ‘success’ was also my biggest curse. I was constantly stressed, had no time, and earning more money only bought be a nicer scotch on a Friday. There was too much time spent stressing or sleeping and not enough living life.
In 2015 I made a snap decision. After months of working to exhaustion, I’d had enough. I closed my Australian office, fired most of my staff and clients, and started to travel. Armed with a vague 6 month travel plan, my laptop, girlfriend and a few clients, I started a real adventure.
My friend Jonathon Ingram had once regaled me with a story of the sabbatical he took. A three month period where he rode his motorbike across Africa. The part of the story that struck me was when he said:
“After a full month of sitting on an island doing nothing, I finally realised how stressed I was”.
When I started my travel it felt like every month that passed by peeled back another layer of stress. The full impact of this is hard to explain in words. You are simply so use to living in your world, you don’t realise how stress changes you. Unknowingly to me, I was regressing back to that happy, university student I had been a decade before. I was happier, funnier and more engaging than at the peak of my professional career. Coincidentally, these soft skills are part of what led to the evolution of my company. Positivity breeds positivity, and doors just kept opening.
Doors Kept Opening
We travelled extensively over the first 6 months. From South East Asia, through the Middle East, Canada, USA, Mexico, Cuba and more. Everywhere we went, doors seemed to open. We lived in NYC for a while and new clients mystically appeared. The people we met along the way were drawn to our story and life-loving attitudes. In being so free and happy, we attracted opportunity, our eyes were open.
To quote Fight Club, “The things you own, end up owning you”. When we shed the chains of possession, we were no longer chained to work certain hours, or earn certain money. In finding freedom, we found opportunity and within a year the financial returns had come as well.
As a side note we learned how to travel with only 10kg of luggage. The freedom of shedding your ‘stuff’ is truely liberating.
Amazing life opportunities arose. In one adventure we travelled to London on a whim to talk at The Ultimate Man Conference. Our time flexibility meant I could grab any and every opportunity. Some of which ended up being highly lucrative. Like a $50 contract won on UpWork speeding up a WordPress website. That client turned into over $100,000 in marketing services.
It’s also important to note, my story is not in isolation. My friend James Deagan, started in Vietnam with us. He found his way to the UK and ended up working with famous chef Gordon Ramsey, running his digital marketing. This is particularly special for me. James was once my intern, then became a colleague, and a very dear friend. It’s through people like James, that I’ve been able to open doors and make things happen.
Opening My Eyes
With freedom and flexibility, comes new experiences. I found myself drawn to new things, experiencing new adventures on a daily basis. We saw sights like the ancient city of Petra, fished for squid in Vietnam and ate with the locals in Cuba. We met hundreds of people and formed lifelong bonds. We had our eyes opened to things we never considered.
The last three months we’ve spent traversing Europe. Visiting friends, and experiencing their culture. It has become our lifestyle.
As one of many examples, our friend Thomas in Austria we met on a beach in Mexico. We visited him in Kufstein Austria, and are now planning to spend a month or two there next year. It’s not a reality we would ever have considered back in Melbourne.
Breaking out of ‘reality’ is the first step in finding your happiness. For many of us, we just do. Humans love repetition, and we love to colour between the lines. Stepping outside this comfort zone takes a concerted effort. I like a quote from Tim Ferriss, “If you find yourself doing things like everyone else. You are certainly doing it wrong”.
This way of thinking is a difficult pill to swallow. There’s a lot of social pressure telling you how you should be living life. However the truth is happiness fuels success better than any job promotion ever can. Across our journey, nothing has been more obvious than this. The happiest people we meet are living life their own way. They challenge societal convention, living their dream.
Opportunity to Experiment
The mental freedom left me open to research and experiment. My workload had decreased from 12 hours per day, to just a few. Now I had time to think through the gaps in my business, and assess new opportunities. In this period I unlocked secrets to:
- Closing sales
- Packaging products
- Opening new markets
- Hiring staff
- Forming strong bonds
- Finding incredible software
- Curing my bad back
- and so much more
My client based flourished. No longer trapped in Australia, I attracted clients from the USA, Canada & Europe. The budgets these companies were willing to pay dwarfed my old Australian clients. I was working less and earning more than before.
I started new businesses. Researching emerging markets and areas of interest, new financial streams appeared. I even had time to learn about crypto-currency (BitCoin etc). From modest beginnings, my portfolio has steadily grown. It’s a hobby outside work that keep my mind active and engaged.
It’s only 5 mile long by 0.5 mile wide. Home to one of the top 10 beaches in the world, and some of the best & most diverse people I’ve ever met.
Running my agency ‘JMarketing’ from my spare room. Playing beach volleyball in the afternoon, and dining out every night. I found my paradise.
We have revolving door of friends that visit the island. Everyone talks about how incredible it is. The warm, clear water. The amazing snorkeling, our friend Matti’s beach club. Even the infamous nightly party at Poc Na.
It’s a lifestyle I would never have imagined possible. Giving myself the freedom to explore, try new things and push the boundaries. I took a great life, and made it better.
So what’s the lesson?
Should we all quit our work and travel. Should everyone aspire to live on an island? No, that would be ridiculous advice. Hunter S Thompson once wrote a letter to his friend Hume Logan. In it he described giving advice to someone else as the ‘blind leading the blind’. You should take from my story what appeals to you, and nothing more.
The question I will pose to you is this. If you took a gamble and lost everything, could you get back to where you are now? Invariably the answer is Yes. How many billionaires have lost fortunes, only to make them again? Is your $100k salary to incredible you could never obtain another? So if we accept this, then perhaps giving yourself permission to chase a dream isn’t that risky after all.
For those interested, I wrote a very detailed post on how to find cheap flights, hotels & insurance.
What are your stories, or dreams? Tell me in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.