Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. – Ibn Battuta
It has been three-years and three months, or more precisely exactly 1,213 days since I have left Denver, Colorado to begin this journey with a one-way ticket to Belize, uncertain of where life may take me. I even prepared my family and close friends that it may be years–if ever–that they might see me again in-person. Thankfully the latter part of that statement was not true and it was an incredible feeling to be back in my home state and the Mile High City! However, with that being said, of course it felt different. Anyone that has gone away, whether for travel or has moved away from the place they grew up for a period of time, the homecoming can be bittersweet in some ways.
By this, I mean, that life continues on with or without your presence–single friends become married and start families, children become young adults, and as unfortunate as it is, people pass away–I feel that everyone can agree with this factual statement, because while these faces and relationships have just been put on type of hiatus, it's not so much that the place has change, but you are the one that has changed.
1. I'VE LEARNED TO LIVE AS A MINIMALIST
Yes, I've had the fancy new cars, the expensive weekend getaways where tossing out even a few thousand dollars didn't seem like a dent to my budget, and of course, I still own my wicked awesome four-bedroom three-bathroom place. However, I would have to say that while I enjoyed and still enjoying occasional luxuries, living with less brings much fewer headaches because I have less to maintain (i.e. a car, storage for more material possessions, etc) This is not to say that I still indulge in luxury items such as purchasing the new iPhone6 last summer, a newer Macbook Air, some other goodies as well as treating myself and friends to awesome dinners here in Seoul, because to me, being a minimalist also allows you to not only save money instead of purchasing MORE items that you DON'T NEED but YOU WANT–again a big life lesson in need versus want–but also applying the self-discipline of budgeting and savings.
2. FINDING A GREAT BALANCE BETWEEN WORK AND TRAVEL
I've found that operating my own business brings both a greater sense of happiness knowing I'm doing something I am passionate about and I have an abundance of freedom. I mean if you could set your own schedule, select your own clients, all while living in a first world country–that also happens to be the 13th most expensive city in the world to live–yet find a way to make it affordable, would you be so quick to return to the United States working for someone else with limited vacation time, high living costs, and limited vacation time? Yes, while one sacrifice is communal living the trade-offs means that I am able to earn my ENTIRE monthly living expenses in one or two days of work, and from thereon out I generally save 88% of my additional earnings. Yes, if you compare my previous salary to my current one, of course the NUMBERS appear to be daunting. But, when I have chances to relatively travel or vacation up to three or four months a year, live without health insurance yet still have access to the world's best doctors for less than what most people will spend on a co-pay with the best U.S. health insurance, and often work only part-time style hours from time-to-time, you tell me what you would do?
3. I'LL ADMIT I AM AN ENIGMA
Most of those closest to me will certainly tell you that I am a complete enigma. I mean I feel that first of all, I've always had a very independent and entrepreneurial spirit. I remember at the age of 13 I would read through the classified section of the newspaper–yes, for Millennials this is called paper and we received information from it and not electronic devices–and I would make phone calls trying to get a job because I wanted to be earning my own income! This of course didn't really pan out thanks in part to the U.S. Department of Labor laws concern child labor, again not a bad thing. When I did gain my first job as a dishwasher at a Shari's Restaurant at the age of 15, the company later found out that they were breaking the Child Labor Laws allowing me to work past specific hours in the evening on school nights and therefore I was reduced to be allowed to work one day per week. My persistence continued years later when I was 18-years-old and began working at a call center for Dish Network–unbeknownst to me that broadcast television would be my career path, but not in a cubicle call center. This was the ONLY job I have ever just walked out on! The reason is quite hilarious and yet ridiculous all at once. If you have ever seen the Mike Judge indy-classic Office Space, you know the scene when the character Peter tells the Bobs that he has eight different bosses. Well, yup that was sorta my situation. The reason I walked out you asked? Well, at these very structured corporate companies that are an exact carbon-copy of the film Office Space. We weren't employees, but "team members." We didn't have a supervisor or a boss, but a "Team Leader." C'mon corporate HR, this is a complete joke and we all know it. Well, our "team" had a specific schedule of when we would come in and work of course, and since I was not only working full time but began my first semester at college and was paying for this myself, in order to make both schedules work I placed a request that WAS APPROVED by management that allowed me to come into work one-hour earlier than my "team" and thus allowed me to leave one-hour earlier so I could make it to my evening classes. Well, EVERY morning for two weeks straight, I would come in an hour early–on time, because I have never been late to ANY job–and would plug my headset in and begin taking customer calls. Well, EVERY single morning I would have at least five to 10 people–seriously–that were other "team leaders" come over to me in the middle of a call and unplug my headset! This bothered me of course for several reasons, but the largest was because every moment my headset was NOT plugged in was like clocking out and therefore I was not being paid. I had to go through explaining, once again five or more times EVERY morning and thus was often not receiving pay for nearly 15-to-30-minutes. Finally, after two weeks of this constant–what I would equate it to is "work harassment" and these "team leaders" having nothing better to do, I finally just threw my headset down and walked out! I felt that this was ridiculous as I am TRYING to do my job and to be harassed every morning I also felt this company no longer deserved any notice of my departure and found it extremely humorous years later when HDNet became part of Dish Network's HD television package that they were now a client of MINE! Wicka-wicka, how the tables have turned! The lesson I learned here was that,
situations in life occur for a reason and how most people refer to it as karma or whatever, that future opportunities will arise and if this company would have treated me better I have always had a strong level of loyalty, but they shot themselves in the foot, in my opinion. Yes, CEO Charlie Ergen, your corporate structure is a laughing stock and while I don't take pleasure in individuals losing their jobs of course, when your business management model just outright sucks, you end up losing potentially valuable asset employees. Thank you again Mark Cuban and Philip Garvin for helping me to achieve my potential, as well as my business mentor Rachael Weaver, whom is now the General Manager of HDNet Movies. THIS is how a company should be operated successfully and how employees should be treated through encouraging development of their talents, not stifling them because of an ignorant failing model.
4. INVESTING BOTH IN THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE
I think one of the best overall investments I made came when I was 20-years-old purchasing my house. Even amid the 2008 housing market crash, Colorado was one of the first states to recover from this fact, and it doesn't hurt that when the legalization of cannabis was passed in 2012, there has been an enormous surge in the housing and rental market in the Mile High City. I also continue to seek out new business ventures, and have been offered several opportunities, but I feel I am always very analytical in my forward business thinking and have turned down more partnerships in the past year than I feel most people receive throughout their life. I've learned that money is a necessity in life, however, I've learned that it is no longer my absolute priority, and–I feel–when you you can accept this attitude towards money by learning to have a strong level of self-discipline in savings, financial freedom often finds you! I'm not saying all of these things will fall in your lap, as you may think they did for me, but no. I worked hard for each and every business I have started and every single one has been profitable within a seven-day period. I mean right now, it's January 21, 2016 as I write this entry catching up on my blogging, and I went to bed last night at 12:15am and was up NATURALLY at 3:45am and began working on my business. I didn't do this because I feel that it's necessary, but because I willingly just woke up and knew I could be productive. It's funny how when you start working for yourself your level of motivation and drive becomes a whole new entity. I'm also not saying that I haven't felt burned out or struggled with motivation, but it's just a different type.
5. STILL FINDING WAYS TO REWARD MYSELF THROUGH TRAVEL
Finding success in life still requires hard work, and in doing so, you still need to reward and treat yourself. Therefore, in less than two weeks I'll be taking a three-week vacation to visit some warm beaches to, as Koreans say, "take a rest." Also in 2016, I will be taking another two weeks off from running my businesses when my best friend from Colorado comes to visit me in Seoul as well as possible future trips back to the United States in the Summer and hopefully finally being able to cross visiting the sixth continent of my travels–Africa!
Therefore, in conclusion, based upon these five steps, I think that almost anyone can achieve long-term budget travel or financial freedom IF you are willing to make sacrifices, find your areas of weakness, and work hard to be self-disciplined through patience and perseverance.