“Where does the money come from?”

I’ve featured recently in a couple of press articles.

The West Australian, a Perth-based newspaper, has run several articles in the past, beginning when I listed my “entire life” for sale on eBay back in 2008. They have done a couple of follow-ups, and this recent article was a double page spread in the colour section of the Saturday edition of the paper.

Click the link below, or on the picture itself to see the article online:

West_Australian-21-06-2015Just before the West Australian article was published The Guardian newspaper in the UK ran a feature called “I gave it all up…”, which told the stories of five people who made a fresh start in life. I was one of the people profiled. I was a little confused about how I apparently worked as a pharmacy manager:

What is it like to quit your job and start all over again? From the lawyer who became a human cannonball, to the pharmacy manager who went to live on a desert island, five risk-takers share their stories.

It took me a while to figure it out. I am currently living and working in China, and did the interview via Skype. The connection was pretty good, but I guess the reporter mis-heard when I said I was a “rug store manager” – obviously he got “drugstore manager”!



Spoiled successful people?

While the articles make interesting reading, what always interests me are the comments people make about the articles. Here are a few from the Guardian’s “I gave it all up…” story:

  • Lawyers, manager, trader – very easy to give it all up when you have a bank balance to fall back on.
  • “I made shit loads of money, but it somehow felt wrong so I became an artisan baker, but if it all goes tits up I still have my trust fund and savings.”
  • I wonder how many of these quit their highly paid jobs *before* they had enough savings to indulge the child inside?
  • I gave it all up and had to rely on just the old trust fund for the next three years, got a bit dam worried when the old current account only had 50 thou left and I had two months to go before the trust paid up for the next year. Managed to economise though, ate what I shot on the estate, that sort of thing.
  • Any stories about how people who don’t have a million in savings quit the jobs they didn’t like?
  • I gave it all up except the mortgage-free house with the swimming pool in the back garden, which I can sell for approximately 77 years of a full-time minimum wage salary if it all goes tits up.
  • This article makes me think of spoiled successful people wanting to do something ‘real’; whereas most of the world is struggling along in reality without the option of ‘giving it all up’.
  • Yeah, great if you have money.
  • Exactly. Is just another thing you can achieve if you earn a ton of money. Is just another luxury. Instead of “denying the system” like most of them claim, is a even more brutal reinforcement of their social status/position.
  • Wonderful stories and good on them BUT they all earned high salaries beforehand so likely had some capital to start up.

I have picked these particular comments to illustrate my point, and to be fair there are quite a few comments which are more positive in nature too. But there certainly does seem to be a perception that to “give it all up” requires a huge bank balance. Perhaps some of the people profiled do have savings and a financial safety net. But some don’t.

I am often asked how I manage to finance the lifestyle I live, and often the question has an undertone of, “It’s alright for you, but I couldn’t afford to do that.”

So, where does the money come from?

I think the answer for many people who do experience some measure of success is that the money comes from working hard, making choices and sacrifices, and choosing to follow a course that is quite a bit more challenging than the usual path through life that most take.

Speaking for myself, I don’t have any sort of trust fund, or millions in the bank. What I do have I have worked very hard for. Before listing my “entire life” for sale I used to work long twelve-hour shifts driving a truck in a mine, saving as much money as I could. I didn’t spend that money on an expensive new car, or on eating and drinking out regularly. I saved it, paying off as much of my mortgage as I could each month.

When I finally did sell my house in 2009 the sale produced a decent lump sum after the mortgage was paid off. Was I lucky? Was money handed to me on a plate? Of course not. I used this money to fund a couple of years of travel and adventure, and afterwards spent four months writing a book about the whole amazing journey.

The book now provides some income, but again, it is something I worked very hard to produce. With the remnants of my funds I bought a small overgrown island in the Caribbean, spending two years working very hard to turn it into a comfortable home.

I sold a one-third share of the island in May 2014, and using that money, travelled with my partner Vanessa around southern USA in an RV. At the end of that journey funds were running a little low, so we decided we were going to have to do some work. We are currently living in Shenzhen in China, where we are working as English teachers in order to top up the funds.

What’s next?

We are planning to head to Australia at the end of the year, after working for a full twelve months as teachers here in China. We aim to have saved enough to then live for six months to a year without having to work. Combining travel with house sitting on a medium to long term basis means that we can stretch our funds out for quite some time.

So we really can’t be considered rich by any means. We know how we want to live, and value our freedom to pick and choose our own adventures and locations. We are prepared to work hard when we need to in order to fund this lifestyle, and we are also prepared to make some sacrifices.

Once the island sells we won’t own any property, so really don’t have anywhere to call home. While this gives us the freedom we desire, it does mean that we have to accept that we don’t have the fall-back security and comfort of a home base.

We don’t eat out often, and when we do it is usually at a cheaper local Chinese restaurant. We don’t spend huge sums of money going out drinking, and we pick our entertainment to keep costs low. We’d rather save our money to spend on the wonderful experiences to be had when travelling and seeing what the world has to offer.

Life is about choices, and the people who make somewhat bitter comments on news articles about others who have chosen a different path could probably do the same thing themselves, if only they were prepared to make some different choices too.

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