I used to think that $10 million in the bank would set me free. At that level, I could safely live off the interest for a lifetime.
That safety meant I could do anything I wanted for the rest of my life without fear of failure.
When I left Canada last year, it’s not because I reached my magic number though it's the question I get most from those following me on IG.
Instead of waiting for my “fuck you money”, I met my “fuck this” moment.
Fifteen years into my work career, I noticed that though I was making steady progress toward my financial freedom, I had also aged out of my 20s and was soon going to age out of my 30s.
I watched my parents retire in their 60s and knew that I could not wait decades more to live out my dreams.
So I reached for a skill I had developed without title or specific intention from my 20s.
Into the mountains
At the end of my undergrad, I was not enthusiastic to join the working world and was hell-bent to find another path.
In those days, my university’s motto was “the spirit of why not”. A lot of cool innovations were born there, and the line was meant to encourage students to try building something before turning into employees.
My classmates would jokingly use the phrase in everyday life. Skipping class for taco tuesday, walking home 45 mins from the club, throwing house parties, cramming for exams, etc.
But that thinking stuck, and it became the mantra for taking even bigger risks.
Instead of joining my graduating class in the workforce, I talked my way into running a hostel in Peru in exchange for room and board.
I had never been there, nor did I speak Spanish. It was the days of MSN Messenger, so I had only talked to the hostel owner twice in a chat window over a dial-up connection before landing in Cusco two months later. I didn't even know what he looked like!
My parents were justifiably freaked out, but I promised to come back if it was a bad situation. They trusted me and I trusted me.
For 6 months, I ran that hostel, helping guests make sense of their itineraries, making breakfast and keeping the facility stocked. I spent time learning Spanish and meeting other travelers who lived in my little town.
There were lonely days, and ones where I wondered what the hell I was doing.
But it was also the best decision of my life to that point.
Taking risks taught me how to take risks. I allowed my street sense to fill in where language escaped me, and being there showed me a variety of ways to live.
Understanding the limit
I could be a renunciate, but that life requires a particular type of commitment.
Financial freedom first starts with staying out of debt, then building some financial independence, and designing contingencies for emergencies. This is a big topic on it's own, so I recommend some reading if this is news.
After a minimal baseline of savings and ability to earn a livelihood, the biggest barrier to people living fully is a lack of imagination.
Without vision, fear defeats curiosity and we stick to the safety of our long-term baseline.
In my experience, that means mimicking family members play it safe and taking advice from those who never went far from home, figuratively and literally.
Most people stay close to the nest for their own safety and to meet the emotional needs of those around them. It is possible to evolve past this resistance if it is wanted.
Back home, my parents were never been excited about me leaving. Not when I went to Peru and not when I left Canada last year. But they knew what it looked like when I had made a decision and committed to my success.
Last year, I went to Costa Rica to thaw out from Canadian winter and lockdown number who-even-remembers.
It took me a few months to realise that I would not be back to Canada, and as I articulated that understanding, a familiar pattern emerged.
It's as if through muscle and universal memory new ideas, communities and opportunities appeared.
The skill of risk-taking practiced in a big way 15 years ago, and honed ever since, developed me into the resilient income-generating asset I had set out to build long ago.
Marlon | Noticing Newsletter
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