Thoughts on life changes
Many years ago I had a blog on one those shared hosting websites. It didn’t get any traffic or comments but I enjoyed writing and putting down my thoughts (my biggest blogging mistake was not getting my own website until 2013). Recently, out of curiosity, I went back to that blog. I found this old post, written in 2008, that made me reflect on where we were at that time, where we are now (9 years later), and how life sometimes throws you curveballs. You have ideas about the future, about how you want to live and travel. Sometimes things don’t work out how you expected or even wanted.
Anyway, before I get into that here’s that old post.
Montreal – Hockey game from a Lodge box.
December 12, 2008
Last night I was lucky enough to get invited to watch a Montreal Canadiens game from a lodge box at the Bell Center. Montreal is a crazed city when it comes to hockey, I know people who would willingly donate internal organs for such an opportunity. The lodge belonged to Scotia Capital and we were about 10 invitees – free beer, Australian wine (Linderman’s Shiraz), and tons of food; smoked salmon, roast beef, chicken stuffed with something…then the desert buggy came and I had cheese cake and Grand Marnier.
Lissette and I won’t live this life forever; we both look forward to quitting our jobs and doing some travelling and settling overseas for a while. Routine kills, no matter how good life is, people need changes and new challenges. Being there last night made me realize how lucky I am and how others would think we are totally bonkers to even contemplate leaving a comfortable lifestyle for the sake of new experiences. Travelling in South-East Asia when you can stay here and be invited to soirees where you get free wine and chicken stuffed with things? Yup, we must be crazy and stupid. But we’ve also been living this life for almost 20 years now and looking around, at similarly-aged banking aquaintances who are suddenly gray-haired and aging prematurely only reinforces my thinking. You only live once.
So I’ll appreciate these great perks that come with the job when they come, and remember them with no regrets in a few years when we’re travelling through the Philippines or Indonesia or Thailand, finally living on our schedule and doing things we’ve always dreamed of doing.
How we did it
The road to our current lifestyle wasn’t a straight line. I had a comfortable well-paying job with good people that I had been working with since 1993. When I wrote the above I figured I’d get another 5 years out of it. That’s what I had budgeted for when planning to “leave it all”. Things didn’t work out that way. In 2009 the company was sold to Swiss interests. I was put in charge of restructuring all the new company’s corporate and financial operations. It started great, they loved me and I enjoyed the new responsibilities. There was even talk of moving to Geneva. Things changed about a year into the new job when the ‘newness’ faded and day-to-day routine set in. I started realizing that I couldn’t work for these people. The relationship deteriorated and 6 months later, in April of 2011, I quit/was fired. I left the company with a settlement. I was 44 years old and officially retired. And just like that, my dreams of travel were back at the forefront.
It took another 3 years before we actually left Montreal. During that time I kept busy setting up my own company, doing renovations on our Montreal condo, and planning all the details involved with leaving our lives behind. All these things have contributed to maintaining our present travel lifestyles: the company never did as well as hoped (but it still brings in monthly income), the condo was rented out when we left Montreal, and all the other details were a necessity. Living overseas itself is not at all hard, the hardest part of travel is managing all the stuff back home (taxes, paying bills, storage of your personal belongings, insurance, health care, drivers licence, banking, credit cards, etc etc). “Normal people” don’t travel for years on end and the system is not set up with our lifestyles in mind.
Lissette’s job was the last outstanding thing. Her boss didn’t want her to quit. They asked that she continue working from overseas. It ended up being a blessing.
We’ve had some people ask us recently about ‘our story’ and how we made it happen. The above covers some of that. But it doesn’t cover the years of planning, saving and investing that went into making our present lives possible. Over the last 20 years most of the decisions I made were with the idea that we would one day leave Montreal to travel and live overseas.
Expectations and changes in course
I found it interesting re-reading the above post because our travels haven’t really gone as planned or expected.
– “Travelling in South-East Asia”. Based on our budget and previous trips to SE Asia, I figured the region would be where we would be spending most of our time post-retirement. 6 months in Thailand in 2014 was enough for us, we’ve decided that SE Asia is fine for “trips” but that we didn’t enjoy long periods of time there. If we have to get really tight with money we’ll go back and probably stay in Nong Khai again. But given the choice we prefer Eastern Europe, a region that had never been on our radars.
– Money. I remember a conversation with my ex-boss Tony a few years before leaving where he said “you can never have enough money. You can budget as much as you want but things always come up“. It’s true. It also affords you a lot more possibilities. Money has meant travelling to places never in our plans, like our 7 weeks in Japan or 3 months in South Africa. Or now setting up our base in Split. Having monthly income from various sources, plus our savings, has been the key for us. We’ve met travel bloggers who gave it all up to live in corrugated metal shacks in rural Thailand. Can you imagine?
– Lifestyle. You don’t want to give up all the good things from your previous life in order to travel. You might think you can (like living in a corrugated metal shack) but why would you leave your lifestyle in the developed world to live a 3rd world existence? Lissette came to Montreal from New York, we both lived in Montreal 20+ years. We like good food and wine. I don’t miss the fancy work dinners and cocktail parties and all that came with that – but we still enjoy going to a restaurant a couple of times a month. We have certain standards. You don’t want to suddenly give up all the good things in life to travel.
All I’m saying with these last two points is don’t underestimate the need for savings and how you’ll live once overseas.
– “others would think we are totally bonkers to even contemplate leaving a comfortable lifestyle”. One of the questions we get is “how did friends and family react to your plans of leaving for this lifetyle?”. The honest answer is that you won’t get much support. Family, especially if older, will most likely consider you frivolous. It’s understandable I guess – they don’t want to see you fuck your life up. Others might look at you funny, say “why would you want to do that?”, or just evade the issue. It might be jealousy in some cases, in other cases they just don’t understand why the heck you would want to pack up your life and leave to travel. We basically learned not to talk about it with others, it just left us feeling uncomfortable. When the time came we just announced it. No discussion. In the end it’s your life and you have to have the conviction to carry out your hopes and dreams (whatever they may be). We’ve spoken to many people like ourselves and they’ve said the same about their family and friend’s reactions. Don’t expect support.
I wrote that post only 9 years ago. In many ways the way we’ve travelled, the places we’ve been, and our lifestyles have been very different than what I had thought they’d be back in 2008. I think this is important because I sometimes read posts by younger people who talk of travelling and making money doing odd jobs, freelancing or becoming “travel bloggers” without having the financial means, a backup plan, or considering their lives further in the future. Just because someone wants to travel today it doesn’t mean they’ll want to do that indefinitely. What if they want to start a family down the line? Or buy a house? Or have savings? Where will you be in 25 years? I see the changes over 9 years in our lives, even in the way we’ve travelled over the last 3 years, and I think people wanting to travel have to leave their minds open to possible changes down the line. Are you leading yourself down a one way street choosing a life of travel? Coming from a financial background one of the terms I like to use is “opportunity cost” ie. the loss of other opportunities when one opportunity is chosen. Are you sacrificing good income producing years in order to travel? I’m just saying that leaving at the right time, with enough money saved up, is important.
One last thing from that old post:
– “We’ve also been living this life for almost 20 years now and looking around, at similarly-aged banking aquaintances who are suddenly gray-haired and aging prematurely only reinforces my thinking. You only live once”. Lissette hadn’t really travelled much before meeting me and she was more nervous than I was about leaving everything behind to travel. Over the last year I’ve heard her saying “I only wish we had started this lifestyle earlier” more than once. Our plans may not have gone exactly according to plan but this is for me the ultimate confirmation of our choices. We’ve lived more in the last 3 years than in the previous 9 years together. It may not always be easy but it’s never stopped been stimulating. I’ve voiced my misgivings about people prematurely leaving their lives behind to travel – done right it can be a fantastic and rewarding lifestyle. Neither of us could ever go back to working in an office, doing the usual 9-5. Never. Nobody wants to go backwards in life. Would I want to move back into that small apartment I had when I was a university student? No. Being back in an office working 9-5 would be equivalent to that.
What I really take away from reading old posts however is how things change. Documenting our lives and our travels is why I started the blog. I think it’s why some people keep diaries. You might have certain ideas of what you want at a certain point in life but those change with time. Attitudes change. And stuff happens in life that you can’t change even if you wanted to (back to my guiding principle of “Shit Happens”). 9 years from now I’ll probably be looking at this post and reflecting on how much life has changed from the present. Expectations and hopes for the future will most likely be totally different than they are now.
I just hope I’m not living in a corrugated metal shack in Thailand.
Update: Back in Montreal…and reflecting on life changes
Related: Is it safe to Travel? The weird and scary from 6 years of full-time travel
Ps. If you find our blog helpful, please consider using our links to book your flights, hotels, tours, and car rentals. Have a look at our Travel Resources page.
If you haven’t subscribed yet and want to get our posts and newsletters sent to your email, just insert your email address below
Tag Along Deb
Wow! You got to experience box seats at a Canadiens game?! Why would you give up that lifestyle??? 🙃
I don’t have the desire to give up my home base in Winnipeg (go Jets go!), but after a decade of tagging along on my spouse’s business travel every couple of months and the odd period living abroad, I can’t imagine staying put anywhere. It’s not a lifestyle for everyone, and you do sacrifice some things (I want a dog!), but the world is a fascinating place that we’ve become addicted to exploring.
Ha! Yes. I actually didn’t really like going to hockey games – preferred watching from the comfort of my living room. But would still go about 5 times a year.
Like anything it gets old. We’re not going to travel like this forever but we’ll never get travel out of our system.
You still have a base in Winnipeg Deb? We used to deal with the Canadian Wheat Board so I went quite a few times.
The question is, and you’re living the same thing, how do you settle down to a normal life (including a dog) after travelling so much? We’re thinking of having a base next year in Spain but sometimes I admit the idea of having our own place again makes me nervous…
Tag Along Deb
Yeah, I’m not sure how one settles down after years of heavy travel. I just assume that at some point I’ll want to? We have an incredible lifestyle in Winnipeg (living a stone’s throw from the old Wheat Board building) and I can’t imagine giving it up. I’m a big Winnipeg fan. We are contemplating a month-long stay in Madrid this winter. Where are you planning to set up there next year?
I don’t think it’ll be Madrid. I think it’s too big for us. Is your husband going for work?
We’re thinking somewhere along the coast south of Valencia…or inland north of Madrid. No idea yet, we’re planning a 3 month trip in Spain starting in February and will explore potential bases.
One of the things we have to do is go back to Canada to apply for our Spanish Visa. It can take 3 – 8 weeks so we’re thinking that instead of waiting around we might do a cross-Canada trip by train in the spring. Lissette hasn’t seen much of the country.
I see that this post is a couple of years old but it is exactly the right post for me to read today. Thank you for emphasizing the importance of getting your financial planning done. I have felt both encouraged and yet doubtful of some of the digital nomad advocates. I’m sure that some people can and do find their life’s call along the way, but I actually did take a sojourn in my early thirties and ended up with an emptied RRSP and credit card debt. A good lesson for sure, but I still don’t regret that time out because I met people and learned things that had a huge impact on my life that I never would have learned otherwise. I continue to fantasize about taking some more time out but am taking more time to get things in place. It was encouraging to hear that it took you 3 years to do that even after you left your job. I will continue to learn from your life lessons before embarking on more of my own 🙂 Katie
Hi Katherine. Thanks for your email – I see you have a .ca on your email. Whereabouts in Canada are you from? I’m always happy when I get fellow Canadians on the blog.
Yes, I know about “those” bloggers selling the digital nomad dream. There’s a whole industry in that…We were in our mid-40’s when we left Canada and really it was a lifetime of planning for this lifestyle. But I always say where there’s a will there’s a way …
Frank…enjoyed the time capsule element of this post. Life is always a mix of planning and serendipity.
Very true Ric. Thank you 🙂
This year, I also found an old blog of mine… and I felt the same. In a span of 4-5 years, things have changed so much and I never expected to live the way I am living now. Granted, I’m still in my home country (for now), but I’ve had a change of philosophies in life and feel like I’m a completely different person.
It’s great to know you both have the courage to move away from your comfort zone and travel the way you do. Great advice too on saving up first. 🙂 I think the good thing about technology nowadays is that you can travel while doing remote work, as many people do so it doesn’t become strictly a choice of working in an office job vs traveling.
It’s funny how we look at our everyday lives and think things haven’t changed all that much or that our thought processes and plans have been stable. But when you step back and re-examine where you were a few years back that’s when you realize how much things have really changed.
You’re young Katherine. You’ve got a head start on most people. You’ve got tons of travelling ahead of you 😉
Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
you made your dreams come true:)
I thought for sure I’d put a comment on this post, Frank but those nasty comment gods have sent it somewhere else. So fun to read your story although I can’t picture you in a suit and tie even with the proof right in front of me! I can identify with so much of your post as we threw in the towel early too (I retired at 55) after years of work and saving. And, if I’d known what our end plan was versus another 10 years of work and retiring in our island home, I’d have quit our money on all the fancy toys years earlier. I had my big epiphany back in 2011 (each year seemed to bring about another death of friends or family who never got to their “golden years”) as my job became more stressful and I realized that everything we had felt like a trap. Like you said, when we told people we were throwing in the towel, our friends & fam thought we were crazy to leave “everything” behind. Best-Thing-Ever. Fast forward to present time and we can honestly say we’ve gained much more than we’ve given up and I can see that that’s exactly your conclusion too! Like anything worth doing, travel and living as an expat on the road or with a base takes some planning and a complete focus shift. There are all sorts of ways to get from A to Z and completely change your lifestyle to find out what makes you happy.
Great comment Anita, always love when people who’ve shared the same experience comment. Fancy Toys – for us it was nice restaurants. Wish I could have all that money back although we were both very busy back then and sometimes just didn’t want to cook. But same thing…wasted money.
Thank you for your comment Anita.
Frank this is a great and very timely post for me. We are just about to make some big changes to our lives path. My husband and I after years of planning and saving to achieve financial independence we are finally getting there. Our large family home is up for sale and we are in the process of buying a much smaller, easy to lock up and leave property. Travelling will be a big part of our future plans 🙂
That’s very exciting Gilda and you’re joining the ranks of a few people who’ve told me exactly the same thing recently. Good for you! If you ever have any questions that maybe have been unanswered please feel free to email me. You have a lot to look forward to – I’ll never forget that first year when after all those years we finally got to the airport and left, knowing that we wouldn’t be back for a long time. Was very liberating.
As you can imagine Frank, Kirsty and I identify with a lot of what you have written about here;
‘Lissette’s job was the last outstanding thing. Her boss didn’t want her to quit. They asked that she continue working from overseas. It ended up being a blessing’. This was exactly the same with Kirsty. I was in a managerial role and you can’t manage people from abroad but the travel company we worked for (we worked for the same one) was very forward thinking and as Kirsty was head of product for Asia, they suggested she could do her job on the road. They were right and it helped us financially (and in other ways) when we first set out.
Working for an upmarket travel company, we also had very nice perks – often turning left on an aircraft instead of right and staying in some incredible hotels for example and I would be lying if I said we missed them every now and then, but it is only every now and then these days!
And finally …
‘We’ve met travel bloggers who gave it all up to live in corrugated metal shacks in rural Thailand. Can you imagine?’ – nope!!!
I could go one, but we fly to Belgrade tomorrow and will be passing through Split at some point so I’ll save it for when we meet! Great read though, I keep thinking I should write something similar myself as we are often get asked ‘Why’ and ‘How’.
Another parallel Mark – our wives both work while we enjoy the easy life. I like to refer to Lissette as the “cash cow” which she always appreciates.
Look forward to meeting up!
It’s so refreshing to read a post about living and moving around abroad that doesn’t involve a bamboo shack on a Thai beach and a bit of blogging (or rather a bit of bar tending behind the scenes whilst pretending to earn a living blogging) to eek out an existence. Kinda sick of all these ‘digital nomads’ who gloat about jacking in the day job and going off to live the dream, when in fact they have little or no financial independence and can only struggle through because they choose to live somewhere dirt cheap. And then try to convince you to do the same. No thanks. Not sure how that is any better than a 9-5 and a mortgage. You guys had such foresight with your planning and saving, and it’s obviously paid off, even if it hasn’t always been exactly how you expected it to be (but then, the unpredictability of the journey is half the fun). Here’s to the next 10 years…be interesting to see where you are then!
Thank you for the comment Heather!
Sounds like you’re familiar with a few of those bloggers…
Paul and Carole
This is such a great post. We have a 4 year plan which will enable us to have a similar lifestyle to yours, and financially viable. We are so looking to the freedom it will bring. I think as you get older the less you need, your appreciation of experiences rather than things is a real driver for us. Your base in Split looks perfect. Look forward to seeing where you are in 9 years time! Carole.
Thanks so much Carole. You guys have obviously put a lot of thought and planning into it. You won’t regret it. And you have done lots of travelling so maybe you already have ideas what part of the world you want to spend more time in?
Nice to read about the ‘good ol’ days’ , of plans and projects, and to see how they hv panned out. The old adage of the “best laid plans of Mice and Men” … ! Behind both of your your stories Frank, is the underlying importance of financial independence – and having the possibility , means, determination, and capacity (discipline ?) to make it all happen. So many folks – even in our “rich” parts of the world – never have more than the slimmest of possibilities or opportunities of ever fulfilling their dreams or wishes when it comes to travelling – be it ‘quick’ or ‘slow travel’ simply ‘cos the financial factor is not there or cannot be “managed” . The one thing we hv found v interesting after your first few years of ‘slow’ travel – or any type of travel for that matter, – is the all important factor of having a ‘base’ – a place to be for several months a year . It seems that to have a ‘base’ is an imperative that every travelling couple adopts after a certain time on the road. Somewhere , someplace to keep our sanity (and some things?) in the brou-ha-ha of travellig continually ? For us, for a long while, it has been having a couple of bases we love to be in, both of which provide a very wide and varied range of travel and visiting opportunities in places , regions and areas we are deeply attached to and love as well (Europe , Southern Africa) leaving more “exotic” destinations and travelling to just a couple of months a year …. hmmm ! Maybe thats just what another 25 years plus on the clock does , and leads to ? Cheers !
Thanks Tony. You’re very right about the base thing. I think the beginning of this year is a bit of an exception with so many things brewing, but we do want to get back to travelling about 50% of the time while having a base to come back to. For us it was both 1) the need to just take a little break for a little while and enjoy our favorite place and 2) getting our stuff in Montreal in order. It looks like this year we’ll do that, selling the condo and cleaning out the storage. And the thing is that we have a large storage unit here in the basement where we’ll keep our stuff (for free). So it was as much taking care of business as well as just enjoying a place and taking a breather.
I guess as humans we all need a home, a base, eventually. Maybe we feel a bit lost without it. You’re right, seems that everyone travels and then eventually finds that right place and settles down. Might not be that long but at least for a while. But who knows what the future holds.
Holy Moly Frank this is a timely post for me to read and you know why. 😉 The thoughts in my head these days run the gamut and you touched on every one of them. Whew…
You guys will be fine and the timing couldn’t be better Patti. I won’t give it away here – but I’m excited for both of you.
Well done! It’s great to read what you wrote years ago and see that you made it happen. Life really is too short. Me and the hubby had talked about it for as long as we had known each other, but slowly we did the whole..house..work and settled in. Not till my sister lost her cancer battle did we decide to make it happen. You know how l feel about the hard work and savings etc. I always feel a bit wary when l see young people talk of living the nomad life. What about the future? Everyone assumes they will never get tired of traveling, but just in this short 3 years of blogging, I have seen at least 2 sets of nomads “retire” from traveling and settle down. Life has to be planned..and yeah..savings!!!! Savings…savings!!! 🙂
Yeah, we’ve agreed on this in the past Kemkem. I love travel – but I wouldn’t want my son taking advice from any of the young bloggers who advocate the sustainability of making money while also travelling. He’s a year away from finishing university, he’ll make his own success and can plan his own life of travel. But I think it’s important to have a foundation and not take off with no prospects.
You talk about your sister’s death and how it gave you a kick in the pants to start the nomadic life. We had our own scare in the past – it was benign, but it was another factor that made us realize that there might not be a tomorrow. It was more like “WTF am I doing here working my ass off for people who don’t really give a shit” (Lissette). In the end, work is work. It gives us money and sometimes glory, but at the end of the day most of those people you’ll never talk to again once your leave.
wow. thanks for sharing these experiences Frank. Seems to me life ‘out of the suit’ suits you! 🙂
Thanks Andy – when I pulled out that photo Lissette remarked I look a bit buff in it. I was actually heavier, drinking coffees and donuts at my desk. I’m actually in the best shape in a long time right now.
Excellent blog. Many people want to read what you wrote. Many more need to read what you wrote. Good advice. A link to your blog will be in our next newsletter. My thought is that living life requires that one ventures outside of their comfort zone.
Thanks Michael. You’re right. Our thinking is you never know what happens tomorrow. Someone we know who was going to retire this summer has just been diagnosed with cancer and will be leaving earlier. Can you imagine, you save it all for retirement and something like that happens? Whatever happens, we’re glad we’ve travelled at this stage in our lives.
Thanks a lot for your insight and perspective, it is encouraging. Steve and I have, after many years of dreaming and planning to travel finally taking the plunge and I have not renewed my contract working at a prestigious international school in South Korea, for a life of slow traveling in a ‘van’. I agree, we could not have taken the plunge had we not worked towards securing a steady monthly income – (we are hoping it is enough – but what is enough? at least we enjoy the simpler things in life…). Perhaps we will bump into you guys someday – we also love Eastern Europe!
Yes, what is enough? Really depends on your age and your savings (plus any current income you have that keeps you from dipping into those savings). Also depends on the return on investments. And when times get tight it’s good to know that there are places in the world where your money will go a long way – our first year were much more conservative spending 3 months in an apartment in Prague’s suburbs and then spending 6 months in Thailand. We’ve been a bit more adventuresome these days but we know when Lissette stops working that we’ll have to cut out places like Japan.
If ever in Split let us know!
So glad you lived up to the premise of the old post and embarked on a life of travel. It’s what you really wanted all along and you’re doing it. No matter what happens, you’ll always have that.
Thanks for taking the time to comment Michael.