Almost two decades ago, I veered sharply away from the track that hosts the rat race, and started to cut my own paths. Nobody really understood why I did it, and some people feel they can no longer relate to me because of it.
Back in 1994, when I was 22 years old, my financial life was going pretty well, I already owned most of my fully furnished 1200 sq foot, 8th floor condo overlooking both a National Park, and the city of Calgary. I had just become the corporate sales trainer for an international electronics company, a job which included the responsibility of hiring, firing, and training about 150 people at any one time. I was on track for a $60,000 income that year already, but on a recent business trip to Los Angeles, stock options had just been offered to me, as well as a substantial raise. The real serious money was about to come rolling in.
The beginning of my corporate life was like sitting down to play the first two levels of a video game I had been anticipating for quite some time, only to discover it was just too easy for me to invest any more of my time in. As far as I was concerned at that moment, I had already proven to myself that I was going to win the game. The constant business trips eventually became boring to me. Though the meetings were all in different restaurants and cities, I was always meeting with the same people usually we would order the same things, talk about the same business, and have the same discussions after too many of the same drinks.
I decided it was time for me to step out of the rat race for a bit, and try and live a more interesting life than I was living. Making money, talking about how to make more money, training people, and in general just getting the business done was pretty boring after a while. My father had worked very hard until the day he died, and I did not want this to happen to me.
Before I could quit my job, I decided I should sell all my stuff, so I proceeded to sell my condo and car, big screen TVs, my CD and movie collection, my couch, my stereo systems, my dresser, microwave, coffee machine, waffle maker, dinner table, pots, pans, plates, knives, forks, spoons, phones, my bed, bedsheets, and even my towels.
With everything I had accumulated with my five years of productive work since I had left my childhood home turned into cash I was able to buy my backpack, quit my job, and begin my travels.
I bought a one way ticket to India. Why India? you might ask. A very well travelled friend who had hired me at the electronics firm originally had recommended it to me, of course by this time he had actually become one of my employees, but he was still a friend, and wasn’t resentful of me moving up so fast.
One night in a restaurant as we discussed my trip to India over steak and beer, some woman at another table, chose to interrupt us just to tell us that India was a horrible place and asked us why would we go there. We asked her if she had been and she said “No”. I chose to ignore her.
India was amazing, I could type story after story here about things that I saw in India, did in India, and experienced in India that are probably well beyond most peoples imagination. So I will skip that for now, but will give a few reasons why India was the best place I have ever been, of course I could also give you the same amount of reasons why it was the worst, but here I will just add the best.
I love beaches, I love waves, and surfing, I love snorkeling and scuba diving and India has the longest coastline in the world, the beaches are incredibly beautiful and usually almost completely unspoilt. It has the oldest cities in the world, with the oldest temples in the world in it. It of course has jungles, deserts, and the Himalayas are the highest mountain range in the world. An amazing history of being the birthplace of most of the major religion in the world. The first churches and temples of every major religion, always seem to be in India. Every jungle topped hill you can climb in India, has a view of ancient temples, stupas, churches, mosques, castles and fortresses, most of which are older than Western written history. It was a fantastic trip, I was present at many astounding parties with thousands of westerners in some amazing places, no one could ever understand without going there.
Ten months into my first trip, I returned to my home country of Canada for my brothers wedding, I had suffered a nasty parasitic infection called giardia in India that nearly killed me, I lost a third of my body mass, and looked almost like a walking skeleton, my short business haircut had grown ungroomed and uncut for almost a year. I tried to tame the hair for my brothers wedding, which had caused it to look really horrible. I guess I didn’t look as much like a winner as I did before I went traveling to at least some people. At the wedding one of my brothers friends came up to me, and said, “Why did you leave it all man? You had everything? ”
“Why did you leave it all man? You had everything? “
I didn’t know what to say to him, he had just finished university studying commerce, and I guess to him I was on a path to having everything he wanted before I left, namely Money.
I said “Everything man? I had nothing.”
I didn’t know what else I could have said, where would I start to explain to him that a life of working under fluorescent lights, and having only slight variations of the same experiences every day was not a life at all. Without the freedom to do what I wanted and go where I wanted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it is just an existence.
I could not write a book about the life I used to have, but the life I have now I could.
Obviously my money could not last me forever, so I often need to work, I returned to my home country in Canada to make a living two times. Although I was able to make good money again, I was not really able to adapt back into life under fluorescent lights. I preferred working in Japan, Korea, and Thailand, although the lighting is pretty much the same, being a stranger in a strange land is always exciting.
I am blessed that I can now work on this website and write for this blog for a living. I enjoy it. I am happy. The best thing about my current job, even though I am not writing about where I am, this particular article has been written during my travels to three different countries, I have been sitting in Kuala Lumpur for part of it, another part I was on a white sandy beach on Ko Samet Island in Thailand with my son, and part of it was written on the edge of the Mekong river in Lao where I sat and enjoyed a meal as the sun set over lush green tropical Asia.
I don’t make a lot of money doing this, I have to take the second class train, and buses where ever I go, but at least I am going somewhere. This to me is more important that being some rich corporate big wig.
I mentioned to a good friend of mine what my brother’s friend had asked me about “Giving it all up”, and he said to me something that seemed to explain the situation completely.
He said “You and him just have different priorities, that’s all.”
Maybe he was right, maybe that is all it is, just different priorities.
I have traveled a lot since then, seen a lot of things, and taken a lot of pictures, these are two of my favorites.