Different Priorities

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.

Kovalam India 94

Kovalam Beach In India

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.

Hampi India 95

Hampi India in 1995

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.

Mentawin People of Siberute 1995

Mentawin of Siberute

Khmer Jungle Temple Angkor Cambodia 1995

Khmer Jungle Temple Angkor Cambodia

12 Responses to Different Priorities

  1. Dillpickle Chips

    To those who think its different priorities…..i would agree with the comment provided they packed a back pack and traveled the world for months or years on end. For those who say its diff priorities but who have never actually experienced the other side of the coin….quite frankly i dont buy the words of “diff priorities”.

    i would rather try 100 diff things in my life and then make up my mind as to where my priorities lie…..rather than taking the first thing that comes along and then call it my priority. For the many people who have done that…..and god knows thats most people……boy did they ever miss out!

  2. @Dillpickle Chips
    Thanks for the comment, yes your right, how can you call something a priority if you have never tried anything else. We are educated to go into the rat race when we reach adulthood. very few people actually take a step out of it for a while, and judge it as an non invested observer.

  3. I think you summed it all up when you said: “I could not write a book about the life I used to have, but the life I have now I could.” Those kind of adventures are priceless. Freedom and wonder are worth all the money in the world.

  4. @nothingprofound
    Thanks NP, eloquently said as always.

  5. Simply Ridiculous

    Good Post!!

  6. Sounds like you’re doing exactly what’s right for you. Life is out there to be had, but you have to get out there and take it. A lot of people never do, they tend to forget, or perhaps they never get the chance to realise, that to live doesn’t automatically mean being alive.

  7. @Sleepless
    Thanks for the comment Sleepless, very well said.

    “Life is out there to be had, but you have to get out there and take it. A lot of people never do, they tend to forget, or perhaps they never get the chance to realise, that to live doesn’t automatically mean being alive.”

    I find so many people that feel that peoples careers represents who they are as a person, they feel that the more they make the better the life they are living. They also tend to feel that someone with a high paying job is of more value than others.

    Sadly I know some people in their late 30s with millions of dollars, but still they plug away at work every day to make more, a third their life is spent in a cubicle, a third in bed, and a third going down the same streets they have always gone down for their entire life, instead of taking the big pile of money and going to have some long term fun with it. If you had asked them when they were teenagers what they would do with a million dollars, do you think they would have told you they would just get a nicer car to drive to work in?

  8. I grew up with a similar mindset – business success would translate to happiness. Like you, I found that wasn’t the case. I’m glad you sold all you had instead of selling your soul. It’s so important to find the joy.

  9. @Janene
    Thanks Jenene,

    I am happy with the path I took, I will probably never step out of a fancy car and walk into a room being the envy of all in my Armarni and Gold, but I have many years worth of freedom and happiness I can cherish instead.

  10. The unhappiest and least free I’ve ever felt in life coincided with the time I was making the most money. Like you, I left that life behind for one that’s much simpler, and it’s been very liberating. Good for you for being true to yourself, especially at such a young age!

  11. @Helena Fortissima
    Hi Helen,

    Same here, the most I ever made was when I was the most miserable. Money is a great thing when it buys you freedom though, that is something I never understood when I was really young, I wish I had saved more during those days.

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