One of the earliest things I learned when I left to live as a recluse in the Canadian wilderness was that nights out there are extremely cold even in Summer. I did my hermit experience over the warmest months of the year – June, July and August, but while it was nice and warm during the day, night time temperatures dropped below zero. And since I didn’t anticipate freezing temperatures, I neither had clothes, nor other equipment (sleeping bag, tent or stove) to keep me warm at night.
The lake I chose for my stay away from civilization was very remote, but – to a point – accessible by car. The nearest paved road to the lake was more than 100km away but invasive logging industry left a passage through the forest which I was able to use to get myself closer. Needless to say, this forestry equipment road was full of obstacles and rough terrain that’s normally only negotiable by heavy machinery with continuous tracks, but being a skilled driver and having been blessed with dry weather, I was able to safely traverse this incredibly challenging stretch of the road all the way to the lake.
The entire journey took me about 5 hours to complete, but I was only about 300 km north of Edmonton as the raven fly. I don’t know whether it was these extra 300 km north or the fact that there is no civilization anywhere near the lake, but as someone who spent countless Summer nights outside while living in Edmonton, I can tell you for sure that while it does get cold at night even in Summer, it doesn’t get below freezing. Not in Summer. But as I learned after my first night out in the wilderness (and each night thereafter), despite daytime temperatures reaching pleasant 29 °C, they were followed by night time drops to -3 °C.
5 hour long drive north of Edmonton and you’ll experience brief Winter every night even during Summer months. I personally think this had more to do with complete remoteness of the wilderness than its placement along the longitude. I have not done any scientific research on it, but high concentration of warm bloodied mammals who radiate body heat into the environment surely contributes to keeping the temperature in urban centers warmer than in the wilderness. And it’s not only body heat – you have heat generating car engines, thousands of computers, stoves used for cooking, machines used in factories, people bathing in hot water – so many things to keep the environment warmer… And on top of it all, you have pollution that keeps the heat trapped.
During my first month in the wilderness, it rained almost every afternoon. July was a little better and come August, there was hardly any rain. Sky was cloudless most of the days with sun baking down on me from wee morning hours until late night. Yet even in August, when daytime temperatures were in their 30’s, as soon as the sun was gone, the gauge started dropping rapidly and got to freezing just before the dawn.
Luckily, I had everything I needed to keep the fire going and there was plenty of dry firewood around, plus night only lasts a few hours a day this time of year so even though ill equipped, I kept myself warm-ish by utilizing natural resources. Regardless, it was a lesson I learned the hard way – remote Canadian wilderness can be very cold even in Summer months. Especially at night.
In order to survive, I had to swap night with the day. I got most of my sleep during the day when it was warm and I didn’t have to spend time feeding the fire and when the sun went down, I kept myself entertained by staring at the stars. It’s mind boggling how many of them there are and how clearly they can be seen when you’re away from city lights and pollution.
First night was hands down the worst but I got right down to building a primitive shelter that would tightly wrap around the bed of dry leaves the following day. I kept improving on my natural tent every day, but night time temperature drops were just so severe, I quickly realized that the only way to stay warm at night would be by building a shelter big enough to have a fire inside. If such shelter was well isolated, the fire would keep the interior warm even during freezing nights. One would still need to feed the fire, but pay back in feeling warm over night would be well worth it.
Banteay Kdei was the first bigger temple I stopped at during my second day at Angkor but I was already heat-exhausted. Previous two stops at Prasat Kravan and Bat Chum were very brief and Banteay Kdei itself was much smaller than Angkor Wat or Bayon I visited the day prior so there was no real reason to feel tired but the intensity of Cambodian sun is not to be taken lightly. Sweat was oozing out of every pore on my skin turning the clothes I was wearing into a mush of grease.
If I were to continue riding bicycle and exploring more temples in this heat, I needed a break to recharge. I really needed a gush of cooling breeze but since that doesn’t exist at Angkor, I had to make do with the shade of a large tree. And once I got my breath back and stopped dripping like a broken faucet, I was gonna buy a coconut. Or two.
Like all other bigger temples of Angkor, Banteay Kdei is also overrun with aggressive, in-your-face touts and pestering children who won’t leave your side. As if dealing with scorching heat was not enough of a challenge already, you are also forced to battle off these relentless hustlers. There is no escaping them. You’ll waste a lot of energy shaking one off and just as you’re ready to breathe the fresh air having gotten yourself rid of it, a new half a dozen jump down your back and you’re back to ground zero.
The entire Angkor experience is greatly bastardized by touts who won’t leave you alone for one second. You can’t stop for a moment to take a picture cause it will give them time to encircle you so you have no way to escape their clutch. You can’t take a look to the left or to the right cause there will be a groups of them there who will instantly take advantage of an eye contact you have made and will treat it as an invitation to hustle you into buying worthless junk from them.
As I was exploring Banteay Kdei, I could not wait to get out of the temple grounds cause there were just too many touts inside and they were just too aggressive. I walked hastily towards the exit hoping to find salvation behind that giant gate with four smiling faces on top. But as soon as I made it through, I was jumped by a whole host of fresh touts who were awaiting just outside. Imagine the level of frustration this puts you through.
It was like: “You got to be kidding me! You are trying to sell me the same junk the touts inside had. If I had any intention to buy any of it, I would have bought it from the touts who harassed me inside. Hack, I could have bought it from the dozens of those at Prasat Kravan where I was earlier. Better yet, I could have bought it from the thousands of them super aggressive pests I had to deal with the day prior while I was at the most famous of all temples.”
Don’t these people get it? Everyone inside was bothering me with the same pirated books. What makes them think I would have gone through great lengths to not buy any from the touts inside only to change my mind now that I stepped outside? Regardless, they got right in my face and started with their mental torture, bashing at me from every angle I could turn to. It was absolutely horrible which only added to an overall feeling of being entirely heat-exhausted.
Abused or not, I could not go on. I needed a break, a coconut and a new bottle of water to take with me. I asked the girls if it was possible to hide in a shade of that large tree to the side of the entrance, where they all had plastic chairs full of extra pirated books just in case they’re having a good day and start running out.
Pausing right in the middle of the viper’s nest came with its repercussions – obviously. While it’s normally only about half a dozen of touts you have on your back at any given time, by pausing within their operation ground I had a whole host of them outscreaming one another in desperate attempts to trick me into buying something from them. It was beyond ridiculous but I needed a break regardless. I was too sweaty to go on.
The life didn’t stop with me being there, though. It was interesting to see how quickly their focus changes. While they all were on me because I was paused in their territory, when a new tuk tuk pulled in, their attention immediately shifted towards their new prey. And from the shade of the tree, I silently watched those other tourists desperately trying to shake them off, and just shook my head at how it was yielding zero results. I heard them all swearing in disbelief, trying to explain to the touts that they don’t need any of their worthless junk but it was all in vein. Visibly devastated by this ongoing abuse, the foreigners had to take it all in disgust.
Because Angkor touts seem to have territorial agreements between one another, entering a new territory means the end of abuse from one group, and the beginning of abuse from another. So when new tourists I saw coming escaped the grip of the touts operating in front of Banteai Kdei by entering the temple, they exposed themselves to the touts inside and the focus of the touts outside, which got temporarily shifted away from me was once again redirected back to me.
This pattern kept repeating with each new tourist (or a group of tourists) that made a stop at Banteay Kdei. Each time someone new came, they all went running to encircle them and when they walked inside the temple (aka outside their territory), they came back to me as even though I was just resting, I was still a foreigner and that translates to endless attempts to sell me something.
An interesting thing happened, though. After a good while and numerous attempts to make money at me, some of the girls eventually eased up on hustling and started to talk to me like friends. We talked about the country I came from as well as the country I was in, we talked about the way relationships work in Cambodia, about life in the village they were from, as well as a bunch of regular whinery Cambodians seem to be professionals at – how poor they are and how difficult it is for them to survive.
This was interesting because this whinery lands them with a lot of free stuff. The poorer they make themselves look in the eyes of dozens of foreigners they came in touch with every day, the more they get from them in donations and sponsorships. The girls I met had their English classes, their motorcycles, their expensive clothes – so many things paid for by people they abused during the course of their “duty”. They are used to getting handouts so an alternative is not an attractive option for them. The alternative, of course, is to invest time and effort into studying so as to acquire a skill that could land them a job and a career. But that requires hard work, dedication, sacrifice and in the end puts you in a position of having to go to work and deliver results as per your employer’s requirements. Then they would be able to buy their own motorcycle, their own clothes and pay for their own further education. But who can be bothered to do that. It’s much easier to just get in front of the temple and whine about how poor we are and be handed that out for free. So they do precisely that. And foolish foreigners, who have not been lucky enough to have someone pay for their education, go to work every day and dedicate the best days of their lives to earning money in the sweat of their own brow, end up falling for the trick and the handouts keep pouring in. Thus the culture of handouts gets enrooted deeply in the minds of the people who don’t even try to improve their own lives. But let’s get back to me making friends with the villagers.
I was definitely more heat-exhausted than I would have liked to admit so I spend good one and a half hour chatting away with those new found friends. Three of the girls in their early twenties were particularly nice to chat with as they were the only ones operating outside of the temples that were old enough to eventually get the fact that I’m simply just resting before the rest of my journey and am not buying anything other than coconuts and water.
Most of the touts harassing tourists are children deployed by their parents, though. It’s a perfect case of child slavery where parents are the masters. Instead of going to school, children are forced into spending their whole days at the temples to abuse foreigners because it’s easier for a child to pull off fake tears with lies to land some cash. These children are taught basic phrases that are proven to work the best. They often involve open lies, such as that they have no parents and need money for school, none of which is true. The “where are you from?” response to being told “No” is also a common phrase these children are taught.
Other than that, most of these children are too young to understand the foreign language well enough to get it when you’re trying to explain why you can’t buy anything from them. So they will just follow you around while continuously mumbling their memorized chants and you’ll have absolutely nothing to work with to get them off your side.
It was a little better with Saly, Sarein and Sokai (or Kai for short) who were past their twenties and spoke better English. After they’d failed to sell me their books the tenth time and after I’d repeatedly made myself clear about being unable to buy anything from them, they eventually stopped harassing me and only came over for a chat. They took off each time a new tourist showed up, but after the tourists entered other tout’s territory and there was nobody else to harass, they came to me to talk. It’s a long day they have at the temple (they start at dawn, which is often before 6am and “work” until dusk, which is at around 6pm) so killing time while they’re waiting for their next prey with someone new helped them get through the day faster.
This break I took eventually turned out being quite an interesting experience. I made new friends with those three girls and ended up spending almost every day of the rest of my stay in Cambodia with them. Saly and Sarein lived in the village on the south bank of Sras Srang, opposite Bantey Kdei temple, while Kai lived with her mother in the village along the road lining the northern bank. Child slaves never actually stopped bothering me, not even after months of coming there day in, day out, but this was definitely the most authentic Cambodian experience I could have asked for.
I did my homework prior to entering Angkor Archaeological Area and found out about the cost of entrance fees. This was quite an important bit of information I needed in order to plan out the budgeting and exploration schedule. What I knew before coming to Angkor was the following entrance fee schedule:
1 Day Entrance Fee to Angkor: $20 US
3 Days Entrance Fee to Angkor: $40 US
7 Days Entrance Fee to Angkor: $60 US
One day pass is good enough to explore main and most popular ancient temples which are located along the small circle that most visitors take. This includes Angkor Wat, South Gate of Angkor Thom, Central Angkor Thom with Bayon, Terrace of the Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King, Victory Gate, Thommanom, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, Bantey Kdei, Sras Srang and Prasat Kravan ruins.
Three day pass allows a visitor to explore all major temples as well as some less frequented ones along the grande circle with enough time to dedicate to your favourite spots. On top of what you would see on a single day pass, you would also get a chance to explore Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon, Banteay Samre and Pre Rup as well as quite possibly a bunch of smaller ruins.
Seven day pass is for serious explorers and gives you enough time to explore all of the main and smaller temples of the main area, as well as some of the more remote temples, such as Banteay Srey (Citadel of the Woman) or Rolous Group temples (Bakong, Preah Ko, Lolei). You could also visit the West Mebon, which is submerged in the waters of the West Baray moat.
Because Angkor temples were on top of my must see before I die list, I definitely wanted to pay the price of a 7 days pass and explore the area thoroughly. At the same time I realized that because entrance fees are rather steep (keep in mind that average monthly wage in Cambodia is $90) for Cambodia, so I wanted to make sure I use each day to the fullest.
Because of that, I would not consider going on a rainy day. I wanted to take some nice pictures while I’m exploring and that’s virtually impossible in downpours typical for rainy season in South East Asia (unless you have some specialty water resistant equipment and don’t mind getting soaked the hell out of).
I’ve been patiently waiting for the right day and it’s paid off. The biggest disadvantage of multi day passes was the fact that you had to use them up in consecutive days. I did not see the possibility of scoring 7 consecutive days of sun in rainy season but I remained hopeful and determined.
Luckily, there was serious talk that Apsara Authority will be changing this rule and multiday passes will be modified to allow for use over a period of time, rather than consecutively. If you bought a 3 days pass, you would have a week to use it and a month if you bought a 7 days pass. This sounded more like it. If this was put in place, I’d be able to go at it full throttle on a nice day and if the following day turned out rainy, I would not go and would wait until the next sunny day to make full use of my 7 day pass.
Luckily for me, the consecutive-days-use rule was terminated on the day I didn’t get to go because I was with Ha. When I got to the ticket booth on my attempt to get the first glimpse of Angkor Wat, they were just replacing the signs with new ones which stated that you could use multiday passes over an extended period of time, not consecutively. That was great news and there truly was nothing in my way to start exploring the ancient temples of Angkor.
The rule of non consecutive days is still in effect. If you buy a 3 day pass, you can use your three days over a period of 1 week and if you buy a 7 day pass, you can use your 7 days over a period of 1 month (it will terminate on the day prior to the day of purchase of the following month).
Three and Seven day passes will have your mugshot on it. If you have a passport photo on you, you will be asked to provided it to the person processing your ticket which generally speeds up the processing and sets you on the way to Angkor quickly. However if you don’t, you will just be sent to another window where your mugshot will be taken with a webcam and this image will be used to print on a pass. This is how I had mine processed. It was an extra step I needed to do but it only delayed me a few minutes.
If you wish to have a pretty picture on your pass to Ankor and have yourself processed faster, then bring one passport sized photo with you. Either way, try to show up for the purchase of your entrance ticket before 7.30am as after that time buses full of tourists from Japan and Korea start coming and none of them will have a passport photo so they all will wait to get a mugshot taken. This could put you back quite a while – if you get there right after half a dozen buses full of elderly Asian people with cameras hung on their necks.
If you purchase your entrance pass at 5pm or later, it’s validity won’t come to an effect until the following day but you will be allowed to enter the Angkor Archaeological Area and enjoy a free sunset.
After my failed attempt to buy a bicycle with help from a Tuk Tuk driver, I knew I was gonna have to take some risk and rely more upon myself in dealing with shops where English is not spoken. The question of “where to buy a mountain bike in Siem Reap” became more pressing as did the question of how to buy it without excessive overpaying (aka getting ripped off) just because I’m a foreigner in Cambodia. In all this melee, I’ve managed to get help from people on Couch Surfing.
It became apparent that National Road 6 is the place to go shopping for bicycles. That’s exactly the place where I was taken by a Tuk Tuk driver the day prior and had been over quoted. The hints I have received clearly suggested that there are more bicycle selling shops on National Road #6, they are just further down east. And that’s where I went.
I strolled down National Road 6 in Siem Reap, passed by the bicycle shop I went to day prior and just a bit further there was another. As it goes with National Road 6 – the shops are primarily geared towards locals so nobody, absolutely nobody speaks English and if a tourist shows up, everyone starts the smell big cash-in as that’s what Cambodians see tourists as (walking bag of money, or walking ATM machine if you will).
Realizing my options were limited, I popped in next bicycle shop and started looking at available mountain bikes and attempted to use sign language to ask about price. Everything was far more reasonable that the day prior and even though I knew I was gonna pay way more than a local would for the same piece of bike wreck, I was OK with it as prices quoted seemed to be in a more reasonable level than yesterday.
The bikes were obviously second hand (aka stolen), no names, all made in China. One way or another, I was gonna end up with a piece of junk, but this was Cambodia, I could go with the junkyard items or pay Tuk Tuks to drive me everywhere. The latter didn’t seem like a good option so bike it was gonna have to be regardless of how awful a piece of scrap metal I would get.
I tried a couple, each seemed as though it was gonna break apart upon third use but I eventually settled with imitated mountain bike that was probably stolen from a guy in Japan as it had a Japanese name painted on it. It had gears and looked a bit like a mountain bike which was a step up from most other bikes which look like they belonged in the 70’s. Pedals seemed to click in an awful way, making unpleasant rattling noise and trembled as used, but it was the best I could get for $38. Yeah, that’s what I paid for my primary means of transportation in Cambodia. Mighty $38.
It was all worth it. I noticed the difference right upon my first ride from the bike shop back to the guesthouse. I rode past several Tuk Tuk drivers who all just stared at me. Bike eliminate a lot of annoyance from Tuk Tuk drivers and other touts who are everywhere, never leaving you alone from the day you set foot in Cambodia till the time to leave. It was awesome not being harassed by them just because I was on a bike, the only tricky part was extreme heat which made bike riding a bid challenging, but that (nature) I could deal with. Vastly encouraged, I drove my bike everywhere.
As part of my commitment to cut down on the stuff I own, I went through a lot of paperwork which no longer had value to me or made no sense keeping. I had endless piles of credit card slips, cell phone bills, bank transaction records, official letters sent to me for various reasons and a whole lot of other paperwork I for some reason thought I needed to keep. There was a lot of it there in the boxes and since all those papers bore some form of personally identifiable information, I couldn’t just dump it in the garbage bin. So chunk after chunk, I would be taking a stack of paper with me to work, I would purposefully stay overtime, waiting for everyone to leave and then I’d proceed to occupy the shredder for an hour to shred all this paper I had brought. I kept doing this for a few weeks, day after day until all of the papers I no longer needed was gone. I have literally shredded my life away but it felt good. I have already been liberated from possessions, I just needed to take it a step further and liberate myself from paperwork.
Because of high volume of paper I had to shred, I had to split it into several days because the shredder would get filled up every day upon my use. I was hoping it would go without someone becoming too suspicious but luckily it went with no bigger issues. My life was shredded away. I was yet another step closer to becoming free. I have followed up by calling all of the institutions I still deal with to quit sending my statements by mail and strictly stick to electronic communication only. For one this is an important environmentally friendly step and secondly – I was not gonna be here to empty my PO Box anyway so the less unnecessary stuff makes it there, the better.
When I checked the car rental prices for a decent automobile in the Dominican Republic when I started looking for cheap plane tickets to embark on my worldwide travel, the prices were more than reasonable. I just wanted to get a hint on what to expect as far as prices for different classes of vehicles are concerned, but made no reservations. I did not have the plane ticket purchased yet and deemed it important to have the plane ticket first so I know the exact day and time of arrival in my destination. Without the plane ticket I wouldn’t know which date to book my car rental for so I merely checked prices and left it to deal with it after I have had my flight arrangements taken care of – BAD IDEA!
I went to check the Avis website the following day since plane ticket prices increased significantly overnight and I could not believe my eyes. Car rental prices, even with Avis coupon grew almost twice fold. If I made a reservation today, instead of the day before, I would pay more for Kia Rio than I would have for Suzuki Grand Vitara yesterday. In other words, had I made a reservation yesterday, I would pay less money and have myself a nice SUV, whereas today I would have to pay more but would get a small passenger car which is three classes down from SUV. SUV rental prices grew way beyond reasonable and were out of question.
If I was frustrated with unprecedented growth of plane ticket prices overnight, unexpected growth of car rental prices made it even worse. And then I realized what kind of stupid idea it was not making a reservation in advance, even though I didn’t have the exact day and time or arrival. See, unlike with plane tickets, car rental companies are very flexible with their reservations and making any changes to it, including cancellations is easy and costs you nothing (at least when dealing with companies like Avis). That means that one should make a reservation on the spot when they see a good price, because even if your dates change, you will be able to easily modify it. And if you are unable to make the trip, you can cancel the reservation and the life will go on. There are no cancellation fees.
Don’t be like me. If you see a good price for car rentals, make a reservation. If you put it off till tomorrow to think about it overnight or to find out exact dates – by the time you have returned to their website, the price could be different and you will have missed the opportunity to have a car rented on the cheap. You have nothing to lose if you book well in advance. Not doing it may result in overpaying later.
The way it works with car rental companies (for the most part), is that you don’t pay your rental fees until you have returned the car. Your credit card will not be charged until after the rental period (this is also in case you cause damage to the rented unit so they can charge you full amount, including the amount to cover for damage you have caused). As such, if you make a reservation online, they will just take your credentials (Avis doesn’t even collect credit card number, just name, email and phone number) and the car is booked for you. You come, pick it up, drive it, and when you are returning it, the representative will inspect it and you sign the papers so they can charge you what you have agreed upon when you were making reservation.
There is really no reason to hesitate with reservations. The fact that you can easily modify or cancel your reservation for no extra fee makes for the biggest advantage of booking your car in advance. I’ve learned my lesson here so from this point on, each time I was planning a trip to a country where I might be interested in car rentals, I’d check for the best prices and if I saw one I liked, I’d make reservations on the spot. Because if I changed my mind or something changes in my plans, I could easily pull back from it or modify it as needed, including change of countries. Take advantage of early booking because there really is nothing to lose. But do verify the fine print. I know for sure it works this way with Avis, but I’m not familiar with terms of service of every car rental company out there.
9 out of 10 people don’t like where they are in their lives at this moment, or would put themselves in someone else’s place if they could. Are you one of them? If you are – don’t worry. For one, you’re not the only one who’s desperate for a change and secondly, if you knew of the hardships others are going through, you would likely want to keep the lifestyle you currently have, regardless of how much you think it stinks. Many people desire a change and they should. Life is meant to be abundant and enjoyable. However, lamenting will not deliver change you desire. It will only make matters worse. Change requires action. Action on your part. You be the change you want to see in yourself. Be the change you want your life to fall into. Be the change you’ve been dreaming off and it will come to be. For there is no greater power in the universe than the power of yourself. Help yourself and the powers of the universe will re-arrange to help you too. The change starts with you.
Change begins with clearly defined goals. Unless you know exactly and undisputedly what you want, how can you expect to get it? If your life right now doesn’t seem fulfilling, take a minute for yourself and go through your goals. Take a note that you are the master of your own life. Whatever has happened in your life so far is in the past. The past is the time that’s gone forever. A new day has started and it could be the best day of your life if you let it. Don’t hold back, don’t fear change and don’t be afraid to take risks. Better life is just around the corner. Believe in miracles. No matter how good or bad current situation may seem, it will change. It always changes. Change is a constant. You can start your change by getting rid of everything that isn’t useful, cheerful or pleasing. Don’t waste your time succumbing to envy. Let THEM envy you the lifestyle you are embarking on.
This is about what you love in life so don’t take “NO” for an answer. The seduction of money and prosperity may be difficult to overcome, but not impossible. Ask the right questions to get the right answers and know it is not the money you want. It is the lifestyle you were falsely lead to believe could only be had if you had a lot of money. If you dig into it a little bit deeper, you’ll easily learn that the cost of lifestyle you covet is oftentimes lower than the cost of your current lifestyle, the lifestyle you are trying to change. To be laying in a hammock on a private island, clipping your fingernails off while cool ocean breeze washes off the sweat after an endless walk along a tranquil beach doesn’t require you to be a millionaire. You can have the lifestyle you desire by changing your focus from making money to ensuring positive cash flow.
Society today conditions its members to spending. Why do people who are in debt continue buying? So much useless junk in their houses already yet they keep spending. And those are not isolated incidents – I used to be one of them myself. And that’s why I can relate. Advertising, media, soap operas – all the biggest junk of modern cultures condition you to buying new gadgets you don’t really need, but are brainwashed to believe it is the way of the world so you follow. Set yourself free from conditional spending, set yourself free from possessions that are not essential for your day to day life and breathe the free air again.
Designer clothes, expensive homes or flashy cars are not signs of wealth. They are merely a sign of a great deal of money spent. Don’t feed your ego. No one on their death bed wishes they had spent more time showing off with expensive gadgets. Furthermore – feeding one’s ego is a losing fight. No matter how much of your hard earned money you spend to get the biggest rig on the road, one day you will stumble across someone whose ego made him buy an even bigger a toy. The satisfaction you experience after acquisition of ego fueled merchandise doesn’t last long. It will just increase the demands laid upon your spending by your own ego. There is so much of it out there, that no matter how much you keep buying, you will always want something else. This is a sure fire way to becoming a rat racing champion.
Change your life by being the change you want to see. You have all you need to do it, you just need courage to put it in motion. We’ve all made mistakes in the past, learn from them and use them to your advantage. Never dwell on them. Past is gone and it’s not coming back. Enjoy the present and look forward to the future. Today is the best day of your life. Stand up high and see yourself for a magnificent being that you are. You deserve the change for the better and it will come your way if you let it. Everyone who got where they are had to begin where they were. Every hour you save for yourself, to spend it the way you enjoy, is like an hour added to your life. So grab at it and become its leader for life is like a dogsled. Unless you are a leading dog, the scenery never changes (quote by Lewis Grizzard). The clock is ticking. Are you gonna watch it tick away or use it to your benefit?
You’ve heard me mention Positive Cash Flow number of times during previous lectures on Early Retirement. Positive Cash Flow is the key to retiring young. As someone who understands the value of time, it became clear to me early on that the goal is not to score big financially. Aiming for a big payday puts everything into way distant a future. To retire rich, you may be faced with decades of tight lifestyle before hitting jackpot, but to retire early, you may need as little as positive cash flow of $50 a day. The former will keep you stuck in the office until you’re too old to enjoy yourself to the fullest, the latter could send you on your way to endless adventure in a few months.
My Positive Cashflow
I got my positive cash flow out of the websites I’ve been running for years. I set up my personal photography website back in 2003. In 2004 I added ten more websites to my portfolio but they were each more of a hobby, rather than a business venture. I had a little bit of income through promotion of affiliate networks, but it only amounted to about $50 a month. As years went by, I learned a thing or two about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), learned a little bit of web programming and by 2006 I already had a network of 20 sites running.
I’ve been working on them diligently every day and come 2007, the popularity of some of them grew to a point that a server upgrade was needed. I was still only making pennies a day even after investing a lot of work into them on daily basis. I was doing it because I enjoyed it. There was a little bit of money, but hardly anything to reasonably compensate for the work put into it. Continuous growth resulted in complete necessity to switch to a fully dedicated server in 2008. I was getting a lot of traffic but kept failing in monetizing on my sites. The cash flow was vastly negative at this time as my monthly cost for the server was $199 yet income from my sites was only in the $100 neighborhood.
As the traffic kept growing, I was forced to upgrade my server once more in the beginning of 2009. This time my traffic amounted to half million unique readers a month and that required more powerful server with more available bandwidth. Monthly cost just went up another $100 draining $299 out of my pocket each month for just webhosting itself. Negative cash flow ruled, but I kept financing it out of the money I was making at my government job.
My life was awful. I spent whole day in the office, then when I got back home I worked on my websites. Yet cash flow remained negative. At that time I started to travel again and the phase of my spiritual awakening was initiated. I started to question the premise of going to work until retirement and bit by bit, these pieces of scrabble that combine into a complete picture as presented here in my blog, which opens you up to the life of enjoyment and abundance came together and made me see things I was brainwashed to ignore. I realized that I’d wasted too much of my precious time as a corporate slave and started to work my way to early retirement. There was one and a half month lag between full awakening and my departure.
I used most of that time securing myself with positive cash flow. I knew the websites with lots of traffic were there. After years of putting so much work into them I was faced with the biggest challenge of my life. I’ve realized that 20% of my websites make 80% of all the money. The rest either didn’t make any money, or only very little but together amounted to very high server costs. The idea of getting rid of those websites was extremely difficult to swallow. I put years of work into them and believed that they were on their best way to make it big. If I only stuck with them for a bit longer, I could really hit the pot of gold and become financially secured. But that was exactly the issue – there was a possibility of it happening one day in the future. And as I have come to realize, focusing on future instead of this moment makes you waste your precious time. You don’t live, you enslave yourself because you believe that one day in the future you will get the reward.
I understood it clearly. Happiness is a journey, not a destination and this 20/80 principle is something that accompanies everyone throughout their lives. I worked really hard to get those websites to grow and become popular and now I was playing with an idea of dumping them. I had an option to stick with them, continue doing what I’m doing and look forward to one day in the future when someone with lots of money notices my sites and offers me several figures just like that. Or I could just let them go, quit waiting for something I hope will come, render all the work I put towards them over the years useless, but gain positive cash flow that could set me out on a journey of a lifetime within a matter of weeks.
Since you are reading the blog about Early Retirement with entries from my adventures around the world, you know what came next. With biggest sites gone, my server and bandwidth costs decreased significantly and my negative cash flow changed into a positive cash flow literally overnight. But that’s not all – those biggest sites that were eating most bandwidth and bringing least money were also biggest eaters of my time as maintenance of such busy sites required a lot of dedication. By freeing myself from the clutches of busy but negatively performing sites (in terms of cash flow), I gained more time to focus on sites that previously made 80% of the money.
Within days, I was able to end my $100 negative cash flow and turn it into a $300 positive cash flow. One and a half month later, I quit my work and sat on the plane to South East Asia. During initial weeks of my early retirement I lived frugally but not cheaply and I put some work towards my money making sites, increasing positive cash flow to $1,000 a month. And I just went with it from that point on.
The only trouble was, that my life instantly turned from this miserable rat race in the office to an exciting adventure that never ended and I was enjoying myself every day to the fullest. Early Retirement rocks. But because of that, I’ve been only putting a few hours a week towards growth of my online business so my positive cash flow has not increased significantly since I’ve reached the $1,000 a month net income. My monthly Early Retirement costs fluctuated between $600 and $700 so the cash flow remained positive even after all of my expenses. And this is all I could need. I’m having the best time of my life. I’m enjoying myself every day. If I did not go for it, I’d be in the office right now, doing what my boss tells me, fixing other people’s problems. Then when the paycheck comes, I’d go and spend it on something because that’s what consumerism we are brainwashed into by the media is all about. We enslave ourselves by dedicating the best days of our lives to working for corporations and end up spending our compensation on material things we don’t actually need to be happy.
I don’t own that much right now and I’m way happier than when I owned all the crap in the world. I have my laptop, my digital camera, few things to wear and a whole world to explore. Would I be better off if I continued focusing on retiring rich when I’m 65? No way. I’m perfectly healthy right now, I’m enjoying myself while I still can. The whole world lies before my feet and I explore it unhindered every day.
My goal is to increase my positive cash flow within the next 6 months so I have enough back up and I would also like to diversify the activities so I have some positive cash flow from different sources. Retiring rich puts the lifestyle you desire in indefinite future. Retiring early enables you to get the lifestyle you desire as soon as your positive cash flow reaches the level that meets or exceeds your comfort level.
The quest for cash is a fool’s errand. Rich people can become poor on any given day and all you have worked for will be gone, but once you have the positive cash flow happening, you don’t concern yourself with whether you’re rich or poor. But that still doesn’t matter, because if you build up the positive cash flow and use it to retire early, you will have lead rich and fulfilling life full of amazing moments to share with your friends and family. Don’t save your life’s enjoyment for the end of your journey on Earth. When you are on your death bed, you will wish you had spent less time with your boss in the office and more time with those who matter to you. The life is now. Instead of giving yourself reasons why you can’t, give yourself reasons why you can and make it happen. Go with confidence in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
“The minute you choose to do what your really want to do, it’s a different kind of life.”
— Buckminster Fuller
I came to realize that the key to abundant life is to have the best day of your life every day. The best day of your life is the day you will never forget. If it instantly pops in your mind, then you know that truly was the best day of your life, if it doesn’t, if you have to think about it, then perhaps you have yet to have the best day of your life. If that’s the case, ask yourself this instead: “What was the best day of my life so far?”
I noticed that when I shared my intentions to quit work so I can travel with my friends, they mostly nodded in agreement and wished me the best of luck in my future endeavours, but the way they said it implied that they thought I must have gone insane. I was so excited about my future and so adamant about leaving work to travel that they have collectively showed support but their body language suggested otherwise. Their doubts were put to an end when I made a point by asking them to tell me what the best day of their life was.
Not surprisingly, the answers to the “the best day of your life” question usually revolve around particular experiences not related to workplace or possessions. It could have been when you went swimming with sharks, it could have been when you got a chance to hang out with your favorite band back stage, it could have been when you had your first parachute jump from a plane, it could have been… fill in the blank. People have the best days of their lives – days they will never forget when they are on a vacation or in their time off work engaging in their hobbies or spending time with the loved ones. This formula could be looked at from the opposite angle and we’d come to conclusion that safest way to ensure that today will NOT be the best day of your life is by going to work.
Life is supposed to be enjoyable and one should strive to gear towards enjoyment if it isn’t. Even if your past experiences make it seem as though the Lucky Fairy took a day off when you were born, you have all it takes to set yourself free from the shackles of employment. You only have so many days to live on this planet – doesn’t it make perfect sense that if at the end of the day you don’t feel like this was one phenomenal day with exiting new experiences and unforgettable adventures, that you have just wasted one of the limited number of days available to you doing something that doesn’t bring you enjoyment?
It matters not whether you are employed or your own boss. If you have to go to work because some potentially important client is expecting something or something otherwise essential requires your attention, then you are enslaved by your own work and your life is dictated by it. You don’t do what you want to do, you do what you must do. What would you rather be doing right now? Ask yourself that. If there is absolutely nothing you can think of that would bring you any more excitement that going to your workplace to deal with today’s workload and clients, then perhaps you are one of those cases who find spending their days at work more fulfilling than anything else.
Today should be a best day of your life, because you are getting ready to do something that you can’t wait to engage in. You are so excited you can hardly contain yourself, your adrenaline is through the roof and every cell of your body is in ecstasy. If you do not feel this way, then ask yourself what you would rather be doing right now. Think over the fact that your journey on this planet will come to an end whether you like it or not. You don’t know when, but it’s as clear as the sky that you only have so many days before it’s over. Every day at the end of which you don’t feel like this was the best day of your life should be a signal that the path you are currently following in life may not be the best for you. All of the unaccomplished things that will pass before your eyes as your life comes to an end will have been unaccomplished because you spend the time, time you have only limited supply of, chasing false dreams.
A false dream could be that house that’s in a good neighborhood and is currently for a good price. You put yourself in lifelong debt that will keep you enslaved at work, but you believe it’s a step up on your path through life. House, just as anything material is a possession. Just as it is with all material possessions, there will always be a chance to have a replacement. But you will never be able to get the time you have wasted chasing it back. Every second is there only once in your life. Once spent, it will never ever be back. The best days of your life will not be associated with possessions your have acquired. Just as employment or entrepreneurship will not make your day the best day of your life, acquisition of possessions provides false sense of achievement that’s supposed to enhance your life, but it just distracts you from what you really want .
Human psyche is an astounding thing and sellers of things know that. Advertisements are specifically crafted to mess with your mind and make you buy it. They make you believe you need that latest DVD player with Blue Ray technology because that’s the way of the world right now. I used to fall for it myself and ended up with so much stuff it was sickening. My life was about spending the best days of my life at work so I can buy these things and with each new purchase, I felt like I was moving further with my life. Was I in for rude awakening!
I quit chasing false dreams and instead of doing what I have to do today, I do what I want to do today. I understand that it’s not all about money. What would be the use of being a millionaire if the business that is making me rich requires me to attend to it every day to a point that I don’t even have time to unwind and enjoy myself. Think about the best day of your life. Think about what you should do tomorrow to make tomorrow another best day of your life. Make every day count. It’s your life and you only have so much time.
Throughout my life so far it’s always seemed as though I’ve never had enough time to do the things I am supposed to do, let alone things I want to do? The dreaded “wasting my life away” quote was at the back of my head as I was sitting in my cubicle browsing through pictures of people photographing themselves having the time of their lives at places I’ve never been to. All I could do at the time was say “maybe one of these days” to myself. After all, I have to go to work every day which leaves me with little time for traveling and money is tight so I’ll just have to bite the bullet and hope something comes my way. It didn’t.
Actually, it did but in a whole different form than I would have imagined. As part of my spiritual awakening I started to see things differently and realized how precious a commodity time is. It was already clear to me that spending the best years of my life working so one day when I retire I can enjoy myself made no sense, but when I realized the value of time, things took whole new turn. “Maybe” must be replaced with “May Be”.
I had tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff sitting in my livingroom and I’ve dumped it all in the bin. I have primarily done it to liberate myself from chains these possessions kept me in, but as I was done, a realization of one far more important aspect of this act came to me. By dumping all these in the bin, I have also saved myself a lot of time. The other option was to list all these items for sale on classified ads sites. Had I followed this option, I may have added few nice bucks in my pocket but at what cost?
I’d have to take each item, take picture of it, get pictures ready for use on the net, write up a reasonable description of the item otherwise it may not attract attention of potential buyers and go through steps of publishing it on the websites. Subsequently, I’d have to deal with potential buyers who would be hitting me up with supplemental questions about each item and requests to drop the price (aka negotiations). I’d be spending my evenings responding to emails, bouncing them back and forth in hopes that someone will bite.
If I got lucky and found a buyer willing to shell out for these second hand things with expired warranty previously owned by a person they don’t know, I’d have to let it go for a price that’s way below reasonable value, because that’s how it goes with classified ad sales. So yes, in theory, I’d eventually make some money on it, but amount of time I’d have to invest into it could grow exponentially. Postings and repostings of ads that didn’t attract any bites, continuous questions from enquiring minds who’ll be trying to lowball me ad nauseum… would time invested really be worth it?
Bingo – that was the million dollar question. If it’s money you want, perhaps one would be better off spending this time focusing on something that could bring more in. As I was digging deeper into it, I came to realize the real value of time. Yes, time is your most precious commodity, because there is no money in the world that could buy it. Those things I had dumped – if such need arises, I can buy any of those back. But time – that’s one thing you can never buy back. Nothing in this world is more precious than time.
Time is so precious, everything revolves around it. Every regret you have is directly or indirectly affiliated with time. If you lose someone you love, you will be devastated. It’s after they are gone that you realize that so many things were left unsaid, so many undone. And now they will remain unsaid and undone forever. And it’s all because you have not spent as much time as you should have with that person. Perhaps it’s because you spent your days going to work and after work you were too tired. Perhaps it’s because you spent last two weeks re-visiting that car dealership and spent every evening there trying to get that new SUV for $10,000 less than advertised. To make or save money, you spent your time – the most precious commodity you have – by doing everything, except from what truly matters to you.
You are not the only one who makes this very mistake. I spent near a decade of my life – the best years of my life – going to work every day, working for money so I can exchange it for things that I then had to store in boxes and haul them around each time I moved. I did not do things I wanted to do and it went on for near 10 years. I will never be able to get those 10 years back. I can get back any of the items I threw in garbage as described above, but my years I spent going to work are irrevocably gone. During those years I haven’t done anything I really want to do. I simply went to work every day with a vision, that one day, sometime in the future I will retire and then I will be able to do what I want to do. As this premise became clearly ridiculous, I realized the value of time and started acting accordingly.
Keep this in mind – time is your most precious commodity. This day, this particular day on which you are reading this post will be there only once in your lifetime. Seize it. Seize the day! Wise people have been telling us that for millennia and I can’t believe it took me this long to realize it. There is a world of infinite possibilities out there. Live your dreams now, not in 20 or 30 years. Time does not discriminate. There are 1,440 minutes in a week and every single person out there gets this exact amount. It’s how you choose to use those minutes that makes the difference between those who live life to the fullest and those who don’t.