On September 30th, 2016 I officially left my job as a consultant to follow my dream/passion; traveling.
I’ve been waiting a couple a years to write this post.
I’ve been waiting a couple a years to write this post. If you know me well, there’s a good chance you’ve heard me talk at length about traveling. Over the next 12 months I am going to be traveling from Asia to Hawaii to South America and beyond.
But before we start discussing where I might be heading, let’s take a step back and let me explain why I decided at 28 to leave my consulting job and travel the world.
This is a long post so bear with me…..
Growing Up I Wanted to be a Wall Street Trader
In fifth grade, my teacher at the time had us participate in a faux stock market challenge. The premise was simple. You were given $100,000 in a fake account and 3 months to invest in any stocks you wanted.
At first I invested in companies I recognized at the time, which being in fifth grade was a bit limited. If memory serves me right I think my portfolio existed of Yahoo, Walt Disney, Whirlpool and Microsoft, the blue chips of their time.
A few weeks in Yahoo had a stock split. I saw a healthy return as the market approved of the corporate action.
However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the stocks that were the most volatile from day to day were the penny stocks. These were companies I didn’t recognize but I would see huge swings in their stock price. I wanted to share on those upswings and so I bought. Now, it wouldn’t be until sometime later I realized why penny stocks were volatile and not touched by the ‘experts’. As a fifth grader though, I liked my strategy.
Long story short, after the 3 month period I had turned my $100,000 into about $120,000. Seeing that there was money to be made I had made my decision. I was going to be a stock trader.
Onward To College
The goal was still the same however. It was stock trader or bust and I enrolled as a Finance major and never looked back.
The 4 years at school went by fast and I met a lot of great people, gained a lot of great friends, went to a lot of great parties and overall had a great time.
What I didn’t do though, was prepare myself well for life after school. I was an average student in college, not for lack of brightness but lack of ambition. As an 18-21 year old I found it hard to hold my self accountable for those 8am classes or extra curricular groups that are coveted by employers.
But, I did graduate a semester early. This was due to a couple credits from high school and a couple credits from summer classes. After 3 1/2 years I escaped college with a finance degree and a GPA of 3.3 (or so).
The Best Decision of My Life
Although I regret not giving more priority to my school work, I also made the best decision of my life during those years.
On my way to economics class one morning there was a study abroad fair being held in the corridor. As I was walking through I picked up a couple of the leaflets. The next day I phoned my mother and told her I was going to Rome for 4 months.
The next day I phoned my mother and told her I was going to Rome for 4 months.
She was obviously a bit shocked. In the end both mom and dad supported it, as moms and dads tend to do.
Rome introduced me to some of my lifelong friends. It also introduced me to a culture that was so different than mine and I loved it.
The 4 months I spent in Rome is what gave rise to my passion for traveling and seeing and doing.
Life After College
As my final days at college came to an end the realization of adulthood began to set it. Here I was, about to graduate and I had no idea what I was going to do.
I still wanted to be a ‘stock trader’. I just didn’t know how to make that happen. A pretty big issue at this point.
I started looking at the job postings on the MSU business college site. Selecting a few that sounded promising, I reached out and submitted my resume but heard nothing in return.
I knew why, I just didn’t want to admit as much. My resume was average, at best. I had an average GPA, a couple internships and no extra curricular activities. There was nothing setting me apart from the other 100 applicants.
Fate or Luck Landed Me My First Job
My cousins partner held a management role at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. It wasn’t the finance department but I asked him if I could use him as a referral on my application. He did me one better and got me in direct contact with the recruiters and helped setup an interview.
This wasn’t the stock trading job of my dreams but it was something.
Fate or Luck or Chance?
Now, if you’re a believer in fate (I’m not) than this next part is for you.
At the same time as I reached out to my cousin for help, his cousin (no relation to me) was visiting him. My cousin’s cousin (stay with me here) whom I’ve never met worked for Deloitte.
If I’m being 100% honest, I had never heard of Deloitte before or really even the term consulting. It turns out Deloitte was a multi-billion dollar company and a very well respected name in the business world.
Anyway, my cousin mentioned to his cousin that I was looking for a job and had a finance degree. As luck/fate would have it, Deloitte was hiring and looking for finance degrees. A phone interview was set up.
I made it through the phone interview and was asked to come meet face to face. Upon arriving and settling into an office, I noticed a 3 ring binder on the desk. It read ‘University of Michigan Graduate Recruitment Questions’.
If you don’t know, the University of Michigan is MSU’s rival. All hatred aside, U of M is well known to be a great school. But for good measure….
I found out later that Deloitte had originally only hired from U of M and never hired from MSU. I was the first for this particular role.
Beating out 100 U of M applicants (I think there were only 3-4 kids in the lobby when I left but 100 sounds better), I was offered the job. My adulthood began.
Being an Adult is Hard
My dad warned me on my first day of college. ‘Ty, it’s probably smart to get a job while at school to start paying down your student loans’. Obviously I knew more than my dad and I went all 3 1/2 years with no job and racked up a lot of debt. A lot of debt.
Well, that debt needed to be paid back and the time for that was now.
That bi-weekly paycheck evaporated…quickly. Rent, food, drinks, new furniture (dumb) and student loans. I was paying well over $1000 per month on student loans and not making a dent.
Even though I was being paid what I thought was a lot of money, I didn’t feel rich. Hell, I didn’t feel upper class.
A New Career, A New Goal
Joining Deloitte I quickly made a name for myself as the ‘efficiency guy’ on the team. My niche was taking mundane and time consuming tasks and automating them. In honesty, I did this so I didn’t have to do them.
But this helped me progress faster than my peers and I went from Analyst to Consultant to Senior Consultant in a short amount of time.
It was official, the days of being a stock trader were over, I was a ‘consultant’.
The International Travel Itch Began to Creep Up
I enjoyed my time at Deloitte, I really did. The work was interesting and I was good at it. I started making goodish money and was traveling quite a bit (in the US) but that international travel itch began to creep up.
I began looking for opportunities to go overseas. For the record, Deloitte is in over 150 countries but it is quite hard to make internal transfers I found out.
Getting a job overseas is difficult. Employers would rather hire local talent, which makes sense. So I started looking at alternative methods. I gave teaching abroad a serious look but my student loans prevented me from going that route. I also looked into an international MBA. So much so, I applied to a couple and got accepted to a small school in Italy. This wasn’t ideal as it meant leaving my job and salary and carrying yet more student loan debt.
Fate or Luck or Chance Strikes Again
At this time, I was flying from Detroit (my home office) to New York (my clients office) every week. I took the 6am flight out every Monday morning. A flight I usually slept on…until this one time.
I was wearing my Michigan State jacket and the man next to me wanted to talk sports, about 2 hours worth. From take off to landing we talked MSU athletics. While standing at the baggage claim he asked me what I did. I replied ‘consulting for Deloitte’ and he replied ‘oh, I’m supposed to be hiring you sort of people’.
It turns out that he was the head of North American recruiting for a small Northern Irish Capital Markets Consulting firm. He asked me to come down to their office to meet the head of the office and talk about some opportunities.
I met with the office head and discussed what the company did, my skill set and a potential fit. It turns out they provide IT and capital markets consulting for banks, hedge funds, etc. The most important thing that stood out to me was that they had offices in NYC, London, Singapore, Sydney, Hong Kong and Toronto. This was my way overseas.
After a couple emails back and forth, the rest, as they say, is history. After 3 years with Deloitte I accepted an offer from a guy I met on an airplane.
One Year Later I Still Wasn’t Overseas
I joined my new consulting firm and my first position was in NYC. This was OK because I confirmed with the office head that after a year in NYC helping him build the practice there he would support my move to one of our overseas offices.
My first client in NYC was working for Deutsche Bank, a German company. The job wasn’t exactly thrilling but it was pretty easy and I saw it as a means to an end. As months crept on I had my 1 year in sight which marked the date I could go overseas.
The 1 year mark came and went and I mentioned as much to my boss. He said, give it a couple months and we would figure it out. I was an idiot and obliged. Those couple months came and went as well.
Well, as it turns out the client really liked me (for whatever reason). So much so that they offered me a job in their Frankfurt (Germany) office. I would’ve accepted it on the spot had it not been a pay cut.
Offer in hand, I went to my boss and said pretty simply, ‘please don’t make me accept this’. I rolled off that client (left the project) 1 month later and was on my way to London.
Living in London and Exploring Europe
Life was good. Here I was, making good money and living the expat life. Not only that but my company covered all my expenses. My company covered my rent, food, transportation and 4 flights homes each year. It was like getting a $30,000 pay bump overnight.
All this new capital allowed me to travel….a lot. In the 8 months that I lived in London, I went to over 20 countries in Europe. I skied in the alps, drank beer at Oktoberfest and saw some pretty awesome castles.
At the same time I was planning my next move. I knew the project I was on wouldn’t last forever and I didn’t want to get sent back to the US after it ended. There was an opportunity in South Africa and I reached out to put my hat in the ring. After reaching out, I was earmarked for a role on that project. Perfect, next stop South Africa.
I rolled off my project on March 31st and awaited news on South Africa. I was in the office on Wednesday and got a call from our Singapore office, ‘Tyler, would you want to come out to Singapore for a project’. Ummm, yeah?
That call happened Wednesday, I packed Thursday and was in Singapore on Friday.
The Day I Realized I Had to Leave
I was living and working and traveling in Asia. Again, life was good.
Singapore is an awesome place to live. Year round warm weather, great location to travel from, modern, clean and safe. It had it all.
I had just returned from an amazing two weeks vacation in Switzerland and Croatia and headed into work. Vacations are supposed to rejuvenate and refresh you. This one didn’t. It left me wanting more.
One morning I walked into the coffee shop to get breakfast. I went to the same coffee shop, ordered the same coffee and the same breakfast each day. This morning when I entered, the lady at the register saw me coming and had already typed in my order.
This was my coming to Jesus moment. This was going to be my Monday thru Friday for the next 40 years. That thought scared me to death.
Handing in My Resignation
After a couple weeks deliberating my options I decided I was going to go through with this. I called my parents to tell them and to get their thoughts. They’ve been my voice of reason in the past and always offered the cons to my pros.
At first, they were not thrilled nor supportive. They couldn’t understand why I would give up a a job that paid $100,000+ to travel.
I explained to them I didn’t want to look back in 40 years and regret not traveling when I was still able bodied. Not that retirees aren’t able bodied but you do see less of them surfing or climbing mountains.
Truth be told, I was going to resign with or without their blessing but it is definitely more comforting having your parents blessing. In the end both mom and dad gave their support and on August 1st, 2016 I officially handed in my resignation.
Originally, my firm asked that I stay until the end of November. I explained to them I could not do this as I’ve already kicked the can down the road long enough. It was agreed that Sept 30th would be my last day.
Preparing for the End
I began getting my affairs in order to prepare for a year abroad. Knowing that my health coverage would soon end I ordered 12 months worth of contacts, had two hand surgeries to fix an old injury and went in for my travel vaccinations.
I also began purging my belongings as the 4 bags I was currently living out of needed to be trimmed and consolidated into 2 backpacks. The bulk of the consolidation happened when I went home to Michigan for a week at the end of August. I was able to take all my winter clothing home and didn’t have to throw it away in Singapore.
Backpacks in tow, I returned to Singapore for the final 3 weeks of my employment. The next 3 weeks flew by and before I knew it I was saying goodbye to my new friends I had made there.
September 30th came, I handed in my work belongings and walked out of the office one last time.
Excited, Anxious and Scared
That’s how I felt on October 1st.
Excited because I was setting out on an adventure of a lifetime. Anxious because of the uncertainty that lay ahead. Scared because I was second guessing my decision.
Is this my mid-life crisis?
Did I make the right choice? Is this a mistake? Is this my mid-life crisis (could very well be)? All these questions crept into my head and it’s an unsettling feeling. It’s a scary feeling setting out on one’s own but the support of family and friends is all I’ve needed to affirm my decision.
Travel, Lots of It
Currently I have a one-way ticket to Cambodia (just landed) and 4 nights in a hostel in Siem Reap. After that, I have nothing planned and I wouldn’t have it any other way as that’s how adventures are had.
Following Cambodia, I plan to head north through Laos for a week or so and then head west into Thailand. I will probably stay 2-3 months in Thailand as I’ve recently been offered an interesting opportunity there. More on this in a later post.
I’ve lots of places to visit in Thailand. Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Krabi and the islands are all on the to do list.
There are many other places of interest in Asia that I may or may not get to this time around. Those include China, Japan, South Korea, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, Philippines and parts of Vietnam I missed.
In December, I will spending a couple weeks in Hawaii. I hope to learn to surf while I’m there.
After that, it’s more than likely I will head down to South America and do a tour there. Places like Machu Picchu, The Galapagos Islands and Brazil’s beaches have long been destinations on my list.
After that the world is literally my oyster. I’ve thought about heading to Africa to do a tour there or maybe to Australia and New Zealand for some outdoor activities.
Honestly, I’m not sure where the next 2, 3, 6, 12 months are going to take me. Nothing is set in stone and nothing is confirmed. I have accommodations for the next 4 nights in Siem Reap, Cambodia and then I will be heading to the next city or country.
Life After Travel
As the cliche goes, ‘All good things must come to an end’. Such is life. Eventually I will simply run out of money or need a break from traveling all together.
When this happens, I will need to work. Maybe I’ll get back into consulting. Both Deloitte and my prior firm have expressed interest in having me back. It’s a comforting fallback option to have.
However, at this point, I’m not sure I want to head back to an office setting. After all, it was the main reason I left.
I’ve thought about teaching English overseas for a bit. It’s an option but in terms of financial stability and security, it’s lacking.
Entrepreneurship, Digital Nomads and Working Remotely
Ideally, I am looking for a job that offers location independence and financial stability. In terms of financial stability, I don’t need to be a millionaire but I do want to afford myself a comfortable living and the means to travel.
50 Years ago this probably wasn’t possible. Hell, 20 years ago this probably wasn’t possible. Now, with the internet, location independence and financial stability aren’t impossible. They are definitely within reach. A lot of startups are offering remote working positions. Even some blue chip companies are offering these roles to remain competitive in the workplace.
A remote position is something I can see myself pursuing later on. If all else fails…
Becoming a Digital Nomad
I’m not sure if a digital nomad has an exact definition but for me it means being a digital entrepreneur. This typically means owning a website or websites and having those be your main sources of income.
This type of entrepreneurship offers both the location independence and financial stability I’m looking for.
Over the years I’ve had multiple ideas and have made multiple websites. All have failed. Some were simply bad ideas and others were simply poorly executed by me.
In the last 6 months I’ve quietly built a couple more websites that, for the first time, have actually started to make me money. It’s not crazy money but they are profitable which is a great sign.
My plan over the next 12 months is to optimize my existing sites and build new ones in the hope of replacing the income I lost when I left my job. The beauty of the websites I am building is that the only thing I require to operate is an internet connection. In this day and age, a reliable internet can be found almost anywhere. Case in point, I am writing this from a coffee shop in Cambodia.
Case in point, I am writing this from a coffee shop in Cambodia.
As I mentioned earlier, I said I had an opportunity in Thailand thus why I will be spending quite a bit of time there. I’ll get into more detail in a later post but I am partnering with like minded ‘digital nomads’ to start up a couple sites over the next 2-3 months. What’s great is that everyone in the group has a proven track record which will help us accelerate the growth of our sites from idea to profitability.
The Road Ahead
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. You now know my life story.
The next 12 months promise to be an adventure. I can’t imagine it will all go smoothly and I don’t expect it to. I’m OK with that.
I do know that the next 12 months will be full of memories and people and places I’ll never forget.
The world’s a big place and I hope to see it…all of it.