I experienced an “awakening” back in late 2009.
It was my first such awakening in life.
And I’m incredibly grateful that it occurred.
I’ve spent years of my life manifesting that awakening into the potential I knew it and I possessed. And I’ve just as vigorously shared the progress of that manifestation process with the world, which I’ve hoped would inspire, motivate, and help people.
That first awakening literally changed my life. It made me a completely different person. And I never saw the world the same afterwards.
Well, just as monumental to my life, I experienced a second awakening less than a year ago.
And I think it’s very worthwhile to share that with you readers.
I’m going to take some time today to discuss these two awakenings, the catalysts behind them, and some of the outcomes.
My First Awakening
Let’s first dig into that first awakening with a little more depth.
There was a realization that I didn’t need to have a job I didn’t like – or a job at all – in order to pay my bills, nor did I need to spend/consume so much in order to be happy.
I didn’t have to forestall retirement until I was an old man, well past my prime, and not nearly as able and willing to enjoy my time and freedom.
To work a job I didn’t enjoy just so that I could maybe buy things that didn’t really make me happy seemed silly.
Repeating this process over and over again, for most of my waking hours, until I was near death, compounded the folly.
The first awakening was the realization that financial independence didn’t only exist, but that it was possible for an everyday, average guy like myself.
If I could figure out a way to live well below my means and invest my excess capital intelligently so as to generate passive income to live off of, I could quit my job decades before it’s possible for most people.
That was a massive paradigm shift in my thinking. This was such a huge wake-up call. It’s a change in vision and mindset that I can’t really fully place value on. It’s invaluable.
And it led to radical changes in my lifestyle, as I’ve outlined and shared in real-time over the years.
It also led to quitting my job at 32 years old, becoming financially free at 33, and inspiring countless people around the world in the process.
This awakening has positively changed my life in ways that I can’t fully put into words – which is saying a lot for someone who’s written well over 1,000 articles and a best-selling book on achieving financial independence.
But another massive paradigm shift in my thinking occurred not too long ago.
My Second Awakening
This other paradigm shift was my second “awakening” in life.
It hit me in 2017. It hit me like a ton of bricks, actually.
And this second awakening led to changes in my lifestyle that were just as radical as what the first awakening prompted and resulted in.
An interesting thing about it is, this awakening occurred almost exactly eight years after my first awakening, which is pretty close to the timeline that I believe is correct for one lifetime in a person’s life.
Also interesting is that my career in the auto industry lasted about eight years.
What happened here, is, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m ready for a massive change every 7-8 years in my life.
Indeed, the person I am today is almost unrecognizable in comparison to the person I was when I first started my career in the auto industry about 12 years ago. (And that’s not just because I still had some hair on my head back then.)
The realization of the existence and possibilities of financial independence is behind much of this, but the second awakening has further moved me away from who I used to be and how I used to think.
Before I dig into the exact details of this second awakening, though, let’s discuss catalysts for a moment.
The Lack Of Freedom
I can’t say when my next awakening will occur, or if it ever will. I don’t force any kind of change in my thought process. That change, in my experience, is a natural evolution in the growth of a person. It should happen totally organically.
I also can’t say that if another awakening does occur, it will have anything in common with the prior two.
However, I can say that the first two awakenings had a common catalyst: the lack of freedom.
The lack of freedom as a catalyst for the first awakening is pretty straightforward. I lacked financial freedom. If I didn’t show up to the job and earn my paycheck, I couldn’t afford to put a roof over my head or food in my belly. It’s quite simple.
But it’s a bit more nuanced as it relates to the second time around.
While financial freedom is a wonderful goal, it can be limiting to a degree. This is especially true if you’re just barely financially independent (i.e., your passive income only narrowly covers your expenses in life).
I don’t know how free I can be if I’m not free from worrying about money. I actually don’t think I’m very free at all in that scenario.
Being free from a job is one thing. It’s a fantastic thing, don’t get me wrong.
But it’s just one degree of freedom.
However, being free from money itself is quite another thing, and I’d argue it’s a much more substantial degree of freedom.
Freedom exists along a spectrum, as I discussed more than three years ago.
What I didn’t fully realize back then, though, is that even being financially free isn’t total freedom, because there are concerns over money always hovering in the back of one’s mind if financial independence was only recently attained. If you haven’t moved too far past the 100% mark on that spectrum, even financial freedom itself isn’t as freeing as you might think.
While the early retirement math is moot, I don’t think it behooves one to actually rely on any active income once they’re financially independent. After all, if you’re relying on that money, you’re no longer financially independent.
Well, I found myself financially independent in my early 30s because I could indeed cover my basic expenses in life without a job or any other active source of income. The dividend income my FIRE Fund generates on my behalf, as well as online passive income like book royalties, had (and still has) my back.
But I was also just barely there. I had to watch every single penny in order to make sure expenses came under passive income.
And when my long-term relationship with my significant other ended in 2017, meaning I was due a move and some other life changes, I found my options somewhat limited within the structure of financial independence.
Now, much of the way I go about living life and spending money has little to do with money itself. I’m a value-minded person who doesn’t use price to gauge worthiness.
But I still have to live a reasonable life that makes me happy. If I’m not happy, all of this was for nothing.
Moving away from Sarasota became a pretty clear objective for me since it had become a bit expensive since I first moved to the city in 2009. Also, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of (traditional) retirees. Believe me, the fellow retirees I’d see down at the coffee shop were just a wee bit older than me.
So I started to look around the United States and compare my options in 2017, just as I had done in 2009 before moving from Michigan to Florida in order to strive toward a better financial future (which worked out tremendously).
Geographic arbitrage had worked wonderfully for me once before. I figured it was time to revisit this.
The options were… not great.
I found myself compromising in one way or another (or in numerous ways). Nothing seemed to really click for who I am and what I need. I just didn’t feel comfortable with any of the ideas I was coming up with.
There are a number of cheap places in the US. But I didn’t find myself excited about moving to and living in any of these places for the long term.
Of course, I can make it work in just about any city, if I really had to. It all comes down to what you’re willing to do to make something happen. And I’ve proven to myself that I have what it takes to make anything happen.
Still, though, weighing out benefits and drawbacks, there was no city in the whole country that seemed to fire on all cylinders for me.
For example, I like Portland, Oregon. I especially like it as someone who’s become a bit of an urban planning aficionado.
I like the topography, public transportation network (TriMet is admirable), human-scale development, walkability, urban growth boundary, food options, youthful dynamic, mild year-round weather, blend between urbanity and nature, and prevalent laid-back attitude.
If I had to build an urban neighborhood from scratch, it would look a lot like the Pearl District.
But the lengthy rainy/gray season, homelessness, high state income tax, overall relatively high (and quickly rising) COL, lack of density outside of the downtown area and its immediate environs, and political activism are all major drawbacks for me.
I even visited the city in the winter of 2017 to get a feel for it in person. I wanted to visit during the worst time of the year to see firsthand if I could live there.
While it’s a pretty city that met most of my preconceived expectations, the gray, rainy, and chilly climate also lived up to its billing. A bummer to deal with for just a short visit would be a real problem if I were to live there and experience that for a good chunk of every year.
And then it dawned on me while I sat there in a coffee shop on NW 23rd avenue in Portland, weighing out the idea of moving to Portland, unable to overcome my issues with the city.
I sat there, wishing that there was a place a lot like Portland, but one with a warmer/sunnier climate, a much lower COL, less homeless people, more density, more excitement, a more advantageous tax situation, a better dating scene, and no overwhelming political attitude.
Denver? Austin? Tampa? Bueller?
A place like that, to my knowledge, doesn’t actually exist in the US.
Wait a minute…
Why am I only looking at options within the US?
Becoming A Global Citizen
The lack of freedom I was experiencing wasn’t only limited to finances. My freedom was also limited by my geography, particularly as it pertains to my mindset (at the time) regarding geography.
Worse yet, my lack of freedom as it relates to being chained to worrying about money was directly related to and exacerbated by my geographical constraints. They were inextricably linked.
I once freed my mind, financially. It was time to free my mind once more – geographically, this time.
I wrote about how financial independence also equals location independence in 2015. And I’ve written quite a few articles over the years about the idea of living/moving abroad to take advantage of geographic arbitrage, even noting that I might personally try it out. It’s not a new concept for me. I’ve been thinking about it for a very long time.
However, it’s one thing to write or think about living anywhere in the world; it’s quite another thing altogether to actually up and move across the planet.
It’s, shall we say, a bit more bold to turn words into action.
But that’s basically what I’ve been doing for years now. I’ve been putting the theories to the test. My life is where the rubber meets the road. My writing cuts through the hypothetical aspects of investing, financial independence, and alternative lifestyles. I live these “crazy” ideas out and live to tell my story.
And so I started to realize that there was nothing stopping me from doing that yet again, as the one major obstacle (a long-term relationship in the States) keeping me from turning words into action as it relates to moving abroad was dissolving.
What I found through this process, though, is that there’s a very strong emotional connection to where you’re born.
And it surprisingly took me a while to get over that hump and realize that I could live almost anywhere in the world. Even as pragmatic, thoughtful, and introspective as I am, I had to “come around” to the idea of leaving the USA indefinitely.
But once it struck me that I didn’t have to stay in the States at all, I found myself more free than I had ever been. I felt a rush that was very similar to the one that came over me when I saw financial independence as a very real and attainable target for myself.
The second awakening in my life was realizing that I could become a global citizen.
My mind freed – and blown – once more.
No More Borders
I became aware that I can truly live almost anywhere in the world.
Financial independence, to a large (but not unlimited) degree, eliminates borders.
Not only that, but I can live a better, happier, and more free life elsewhere. There is nothing tying me to the States. There’s no “rule” that I have to stay there.
Borders exist almost as much in the mind as they do on paper.
Now, I’m not saying you can just waltz into any country you’d like, avoid paperwork, and stay indefinitely. That’s absolutely not how it works. If you come in illegally and just expect a country to welcome you with open arms, you’ll be sorely mistaken.
What I am saying, however, is that borders exist almost as much as a mental block – a construct within one’s mind – as they do in the physical sense.
This realization eliminated that mental block. That freed me just as much as seeing financial independence for what it truly is – as something that’s as possible as you believe it to be.
And if/when you have that financial independence already locked in, you’re then able to move over into geographic independence. That’s because you’ll have the resources necessary to properly live elsewhere.
You Should Live Where It’s Most Advantageous To You
I started to see that every place is just a giant rock, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks.
A place should be looked at based on its merits, not its physical location relative to where you’ve already been located for any certain period of time.
We shouldn’t be objects that stay blindly and mindlessly in motion only because we’ve been in motion. We should stay in motion because we’re cognizant of our direction and completely enthralled by it. This goes for all aspects of our lives – what work we do, who we spend our time with, where we live, etc.
Said more simply, we shouldn’t live somewhere because we’ve been living there – or because we were born there. We should live somewhere because we’re making our best choice after honest and contemplative introspection about who we are and what we want out of our physical space.
And so a physical place – a place where you live for any particular period of time – becomes more of a fabrication than anything else.
Joe Dirt tried to teach us that home is where you make it (or something like that), but I think home is simply a place that treats you better than any of the other available options.
Where you live should be where it’s most advantageous, best setting you up to excel across every area of life that you deem important. A home is just a piece of shelter on a rock. The major distinctions between all available choices of where one can live are advantageousness, happiness, and the ability to succeed at one’s chosen set of endeavors.
And we have to keep in mind that this choice may change based on those parameters leading to different outcomes as a person grows and evolves.
Also, the best choice may be the place where you were born and grew up.
That is possible.
But it’s unlikely.
That’s because where you grew up is just one choice of millions. The odds that you were naturally and luckily placed in the best choice of all available choices is highly unlikely.
Looking at those parameters, I realized for myself that the United States was no longer my best choice. It wasn’t the right rock.
Actually, it wasn’t even close.
It’s an expensive rock to walk around on without the commensurate benefits, at least for me.
Taking Advantage Of Global Citizenship
And so I took some time to scour the entire planet for the place that would best serve me within the parameters I just laid out.
I looked at the world as a global citizen.
I researched and considered hundreds of cities across dozens of countries.
I wanted a warm and sunny climate, low COL, good infrastructure, youth, delicious food, like-minded people, a great dating scene (I was now single), walkability, easy access to transportation, and a plethora of amenities that I deem to be important (gym, movie theater, etc.).
I wanted to find the maximum spread between high QOL and low COL.
Some fine, fine options popped up. And I could probably do quite well in many of them.
But my goal was to find the one place that I felt was going to be most advantageous to me, where I would likely be happiest and most successful at my chosen endeavors in life.
That place turned out to be Thailand. More specifically, Chiang Mai.
The advantageous dynamics as they relate to cost of living, climate, urbanity, culture, like-minded people, and access to everything I enjoy in life have led to a significant boost in my happiness and overall success as a human being.
While Thailand may not always be the right answer, it certainly is right now. And it will probably remain so for the foreseeable future.
As soon as it ceases to be the right answer, however, I’ll take the time to have that honest conversation and consider my next move(s).
By the way, if global citizenry and geographic arbitrage really interests you, especially in the sense of using it to propel you toward financial independence much faster, check out my latest best-selling book: 5 Steps To Retire In 5 Years.
This relocation to Thailand has only been possible and successful because of that second awakening.
I’ve known for a long time that I could economically afford to live in many places throughout the world. But until I saw borders for what they are, and until I realized what a place truly is, it wasn’t fully possible for me to successfully move abroad.
Likewise, as a global citizen, I’ll only stay here for as long as it’s the most advantageous place for me to live. If a time ever comes in which I feel like I’d be happier and better able to carry out the lifestyle and passions that are important to me somewhere else, I’d go to that somewhere else.
I wanted to share this process with you readers because I believe having the right mindset – for anything in life – is important before you actually embark on a chosen adventure. Otherwise, it’ll be difficult to fully commit and succeed.
Financial independence has revolutionized my thinking and my life. But becoming a global citizen has built on that in a major way, and it’s caused in an evolution in me that has been just as impactful.
What do you think? Have you ever had an awakening? What happened before and after that awakening? Are you interested in becoming a global citizen? Why or why not?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
P.S. If you’re interested in becoming a global citizen, and if you’d like to become financially independent so that you can live life on your terms, check out some amazing resources that helped me become a global citizen who’s financially independent in his 30s!