When I first started marching toward financial freedom back in 2010, my goal was basically just to quit my job by 40 and live off of passive dividend income.
It was that simple.
Things worked out a little bit better than I originally planned.
Actually, a lot better.
My FIRE Fund currently generates the five-figure and growing passive dividend income I need to pay essential expenses in life.
The thing is, I accomplished that feat much earlier than I originally thought I would.
FIRE is amazing. I’m enjoying every single day now.
However, much of that enjoyment stretches beyond the basic parameters of covering expenses with passive income.
What was originally a goal to simply become financially free, has transformed into an all-encompassing lifestyle.
I’ve grown and learned. As a result of that growth and experience, I now aim to be holistically free in all aspects of my life. I want to be physically free, mentally free, geographically free, financially free, etc.
It’s more than just paying bills with passive income; it’s about being free to be the real you, from your head to your toes.
Do what you want, when you want, where you want, why you want, with whom you want. Build a customized lifestyle with no limitations.
Make the rules as you go. Or have no rules at all.
Just total freedom.
What’s super interesting about this for me personally is, my move abroad has opened up a whole new world of freedom as it relates to the rest of my life.
This realization was bolstered by an interesting tidbit I picked up on a while ago.
The word “Thai” means “free”.
USA: Land Of The Free?
It’s right in the national anthem of the United States of America.
“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
Now, the US is a fantastic place for a number of reasons. I would never state otherwise. And I’m very, very lucky that I was born there. Not only was I born in the US, I was born there white, male, and in 1982. That’s just plain good luck.
But how free is the average American, really?
Sure. We’re not talking subjugation here. It’s an independent democracy that operates under capitalism.
So there’s a lot of freedom built right into that.
But I’m saying we need to look deeper than the surface.
Certainly from a financial angle, the average American isn’t very free at all. Most Americans can’t even cover a $1,000 emergency.
You may as well forget about financial freedom. Quitting your job means you’ll soon be homeless in that kind of scenario.
Even Americans who make a ton of money, like Johnny Depp, aren’t financially free.
In the most advanced and wealthy society that’s ever existed in the history of humanity, the average citizen is still very much chained to their job, their paychecks, their quotas, their stuff. It’s not subjugation, but it’s definitely wage slavery.
The vast majority of adult Americans are overweight or outright obese.
When you’re overworked, overweight, and overextended, you’re naturally going to become overstressed.
And when talking about being the real you, it’s not all that possible or even fun in the US.
You’re expected to march to the beat of the big drum. You swim in the same direction as the rest of the fish. You get in line, do your work, fulfill your quota, and don’t ask questions.
The moment you fail to fit in is the moment you feel like an outcast.
I experienced this myself once I started to free myself of all of this. I faced resentment and bewilderment.
You see, I openly wondered about a different and better way of life. But if you’re not with them, you’re against them.
A buddy of mine here in Chiang Mai said “Land of the Free” is a marketing scheme. Read the fine print. Then you see what’s really going on.
Thailand: Free Land
Whereas the US has a song about being the land of the free, Thailand literally translates as “Free Land”.
The word “Thai” means “free”, relating to the fact that they’re the only country in the region to never have been colonized by Europeans. This was backed up by my Thai girlfriend. She states the word means to be independent as a country and as a people. So it’s a land of free and independent people.
And after living here for more than a year now, I can see just how free life actually is over here.
In the US, I was financially free. I could, with careful lifestyle management, cover my expenses with my passive investment income.
And I could have continued to do that, had I stayed living in the US.
That’s all fine and dandy, but the problem is that I’m still an outcast over there.
How could I not want a job? What do I do all day without a boss giving me instructions? How can I not be bored without workplace drama, quotas to fill, and repetitive tasks to perform that were chosen for me by someone else?
Why wouldn’t I want to be overworked, overstressed, overweight, and overextended like everyone else?
Sure, I was free in the US… to get a job, fall in line, eat too much, and buy a bunch of stuff I don’t need.
This omnipresent and unquestioned loyalty to conformity weighs on you. There’s pressure to conform and perform.
Success in the US is measured by the size of one’s paycheck, not the breadth of their happiness.
And leaving the herd of sheeple ends up leaving you looking like a wolf.
Meanwhile, there’s a sense of total openness, gregariousness, innocence, and happiness in Thailand that was completely lacking in the US.
Likewise, Thailand features a lack of judgement, finger pointing, divisiveness, violence, and anger that I found most of America consumed by.
This BBC piece completely captures how having fun is a way of life over here in Thailand.
Sanuk – the Thai word for fun – offers a lot of insight into how Thai people approach life.
Joy is built right into the culture!
It’s a positive feedback loop that encourages having fun for the sake of having fun. Fun is not something to escape to (because you’re so wound up from life). There’s intrinsic value in fun.
The attitudes I’ve experienced over here are like this:
Don’t want a job?
You do you.
Want to hustle and make a lot of money?
You own a nice car?
Good for you.
You don’t own a car?
Good for you.
Want to get married and have children?
Don’t want to get married or have children?
It’s all sabai sabai. I love it.
I’ve written about the fundamental lifestyle differences between Thailand and the US, which has led to a massive dose of reverse culture shock on the part of yours truly.
However, it wasn’t until just recently that I discovered that these differences are right out in the open.
One country advertises itself as free.
Another country literally is free.
The US is a fine, fine place to live. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to have been born there and done all that I’ve done.
But I wouldn’t say it’s a totally “free land”. In fact, I’d argue it’s almost the complete opposite of that in many ways.
Indeed, becoming geographically free (something almost every single American is not) has completely freed my mind in ways I didn’t even know was possible before. And it’s a chain reaction that has led to numerous other aspects of my life being more free than ever before.
I’m in better physical, financial, and mental condition than I ever was while I lived in the US. I’m more free across the board.
This is in large part due to geographic arbitrage, especially in terms of moving to the right place.
Using geographic arbitrage to advantageously speed along true freedom is something I discuss more of in my newest best-selling book: 5 Steps To Retire In 5 Years.
Living a life that’s as free as possible is extremely appealing. A place that offers the best chance of accomplishing that is, in my opinion, the only logical place to live.
The best place that I know of, currently, is the place that literally translates to “Free Land”: Thailand.
What do you think? Is the US as free as it makes itself out to be? Why or why not? Do you think you could be even more free elsewhere?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: josphos at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
P.S. If you’re looking to be truly free across all aspects of your life, which would first require financial freedom, check out some amazing resources that helped me reach financial freedom at just 33 years old!