So there I was … well down the path of the American dream. I had earned an engineering degree from the University of Michigan, was working 9-5 in a dynamic nano tech company, driving fancy cars and living in a lake house with a white picket fence. I was in on the ground level, and our small startup was very well funded. When we had board meetings, it looked like an exotic car lot out front. Dreams of an IPO and swimming like a dolphin in a vault of gold coins consumed me.
I worked hard … but I also firmly believed in the work-hard play-hard philosophy. I spread my 20 days of vacation time out so that I had three day weekends at least every other week. Knowing I was going to be skiing, climbing, surfing or biking on the weekend motivated me to get more done in four days at work, and better enjoy my time off. I had beat the system, and was living an ideal life for a guy in his mid 20s.
A few years into this highfalutin, venture-capitol funded, playboy lifestyle, I realized that I wasn’t actually as happy as I thought, and portrayed myself to be. The people I had grown close to over my countless long weekend adventures were truly happy. They were the ones without a solid job or those tangible possessions of the American dream. They were living out of vans and old school busses. Each Sunday afternoon as I was packing up to migrate home along with all of the other “weekend warriors” they were just heading out to the cliff to scope out their project for the coming week. I was envious of the bounty of beautiful weather and uncrowded climbing they would experience while I was back at work.
By living simply, and following their heart, my ‘dirtbag’ friends were actually living a happier, fuller, more adventured life than I was … and I didn’t have enough time to keep up!
They didn’t have much lined up for the future, retirement, or a rainy day, but they made me realize that true wealth had very little to do with money. I came to understand that true wealth is measured in the abstract variable of time.
Being in control of your own time is actually what defines true wealth. Time contributes to happiness and time enables adventures. Money can play a factor in this, but more often than not, money and time are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Unwinding the American dream turned out to be one of the biggest challenges I have faced. I was so heavily indentured to my job, that it was nearly impossible. With constant reminders of what life on the other side might be like at the end of every weekend, going back to work became less and less fulfilling. I made a conscious decision that I would unravel the financial web that bound me to my 9-5. Removing my debt obligations by liquidating material possessions was the first step. In roughly two years I had sold the fancy cars, moved into an RV, rented the house, and enabled some passive cash flow through a small organic skin care business. Finally, I left the nanotech industry, and hit the road.
My new life embraced the freedom of my vagabond friends, yet also let me prepare for the future. This new skin care business could sustain my travels for the near future, but also had enormous long term potential. I had enabled myself to chase the sunshine, play everyday, and work at an enjoyable pace from my 310 square foot rolling home and office ‘with a view’.
Writing this essay, I’m parked somewhere along the Pacific Coast Highway listening to waves crashing against the beach. My hair is still wet from the morning surf. An occasional salty drip catches the corner of my mouth as I bite into the 23rd PB&J sandwich I’ve had for lunch in as many days. I desperately miss sushi lunches, but it’s just not in the budget. And honestly, this same old sandwich is pretty good with an awesome view!
Take a moment to close your eyes. Imagine what view you would like to have outside your office window this week. What would you sacrifice to get there?
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