I think the shock really hit about halfway through the flight.
Although the strong smells of drying fish, the weird food, and the jet lag made the previous few days in Hong Kong unique, it wasn’t until we boarded the regional Chinese plane to Wenzhou that a bit of panic started to set in.
At first, it was a normal flight and we were excited to get to the place that would become our new home for the next three months. As we sat on the flight though, the Chinese man next to us began hacking up a lung (possibly two) and depositing said lung(s) onto the floor of the aircraft. He wasn’t inconspicuous about it either. Flight attendants would walk by in the middle of these extremely gross episodes, or just afterwards when he would use his shoes to spread his “gift” into the carpet of the aircraft, and nobody even batted an eyelid. It was then that I knew China was going to be an experience I would never forget.
The next 24 hours intensified my culture shock and left me wondering why I couldn’t just be a “normal” American who was content with working during the week and having a few beers with friends over the weekend.
From thinking we were going to die during the drive from the airport to worrying that everyone staring at us was out to get us or that everything that we ate would result in food poisoning, it was quite a stressful first few days, to say the least.
Once we settled in though, we realized that the driving, although very crazy and scary at first, actually worked and made sense after a while, the people staring at us were usually friendly and just curious (it’s not often that people in less-touristy parts of China see a 6-foot-tall, blue-eyed American and blonde-haired, blue-eyed Scottish girl), and the food, although not being 100% agreeable with our western stomachs, wasn’t going to kill us.
Our three months in China in 2009 ended up being a life-changing experience and we’ve been hoping to go back to Asia ever since. Luckily, we don’t have to wait much longer…
On January 6th, Jill and I fly from Prague, Czech Republic to Bangkok, Thailand (part of a ridiculous $277 error fare I booked from USA to Europe to Asia).
We will spend some time in Bangkok, travel to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia, and then settle down in Chiang Mai, Thailand for at least a month. During our time in Chiang Mai, we plan to make a few trips to the border regions to volunteer (Jill will be using her optometry skills to provide eye care and I’ll hopefully be able to tag along as well). Finally, we’ll head to the islands for a bit before flying back to Scotland in March.
In case any of you will be in the same places as us and want to meet up for a drink or something, here’s our tentative itinerary:
London: Jan 1st – 4th
Prague: Jan 4th – 6th
Bangkok: Jan 7th – 12th
Siem Reap: Jan 12th – 15th
Ho Chi Minh: Jan 15th – 18th
Kuala Lumpur: Jan 18th – 21st
Chiang Mai: Jan 21st – Feb 20th
TBD: Feb 20th – Mar 6th
Early Retirement Preview
As I mentioned in the Power of Quitting article, I have continued working for my American employer since moving to Scotland. It’s actually been working out great and I plan to continue after returning from Thailand but I will be taking two months of unpaid leave while we’re in Asia.
I look forward to testing the early-retirement waters without actually quitting my job so I’ll treat my time in Asia as a trial run to see how it goes.
I plan to track all of my expenses in each of the countries we visit so that I can determine how much of an impact geographic arbitrage could have on someone’s journey to FI.
The idea behind geographic arbitrage is that you earn money in a strong currency (like the US Dollar) and then spend money in a weaker currency (like the Thai Baht). For those of us who can work from anywhere (or who have investments and/or side businesses that earn money regardless of where we are), moving somewhere with a weaker currency could drastically reduce the duration of your journey to FI.
Why You Should Move Abroad
After thinking about my time in China and also the last few months transitioning back to Scotland, I realized that moving abroad could be a huge boost to someone’s FI journey for the following reasons:
- Geographic Arbitrage – Maintain the same standard of living while spending significantly less
- Prioritization of Belongings – When packing for a trip, you figure out what you actually need and realize how much “stuff” you don’t
- Reduction of Belongings – If you move abroad permanently, like we did, it forces you to get rid of pretty much everything you don’t actively use
- Minimalism – When you go through the process of reducing your belongings to just a few checked bags, you’ll never want to buy anything ever again (trust me)
- Appreciation – If you feel like the world’s unfair because you can’t get the latest iPhone, go live in a third-world country for a bit and that will never happen again
- Responsibility – Once you realize how hard others have to work just to survive, you’ll feel a greater responsibility to use your money wisely and not squander it away
- Motivation – Experiencing the world will motivate you even more to escape the cubical as quickly as possible
Since I won’t be working while I’m gone, I plan to use the extra time to make some improvements around here. One thing that’s been missing since I started this site is a tagline. I realize that when new visitors arrive here, they may not know what the site is all about at first (what the hell is a fientist?).
I think a good tagline will help with that but I’m not sure what it should be. Since you know why you read my stuff and what makes my site unique, I figured I’d ask you!
What’s a catchy sentence that would perfectly sum up the Mad Fientist? Ideally it will have “financial independence” in it (to explain the FI in fientist) but I’m not sure what else. If you have any ideas, please leave your suggestions in the comments below!
To sweeten the deal and to thank you for your input (and to offset some of my business income with some additional 2014 business expenses, haha), I decided to do another contest.
How to Enter
To enter, simply leave a tagline in the comments below or vote for someone else’s tagline by replying to their comment.
The contest will end at 11:59PM EST tomorrow (12/23), at which point I will pick two winners: the person who suggested the best tagline (as judged by me) and then someone else randomly from all of the comments (that means if you suggest a tagline, you’ll have two chances to win and could potentially win both prizes).
Each winner will be able to choose one of the following two prizes:
1) Enrollment in J.D. Roth’s Get Rich Slowly course.
While I haven’t completed the full course, I did read the Be Your Own CFO guide that comes with the course and it was excellent so I think this would be a perfect prize for someone in the earlier stages of pursuing financial independence.
2) The following three books:
This is my last post of the year so I just wanted to thank all of you for reading, commenting, emailing, and making my own personal journey to financial independence much more interesting and enjoyable.
I have some very exciting things planned for this site in 2015 so I look forward to seeing you back here in January!
Travel Hacking and Slow Travel
By combining travel-hacking techniques and a slow-travel mentality, it's possible to achieve early financial independence while traveling the world.