A roller coaster. The most adequate description of my life over the last four years. My decision to break free and take control of my destiny came as a result of a series of unexpected events, that led me from Australia, to Thailand, to Denmark, and back again to Thailand.
The first step is to begin at the beginning, and in the beginning there is always a girl. We met in a company training session in Copenhagen, and fell head-over-heels for each other. The flight back to Sydney was terrible, I knew where I wanted to be, and who I wanted to be with. Unfortunately for my parents, this was not in Australia! Two months later, with a freshly signed expatriation contract, I boarded a plane to her hometown of Bangkok. This first shift was painless. As an expat, your hand is held through every difficult moment associated with an international relocation. Visa, work permits, and even your belongings are taken care of, one day you just wake up realizing you are indeed quite far from home.
The second shift reflected another opportunity. To Copenhagen with us both on expatriation; tackling exciting projects, our life was surreal. However crunch time always hits, hitting hardest in the midst of the financial crisis. I found myself alone in Denmark after her contract was terminated, and 30% of our workforce had been made redundant. Looking to my colleagues, I realized that experience, ability, and skills counted for little. People whose life had been this company, counted for naught. My friends who had invested their entire careers in this business were now out of a job, out of options.
It was this point that was critical for me. During yet another round of farewell beers, I decided that I never wanted to be trapped in that position. I never wanted to give another person the ability to influence my life to such a degree. I never wanted to rely on anyone but myself. My financial future, my life, and ultimately my happiness needed to be under my control.
Handing in my resignation sealed my fate. I threw in the towel with the company that had trained me, where I had grown from an entry-level trainee to management, and built my career over the course of six years. It was not a decision made lightly, and my advice for anyone considering a digital nomad lifestyle is twofold. Have a back-up plan in place, and have some money behind you. Your savings will ensure you can put food on the table, and a back-up plan provides peace of mind during the transition. I had savings that could fund my life in Bangkok for 12 months, 18 at a stretch if my earnings were zero. This provided peace of mind to myself, as well as my family, who at this point were thinking that their son had lost the plot. I also talked in detail with my previous managers in Thailand, and had received an open invitation to return to my previous job. This greatly reduced the risk that involved, making it much easier to take my first leap.
Selling 99% of my belongings was a freeing experience, it opened my eyes to the materialism that is mind-numbingly forced down our throats in modern society. The scary part, is that most of us never even realize. My 20 kg baggage allowance on the return flight to Thailand did not leave room for sentiment, and I was brutal. I moved to Copenhagen with a twenty-foot container jammed full of my life, almost a ton of accumulated “stuff” that I had given value to. I returned with a suitcase.
Touching down in the heat of Bangkok, I had no idea on my next steps. No plan, no 5-step guide.
I was definitely in the deep end, but I had never felt more alive.
Author: Travis Bennett