GCC: When we were planning our own early retirement we had the good fortune to meet with people who had already blazed that trail. It was insanely beneficial, and I told myself I would always pay it forward. So when this young Canadian couple emailed to ask if we could meet to share all of our best life secrets (not that we have any), of course we said yes. Fast forward a few years now, and they’ve gone from nascent early retirees with an abundance of vim and vigor into a full on Millennial Revolution.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. –Mark Twain.”
This is the quote I copied into my final work e-mail. It was May 2015, I had given my notice, made up some bullshit excuse about taking a gap year to travel the world and “find myself”, and this was my sign-off to a company I’d given the last 9 years of my life to. But I wasn’t really quitting to travel the world for a year. I was walking out of the corporate world FOREVER.
At the age of 32, my husband and I were retiring with a Million dollar portfolio, enough by the 4% rule to sustain our $40K/year living expenses indefinitely.
But I didn’t tell my co-workers that. They’d find out about it more than a year later, on the front page of the country’s most read newspaper.
As soon as my co-workers heard about my resignation, they surrounded my desk, some looking concerned, others looking smug, saying things like:
“You’re QUITTING with no job lined up? Are you nuts?”
“Travel the world? How the hell are you going to pay for it?”
“Why would you quit? Don’t you like working here? ” (I couldn’t answer the question. I was too busy trying not to laugh.)
So the Mark Twain quote was my attempt at trying to appear worldly and brave, while justifying my reason for leaving without giving the real reason.
Despite the eye rolls and snarky remarks, I somehow managed to appear self-assured and confident on the outside.
But inside, I was a hot mess. Inside, I was terrified.
Even though the math backed up our plan and we had backup plans for the backup plans, I was still scared.
You see, I get scared pretty easily.
I can’t swim in bodies of water where I can’t see the bottom.
I can’t watch the horror movie The Ring with the lights off.
And don’t ever expect to drag me into a haunted house without bite marks on your hand and watching me run away.
When I was a kid, I was even scared of Disney movies—like Pinocchio. I was afraid his growing nose would poke through the TV screen and stab out one of my eyes. To this day I still flinch whenever I see a Pinocchio doll in the Disney store.
So in November 2015, when this scaredy-cat read that GoCurryCracker was in Thailand, a country that had just endured a bombing that killed 20 people and injured another 125, I was torn.
On one hand, I had been obsessively following this blog during my final year of work, daydreaming about gallivanting around the world and eating my body weight worth of mole, tacos, dumplings, and foie gras, all the foods that beckon me from the photos in GoCurryCracker’s travel posts. I desperately wanted to meet my world-travelling retiree idols, Jeremy and Winnie.
But on the other hand, a freaking BOMB just killed 20 people in Thailand!
I wanted to meet them but I didn’t want to literal die to meet them.
Somewhere in the back of my head, a niggling little voice kept saying, “Go! What are you waiting for! If you don’t go, you’ll regret it.”
We were in travelling in Malaysia at the time so Thailand was only a train ride away. But I was still humming and hawing over it for days, unsure of what to do.
Then this post came out from GoCurryCracker: “Our $375 a Month Apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand” .
I bought a train ticket the very next day.
A $375/month condo with a pool?! The last time I remember paying that little for rent was for a moldy and rat-infested basement I had to share with 2 other roommates in university, one of whom tried to recruit me into a threesome with her creepy 40-year-old boyfriend. Ugh. So glad those days are over.
And so off we went to Chiang Mai, Thailand—risking life and limb to fulfil our destiny of–$375/month rent. And oh yeah, meet GoCurryCracker.
As it turns out, going to Chiang Mai was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made! Not only did it turn out to be my favourite city in the whole world, we got to meet the GoCurryCracker family in person and shoot the shit about retirement for hours! I even had the privilege of holding GoCurryCracker Jr, who immediately went to town on my hair like it was the world’s best chew toy. Who knew my hair could be so delicious?
After a week of nonstop eating, I thought Muumuus were the only wearable clothes in my future, but somehow I LOST weight. Apparently, in South East Asia, not working out and pigging out on an hourly basis somehow meant weight loss. Try it sometime. Forget the South Beach diet. The South East diet is where it’s at.
It is because of Jeremy and Winnie that we learned about the best places to eat in Chiang Mai, tips about world travel, and how to start a blog. Back then we didn’t even know what an affiliate link was. Jeremy graciously and patiently explained everything without any eye-rolling which is a huge feat, considering how clueless we were. (GCC: Shameless self promotion: How to Start a Blog)
I shudder to think about all that we would’ve missed had we just given into our fears and skipped Thailand.
We wouldn’t have discovered Chiang Mai, our favourite city in the world.
We wouldn’t have become friends with Jeremy and Winnie, whom we’ve kept in touch with on Facebook. And as a result, they inspired us to start a blog, reach out to other members of the FI community, and make a lot of new friends.
We wouldn’t have been brave enough to travel to other so-called “scary” places—like Mexico, Central America, Eastern Europe.
And I wouldn’t have gotten my Scuba Diving certification in Kho Tao as a result of Winnie telling me that she got it even though she’s not a strong swimmer. This helped a lot since I was terrified of deep water.
Meeting GoCurryCracker in Chiang Mai, our now favourite city, was the spark that ignited our curiosity and helped us overcome our fears.
And by discovering how little we could live on in Thailand while living a 5-star lifestyle, we found we could balance expensive places like Western Europe with inexpensive places like Eastern Europe, Central/South America, Mexico, and South East Asia, and comfortably live on 40K/year (now 3.4 % of our portfolio) with 100% success rate. This meant we could travel the world FOREVER.
So thank you, GoCurryCracker, for inspiring and teaching us all about what you could gain by overcoming fear.
And now, after being retired for 3 years and traveling to over 30 countries, I know places that are portrayed as scary by the media are rarely scary at all. And travel isn’t expensive, as the travel agencies would like you to believe. Things that you think are terrifying aren’t that terrifying in real life.
Since retiring and meeting GoCurryCracker, I’ve never once regretted any of the things we did since retiring! But if we had given into fear by not going to Thailand, we would’ve regretted it for the rest of our lives.
So don’t let fear stop you from living your life.
Whether you’re trying to get a better job, switch careers, follow your passion, travel to a place you’ve never been to, retire early—instead of thinking about what could go wrong, think about all the things that could go right. Think about all the opportunities and friendships you could potentially miss out on if you let fear take over.
Take it from a scaredy-cat who couldn’t come up with anything better than a quote from a famous dead guy for her last work e-mail, only to find out what he said was 100% true:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
Maybe Mark Twain was onto something after all.