I weaved an anklet onto my right leg while traveling through India and Nepal back in 2007. This coming June will be 10 years from when I tied this thing on. I have kept this anklet strapped to my leg as a reminder of my ultimate goal, to grow my investments to the point where I can travel the globe non-stop for the rest of my life and live off of the annual interest earned from my investments. To celebrate the 10 year anniversary, I have decided to write a series of posts about some of the amazing people I have met throughout my global travels who figured out how to be financially independent and retire early (F.I.R.E.). It seems only fitting to start with a story from my adventures through India and Nepal.
In 2007 I was backpacking theAnnapurnaa Circuit in Nepal. Unfortunately, I had gotten sick a day before beginning the trek and after 6 days of eating one spoon full of rice per day, I had to be extracted and taken to the hospital. Turns out it was dehydration sickness and I was treating myself for food poisoning which made my symptoms worse. My best friend continued the 14 day trek, and I returned to Kathmandu to regain the 10 pounds I had lost and explored the surrounding regions for mini day hikes.
While grubbing out one of the amazing Nepalese restaurants, A group of Brits shouted me a beer and I joined them at their table for some conversation. Two of the Brits were a married couple who owned a hotel on the beach in Goa, India and had come up to Nepal for a quick vacation. One of the other guys, Phillip, was an outlaw of sorts, hiding out in India. I like to call him the modern day Robin Hood, because he essentially robbed the banks and now spends his days helping the poor.
Phillip was in Nepal for a few days to renew his one-year tourist visa in India which required him to leave the country and re-enter. He was also there to pick up some money on a wire transfer. Before “living” into India (on a tourist visa), Phillip was a forensic scientist for the police force back in England. After being married for 20 years, he went through a messy divorce. He and his ex-wife sold the house and their belongings and split the money that had been earned over a long career.
At the time Phillip was in his late 40’s and came to the realization that he was about to start over again from scratch as a bachelor on a single income. He would have to buy a new house or rent an apartment at the current market prices which were now way more than the mortgage on the house he had purchased many years ago. There was also some leftover credit card and vehicle loan debt that Phillip would have to pay off with his share of the money.
Phillip took a long look in the mirror and said to himself “F*ck It.” He was done. He was not going to keep grinding away at a job he didn’t fully love, just to pay bills and wallow in unhappiness. Phillip decided to make a run for it and escape the rat race.
Although I do not condone what Phillip did next, I think it’s pretty awesome to see someone pull off what many have probably daydreamed of doing. Phillip maxed out his credit cards by withdrawing as much cash as he could on credit, and he stopped making on his credit card and auto loan. He closed all of his bank accounts, gave his money to three relatives he knew he could trust, and bought a one-way ticket to India. Peace out suckers! Phil is out of here!
Phillip set out to India on the ultimate journey to find happiness. He blacklisted himself by robbing the credit card companies and banks, but he didn’t care, he had no intention of returning to the U.K. anytime soon, and the statute of limitations would eventually free him to return to the country in a decade or two. The amount of money saved up was more than enough to survive in India and South East Asia for many years as it is easy to travel on less than $10,000 per year per person in this region of the world.
Phillip arrived in India and spent a year traveling around the country visiting many locations off the beaten path. Along the way, he would be invited to stay at strangers houses for free or he would bump into an orphanage where he would stop and volunteer for a few days to a few months. Over time he recognized that some people and orphanages had certain needs and little funding and he would go out his way to help fulfill those needs.
For example, if Phillip found an orphanage that had no toilets due to a lack of plumbing, he would ask his family wire money to him. He would then order all of the supplies and set out to dig the trenches, lay the pipe, pour the cement, and build the bathrooms himself over a month or two. If a host has a leaky roof, you could bet Phillip was climbing up on the roof to repair it free of charge.
Good deeds like this brought Phillip a new purpose in life and a happiness he had never known before. One day I was walking down the street with Phillip and we saw a shopkeeper struggling to install some bookshelves to sell CD’s and books. Phillip was quick to suggest we stop and help. With three of us, the effort only took 30 minutes and saved the shop owner hours of work on his own. We ended up sitting on the door steps with the shop owner for 2 hours afterward talking story and learning about what it was like to live in Nepal and what the Nepalese though of tourism.
I am so grateful for meeting Phillip, he is a constant reminder that there is more to life than making money and buying material objects. There is an entire world out there to explore and many people you can help along the way without having to intentionally go out of your way on a special all expenses paid volunteer trip through an approved organization. If you open your heart and mind to the idea of helping people that cross your path you will find opportunities all around you. You do not need to go to India or another part of the world to start practicing such generosity either. You can start right now in your hometown. Next time you come across someone needing help take a few minutes out of your day to stop and help them and get to know the person. I am not talking about monetary help either. Maybe while walking your dog you come across a neighbor struggling to change a sprinkler head and you can stop and help. Maybe your favorite local coffee shop wants to remodel and needs someone to help them paint the walls. Who knows they may appreciate your help so much that they give you free coffee for 6 months!
The other lesson I learned from Phillip is that I am in charge of my life, and there isn’t a thing in the world that should hold me back from living a wonderful, satisfying life. Do not get stuck in a rut thinking there is only one path to independence. Many of us get stuck chasing the dream to become a millionaire so we can retire early, that we do not realize that this is only one path to escaping the rat race.
I hope you enjoyed this first story in a series of several to come. Feel free to share your thoughts (good and bad) about Philip’s path to freedom in the comments.