During my multi-year stint of wondering the globe after college, I met a plethora of financially independent individuals who learned how to get through life on their own terms and make a prosperous living. This is the third story in the F.I.R.E. story series.
Three of my all-time favorite books are The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo, and Siddhartha by Herman Hess. I have always been intrigued by coincidences and have enjoyed a great many of them. I have also noticed the most significant life-changing events in my life have come at times when I am living in the moment and not overthinking life. For example, when I finished college I sold all my stuff and bought a one-way ticket out of the country. I didn’t have a job lined up and I only had $500 in cash. On my plane ride from Hawaii to Micronesia, I was standing in line for the bathroom at the back of the plane and telling a stranger about how I am flying to Micronesia and will just figure out the job situation when I get there or survive for a few months and fly home on my credit card. The stranger said to me, “Well, I’m Tyler and I’m about to quit my job at the high school as soon as we land and go spend my days fishing on the other side of the island, you can have my job. The next day we went to the school together, Tyler quit and said “here is Stuart, he can be my replacement.” And like that I became a high school English teacher with a $10,000 a year job and free housing on the beach.
I do not believe in religion per se, but I do believe there is some sort of underlying energy that connects us to this world and I have found these three books to best explain how to go with the flow and acknowledge omens that are set in your path. The below story is about a couple I know who have lived by these practices for 35 years and the ultimate example of what I am referring to.
Have you ever met someone who seems to have all the luck in the world without even trying? It’s almost as if the universe in purposely working in their favor at all times. When I lived in Micronesia my roommate and I had a stack of over 200 surf magazines. One week both of us ended up picking up the same magazine and read the exact same article about a hippie named Byron who takes photos of peoples auras and builds surfboards to match their auras. Lowe and behold the following week this guy and his wife showed up on our tiny island of 8,000 people for a 2-month vacation.
We ended up becoming good friends with Byron and his wife Rhonda and even offered to let them stay at our house for free so they could cut costs. They came back the following year and stayed with us again. The year after that I visited Australia on a 2-month vacay of my own and had the opportunity to stay with them for a week at their wonderful home overlooking the ocean.
Byron and Rhonda were high school drop outs, but far from dropkicks. In the late 70’s the couple dropped out of high school, had a kid and were living in a tent down near the beach. Byron just wanted to surf, and Rhonda was happy to follow her man and do whatever he wanted. They were free spirits and no one could tell them what to do. Though technically homeless by today’s standards, they were just another set of Australian surf hippies living the Endless Summer.
One day Byron went for a hike and a surf. One his way back he was walking through the rain forest and came across a faded-out path. “Eh oh? What’s this?” thought Byron. He followed his gut and walked down the path to see where it went. Low and behold Byron came across a house, fairly new and what do you know? Abandoned.
For some reason, the electricity worked and there was running water. “Hey that’s pretty cool!” thought Byron, “the universe provides. Thank you kindly!” He hiked back to his tent found his wife and one-year-old kid and said, “Hey baby I just found a sweet house and we are going to move in.” Rhonda the easy going chickadee that she is said, “You’re crazy, but whatever, let’s do it.” They moved into the house and lived there rent free for almost a decade.
Byron continued to go surfing every day on his private hiking path and stretch of beach. One day he came across another hippy surfer out in the water, named George, eventually invented the first shortboard surfboards that lead to the types of boards that most surfers ride today. The two became great friends and found that they had a passion for surfing, fishing and tinkering with stuff. They joked that they were mad scientists, as they experimented with building different surfboards and fin shapes based off of the fins of fish, sharks, and dolphins using a variety of construction materials.
They eventually came across a used Minolta camera and started experimenting with photography. Then they decided, hey wouldn’t it be cool to take photos while surfing? “Yeah man, that sounds epic! Let’s do it!” They began experimenting by cutting out pieces of Styrofoam to enclose the cameras and would then wrap the Styrofoam in fiberglass and resin to seal the housing. They also tried gluing plexiglass together. The housing worked great and eventually photographers and videographers began to approach them to build waterproof camera housings. Cha-ching cha-ching an income stream was formed!
Byron had a steady hand and became quite good at shooting action shots with a video camera as well as a regular camera. He began to pick up freelance gigs to go on surf trips and shoot video from the water for the surf industry, which brought in more income. Through these gigs, Byron became friends with all of the pro surfers in the industry. When not traveling, many of these would pay Byron and George a visit to test out the experimental surfboards and fins they were creating and would use many of the technologies they developed over the years to come.
By this time Byron and Rhonda had a second child and had been living in the abandoned house for about five years, rent-free and utilities-free. Byron of course, would handle all maintenance himself and he and Rhonda would fish, growth vegetables and only go to the market from time to time for things they could not make themselves.
One day two men came down the path and knocked on Byron’s door. They were two were brothers from America. It turns out that many many years prior they met Jesus, who had been hanging out in Hawaii with the wahines since his resurrection. They followed Jesus to Hawaii and decided to cash out their inheritance and give it to Jesus, because, you know… HE’S JESUS!
One morning Jesus got island fever and decided it was time to move on. He got up early and booked it out of Hawaii, but he forgot to tell his faithful herd of sheep that it was time to go and they were all left without a leader. Can anyone guess whether Jesus forgot to take the money with him when he left?
Jesus booked it to Australia. I’m guessing he learned that the country was settled by thieves, murders, and prostitutes and figured he needed to go save the offspring of degenerates from the fiery pits of hell.
Being a savvy investor, Jesus bought up several properties around the land of Oz, and after many years the brothers had tracked down Byron’s abandoned property as one of those tied to their stolen money. After listening to the brothers Byron told them that was a great story and he and his family were more than happy to move out of the house right away and hand it over to the brothers. All they had to do was prove their story was true, file the appropriate paperwork with the government and Byron would leave.
The brothers agreed and set off to prove that Jesus had bought their house with this money. They first had to file a case in America and explain why they gave all of their money to Jesus and how they tracked the money to the house in Australia. The process took roughly 2 years. Then the brothers had to repeat the process with the Australian government which took another 2 years. In Australia there is a squatter’s rights law that allows squatters to take ownership of a property after living on it for 10 years, and that date was quickly approaching for Byron and his family. The brothers completed gained control of the property with about 6 months to spare, and Byron and his family happily packed up their stuff and moved out of the house.
Now Byron was now in his late 20’s and had just spent close to a decade making money and living free. So when the time came to move out he wasn’t sour about it at all. Why because he had saved up hundreds of thousands of dollars over the time. He packed up the family moved to a close by town and built a house on the bluffs overlooking a bay and one of Australia’s best surf spots. There were few houses on the bluffs when Byron built his three-bedroom house overlooking the ocean. The neighborhood is now equivalent to Corona Del Mar in California, topped with multi-million dollar mansions that are perpetually under construction.
Byron’s house is not a mansion. It is a humble 3 bedroom abode. Byron was one of the first to adopt solar panels and solar water heating back in the late 90’s, so he can happily be completely off the grid. He has also built two workshops on the property where he builds custom surfboards and sells them for $1,200, twice the price of most surfboards.
The trees that Byron planted when he first moved in are now 30 to 40 feet tall and block his neighbor’s view of the ocean. He happily gives them the finger whenever they complain and tells them “Tough luck! I’ve lived here from the beginning, planted these trees myself, and you can’t make me take them down!” Good on ya Byron!
Byron drives an old diesel, late 80’s Datsun sedan that he pumps full of biodiesel that he produces himself He has made arrangements with several of the local restaurants in his town to pick up their used cooking oil on a weekly basis. Normally the restaurants would dispose of this oil, so they are more than happy to give it to Byron for free. Because the car has a diesel engine, Byron did not have to make any modifications to allow it to burn biodiesel.
Wouldn’t you believe but Byron is a bit of a conspiracy theorist that believes the government is spying on us and is in cahoots with all of the financial banks to rip people off. He believed that the government no stopped tying the amount of money in circulation to hard assets like gold and eventually currencies could become devalued. He started thinking this way in the late 90’s and in the early 2000’s he started converting all of his money into gold and silver.
Every few months, we would go and exchange $9,999 at a time into gold bricks to stay under the $10,000 reporting threshold in Australia. Sometimes he would have his wife and two kids come with him so they could each exchange $9,999 individually. When I stayed at Byron’s home he and Rhonda showed me the bullion of gold and silver he had stashed away. He was very serious about gold, when I stayed at his home, Byron would only accept payment in gold for his surfboards, and his customers would go out of their way to convert their money into gold to buy his surfboards.
Everyone told Byron he was a dumb ass when he started spouting off about global currencies and converted his money to gold, but guess what? Byron’s conversion to gold and silver started right at the bottom of the market for gold prices and before long prices were sky rocketing at exponential growth. Checkout the below graphs that show the price is both Australian dollars (AUD) and U.S. Dollars (USD).
When I first met Byron it was at the end of December 2006, still early in the growth stage for the price of gold and silver. I, like everyone else, thought he was a crackpot, and sat on the sidelines as the price of gold and silver grew daily for the next six years straight! Byron went from being a millionaire to a multi-millionaire all while kicking back and laughing his ass off at everyone who didn’t listen to him.
Byron and Rhonda have gone through life never working real jobs, never intentionally worrying about what their purpose in life was or what they were going to do to survive. They are the ultimate example of going with the flow, trusting the universe to provide listening to your gut feeling when omens are placed in your path, and not listening to what the majority of people tell you to do.
Check out the books The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo, and Siddhartha by Herman Hess, I kid you not, these books have been life changing for me, and I reread them every couple of years. The lessons taught in these books are some of the guiding philosophies I live by. I’m not quite as as zen as Byon and Rhonda, but maybe one day I will be.