STOK­ING THE FIRE

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JEN YIH TOOK ‘EARLY RE­TIRE­MENT’ AT 25 YEARS OLD TO SET OFF TRAV­EL­LING

AND SURF­ING AROUND THE WORLD. HERE’S HOW SHE DID IT.

It was an­other Wed­nes­day morn­ing…

As usual I woke at 6.30am, hit my snooze but­ton, scrolled through ex­otic places on in­sta­gram, rushed to get dressed, drove down the same street, passed the same peo­ple, took the same flight of stairs to my of­fice, sat all day at the same desk, drink­ing the same cof­fee.

I was only 24 years-old when I landed what I thought was my dream job. But when I turned 25 and a few other ‘dream job’ sce­nar­ios started to come into the picture, I ques­tioned whether or not it was truly my dream or some­one else’s. Then came the spi­ral of ques­tions:

What am I do­ing?

What is the point?

What is my pur­pose?

I felt like life had played some sort of sick joke on me, telling me from a young age to fol­low my heart, yet there I sat at a desk star­ing at a screen for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I looked around me and ev­ery­one else seemed to be just fine with our screen dwelling rou­tine.

As the down­ward spi­ral con­tin­ued I re­ally be­gan to self-loath. I wasn’t prac­tic­ing what I wanted to be preach­ing. So, I had no choice. I gave the com­pany that I love and re­spect a two-month no­tice and started to down­size ev­ery­thing I owned. I didn’t know what I was pack­ing for but as I browsed the In­ter­net and threw a few darts at the map, I booked my first one-way ticket to Por­tu­gal, then Morocco, then the UK, then Ice­land, Mex­ico, then, then In­done­sia, and the list goes on.

When you start leak­ing to the world and your com­mu­nity that you’re go­ing to ‘take off’ for a lit­tle while to maybe surf, or ski, or hike, or camp, or write or paint or [in­sert pas­sion project you’ve been putting off here], the sug­ges­tions, peo­ple, and places start to nat­u­rally roll in. I didn’t know what I was do­ing or why I was do­ing it, but some­thing felt more right about this de­par­ture than any of my other op­tions.

So here I am on day 58 and count­ing since leav­ing my job, liv­ing off of my sav­ings ac­count, home­less, and jump­ing on the next train, plane, or bus to a new place in the world. Ev­ery sin­gle one of those days has been com­pletely dif­fer­ent, whether it has been in a new coun­try with new food, a new lan­guage, a new cul­ture, or new friends. I joked via my so­cial me­dia ac­counts, coin­ing the term “optin home­less­ness” when I found my­self sleep­ing on a mat­tress un­der the stars in an off-the-grid bun­ga­low in Baja Cal­i­for­nia, Mex­ico. But it hit me with a brick wall, this wasn’t home­less­ness (and that’s a lit­tle in­sen­si­tive), this was tem­po­rary re­tire­ment.

Re­tire­ment the way our grand­par­ents and par­ents have been do­ing it has re­ally worked out for them, but when you tell a Mil­len­nial that so­cial se­cu­rity

won’t even be around by the time we’re ready to re­tire around 65-years-old, why wait? I came to the agree­ment with my­self that I’d rather run around the world to chase the sun and surf while I’m young, nim­ble and en­er­getic, rather than when I’m al­most 70 years-old with a fad­ing mem­ory and phys­i­cal abil­ity. In my old age, I fig­ured, I’ll be much more at ease with rest­ing my old, tired, well-used bones at a desk star­ing at a screen with my bi­fo­cals on and tak­ing care of busi­ness. I’ll also be so old, wise and re­silient that the stresses of busi­ness and fi­nances will be a thing of the past, be­cause we all know, by then, that ev­ery­thing al­ways works out.

Day 58...

So for me, here’s what tem­po­rary re­tire­ment looks like:

1. You can go places alone, re-en­forc­ing your

in­de­pen­dence.

2. You can spend five days back-to-back surf­ing the Por­tuguese coast or a re­mote is­land in

Asia be­cause you’ve spent time get­ting to know the lo­cal peo­ple and they’ve shown you the se­cret spots.

3. You spend time with your fam­ily. In­stead of only hav­ing two weeks va­ca­tion, you can spend two full weeks with your par­ents, who aren’t get­ting any younger.

4. You help your friends out when they need it.

You’re not too busy or stressed or tired.

5. You eat only when you’re hun­gry and food

be­comes fuel for your fun.

6. You’re al­lowed to be bored. You’ve heard it

be­fore, but bore­dom breeds cre­ativ­ity.

7. You get to watch the sun­set and the sun­rise. 8. You can do more of what you love and chase those childish dreams you once had to be a writer or a surfer or a pho­tog­ra­pher, and go to bed with a smile on your face as you re­mem­ber who you are.

9. You have real mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions.

10. You be­come a bet­ter ver­sion of your­self when you give your­self time to re­mem­ber what’s re­ally im­por­tant.

Some­times we need to slow down to catch up.

I’m not an ad­vo­cate of be­ing lazy or not work­ing or check­ing out – we need to con­trib­ute and par­tic­i­pate, not only for our own well­be­ing, but for the bet­ter­ment of our com­mu­ni­ties, so­ci­ety and fu­ture. But if you’re any­thing like me, you’ve felt a shift in the way things are to­day. It has been a go-go-go world and those ex­pec­ta­tions we had many years ago for where we would be at 25 year­sold are shat­tered be­cause we’re wak­ing up and ques­tion­ing the sta­tus quo. We know that money, the big house, the shiny car aren’t the keys to hap­pi­ness; we’re smarter than that – but let’s stop get­ting dis­tracted by what ev­ery­one else is do­ing and fo­cus up.

I am an ad­vo­cate of putting down your phone and putting your money where your ‘likes’ are. Let’s not wait un­til we’re old to en­joy the world and what it has to of­fer. Since leav­ing on this self­funded world tour, many ques­tioned how I was af­ford­ing to travel. There are heaps of blogs out there that are giv­ing you in­for­ma­tion about se­cret air­line web­sites, credit card hacks and so on, but here’s the truth. And no I didn’t cash out my 401k. Here’s how I did it:

1. I worked HARD for three years at jobs that

chal­lenged me as a cre­ative.

2. I pinched pen­nies ev­ery sin­gle day.

3. I put my time in at a desk job.

4. I stopped buy­ing food, drinks, things for peo­ple

and in­vested in ex­pe­ri­ences to­gether.

5. I didn’t live in an ex­pen­sive apart­ment dec­o­rated with ex­pen­sive things; in­stead I shared a house with peo­ple I truly wanted to be with.

6. I sold al­most ev­ery­thing I owned at re­sale shops & garage sales, strip­ping my life down to the es­sen­tials and em­braced a min­i­mal­ist life­style. 7. Most of the ac­tiv­i­ties I truly love are free or in­cur an ex­pen­sive start-up cost, then be­come rel­a­tively free af­ter that: surf­ing, ski­ing, hik­ing, run­ning, climb­ing, yoga, camp­ing etc.

8. I love Alaska Air­lines and all of their part­ners

(as a per­son that lives on west coast USA), be­cause once you hit Gold MVP sta­tus, your bags (over­sized bags in­clud­ing skis and surf­boards) fly for free, they have awe­some part­ner­ships with other air­lines, you get a buddy pass ev­ery year, and ev­ery $1 you spend on your Alaska card = 1mile. I just bought a ticket to Bali for $29 and 50k miles via Alaska and Emi­rates. Which makes loy­alty to a credit card or air­line a good idea. 9. Lastly, af­ter stack­ing a small pot of gold, I re­sisted the temp­ta­tion to buy a house (even though I felt pres­sured to as a fu­ture in­vest­ment) or that new Volk­swa­gen I was eye­ing. And lastly, I pulled the rip­cord! I re­alised I could bud­get out three months of lav­ish liv­ing abroad, to 6-8 months of low-bud­get back­pack­ing, or choose some­where right in the mid­dle.

10. I chose the places care­fully based on my pas­sions and a few places that might push me out of my com­fort zone. Paris is won­der­ful, but what do I have to learn from it? There are a few things I re­ally love and feel in­spired by, and I de­cided to chase af­ter a few des­ti­na­tions that might of­fer ex­pe­ri­ences that re­ally... ‘stoke my fire’.

Mostly I re­alised that the things we re­ally want in life never come easy and will re­quire some sac­ri­fice. If I’ve learned any­thing, all I can say to you is get to work, start sav­ing, sell­ing and down­siz­ing so you can go live your life freely and beau­ti­fully.

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