4 Years of Location Independence

Location Independence

It’s been four years now since my wife and I sold our business, house, car and possessions and left Japan. It also marks 17 years of living abroad for me. I’ve learned a lot about myself in those years and hopefully I’ve also grown a little as well. Many people ask me why I left Canada and then Japan more than a decade later. I’m also often asked what were the key drivers of those major life changes. I’ll try to answer those questions here.

Leaving Canada

Leaving Canada back in 1997 was easy. My latest business venture failed again and I had zero desire to work in a cubicle for a big oil company. I had nothing to lose and I just needed a big change in my life. Moving abroad was the best way to achieve that.

I bought a ticket to Japan that departed in one week and I arrived in the country without a job, without a work visa and about $1000 to my name. I always wanted to go to Japan, so I went to Japan.

In hindsight, it was a little foolish to go with so little preparations and money, but everything worked out well. I still look back on the decision to leave Canada and go to Japan as one of the best choices of my life. Sometimes everything seems to come together when you have the courage to act with 100% conviction.

Leaving Japan

The decision to leave Japan was much more difficult. I was married, had a successful business, owned a house, car and all the possessions I wanted. My wife and I were making a good income, had lots of time and freedom to travel, and basically achieved a good life. It would have been very easy to continue on that path for the next 10 or 20 or 30 years, until retirement.

That was exactly the problem. We were doing the same things over and over again. We essentially reached the end of our career at about 35 years old and would just be repeating the same year over and over and over again until we decided we had enough and retired.

We didn’t want that to be the end of our story, but we we’re afraid to change. It’s scary give up something certain for the unknown. We were worried about our financial security. We were concerned about the quality of our retirement. All those fears kept us paralyzed for several years. Our life was good, but we felt like there was more out there to do and explore.

Chasing Success

To fill that void in our lives, we did what everyone does; we went shopping. We bought the house we wanted, upgraded our car, bought the espresso machine, built the sound room with Italian reclining chairs, drank the expensive alcohol, went out for dinner every day and travelled a lot.

Every new purchase and experience brought some fleeting excitement, but it never lasted. We always needed something new and shiny to make us happy. Unfortunately, there was never enough. We always needed something a little more or a little better to be fulfilled.

Looking back now, I can definitely say that I enjoyed all that conspicuous consumption a little too much. I say ‘I’ because my wife was always the voice of reason in my insanity.

A new TV encouraged me to watch more movies. A new car virtually eliminated all the walking and cycling that I loved. That fancy alcohol became an afterwork ritual where I was in a drunken stupor every evening.

Fat, Lazy and Stupid

All the conveniences and luxuries that I thought I needed to make me successful, were actually making me fat, lazy and stupid. I drank too much, ate too much, watched too much TV, didn’t exercise enough, didn’t read as much as I liked and didn’t spend my time doing what I most wanted to do.

My body and mind were gradually deteriorating through misuse, yet I didn’t think anything of it. I felt like I was successful despite my unhappiness and general lethargy. It took me a long time to realize that my ingrained definition of success was the problem.

Enough is Enough.

Finally, my wife and I finally had enough, and decided we didn’t want that life any longer.   One day we made a one year commitment to sell everything and leave Japan. That night I wrote a blog post about it and the rest is history. That was a little over 5 years ago now.


Do we have any regrets? One, we wish we left Japan about 5 years earlier. We wish we didn’t buy the house and the new car. We certainly wouldn’t have invested so much in a risky online business that I didn’t have the time to properly manage. That 5 years, easily cost us more than $100,000. It’d be nice to have that cash in our bank account now.

Overall, we can’t really complain. There is not a day that goes by where we aren’t immensely grateful for the quality of life we now have. There is absolutely nothing that could measurably improve our lives. We are healthy and living the life of our dreams. We don’t need any specific possessions, income level, fame or success to become more fulfilled or satisfied. We are doing exactly what we want every day.

What have I learned?

Living abroad for so many years has helped me grow in many ways that I don’t think would have happened had I stayed in Canada and started a typical career path. It took me about 3 or 4 years of living in Japan to start to see how much my thinking was dominated by western society and social pressure.

I once was driven by a desire to be successful in the western sense of the word. I thought I need a big house, new car, endless material possessions and a jet-setting lifestyle to have a meaningful and fulfilling life.

I’m glad I finally grew out of that. I no longer want to live in the future by endlessly chasing goals, continually shopping for the next shiny object or crossing off items on a bucket list. Quality of life can’t be measured by consumption or selfish experiences.

By far, the most important thing I’ve learned is that the future or the past don’t exist. There is only now. I want to be living fully and mindfully now and only now. I still resort back to my childish ways of thinking, but I’m getting better.

The Future

I don’t know what the future will bring and I don’t really care. I’m throughly enjoying what I’m doing everyday. Writing this blog post, right now is the most important thing I can do now. How could I possibly improve on this moment?

(We are also leaving Thailand today for Australia, so I must confess that a new destination brings a lot of excitement as well.)

What do you think?

Do you think it’s possible to come to similar realizations without completely changing you life circumstances?

If I stayed in Canada, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have the over-sized house in the suburbs, with two SUVs and be complaining about how bad the traffic is on my commute every day. All of those things that I can’t understand now, would’ve been my life if I hadn’t left back in 1997.

Enjoy the Article?

Go ahead, you know you want to! :-)

Subscribe for articles and interviews about achieving your dreams and making a difference.

My name is John Bardos. My wife and I gave up our business, house and possessions in Japan to search for more meaning and fulfillment in our lives. We've discovered that a satisfying life is about rich experiences, quality relationships and meaningful contribution, NOT consumption.

21 Responses to 4 Years of Location Independence

  1. Joshua Dent says:

    Wow! Congrats John. I do think it is possible to come to those realizations that you mention. It takes lots of inner strength and courage to live happy within your own situation.

  2. Victoria says:

    Thanks for this post John. Indeed, only in travel are we able to achieve the best in us. When we leave our homeland to go to another, the challenge is there to succeed and be better, and go further. And so are the opportunities.
    I know for a fact, that if I had not left my comfortable surburban home, I would not be where I am, or doing what I do, today.

  3. Darren says:

    That a couple of big events in your life, I guess we all have them, but its what you do with them that make the difference. Now your more nomadic, are you missing some of the creature comforts…

    • John says:

      Hi Darren,

      I’m not sure about any ‘creature comforts’ we are missing. It’s certainly nice to have a permanently place, with your own stuff. That simplifies life a lot. However, there are costs associated with that too. There are bills to pay, things to clean, plants to water, etc.

      Overall, I still think we are happy to be unencumbered by possessions.

      Actually, one thing I’d like to have is fresh herbs for cooking. It’s hard to grow plants on the road. 🙂

  4. Tal Gur says:

    I love this: “I don’t know what the future will bring and I don’t really care”. Enjoy the journey my friend.

  5. Super! When you are put in one place it is harder to realize the wonders of life, and must definitely the vagabond lifestyle does open up the window to do that. But one thing I want to add is that sometimes people need to have shit just to realize that all that is unimportant. Life is about experiencing, at least to me.

  6. Jannell says:

    Yes! “There is only now.” Love it. You inspired me to reach for a new life and now I’m so much happier!! Becoming a slow-traveler/nomad has made me live in the now. Life is so much more relaxing 🙂

  7. Frank says:

    Yes, living in the now. Not a new concept but not one that is widely used by most people.
    Welcome to a better life John.

  8. Lisa says:

    Great article. I aspire to do this in the future once my kids are through school. Thanks for sharing your path.

  9. Great! When you are put in one position it is more complicated to recognize the amazing things of lifestyle, and must definitely the vagabond way of lifestyle does start up the screen to do that.

  10. Selina says:

    I love the thought of location independence, to simplify my life while expanding my horizons, but to a natural born worrier it can be a terrifying thought! Oh to be a natural born warrior instead! 😉

    Kudos to you for your bravery and carping of the diem!

    Oh, I added you on Twitter and hope to see you there sometime 🙂

    • John says:

      Thanks for the comment Selina. It’s great to live abroad, but constant travel can be very tiresome. The grass is always greener on the otherside. 🙂

  11. […] 4 Years of Location Independence – John Bardos from Canada reflects on how life has changed by living abroad. […]

  12. Peter says:

    John, you expressed very well the thoughts that have been going through my mind. My own story has a little twist: I travelled and worked all over the world constantly BEFORE I settled down. Now I have been settled down for so long – and also entered retirement – that I feel the need again to strike out for fields anew.

    • John says:

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. It’s great that you’re ready to strike out again. Good luck on your journey.

Leave a reply

Please enter your real name and not an alias. People like to talk to real people. I'd love to hear from you, but please comment to extend the conversation, not promote your business.

CommentLuv badge