Lifestyle Design is Easy

Lifestyle Design of Our Ancestors (Streets of Budapest in 1956)

Lifestyle Design of Our Ancestors (Fallen Statue of Stalin in the Streets of Budapest in 1956)

Quitting your job, moving to a new country, starting a business or any major lifestyle design decision can be very scary. Every substantial decision in our lives has consequences that are difficult to anticipate. This uncertainty is what keeps so many people blindly following the safe and secure path that their friends and family took.

If you think making a major lifestyle design change is difficult, consider what your grandparents went through. Many traveled by ship to North America with little money and absolutely no security. They arrived in a new world, with no guide books, tourist information desks and helpful people that spoke English. All they brought was hope for a better life and a willingness to work damn hard. We live in an era of amazing global communications, inexpensive travel and unprecedented opportunities to reinvent our lives at any age. This is not your grandparents world anymore.

Since father’s day just passed I would like to share the story of my dad’s journey to Canada, I am sure that many other readers have parents or grandparents with similar stories. My father escaped from Hungary in the 1956 revolution. He passed away a few years ago and I have only recently learned about and understood the risks and challenges he faced.

The 1956 Hungarian Revolution
When news spread of the revolution against communist controlled Hungary in 1956, there was a very small window where about 200,000 Hungarians escaped abroad. My father was living in a small town and when he heard of the protests in Budapest, he felt it was his best chance for a better life and freedom. He made the decision to permanently leave his family and country over the course of a few days.

What is more, he didn’t dare tell anyone in his family because he knew they would surely try to talk him out of leaving. The only explanation he left behind was a short note and in tears, he told his younger sister that he loved her.

He took one change of clothes, a piece of sausage and a small piece of bread. He didn’t have much money and it wouldn’t have been worth anything outside of the country anyway. He somehow managed to coordinate a ride with a truck passing through town with two other friends. He had his small bag of food and clothes packed and ready and when the trucked stopped in front of his house he jumped on the back without anyone in his family knowing.

One of my father’s companions on the escape, changed his mind and returned back to the village. He was beaten by Russian guards and jailed for several weeks before being released.

My father walked and crawled through many miles of country-side to avoid detection by border guards and the Russian army. He managed to make it to Austria where he found assistance to get him into Italy. A couple of years later he made it to Canada by ship. The next time he returned to Hungary, was in 1973, 17 years after he left. Compared to all the refugee immigrants around the world, many of whom lost family in wars and were forced to relocate to Western countries, my father probably had it easy.

Our current lifestyle design choices are nothing like what it was for previous generations. We can easily research any country and find information about visas, accommodation, work and anything else we want to know. Travel is so cheap as to be essentially free compared to what was available to previous generations. If you think it is difficult and risky to relocate to a foreign country and earn an income, talk to your grandparents and ask them what it was like for them. It was fairly normal for even children to work 60 plus hours a week just a century ago.

I am worried about how I will make a living in the future. I wonder if I will miss my comfortable home and sofa. How will I ever live without my barbecue and espresso machine? My fears are pretty ridiculous in proportion to what my father and grandparents endured. Lifestyle design is easy. The absolute worst situation is that you will have to get another mediocre job and have to start saving money again.  You owe it to yourself and your ancestors to create the best life you can for yourself and your family. The costs of failure are virtually nothing. The cost of not trying is a lifetime of regrets.

Time line of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution
Hungarian Revolution on Encarta
Hungary 1956

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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.

5 Responses to Lifestyle Design is Easy

  1. Nate @ thewaythatyouwander says:

    I enjoyed this post immensely. It’s interesting how much a story like that can put things into perspective.

    I’ve been trying to stop saying “I’m starving” when I am hungry. I thought of this because I realized that I sound foolish saying it. Do I really know what hunger is? Nope. Have I ever had to go without for days on end? Nope.

    Putting things like this into perspective makes life a lot more precious.

    Thanks for posting this.

    • John says:

      Thanks Nate,

      We live such affluent lives that it is easy forget really how great everything is. I love listening to my grandmother’s stories about her childhood. She grew up with 8 sisters in a single room mud house that they built themselves. My grandma often says, “I never want those days to come back.”

      It is easy to get angry when your computer crashes, or your plane is 30 minutes late or if traffic is slow. I think it is important to remember that we are alive and have great opportunities to do anything we want. Focus on the good and you will realize that there is not too much bad left in our lives.

  2. Amanda is a traveling photographer says:

    So true about distant family working damn hard to get to the U.S.

  3. Cath Duncan says:

    I think we do have it much easier than previous generations – even our parents had it much harder, with much greater and more rigid expectations being placed on them about how they should do life and work. So many people have broken the “rules” by now that it’s no longer such a big deal to live an “unconventional” life.

    I do think that we have a different set of challenges that previous generations never had before though. Our lives are much faster, much more inter-connected, and we deal with much more information and much more change in our lifetimes. And while these all bring great opportunities (if you develop the life skills for converting them into opportunities), for alot of people they’re stuck in stress and fear. And stress and fear kills the quality of your thinking and then lifestyle design can seem very difficult.

    Those who’ll thrive in this era are the ones who learn the life skills (what I call Agile Living Strategies) for keeping a calm mind and preserving the quality of your thinking even when there’s chaos around you.

    Thanks for sharing your father’s story – very inspiring!


    • John says:

      Hi Cath,

      Yes, I agree that many people are stuck in stress and fear and that it is likely to impede their ability to effectively design their lives. The difference between life now and that of our grandparents is that the past was a time of scarcity, now we are in a time of abundance. People are confused now because they have too many choices and options.

      My wife and I are debating about what country we should go to first. My grandmother had a different set of problems. Her family had to clear out 5 acres of trees by hand or there was a strong likelihood they wouldn’t be able to grow enough food to survive the winter.

      My wife and I wonder if we should rent out or house or not when we leave Japan. My grandmother lived in a single room mud house as a child with 8 sisters.

      I am bored with all the local restaurants in my neighborhood so I repeatedly ponder what I want to eat for my next meal. My grandmother only ate meat a few times a year as a child. She remembers getting only a piece of bread for lunch at school and some children had nothing. She only went to school for a few years because she had to work on the farm.

      I do agree that these are stressful times, but it is a different kind of stress than previous generations faced.

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