April 1 was the official start of my one year plan to change my career and country of residence. The last time I did this was more than twelve years ago. My circumstances are completely changed now but my basic need to experience and be a part of the world are stronger than ever.
When I moved to Japan, I was still in my twenties, single, in debt, had a few failed start ups under my belt and couldn’t imagine going to work for someone else. Leaving my home country of Canada was the best and only choice for me at the time. I needed to make a quick and drastic change to every area of my life. That was the only way to break free of all the baggage of my past. And it worked.
I bought a ticket to Japan and 10 days later I was here. I arrived in Japan with no job, no visa and only about $1000 to my name but everything quickly fell into place for me. Within a couple of years I found a great woman to marry, started my own business and have had a pretty decent quality of life since.
The problem is that I am stagnating again. My business bores me. I have been doing the same thing for almost 12 years now. I have some other projects in the works, so I haven’t been completely wasting my time, but my primary income source has lost its appeal. I need change. Big, fat, huge, scary, exciting change that only comes from massive upheaval.
A single, white, male in his twenties has a whole world of options. No responsibilities and many decades remaining to make up for mistakes means there is nothing to lose. But I am going to be 40 this year. I have a house, a wife, business responsibilities and not so many years ahead to make sure I have a secure nest egg for retirement. This is scarier than before and so I that is why I am taking a year to plan and organize my departure from Japan.
Japan is a great country, don’t get me wrong. I do love many things about the country, culture and people. My wife and I just need to have more experiences on our limited time on this planet. Undoubtedly, we will keep coming back to Japan and will probably still spend a decent portion of our year here. What we are really giving up is our business; an English school.
Our school has provided a great income with 12 weeks of vacation every year, and now a work week of less than 30 hours. By all measures our lives are great, but we are bored and need more out of life. My wife and I could live comfortably and safe until retirement with our business, but we don’t want to have any more regrets in our lives. We don’t want to be 60 or 70 and saying we wish we did this or that. We want to do those things now. Anything less is not living.
At 40 years old, we can still royally screw up and have a chance to rebuild our lives. This may be our last chance to do something cool. So here we go. I am not sure if this is a midlife crisis for me. I am not nostalgic about my younger days. I am not going to buy a motorcycle and start a rock band. (Well maybe a rock band. :-)) I feel that I just want to keep pushing on with the things I want to do in life. Some of my interests are to go back to school, start more businesses, write a book and definitely do more with music.
We have some money saved so we can survive for a few years without an income, but we are hoping not to touch our savings. I have several internet projects in the works that I will start to focus more of my time. We are basically going to start new businesses from different places in the world. Here is a brief list of the things we need to do in the next year:
Sell our school
There is a small chance that we will keep it by hiring a manager but this is unlikely. We have also thought about partnering with a like minded couple to work six months on and six months off, but very few people share our zeal for lifestyle design.
Start making income from other web based ideas
I am not so worried about my ability to earn an income from other businesses. What I really need is more time to bring the projects I have in the works to fruition. Selling the school will be a big help, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse either. Most of my free time is spent on these other businesses so I feel I am close to launch. I will share my ideas as they get a little more polished.
Decide whether to rent out our house or not
We are not sure if we are going to keep our house in Japan or not. It would be nice to keep a home base that we can return to between travels, but it is also expensive. This is still the biggest decision we are facing at the moment. We are leaning towards keeping the house until we can get another stable residence established in another country. However, if our income allows we will probably end up keeping the house in Japan so that we can return regularly.
Decide where we are going to travel
People often ask us where we are going to go. For us that is of little concern. We are going to travel to many places so it doesn’t really matter where we start. We want to find another base to live from in the world, so we will focus our travels on places we might want to live and can afford to live. We don’t want to be perpetual nomads. Ideally, we would like to rotate between two or three stable locations with some short term travel in between.
The clock is ticking. This next year is going to go very fast so I don’t want to waste much time. Looking back over my last 12 years in Japan, reminds me that life is passing very fast as well. I talk to too many people who are going to do doing something big… someday. I don’t want to be one of those people anymore. The best time for action is always now.
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