It has been just over ten months since I publicly declared my intention to leave Japan and give up my secure business. I didn’t have any clear plans or ideas on how I would accomplish the goal, but putting it out in the open for everyone to see definitely helped. My wife and I are now less than four weeks away from leaving.
We are going to start our travels by returning to Canada to spend time with family and then go to Europe for about six months. We have our tickets booked and are starting to clean out our house and pack. There is still a lot to do but it is mostly just shutting down our life here in Japan.
No More Stuff
It is amazing how liberating it is to shed material possessions. We have accumulated so many unnecessary things over the last decade. We have a house full of stuff we saved because ‘someday we might need it again.’ Well, all of those things are being sold, given away or thrown away. Since committing to our plan to leave Japan we haven’t bought any non-essential possessions. We are now cutting down to our life to what can fit into a couple of bags on an airplane. We will have small stashes of belongings in Canada, Japan and Hungary with family but we are ecstatic to get rid of most of the clutter in our life.
It is not easy to get rid of things that are still perfectly good. I have been trying to divide my belongings into three categories; ‘definitely save’, ‘maybe save’ and ‘get rid of’. The ‘get rid of’ stuff is easy because it is obvious that I can’t keep it. The ‘maybe save’ stuff is where most of the problems lie. These are belongings like furniture, CDs, books, clothes, kitchen utensils and gifts that would be expensive to replace but probably won’t be needed again even if we return to Japan. I know I can’t keep most of those things so I keep going back to see what else I can part with. It is still going to take some more time.
We were contemplating keeping our house in Japan as a home base, but we have decided to rent it out. It will save us a lot of money and it will force us to clean out all the things we don’t really need. If we do return to Japan, it will most likely be to a smaller town in the mountains as a vacation home.
We are going to use a real estate company to rent out the house for us after we leave Japan. The rates are lower than I thought they would be and Japanese tenants are generally pretty reliable so this should be a good source of income in the future and will add to our retirement fund when the house is paid for.
We were planning on selling our car, but I recently had the idea of taking it to Europe. Driving in Europe will allow us to have a completely different experience than if we travel by air or rail. We will be able to visit smaller towns and out of the way places and it will be much easier to transport our bags.
Shipping costs are much less expensive than I thought. It is possible to ship a car from Japan to the UK for about $2300, the price is less than half that amount if it is not in a cargo container. The only problem now is figuring out how to clear it through customs. Since we are only traveling through the UK, there shouldn’t be any problems but I haven’t received confirmation of that fact yet. I am trying to avoid any surprise tariffs or restrictions upon arriving in the UK.
We have enough money saved to not have to work for the foreseeable future, but we don’t want to blow through our life savings either. We are going to set aside about $25,000 to spend before other income starts coming in. If our investments and websites are not providing enough income to sustain our lifestyle, then we will have to re-evaluate our plans and maybe even start another real world business somewhere. I hope to keep track of our expenses and share them with you in future blog posts to hopefully show that not much money is needed for a couple to live an anywhere lifestyle. We will see how that goes.
I have several business projects in the works that I hope have the potential to make some money in the future. I am still spreading myself too thin but I have three good and reliable outsourcers working on my projects now. I am really excited to be able to work on these projects more. I will provide more details on the success and failure of my websites as they come. So far I have made less than $200 online in that last couple of years in total. Anyone who tells you it is easy to earn an income online is probably trying to sell you something. Traffic to all of my sites have been increasing and I have a decent idea of what needs to be improved so I hope to start sharing some success stories with you in the future.
House-sitting and Couch Surfing
We are going to look into house-sitting and couch surfing in Europe. I still haven’t done much research but both seem like great ideas to save some money and get a more comfortable introduction into new cities in Europe. I would love to hear some advice in the comments if possible?
Documents and Paperwork
My wife and I are in the process of getting our documents, credit cards, bills, taxes, health care and everything in order. This is actually taking the bulk of our time. It is amazing how many ties we have to a single location. Governments still don’t really have a way to deal with people who don’t want those permanent connections in their lives. There are still some unanswered questions like whether or not we have to pay city taxes and health insurance in Japan even if we are not going to live here for several years? We will still have own a house here and will declare investment income in Japan, but we won’t be living here. In fact, we won’t really be living anywhere.
The European Union is the only group of countries in the world that understand the declining importance of nation states and a single country of residence. I hope the rest of the world starts to catch up soon because dealing with finances, visas and passports is a monumental pain.
We have a Citibank account for international bank transactions but transferring money online has been very difficult. They keep saying they have been having problems with their new system. Citibank has decent foreign currency exchange rates but automated teller withdrawals have to be from our Japanese yen account. This means that it costs 3% to exchange money, instead of the 1% online plus all the other banking fees. I am getting a little tired of dealing with Citibank so I am looking into switching to HSBC. I am not sure it will be much better. Any advice?
Computers and reliable Internet connections will be a big part of our future I am spending a lot of time getting the right gear, back ups, and accounts ready for travel. We will be traveling with two MacBook Pros, a PC as a backup computer, a small digital camera and a couple of back up hard drives. I have also bought a wireless internet hub so that we can share a LAN Internet connection. I will also be getting wifi booster antennas to increase the range where we can get free wifi connections.
I use Gmail and Google Docs exclusively now so I don’t need to backup that information. I use Solve360 for all my CRM and project management. Most files that I am co-working on with other people are saved there. I am still looking into other online backup systems. I would prefer to shift all of my documents online if possible. The problem is that I have about 1.5 terabytes of information so it will be a little costly to use an online storage system. Advice?
I have started using the free version of LastPass to store my passwords. For the most part it works pretty well. I don’t want to use the browser plugin because that would give anyone who stole my computer access to all of my accounts.
What else am I missing here?
We have upgraded our credit cards to gold cards so that we can get the extra travel insurance benefits. It costs about $150 per year for a gold card but the extra benefits should be worth it when traveling a lot. We are not going to buy any other travel insurance yet. Please comment if I am making a mistake. An added benefit of gold cards is that we will be able to use the business lounges in Japan. That will be nice on our several hour layover in Tokyo.
Overall, we are very excited to begin a vagabond lifestyle of perpetual travel but we are getting a little stressed at all the things that have to be organized and sorted before we can leave Japan. The next 27 days are going to be busy.
I would love to hear any advice or suggestions in the comments!