One Year to New Country and Career – The Final Countdown

New Year in Japan

New Year’s in Japan

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.

Our House

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.

Our Car

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.

Work Plans

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.

Banking

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?

Technology

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?

Health Insurance

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!

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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.

22 Responses to One Year to New Country and Career – The Final Countdown

  1. Ben Shearon says:

    Shinsei bank is pretty good for doing things online and letting you withdraw money overseas.

  2. Gordie says:

    You’re really doing it, John. I really respect you man for being able to do this. It’s Chinese New Year here now, so a happy New Year to you and your wife.
    .-= Gordie´s last blog ..How To Smile At A Crisis With Big Shiny White Teeth. =-.

  3. Kyle says:

    “Anyone who tells you it is easy to earn an income online is probably trying to sell you something.” So true. I also don’t like the term “passive income” as it assumes that one can create a website, sit back and let the money roll in. Bogus.

    On a technical note, you shouldn’t need to bring that wireless hub. With your macs, you only need to connect one to the internet and then you can share that connection. http://lifehacker.com/283088/share-your-macs-internet-connection-wirelessly
    .-= Kyle´s last blog ..Innocuous Sign or Commentary on Modern Love? =-.

    • John says:

      Hi Kyle,

      Thanks for the comment. I appreciate you taking the time.

      Also, thanks for that link. I guess I should have asked the question before I bought the wireless hub.

  4. Liz says:

    Hi John,

    The preparations necessary to disengage from your present life and embark on a new journey possibly to Europe can be overwhelming, I know because that’ exactly what I’m trying to do next. Bank accounts, insurance, financial comittments, all these things can take the joy out of my travel plans.

    I’m planning to go to Europe in April not sure for how long yet, trying to stay flexible and safe at the same time.

    I’m currently investigating all the hurdles for non EU citizens trying to teach ESL in Europe. I’m going to look into Croatia as well since they’re still not members of the EU.

    You probably know about this site already but http://www.helpexchange.net seems to offer a legitimate and fun way to get room and board by working in organic farms and family inns through all of Europe. I think it’s a great way to mingle with the locals and practice a foreign language although house sitting probably offers more freedom and privacy.

    Thanks for sharing your plans and progress. Who knows maybe we’ll run into each other. 🙂

    I wish you both the best in this next chapter of your life.

    Liz

  5. Alan says:

    He’s doing it! He’s really doing it!

    Not that I had any doubt, of course, but I’m stoked to see your trip is drawing near. Thanks for including so many details–really helpful to see how you two are approaching the trip. Perhaps our paths will meet up!

    Alan

    • John says:

      Let’s definitely plan to meet up somewhere. My schedule is completely flexible so if you can tell me in advance I will try to make it out your way.

  6. John R. Sedivy says:

    Hi John – A couple of comments. First, concerning downsizing you should consider reading the book Scaling Down – it’s a quick read, inexpensive, and gives great advice for people needed to downsize, but wanting to maintain a high quality of life – here’s the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Scaling-Down-Living-Large-Smaller/dp/1594860939/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265947955&sr=1-1

    Second, I would seriously consider selling the house if at all possible. I know market wise this is not the ideal time to sell (Japan may be different), but in my experience renting a home or homes remotely becomes an annoying distraction over time – I found this to be true even with a competent management company. I realize now you are thinking of possibly returning and the income possibilities – but jet setters such as yourself hardly look back. Besides, in the off chance you were to return, wouldn’t it be nice to have a fresh start?

    Just my two cents!

    • John says:

      Thanks for the advice John.

      That looks like a good book. I will definitely look it up.

      Japanese real estate might be a little different than other countries. Our mortgage interest rate is 1.8 %. That means that our payments pay off more than 40% equity every month versus about 10% in Canada.

      Also, I believe that tenants in Japan are much more reliable and stay longer than other countries. The best part is that new renters pay high gift money just for the privilege of renting.

      If our house was in Canada, we would definitely sell, but in Japan I think it is better to keep it.

      • John R. Sedivy says:

        Thanks John. Yes, from the sound of it renting it out sounds like the better option. You’ve definitely done your homework and Japan seems to have a great system in place for property owners. The high gift money sounds nice! 🙂

  7. The Japanese mortgage interest rate is incredible. But I’m sure the housing prices are extremely high???

    Really consider the medical travel insurance if it is not included with the new the credit cards. I’m sure you and your wife are young and healthy but a serious injury could wipe you out financially. World Nomads seems to always come highly recommended.

    People always talk about the Charles Schwab bank accounts as deferring the international transaction rates when you pull money from ATMs. Also Capital One.
    .-= brian | No Debt World Travel´s last blog ..Help a New Solo Traveler on her trip to Spain =-.

    • John says:

      Hi Brian,

      Real estate prices has basically halved since the Japanese boom of the late 1980s. Japan is actually not that expensive to live in. Tokyo and other big cities are obviously more expensive but anywhere outside of one of the biggest cities is quite reasonable. House sizes and land area are smaller but prices are definitely not ‘extremely high.” Actually, costs in general are not as high as people imagine. There are no ‘$7 coffees in McDonalds’ like many assume.

      In rural or resort areas is is very possible to find old houses under $100,000. If it is more than 20 years old, you basically just pay the land value because buildings depreciate in value so fast here.

      There is accident and health insurance included with the credit cards, however it is probably wise to make sure that we are completely covered. I will look into this more, however it is not a priority with only a few more weeks to go. We still have a lot of cleaning and organizing to do!

  8. Mike says:

    Wow, I remember reading when you just started your blog. It’s good to see you are going through with the move. I know you won’t regret it!
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Stress in Bali =-.

    • John says:

      Hi Mike,

      Long time no talk. How is Bali? We hope to spend some time in Ubud again in 2011, hopefully we can meet up.

      Thanks for following my blog for so long. I really appreciate the comment.

  9. Congrats on really doing this. So exciting!!! I wish I had good advice, but I don’t. I’m just interested and excited for you guys.

  10. Earl says:

    Hey John,

    I know you mentioned the bit of stress you’re having at the moment as a result of the upcoming change, but hopefully you are also able to have some moments of pure excitement as you think about the new adventures to come! For me, those final couple of weeks before a major change are the most exciting. I can barely sleep as I anticipate the new experiences I’ll have in new lands.

    On a more practical note, for banking, I recently switched to Capital One as they don’t charge any fees for withdrawals or credit card purchases made anywhere in the world. Even as a backup account it’s quite a good deal and so far my dealings with them have been as smooth as possible.

    Thank you for laying out this excellent blueprint of what needs to be done when making such a change and congratulations on your upcoming vagabond lifestyle!
    .-= Earl´s last blog ..A Scary Man In A Truck Teaches Me About Making Judgments =-.

    • John says:

      Thanks for the comment Earl.

      It is all good stress. We are definitely excited to be moving on but there is a lot of work to do before we can go.

  11. Audrey says:

    Hey John,
    Getting down to the final days – very exciting. It becomes a blur with the farewell parties and last minute to do lists, but the excitement and feeling of opportunity when you get on that airplane is pretty incredible.

    As for practical stuff, I’ve heard that Charles Schwab is good for banking because it reimburses your ATM/banking fees when you’re abroad. Usually, banking fees aren’t too awful but there are some countries (like Argentina) that charge a fortune each time you take money out.

    I’d also recommend getting some travel heath insurance (e.g., World Nomads) in case the credit card coverage doesn’t include repatriation/emergency evacuation or equipment protection.

    We will be in the Prague area in July/August renewing our residence visas, so if you are in the region it would be great to meet up.

    Congrats and good luck with these last weeks!
    .-= Audrey´s last blog ..How to Travel the World Together Without Killing Each Other =-.

    • John says:

      Hi Audrey,

      Thanks for the recommendations!

      We will definitely be in Hungary in August if you can make it there. (Hungary Day is in the middle of August with big celebrations and the big music festival.) We may also try to make it to Prague but Canadians need a special visa so that makes it a little more difficult.

      Where are you going after August?

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