Christian Skoda spent 14 years of his life working for a large corporation. About six years ago, he decided to get out of the rat race and begin a new life as a perpetual traveler. Christian has lived in Singapore, Thailand, Bali, India and most recently, the Philippines. He shares some of his experiences in this interview.
Please tell us about your current life now. Where do you live?
I’m currently in the process of moving to the island of Negros, in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines. Before I lived 6 months in Goa/India, 2 years in Bali/Indonesia and 8 months in and around Phuket in Thailand. Before that I was working for 3 years in Singapore, which I enjoyed very much, as it gave me the opportunity to explore the surrounding countries during extended weekend trips. Asia is simply a region of plenty, I just can’t get enough of it!
How do you earn an income?
From my previous activities, I have several passive income streams, like rent, dividends and interest. My motto is to generate income in hard currency countries and spend in lower-cost-of-living countries. Therefore – Asia is the right place for me to live. I simply love it here, the people, the climate, the food – and, of course – the lower costs of living compared to Europe, Australia or the US. I also try to make some money blogging, although that is so far not more than some pocket money. I also don’t want to stress that too much, as to not scare away my readers with too many ads and affiliate schemes. So all in all, writing a website is more to keep my brain juices flowing and not drying up. 😉
What do you like and don’t like about your life now?
I love that I am completely free to do, what I want to do. I can wake up at noon, go to bed every day in the early hours without any regrets and spend my days without justifying my activities to anybody. Usually, it’s a pleasure to live in foreign countries and dive into new cultures, try out new food, chat with friendly people and explore the natural wonders of our beautiful planet. I was never less bored than during the last couple of years.
Do you have any regrets about your life now?
Yep, I regret not having worked in foreign countries earlier. I had several opportunities before to work for my employer in other countries, thus earning a good salary with the safety net of a long-term employer and having the opportunity to explore new cultures and regions at the same time. As maybe plenty of other people, I too was afraid of change. I thought that the risk is too high or that I wouldn’t cope and would have to come back defeated. All those fears are completely unfounded, as everyone anywhere is cooking his/her tea with the same water. If you are young, skilled and hungry – you can make it and outperform your peers almost everywhere – not only in New York, as the old tune goes. You are in a much better position to adapt, you will always do your best, compared with people stuck for much longer in the same place and you will most likely succeed!
How much savings would an average person need to be able to move abroad and live like you do?
That really depends on your choice of lifestyle, your savings/investments and if you work or not. I found for myself that I’m even more happy, the less material possessions I own. Wherever I roam, I try to reduce my belongings, which currently fit in a larger travel bag and a small backpack. Who needs a house, a car, too many electronic gadgets, expensive toys, suits and ties anyway? Happiness comes from the inside, not what you patch on yourself from the outside. If you can give up on all those ties to the material world, you can live very basic and frugal, yet very fulfilled. My budget is something around US$800 per month, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less. I gave up calculating, as it was fairly stable over the last couple of years. I admit, that this lifestyle probably isn’t for everybody, but that’s simply the way it is.
What were you doing before you became a JetSetCitizen?
I was working for 14 years in sales and customer-related functions for a large European outsourcing company. While that basically gave me a nice title and salary, as well as a chance to travel and see the world; it also put a strain on my personal life, health and especially relationships. When I try to remember the most remarkable moments of this time of my past working life, it is like somebody pressed a fast forward button. Everything is some sort of blur, with only a few positive spikes standing out. This thankfully changed completely after I quit working, so I’m 100% convinced that I did the right thing in the end.
Why weren’t you happy before? What was missing from your life?
It’s not that I was completely unhappy. Like other people every day, I was just completely driven by my job and work life. This might be okay for a while, but it burns you out easily also. And aren’t those not the best years, when we are the youngest and fittest – wasted somehow for some corporation instead of your own self-development?
Being on the road for 4 days a week, I used to wake up in a hotel bed in some city somewhere in Germany. At a point in time, I had to first check my calendar to remember which town I was in. That was somehow an epiphany to me. Also two bosses of mine died of heart attacks, one in his mid 40’s, the other in his early 50s; both having a similar job as mine. Counting the years, it was clear to me, that I had to do something to not end up like them, hehe!
What sacrifices and risks did you make in order to get to where you are today?
Sacrifices? What do you mean? To not having a steady 9-5 job, a big house, a guzzling SUV car, a 2+2 family? I see it the other way around. Living the corporate life before, I sacrificed too many things for far too long. My right to happiness, self-fulfillment and walking our earth as long and wherever I want to. Who is happy with 3-5 weeks holiday a year anyway? Who is sacrificing? I’m happier and healthier now than at any point in my working life before, so the times of sacrifices are definitely over.
What advice would you offer for others pursuing similar career objectives?
If I could start all over again, I would try to plan way earlier – to save money, maximising my income while still working, reducing/downsizing my expenses and working a job which would give me the chance to explore the world and earn money at the same time. Multinational companies offer the best opportunities here in my view. They have foreign subsidiaries and sometimes expat packages to ‘ease’ your pain, when living in a foreign country. Even with a local deal you will probably be way happier than rotting over many years in a cubicle in your home country. If you have the chance, try as many different countries as possible before taking the plunge of moving (semi-)permanently.
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