I often get asked how I can afford my global lifestyle. Travel can be expensive and living abroad isn’t always the easiest thing to do. I currently live in Kyiv, Ukraine and travel frequently where I make creative content: mostly writing and videos. But how do I afford all this? My blog and YouTube videos hardly bring in any money.
I’ve realized I’ve done a poor job explaining this, so here it is…
As I child I grew up in a family that didn’t travel. The only places we ever went to was New York City and New Jersey to see extended family. My father worked 52 weeks a year. The world was a far away dream. At a young age I observed that most people didn’t go anywhere.
But America is also a place with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and I understood that it was possible for one to make their own path. My family was all about work and no vacation so I adopted a strong work ethic from a young age. At eight I made my first sale (a go-cart my friend’s dad built), at the age of 10 I was working for five different neighbors taking care of their landscaping. It wasn’t much, but money is relative, it was a lot for a 10-year-old.
I bought my first car for $1500.00 at the age of 15. I drove it around illegally at night while my parents slept until I got my license at 16. I loved the freedom of having my own wheels, I loved making my own money and not relying on others.
I’ve tried many things—from a powdered remedy that cures hangovers to wedding videography (that was a nightmare!) to a social platform that connects people through common interests, most of them have failed. But I’ve had one business that’s lasted me almost 18 years….
It’s a detailing business.
The service goes to the client’s location; the detailing technicians detail their cars, boats, or aircraft. It’s not repainting, but reconditioning—a process of machines and products that can take a surface that looks good and make it look spectacular—like a deep mirror. There’s an art to this process and it takes skilled labor. Wealthy people who have nice things want them to look their best. My company provides this service.
But the real reason behind this business is that I always wanted freedom. I saw at a young age that to have a lot of money and no time was a common scenario for many financially successful people in America. And to have lots of time and no money is the pathway to becoming a bum on a park bench.
My greatest interest was the world and foreign lands. Nobody in my town or family circles talked about these things, but I constantly tried to imagine what the world was like. I needed time and money to interact with the globe.
My business had a seasonality to it so there were a crunch time and an offseason. I was living in Lake Tahoe, California where the winters are snowy. In the beginning, the business didn’t make enough money to live from, so I was also working at a restaurant at night. All I did was work day and night for seven months a year and then snowboarded and worked nights for the remaining five months.
Over time my business grew, I learned more about business, I hired people, I delegated responsibilities, created employee incentives, nailed down the business model… the service territory and clientele expanded, it became its own living organism.
Over the years I’ve put the profits from my business into different investments. Stocks and real estate that make monthly returns. I have rental properties in Nevada and Colombia. Here’s the apartment I rent out in Cali, Colombia on Airbnb.
This isn’t a swinging ego story, money is subjective… I’m poor to some and rich to others. While money is a ticket to freedom, it also has a cost and can kill freedom if one is working 52 weeks a year in a job they despise.
Writing a short piece like this doesn’t show the challenges or the grind of this lifestyle. From afar it might look very attractive, but the truth is most people wouldn’t want to live it. One must be extremely disciplined, organized and self motivated. I don’t have time to follow sports on TV, I rarely go out, much of the time I’m up late working and up early the next day. I don’t hang out with friends much these days. Last night I was talking with the insurance company on the phone until midnight….
It’s also a challenge running a team of people from abroad. It’s more of a psychology than anything; I need to be both liked and a bit feared but not too much of either. If I’m too nice then I’ll be taken advantage of, and if I’m too much feared then my employees will just go somewhere else. Running a business remotely is a delicate balancing act and a skill that takes time to refine.
In a way, I’m in two different worlds and my energy gets divided. Juggling the business and all of this creative content is very consuming. I have a constant fire under my ass and a feeling I’m never getting enough done. This is my own battle within that I’m working on.
I was heavily tested before moving to Ukraine. I had a great opportunity to work on a hotel project in the US. But I knew it would have grounded me to one geography for many years; I would have been committed to it 50+ hours a week plus running my business. The world that I’m so much in love with would have disappeared. Making creative content would have been a distant dream. It was a tough decision because I walked away from the known and a lot more up front money. I took a leap of faith and moved to Kyiv. I’m so glad I did.
In the future, I plan to migrate all my work energy over to my creative content and build a team here in Ukraine so we can produce more videos, podcasts, and events. My aim is to inspire and motivate the world through content that bridges it instead of the content we mostly see on the news that divides it.
My path isn’t traditional by any sense. But I hope it shows that there are many ways to make it in life. If the traditional career path isn’t your thing, well it doesn’t necessarily have to be. There are options…. I’ve met many people in the world doing creative things and living unorthodox lifestyles. My story is one I could have never imagined for myself. It’s not easy but I own it and I feel a purpose in it; therefore, I will do whatever it takes to fight for it and keep it going.
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