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Entrepreneur Turns Vagabond: Journeying On, Destination Unknown

— Everyone asks what we are going to DO. My answer is, “we are going to travel” —

(This is a special guest post by writer and Soul Shelter friend John Bardos)

I recently turned 40 years old, just sold my small business in Japan, and am about to embark on a nomadic lifestyle with my wife. We have no particular destination or plans. We are just going to go.

I had a successful business that offered a decent income on 30 hour workweeks with three months of vacation per year. What would make a sane person give up that security and stability without another income source? I don’t claim to be sane, but the ultimate answer is that life is short.

When my wife and I first started our business everything was exciting. Money was tight. We were worried about how we would get customers. We experimented with many different prices, ways of advertising and constantly adjusted everything. It was nerve-racking and a lot of work but it was the happiest time of our business and life.

When customers came more easily and our bank balance started growing, our time become more valuable. We stopped caring about delivering increasing amounts of value for our customers and instead started to focus on minimizing our work and maximizing profits. Relationships and connections with real people slowly turned into business transactions. We used to celebrate new customers. Then we started thinking of them as necessary nuisances.

I changed from being an entrepreneur to a manager. I love being an entrepreneur, but I hate being a manager. We had a good decade with our company, but now we’re managers, and it’s time to move on. More money and more things can provide fleeting happiness, but the challenge of overcoming obstacles and creating something from nothing made memories that I cherish more than anything.

Japan is a fantastic country and we definitely plan on returning regularly, so it is not the country we are leaving. The quality of food, richness of the culture, and overall safety are unrivaled anywhere else in the world. I don’t view our journey so much as leaving Japan, as simply striving for change.

Coming to the Japan for the first time almost 13 years ago was one of the scariest and most exciting things I’ve done in my life. Life is meant to be lived at the edge of precipices. That’s what keeps everything challenging and interesting. There is no better way to get that adrenaline rush than to move to a new country and fight for a way to earn a living. I need that tension in my life again.

Everyone asks what we are going to DO. My answer is, “we are going to travel.” Of course, the “DO” they are referring to is the “what do you DO?” variety. They want to know what I am going to DO for work. We are still all defined by our jobs. In that sense, I am going to DO cool projects that interest me. I love to work, so I’m not after a life of leisure. I’ m also not rich, so I will likely have to earn some money, sometime in the future but I have a modest amount of savings and investments that can sustain us for several years at least. I’m going to work on projects that I want to DO.

I guarantee, though, that I’ll thoroughly enjoy everything I choose to focus on. This entrepreneur has turned vagabond, and it’s time to journey on, destination unknown.

Entrepreneur-turned-vagabond John Bardos blogs at Jet Set Citizen.

You may also enjoy:

The Value of Travel: One Household’s Mild Manifesto

In Defense of “Aimless” Learning

You’ve Gotta Jump

What Purpose Work?

Entrepreneurship Hints From Overseas

Hazards of Career, Rewards of Vocation

What the Seeker Ultimately Discovers

9 Comments to Entrepreneur Turns Vagabond: Journeying On, Destination Unknown

On Jan 11, 2010, Teryl commented:

Wish we could do the same…maybe someday! :)

On Jan 11, 2010, John Bardos - JetSetCitizen commented:

Hi Teryl,

I said the same thing for about 5 years and nothing happened. Someday usually equals never, for me anyway.

I have only made real progress in my life when I 100% committed to something with no chance to back out. I first came to Japan on about one weeks notice. I started my business after spending two years thinking about leaving Japan with no progress. I decided to leave Japan in one year’s time no matter what in April of 2009.

None were easy decisions. At the time each seemed foolish, but every time I make a leap like that my life and income generally improve substantially.

I don’t want to spend my life protecting what I have. I want to challenge myself with new experiences. Challenge makes life enjoyable, not security.

On Feb 3, 2010, Lara commented:

Found this through a Google search. I am giving up my successful business I built from the ground up, and a 6 figure income to travel the world. I plan to volunteer along the way and know that I will eventually land somewhere wonderful. Just wanted you to know you aren’t alone and glad to hear I’m not either. THANKYOU!

On Mar 3, 2010, One More Week to Leave Japan! | JetSetCitizen.com commented:

[…] Entrepreneur turns Vagabond: Journeying on, Destination Unknown on SoulShelter.com […]

On Mar 4, 2010, Anil commented:

I hate management too, it’s much more fun to get your hands dirty working and building :)

On Mar 6, 2010, Earl commented:

It’s interesting to read about your transition over time from entrepreneur to manager, and how you were able to observe that change, understand how it was affecting your lives and then realize the need to head in a new direction. And it is inspiring that you are about to embark on a new life adventure as a result!

On Mar 14, 2010, John Bardos - JetSetCitizen commented:

@Lara Congrats on your plan to travel the world. You are definitely not alone.

@Anil Thanks for following me here. I appreciate the comment. The world needs more people with dirty hands. :-)

@Earl The peak of my interest (and profits) in the company happened about 4 years ago. That was the time to leave but I was just too afraid to give up the security even though I was getting tired of the work. I realized the need to change directions but it took years to build up the courage. I hope I will be able to adapt must faster in the future.

On May 21, 2010, Shannon commented:

Great post! I’m also an entrepreneur and a vagabond. I spend most days trying to balance the two (and work relationships somewhere in there). Eventually I know I’ll get to the point where I will give up the business and hit the road. Good luck with your travels!

On May 23, 2010, John Bardos - JetSetCitizen commented:

Thanks for the comment Shannon! Wouldn’t it be great if we could combine entrepreneurship with being a vagabond in a meaningful way. I personally don’t want to chose only one of the two.

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