Entrepreneur Turns Vagabond: Journeying On, Destination Unknown
— Everyone asks what we are going to DO. My answer is, “we are going to travel” —
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.
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