There are lots of article around the web that describe the exact moment that a particular individual or family decided to change their lives by travelling. This post isn’t one of those articles. The purpose of this post is to help those who aren’t currently travelling and feel trapped by their job, their business or their family. Most articles describe the catalyst but gloss over the description of their life prior to travel. The purpose of this article is to show people that at some point most of us were or are in the same position as you.
It’s a Monday morning and as I am dragging myself out of bed I hear that Noah is already awake. He’s currently out in the lounge room playing with one of his thousands of toys making a pretty loud ruckus. He is an extremely early riser, in summer it’s sometimes as early as 4:45 when the sun first starts to peek out over the horizon. Most days though, it is around 5:00-5:15 that he wakes up. Noah is a terrible sleeper and most nights for the first 11 months of his life he only ever slept for about 2 hour stretch. Tracy would be up with him most of the times throughout the night, but I would also usually be up once or twice to help Tracy out. So when 5am rolls around it is entirely too early for either of us to be awake.
So in my caring way I decide to try to help by getting Noah (& Hayley when she arrived) out of the house so Tracy could get another hour or two sleep before she had to face the day with the kids. Tracy is generally susceptible to severe headaches. They can be triggered by lack of sleep, drinking alcohol, eating too much chocolate, tension or generally breathing the wrong way so this was my way of trying to ensure that she didn’t wake up with a headache.
Because 5am is early in anyone’s language there isn’t many places to take the children at this time other than the local McDonald’s. McDonald’s in Australia have large covered playgrounds in most places so this is where I would head with the kids at 5am. My current terrible eating habits can probably be traced back to this period in my life. Moving on.
We’d head to McDonald’s I would read the newspaper and have a drink while the kids played in the playground. Was it relaxing, no! Was it the best thing I could have done with my time, no. Was it the only thing I could think to do, yes. At this point in my life I was running my own web design business. My life was work and Tracy & the kids. Occasionally I would play some sport, I loved cricket and hockey, but both took a lot of time and I continually felt guilty if I tried to take this time for myself. With the hours that I worked it really didn’t leave me much time for anything else. And the worst part of this whole equation is that we weren’t even getting ahead in any way. If anything we were slowly going backwards.
The business I ran was a small, essentially one person business. I had started the business when I was 23 years old, with no real skill set (I was still learning to be a web developer) and definitely no money behind us. I was bootstrapping it all the way! Like so many others I had a good idea, but the ability to implement the idea was impeded by the requirement to make enough money to feed the family. I sit back now and understand exactly what I should have done with the business to get myself out of that situation, but knowledge only generally comes with a lesson and this period of time was definitely my lesson.
After dropping Noah & Hayley back home around 7am I would head to work to start my day. I’d be there until a least 6pm (an early knock-off) but more likely 7pm and sometime 11 or 12pm depending on what client was putting pressure on me to finish their work. I was working for a range of companies. Small businesses that just needed an web presence to larger business that wanted complex web applications. I did internet merchant accounts and merchant processing for hotels. My skill set allowed for me to work with lots of different clients, but my main clients we low-cost brochureware website. I thought I could do low-cost, high volume. How wrong I was.
We didn’t have much of a social life for a couple of reasons. Tracy and I married about 5 years earlier than any of our other friends and also had babies earlier so this meant that we had changed our lives but our friends stayed the same or didn’t change in the same direction as us. We all just grew apart. As often happens when you have a baby or two your life seems to turn inwards and you focus on them to the detriment of other relationships. In August 2008, I came to terms with another web development company in Brisbane to take over my business and to give me a good job working on the software that I had built. My job was to develop the software into a marketable product for them. For me, this was a perfect out. My clients would be looked after, I had the security of a regular pay check that relied on me turning up rather than making sales. This was an absolute god send for me. I was completely burned out from working entirely too many hours for not a lot of money. The future I could see for my little web design business in 2003 had completely vanished and turned into a chain that weighed around my neck on an hourly basis. It was sometime during this year that I read the Four Hour Work Week and the idea of earning Australian dollars while leveraging the currency by living in cheap locations struck a cord. I worked for this company in Brisbane for just over 12 months before I decided that enough was enough. The software product (the one I had built and brought to the company) was not performing and no-one was buying. The company was loosing money from this venture and well quite frankly I had lost confidence in my ability to sell the product. I decided that it was time to return to freelance life. The day after I resigned I had $25,000 worth of contracts. Working for Brightlabs was a great time. I enjoyed working with others and the employees and the owners were a great group of people. One of the lessons I learned during that 12 month period is that to be profitable you need to charge a decent amount of money. Charging $2000 for a website, even if it is a just a 10 page brochureware website is not enough to sustain your business let alone give you a profit to help you grow. Profit is not a dirty word, profit is good, profit is necessary. Excess profit however is still just greed! I resolved to value myself and my time much higher than I previously had and to have much much fewer clients and provide them great service. I strongly believe that this simple single change in my mindset allowed us to make all the other changes that