The “Underground Railroad” To Freedom

January 31, 2010 by  
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I have considered nicknaming our Freedom Mastermind group “The Underground Railroad”.   The underground railroad was a system that developed before the American Civil War…  it was run by anti-slavery activists– to help slaves in the South escape to freedom (well, relative freedom) in the North.   (The only reason I decided not to use the nickname is out of respect for this very noble piece of American history).

Today we no longer have “slavery” in the US or “modern” world.. but we certainly have “wage slavery” or near-indentured servitude.    Nearly everyone on the planet is a part-time slave to some job.

Having escaped wage slavery, I now find a deep satisfaction from helping others do the same.   I enjoy mentoring friends and acquaintances–  helping them create their own small businesses and leave the world of work.    This year, we had another success–  my very good friend Joe quit his job at the end of December and became a full-time “webeneur”.   His girlfriend Kristin has been free since this time last year!

And today, I just got an email from another good friend (an Athenian living in SE Asia) saying that he is now interested in developing his own small business (as a consultant/speaker…).   I’m looking forward to sharing ideas with him and hope that within a year, he (and his wife) will make their way to freedom.

I find it very encouraging to know so many people who are taking full responsibility for their lives and leaving the dependent, child-like servitude of employment.  I also find it inspiring to witness the transformations that happen when these people stop thinking like servant/slaves (“give me my job/paycheck pleeeaaasssseee”) and become the bosses of their own lives.

Perhaps this is why I used to be a social worker…   I have always been repulsed by the degradation of other beings (human or animal)…  and have always been incredibly inspired to see anyone uplifted to greater strength, self-reliance, energy and passion.

I hope that as the wage-slave economy continues to unwind, that many will turn to the freedom and dignity of a new “cottage industry” economy… rather than pine away for the false security of employment.

Believe me,…. losing your job can be the very best thing that ever happened to you!

Retire Abroad

January 27, 2010 by  
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A lot of “retirees” are getting hit hard by the economic crisis.  Many were hit hard by the market crash (401ks) (and by the way, get your money out of the damn market now cause another crash is coming).   Many are struggling… in America or Europe.

But here’s some great news…   with that same retirement income that you are struggling on in the US, you could be living very well here in Thailand, or in several other wonderful countries around the world.   Better still, Thailand actually has a “retirement” visa for people 55 years and older (I believe that’s the age).

So many people are caged by their nationality.. with the ingrained belief that their country is “the best” and “the only place I could live”  (and everyone in nearly every country believes it’s their country which is “the best”).  But these beliefs are just brainwashed conditioning and fear of the unknown.

The truth is that life, for example, in Thailand is in many ways much much better than life in the US or Europe.  Like Florida, the weather is always hot…  never a cold day!   The food is fantastic.  There are beautiful beaches and gorgeous hills/mountains.

And at this point, there are already plenty of US/Euro expats and retirees living here.  You can get by quite well with English.

With the same fixed income, you can live very well here.   A very nice one room apartment in Chiang Mai, for example, can be gotten for $250 a month!

Why toil and suffer in the USA when you can live well elsewhere?   (Other possibilities include:  Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, India, Mexico (not as cheap)……)

I’ve said many times and will continue to say it–  a great new life is possible– just get out of the United States!

Car Living 2010

January 27, 2010 by  
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With the unfolding (and rigged) economic disaster… and worse likely to come, I believe that car/van living is a solution that many can and will turn to to survive and thrive.

I, in fact, prefer the second word– “thrive”.   We’ve been so conditioned by TV and movies to believe that we “need” a house or modern apartment.  Yet most of the world lives well in far less.  Thoreau was right, we can live happily in a box, if we are thoughtful and wise about it.

Living in a car is actually quite pleasant if you take the right steps and have the right attitude.   The “right steps” include modifying the interior of the car for living–  removing the back seats and the passenger seat, installing the darkest tinting possible on windows, using a black car window-shade on the front window at night when sleeping,  using storage bins in an organized way….

..I also like a readers’ recent suggestion of having a body shop install marine vents to the roof of the car (along the sides) to provide circulation and prevent condensation… without having to open windows.   Have the vents installed and then painted the same color as the car.  Great idea!   Open windows were one of the challenges I had… they could attract attention.

Choice of vehicle is also important– you want it to be as common as possible.  If using a van, choose a “soccer mom” mini-van rather than a utility van.  The latter certainly has more room, but can attract more attention.  If you do go with a (windowless) utility van, consider having a fake logo put on the side… for a construction or plumbing company.

Upkeep of the vehicle is important.  You don’t want it to look like someone is living in it.   Avoid collecting trash or anything else on the dashboard… keep it  clean.

Finally, as I’ve noted many times, overnight parking is really THE challenge.   If possible, park in a friend’s or family member’s driveway (or rotate between several).   Don’t use their bathroom or house at all.. just park there.  I promise, you’ll quickly wear out your welcome if you actually have access to their house.

Second best is to find a car-living friendly town and rotate between several parking areas.  By “friendly”, I just mean a place where you won’t be constantly hassled.   San Francisco would probably be fine, as I’ve noticed a few areas where people are obviously living in vehicles.   By being as non-obvious as possible in such an area, you won’t get hassled much (by cops).

Finally, if you decide to live in a vehicle (for adventure or necessity), enjoy it.   The vehicle is your home, so organize it and make it comfortable inside.  Have a system for using the bathroom (shitting and pissing) in your vehicle when necessary (see my old archives for suggestions about this).  Have a comfortable sleeping arrangement.

And during the day, get out!   Go for long walks.  Enjoy the library.   If you can afford it, join a 24-hour gym (for the showers and also to get in great shape!!).   Hang out in bookstores and read (for free 😉   Relax in parks.  Learn a language.   Start a blog…..

Living in your vehicle can be a very liberating experience!


January 25, 2010 by  
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I have a lot of friends who have their own businesses.  Some are “micro businesses”.  Some are “small businesses” (like mine).

And, unfortunately, nearly all of my friends have made the same mistake… which has caused a lot of problems, and a lot of stress for them.

Their mistake was to increase their spending when their business started to grow.  They got intoxicated with the new income and freedom.

As their income rose, so too did their spending.  They bought a nicer car.  They got a bigger apartment.   They bought new stereos or other toys.

And most importantly, they didn’t save.

What happened next was predictable, because it ALWAYS happens:   “unexpected” problems arose, “unexpected” expenses rolled in.   Because their expenses rose to match their income, they had nothing to handle the “unexpected” expenses.   So then they borrowed money.  From credit cards.  From friends and family.

Now in the hole, they struggle just to get by.

We are trained by society to value appearances.  This training is deep and it’s everywhere.  It seems natural that if your income increases, so should your “lifestyle”.   Most people, for example, would consider it ridiculous for someone making 250,000 a year to have no car, live in a small studio apartment, and eat at inexpensive restaurants.

We are trained to consume consume consume as much as we can…. and this leads to our enslavement.  Read the business section of the newspapers… you’ll notice that when they talk about “consumers” saving more money… it’s always considered a BAD thing.  And it is bad, for them.  They want you in debt.  They want you to blow every available dollar you have.  Stay on that treadmill.

The most basic secret to freedom is to spend less than your income… preferably MUCH less than your income.   If you are lucky and your income rises– ABSOLUTELY DO NOT start spending more money.

Instead, practice ZOG– Zero Overhead Growth.    Overhead means rent, utilities, food, and any other “expected” expenses in your life.   DON’T buy a better car.  Don’t move to a more expensive apartment.  Don’t increase your lifestyle expenses at all until you are saving, saving, saving tons of money.

Always strive to INCREASE the gap between your spending and your income.   Widen that gap as much as possible.

This is the most basic form of financial literacy and self-reliance.

Do whatever it takes to achieve this (I lived in a Nissan Sentra for a summer, and a Toyota Van for a year….  and that was the start of my freedom).

Even tougher times are coming…   don’t get suckered in…  simplify your life as much as possible and save, save, save :)

2 Homes

January 25, 2010 by  
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Well, I have decided–  starting now, I will be splitting my time each year between Thailand and San Francisco.

6 months I’ll be based in Thailand, and 6 months I’ll be based in SF.

My next step is to find a reasonably cheap apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand… where I have decided to live.  It’s smaller and more relaxed than Bangkok, easy to get around, and has a lot of great restaurants.   Mountains, camping, etc… are also close by.   And finally, the rent is cheaper in Chiang Mai.

I have already done some research on the web and I can definitely get a nice apartment for $250 – 350 dollars a month.  By “nice” I mean an apartment that is as good or better than my $2000 a month apartment in San Francisco (which is absolutely outrageous, yet “normal” in SF)!  Talk about an easier lifestyle!  Life in Thailand is sooooo much easier.

The real challenge comes when I return to SF and begin searching for a cheaper apartment in my same neighborhood (The Mission).   I keep hoping the housing crisis will crash SF rents, but so far they have only nudged down a little bit.   Another option will be to sub-lease a place for 6 months at a time, and store my things at a friends’ (or storage place) when I’m not in SF.

My overall goal is for my total annual rent (SF + Chiang Mai) to remain the same or drop…  thus no increase.

The great news is that even if my total rent remains the same, my overall expenses will drop because food and other expenses are so much cheaper in Thailand.

In general, I’m now following the principle of “zero expense growth”.  Even though my income is growing, I have put a firm limit on my expenses.   In other words, I’m saving more and more as my business grows.  Given the likelihood of more economic disasters (coming at the end of the summer, I predict),…  saving more is a very very good idea!

And really, it’s a good idea anyway!

Worse To Come In 2010

January 2, 2010 by  
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I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year and a great 2010!

However, let me temper this wish with a warning–  bad (economic) mojo is coming.  The propaganda news channels (CNN, Fox,…) and the US government are all talking about a “mild recovery” for 2010.  Obama is still peddling “Hope”.

All of which should send up immediate warning flags, given the dreadful track record of these people in predicting this economic crisis in the first place  (indeed, Obama’s team (Clinton re-treads) are in large part responsible for what happened and what’s to come).

People with much better track records, including Michael Smorch, Gerald Celente, David Morgan, Robert Kiyosaki….  are sounding alarms totally contrary to what the government and mainstream media are telling us.  These folks, who accurately predicted this crisis many months (in some cases years) before it hit, are predicting an equal or bigger crash in 2010.

To use Celente’s words, “The Greatest Depression” is still on it’s way, and 2010 is likely the year it hits full force.

So, now is not the time to be rushing into the stock market, or blowing money, or buying stuff in general.   Now is a time to save save save,  cut your spending as much as possible, and live as simply as possible.

I don’t advocate fear or panic…    just a calm and very cautious approach.   Ignore the idiots on TV and ignore the Obama PR hype machine–   most likely, worse is yet to come.

The good news for Hobopoets–  as adherents to simple living, we are already ready for lean times and in fact, our lifestyle is unlikely to change much.

The mainstream public, however, is in for one hell of a shock.

So….  continue living simply, continue focusing on what matters most, and continue to “let all that does not matter truly slide” (to quote Fight Club).

Have a great 2010!!