Your dream versus your rent.
That’s really what the real world is.
The realities: you need money to survive and live in one place; chances are you don’t want to be a nomad forever.
And the dreams: you want to travel, live life up, do everything you can think of, and ignore all the conventional advice.
That’s honestly what it comes down to, and where most people get discouraged.
The reason why I call it rent versus your dream is that both take time – which is a finite resource. You only get so much time. One day down is one less day in your life. Time wasting should scare the shit out of you.
Your dreams take work. A lot. There is no doubt about it. And work takes time. But how do you find the time, when you’re busy spending 40+ hours working, another 5-10 commuting, and then another 10 hating the previous 50 hours where you worked and commuted?
That’s what I’m getting at.
How do you find the time to bring your dream to life (or pursue it) while being stuck paying your bills?
Your Dream Versus Your Rent
If you’re creative, you’ll find ways to optimize both.
There are a few common paths, as I see it.
A. There are people that bypass rent all together and just travel.
Remember, here are the two parts to the equation: Rent. Your dream. Somehow you need to fulfill both, or get rid of one.
People that travel temporarily negate the “rent” part of the equation. No rent, all dream. These are the vagabonds, the long-term travelers, and the modern day nomads. Their rent becomes their travel expenses, which are often far cheaper than paying rent almost anywhere in the United States.
(Related: This is why traveling the world is not as unrealistic as it seems).
Personally, having done this, I don’t think it’s a miracle cure. From the outside it looks great, “lalalala I’m traveling and hooking up with exotic frenchman and eating weird foods in thailand, and coming back with stories.”
But quitting your job and traveling are not magical cures that will fix your life’s problems. I promise you that.
If, and I mean, if you find a way to live as a nomad – so that you can save money, while working on getting to where you want to be, then by all means go for it. But the reality is that most people don’t do that.
Entrepreneurs that relocate to 3rd world countries to exploit the lower cost of income (while building a business that earns in a first world income) are examples of this.
The ideal: Relocate to somewhere cheap, staying in a place for at least a couple weeks/months at a time, while keeping a strict daily schedule of working on whatever your goal is. Use money you have saved (ideally in a stronger income), or work out a remote work agreement with your current job. Spend every day hustling on that project you are dreaming of.
Drawbacks: Full-time travel is not exactly conducive to getting work done, 3rd world countries often have quality control issues in terms of food, water, and air (for those of you health nuts), and reliable internet is the exception rather than the rule (depending where you are). Finding work to keep funding you is also another issue – if whatever you’re working on is going to take you a couple years, you need some kind of income stream, which is obviously easier to find in your home country than online or on the road.
B. There are people that decide to get financially independent before going after their dream.
These are the people that “work hard, party hard.” They say they are working hard now so they can have financial freedom (and freedom) forever after.
It’s nice in theory: make a TON of money now, or make a business that supports me, and then go do whatever the hell I want. Most never get past the “make a TON of money, now” part.
They work a lot of hours, usually at multiple gigs, in order to stack money away.
But in reality, I’ve met many of these people, and almost none of them end up free. They never leave the “working on my freedom” part. They end up in NYC working at startups where they work 12 hour days, and then party until the wee morning hours, repeating it again and again 7 days a week.
These people got stuck preparing their launch plan. For some, they were building businesses to give them financial freedom in order to do what they want. Others keep site of their goals: For example, a friend of mine owns NYC real estate that he rents out, so that he can work only a few hours per day and live in NYC – in order to pursue his dream of acting full-time. That’s someone doing it right.
Other people were saving, saving, saving to prepare for their voyage. The around the world trip. A move to Paris to spend a year. A trip to a country of fascination.
It works well, if you don’t get sidetracked.
The ideal: How do you ensure that you don’t get stuck? There are a few ways, from friends of mine that have lived it. Stash money in a doomsday fund. Whatever your dream is, working for a few years and having $20,000 will get you far – if that’s a year traveling the world, or a year living in china studying kungfu, it’ll let you do it. Don’t forget to do it though. Many people get afraid or complacent, or burn it all on booze to self-medicate after a 12 hour workday.
Drawbacks: Never escaping. The promise of “tomorrow” is very seductive. The vast majority of people I have met got caught in this illusion: “oh, I can go off and live my dream whenever I want.” Tomorrow is just too convenient – we put it off forever. 10,20,30 years later we wake up with a house full of kids and a family, realizing that we got sidetracked. We were always getting on living, but never living as the saying goes.
C. There are people that go with the side hustle approach.
The side hustle approach is a gentler, slow and steady approach for people who are pretty risk averse or want to enjoy a good quality of life while in hustle mode. This is what I’ve personally been doing.
For example, keeping a day job (ideally a reduced-hours or flexible one), which allows you to work in your off-hours on the projects that mean a lot to you.
Right now I have a semi full-time remote position: 30 hours week, remote work. Flexibility and time are on my side. I also freelance for the extra 5-10 grand a year to travel.
That gives me an extra 10-20 hours (including the commute I don’t have) to build my business. There is no risk for me. There is no sacrifice either. I’m sleeping 8 hours a night. I’m still going on vacation 5+ weeks a year. I’m still making a full-time income and saving money and investing it. I don’t like stress. You don’t have to have stress.
The point of the side hustle is that it’s a low stress approach and it’s low risk. Worst comes to worst, if your side thing fails, you still have a day job, cash, an apartment, and a recurring income to jump into your next project. Keep swinging until you hit a home run. It’s not sexy, and there are no guarantees. But it works.
The ideal: You work your “safe, secure” day job (ideally that’s teaching you something, but worst comes to worst you’re just milking your boss). After work, you’re creating your master plan. If you want to get on broadway, you’re out schmoozing with people that are important and powerful connections. If you want to travel the world for a year, you’re studying about personal finance, saving, and then… saving money. If you want to open up a wildlife refuge, you’re reading up on rules and regulations, calling existing spots, and figuring out what it takes for you to do it.
Drawbacks: Sometimes people get too comfortable. They’re earning a “good enough” income. They get a “good enough” spouse. Life doesn’t suck – but it’s not special either. It’s “fine.” Sometimes once you’ve baaaarely made enough to pay rent, there’s not as much motivation anymore. You figure – hey, why work so hard when I’ve already got a relatively comfortable life. Well, comfort = death. The death of more than just your dream. Getting comfortable is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your 20s. Your hatred of your current job/life, or the magical pull of your dream has got to be strong enough to keep you putting in those hours and hours outside of work, potentially for years until the day comes.
How About You?
These three things obviously aren’t the only ways to bypass the rent/dream situation. There are many others. These are just the most common ways that people go about bypassing it.
I’m personally into the side hustle approach. Low risk. Low stress. Have a great lifestyle throughout it all. I’ve lived the “travel becomes my rent” life before, and although it’s fun for a while, it’s not usually conducive to getting work done. Getting work done has to be the priority whatever method you choose.
Just don’t get caught in the illusion of tomorrow. It both never comes, and comes very quickly.
Milky Way Image: Bill Shupp