I am not sure if it would be interesting for people to read this article, but I was asked to share my journey from being a corporate worker in Singapore for 10 years and ended up coming back to hometown at Alor Setar, teaching Yoga at home. In between, I spent 8 months travelling around countries without any source of income. Many are surprised that I made the move, to quit a stable income job in Singapore at the not-so-stable economy situation, but mostly were curious how I managed to make this happen financially, especially after I told them my first month income teaching yoga was not more than 1/10 of what I easily earned in Singapore. Usually I would elaborate how I did it, to people who really cares and wishes to know how it is possible to quit their current job and move back to hometown or start another career. Thus, this article is meant for these people, and my only intention to write this article is to hope that any of my experience can help to ease your worry a little, and give you the hope that it is not impossible and most probably if you planned it well, you can do it within a few years or most people actually can do it very soon. Good news is there are many steps or actions that we can actually take NOW to make things easier and get to our goal sooner.
For me, the most important thing that made it possible was that my intention to come back home was very strong, and it was so strong that it pushed me to plan, to move, to take action for it. Without a strong reason, I doubt very much I would really make the decision to quit the money, stable job, comfortable living, safe country, good friends in Singapore, it was too easy, too convenient. My reason to go home was to be with my dad for a while when I could still do it and while he is still healthy to spend time with me. I kept telling myself that I could do it in later time, maybe in another few years when I save more, but I was everyday worrying that day would never come, if there would be anyone to understand better that time does wait, it got to be me, I experienced it myself 12 years ago when I lost my mom from cancer. I only managed to spend time with her in the hospital for a month before she left us. The urgency to act NOW at that time was pushing me everyday to work harder and be determined about my decision, and no changing my mind. Thus, if the reason or intention was not strong enough, I am not sure if I would still encourage people to do it. It is essential to define the reason, or probably I should say to analysis if that reason was important enough for you. And it was important to you, there should be no more waiting from planning now.
I knew financial concern is the biggest concern for many who has plan to do this, but I still want to move the attention to our mental side, or inner side. Having the right mind will make a total difference from the day we make this big decision. No matter how financially stable we are, making such decision will mean we make a big change from our usual daily routine, for me, it meant I would no longer be working for daily 8am to 5pm in an office for someone and I might be sitting at home for a while and would have a totally different way to spend my day, for a person who had been working in this way for last 10 years, mentally it is naturally a challenge already. For a person who grew up from quite a typical chinese family, I was always working, working hard, just by thinking about this change and that I might be free for a period of time, it made me restless. I had sleepless nights just because of this. Of course, a typical chinese family, we were trained to see money as very big part of our life, we were never feeling secure not only when we do not have money, but also when we stop earning it. This added up my worries, and yes, more sleepless night. This is a constant struggle because I have to every time tell myself that things are ok, things are doing fine, even after 1 year that I quit my job, and that I have been doing fine without a job, but the mind will keep playing the game with us. Thus, I think being strong mentally is too crucial so we do not fall into the trap of our old mind, telling us we made the wrong choice and that we must give up the plan and go back to the old path. Once decision is made with clear mind, stay strong and everything will be fine.
If there is one thing that will keep us holding back, I would say it is our fear of the ‘unknowns’. We are making a move that leading us to something very new that we have yet to try. Many worries come to us because we do not understand. For instance, we do not how much the living cost would it be when we move back to hometown, what are the available jobs for us, what is the salary range, these are the common worries or questions that came to our mind. But for me, these are less important, but of course, I did a research about that too, especially the living cost at my hometown, I remember I called my dad to ask about it. For me, questions like how much do I spend (fixed expenses and non-fixed expenses), how much is our current saving, how much could I save monthly now, how much can my saving last without a job, these are questions that I think more relevant. It is different for each person on the purpose or intention to make this decision, spending time with my dad is my prior intention, but at the same time, I wanted to have more time for myself and to try out things I have been thinking to do. So I did not want myself to rush into looking for another 8 to 5 job. I wished to take a rest. Understanding our own expenses and which are essential expenses which are not is crucial, it makes us understand our financial limit, and for people without enough saving, it makes them understand how much they can save and should save, and then how far are they from their goal. I always recommend my best friends to record their daily expenses, it is for all of us to better understand where we spend our money and if there was space for us to cut off some unnecessary expenses. Only when we understand our finance thoroughly, we gain the security and confidence when we make such decision.
I treat ‘saving’ as important as ‘earning’, rather I want to emphasis on our habit or attitude living our life. I became a minimalist 2 years ago and minimalism totally changed my view about life, I am no longer longing to buy stuff and I sold and donated things which I do not need. I knew minimalism is the solution for my life and it helps me in long run, not only that I will not spend my money on things I do not need, I will have a peaceful mind with less things owned. Many habits I started after I understand my own expenses, I started cooking my own meals as much as possible, though it did not save me a lot, I could know what I am eating and I know it is healthier. In long term, I definitely save up some. It makes me a good cook too. In the 8 months of my travel, I cooked for my own as much as possible to save up some expenses on outside meals especially in countries like Japan, New Zealand which meals are expensive in restaurants. Now that I am living with my dad, I still sometimes cook for my dad and I. It makes me feel happy that I could cook for my dad, which I never imagine I could 3 years ago, when I hardly cooked anything at home. Ever since becoming a minimalist, I cherish experience more than things, I hanged out with friends more often, my money was spent mostly to buy experience and spending time with friends and family. It is much more fulfilling than spending money on clothes and things. Getting back home can be a challenge if our mind was not flexible, if we were stubborn to want to keep our same lifestyle when we have in higher pay country, we will feel stressful. I do not say I compromise my lifestyle, but I change a little to a healthier one, but I do know that certain compromises are unavoidable, it is all about gives and takes. As far as I know, I am much happier than I was.
As a chinese, we like to plan, think, a lot more than taking an action, because we are always careful, we do not like to make mistakes and want to be always winner in any aspect. Never get me wrong, I think it is our strength and planning is good and it is important and essential, especially in making such big decision. But taking no action after times and times of planning, it only makes time wasted. I do not recommend my friends to take action NOW if they are not ready, but always encourage them to do things NOW if they are so ready, because we should not forget the saying ‘if not NOW, then when?’. Making abrupt decision without knowing ourselves and a plan is rather dumb act, but taking no action after years of planning is no difference than the earlier. Taking action at the right time is the key.
Budgeting comes in when we record our expenses and know where our money is spent on. Learn some simple budgeting skill on line, there are plenty available, many free template ready for download and be used. Make use of them and know what are assets and liabilities, then what assets and liabilities we own, from there it is not difficult to know far we are from our goal of moving back to hometown. The expenses from each are different, so as their assets and liabilities, but with proper recording of expenses, we can budget our expenses, then start to cut down some unnecessary expenses. Also from recording our expenses and calculating our assets/liabilities, we should find ways to increase our assets and reduce liabilities. It was when I started some small investments to make some passive income. It all starts from simple recording of own expenses to better understand own finance.
For people who has been working since adulthood and never take any long rest from work, it is going to be a challenging thing to simply accept we would ‘not work’ and ‘rest’, so I think it is essential to touch on this mental topic. I remember I had restless nights before I quit my job, after I quit my job, before I started my travel, after I ended my travel, the day I touched down my homeland, the first few nights I slept on my own bed, at my one home. It is unavoidable. No matter how ready I am about the decision I made, there are still many uncertainties. Accept that these all will happen on and off, any time, when this happened, keep telling ourselves, ‘it is ok’, ‘things are going fine’, ‘there is nothing wrong to take a rest’, we are not tricking our mind or what, but we are saying the fact, things are going fine, we do not need to work everyday to prove that we are living a life, it is ok to rest a while. Do not be too harsh and too serious about life, since when did we forget how to relax and take a break.
Time flies, it really does, remember 2 years ago when I first got the idea, it was just like yesterday, I cannot imagine I had travelled 8 months alone, did my Yoga teacher training, visited my friends at countries, attended my Japanese language course, I had such a hard time to accept my travel ended 5 months ago and that I am finally settling down at my hometown, living with my dad now. It all happened too fast that it made me feel even blessed that I made the choice 2 years ago, and not telling myself to start 2 years later. Nothing waits, times does not, age does not, then why do we want to wait? Why do we make our dream waits? Sometimes we like to think back what do we lose if we did not make that and this decision, for me, I would be now having 5 months lesser time spending time with my family members, never able to pursue my dream being a Yoga teacher, 6 months lesser yoga teaching experience, more losses to count.
I am not trying to be positive and be motivative, but it is really not that impossible.