So, I know my email subscribers told me they’d prefer I keep my travel topics separate from my blog to my secret travel newsletter. And I have been, but I want to experiment with at least having one post about it. I hope you’ll understand.
I spent my twenties living in the same suburban area that I grew up in. While it was good in many ways, I knew I wanted more deep down.
You can tell in certain ways. I refrained from getting a pet or buying a house when many of my peers did. Part of me always wanted to travel, have freedom, and do big things in a city far away. And getting those things was a hassle and a sign that I was committed to settling down here forever, something I didn’t want.
No one really pressured me to get a dog or buy a house, but it wasn’t always comfortable since I was in the minority. Many of my coworkers and friends loved dogs. Almost everyone had one. And many were engaged, married, or having their first kid. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s not like you can’t travel with those things. You just become much more constrained to short one- or two- week vacations while you found someone to babysit and housesit.
I didn’t want that. I felt I was destined for more.
But that exhilaration and dream of being some young traveller going on adventures and loving every moment of his life turned into a smaller and smaller dream that I tucked away on a shelf. It became a fantasy that became more and more improbable and something I only accessed when I felt like daydreaming.
I felt grateful for my job, which was difficult to get, a job I enjoyed, and a foot in the door in an industry I loved. And since I was confined to this location, I made the most of it in every way I could. I went to many the big activities in the area (yoga, jiujitsu, salsa, hip hop, African drumming…).
I skipped vacations at first to work harder, but after a few years, I started planning my two-week vacations as the main outlet for my travel bug.
Over the years, I gradually came to a place where I felt that I might end up living here forever. The job was decent.
But I was going through the motions. I lived a good life, a sometimes boring life, but a life that could’ve been better but could’ve been worse. You could tell that I really tried to make it more interesting. I made the most of it, exploring my passions of personal development, Pokemon, social media, and YouTube on the side. I explored every inch of neighboring areas, driving out of my way to check out a park or attraction I hadn’t been. Until I’d almost seen it all. I checked out new local restaurants, watched TV shows, tried a new activity on the weekends, or work on my digital brand. But there was no denying that there was only so much to do and so many people to meet in my area. There were plenty of rural areas with less to do, but some urban areas with more.
Nonetheless, I had learned and grown so much in that time and found the peace and happiness I was chasing. I realized I didn’t need tons of money, women, flashy things, or extreme external things to be happy. I learned to find a level of happiness in the simple things: friendships, family, experiences, and the day-to-day. I forged good friendships here when I didn’t think I could, and I tried so hard.
I was content enough with where I was, and I believed I would probably stay there for the next 5 to 10 years at least. Maybe forever. My job was decent. My company was one of the better ones. Why ruin a good thing?
But as they say, everything happens for a reason.
And a series of events jolted me out of my “zombie-like” state towards the end of my twenties. The most notable event for this story was Ramit Sethi revamping his Dream Job course, a pricey career development course I had bought years ago.
His updated course got me thinking about what I want out of life. What is my dream job? How can I get to it? How much does it pay? What brings me joy about it? What else does it offer?
Although I intended to keep using Ramit’s material over the years, I realized I dropped the ball and hadn’t been networking or practicing his material since the year that I bought it and used it.
This new course ultimately lead me down a journey of self-reflection and action taking for the next few months. It transformed my mindset from one leaning towards scarcity to one with a bit more abundance (I’m still working on getting to complete abundance).
And through those months of networking and job hunting, I ended up with a dream revived: a job that hit more of my checkboxes and allowed me to work remote from a place of my choice (within reason).
I remember every now and then (sometimes, every week, day, or few months), I’d write down my dream life, my dream goal in a journal, to burn it into my brain: I live a life that has freedom of money, time, and location that allows me to do what I love for a living, helping other people, where I make enough post-tax that money is no longer an issue and I can travel.
Technically, I’m not there yet. And if you saw my more detailed dream goal, you’d be even more clear that I’m not there yet. But it’s a giant step towards my goals, something I had almost dismissed as something that wouldn’t happen.
I’ve made a huge step towards where I want to be. No, I don’t to do what I please. I still have a 9-to-5 I’m responsible for during the day. But it’s a giant step in the right direction.
I have a long more room to grow to meet my goals, but man, I’m proud and shocked and the progress I’ve made all of a sudden. While I stay grateful for what I have, I will work on keeping what I got, but also on growing further. I can work more on earning, helping others, identifying and emphasizing what I enjoy, and more.
Other than working on my craft, another part of it comes down to patience. Gary Vaynerchuk has helped a lot in reframing my thinking about how “old” I am. Instead of thinking of your 30’s as downhill from here, realize it’s just the beginning. Even Gary, with all his wealth, fame, and success, was still working at his father’s liquor store at 33. Sure, some people doubt we’ll all live to our 90’s or 100’s like he claims (myself included), but even if we keep thriving to our 70’s, that still means a lot of life is still ahead of us, right? And yeah, some people argue that these are our “peak years” because that’s when we’re most fertile, young, and attractive for mates, but that doesn’t mean you have to have it all together by your age because the majority of people do not. And many really don’t start taking off and living their best years until a decade or two (or three) later.
While a part of me is still thinking it’s a fluke or it will crumble, I’m going to make sure it doesn’t. I’m going to continue to learn from my mistakes, improve, work on myself, learn more cool things I can use, networking, and growing.
View this post on Instagram
Here are some lessons I learned after moving here:
- There is poverty everywhere, here, in the suburbs, and in any city. There are poor areas here and poor areas in the suburbs. There are rich areas as well. The difference is that the poor areas here aren’t as bad for me. You always have convenient access via metro to Manhattan.
- New York City is a lot larger and wider than I thought. It can take 25 minutes to an hour to get from one burough to another via train. Everything is so spread out.
- If you take the metro once a day, you’re going to run into homeless people asking for money every day. Every other day, if you commute daily like I do, you’ll run into a more aggressive mentally ill person shouting things that don’t make sense at you. That was an adjustment.
- Meetup.com events are only a bit more popular in New York. I guess I assumed there would be hundreds of people at these events, but sometimes, no one shows up or 2 to 6 people will show up. Some bigger events, like an International Exchange or a Kickball event, may get 20+ people, but those are rare events. I guess I was surprised. I thought that because of the sheer volume of people in New York, there’s be more people to meet. But I guess it’s a mix of reasons as to why the attendance isn’t that much different from lower population areas: one is how large New York is, another is how many restaurants, bars, events, and groups you can choose from, and then another is just the laziness to not attend or flake. For some people, this is a good thing since you maintain that low-volume, small-town attendance rate to get to know people. For others, it isn’t so good since you don’t get that high-volume ability to meet people.
- New Yorkers aren’t mean or cold. I’ve found many of them to be kind, friendly, and willing to talk to you. I suppose the impression of New Yorker comes from tourists when you try to catch or talk to them on the metro or while they’re walking in the city. They’re colder in those settings, but I think that’s because it’s a shell you have to create when there’s so many strangers and mentally ill approaching you. You don’t know if they’re safe or not. But when you catch them at a grocery store, at a volunteer event, at a restaurant, at a social gathering, in the park, and so forth, they often are more chill and friendly. I’m not the only one to believe this; I met a few people who moved here who share my belief.
- The food here is epic. You can get some of the best food from more selections of diverse ethnic groups than you can almost anywhere else. And if you look for it, you can find a lot of things for affordable prizes: hot dogs, dumplings, indian food, pizza, ice cream, noodles, and more for under $10. It’s not that expensive if you’re willing to hunt and commute.
- While the food and touristy attractions are great, that’s not something I’d factor in the long term for staying in New York. Those things start to get old after a while. I can’t be eating unhealthy food all the time. And the razzle dazzle of those touristy things does die down at some point. I start to look at other factors to see if it’s worth living here: Is the extra rent prices worth the commute and access to the fitness classes, social clubs, boxing classes, gyms, parks, and hobby activities of the city?
- When you boil it down to what matters, NYC is about social opportunities for me, for advancing career and relationships. Frankly, it’s not about living a great city life or good food. That’s what rich YouTubers make you believe but most locals live in dirtier, less amazing areas without skyscrapers outside of Manhattan. My day-to-day work life doesn’t change much since I’m just on a computer all day. It’s really what I can do here after work and on weekends that matters. It’s really about if the higher rent is worth the networking opportunities that could uplevel my career or the unique social activities that this place has to offer. And I don’t think the career opportunities have been noticeably different. I did go to a NFT event, and while that was cool, I can’t say it was game changing. The major differences are just the unique fitness classes they have here and the volunteering opportunities.