I love my life! It’s a lifestyle I’ve created by choice and through persistent hard work, creativity, a bit of luck, and a lot of help from others. Not everyone would enjoy living like I do. Some people don’t like to travel. Others prefer the comfort of a steady paycheck, or are satisfied enough with their life as it is. And that’s awesome!
But there are many people who don’t love their life. They feel stuck in a situation they don’t know how to change. Maybe they have a dream of something better, but they don’t know how to make it come true. Or they settle for “good enough” because they’re afraid to risk losing what’s already pretty good. Or maybe they’re focused on what they want so much that they can’t appreciate what they already have. I think Socrates was onto something when he said:
“He who is not contented with what he has would not be contented with what he would like to have.” — Socrates
Yet does this mean we cease dreaming and striving for better and more? I don’t think so. I think it just means that we don’t let those dreams overshadow our happiness in the present. I also love this quote from Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman
I believe that it is possible to create the life of your dreams. It’s what I’ve done. And I find the more I let go of expectations and fears, and embrace new experiences, change, and growth (which can sometimes be scary and painful), the more I do come alive, and the more in touch I feel with who I really am, what I need, and how I can give of myself. I still have so much to learn and so many ways to grow, but I’m trying to live my life fully and am thoroughly enjoying it.
So what kind of a life have I created?
This year, I’ve chosen to live in the tropical paradise of Bali, Indonesia, in a beautiful and spacious home with a pool and amazing nature views that feed my soul. I wake up each morning and spend 15-45 minutes doing stretching, Tai chi, Qi Gong, and meditating while basking in the sun and listening to the birds sing. There are staff at the house who take care of all the cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, home repairs, yard maintenance, and even babysitting. This frees up a lot of time! (Note: The salary for a full time cook in Bali is usually between USD $125-175 per month. You don’t have to make millions to live like this. I sure don’t.)
I’ve also automated or outsourced most aspects of my Internet business, so it requires very little of my time to run. Yet, I still spend 5-10 hours per week planning new features, strategies, and improvements, reviewing progress reports and statistics, dealing with problems that arise, hiring and firing, handling finances, and communicating with my teams. Sometimes I get excited about the new developments I’m working on and the positive feedback I receive, and sometimes I get a little burned out or stressed about the issues that come up. But the work I do provides income for my lifestyle, jobs to the people I’m employing, and a useful service to the customers I’m serving, so I’m glad I can do it.
I appreciate simplicity, and have simplified many aspects of my life. I don’t receive paper mail. I don’t even have a real street address or mailing address. I have no bills to pay (my landlord takes care of them). And everything I own can fit into one carry-on suitcase, so I have few material possessions to worry about, and am extremely mobile. This makes it easy to travel, which I do regularly, taking international trips every few months with my family to renew our visas. So far this year, we’ve been to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, and Vietnam. And we’ll visit Thailand in October/November.
While I’ve simplified and reduced many responsibilities in my life, it’s not what I’ve eliminated that makes life fulfilling. It’s what I fill my life up with. I could go back to working 50-70 hour work weeks at a desk job, spending time with my family on the weekends or an occasional evening (after mowing the lawn, paying bills, and taking care of other responsibilities, of course). I enjoyed that lifestyle well enough when I was living like that. But I also saw the potential to improve it.
So what do I fill my time with now? Well, what would you do all day long if your slate was wiped completely clean and you didn’t have work or any other responsibilities? And what if you had all the money you would ever need to fulfill those dreams? What would you do? These are questions I’ve asked myself regularly over the years to help identify and create my ideal lifestyle. I still don’t have unlimited time or money, but I’m trying to focus the time and money I do have on the things that are most meaningful to me. Of course, as I’ve gained new experiences, I’ve grown and changed. Many of the things I’m doing this month are different from what I did last month. And I have no idea what I’ll be doing two years from now!
Even with my best intentions and clearest vision, life usually doesn’t fall into place exactly as I envision it. Little daily tasks or email fill up my time, or I lose interest in what I had originally planned. New opportunities arise, strong and sometimes negative emotions surface, and urgent items flood my “todo list.” (Or items I treat as urgent.) I don’t know if I’ve ever had a week where I accomplished everything I wanted to do. Every moment of my life isn’t full of bliss and laughter. But I do have those moments regularly, and I feel pretty lucky. And little by little my life is becoming more full of joy, peace, and rich experiences.
Here are some things I’ve been enjoying lately.
Friends. We have some great friends here in Ubud. We share meals together regularly, hang out and talk into the evening while our kids play, and take day trips or overnighters to the beach together. It’s so nice to have good friends to share our lives and feelings with, and the people we’ve met here seem especially open and friendly.
Kids. My kids don’t go to school, and they have no homework, curriculum, or assignments. They learn like adults do in the real world, following their own interests and finding help when they get stuck. For example, this week, my 9 year old daughter published a book of poems, along with illustrations, began designing her own educational iPad app to make it more fun for kids to learn math and practice spelling, and researched how to work online both as an artist and how to sell products and services on the Internet. It’s been fun to see her enthusiasm and to be a resource for her as she’s come to me with questions. We certainly don’t need to tell her what to study. Having been given total freedom, she’s taking charge of her own education. I also play badminton, swim, and take motorbike rides together with my kids regularly.
Guitar. I recently started learning how to play the guitar. It’s a lot of fun for me, and after four lessons and many hours of practice, I’m almost able to play Bach’s Minuet in G at full tempo, some favorite Simon & Garfunkel and Beatles tunes, and many other songs. My barre chords are even starting to sound clearer! I’m still very much a beginner, but I’m loving playing the guitar! Now after dinner, we usually sing together as a family with the guitar, memorize some poetry, talk about our days, and meditate. One of our favorite songs to sing together is Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
Dreams. I’m fascinated by dreams. Almost every night for the past two years, I have written down my dreams, and through the emotions, themes, and patterns that emerge, I’ve gained many insights that have helped me identify and resolve hidden struggles that only my subconscious mind was aware of. This week, I’ve been designing an iPhone app to help track and organize my dreams better, and help identify patterns and common themes through reports in the software. I’m excited to see where this leads.
Garden. We’ve been thinking about starting our own vegetable and herb garden. We have a perfect place under the pool deck and want to learn more about the process of growing food. We visited a nearby permaculture farm, bought some seeds and ordered some seedlings. We know nothing about gardening, but are interested in learning, and may even take some permaculture workshops.
Tailor. We recently discovered a huge fabric market in Bali with beautiful patterns and a variety of materials. We’ve also discovered several tailors here in Ubud where we can get custom clothes made for very reasonable prices ($5 for a shirt or pants and $7-10 for a dress, for example). For a small person like me, I usually have trouble finding clothes from a store that fit me properly, so it’s exciting to realize we can get custom clothes for even cheaper. I think this is how we’ll buy our clothes from now on. I’m also having a few shirts I already purchased taken in (made smaller) for $2 each and some zipper pockets added to a pair of pants.
Business Owners Meetup. This week, our friends started an online business owners group here in Ubud, where we meet together to share ideas and help each other out. We’ve only had one meeting so far, but it proved helpful for everyone. Next time I’ve been asked to give a presentation on conversion optimization through split A/B testing (how to tweak your website to get more customers to buy). It’s been years since I’ve taught a group of people. I’m looking forward to it.
Meditation and Yoga. I’ve had a daily meditation practice for quite some time, and have found great clarity and peace from it, but I continue to discover more ways to make it effective and I want to continue improving. Jen and I also go to an intermediate yoga class twice a week and in a way, the entire practice is like a meditation. Yoga is so much more than physical exercise and a good stretch. Linda at Intuitive Flow helps us tune into our bodies and feel what’s going on inside so we can lovingly give ourselves just what we need. An amazing way to start the morning!
Consulting. I continue to get consulting requests from entrepreneurs wanting help with their businesses. It’s been enjoyable for me to see their enthusiasm and what they’re producing, and to share what I’ve learned in a way that can help them overcome the hurdles they’re facing. I’m also learning from my clients, both from their experience and from thinking twice about the advice I’m giving so I don’t send them in the wrong direction. I look forward to hearing the success stories of these businesses in the near future.
Indonesian. We’re continuing to take Indonesian lessons, although I admit that I haven’t been studying or practicing much, and we’ve done a lot of travel since moving here, so progress on the language has been slow. Most people here speak English pretty well, but there are always opportunities to practice Indonesian with the staff or people we meet.
Healing. As a family, we’ve started going regularly to a counselor and craniosacral therapist who is helping us each work through and let go of our own individual issues and negative ingrained patterns. It’s exciting to see the progress we’re making, and especially to feel more in tune with ourselves, our own needs and desires, and how to understand and interact with each other in more healthy ways.
Reading. I love to read books and learn new things. I have about nine books I’m in the process of reading right now. Books about dreams, psychology, personal development, spirituality, and more. Some titles I’m enjoying are “The Ethics of Trade and Aid: Charity or Waste?,” “The Highly Sensitive Person,” and “Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior.”
Computers. Despite my best intentions, I still somehow end up spending way too much time on the computer answering email, reading articles, writing my thoughts, checking Facebook, and planning my life. Computers are such useful tools and do so many things that it’s often difficult for me to disconnect. A technique I’ve been employing recently is that each time I sit down in front of my computer, I identify exactly what it is I plan to accomplish and how long I plan to do it, then set an alarm. When it goes off, I’m supposed to get off the computer and do something else. Yet I still sometimes have difficulty pulling away. I am getting better, though.
Looking over this list, what’s interesting is that most of these are pretty common things you could do anywhere. You don’t have to become an Internet entrepreneur or travel the world to enjoy your life! But if there’s something about your life that you want to change, think about what it would take to do so, and take the first step. By eliminating what you don’t want, and filling the space with things that are more important to you, it’s possible to move closer and closer to your ideal lifestyle, and to enjoy every step along the way.
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02 Jun 2019
Hiking the Camino de Santiago With Kids
12 Jun 2018
Aw, you mean my “to the point” quote got edited from the article…lol.
Super article, Brandon. A nice peek into your normal life that won’t seem normal to most.
I love how you said, “…it’s not what I’ve eliminated that makes life fulfilling. It’s what I fill my life up with…By eliminating what you don’t want, and filling the space with things that are more important to you, it’s possible to move closer and closer to your ideal lifestyle, and to enjoy every step along the way.”
I’m learning better to tune into how I want to spend my time, and to express myself in an increasingly more authentic way as an individual. It is an amazing journey. It’s just little steps that make the difference really, but they are steps that I’m finally allowing myself to take, which are long overdue.
Love hearing about you and the King’s travel lives! Always curious as to what kind of internet business you guys run – is it SEO?
My main business is administrative software for music teachers. See http://musicteachershelper.com.
Love it, Brandon.
I’ve always wished I could have my clothes tailored (for cheap) too. Do you know of any way I could do that long distance from the states?
I’m sure you could have clothes tailored here and sent to you, but the cost of shipping might outweigh the benefits unless you’re doing it in bulk. If you want the phone number of a tailor here, contact me privately and I can send it to you. (Most don’t use the Internet).
Can I just say that I have the most amazing kids on the planet? I really do. I am so blessed – and lucky, I think – to be your mom. Watching and reading about the direction and progression your life has taken, and will take, is inspiring. I love the lives you are creating for yourselves…. and hope I am able to implement even snippets of what you’re doing into my own. I can see the increase in peace and joy in doing so.
Emily is quite the entrepreneurial artist. Thank you for giving her the support and the freedom to fly. I can’t even imagine what incredible people and amazing things my granddaughters are going to be and accomplish in their lives.
Love you and can’t wait to be with you again – share hugs, talk for hours, meet your friends – and get some new clothes made! :)
Love you too, Mom! Thanks for the constant support and encouragement, regardless of what my choices have been. Looking forward to seeing you again soon.
Great stuff there Brandon. Very, very inspiring. The quotes were spot on topic wise. I mentioned it previously but you’re a terribly insightful communicator w/ thoughful observations concerning our everday lives. Thanks for sharing the wonderment of your world. I’m envious yet thankfully satisifed living vicariously through your blog!
I’m going to implement some of the ideas your writing has planted in my head. All the best to you and your continued positive growth & development. Cheers & again thanks for sharing. The impact is greater than you know!
Thanks Neil, I’m glad to hear the post inspired you to take action in your life, and I likewise wish you all the best as you implement your ideas and grow in amazing ways. :)
I enjoyed reading your post today :-) I’m very happy that you’re enjoying the life you have created. Your joy comes through in your writing. Your family is having some wonderful opportunities and experiences.
Like Neil stated I’m thankfully satisifed living vicariously through your blog!
You’re Mom is right. She does have amazing children, making it so I have amazing grandchildren :-))
To eliminate time on the computer, to find out if you are really are spiritually stable and aware, imagine you will die in 2 hours. Because you just might. Or it could be next year. This scares shallow people.
Or imagine you lost your “ideal lifestyle.” Would that leave you with inner poverty or would you be inwardly stable? Most people have no real idea of true inwardness or of their center. Their identity is their current emotional state; they are entirely rooted in their subjectivism, and mentally and intellectually soft. Modern people are essentially narcissists, individualists and materialists–at root they live for pleasure. They at once envy and exploit people whose cultures are superior inwardly and in terms of the outward expression of this in their art and in their way of life, while being more rudimentary materially. As if owning a laptop and riding in a jet makes you a superior being, and as if you will not stand absolutely naked when you have ten breaths left.
Great questions and thoughts to ponder. In order to feel truly happy, must we release ALL desire to improve our situation? Must we be perfectly content to live in poverty ourselves (or in whatever situation life deals us), and never seek to change it? Must we release completely any longing for pleasure or fulfillment of personal needs, whether physical, emotional, or otherwise? Or is the opposite true? The more our own needs are met and our individual longings and creative urges are expressed, the more we “come alive” and are more able and willing to give of ourselves to those around us?
I don’t think “poverty” is as bad as most people make it out to be. For example, living in a bamboo hut, walking around naked, and eating food you grow or kill yourself is a common view of someone who is impoverished. But many indigenous tribes are living healthy and happy lives doing just that and I think we have much to learn from them. Starvation, on the other hand, is something I think most people would do all they can to avoid experiencing, as they should if they want to live. I feel like I’ve lived a good and full life already and could die happy today, but I’m also doing all I can to keep myself alive, free, and healthy so I can continue enjoying my experience as much as possible while I have it.
It is sad to see unique cultures disappearing, and to see people taking advantage of each other. Undoubtedly, the growth of developed countries has played a major role in their decline. Even charitable efforts to “help” undeveloped nations by offering modern solutions to their perceived problems often ends up hurting more than helping. But it’s also natural that cultures will change over time, especially as information is shared across the globe and people are gaining new types of education and work experience. But despite modern developments, some groups make great efforts to preserve aspects of their culture very well. The Balinese are a good example of this, as are the Hmong and Red Tzao tribes in northern Vietnam.
Owning more or less than someone else, or having more opportunity doesn’t indicate superiority. Anyone can be happy and enjoy their life if they have the attitude to do so. Why not make the most of it?
“He who is not contented with what he has would not be contented with what he would like to have.” — Socrates
I love this quote. I don’t believe that I have ever heard it, before, but have always tried to live my life this way. For almost 10 years I was married to someone who lived with the attitude of “I’ll be happy when _________.” And even after he got ___________, he was still unhappy. He could never understand how I was content with the very few things that we had and the meager life we lived.
There is always going to be something better than what you currently have, something newer, something more expensive, something more fulfilling, something more exciting. But if you’re always focused on the things that you don’t have, you’ll take for granted the things you DO have, and you’ll be left with a very unfulfilled life.
Even though I have tried to live my life being content with the things that I have and with the way my life is going, I still need wake-up calls, on occasion. What a great blog post. I certainly needed this reminder, today. Sure, there are things I would like to change, but I am “content” with how things are, currently. Especially because I know I can’t get to point C without doing the steps it takes to get from A to B and then B to C. “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
Now that I’ve gone all serious on you, I’ll continue by saying that I couldn’t have asked for a better brother/mother/father/sister-in-law/etc. (family). I am related to some pretty incredible people.
Thank you for inspiring me! I love you!
I think part of what makes you so much fun to be around is the contentment you radiate and your enthusiasm for things you’re experiencing, whatever they happen to be. Thanks for inspiring me as well. :) Love you too!
So basically you’ve created an expatriot lifestyle in which you minimize work and maximize play.
Basically, yes. :) There’s nothing wrong with spending 40+ hours per week earning money, but for me it felt out of balance, so I did something about it. Anyone can, but not everyone wants to, and for good reason. People are different and diversity is good.
Also remember that the terms “work” and “play” are interchangeable depending on your perspective and how much you’re enjoying what you’re doing. Just like how kids learn best through play, life is best when enjoyed. :)
Living the good life…. you sure are brother. I commend you on your success and enjoy reading your blogs. It’s a nice break to imagine I’m in one of those pictures while I sit in a cubicle haha.
What a DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT life you have in Bali than in Costa Rica!! It’s INCREDIBLE!!!
Are there ANY challenges/less than positive things about living there?
How’s the earthquake situation? That’s part of that active Ring of Fire isn’t it??
How does it work Tourist Visa wise?
Your posts are making me go “hmmmmm . . . ” (NOT that I’m thinking of leaving CR just yet – just keeping options open!!)
THANX for sharin’ ya’lls journey!!!
Yes, we love it here in Bali! The less positive things for us are:
– Traffic: a lot more motorbokes and very narrow roads with no sidewalks. A bit dangerous.
– Mosquitos: Lots of them, especially if you’re by a rice paddy
There are some earthquakes here, but probably not any more than Costa Rica.
US Citizens can get a 30-day tourist visa on arrival for $25, extendible for up to 60 days. Or you can apply for a social visa in advance for 60 days extendible to 6 months.