Do you ever think what life would be like if you had the whole world as your potential daily commute? Well, you wouldn't be the first or last person to ever think this way. But then there are always the ready made excuses waiting for you on your sofa to try and dissuade you from going out and trying to travel when you come back home after a long day of staring at a screen: 'I can't just up and leave my life', 'What if I have nothing to fall back on financially?', 'My career will suffer', 'It
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Do you ever think what life would be like if you had the whole world as your potential daily commute?
Well, you wouldn't be the first or last person to ever think this way. But then there are always the ready made excuses waiting for you on your sofa to try and dissuade you from going out and trying to travel when you come back home after a long day of staring at a screen: 'I can't just up and leave my life', 'What if I have nothing to fall back on financially?', 'My career will suffer', 'It's not realistic' and so on. But one person who decided to not listen to his inner doubts and still ended up succeeding anyway was Mike Hudson, 26, a former systems engineer who gave up his well paid job to spend 300 days travelling. His plan is to cover over 10,000 miles in a van that he converted himself into his very own studio apartment. He’s now an author and successful blogger, using his website VanDog Traveller to inspire others to follow suit in leaving the nine to five behind.
“I had a ‘good job’, but being honest with myself, I wasn’t happy.” Mike says “Life wasn’t bad; it was just mundane. And it seemed like everyone around me had accepted this as ‘real life’. I felt like I was missing out. And I was.”
That's not to say that there weren't challenges and obstacles along the way. The whole point about most nine to five's is that people usually end up falling into one and can't be bothered to make the big change needed to leave them because they know it will be too much effort, but not so with Mike, “When I quit my job I started working 70 hours a week on oil rigs in the North Sea, and saved 10k fairly quickly. In the evening I’d use one of the computers (if there was one free) to work on my blog and research vans that I could potentially make into my home,” he adds “I bought my empty van and then quit my job to work on it and make it into my home. It cost me £5,500 to do it all up, and I was left with £4,500. I knew that I had to make my plan work if I quit my job. There was nothing to fall back on.”
If that sounds like a lot of work and effort, then you're right, it really does. But to make a significant change in your life, a lot of effort is par for the course. Now Mike gets to live his dream, travelling anywhere he wants in the world, free of managers, inane talks with co-workers you secretly resent and soggy meal deal lunches. So what advice has he got for people who feel they may be trapped in a month to month cycle?
“Don’t rely on your education, it doesn’t work any more. The tools we’ve been given are pretty much obsolete. I think what we’re seeing in this generation is a huge disparity between our expectations and how it actually is right now” says Mike, “ These are new times that no one has ever seen before, so what you have to do is fill in the gaps of our knowledge yourself. To survive today we must never stop learning, reading, experimenting, trying things.”
So what does Mike do himself to get by? Surely £4,500 would run out before not too long? He elaborates:
“To get by at the start I did all sorts of things. Volunteering in exchange for food, getting free food from other places – bins, bakeries, markets at the end of the day. But now I make money online – licensing photos, video, adsense, Amazon, Youtube, all consistent trickles of money. More recently, my ebook has done the best and continues to earn me money. Basically, I can sustain this lifestyle and I now have money saved in case the van breaks. But this is just one project that I've been doing since 2013, when this is over, I'll do another project.”
But although that seems appealing once you've gotten off the ground, a lot of Millennials feel they are trapped by external conditions, that making the first step is the hardest. As a generation they've not been dealt the best financial hand, let's put it that way. But Mike insists that the key to finding your own way out of the rat race is to not blame everything around you. He explains:
“It’s important not to blame anyone – the system, education, the government. With that mindset, you will never get out of the trap. The responsibility is 100% yours.” he adds, “Everyone is unique. The moment we start leveraging this instead of trying to fit into a mould or one single job title, that’s when we gain an edge that no one else can compete with. That’s when we become truly valuable.”
From speaking to Mike it seems obvious that he has learnt a lot from ditching his old job and starting his new life travelling around the world off of his own back. But I wonder, now he is giving so many people advice all around the world, what is the most important thing he himself has learnt from his experiences?
“The most important thing is, life doesn’t work like you think. Always listen to your gut and never listen to people just because they are older than you or have some authority in some other area of life. Also, people are amazing. I never used to think that.”
If you're at a point in life where you want to remember what it's like to feel that people are amazing again, the opportunities now for being a digital nomad like Mike are more wide ranging than ever. It may be a lot of work to get off the ground, and it may not always be smooth sailing, but who knows where you might end up.
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