A little over a year ago Becky and I asked a very dangerous question.
On one hand I strongly urge you to ask that question. Ask it a lot.
But like the choice between the blue and red pill you cannot go backwards, you cannot return to bliss if you start asking that question.
However, reality will become more and more evident and clear.
And so we asked,
- What if we could sell our house?
- What if we sold most everything we owned?
- What if we could travel with kids?
And we did just that. We changed courses so dramatically, from living in the countryside attempting to hobby farm to world travelers trying to find a home. We named it Home Along the Way. We made home wherever we found ourselves.
We answered a lot of questions.
We did sell our house and became nomads.
And we have found the sweetness of reality.
- Reality that our kids love traveling. They miss their grand parents, but they love moving to new houses, they loved exploring new places, meeting new people.
- Reality that Becky and I still love traveling, and can totally do it with 4 kids!
- Reality that my wife is a packing ninja, not only does she plan ahead and have exactly what we need along she’s able to shed stuff along the way and still have everything we need.
But some harsh realities set in as well.
- We don’t handle the heat of South East Asia too well.
- Life outside of SE Asia is expensive
- Word of Mouth marketing fails when ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ comes into play
And so yesterday we bought tickets to return back to the US. This is due to many factors, the most major one is that Connex’s revenue has dropped 90% in 6 months. The trip was budgeted at 50% of revenue and in SE Asia, unfortunately both of those changed and so the cold, harsh reality of the bank account dwindling has finally set in.
Three months ago, I freaked out in an email thread with a friend of ours. Freaked out about money, about failing, about life. Her response has clanged in my brain ever since.
What if you come home broke and penniless?
That’s it. That’s all the words of wisdom a friend offered. And it rattled me. It still does. What if nothing works, you spend all your money, return to the States, homeless, and car-less?
What’s the worst that could happen?
We’ll find out. We fly home tomorrow, October 1. It’s crazy how we’ve only been gone 6 months (it’s felt like a LOT longer!) and how we’ve felt on the other side of the world despite being connected with technology and communication channels. Yet in the end, the total time from decision to boots on the ground is less than 48 hours. The fast switch from “We’ve decided to go back to Michigan” to actually being in Michigan is only 48 hours. 16 of those are spent sleeping and another 16 in an airplane. Thus there’s only 16 hours left. That’s one day of awake time.
Will we set up camp in Michigan? Will we buy a house? Will we settle down?
If the kids have any say in it–no, we will not.
Each one wants to stay in Michigan for a time but asked us to promise them we’d leave again. Even the 4 year old (separate from siblings) said he didn’t want to go back unless we were for sure going to go travelling again later. They’re addicted to travel just like their parents. So, we’re treating this “return” to the US more like the next stop in our travels than an end destination.
What happens next? Well, we do what we have done in every other country…find a house and set up “life” in that area.
What will the future hold? We don’t know.
Does Connex become a hobby, or do we land a couple of large clients again?
We don’t know. I haven’t given up on Connex yet, but it needs to grow soon.
What would you do if you lost 90% of your family’s income?
I gave up.
Or better stated I quit.
And this isn’t my first time quitting!
On one hand we are told never to give up, that persistence pays off. Shoot, Angry Birds was Rovio’s 52nd attempt at making a game.
Yet on the other hand we’re told to say no to things that distract from the priority, from the goal.
The really insidious things are those goals/priorities that we don’t know we’re signed up for.
I quit those things. Er, I quit two of those things.
- Keeping up with the Jones’ and
- The American Dream
We have 4 kids, and we homeschool them. This effectively makes our family a location independent family.
I run a digital marketing strategy agency. I’ve been running that agency for 4 years since I quit the best job I ever had working with the great people at ddm. But the whole time I was building that agency I was working from my basement in Newaygo county. Quite literally from the woods of Michigan.
I was struggling with some of the decisions we had made, and frankly as an entrepreneur who loves to start things I was unable to keep up with some of the commitments we were making. For example, we committed to being a one car family and with 4 kids we drove a minivan.
Driving a minivan as a parent is no big deal. But using the minivan to meet with clients? I mean we were running a quarter million in annual revenue for four years why was I driving around in a minivan?
But I struggled with that, why do I need to keep up with the Jones’? Why do I need to feel bad when others show up to meetings in BMWs?
The dream for me is not to own a certain car. These things perish. And I know that if I work harder while my kids are young I could afford that BMW… but what am I sacrificing?
And then there was the farm, the weeds, the fencing needed to get a couple horses, the hay, the cows, the fruit trees we planted that didn’t get enough attention. We had a sweet little hobby farm but as a starter and not a finisher I was unable to keep up with it all.
And it was sucking the lifeblood out of me.
And doing damage to our family.
Selling it all
So we did what anyone with 4 kids would do.
We sold our house and 90% of our belongings.
We become homeless.
Yeah okay maybe not anyone with 4 kids.
But seriously, I espoused that stuff is not important, yet somehow I was stuck in the middle ground of having stuff and needing to maintain the stuff we had while not wanting more and better things.
If you say your stuff doesn’t own you… I challenge you to sell it all. Could you part with 90% of your stuff and life continue on as normal? The obvious answer is yes, but yet we don’t do it.
Because stuff brings us some strange level of comfort.
We left: Begin the Digital Nomad, Travel as a Lifestyle
After selling everything we had (and before some of it sold!) we left. We started out vagabonding in the Philippines and various other Southeast Asian countries.
For now we’re committed to 9 months of travel as a lifestyle. Of being homeless by choice.
From the woods in Michigan to the Beach in Bali.
We’re 1/3 of the way through our initial commitment. having visited and lived in 8 cities in 4 countries we’ve been on quite the journey so far.
and now I’m inviting you to join us.
Kortmans at Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur
Here’s the simple ways to join us. Feel free to pick one or all of them :)
I recently started my own company, and it’s going really well.
But one of the reasons for going out on my own was to pursue a business venture that I and a partner conceived over 2 years ago. Its been a slow road so far, but we want to see it increase dramatically. (more…)
The Furniture City Sets the Table for the World of Art 2
Yeah, I’m a believer. I believe that Art is cool, but I’m not an artist. I’m a Michigan Citizen from a great town called Grand Rapids, The “Furniture City”. Starting on Wednesday September 23 2009 there will be a new competition called ArtPrize in town and I am loving the buzz and activity it is creating.
Typically I blog about social media, or strategy, or tactics like twitter and facebook, but this is different. This is about integrating art and social media, about using the new tools to reflect what we do in real life, faster and more efficiently. The organizers of Artprize originally claimed it was going to be an American-Idol-Style voting, what I didn’t realize was how much they were planning on leveraging Social Media. When I realized that the artists basically had to earn their votes in what ever means they could I saw the potential for social media. So that’s when I got involved. I am passionate about social media and business, I believe that all businesses could improve with the correct usage of social media. Just like these artists who are vying for a vote could get more votes with the correct usage of social media. – more on that here: micro blog on artprize