As a frequent traveler, I typically don’t stay more than 2 weeks in each city I visit.
The good thing about this is that I’d get to see new and interesting sights all the time.
The bad thing though, is that I would never get more than a surface understanding of the local culture(s).
A Deeper Understanding
As a Forex trader, I’m naturally inclined towards understanding how people think, feel and behave.
This is one reason why I like to travel. I like learning about how different cultures shape peoples’ thoughts and actions.
And this year, I decided to “travel” in a new way. I was no longer satisfied with just being a tourist. I wanted to experience what it was like to actually live in a culture different than the one I was born into.
So in early 2014, I began integrating myself into a foreign culture.
My New Life
In making the transition,
1. I sold my apartment and car; and
2. Lived in China and Thailand for 7 months (and counting)
As you might imagine, this new lifestyle has influenced many of my views (and continues to do so), and here are the top 3 things I’ve learned so far:
1. Material Things Cost More Than Money
After selling my apartment and car, I felt much lighter. No longer did I have to think about mortgage payments, property prices, parking tickets, car repairs, gas prices, etc.
It wasn’t that I had to worry about those things before, but rather that these issues are now no longer of any concern to me.
These days, my life feels pleasantly simpler (just like how I like my trading!)
Of course, I’m not saying that everyone should do the same… it depends on personal preference, circumstances, and whether the math works out.
For me, it was a win on all three fronts and the only thing I regret is not doing this sooner.
Today, my most valuable possessions can be packed in a suitcase and taken with me wherever I go.
From now on, every time I think about buying something, I’ll be thinking twice. Because I’ve learned that material things come not just with a monetary price tag, but a mental and emotional one too.
2. Your Income Is Due More To External Circumstances Than You Think
Living in China and Thailand has allowed me the luxury of befriending the locals.
And I am always struck by how similar they are with the people back in Singapore.
They are all smart, hardworking people… but there is one stark difference between them: their income level.
In both China and Thailand (where I lived), the people were making 1/4 to 1/3 the salary of their Singaporean counterparts.
From what I can tell, the people of China and Thailand aren’t any dumber or less hardworking that the people of Singapore… so why is their income so much lower?
The answer: Because of their environment.
In each of these countries, the social, cultural, economic and political circumstances are vastly different.
Singapore has an environment that attracts jobs with a higher salary.
That’s pretty much all there is to it.
It may not be politically correct to say this, but the reality is that people are born into a set of circumstances that have an overriding effect of their income level.
A Singaporean office worker can be half as smart and half as hardworking than his Thai counterpart, and still make twice the salary simply because he was born in the right place.
In other words, if your job is based on a geographic location, your income is likely to be restricted accordingly.
How smart you are and how hard you work (i.e. your personal traits) does not influence your income level as much as where you work (i.e. external circumstances).
Reflecting on this fills me with gratitude, because as a Forex trader my income is not bound by this limitation. My “salary” is determined mainly by my ability, not my location.
3. You Can Have It All (Just Not At The Same Time)
As a location-independent trader, I can stretch every dollar I make by as much as 3 times.
And it’s not just about the cost of living going down… the quality of living goes up too!
If I had to estimate, I’d say that since moving to Thailand, my quality of life has improved by a factor of 3.
In other words, for the same level of expenses, I find my life in Thailand to be 3 times better than that in Singapore.
But of course, no place is perfect. Although Thailand is an excellent country to live in, I’ve not found any beaches there that can rival those in Bali when it comes to surfing.
And to me, this is one of the best things about being a retail trader: I can pack my bags in an afternoon and be headed for a 2-week surfing spree at any time.
In this way, as long as my trading doesn’t get interrupted, I can enjoy the best of what each country has to offer.
Want good food? Taiwan is my top pick.
Good surfing waves? Bali does it for me.
Beautiful festivals? Nothing compares to Chiang Mai.
Learning The Right Skills
I’ve spent 16 years in the conventional school system, but nothing I’ve learned there has helped me get to this point.
In this perspective, learning to trade has been by far the best “career decision” I’ve made, and its rewards continue to compound every year.
The thing is, I’m not particularly clever, nor was I born rich.
All I did, was see the potential of Forex trading and grabbed it with both hands.
Then I never looked back, and I never gave up.
I’m truly grateful to be born in a time when technology makes it possible for one to ‘have it all’.
It’s a great time to be alive… and I hope that you too, will make the best of the opportunities available to you.
Thank you for an incredible 2014, and happy holidays. I’ll see you again in 2015.