Looking up at the blue sky, surrounded by nature, sitting half way up a beautiful mountain, beer in hand, on a warm spring day here in China my friend and fellow English teacher Alex looked over at me and asked “Do you think you could ever go back to it man?”
“Go back to what?” I asked, feeling as if already knew the answer.
“To the normal life man… you know to the 9-5 job, and all that stuff.”
I smiled and thought about all the interesting times I had since I began travelling. “Not a chance man” I said, “I couldn’t do it.”
My other friend Darian, Alex and I then talked about how we want to avoid the normal life at all cost… how we want to travel the world, live apart from the usual system, create our own lives where we’re never stuck working long hours for someone else, how it’s our goal to never have a normal “career” and how messed up we think it is that everyone else seems to think this career is all that matters.
That day we had traveled to a nearby city of Wenzhou for some fun. After eating the most delicious pizza of our lives (a rarity in China) we headed out for a spontaneous adventure. We jumped on the first bus we saw with no idea as to our destination then jumped off when one of us exclaimed “Oh look a mountain, let’s climb it!” On our way to our mountain we saw some interesting things, passed through a cool old school village, and even trekked through an underground cave full of thousands of bananas. Sitting up on that mountain completely at peace with the world our whole decision to come to China seemed to make perfect sense.
A different life
We had all gone through for education in certain fields but after working in them for a short amount of time we realized we wanted something different and we set out to find it. Our lives as English Teachers aren’t exactly fantastic here in China… but they are pretty damn good. We only work an average of 21 hours a week, and we do get paid more than 5x that of the harder working locals… so it’s a big step up from the fairly low paying 9-5 job my formal education got me back home… and here we have the freedom, the adventure, the interesting experiences, the strange encounters, and the free time to experience it all.
I think one of the most important things about our positions here in China is that we never feel trapped. Working a 9-5 at home living paycheck to paycheck with bills to pay and loads of responsibilities can make you feel trapped in your life situation. It would be easy to get into a rut and see no way out. Here in China we own slightly more than what we brought in our backpacks, we have the free time to change our situation if we want, and the ability to pick up and move on if we need to… on top of that there’s a comfort in knowing that if worse comes to worse there’s always a home to return to.
I think the number 1 benefit to the life I have here is the free time I have. With only 21 hours of work a week, (nearly half that of a 9-5) I have tons of time to pursue other endeavors like learning guitar, working on starting a business, having fun, going to the gym, and writing about whatever’s on my mind through this website… At home with the 9-5 and the massive commute I was making my free time was seriously limited, and often the only thing I felt like spending it on was entertainment to make it all feel easier.
When it all comes to an end
Isn’t this all just a temporary dream though?… A fleeting adventure to experience while we are young?
I mean… sooner or later we will have to get serious. It will all be over, we will have to return home and start a normal life. This is just something people do for fun for a year or two while they are young right?
I have to admit I thought that when I first started out. I didn’t realize the opportunities that travel would present, and now that I’ve seen a few things, I know that if I truly don’t want to, I’ll never have to return to the life of a 9-5 again.
My friends Darian and Alex are great examples of this.
Darian who has been travelling for some time now recently bought a plot of land in Nicaragua and recently completed his design for the guest house he’s going to build on it after saving up a bit more money working here in China.
And Alex who has become nearly fluent in Chinese in the past 2 years here found out how affordable it is to open a bar here and how incredibly easy it is to introduce some simple foreign aspects to a Chinese bar and make it by far the most popular place to be. After saving up a little more money at this job he will open a bar, and will have no trouble turning it into a big money making success.
The interesting thing about both of their paths is that they don’t rely on years of education or years of hard work, there relatively easy to accomplish after saving a bit of money, there both potentially very profitable and expandable and they leave the owners free to work as much or as little on them as they want. The only requirement for starting these businesses is travel, a bit of money saving and some courage to start something different.
The 9-5 is the death of ambitions
To me, working the 9-5 results in the death of your life’s ambitions.
With the 9-5 mindset you are conditioned to slave away your time without direct reward for your actions, your generally forced to spend your life doing something you’d rather not be doing, you lose out on so much free time which seriously limits your ambitions and goals, and the toll of working a job you don’t like for a living can take a serious toll on your overall happiness.
Even if you manage to find a job you like, there still a serious lack of freedom, you still have to do it on someone else’s schedule, you still need to put in the long hours, and I’m sure there are still other things you would rather be doing with your life.
If you need more convincing that the usual 9-5 job is a terrible thing read Steve Pavlina’s masterfully written 3200 word article about why you should never get a job.
Ways to start
De-condition your mind that going to school, finding a career and working the 9-5 for years is the proper way to live. It may be the normal path, but it’s definitely not the best one, and the world is full of opportunities for people who look for something else.
Just do something different.
Do a couple month job on the oil rigs of Canada. Teach English overseas. Start a business you can run from your laptop. Go tree planting for a season and save some major cash. Working as a fruit picker in Australia and see how it goes.
Travel for free just to open yourself up to the world of opportunities out there. Check out WOOFING Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) where you can work a few hours a day on a farm in nearly any country of the world in exchange for free food and shelter. There are lots of different opportunities for free travel in exchange for a bit of work. The point is to just get out there, break free from the 9-5 do something different and then decide if the 9-5 is a world you can ever go back to.
While I’m still not sure what I want my path through the future to be, I know I won’t find it working behind a desk back in Canada. I’ll find it out here in the world, in one country or another, in one way or another, and I have a feeling I’ll have no regrets along the way.
I’m not sure where I’ll end up, or what I will do, but I kind of like it that way for now. I know what I want for the new future and it feels free, fresh and exciting to have a such a big blank space on my life’s canvas to paint whatever I want… and this free feeling is something I never had back in my 9-5.
For now I’ll just keep searching and continue to travel to grow.