What follows is a guest post from Greg Kamphius of Buy Better Mall, a directory for socially conscious shoppers. Greg is a member of Social Change Nation and we’re proud to have him share this amazing story of taking the leap!
It seems unfathomable to some people that a person might throw away stability, turn in a new direction, and charge off after a dream. Even if deep down inside, it is what lots of people want to do, they just figure that the people doing it must be lucky or crazy or both. That is not the case. It has nothing to do with luck or craziness. People who follow their dreams are just normal people. They just have what it takes: an idea, some money, and courage.
Five months ago I got on a plane to Cambodia. A few months before I had sold half of my belongings, packed the rest into my little old pickup truck, drove across Canada, and deposited them into my mom’s basement. I quit a great paying job with a great boss, turning down a promotion despite the failing Canadian economy, and bought a plane ticket. Now, I am in Cambodia. I have a small duffel bag with four sets of clothes, my laptop, an idea, about $17 000, and the determination to live my one life with no regrets.
Obtaining an idea is the most crucial and difficult step in following your dreams. It took my whole life to get to the point where the idea was strong enough that I would bet my life on it. However, much like saving money, there is a process to building your idea, and if you do it one piece at a time, it just seems to come together.
1.) The first step is to take a good look at what you want to achieve with your life, and I don’t mean financial stability, a family, and a nice house. You are looking for something that can’t really be achieved, a general purpose. What do you want your mark on the world to be?
It may be a more stable environment, a more just society, to reduce suffering, or to empower others to achieve their dreams. Whatever your goal is it should be at the heart of who you are. This is what drives you. It will be what gets you out of bed in the morning when you don’t have a punch clock regulating your life. For me, the goal is to leave the world a more loving and caring place.
2.) Once you have the goal you need to do the research: read books, watch documentaries, chat with people in your field, and even go traveling. The ideas will start to flow, and as they flow they will inspire more research.
You will be tempted to grab hold of your first idea, but that would be a mistake. In the majority of cases,you need to do more research. Ask what people really want. Ask why they want it. Check if it’s been done. Make friends with the people who’ve done it. Poke it and prod it until you are absolutely sure what it is, how you will do it, and why it will work. Like I said, it took my whole life, over 30 years, to get to a point where I was confident with my idea. It wasn’t easy, but when you are out on your own, with your life savings on the line, you will be happy you put in the time.
3.) The Money
Everyone gets hung up on the money, even though it is the idea and the courage that make a dream happen. But, for the sake of unfulfilled dreams, let me try to assure you that living a dream is not just for the rich.
When I left for Cambodia all I had to my name was $17, 000. I saved it like anyone saves money. I cut things out of my life that were less important than my goal. This can be a long process, but cutting things out of your life that you don’t need is actually quite rewarding in itself, so it is a good process. The important part is knowing how to make that money go as far as possible. This is one of the reasons I moved to Cambodia.
My budget is actually only $12, 000, the remaining $5,000 is an emergency fund to get me back to Canada and to bridge the gap while I find a part-time job if I fail to make enough money in my first year of business. If you have more guts than me, you only need to save $12,000. That is $1,000 a month for living expenses and business expenses.
– How is this possible?
The easiest way is to move to a cheaper country. Here is a quick breakdown of what I pay per month.
– $250 for rent and my place is over the top nice (I have a place lined up for the second six months for $160 with a pool and balcony).
– I eat fresh fruit and free range eggs for breakfast and in local restaurants for lunch and supper, which averages to $5/day ($150/month).
– The cost of my flight, health insurance and visa was about $2,400 (200/month).
– A used $40 bike, $20 coffee maker, toiletries and coffee, 2$/week laundry, $5/day motorbike adventures, 50 cent beers in hammocks, and $4 seaside bbqs use up about $100/month of spending money.
That is living it up for $700/month. If tropical seaside living in Cambodia doesn’t strike your fancy, check out Nomad List for general cost of living in other amazing countries, or if you really buckled down I think it would be possible to live in Canada for $1000/month (I did while saving the money).
-Your other expenses are your business expenses.
The basic cost of running a website can be as cheap as $10/month, but it is advisable to buy a decent theme and a few plugins, as well as good emailing and social networking services. None of these cost very much, so for a good website you are looking at under $100/month.
This leaves you with $200/month for extra investing. For example, I recently built an app and am thinking about investing in some merchandise to sell.
All of these numbers are pretty rough, and you will need to do your own investigations, but it should be enough to show you that the cost of starting an online business is substantially less than you might think!
(All of the costs other than my initial savings are in USD. That is why I am moving to cheaper accommodation because the CAD is substantially lower.)
“The idea that brought me to Cambodia – I learned how to make websites from YouTube videos”
Courage often gets confused with craziness (and vice versa), but people who follow their dreams are anything but crazy. There is something very logical about the goal of doing exactly what you want to do every single day.
It is both comforting and empowering to choose the direction of your life, rather than taking what was given to you by chance. Don’t get me wrong, at least once a week I get a brief panic attack, wondering what will become of me if my business plan doesn’t work out. I am a normal person. But, at the end of the day I believe in what I am doing, and I use the fear to make myself work harder.
If I fail, at least I can say “I tried”, and I will probably try again.
This way of life may not be for everyone. It may be that you are not willing to trade what you have to chase after your dream, that is fine. It probably means that you are already living your dream. But, if you are in the least bit unsatisfied with your life, remember that you only get one chance.
Why not give it a shot? The more people in the world following their dreams the better!