What inspired you to start a blog on financial management, with a focus on travel? How do you think Reach Financial Independence is different from other blogs?
I have always loved traveling and did it quite often. People would often ask me, “you’re always on the road — how can you afford it?” When I traveled, I tried to save as much money as possible by booking overnight buses to save on hotel nights or sleeping at the airport if I got in late. These are things not many people are not willing to do.
I began to think about my priorities when it came to traveling and that the destination was more important than the journey for me. Reach Financial Independence is a blog about just that: do what is right for you to achieve your goals — be it traveling more, spending more time with your kids, going back to school and changing careers, etc.
You can’t have it all but if you prioritize, you can have what you want.
What made you quit your average 9-5 job in 2010? What was the final straw?
My last job was a stressful one, and I only tolerated my working conditions because I wanted to buy a rental property. Once I achieved that goal, I crunched the numbers and realized my passive and freelance income covered a lifestyle of travel. I considered staying a couple more years to save more, but there was nothing else holding me back.
You talk a lot about passive income. What’s the most enjoyable side-hustle you’ve come across?
Strangely enough, it was not travel writing. I thought being paid to travel would be the best thing on Earth but having to stop everywhere to take notes and pictures kind of ruined travel for me. Instead, I love side-hustles that help people. I had a great time teaching French and Spanish. It just felt like having a conversation with a friend in another language. Waitressing at weddings was also fun as everyone is in a good mood, and you can sleep on Sunday before you go back to work.
Why did you choose Guatemala as the place to enter the property-ownership game?
I had bought a place in Paris and in the U.K. previously, but both as rental properties. Guatemala was my first time buying myself a house!
I lived there for three years back in 2003, and when I came back to visit some friends, I realized how much I had missed everything about it.
The people there are so friendly, the climate is amazing — in two hours you can go from surfing in the Pacific Ocean to colonial towns to active volcanoes. There is an adventure for everyone. It also helps that the cost of living is so low, and you can buy property for very cheap.
What do you see coming for yourself and the blog in the upcoming years?
I don’t really know! My blog has had less updates lately, because I am building my next house in the mountains of Colorado, and it is taking a toll on me. While I love the online community, I am also focusing on making connections in the real world.
Fortunately, I think I have reached a nice balance of online vs offline life. I am hoping the blog keeps reaching and inspiring people to take control of their lives and do what they really want.
How has your life changed since starting Reach Financial Independence? Do you live your life differently because of it?
Starting Reach Financial Independence was a great way to connect to other people on a similar journey, and I discovered I was not the only one out there! It has helped me stay accountable and reach my goals.
I have also started reading many blogs that ask different questions, and I love it. For example, some blogs tackle the question of purpose and life goals once you become financially independent. This is something many struggle with. Now that you don’t need to work, what do you do?
I have reflected on that a lot and adjusted my daily routine to include the activities I enjoy the most, and that give me a sense of fulfillment.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned about personal finance and/or travel since starting Reach Financial Independence?
I have learned a lot about the psychology of money. Like fitness and health, there is no one size fits all when it comes to money. You can’t put everyone on the same diet and exercise plan and expect them to thrive. We all carry a different monetary "baggage", depending on how we grew up, and the lessons we learned along the way.
Preaching the same money gospel to everyone will not work. That is why some people identify with me and my long-term, goal-oriented thinking, while others prefer sites that focus on day-to-day small hacks. It is important that all the niches are served, especially the most vulnerable ones, and given adequate tools instead of judgement and blanket advice.
Got a quote about financial management? I’d love to hear it!
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”
Some people get overwhelmed by the amount of debt they carry, the two digits on their bank accounts, etc. Just get started. Even if you don’t know why. The next time your car breaks, your kid gets sick, you get fired, or whatever emergency life throws at you, you will be glad you are financially resilient.
If you enjoyed this interview, check out our interview with Donna Freedman of Surviving and Thriving.