Have you ever felt so stressed out when you woke up in the morning that you felt sick to your stomach? Just the thought of getting up out of bed, putting on your work uniform, and making the morning commute weighing down on you like a ton of bricks. The inability to have control over what you do with your time during the day because you are a slave to the corporate system. Being forced to beat to the drum of someone else’s song as you march in formation in the back of the line. Following systems and processes set by someone in a comfy headquarters office, whom have no idea what type of impact their actions have on your daily work life. Buying into a mission statement that you no longer believe in like you once did. I have been there, as I am certain many of you have as well, and I woke up one day and said enough is enough.
I have not always worked in Corporate America. Ever since I can remember, I have been an entrepreneur and hustler. I started working at my parent’s 7-11 convenience store around the age of 5 years old and use to go to work with them at 5am before I would go to school. There I learned the importance of making personal connections with your customers because they have plenty of other options when it comes to getting what they need, but make a lasting personal impression and they will keep coming back to you no matter how long the commute.
I use to ride my bike to garage sales throughout the surrounding neighborhoods and find things that were underpriced, and then go home and sell them on eBay at a profit. I learned that the market often does not know the true value of what it is selling and that if I could be more educated than than those in the market, I could generate a significant profit. I later used this same strategy in trading stocks and options, by researching companies and finding out information that I believed that market did not know and then trading on this information, all completely legal by the way. Trading also came with plenty of tough lessons, there were plenty of days when trading options that my “bets” went to zero and were completely worthless. I lived and learned from these mistakes, and took these learning experiences with me.
I would buy trading cards of baseball prospects during the offseason and spring training, after doing thorough research, with the hopes that they would make the big league team for the season and their value would go up once they were a household name. This taught me the value of patience, that the greatest rewards come to those who get in early and are patient enough to wait until the timing is right. Sometimes I would cash in when the player made it to the big leagues and “knocked it out the park” (pun intended), and other days my purchases were worthless once the player went bust after one year of minor league ball.
I could go on and on with different entrepreneurial endeavors, but my point is this. The world is my classroom, not some 27ft x 23ft box with 15 desks and a chalkboard. I have learned more from my daily experiences, interactions, and failures than any course or teacher has ever taught me. I can only imagine where I would be today if I would have spent an hour a day, five days a week, with a business mentor instead of listening to some teacher ramble on about Geometry or History, which are important but not in the way our education system teaches us.
Instead, I went through “the system” and went to a university that I couldn’t afford, which caused me to take out student loans that I am still paying for, and to choose a job that I wasn’t passionate about based on the necessity to earn a certain amount of income. Before graduating high school, I chose to study Finance for my degree because I thought I would like it and make me lots of money, which I quickly realized I did not like, so I switched to Economics and found out it was equally unenjoyable. Finally, after a few trips to my Academic Advisor, I stumbled upon Hospitality Business, which came natural to me and was something I enjoyed learning about.
The real turning point in my life came when I was 20 years old and still a student at Michigan State University, I enrolled myself in a five month study abroad program in Ecuador. Before then, I had never been out of the country for more than a week vacation. This experience forever changed me. I realized there was much more to life than what was “normal” in the United States. I love my country, but I believe in the U.S. we live for things, instead of experiences. It’s all about who has the nicest car, biggest house, most trendy clothing, and most extravagant vacation. That may be what many people want to chase, but I refuse to live for these things, I choose to live for experiences.
In Ecuador, I learned to enjoy the little pleasures in life, such as sitting down to eat lunch with my “family,” that a bus can get you where you need to go just as easily as having your own car and you’d be surprised how much you can get done when not having to focus on driving in traffic, and that the greatest joys can come from the smallest things. This is how life is meant to be lived. From that point on, I was corrupted. I knew I would never be able to accept the “normal” life in the United States.
After having the time of my life living and studying in Ecuador, I came back to the U.S. as a changed person. I no longer enjoyed the same things I use to and I was more focused on experiencing life through travel. I continued working jobs in the bar and restaurant industry that summer and the following school year as I finished my Hospitality Business degree at Michigan State University. That entire year, I had a seed planted in my head of backpacking South America and that I was going to do it no matter what.
In May of 2014, after graduating from MSU, I set off to Brazil during the World Cup with a one-way ticket and a backpack. I couchsurfed, volunteered, and travelled down the coast from Salvador to Florianopolis, taking in everything Brazil had to offer over three months. I then took a flight over to Bolivia and began making my way up north through Peru, Ecuador, and finally Colombia over the next four months. Before I knew it, my seven month backpacking journey was over and I had spent all of my savings and then some. I hated to admit it, but I had to go back home and join the same system I had always told myself I wouldn’t be a part of, Corporate America, the 9-5 rat race.
I spent a month living in my parent’s basement while looking at employment options. After searching for a few weeks, I was given the opportunity to join an international car-rental company that specialized in offering luxury cars at economy prices. It was a paid management trainee program with housing covered for the first six months and a company car during employment. It was a great opportunity for me to gain great management experience while cutting down on my mounting expenses. I never dreamed of being in the car-rental industry before, nor planned on staying long, but I had to take advantage of the opportunity presented to me at the time. I knew it was to be a building block for the next great adventure in my life.
Over the next four months, I busted my ass day in and day out to prove to my superiors that I was ready for my own branch, and made all the necessary connections and moves to make it happen. Then, one day I got the call that I was waiting for, I was being placed at one of our new international airport locations in Florida. It felt great to have my hard work recognized and rewarded. It was everything I had been working for. My goal had been achieved, now what?
With my branch being a new corporate location, it came with plenty of hurdles. I inherited a dilapidated building that was being (literally) uprooted by a 100+ year old oak tree, a car wash that was constantly needing daily maintenance, a parking lot that had pot holes to be filled in with sealcoating and re-striping, new phone and internet lines that had to be ran underneath the granite tiles, the purchase of new office and kitchen furniture, an overflow parking lot that was less than desirable due to fire-ant infestation, striking employees from previous management, and much more. It felt like a startup environment and I enjoyed having an impact by creating something from nothing. But after some time, the allure of what I was doing wore off, and I started to feel like a Building Manager that was constantly putting out fires rather than an Operations Manager that was building and growing the business. I enjoy tackling challenges and improving operational efficiencies, but after awhile the daily stress of solving these issues, coupled with the high-turnover rate of employees, was more than I wanted to handle at the time. As the days, weeks, and months passed, I was becoming more stressed and less motivated with my work. I felt trapped in a life that was not mine, living in the body of someone I didn’t know.
Over the year I worked in Corporate America, I followed a handful of entrepreneurs and business leaders through podcasts, blog posts, books, and video interviews. These people were my daily motivation to keep pushing through an unenjoyable situation, because I knew it was necessary to get to where I wanted to be, which was location independence with complete control and freedom over my personal and work life. These individuals like: Tim Ferriss, Lewis Howes, Pat Flynn, Nick Loper, Chris Guthrie, Ryan Moran, Gary Vaynerchuck, Cody McKibben, Sean Ogle, John Lee Dumas, and many more, helped open my eyes to a world of making a living on the internet, free from a morning commute, suit & tie, and cubicle office. We live in the greatest time in the history of mankind, in terms of freedom and control over our lives, with the opportunities that are available through the internet and open lines of communication. No longer are we stuck to one location and forced to make the morning commute Monday-Friday and to hit rush-hour traffic at 5pm. We have the opportunity to live and work anywhere in the world that has an internet connection. After studying the successes and failures of countless entrepreneurs who have made the jump into entrepreneurship and location independence, I knew I had to take a chance. What is the worst that could happen, I return home and get another 9-5 job? Yeah, that wouldn’t be preferable, but trying and failing is better than not trying at all.
After contemplating and running through the scenario over and over in my head, I finally took the plunge into the unknown and on the morning of March 18th, 2016, the day I was suppose to leave for a 10 day vacation to Colombia, I confided in my Regional Manager that I could no longer take it anymore and needed a change in my life. I expressed my frustrations and she wholeheartedly understood where I was coming from, as she has worked in the industry 25+ years and had previously warned me during multiple conversations that the car rental industry is tough, asking me “are you sure this is what you want to get into?” But it all seemed like a great goal to shoot for early on, with the opportunity to take on a large amount of responsibility and gain invaluable operational management experience as a Branch Manager of a large international airport location with 800+ cars and 15+ employees after only 4-6 months of training. I worked my ass of to get to that point, 60+ hour weeks, with often 12-15 hour days. I was driven to achieve my goals until finally I realized I wasn’t chasing MY goals, I was chasing the goals put into my head by mainstream America.
After committing to put in my notice at my job, they decided it would be better for them to just let me go to avoid having to pay any vacation time that was earned if I was going to be leaving once I came back anyways. I am unsure if I quit or if I was fired, but either way, I am finally free to pursue my passions of travel and entrepreneurship. So what was once a 10 day vacation, has now turned into a ~3 month abroad experience where I will be living in and working from Medellin, Colombia. I will be building out a community of like-minded “travelpreneurs” and highlighting their successes and failures in audio podcasts and video interviews, along with article features. This will be my main focus during this time, but I will also be working on a few different smaller projects as well to diversify my portfolio.
I can honestly say this is the happiest I have been in awhile and I know this is the right move for me at this moment. I can finally focus on my personal and professional growth here as I have cut my living expenses 60-70%, and take the necessary time to plan the next move in my adventurous life. I am looking forward to seeing where I go from here and hope to share my experience with you all as I venture off into the unknown.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me personally at Drew@TheTravelpreneurClub.com or by leaving a comment below, I would love to hear from you!