Shawn from Freedom 33 has an awesome freedom story about remembering his dream, pursuing a new life, and to riding the bumps waves along the way!

Living The American Dream

I grew up in British Columbia, Canada, living a relatively normal childhood. When I finished high school, I took a gap year backpacking across Australia and SE Asia. It was an amazing experience, spending my days learning how to surf and going scuba diving. It was a dream year and I found myself wishing I could live somewhere warm where I could spend more time on my new found passion, surfing.

However, I returned home and got down to ‘real life’ in Canada. I started University, eventually getting my degree in biology at the age of 27. I settled into my adult life, met a girl, bought a house, and worked away in my career. I moved forward in following the American dream, settling for the Canadian surf scene over an hour drive away from my home in Victoria, BC.

Pushed to Question My Life

Then everything changed. My live-in long-term girlfriend decided our relationship wasn’t working and moved back home to England. Instead of working through and healing from that break-up, I patched up my feelings with an intense, fast-moving new relationship. Ten months later, I was single again and left to deal with my emotions.

This led to a lot of self-analysis and ultimately getting real with myself. I thought I had been happy with the American Dream, but I came to realize I wasn’t happy at all. I didn’t like being house poor. I didn’t care for my career, lifestyle, or some of my friends.

I found myself on a path of self-discovery. I learned to let go of things I couldn’t control. I learned to self-validate rather than seek external validation. I remembered my dream life, but didn’t know how to make that happen.

I was stuck in a mortgage and couldn’t afford to change my career. I was already near the high-end of my potential pay-scale and I wouldn’t be able to match that at a new job. This led me to start thinking outside the box.

Making The Trade

Could I sell my house, break even, and get a fresh start? I started looking at the housing market and realized I stood a good chance of turning a significant profit. Selling my house became a no-brainer. With that decision made, I asked myself what I really wanted to do. Maybe travel around New Zealand? While considering my options, I decided to take an impromptu vacation to Baja California Sur near Cabo San Lucas. A friend of mine had owned a small place there and suggested I might like it. I ended up staying with a friend of hers, who was also a bit of a real-estate hustler. Before long, I found myself with a new opportunity.

I could use the income from the sale of my house to build a small duplex in Mexico. This would allow me to be debt-free, earn a modest rental income, and live simply with easy access to good consistent waves!

That became my grand plan, but life is full of unexpected waves. As I was in the process of building and paying for the duplex, I could see that the numbers weren’t going to work out as magically as I had hoped.

Right around this time, I got the chance to return to an old job as an Environmental Coordinator at a fly-in/fly-out mine. I would work three weeks on (at a remote location in Northern Canada) followed by three weeks off. My employer would cover room and board and most of my travel costs.

I had been miserable in this position in the past, but now it seemed like a godsend, even though I was nervous about being pulled back into my old life! I did a little mental accounting and figured I would only need to work for about six months. I decided it was worth it and took the job.

Ten months later, I was still at the job, failing to meet my financial goals. I knew I had to dig deeper and find a way to improve my accounting. This was sort of a ‘get real’ financial moment. I really wanted to have my full-time life in Mexico and needed a real plan to make that happen ASAP in a sustainable manner. I turned to my spreadsheet and got to work on my expenses and making an updated budget.

My duplex is now built, fully paid for, and bringing in rental income that pays for my day-to-day bills and living expenses. I spend about $150 (Canadian dollars) per week in Mexico and about $200 every six weeks on travel for work. At this point I could quit my job, but I’ve decided I want to invest a little more in my future. If I work another year even, I can achieve complete financial freedom.

As I work towards living in Mexico full time, I’m dreaming of adding to my AirBnb empire in other foreign surf locations, meeting my wife and starting a family, adopting a few dogs, and having more free time to visit my parents as they get older.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the time I do have in Mexico, fostering pups (sometimes finding them forever homes in Canada), and having my parents come visit!

Advice When Trading in The American Dream For Your Own

  • Never waste a good crisis: When things are going smoothly it’s hard to implement any change and disturb the peace. However, when you have nothing to lose, it becomes a lot easier. Take advantage of this.
  • Know Your Why: I knew I wanted a different life and I needed to figure out why first. Then the how became easier.
  • Spend Time Thinking About Your Dream: Mohammed Ali once said - What you’re thinking about, you’re becoming.
  • Stay Strong When Others Don’t Support You: When the people you love don’t support your lifestyle changes, its easy to let them convince you that you’re crazy and to stay in your current life. My father and I didn’t speak for months when I made my decision. One thing I’ve learned is that most of the time, the way people act has much more to do with them than it does with you.
  • Be patient: It takes a while for these types of goals to really take shape. Find a way to stay positive through the transition.
  • Live and Learn: You don’t have to have everything figured out in the beginning. Take steps, learn from the successes and failures, and keep moving forward.
  • Create a solid budget: I had tracked by expenses and had a budget, but I would miss certain things (whether by a psychological quirk or paid with cash). This left me with gaps in my budget and was why I ultimately needed to get really serious about tracking all of my spending.

Thank you to Shawn for sharing his story! We are excited to follow his journey over the years and wish him the best as he settles more into his life in Mexico. And ladies - he’s single :) And if you want to reach out to Shawn, you can find him on twitter @freedomthirty3.

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