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I Haven’t had a “Job” in 8 Months and That’s OK

The last day I worked a conventional job was sometime in late June 2010. It is now March 2011. I don’t have a lot of money. I traveled for six months last year and I recently bought a one way plane ticket back to West Africa. How is this possible?

1. I saved money for three years before I took my trip. After I got back I was coasting on that money for a while (it’s gone now).

broken nose2. The Tax Man was kind to me. I got a hefty refund because I didn’t work a lot last year and I also itemized a few things like a medical bill from that time last spring when a lynx attacked me and broke my nose. Ok, so it wasn’t a lynx, it was a co-workers elbow during a game of beachball volleyball (not even a fight? I know, I know..).

3. I haven’t paid rent since last June. I have done a lot of official and unofficial couchsurfing.

4. I don’t have a car. I don’t eat out often. I don’t go to bars.

5. Clyde the Camel has commissioned me for a $3,000 portrait of himself. He doesn’t have the money yet, but he has given me an IOU.

If Clyde hasn’t paid me yet, how am I making money?

howtodrawcamels.com is not exactly a cash cow, but I have made a few sales on there. Half of that money goes towards social enterprises in West Africa. The other half goes towards my travel expenses.

– I have been doing a lot of freelance writing, mostly of the travel variety. I have been writing West African country guides, and I’ve done some pieces for online travel magazines and blogs.

– I’m working on a few web-design projects for others as well as building some additional sites myself. Sick on the Road is a travel health blog that I am working on with a friend. We plan to profit from that site at some point in the future. Right now, it’s still young in terms of content, but it will grow as time goes on.

– I’ve also made a few dollars here and there from affiliate sales. There are links on the right of this site under the header “things I use.” If you happen to purchase anything through those links, I get a commission. It’s a good deal – it’s the same price for you whether you use the link or not, and they are all things I recommend (if you are interested in starting a website, learning a language, or working for yourself that is) and use myself.

Am I worried?

Despite the fact that I’m making little money, I’m not worried. Buying a plane ticket when you’re broke is a great idea. No, really. When your only choice is to get your shit together, you will get your shit together. I don’t plan on losing the above income sources, but even if I do, I will figure something out in Bamako. You can create your own self-fulfilling prophecy. Attitude is everything.

Am I being irresponsible and impulsive?

I am under the impression that self-realization is the greatest contribution you can make to society. Realizing what you are excited about and doing it. I’m going back to West Africa to explore music, showcase social enterprises, and to teach people how to draw camels. This is what I’m passionate about right now. For that reason, it’s what I should be doing.

Before traveling, I was teaching middle school in Washington, DC. I miss my kids. A lot. But there was a reason I needed a break longer than summer vacation. Right now, I feel more creative and energized than I have in a long time.

When people hear that I don’t have a “job” and that I’m living at my friend’s dad’s house (The Man Hostel. I live here with my friend Sam, his uncle, his dad, and his brother. We hunt javelinas together and drink rattlesnake blood.), they assume that I have fallen on hard times. But the truth is, I’m loving life and I’m excited about what’s to come.

Disclaimer: I am not telling you to follow in my footsteps. And I’m certainly not judging you if you have a job. Do what makes you happy. There are a lot of possibilities.

Recommended reading: The Element

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{ 32 comments… add one }

  • Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World March 9, 2011, 3:27 pm

    Cheers, Phil!
    I’m happy for you for going after what you want, being impulsive, and self-realizing! If more people do it there will be a whole lot less whining in this world (not that I don’t whine, I want people to whine less so mine can be heard! – Hah :p )

    • phil March 10, 2011, 1:51 pm

      Thanks Jill! Excited to read about your trip – we leave at about the same time 🙂

  • Jodi March 9, 2011, 10:55 pm

    I like the transparency of this post, and the fact that despite not knowing where you’re headed next from a job or monetary point of view, you have faith that you’ll arrive there intact and smiling. As another former lawyer once said, “The amazing thing about rock climbing is that if you step on the only
    hold you can see, the next hold almost always appears. That’s the way life is. If you’re honest about
    your choice, and you commit, you’ll see the next step after that. But you can’t get there if you don’t
    step.” Looking forward to seeing where life takes you, and hoping we cross paths again in 2011!

    • phil March 10, 2011, 1:53 pm

      Love the quote. Speaking of quotes, I’m almost done with the Terzani book. So good. Glad I stumbled upon it through your site.

      I also hope we cross paths again soon!!

  • Kirstin March 10, 2011, 12:10 am

    Going abroad really does open up so many opportunities for doing new things and earning money from them, and if all else fails, teach English! I have to admit that while I try to stay positive about starting a business here in Bishkek, the amount of money quickly flying out of my bank account versus the amount slowly trickling in does make me a bit anxious. But good things are happening. Good things must happen. They must!

    • phil March 10, 2011, 1:58 pm

      Hey Kirstin,
      Good to hear from you. Teaching english is my backup plan and I just made a contact for setting that up. Good things will happen!! I often find that when I get discouraged something happens to get things back on track. What kind of business are you trying to start?

  • Natalie March 10, 2011, 7:56 am

    Most of my friends that have a normal job are desperately unhappy or they just like whinging about life. Do what makes you feel good and makes you happy. I worry about my age old at times but hopefully I will pop my clogs before then!

    • phil March 10, 2011, 2:02 pm

      Yeah I hear you on that. I worked with a lot of people who complained every single day. Me and you are definitely on the same page 🙂

  • Dalene - Hecktic Travels March 10, 2011, 10:24 am

    Cheers Phil – this is awesome, and the one thing I love about getting involved in the travel blogging community is meeting like-minded souls. Hubby and I have been without jobs since spring 2009 and we couldn’t be happier. We haven’t found our “camel drawing” passion yet to help sustain us, but we’re getting closer… 🙂

    • phil March 10, 2011, 2:05 pm

      Hey Darlene,
      Thanks for stopping by 🙂 It is a great community and a huge benefit is definitely the positive feedback loop. If you are surrounded by people who are doing inspiring things it lifts you up as well. I feel very fortunate to have discovered it. I’m sure you will find your “camel drawing” passion soon 🙂

  • Stephen March 10, 2011, 11:02 am

    Keep on doing what your doing! I had a very similar 2010 which I illustrated in this post http://bohemiantraveler.com/2010/12/2010-in-review-how-i-traveled-for-half-the-year/ Life is much more than working a steady job…

    • phil March 10, 2011, 2:13 pm

      Hey Stephen,
      Just checked out your post, and wow you’re right – very similar! I’m even spending time in Arizona! Here’s to taking the right approach to life!

  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures March 10, 2011, 11:53 am

    So inspired that you followed your heart!

    • phil March 10, 2011, 2:15 pm

      Thanks Andi! Glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Migrationology March 10, 2011, 12:31 pm

    Keep it up Phil! Living to make money is much different from making enough money for living. It’s much more practical and productive to use your personal gifts and talents, even hobbies, to contribute your part in life. Glad you found a passion that is worth pursuing with ultimate value. I’m hoping to come see you in West Africa some time, so we can share some of that wonderful West African food!

    • phil March 10, 2011, 2:21 pm

      Hey Mark,
      You’re right, there is a huge difference in those two philosophies. It seems that we often fall into the living to make money pattern and then inertia takes over.

      I’ll be in W. Africa for a while starting in April. Make it happen!

      Be well,

  • Erin March 10, 2011, 9:22 pm

    I am always impressed by people starting to travel with very little money. We have had the safety net of savings but sometimes we do wonder if we’d have more creative money making ideas if we really needed the money. I haven’t had a job for a year now and would find it very hard to go back to one.

    Good luck with it!

    • phil March 11, 2011, 1:53 pm

      It definitely makes you hustle and it definitely gets your creativity going. That’s not saying I wouldn’t like to still have my savings around though 🙂

  • Jennifer Barry March 11, 2011, 12:10 am

    Hi Phil, I am so excited and happy your friends are safe! I had been following the news and it was very worrying.

    Thanks for sharing more about how you support yourself. On the one hand, you don’t have retirement savings. On the other, it sounds like you have no debt, which puts you way ahead of 90% of Americans.

    I definitely agree there are a lot more options in life than most people think. Also, jobs aren’t nearly as safe and stable as employees like to think. Developing multiple streams of income is smart.

    • phil March 11, 2011, 1:55 pm

      I would love to talk to you sometime about financial planning. Right now I am basically shooting from the hip 😉

  • Theodora March 11, 2011, 12:58 am

    Good to hear that your plans are holding up, and working out. Also glad that all your friends are safe in Cote d’Ivoire.

    • phil March 11, 2011, 1:56 pm

      plans are holding up, but yes, most importantly, friends are safe!!

  • Ayngelina March 11, 2011, 8:50 pm

    Love this post, Im always amazed by how little money we really need. And so happy to hear about your friends, what great news!

    • phil March 12, 2011, 11:30 am

      I’m amazed as well. It really helps you keep things in perspective.

  • Amy March 12, 2011, 3:02 am

    We’re kind of in the same boat. I haven’t had a normal job since April 2009 and I was able to travel for 20 months, working only 3 months (one for stipend, two for seasonal work, but both because I just needed to rest and stay in one place for a bit). I love it. I still have some money left from my jobs I held before my travels began, but my next trip is to China to teach English for a year. Kind of like traveling, but kind of like moving, too! I definitely enjoy this lifestyle. 🙂

    I’m glad to hear your friends in Cote D’Ivoire are all ok! The past few days, I’ve been worried about friends in Japan and Hawaii and my grandma on the coast of Washington State. All are ok, thank goodness! 🙂 It’s a immense relief when you finally get in contact with them! 🙂

    • phil March 12, 2011, 11:36 am

      wow 20 months of travel with only 3 months of work !! I would love to replicate this! Teaching english is an option I am considering in Mali if everything else falls through. There are always possibilities. Have you been in touch with Sally from unbravegirl.com? Besides being hilarious and a really thoughtful blogger, she is also teaching english in China.

      Immense relief indeed. When I heard from Faty, I was running around the house screaming. Glad to hear everyone is safe for you also 🙂

  • Katrina March 12, 2011, 5:08 pm

    I’m so glad to hear your friends are all right, Phil. And glad CNN finally gave some coverage to the situation, too!

    • phil March 14, 2011, 1:40 pm

      Thanks for thinking of them Katrina!

  • Jilianne @ Cotswold Cottages March 14, 2011, 12:37 pm

    I bet the profit you get from your affiliates and ads makes you super confident (financially) even without a day job 🙂

  • Detective Gertie March 15, 2011, 1:47 pm

    i love this post and you and also clyde for the IOU. i question a lot of things about that camel, but somehow i feel he’s good for it. the only thing i am worried about for your future is what will come of you if i do not fit into said future very soon.

    also, what is flattr? how am i supposed to plaster my facebook with phil in the blank material with flattr?

    • phil March 15, 2011, 7:44 pm

      I questioned Clyde too, but now we are back on good terms. You may be a part of my future very soon actually. Don’t know for sure yet, but trying to come to NY 31st – 2nd.

      Flattr is a way for people to contribute to sites through a donation button. You create an account with them and deposit money. I deposit the minimum, $2 I think, and then each time I click someone’s it gives .30 or so.

      I miss yoU! Thanks for always sharing my stuff!

      Another ep of clyde’s corner coming out tomorrow btw

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