Hey kids, it’s guest post time! As many of you know, Courtney and I are in Glacier National Park enjoying one of our nation’s most beautiful areas, and I am quite pleased to have Chris from MoneyMozart.com holding down the fort while we’re gone with a guest post about figuring out your permanent paradise and turning it into one big kickass reality.
Chris is one of my favorite money bloggers, and for good reason. He’s determined. He’s motivated. And he, like me, wants to turn his permanent paradise into his full time day job. And his blog is absolutely kick ass.
Thank you for the guest post, Chris. Without further ado, please enjoy!
In 2014 we took a week-long trip to Providenciales, Turks & Caicos. One of my favorite things when traveling to places like this is when the plane is getting close to landing. The temperature in the cabin gets warmer and warmer. You know you’re getting close.
I remember looking out the window and seeing colors of water I’ve never seen before. Beautiful turquoise ripples. It looked fake. I could also see the pale white sand and palm trees.
After six hours of flying (plus an hour layover) we finally landed and I got off the plane to some gorgeous 85-degree weather.
Obstacle One: The Airport and Customs
There was a nice breeze in the air. I could just smell the beach. We followed a pack of other passengers like we were sheep herding back to our farm until we finally reached the airport.
It was a tiny little building and looked pretty run down, I was skeptical. Once we got inside, there was a mob of people waiting in four different lines to pass through customs. It was even hotter in this building than it was outside because there was no air conditioning – just giant fans.
We waited and waited until we were finally called. It felt like that moment when you’re waiting in the doctor’s office for what seems like hours, and they finally call your name.
After answering a few standard questions, the agent determined we weren’t violent drug-smugglers. She passed us along to our next challenge.
Just beyond that checkpoint, there was a large area with bags scattered all around. No conveyor belts or organization, just bags thrown all over the floor. This is where you would pick up your checked luggage. Of course everyone packs a similar-sized, black suitcase with one of those handles that pops up, which made ours a joy to find. I sorted through the suitcases until I finally found mine. My wife was smart enough to put a piece of bright green tape on hers so she could find it with ease. I wonder if she knew this would happen.
We then walked through a maze of plywood walls, past another customs check-point. They’ll stop you again if you seem sketchy I guess. Moments later we were finally outside again.
Obstacle Two: The Creepy Van
At this point it was like running through a crowded street on Mardi Gras. We pushed our way through until we saw vans, which we assumed were to bring us to our hotel.
Here you have all kinds of people trying to sell you things you don’t need or get you in their cabs. Everyone is trying to make a quick buck.
Some guy directed us to a white, unmarked van after I told him the name of our resort. He too was herding us like sheep into the van, squeezing as many people in as possible, and none of us having any real clue where we were going. It’s not like there were many other options, though.
Outside of the airport, the island looked kind of crappy. We drove through a few areas that looked like slums, and the cars we passed on the road were pretty beat up too.
Then we started getting toward the resorts, and thus the beach. Buildings got nicer, people were dressing nicer, and the cars looked more expensive. It was at this moment I realized we weren’t just going to our resort. We were stopping at every resort that each passenger was going to, and guess who’s resort was the last stop (hint: it was us).
When we finally got to our resort, I had no clue how much the ride cost. Nobody said anything to us about cost or where we were going to begin with. Instead, we were just shoved into this vehicle like Jason Bourne kidnapping a bad guy.
I asked the driver how much I owed. He told me it was $80 USD. Holy crap that’s an expensive 20-minute ride. This guy must be making more than I do. I gave him the cash, along with a decent tip, and we made our way to what looked like the hotel lobby.
Obstacle Three: The Resort
Once inside, we received a nice greeting from three smiling faces. We were also blasted with some cold air-conditioning. It’d been a couple of hours since we landed. I was crabby and sweating my ass off, so it was a nice feeling on both counts.
I signed some papers to get checked in and got our room key. Then, just like the nice hotels here in the states, a clean-cut, seemingly-friendly gentleman came out to help us with our bags and show us to our room. He walked us outside for about 10-feet when he realized I was going to carry my own bags instead of paying him to take it. He immediately stopped being friendly, pointed in the general direction of our room, and walked away.
We proceeded to walk down a narrow road for about 5 minutes (carrying our bags and sweating profusely) until we reached our room.
We opened the door and were again blasted with cold air-conditioning. The room was much bigger than we had expected, in fact it was a suite. To the right of me was a washing machine and a dryer (awesome). Next to that was a huge master bedroom. In front of us was a big bathroom with plenty of sink space and a large shower with a window. To our left was a full kitchen with a refrigerator, an eating area, and a living space with a couch and TV. That room then opened up to a patio outside.
Reaching My Paradise
I thought to myself, this is my paradise. But I hadn’t even seen the beach yet. We quickly threw our bags down and unpacked our bathing suits. We scurried outside like two kids running downstairs on Christmas morning. We passed two pools, an outdoor bar, and a stand where you could rent snorkel gear. We walked down a few wooden steps and then it happened – my feet hit the sand. This is what I saw:
That’s an actual photo I took on the beach in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos. I took a few minutes to realize that this was actually happening. My feet were in warm, white sand. The sun was beating down on me. And I was looking at this. Then I thought to myself, NOW I’ve reached my paradise.
My point in telling this story is to show you that I had a plan. I had a clear-cut plan to go on vacation and reach this beautiful utopia that I’d only seen in pictures.
The plan got off-course, though. The plane ride was long, we pushed through airports, customs, and mobs of people. We took a bumpy car ride in a mysterious unmarked van, having no idea where we were going. We walked in 85-degree heat (wearing jeans, mind you) to find our room. Then we took another walking path until we finally reached the beach.
Nothing went according to the way I’d planned it, and it wasn’t easy, but I reached my paradise.
What is a Permanent Paradise?
The trip was incredible. A week later, we returned home and were back to our normal, working lives. While this was paradise, it wasn’t permanent. It got me to thinking, how do I reach my permanent paradise?
A permanent paradise is your ideal, long-term situation. For many of you, that’s early retirement. Maybe it’s not having to work at a job you’re not passionate about. Maybe it’s having enough money to do what you love, and not have to worry about how much your paychecks are.
Or maybe a permanent paradise is something else. It could be a location (like Turks and Caicos). Perhaps it’s a cabin out in the country where you’re away from all humanity and you can just listen to nature.
How to Reach Your Permanent Paradise
Your permanent paradise won’t be quite the same as mine, and that’s okay. There are few key takeaways from this story that I want you to remember, though.
1. Determine what your permanent paradise looks like.
This is crucial. If you don’t know what your goal is or what you hope to achieve in the future, you’ll end up wandering aimlessly around. You’ll work at jobs you hate with no light at the end of the tunnel.
2. Figure out where you are now.
This is kind of a “state of the union”. What’s your debt situation? How’s your cash flow? How far into your career are you?
3. Decide on a timeline.
How soon do you want to reach your permanent paradise? Make sure your timeline is realistic with steps 1 and 2 – what your paradise is and where you are now. Let’s say your permanent paradise is early retirement. You’re 34 years old with no savings and your timeline is 1 year. You may have to check yourself before you wreck yourself.
4. Make a plan.
You now know what you want, where you want to go, and how long you expect it will take you. These should be the 3 key building blocks to you reaching your permanent paradise. Now fill in the gaps.
Figure out what you need to do with each of those topics so you can have a clear-cut plan of action. The worst thing you can do is not plan for your future. If you don’t plan, you are going to end wasting years of your financial life.
This happened to me in my early 20s. I had just gotten a job full-time and earned a decent paycheck. I didn’t have a plan with that money though, so I spent most of it. If I’d had a plan, I would be enjoying early retirement right now.
5. Check yourself.
Not everything goes to plan. In fact I guarantee something will veer you off course of your plan (see my story above). Maybe you have a baby, lose your job, or inherit a home. Things will change, and so will your plan.
To stay on course with where you need to go, you must constantly check in. Check in on your plan monthly, quarterly, yearly, or whatever works for you. But don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to do. If nothing in your life changes, this check-in will serve as motivation.
Whatever your permanent paradise is, you can achieve it. Never say never. Make sacrifices, work hard, stay focused, and remind yourself – you’re human.
Steve is a 37-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels with the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.