It all started in China. I was there for a 2-months coding bootcamp in Chengdu, Sichuan. Everyday was structured and spartan. Wake up early at 8am for morning lecture, quick lunch, afternoon coding challenge, round of beer, dinner, hack ideas with mates, reach home at 10pm. It was a life without distractions, fully tuned to producing output.
One night, while watching TV, I came to a realisation. Here I was, 3 weeks into my China journey. Staying in a rather chic 30th floor apartment, overlooking the night lights of Chengdu. I brought very little stuffs here. Just a few pieces of clothings and some gadgets. Everything could fit into a small luggage and duffel bag. I hadn’t bought more stuffs either. My daily spending was a mere RM30-RM50. Yet I was doing fine. For the first time in years, I felt a rare sense of “lightness”.
That’s a big contrast compared to the life back home in Malaysia. It was a life geared for accumulation. A constant push for growth. Buying stuffs to fill the void within. Mercs, Rolex, more and more. It was a great life but not one with depth. I went full materialistic in the first half of 2018 to experience how is it like. It was not for me. I was ready to let it all go.
Then a wild idea struck me. Maybe I could live life in an extremely lean way deliberately. The monk state, reset-to-0 kind of life. I pre-sold many things online while I was in China. People thought I was going broke. But I had a plan.
The bootcamp ended and I went back to Malaysia in the middle of December 2018. Cleared my apartment & office. Gone are the apartment, my less than 1 year old Mercedes C200, Rolex watch, furniture, electrical appliances, books, kitchenware, extra clothings and many more. In less than 15 days, I sold/gave away/threw almost of my worldly possessions, accumulated over the years. I was down to the essential 5%. Everything could be fitted into a small luggage and a duffel bag. And then I hit the road on 1 January 2019.
For the past 6 months, I’ve been living the “Fast Culture” lifestyle that I envisioned. Moving to a new country every 2-3 weeks. Getting to know a culture and its quirks rapidly. Going deep, making new friends, new memories and experiences. Having the freedom to be anywhere, anytime.
How is it like living like this? I'll share more:
- Accommodation: I move to a new airbnb every 2-3 weeks. “Rental” is now an item I can charge to my AMEX card, raking up points. Every move out is a moment to reflect upon my experiences in the city. I used to experience out "move out" every 3-4 years. Now i do it every 2-3 weeks!
- Transport: for the first time in my adult life, I don’t own a car. I grab/uber in most of the cities. Costs less than 10% of what I used to pay for my car monthly payment. Time saved on driving is reallocated to reading and doing light work while getting “chauffeured”.
- Flights: free flights everywhere I go via credit card points
- “Wardrobe”: extremely lean. 8 black tees, 3 white tees, 1 jeans, 3 pairs of shorts, 1 jacket. And after optimising, 1 freaking pair of shoes that couple as my everyday shoe and running shoe for my daily 5k run
- Stuffs: gave up chasing the false rabbits of success. The most important things are getting meaningful work done everyday and having the engery to explore a new city
- Books: used to have hundreds and hundreds of books. Didn’t want to waste it so I gave it to the new tenant who graciously accepted. Now I still have hundreds of books with me. It’s all in my Kindle.
- Flexibility: for a little more than RM1,000 over my previously rented apartment, I am now able to live anywhere, anytime. My work allows me to work anywhere. But in the past, due to fixed expenses like car payment, rental, I don’t usually do more than 2 weeks. Had to force myself to go “home”. Now I can stay anywhere with no pressure of going “home”. Home is literally anywhere that piques my curiosity.
- Paper: gone 99% paperless. I used to write my thoughts and plan my day in a Moleskine. Getting a new one costs RM150 every 2-3 months. Now I use the amazing GoodNotes app on my iPad Pro. Best of all, I don’t accumulate mountains of notebooks, and every that I have ever written is searchable!
- Cost of living: living expenses actually go down without a lot of the mindless buys and monthly recurring expenses. Investible income goes way up, allowing me to invest in lots of income-producing assets
- Office: have a membership that allows me to work in Grade A office buildings around the world for less than US$60/month
- Work: a lean life gives me a great sense of clarity, allowing me to be in the most productive state yet
- And many more
I’m now halfway into my 2019 experiment. Not sure if I will do this for the long term, but it has been extremely rewarding so far. Shall look back and reflect upon this lifestyle at the end of this year. Let me leave you with this last thought. Life is fluid. Whenever you think you're stuck in a fixed state, you can switch it up (or down), to make it all exciting again. Have fun!
I’ll be releasing the following articles in the next few weeks. Subscribe below to be the first to get notified.
- The ultimate credit cards combo in Malaysia
- Most useful purchases in the first half of 2019
- How I work from Grade A office buildings around the world for less than USD50/month
- The cheapest ways to buy Macbook Pros in Malaysia
- Why I run 5k everyday (except Sundays)