Chapter 3

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Whilst floating during my early morning swim in the sea, looking up at the sky, I noticed a double rainbow had developed. It was a serene and beautiful sight and reminded me how incredible this world can be, how magical, if only we took the time to notice.

 

How often do we not see the infinite beauty around us because we are too busy to notice? How often might we miss out on receiving a beautiful smile from a stranger because we have our noses to screens and plugs in our ears. It never ceases to amaze me how many people shut themselves off from the sounds and world around them, preferring instead to engage in a world of fake “reality,” living in a world created in their own heads with digital relationships, conversations, and processed sounds.

I am not immune to this, but I keep the digital world at arms length, using it when I need to, in order to get my message across.

I am constantly amazed at the power and sheer beauty of nature and the natural world around us. The more you open yourself up to looking, the more you will see. The same goes for your life and lifestyle. You will see the possibilities and the beauty that there is to be yours if you take time to look. This book is about opening the window and letting the light dawn and shine in.

 

PLANNING

Wherever you are in your life, and whatever stage you are at, you will have made decisions (or have had decisions made for you) that now have ongoing consequences. Some of these, if not all, will always be there, no matter what, and they will be part of your individual journey to a freestyle lifestyle. 

Children are one example of this. Having children is possibly one of the most rewarding experiences in life, but can also be the most challenging, pressured and expensive. For the younger generation it can be a choice to live your life child-free these days, an option becoming more popular as the complications, rules, regulations and costs of having children are becoming increasingly confronting and difficult.

Having said which,  a beautiful friend of mine, who has done her own “Salmon surfing downstream” journey, with children,  and is now enjoying all the rewards and benefits told me that her children were her inspiration behind making the changes URGENTLY and FAST so that she could enjoy the flexibility and quality time she would get to spend with them. Not to mention the fact that she is a pure source of inspiration to them and to everyone around her. She and I started our journeys at the roughly the same time and are roughly in the same place now , “The pool of calm

BE TIME REALISTIC

With the commitments you already have, how long will it really take you to become a “free-lifestyler”. Then add a bit.

( Reminder: to have a freestyle lifestyle you have to have an income derived from doing what you love that covers your expenses plus a bit)

 

PRIORITISE WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT

I would suggest that you and your families HEALTH is a major priority.

FINANCIAL WELLBEING being a major second?

EDUCATION and SOCIAL may be a second or a third. These are really your decisions to make.

 

HEALTH

Health is paramount , both physical and mental. Take all the decisions and steps you can to improve yours now……it is the foundation for the rest of your life. Exercise is free, social and enjoyable (honestly) It really doesn’t have to be arduous.

 

Physical Health

Be honest. How good is yours? Could it be better? Are there things you can do to improve it? Are you addicted to stuff that affects your health? Do you regularly have health checks and updates with your doctor?

If you are unwell, are you getting the right treatment for you? Your health, treatment and treatment choices are your own responsibility, so make sure you take this on board. If you don’t feel you are getting the right advice, ask more questions, research and find out alternatives, then discuss them with family friends and doctor. Believe me you will get a lot of individual and conflicting thoughts, some of which will be based on no factual knowledge, just opinions, but listen to your inner voice; if it’s happy you will be comfortable, if it’s not you will still be unsure……. Keep asking, keep pushing even to the point of stamping your trotter…until you are happy.

How is your weight? Could you be fitter? Trimmer?

Do you eat sensibly and healthily?

If the answer is no, this is a good place to start. Don’t beat yourself up about it or set yourself unrealistic goals. Small changes often have greater impact than you realize, and over a period of time will become routine.  It is not my place in this book to give you advice about diet and exercise. Just to guide you in realising that this is an important part of your journey surfing downstream.

The benefits of exercising and eating more healthily are numerous and I cannot express strongly enough how much better you will feel in all aspects of your life if you take this on board and take action. Exercising works positively both for physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing, reducing anxiety and stress levels, also reducing the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Weight loss can also be a consequence with the benefits of increased confidence, self- esteem and of course looking smoking hot!!!

Eating more healthily also gives all the above, plus more energy, less lethargy and will improve your immune system to help beat off infections. If you are a smoker, your number one priority should be to quit. If you drink too much regularly you should prioritise to cut down. (These will have enormous benefits both to health and pocket) put the money you save in a jar and watch in amazement how much and how quickly you have.

Of course there might be things that could affect your ability to start your campaign, such as addictions, eating disorders and depression. Not forgetting other serious illnesses and or disabilities. But just do the best you can, addressing any pressing issues that you been putting off and make a start even if at this stage it’s a mental commitment.

I DO know how life can throw curveballs to make this difficult at times, but it really does underpin your whole journey, as it shows you, your commitment to yourself , to make things better. The more challenges you initially have with this concept, the more you NEED to address it for freelifestyling.

Health affects your financial wellbeing too. Which, in turn, affects your mental wellbeing…..the two go hand in hand both ways.

Depending on your circumstances and your own comfort level with risk, you will make a decision about private health insurance. To have, or to have not. This is a very individual decision and only you can make it, but do your research and make an INFORMED CHOICE.

 

Mental Health

This has been a bit of a taboo subject, but thankfully is now being discussed much more openly and in the main stream. Mental illness comes in all forms and can affect anyone at anytime. The onset of mental illness can be acute, triggered by a traumatic life event or chronic with symptoms often progressing in an insidious and uneventful way only becoming obvious when tipping point is reached and symptoms start affecting relationships, the ability to do a job leading to financial pressures becoming an issue. The most common mental illnesses are anxiety and depression with no one being immune.

Common signs of depression are; withdrawal from socializing, over or under eating, lethargy, addiction to mood altering drugs such as alcohol, painkillers and others, agitation and aggression. Tremors can become apparent and disturbed sleep is frequent. An inability to make decisions, short- term memory loss and confusion are common. Panic attacks can be very disturbing.

 

Triggers for anxiety and depression can be an acute stressful traumatic event, genetic susceptibility or chronic stress. Any mental illness must be addressed and the causes identified, with appropriate treatment commenced before any major decisions are made. Don’t hide, talk to people…….after treatment life can be fantastic.

In Part 2 of the book I will be addressing this more……

ACTION TO TAKE

The first thing I would urge you to do is make sure you have a good health team to use when you need them. This means a good doctor, good dentist, a good alternative therapist and optometrist.

Book yourself in for a health check. At least have your blood pressure checked. This can be high without any obvious symptoms, and the consequences of untreated high blood pressure can be enormous, leading to stroke, heart attack, enlarged heart, kidney disease and death!

Getting your teeth and eyes looked at is also important as they will also check you for common and serious disease, after which you will begin to have the knowledge you need to decide whether private health insurance is for you or not.

 

FINANCIAL

It is not my intention or my place to give financial advice. You must seek personal advice from an independent, financially qualified, appropriate person. However, I will give you a guide as to the decisions and action you must seek that advice on, in order to be in the best financial shape for “freelifestyling.”

What is your current situation?

Employment

Are you employed, casual, self-employed or unemployed. All have implications on your journey. I, myself, am self-employed which brings with it a raft of challenges along with some advantages.

The challenges of any situation jobwise are the same.

Income, job satisfaction, stress and mental wellbeing, job vs time/home life challenges, and future stability .

“I hate my job”, “I’m over worked and under-paid”, “ I can’t wait for my next holiday”, “I hate my boss”, “ no-one appreciates what I do”, ”we are always understaffed so I’m covering all the time, doing two jobs and being only paid for one”, “sorry I can’t come I have to work the weekends”, “ it takes me an hour and a half to get to work”

These are all common complaints, but how would it be if none of the above applied?

“I love what I do!” “ I earn more than I need.” “Everyday is a holiday for me.” “I’m the boss of my time.” ”I get paid whilst I sleep.” “Of course I can come, any day is fine.”” I walk to work”.

It is possible. It just takes commitment, planning and facing your fears. Don’t panic! Look at what you have got rather than what you haven’t.

 

Income, outgoings, debt

Life is always a balance of these. Depending on your work status, you are likely to have a different proportion of each.    

If you are employed and therefore have a “stable predictable income” you are likely to live up to that income, if not a bit over. You are also likely to have been able to borrow against it, having set up numerous “affordable plans” for phones, broadband, direct debits for purchases, credit cards, cars and mortgage.

Whilst this allows you to “have “stuff, it ties you into a “hamster wheel” lifestyle, a “wage slave” if you will, always having to pay off interest and debt before having real cash flow each and every month.

 

Self -employed, casual, or unemployed people have a different set of challenges. Income fluctuates from month to month and is not “guaranteed”. Borrowing is much more of a challenge as lenders are very cautious lending to these categories. That doesn’t mean you can’t get into debt…..but it is more difficult to debt consolidate to lower interest rates from this position and takes longer to pull yourself out of debt and into cashflow.

Have you heard the saying “Cash is king”?

Well, I have very recently learnt the hard way that this is the case. It is in my opinion unwise to put “all your eggs in one basket” ie lock up all your money or invest heavily if you are struggling with cash flow and liquidity. It’s really just common sense. So cashflow first, reduce debt, then invest.

Cashflow is extremely important for ANY lifestyle. This means having money available to be used when needed and is outside and in excess of your direct debits, lifestyle expenses and investments.

In order to generate any cashflow, you will need to look at your expenses and outgoings. Look at your daily outgoings, the cost of your daily commute, parking, and even down to lunches and coffee. Are there saving to be made there? Do you smoke and or drink? Do you buy water? Takeways?

Even a simple action of not buying lunch and 1 coffee every day could save you $250 per month!(so that’s nearly your health care paid for) That’s just one thing……add to that debt consolidation with better interest /no interest rate could save you $100s.

The costs associated with commuting can be horrendous. I often hear the phase “I have to work in “town” (city) as I can’t get a comparable job down here.”

Yet looking at that issue in a slightly different way (because I REFUSE to commute): the money I save on parking, petrol, insurance, maintenance, food and drink etc, means I don’t need a comparable job, and the time I save not commuting gives me time to exercise, enjoy, not be rushed, able to start the day calmly not frazzled.

Do you subscribe to the idea of retirement?

I don’t! I want to be doing something I love to the day I drop! I could work really really hard for 30 years of my life, saving furiously, putting as much as I could into my “protected” pension fund, paying large fees and exposing myself to minimal risk. Instead my choice is to invest in education and courses for extra skillsets to enable me to diversify and earn income through those diversifications. The criteria for my new skill sets is that they don’t necessarily rely on me being physically fit or strong so that I can take them into older age if I need to.

I don’t plan for “retirement” I plan for INCOME FOR OLDER AGE.

THIS CAN BE GENERATED INCOME OR YOUR OWN MANAGED INVESTMENTS.

I use the 80/20 rule. 20% of my income is generated from “work” the other 80% is generated from things I love doing….. Of course the ultimate goal is 100% things I love and only when I choose to.

I decided about 15 years ago that things had to change for me. I had lost my dad from cancer, 5 years previously. A lovely man who had worked all his life and had invested in providing, along with my mum, a lovely home to grow up in.  We were, however, always cash poor. My parents put money into their pensions to “retire” as soon as they could afford to.

My dad’s job changed as he got older, he was a music teacher. Less and less emphasis was made for this subject at school. As such his enjoyment of his job suffered but he stuck with it until he retired. Soon after he was diagnosed with cancer. He really didn’t get the chance to enjoy his retirement sadly, or tick his “bucket list”. This had a profound effect on me. I decided I was going to tick most of my bucket list whilst I was “fit and healthy”  and not wait for that false hope of the dawn of utopic retirement to do it.

At the time I decided to make the changes, I was desperately unhappy with my job. Qualified as a dentist and running my own practice, I was in fact stressed to the max: my overheads and expenses just running the practice, paying 4 wages out of what I earnt, meant I often went unpaid at the end of each month, having worked ridiculously hard. I suffered with high blood pressure, anxiety and depression. I had short-term memory loss and had developed quite a severe tremor. (Not a good look for a dentist trying to give injections!!) I self medicated to alleviate the stress with alcohol in the evenings and weekends …..in short I was a mess and being self-employed there was no safety net for me if things went “pop!” I needed to change the direction I was headed.

So I did get all my living expenses down to a minimum. I did get debt free (apart from the mortgage) and I did invest in educating myself with business and computer skills. I offloaded the practice to my associate and took “time out” to tick my bucket list and get well. I packed up my things got a sponsored job and emigrated to Australia. Whilst working in the Special Needs Unit at the Melbourne Dental Hospital, I educated myself with business computer skills, and learnt how to build websites. I was qualified as a clinical hypnotherapist, and I did a couple of art courses, which included screen-printing.

I knew that I needed to do what I loved, which was art and creating things, whilst still running my own simple business, and being able to enjoy the wonderful lifestyle opportunities that Melbourne had to offer.

This is when I came up with the idea for the Melbourne brand “MelBohemian.”  Just as “Nike” is associated with an athletic lifestyle, I wanted “MelBohemian” to be associated with a joyful, fulfilled, fun, happy, creative “freelifestyle.”  

It is still a dream of mine to see people I don’t know, walking down the street in one of my branded tees!!

So I designed my first website and built it…..I’m not a techie, so it took over two years, by which time the technology had moved on and my website was looking old fashioned and clunky! However, I persevered, selling the odd tee at markets and really believing in what I was doing, and that I would eventually get to where I need to be. Plus I loved the whole process, the designing, the printing, the writing. It was my baby, my own creation, my legacy.

As I write this, the new website is being created. Almost finished and ready to go, the shop will be open in the next couple of weeks and I will build my baby back up from there.

So my diversification is this, I do one and a half days dentistry, which I now love, feeling at the peak of my clinical skills. I do hypnotherapy classes- Great Help Hypnosis (a bit like yoga for the mind) and I have the website “melbohemian.com”. Along with that I am writing this book and I have a second one planned. I am never bored, I go for a walk along the beach and swim in the sea most days, And I plan my time as I feel I want to. Glimpsing back to where I started from to where I am now, all the pain and change was completely worth it. I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey.  

ACTION TO TAKE

Look at your income vs expenses and debt

Cut out the unnecessary spends…..

Look to consolidate your debts

Unclutter your direct debits and insurances. Get rid of the unnecessary ones. Research better deals. Especially if you employed, better mortgage deals.

Don’t tie up too much money in “investments.” (including pension) far better to reduce your debt and have cashflow in the short to medium term.

Look to gain extra skill sets in things that you love doing….the internet has a wealth of tutorials for free, start doing your research and plan to diversify. No job is forever now, particularly when you are over 50.

Try and accumulate 3 months worth at least of living expenses in a cash-flow accessible account.

Once you are organized with a SUFFICIENT EFFICIENT FINANCIAL lifestyle.

Then you can start thinking about changing your job if you want to and you are well on the way to achieving that “FRIDAY FEELING EVERYDAY”

 

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Next time Chapter 4 Social stuff and nonsense, habits and downsizing.