“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition … Stay hungry, Stay foolish.” This is what Steve Job shared with the Stanford students in his commencement speech. I have always believed that we should always go after what we are passionate about in the process of accumulating wealth.
Recently, I came across many Singaporeans who have taken the less trodden path. I am curious why they have decided to follow their heart and how they are managing it financially. Today, I am happy to share with you an interview with Hendric who has quit his job to travel the world with only $16k savings.
1. Could you give a short introduction of yourself ?
Hello! My name is Hendric and Pohtecktoes is a play on my mandarin name. I left my job 1.5yrs ago and now spend my time traveling, doing freelance design/social media, and working on my own travel startup. I believe that life is too short not to live and travel in the moment!
2. Name and describe one of your craziest travel.
I’ve always wanted to do an epic trip. So in 2008, I went on a 2month solo adventure across China, Mongolia, Russia and Korea. What made it so crazy was that back then, I’ve never travelled alone, nor for more than 2 weeks at one go. I even hitchhiked, couchsurfed and went door to door asking for a place to sleep in a remote part of Russia. Most memorable trip for sure!
3. Name and describe one of your emotional travel
The most emotional memory I have traveling took place in Russia. I was on the TransSiberian Railway and had disembarked to buy some dinner. Little did I know, I misunderstood the conductors time and the train left just as I was going back. It must have been pretty funny because I ran after the train, banging on the doors as the train moved off. At that moment, I really thought I was screwed cause my luggage was all on the train. Luckily I still had my wallet and passport. Anyway, a kind lady spotted my distress and approached to help. She was so nice to even pay for half of my ticket to the final destination cause I didn’t have enough cash on me.
Before my trip, everyone was telling me just how dangerous Russia is. It was a pretty emotional moment as I finally realised that “hey, the world isn’t that bad after all.”
4. When did you graduate and how long have you worked before you decide to quit your job and travel ?
I graduated in 2012 and left my job after about a year and half to travel and do my own thing.
5. What triggered this decision ? Did you have a plan and savings before you started or was it an impulse decision ? Is it convenient for you to share how much you started with in terms of savings and how much you were drawing in your previous job?
I don’t think there was one trigger. Instead it was more of a gradual understanding that there is more to life than working 9-5. Some talk about working hard before retiring early. But I feel that the best time to travel is while we are still young, fit and healthy. Before our minds get clouded and before we get jaded with life.
The original plan was to travel for a year before settling. Somehow things changed along the way and opportunities came up. Now I’m traveling while freelancing and working on my own startup. I guess traveling alone helps you see things differently and make connections you normally wouldn’t.
I was drawing a fresh graduate salary of about SGD2.9k a month, with a savings of 16k before I left my job. It’s more than enough if you travel modestly. Most of time, it’s cheaper traveling than living in a big city like Singapore!
6. What was the reaction of your friends and family ?
Honestly, they couldn’t understand. Many thought I was doing this without a plan and being irresponsible. But the truth is that it’s more of a lifestyle choice. I give up on stability and relationship building to work on myself first. In fact, I had to work a lot harder to maintain a lifestyle of work and travel. Finding that balance and still earning enough pay my bills was a real challenge.
Eventually, some grew to understand, but I think my family still feel that I’m jobless! Lol.
7. What were the challenges you faced when you took this decision ? How did you go about resolving these challenges. What have you done to sustain this journey financially ?
One of the main challenges is definitely to remain financially sound. Not having a stable income can be scary, but I found the following to work for me.
a) Leverage on your strengths – Coming from an advertising and media background, I leveraged on the skills I picked up and ventured into freelance graphic design and social media management. Understand your strengths and use them to start an alternate career. You could do consulting for businesses, coach a sport, or be a freelance writer!
b) Find jobs that allow you to work remotely – This is key to the lifestyle I want to have. In fact, I only take jobs that allow me to work remotely and have minimal face to face meetings. This gives me the freedom to continue working even while traveling.
c) Never stop learning – Being comfortable is the worst thing we can do to ourselves. Keep learning and that will open new doors. I was clueless about web design before I started. Now I can design simple websites!
d) Sacrifice – A lifestyle like this requires a lot of financial sacrifices. Instead of saving money for shopping or splurging on expensive meals, I keep them for travel. After setting aside money for bills, living expenses, and the rainy day fund, everything else goes into my travel kitty. This is necessary because I wouldn’t want to end up in a situation where I can’t do certain activities overseas because of a lack of funds.
The biggest challenge though, is dealing with my own expectations. I guess growing up in Singapore does rub off on you. I still can’t totally let go of everything and pursue travel without caring about making this sustainable. It’s the KIASU mentality! So hopefully the travel startup I’m working on takes off and I can continue traveling!
11. What do you think of this statement “Love what you do and Money will follow” ?
Not everyone is lucky or capable enough to be so good at something that money will follow. But even if money doesn’t follow, at least you enjoy what you do and have no regrets. The rule of thumb is that if you think you might regret something, you better do it.
12. Take a look at Steve Job’s commencement speech
“https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA”. Steve talked about connecting the dots and advices students to stay hungry, stay foolish, don’t settle. What are your thoughts to his suggestion ?
It’s funny you should ask cause I just saw the video again awhile ago! I believe that life is either a wonderful adventure, or a dull existence. Many of us fall into the trap of being too comfortable with the status quo and settling. But when there happens, we fall into an aimless routine and become zombie like. That’s why I resonate strongly with Steve Job’s advice to “stay hungry, stay foolish.”
I’ve personally experienced this as well. When I first started out, I had no idea if the dots would connect. But a year on, I finally see the first few dots connecting. Everything that I’ve done in the past is starting to make more sense now.
13. Looking back, what would you change or do ?
14. You managed to travel South America for 76 days on a budget for $4.9K! Any tips to our readers on how they could budget and travel better like you.
The key thing is to be as local as possible! Eat local, travel local, and stay local. Seek out where the locals eat, take public transport, and try homestays. It’s often way cheaper and you get to experience authentic life. After all, you didn’t travel all this way to do everything you are used to doing back home. The occasional splurge is fine, but I always make it a point to immerse myself locally. For other tips check out my full blog post! (http://pohtecktoes.com/south-america-on-a-budget/)
15. Name the TOP 5 destinations that you think everyone should go before they die.
I really can’t name any because there is something interesting in every country! Personally though, these are the 5 experiences/destinations I’ll really like to try/visit before I die.
1) Go on a road trip in Iceland and see the northern lights
2) Climb Everest basecamp and be amongst the wilderness
3) Snorkel with stingless jellyfish in Palau, Philippines
4) Interact with sea lions and wildlife in the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) – http://pohtecktoes.com/swimming-galapagos-sea-lions/
5) Be awed by the vastness and beauty of the salt flats in Salar di Uyuni (Bolivia) – http://pohtecktoes.com/salar-de-uyuni-worlds-largest-mirror/
16. Any advice for the readers on LadyYouCanBeFree especially the ones who wants to follow your path ?
I’ve received quite a few mails from readers asking the same question and my answer is the same to all. Access your situation, have a plan, and just do it. The hardest part is the just do it part. Being different is scary, but nothing worth having comes easy.
17. How should our readers connect with you ?
You can connect with me either via my blog (http://pohtecktoes.com) or Facebook (http://facebook.com/pohtecktoes), and stalk me on Instagram @Pohtecktoes. 🙂
The last I checked, Tripadvisor valuation is at 12.46 Billion USD (http://ycharts.com/companies/TRIP/enterprise_value). I look forward to seeing this Singaporean Travelpreneur takes a center stage in the Travel Industry :-).
(Photo Credit : http://facebook.com/pohtecktoes)