Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hawaii - It's Part of My Retirement Plan Too

I recently received this e-mail:

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Tom
    To: Ernie Zelinski
    Sent: Monday, February 01, 2010 4:08 AM
    Subject: Hey Ernie Z., An Interesting Story?...

    Hey Ernie,

    This is Tom. I e-mailed you a long way back, about one year ago, and you sent me the book 101 Really Important Things You Already Know, But Keep Forgetting.

    I'll admit it, I'm in a little bit of a panic, but that's just for background info, I'm not trying to make it someone else problem.

    Could you give me your reaction to the below scenario that is happening right now in my life? Just whatever you come up with, I'm asking you b/c I like what you write and yours (and ppl like yours) way of thinking.

    I bought a ticket to Hawaii. Leaves in 2 weeks. Round trip for 3 months. I will have less that 1000 cash when I land there, no room lined up, no job lined up, and I don't have a money making website or anything like that. I'm 32, I have a social anxiety disorder. 6 months ago I quit my job at Costco, and the landlord (I'm renting a room) I think wants me to get a job. I'd rather chew gravel than work hourly again. I'm selling/donating all of my stuff and reducing all that I own to one backpack.

    I know you never suggested anything like what I'm doing, but am I mad? Also, am I being selfish? To live in Hawaii, scrounge for shelter and food, probably go hungry some of the time (I've practices, it's a little scary, but only a little painful), is this wrong? Is it crazy? Am I just trying to take the easy way, before setting up my way to make money? I feel really immature, not like a 32 year old, for doing this. It's kind of embarrassing to admit what I'm going to do.

    Why am I doing this? B/c I want to find out what my vocation is, I want to feel what it's like to be homeless. I don't like having a job and worrying all the time "what if" I go homeless. If these 3 months don't kill me I may learn a lot about who I am. But I can't shake the feeling that I need to get a JOB and pay RENT and make everyone happy. I can't shake the feeling that it looks like I'm just ditching my back pay rent obligation, when I am not. I have every intention of paying.

    I've had this social anxiety disorder/panic attack disorder thingy for 12 years. I'm in psychic/physical pain all the time, it really stunts my growth as a person. It looks like I'm going no where with my BS degree, I'm scared of everything. As soon as I settled down in a new job (about 2 1/2 years ago) the panic came back stronger. It's like when I settle down, and start doing things like some kind of NORMAL citizen, I start to get even more panicky. But when things look uncertain, and when I'm moving about, and who knows what's going to happen, I start to feel more relaxed, like I like the chaos or something.

    I'm not guessing you'll give me a solution for 12 years of suffering, but I value your opinion, your gut instinct. I can cancel my ticket by 10 PM tomorrow (Monday the 1st). I'm really thinking about it. I'm thinking of canceling it and "GROWING UP" and stop just thinking about "MYSELF" and somehow working on a money making website (even if it takes a whole year) before doing something as foolish as this.

    I hope you know stress about this, b/c all I want is just your gut reaction. I've read you books, and also "The 4 Hour Work Week". I have the "I'm going to live in a backpack and travel" thing down, I just don't have the "how am I going to get food and shelter without mooching off of peoples self pity" thing down.

    Go ahead, lay it on my, what is you gut instinct say when you read the above? Obviously, I don't think many would approve or recommend what I'm doing. Btw, I love the beach, and I don't particularly like the cold.

    Thank you in advance for any words you could give me. I'm serious, and I don't want to seem rude or take up your energy, but you seem like the person with an answer when it comes to this sort of problem.

Here was my reply:

    Hi Tom:

    Wow! Yes, yours is an interesting story.

    First, I have an urge to go to Hawaii also, but just for two or three months in the winter. I have never been there. By the way, I am just re-reading The 4-Hour Workweek!

    See these two links about my intention to go to Hawaii:

    Now to the crux of the matter:

    Are you an American or a Canadian?

    I can see why you want to go to Hawaii. It is a great place for some people. About 5 years ago I met a guy about 45 years old from Stetler, Alberta, who told me that he had gone to Hawaii 17 years before I met him on vacation. He loved it so much that he decided to stay and had lived there ever since. He was in Edmonton just for a brief vacation and heading back to Hawaii. I am not sure how he managed to work there all those years given the fact that he was Canadian. But he said that after 17 years he was accepted as a local by all the native Hawaiians.

    No doubt certain people can live joyfully without the need for normal social structure.

    I always remember Eckhart Tolle writing in The Power of Now about how he, in his own words, "lived in a state of almost continuous anxiety interspersed with periods of suicidal depression" until he was 30 years old. Then one night he had this incredible experience that created an incredible mental shift. After that, again in his own words, "A time came when, for a while, I was left with nothing on the physical plane. I had no relationships, no job, no home, no socially defined identity. I spent almost two years on park benches in a state of most intense joy."

    So if Eckhart Tolle can survive for two years in Vancouver without a job, a home, or even a socially defined identity in total mental bliss, certainly, individuals can do it in Hawaii.

    If you read my The Lazy Person's Guide to Success , I talk about how I moved to Vancouver in 1989/1990 for the winter to make it as a creativity seminar presenter. I was making only $500 a month teaching a course and my rent was $650 a month. After 8 months I was even more in debt and I came crawling back to Edmonton. But things worked out after that without my having to get a regular job. There were some tough times but I survived.

    Having said that, I am not an expert in figuring out if you can make things work out.

    Heck, I can't even figure out if I could make things work out for myself in Hawaii. So, I asked some of my good friends to contribute their advice about your situation:

    Here is advice from my friend Jim:

      I would simply tell him, "Tom, it seems that whatever you've been doing with your life so far just isn't working (no pun intended) so a dramatic change of direction might be in order. You're young, you're searching for answers to a whole series of personal questions and dilemmas, and it sounds like you don't really have much to lose so what's at risk by heading off to Hawaii? Whether or not the American authorities will allow you to work there is another question, let alone live there for any length of time. But if you're going to wing it somewhere, Hawaii is as good a place as any.... you may starve to death but at least you won't freeze to death and what could be more appropriate or desirable than expiring in Paradise? Hopefully that won't happen. Who knows? ... you might even find yourself or at least more than you've found so far by trying to conform to a more "normal lifestyle." That seems to have been as comfortable for you as running a marathon with size 12 feet squeezed into a pair of size 8 runners. Give it a go. If it doesn't pan out, you've still got a return ticket and you won't be tormented by "what ifs" and "if I had onlys".

    Here is my friend Todd's opinion:

      Tell him to GO! If his ticket is already paid for then what has he got to loose? The back rent will still be there for him to deal with if he fails and has to return. If he is a success then it won't matter and he can send a cheque to cover the back rent.

      Whatever he is doing now is not working, so almost anything else would be better (except fishing for sharks with tow line tied to your nipples).

      If he needs a place to stay a block off of Waikiki beach for $25 a night, let me know. I know of a flop house sort of B&B where students go to stay for months at a time for cheap and work their way around the world. It is $25 per night, but he might be able to work a better deal if he is staying longer. If he does nothing while there, his $1000 will still last him 40 nights and it will be the best 40-day vacation that he could ever have living a block off of Waikiki beach in the hottest part of Oahu.

      At that rate, if he can find a job raking lawns for $25 a day he could live there for ever. In time, his social anxiety will work itself out living in one of the tourist capitals of the world.

      Carpe Diem,

    The two opinions above are tempered by my friend Sandra who lived in Hawaii for a few months on two occasions:

      He will not freeze or starve as he can eat the fresh fruit, however, he will not be able to just live on the beach and under the stars...he may want to sell his stuff rather than donating it so he has more money. However, he has to do what he has to do and he has his own soul journey....I would wish him luck... Cheers Sandy

    So, Tom it's up to you.

    I wish you the best.

    Let me know how you make out.

    If you make things work, many people besides me will be envious of you.

    So long for now,

    Ernie Z.
Here are some retirement planning resources to help people like Tom take early retirement or a mini-retirement:

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