On my recent Unschool Adventures New Zealand trip, I started a list entitled “WAYS TO BE INTERESTING / MAKE FRIENDS / CREATE NEW OPPORTUNITIES”.
Being “interesting” is a mysterious characteristic that many people want but no one is exactly sure how to obtain. I was ruminating on this and decided to attempt to create a list of simple, positive prescriptions that might make someone more interesting.
(Of course, “interesting” depends on the company you keep. It’s not so simple. Really, this was about what I, weirdo Blake Boles, along with the other weirdos in my group, found interesting. Bias acknowledged!)
My trip co-leaders and participants gave me lots of useful feedback. Here are the highlights:
- Obtain traditional success and then give it up.
- Go on a long human-powered journey (e.g. walking, biking).
- Speak candidly (or write publicly) about your failures and struggles.
- Curate the best links/articles/resources about a topic near to your heart, and share them.
- Organize a community skill-share.
- Host potlucks and dinner parties.
- Partner dance.
- Do extreme personal growth challenges.
- Break minor rules.
- Find ways to get something for free that others pay for (ethically).
- Speak a second language.
- Be an active listener.
- Craft things by hand.
- Build your own house.
- Give valuable things away without expectation of repayment.
- Actively seek out people who challenge your beliefs.
- Put down your goddamn phone/laptop.
- Travel without a fixed plan/itinerary.
- Be comfortable with silence.
- Figure out your communication style and attempt to improve its weaknesses.
- Vow to never complain.
- Give free walking tours of your local area.
- Use Couchsurfing to meet and/or host travelers.
- Actively acknowledge what you’re grateful for.
- Don’t do something just for the sake of being interesting.
What are we missing?
I’m 33, and last year I earned $30,000.
Perhaps that should give me pause. Compared to other male college graduates who make $65,000 around my age—or my peers in tech who make much more—I’m seriously lagging.
I’m not that concerned. In fact, I feel utterly rich, because last year I took home another income: 8 months of my life.
To explain: I’m a self-employed travel tour leader. I work intensively for brief periods of time (e.g. leading a 6-week trip across New Zealand), earn a chunk of money, and then stop working. I’m also a writer who brings in roughly $600/month from two self-published books that largely sell themselves on Amazon. Occasionally I do paid speaking gigs and private education coaching.
In 2015 I earned my $30,000 doing the equivalent of 4 months full-time labor. The majority of that time was spent trip-leading; the rest accrued from the 1-2 hours of laptop work that I do most days of the week (business e-mails, trip planning, writing, coaching).
Another way to see it: I earn $90,000 per year, but I take two-thirds of my compensation in the form of unadulterated free time.
I choose to pay myself in time, not money, because it’s a better currency for obtaining what really matters to me.
This summer I found cheap plane tickets to Guatemala, so I decided to spend my January in the city of Xela (a.k.a. Quetzaltenango).
When friends ask what I’m doing in Guatemala, my answers include:
- brushing up on my Spanish with 2 hours a day of one-on-one tutoring
- working on a new writing project, with fewer distractions than I’d have back in the U.S.
- developing new Unschool Adventures trips
- hanging out with my long-lost friend David, who lives in Xela, and making friends with other travelers and expats
- enjoying living in my own 1BR apartment on the third floor of a nice building overlooking the city (price: $450/mo, which all my new Xela friends tell me is terribly expensive…ha! $450 would buy me a nice parking spot in San Francisco)
- escaping the U.S. winter in favor of the sun, mild temperatures (high 70 / low 50), and longer days of Central America
But the real answer is: I’m doing the exact same things that I do back in the United States.
Something I love about my location-independent life is that work, travel, and vacation all sort of blend together. Here in Guatemala I don’t feel the need to “see the sights”, hike volcanos, go out every night, or check off any boxes. I’m not traveling around the region. I’m living the same life and doing the same work that I do when living in the U.S., with a few fringe benefits like inexpensive food, housing, and Spanish lessons.
I’m not traveling. I’m not on vacation. I’m just here, being Blake, in Guatemala. It’s really nice.
My 1BR apartment overlooking Xela
Welcome to my annual year in review post. (Here’s 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.)
2015 started with what would become a major theme: driving.
Beautiful, snowy, desolate Central Utah
I found myself becoming very familiar with Interstate 80 and Highway 50 as I drove from California to Colorado and back multiple times this year, and later, all the way to the east coast and back.
What was I doing out there in Colorado? I summed it up in my mid-2015 year in review. Essentially, I spent much of the winter and spring in Boulder recording a new podcast, playing around with different ideas for online businesses (none of which panned out – here’s why), trail running, and taking some serious time to rediscover my creative muse and figure out my next steps. I often felt lost without a writing project or trip to lead. It was a challenging but ultimately necessary time. Continue Reading
2015 has been a year of reflection. Here’s what I’ve learned (and relearned) along the way.
I want to work to live, not live to work. To me, “living” means exploring interesting ideas and complex problems (like those of education), focusing on creative projects (like books), traveling, gaining new skills, enjoying the outdoors, staying connected with old friends, and making new friends. This is truly the stuff of life, and I only want to work as much as I need to enable myself to do these things and provide for my basic security and comfort (which includes savings and a Roth IRA; working to live doesn’t mean living hand-to-mouth).
I care about working with young people in an opt-in / consensual environment—but also one that challenges and pushes them. Serious challenges and hard work transform lives, but only when they are voluntarily chosen. Growing up successfully into adulthood is one of life’s greatest adventures and I want to contribute to that process. I want to treat the young people with whom I work with respect, as individuals, and as the adults they will soon become. Continue Reading