This is my last article from Manta, Ecuador. My lease is up in 3 days, and I’m headed back to the States to figure out where to head next… Portland? San Diego? Thailand? London? Chicago? Key West? Hawaii? I don’t know. Suggestions are welcomed.
The past four weeks have been very eye opening for me. I looked at my Ecuadorian adventure as a retreat from the hectic lifestyle of Washington, D.C., and it was exactly the kind of change I needed to give myself in order to keep my sanity. Now that my time is ending, I find myself in an odd situation (of course), and I’m back to the drawing board. Ordinarily I would be upset at the fact that I’m back to searching for where to go, but there’s a difference between going back to the drawing board and going back to square one (I despise square one…)!
The drawing board is place to reflect on what I am doing, building, and creating. It’s a chance to reevaluate where I am and the direction I am heading, and to make whatever I am doing better and stronger.
Square one, on the other hand, is starting over from scratch, with no plan of action, no idea of what to do, and basically feeling completely hopeless and lost (been there, done that, no thanks, I don’t even like squares).
Where are you?
Are you at a point where you know you’ve got ideas and a plan, but just need to optimize your thoughts and create a strong plan of action? Or are you at the dreaded square one and feel like you’ve got nothing in the works?
To the square one-ers, don’t beat yourself up. We all start at square one, and we work our way up toward the drawing board.
A month ago, I was at square one, and now I’m at the drawing board. I have a start, and I have an idea, I just don’t have a location. I wouldn’t say I’m homeless…. okay, fine. I’m a little bit homeless, but that’s beside the point!
The point is that once you get past square one, when you’ve got an idea, you’ve got a dream and a goal, the next step is taking it to your drawing board.
How can you make your dream a reality? How can you move yourself from the square to the board?
If you want to quit your job to see the world, do it, but do it strategically. Apply for a credit card that gives you reward points (like the Chase Sapphire), work toward reaching the spending limit so that you can utilize your points for airline miles (if you have a family member/relative/friend who can use your new credit card to help you hit the limit for their own bills/purhases, they then can write you a check to get you at that limit. Or, if you can do it on your own, use that card for every little purchase you can – even just for a stick of gum at the gas station). Use those points to go travel! Put in your notice, leave on good terms (please), and go fulfill what you want to do. You may not be staying at the Ritz wherever you decide to go, but you’ll at least have the freedom and the power to go.
If you want to get out of your parents house, but have no money and no job prospects, then take a chance on yourself and create something. Do something. Freelance. Find an editing gig online. Look on Craigslist under “misc” jobs, and find ways to earn some random bits of cash here and there. Save your money. Go talk to people. Let them know what you want to do…you never know when you’ll meet the right person (but I’ll tell you one thing – you aren’t going to meet them by sitting home, eating crappy food, whining about your misery, and not going outside).
If you want to build a company, build it. You know what square one feels like… it feels like shiza. So get off of it. Start building your company. If you have a full time job and can’t seem to find the time to focus on it, you will use that excuse forever. There’s a way around it though – wake up earlier, and stay up later. Use your lunch breaks. Replace happy hour with “build your business hour.” Use the time you waste on Facebook and Twitter to instead build what you’ve been talking about building for three years. Start at square one, and get your butt to the drawing board.
Let me know how I can help you get started!
My current drawing board
I have a company (which I have recently established as Split Aces Media…because I love black jack and gambling and think that splitting aces has more of a metaphorical meaning than just splitting aces in the actual game of black jack). I need a place to land for a while so that I can focus on building it! I would love to do it while continuing to travel, but I think it would be best for me to pick places to live for at least 1-2 month increments so that I can truly focus. I can go anywhere. I need to figure out where. However, I had a lot of seclusion in Ecuador – tooooo much seclusion. I thrive around people, so I think I need to be in or near a big city.
This brings me to my reflections on my month in Ecuador, and the nine lessons I learned while I was in Manta:
One of the best things about Ecuador was how much money I saved while living out here. It was financially one of the best decisions I could have made for this past month as a young 20-something new to entrepreneurship. For example, here are a few items from my grocery receipt this past week… compare these prices to what we generally pay in the States, and it hurts to think about.
- 6 Apples (manzanas, if you will) $2.19
- 3 Pears $0.79
- 3 Onions $0.40
- 6-pack of light beer $4.49
- 2 Zucchinis $0.17
- 1-lb Ground beef $1.13
You get the idea. It’s friggin’ cheap. It’s also approximately $3.50 per person to eat out at a restaurant. This $3.50 includes a chicken breast, a cup of white rice, 4 fried plantains, a cup of lentils, plantain chips, and a Coke or water. Compare that to my life in D.C.? It really makes me want to both throw something at a wall, and break down into tears at the same time.
While I’ve been out here soaking up the sun and helping companies grow their social media footprints, I’ve learned quite a few lessons:
- I’ve learned smarter ways to manage my expenses and bank accounts through Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Ask the me from a month ago if I would be caught dead reading a book on finance and that version of me would have slapped you in the thigh. And it would have hurt.
- I’ve learned how much I love the Amazon Kindle. Some of the books I recommend checking out include The Hunger Games two and three, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, and Anything You Want.
- I’ve learned not to pay $5.00 for a haircut, and not to eat Chinese food in South America.
- I’ve learned how to not sweat the small stuff and the importance of traveler’s insurance. I actually just received an email from the insurance company to let me know that they are in the final stages of processing my claim – WOOHOO!
- I’ve learned the types of “things” I can and cannot live without (ie do I really NEED 57 pairs of shoes? No. I need three: Flip-flops, work out shoes, and dressy shoes. I just WANT 57).
- I’ve learned that other countries and cities really aren’t that much different than “home,” and it’s much easier to travel than I had previously expected.
- I’ve learned that there’s a lootttt of retired U.S. citizens kicking their feet up on the beach in Manta. Seriously – my first week here, I immediately knew that my new best friends were going to be 60+ retirees from the States.
- I’ve learned to slow down, appreciate what I have, read more, and enjoy the sunsets.
- I’ve learned that it’s okay to go back to the drawing board.
I am definitely going to continue working on my business, I am going to continue working for my clients and helping them build social media audiences, and I am going to continue blogging here on my website. But…. where do I put my backpack?
So, yes… I am back to the drawing board, but not square one.
I like it! I get excited when I’m in a new place, exploring new cities, trying new foods, learning new things… it’s fun for me and it makes me happier than sitting at a desk all day long! I get so happy when I am helping these companies grow audiences online, and I really enjoy teaching about social media and giving my two-cents when they have questions or need advice. And working while living in a place like Manta, Ecuador complete with finding deals like $4.49 for 6-pack of beer…well, that’s just glorious.
What are you working on? Let me know how I can help you get from square one to your drawing board!