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Goodbye Thailand

This past Monday I closed the door to my little 350 sq ft Bangyai neighborhood apartment. With two bulging suitcases, I made my way to the airport and left Thailand.

On the plane ride, I kept flicking back through my passport, looking at the numerous visa, stamps, and notes pertaining to Thailand. My time in the country was…I’m not really sure how to describe it. If you looked at my Instagram, you would probably think it was non-stop fun and constant beautiful scenery. If you’ve read any of popular teaching English abroad blog posts, you would think it was this fun, carefree thing where I got to coast by and mysteriously travel all the time.

It wasn’t either of those things. To sum it up best, my time spent in Thailand was a beautiful mess. Kinda like “regular” life is back in the states, but different, ya know?

teaching english in Thailand

In early 2016, I quit a job I dreaded and finally had the opportunity to travel. This was a different kind of travel. I got to experience life in a different setting. Different societal ways were around me. Good stuff happened. Sucky stuff happened. And then it all came together and worked out to be a big learning experience for me.

I moved to Thailand on March 31, 2016, and left the country on March 20, 2017. So I spent about one year living in the country. When it comes to living in Thailand, there are two ways to go about it. Rural (usually northern Thailand) living or urban (usually Bangkok) living. I experienced the urban living, getting to live in a neighborhood about 15 minutes outside of Bangkok.

I loved getting to live in the Bangkok area. It’s a very interesting city. The place is chaotic, the air is thick and humid, and the city has a very fast paced and slow nature to it at the same time. Now I know it as more than just the city that was in the movie The Hangover 2! Haha.

In the typical Hollywood way, that movie wayyyy played up the craziness of Thailand. Alas, though, there is a seed of inspiration that comes from truth with the movie. Bangkok really was a crazy (in a good way) place.

As for my actual work, teaching English, it was an experience that surprisingly taught me the biggest lesson of professionalism: show up and care.

Working at the school, alongside over 30 other foreign teachers, I saw the not so good way people conduct themselves when it comes to a job. Like you might expect, a lot of people didn’t take the job super seriously, instead treating it as a placeholder thing used to fund their travels.

People would repeatedly be late to work because they overslept or had stayed up till 4am partying. Taking a “mental health” day off work to go to the mall or sit at home and watch movies was an acceptable thing. There would be foreign teachers who would go out to bars and drink on weeknights. They would slog into work, hungover, and proceed to teach for the day.

Everyone was shocked when the school announced they were cracking down on teacher attendance policies and introducing a new attendance policy for the semester. Basically, under the new rules, you were only allowed to take Tuesdays and Thursdays off. Taking off a Monday, Wednesday or Friday would almost certainly result in a pay deduction.

Seeing how other people viewed their job with such low commitment made me realize the importance of professionalism, no matter what the job.

teaching english in Thailand

As for the living aspect of Thailand, there are a lot of things I will miss. I will miss the one dollar smoothies I could get, the seven dollar messages I could get, and the most of all the 58 cent sliced fruit. I would get sliced fruit almost every day. There would be little street stalls I would go to where I could get pineapple, cantaloupe, guava, papaya, watermelon, or dragonfruit for only 20 baht! (0.58 cents USD).

I will remember the slow, relaxed vibe of Thailand. It was something that never fully grew on me but I did appreciate it in some ways. In Thailand, there is a less urgent attitude toward things. It will happen when it happens. Obviously, you soon realize how bad this can be. People would almost never be on time, immigration officials would take a slower pace when processing your work visa, and when things would break like a leaky A/C unit, it would take a while to get it fixed.

A slower pace is not so lovely when it comes to many things, but it does help you appreciate and learn more about a calmer, more peaceful approach to processing the day to day.

And the scenery! Ah, I’ll miss all of the beautiful beaches and all of the green I got to see while in Thailand. I haven’t been to a ton of beaches but Thailand’s southern island beaches have been the best I’ve been to so far.

All the places I’ve been to in Thailand will live on in the hundreds of photos I took while there. I still wonder why Thailand isn’t on more people’s vacation lists. The place really gives a full scope of things to do. Aside from the beaches, there is the fun loving hippyish town of Pai to the digital nomad haven of Chiang Mai. Thailand’s got it all.

Somewhere along the way, through my Thai travels and living, I got to teach and adore 305 little Thai children. Their brightness and enthusiasm has stayed with me.

teaching english in Thailand

It’s goodbye to Thailand for now. I did go to Malaysia for a short holiday following it and right now I’m back home in Texas. I’ll be sharing a Thailand and Malaysia photo journal post in the next week or so. In mid-April, I will leave to my next destination to start working. Can’t wait to share where!


Where is a place you remember fondly? Let me know in the comments!

10 Ways To Live A Good Life

To live a good life means you make time for reflecting and improving yourself. It’s important to make time for it and it doesn’t have to involve mystery green smoothies or putting yourself in an upside down yoga pose. 

To live a good life means you make time for reflecting and improving yourself. It’s important to make time for it and it doesn’t have to involve mystery green smoothies or putting yourself in an upside down yoga pose. Click through on ways to live a good life

 

Everyone wants to improve something about their lives. Maybe they want to declutter their possessions, eat healthier, be more outgoing, or learning a new skill. Whatever it is, working on your mindset and small habits helps tremendously.

I used to think doing things like journaling or meditating wasn’t worth my time. I mean, meditating seemed hard at first glance. Sitting, being silent, and focusing on your thoughts for 5 or 10 minutes? My attention span couldn’t handle that at first.

Once I started putting these small daily habits into my routine, things took off. The most notable thing being that I was able to pay off my $21,000 of student loans in 18 months. While making more money was one way I paid off the debt, the greatest thing that helped me become debt-free was shifting my mindset and believing that I could (and would) do it.

So if you want to live a good life, try practicing some of the things below.

Do a no-spend challenge

No spend challenge are one of the best things you can do to shift your mindset about your spending habits. You can do a no-spend challenge for many things including: shopping, grocery shopping, eating out, or entertainment budget. The challenge can last for one weekend, one month, or even one year.

The benefits of a no-spend challenge go beyond just saving money. They’re a good way to build discipline and help you discover a new outlook on your spending.

Alas, I guess I could’ve put something like eat an avocado every morning, but this is a personal finance and development blog, so I know how awesome no-spend challenges can be (although avocados are amazing as well! Eat avocados!) Okay, moving on…

Drink water when you wake up in the morning

There is that recommended daily water amount you see a lot. It’s advised to drink 6-8 (8 oz.) glasses of water daily. I used to laugh at this amount thinking I could never do that. But now I actually do!

After several hours of sleep, your body is dehydrated when you wake up. Drinking water first thing in the morning helps you become more alert and energized.

Be more productive about how you watch TV

I don’t think television is evil. It’s okay when done in moderation. I mean, come on, it’s not like I’m going to tell you to give up watching Game of Thrones or Bates Motel, those shows are literary masterpieces. 

However, you can approach TV viewing in a better way. Take stock of how many shows you watch at any given time. Write down the total amount of time you watch each week. Then try to shift your TV-watching to one or two days per week.

I’ve been doing this for a while. I put all of my TV watching on one day. When I first started doing it, I was shocked at how much time I was spending watching TV. From there I made adjustments and decreased the amount of TV I watched. 

Practice gratitude

Write down three things you’re grateful for every day. These could be simple things like how you got to eat your favorite food or something big like getting a promotion or new job.

Put your fears in writing

We all have fears that can sometimes keep us from being able to live a good life. Combat them by putting them in writing. After writing down your fears, write down two or three pieces of evidence about why they are not true.

A person has approximately 60,000 thoughts per day and 90% of those are repetitive. Many of them being negative thoughts. Write down these recurring thoughts and counteract them with positive messages and evidence about why they can be defeated.

Morning pages

Every morning, open up your journal or grab some pieces of paper and write one or two pages of pure stream of consciousness writing. Don’t stop and try to over analyze each part or edit things. Just write and let it flow.

Understand that obstacles are part of life

Life throws everyone curve balls. It’s bound to happen but you shouldn’t let it ruin your motivation and self-confidence. In The Obstacle Is The Way, author Ryan Holiday talks about the ways to move forward in spite of obstacles and how to avoid a “why me” mindset when things happen.

The book is a good read on persistence and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Understand the Baador-Meinhof Phenomenon

Let’s say you want to buy a new car. A shiny new BMW in particular. You’ve never put much attention to new cars before because you’ve been driving your old car for a while. Now that you’re on the market for a new BMW, you start seeing them everywhere. You see a BMW at the grocery store, in the parking lot of the dentist office, at the gas station. You may even start dreaming about it.

Enter the Baador-Meinhof Phenomenon.

This phenomenon occurs when you something you begin thinking about, starts to pop up everywhere. It doesn’t have to be about a car, it doesn’t even have to be about a physical object, it can be about anything including your fears and negative thoughts.

If you’re constantly feeling tempted about buying things and negative thoughts, try some of the tips mentioned above like doing stream-of-consciousness pages every morning or writing down your fears and ways you’ve overcome them in the past.

Meditate

Meditation is a great exercise for your brain. Doing it can help you clear your thoughts and focus in on things. All it takes is learning the basics of it and getting started. Spend 5-10 minutes a day meditating.

Headspace is a great free app for learning the art of meditation and the app’s level one course has simple, 10-minute session for each day so you can build a meditation habit.

Try new hobbies and classes

Expand your knowledge by taking online classes in things you’re interested in. Skillshare offers lots of bite-sized classes with short lessons to help learn more.

Click here to learn more about bullet journaling

Take this class to learn more about hand-lettering

Understand Microsoft Excel better with this resource


 

Obviously, this isn’t a complete list of ways to live a good life, but they are some starter or additional things you can do.

What things do you do to live a good life?

You’re Allowed To Suck

better at managing my money

I’ve been slacking on getting better at managing my money. I’m not really sure how else to phrase it. I’ve been going over budget and spending on things I really don’t need to spend on.

For what seems like the longest time, I’ve always felt I wasn’t good with my money. I would think about how I would be doing something but could be doing it better. I would procrastinate on doing things because I wanted to “get this thing out of the way before this other thing”.

I knew I was okay at managing my money but I never thought I was some personal finance extraordinaire. Even saying the term is widely debatable. What even makes up a personal finance extraordinaire?

I’ve always thought it was someone who kicked butt with their finances and had mastered the art of managing money. This was a person who had a rock solid six-month emergency fund, buffer in their checking account, small money cushion account for pop up expenses, and a paid off old car that they proudly drove around in. Because getting new, financed cars sucks, FYI. 

This was a person who maxed out their Roth IRA every year and was on the path to retiring early at 55. They would ride off in their convertible (preferably used, non-financed) into the sunset with their sunglasses on.

Now, THAT was the type of person I needed to be. Not someone who ordered take-out for the third time in a week and hadn’t been tracking their spending for the month.

Sometimes I suck at money.

Saving it, investing it, earning it, basically just not being better at managing my money.

I like to prioritize saving for travel and retirement but sometimes I find myself spending a wee bit too much on Starbucks and eating out. I love watching movies and sometimes I blow my entertainment budget by spending too much on movie tickets and rentals. Judging from the internet’s top productivity listicles, watching TV and movies is the devil’s advocate. Oops. So I have another strike against me. 

For a long time, I would build up an emergency fund. Then it would be quickly dashed down by some unexpected expense that would leave me feeling bad. Dental bills and car repairs are the worst. Other times the coffee and take out habit would get out of control and I would feel even worse since I knew it was something I could control.

So basically, throughout my many ups and downs with money, I always felt not near what I would picture to be when it came to being “good with money”. Sometimes I suck.

Knowing my money motivation, the ‘why’ behind my money was important to articulate, but it hasn’t been a catch-all in stopping some of my bad spending habits.

Lately, though, one thing has helped. I’ve started to realize it’s okay to suck.

I’m not living paycheck to paycheck or YOLO-ing all day every day. So at least there’s that. I’ve never dipped into my retirement account either. I still do have an intact emergency fund. I do feel bad about some of my spending but I always make an active effort to combat it. So all hope isn’t lost.

Tying my financial identity to a one-off purchase doesn’t seem rational.

As much as money is an emotional thing, once I think logically about it, I realize I’m not so bad.

Addressing the root of the sucky feeling, usually a bad spending habit, and working to prepare for it next time makes things feel a lot better. The key is to not stop and wait. Just keep going.


How do you address those feelings of being inadequate financially?

Rebel With A Plan

Rebel Without A Cause? Nah, more like Rebel With A Plan. 🙂

Rebel With A Plan is a call to action to embrace your uniqueness and build the life you want

Just a few days ago I had my one year blogoversary! On February 11, 2016 I published my first post about candy bars and the taste of business.

I had started this blog as a way to practice my writing skills some more and be in a community where talking about money was accepted and fun. You know, kinda along the same tone as how Jon Oliver talks about retirement plans without sounding super boring. It’s been great so far The most awesome thing I’ve gotten to do was getting to go to FinCon16 (the financial online media conference).

FinCon16 was actually where I started to get questions about the reasoning behind my blog name. It doesn’t have any of the names people often think of when it comes to personal finance blogs: frugal, saving, thrifty, money, budget, cents, rich, or debt.

People would see the ‘rebel’ part of my domain and ask what my ‘plan’ was. So what’s your plan?! 

Well, today I’m finally talking about the meaning behind the name. A full one year after having this site. Better late than never, huh?

It all started with a movie…

My blog name is derived from the 1955 movie Rebel Without A Cause. Arguably the most famous movie James Dean is known for.

I LOVE Rebel Without A Cause. There’s just something about its outcast and rebellious collection of characters that makes it endearing to watch. Back in early 2016, while mulling over what to call my site-to-be, I re-watched the movie.

I didn’t want my personal finance blog to have frugal, saving, or anything else that had to do with money in the title. Wanting to start a personal finance blog but not wanting it to have anything to do with money in the title. Kind of weird, right?

I didn’t want to have something to do with money in the title.

I wanted the blog to be about more than just money. I wanted it to be about a way of thinking.

I wanted it to be about how money fit into the life around you and how important it was. I wanted to cover additional topics in personal development, creativity, and lifestyle on the blog.

While watching Rebel Without A Causethe thematic nature of the film ran through my mind. The movie was taking place in the 1950’s. The war had ended, babies were being born left and right and America was experiencing economic prosperity. The American Dream was alive and well. People embraced the comforts of home ownership and starting a family.

James Dean’s character, Jim Stark, felt like an outsider.  He felt restless and disillusioned with the society he lives in. Many millennials of today feel the same way.

That’s how my blog name was born. Millennials are feeling restless and out of touch with the so-called American Dream. They either can’t afford or don’t want houses. They face small paychecks with big costs of living. All around them, society is telling them to consume more. Buy a house, buy a new car, buy another new car, have kids, get the best most expensive furniture (does IKEA count?), have a big costly wedding, and so on.

It’s no shock many millennials are going towards a different way of life. Many of them have a plan to embracing living with less and focusing on what they truly value.

It sounds minimalist-y to say that but minimalism isn’t the main force behind it. The main objective of the plan is to embrace your own values and way of thinking and use those as a driving backbone toward mastering your money and building your best life.

My plan is to live a life where I’m in control of my finances so I can go towards the things I really want. I want to be able to travel, save a lot of money, and retire early. That’s my goal, anyway. I don’t want to life a life constant more and being in debt. I’m putting my focus towards something different.


What’s your plan? 

I Paid Off My Student Loans! I’m Debt Free!!

I'm 22 years old and I paid off $21,000 in student loan debt in 1.5 years.

I’ve been writing and re-writing the first few sentences of this post over and over. It’s taken me a while to write because I didn’t know how to just come out and say it. It feels almost surreal to even say it to myself, let along the internet.

Let’s talk about debt. Debt is a turbulent and pesky little (big?) thing. It sneaks up on you. It shows you that anything is yours even if you can’t afford to fully pay for it at that very moment. I used to have the typical view of debt. I thought it was normal and just a fact of life since lots of other people had it too.

My first tango with debt happened when I was 17 years old. I was going to high school taking several AP classes, working a part-time job, doing tech work for my school’s theater productions, and also doing 1-2 community college classes every semester.

My parents had gone through a lengthy and trying divorce that left both of them with several thousands of dollars of credit card debt and emotionally drained. Due to my parents spending habits, they said they wouldn’t be able to contribute to my university expenses.

It was a shock even though I sort of knew it was coming given that I was paying for the textbook and class expenses for my early start community college classes. Debt suddenly became there for me. It consoled me and showed me that I could go to university and get my bachelor’s degree.

Everyone else my age was signing the loan documents without a worry. The adults around me assured me that my student loans were “good debt” and that I would get a good-paying job right after university and be able to pay the loans back. I believed them.

Throughout university, I stayed conscious of my student loan amount and tried to minimize it as much as possible. I opted not to stay in dorms my first year of college, instead choosing to live out of my car. I took a full schedule of 15-18 hours every semester, worked several jobs, unpaid internships (ugh…), and went to events with free food whenever I could.

After graduating university in 2.5 years with my bachelor’s degree, I soon found out getting an entry-level job in my field was harder than I ever imagined. The worse part of it was I started getting letters and emails about my debt. $21,000 in student loan debt. 

I had all of these things I wanted to do: move out of Texas and to a different state, travel, contribute to retirement. But I couldn’t do any of those things to the extent I wanted because I had debt creeping up on me, the grace period slowly winding down.

I ended up in a dreadful job unrelated to my major and got to work. I stayed late, took extra work, came in on some of my days off, and worked to make as much money as possible to pay off my debt. Whenever I had more free time, I hopped on Craigslist and Upwork to find extra work.

Debt was no longer my friend who consoled me. It was my enemy and I was determined to get rid of it as soon as possible. I set a goal to pay off my debt in 2.5 years. In a charged fit of anger and motivation, I grabbed a piece of paper, jotted down some words and taped it to my bedroom door and in my car. The paper read:

How bad do you want it? 

I looked at those words every day and kept them in mind whenever I got exhausted and wanted to quit. That piece of paper was my accountability when I had no one to turn to. People around me called me cheap, stingy, and teased me about driving an old car and not going out often.

My parents preached the benefits of getting a new car. It was hard not to listen to them. It was hard because I was a guy whose car would break down every few months and I didn’t have a someone close to lean on when I needed an in-between car. My mom’s husband would shake his head and tell me to stop being stingy and just finance a new car. I didn’t want to.

Then things got worse. My dreadful job started to take a heavier toll on me. I fell deep into depression, lost my appetite, and started losing weight at an alarming rate. I became pale and would wake up in the middle of the night sweating. Everything felt wrong and I didn’t know how to make it right. I still had my debt. I was still in my shackles.

Fortunately, after some care, I started to get slightly better. My mood was in a better place and I began to look at options. I came across a post about teaching English in Thailand and decided to move abroad for work. I quit my dreadful job, my mood started to get better, and I was finally able to start traveling.

But I still had debt.

So, after getting settled into my new full-time job, I began doing a tutoring side job, working at a language center and also offering private lessons to students. I found some online work and started doing that as well.

And the same situation as back home started happening. People around me didn’t understand it. My fellow foreign teachers would joke about me being too cheap and not knowing how to have fun. While they went off on weekend trips and holidays to other countries, I stayed in my small apartment, typing up blog posts and doing private tutoring lessons. They paid their minimums while I paid extra.

Whenever I did travel, it was usually in a basic manner. That Great Wall of China photo? It was taken during a hurried 20-minute walk while I was on a layover in Beijing to go visit back home. The original 3-hour walk didn’t happen because of delays. The Myanmar photos? Those were taken during a hurried 1-day trip to Bagan in which I had to argue with several taxi drivers because they kept trying to rip me off. I only got to spend 2.5 days in Myanmar because I had gotten a flight deal and it was all I could afford. And the reason you don’t see me in a lot of my photos? It’s because I was usually a haggle sweaty mess from hauling my small Jansport backpack everywhere since I didn’t have any suitcases and didn’t want to pay for luggage.

People back home continued to like my photos and thought I was living a wonderful life abroad when in reality I was usually working all the time with not a lot of vacation time.

My work from putting in extra hours became more evident as money continued to pile up in my savings account. I noticed something bad was happening. I was hoarding money in my savings account instead of putting it towards my debt. I did it because I was scared. I was scared of not having a lot of savings and having to go back to a dreadful job again. I was battling a financial scarcity mindset and it was hard to beat.

I mention all of this because, like many, the journey to becoming debt-free is a turbulent one. There are ups and downs and everyone just doesn’t seem to understand your mindset. You’re looked at as weird and cheap. Instant gratification and FOMO constantly rear their alluring heads at you.

People look at you with a dishearting smile and say “You shouldn’t focus so much on your debt. Live your life” to which you could whisper back “I’m doing this so I can fully live my life.”

A few days ago,  I made the decision to take a large chunk out of my savings to finally pay off the rest of my debt. It felt scary at first because of my scarcity mindset but ultimately I knew it was the sensible thing to do. It made no sense to keep a lot of money in my savings account while also having debt.

I logged into my student loan service provider and made the final payment.

And suddenly, just like that things changed. My name is Colin Ashby, I’m 22 years old, and I just finished paying off $21,000 in student loans in 1.5 years. I’M DEBT-FREE!!!!

I envisioned my “debt-free day” to be this big action-packed movie sequence where I would bust through window, glass shattered and drive off into the sunset waving dollar bills in the air. Tom Cruise would be portraying me.

As you can tell, I’ve got an over-active imagination sometimes 🙂

Even though I’m not blasting through windows on a motorcycle, being debt-free in reality still feels pretty badass!


Welp, this post has crossed 1500 words, I should probably stop. I made a some video talking about being debt-free and revealing the meaning behind my blog name Rebel With A Plan. 

The video ran super long so I had to cut it up a bunch and make it into two videos. The first one about becoming debt-free is below. My 1 year blogiversary just happened so on Wednesday the self-titled post, Rebel With A Plan, will go up talking about the meaning behind the blog name. Stay tuned!

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