This May, GQ China interviewed half a dozen Bali and Phuket Expats for a July Special Print Issue about people who left the city life behind. It seems more and more Chinese are overwhelmed by their work and life pressure and looking for alternative lifestyles.
So in a 4-hour interview and photo session which took part in the Four Season Hotel in Jimbaran and also Uluwatu temple, I was ‘interrogated’ about how I came to live the life I’ve been living the last 5 years. Here is what came out of it:
The interview was published in their 07/2011 print issue only. Thankfully my friend Julia Song, who vacationed in her home town in China at the time of publishing could get a hold of the magazine and carried the almost 1 kg heavy package all the way back to Bali.
It took a while to translate it, but luckily, another friend, Hui-Ling Chen from Taiwan (Shadow Chen) did most of the work, so I can present now a good translation of what was being written. A big thanks to you guys!
Some things funnily got ‘Lost in Translation’, as the Chinese Interviewers only could speak limited English, so I took the liberty of explaining some things that were characterized wrongly in the article. See below the quote for explanations. Okay, here is the translation from Chinese into English without any further bla-bla:
Chris Skoda, High tech Millionaire – “I thought I’ll die before I’m 42”
39-year-old Chris, lives in a rental villa in Bali. He doesn’t have to worry about having either enough money or women, the only thing that he worries about, is to not getting sick. After all, without his health, how can he keep enjoying the nomadic life he adopted?
In his earlier work life, Chris was concerned that he might die before 42 due to increasing workload. Here are the reasons for that:
He was 34 and worked in a big IT company in Europe for 14 years, by the time he quit the job, he was the VP of that company. He owned a two stories apartment building in small town near Berlin, one Porsche, one Benz and one Audi. As one in the high-income groups in his society, he didn’t have any economic pressure. However, he was too busy working to have a normal sleep each day and not even had time for a romance. (He said it was easier to develop a relationship in Bali on a later stage after quitting working). After working many years in Germany, he applied to work in Singapore, which even increased the amount of work load and work hours for him.
He had 3 bosses, two of them died of heart attacks at the age of 42. So he thought: ‘Hey, I even work harder than them, which means I might die before I’m even 42’. That was when he decided to quit his job and simply live the nomad life that he had been dreaming about since he was young.
He wrote on his website: “Is normality getting dressed in the clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic jams in the car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, the car, and especially, the house that you leave empty all day in order to live in it?” – this kind of meaningless life, I don’t want to buy into anymore.
After quitting, he did a very non-German thing. He burned all the 25 ties he had on the streets in Singapore. ‘I felt the ties are the ropes that chained my neck. It was like a cleansing ritual symbolizing that I’m having my new life now.’
It wasn’t in a whim to choose a nomad life. He was born in East Germany. Before the Berlin wall fell, the vision of the east Germans were usually narrower. They had more desire to see the world. When Chris was young, he read many books about travel and adventure, and developed an ‘On the road’ complex. He traveled extensively with his Indonesian girlfriend whenever he had time for it. They had a motorbike and traveled around South East Asia. They stayed in Singapore, Phuket, Goa and Philippines. Now he stays in Bali as a base, and travels from there whenever he can.
He’s still very German, careful and organized, so his nomad life has a stable support. He counted for us the rental he gets from the apartment in Germany which pays his bills in Bali; he has some stocks and he also have income from his website. He said those income streams are definitely enough for his retirement. As to the normal man’s needs, Chris has no problem with that. He would restrain to go drinking heavily in bars, but he is also open to get out and meet some girls wherever they would are. Chris said the only thing he has to be careful is not to getting sick.
He has the best control of himself like an east German, but he has a very different romantic nature in his bone. He said that he realized, how big the world is and how small he himself is. There are so many interesting and small things that enrich him and make him happy now, compared to his previous work life.
Finally, he quoted a poem from a Canadian poet, which influenced his life from the early years on:
I will stake my Himalayan memories
Against your estate of a thousand trees.
Pit my Thai sunset
Against your private jet.
Weigh my horse rides at sunrise
To your Italian suits and ties.
I’ll rejoice in friends before I go,
Not the figures of my stock portfolio.
Some remarks in regards to facts in the article:
Some facts were clearly misstated in the article, I just want to take the chance to put them right, as they make me feel quite uncomfortable.
It would be nice, if I ever was a High Tech Millionaire, but that was simply not the case.
In my work in Sales related functions in a IT company, I didn’t have any stock options or the chance to get rich quick. So all I did was saving more than half of my monthly salary, investing early in stocks, property and other long-term investment form and getting out, before the work burned me out completely. I luckily avoided some common mistakes. It was never the question, how much money I would need to retire, but more correctly – how little.
Wowwwww, way to go, Chris! ‘I wanna be a Billonaire, so fricking baaaaaaaaad!’
I also never owned a Porsche or Mercedes Benz – and for sure not 3 cars all at the same time.
When working in Germany, I had a common company car, which was a BMW 3-series or an Audi A4 at that time, which was considered pretty mid-range. For those I had to pay monthly taxes deducted directly from my salary. I guess Porsche or Mercedes-Benz just sound more German and successful in the ears of the typical Chinese, so that might be the reason, why those brands made it into the text instead.
My own 2-story apartment was rented, not purchased. I don’t believe in the concept of purchasing your own home, as explained here.
My title of Vice President was restricted to the Business Development arm for new services of my Business Unit, a group of at most 120 people – a virtual organization. I was never the VP of the whole company of more than 100.000 people, but titles in general are anyway given in European companies to open the doors for you to reach your respective counterpart or decision maker in the customer company, which were in that case, CEO, CIO or CFO. In Singapore I was Director for Global Strategic Accounts of my company, the same applies here, title doesn’t say anything about your standing in the structure of the organization.
More details about my superiors (bosses), who died in their early 40’s, which were definitely life-changing events for me, can be found in this article.
It was definitely worth the fun to be interviewed by mainland Chinese. I also had the chance to meet another interviewee, a 70-year old Chinese business man in Bali. He was previously very famous in China for being a self-made millionaire, but lost all his fortunes and then some in the Asian Financial Crisis in the late 90’s. To get away from his debt collectors and to avoid jail, he took refuge in Bali, where he’s living with a small standard of living ever since, surfing every day and just enjoying the good life. It was a tremendous joy to meeting that guy and sharing stories and experiences.
There are definitely more like us, who get out and ask themselves the question, why should be put up with all of that?
Check out the mentioned poem in full length here and change your own life – now!
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