My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

#045 10/11/2013 Landlording Adventures and Perspectives

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

Just a brief departure on my Mountains posts and my usual pyschobabbleness. (I'm chomping at the bit to write the next mountain, but i'm so excited about it my mind races too much, so haven't been able to put it all into words.)

So, I just wanted to write about some experiences with landlording in my life that has occurred just over the last few months. Now that it is over, I just wanted to share some of the mistakes and lessons i have learned.

#045 10/11/2013 Landlording Adventures and Perspectives

A few months back, around the time I broke my nose, and when I booked my trip to Vietnam,both my tenants gave notice to leave my rentals.

It was a bit of a perfect storm.

With the adoption of minimalism and voluntary simplicity, and a priority to live a 'slower' life, there had been a signifcant absense of conventional 'stress'. Everything was settling down and going great since moving into my new place. The only 'stress' I felt was the internal existential thinking I was doing and travel planning which has been reflected in my recent posts.

So when both tenants decided to leave, my tranquil life and my status quo was challenged.

I think for a landlord, any time a tenant gives notice it causes (varying levels of) anxiety. But to have both tenants leave, ie, which is the largest source of my 'passive' income, its a bit of a double whammy.

Tenants giving notice feels a little bit like losing a job or probably more accurately, losing a valuable employee. It signals there is uncertainty ahead, and means there will be 'disruption' in my regular life for the next few months.

The process , ie the rental posting/advert, the interviews, the signing, etc, is also quite similar to the job hiring process process.

For one of the rental properties, which used to be my primary residence (i will refer to this property as the PR rental), the tenant broke least after only five months of a 1 year lease.

For the other rental property owned by my corporation (I will refer to this as th CORP rental), the tenant left after 2+ years because she bought a new place.

Past Experience
I don't claim to be an expert landlord by any means.

My related experience includes having approximately six tenants over the years on various properties, owning (buying/selling) 4 different properties at different times, and being a renter while I was working in Boston for four years and 1 year in university.

Buying and selling properties gave me transferable skills on the formalities of the paper work (contracts, utilities, building/condo management, etc) , staging (cleaning, showings,etc), and the moving process among other things.

Being a renter gave me a great perspective on how it feels to be on the other side of the landlord-renter equation.

PR Rental- The Broken Lease
When my tenant broke lease after 5 months into a 1 year contract, my initial reaction was a reflexive sense of negativity. Like when someone cuts you off the road.

A contract is a contract. Shouldn't it be? Should I not lay down my Landlord Hammer on their head and at the very least squeeze some type of compensation or penalty from them?

Perhaps it is my lack of skill (I am still learning) or perhaps it is something else, but after I was able to get past the reflexive anxiety, I realized that the situation was a little more grey:

-First, this was the first time I had ever had a tenant break lease on me.
-Second, when I did examine my contract/lease with them, there wasn't anything specifically detailing the terms of a broken lease.
-Third, and most importantly, I really liked my tenant(s), a young couple from Australia.

My rental was the first place the female (primary) tenant and her boyfriend rented and lived together. They had already begun to buy all the furnishings and living items over that five months since they didn't have any of their own. IE. they were further committing to their life together. Previous to that they were living in the boyfriends fathers house.

The female tenant broke lease because she got a job offer back home in Australia that was too good to pass up. It was a great opportunity for her, and their lives together.

I though about it, and I thought about my approach and the specific situation.

What kind of landlord do I want to be? How would I turn this lemon into lemonade?

What ultimately made me relax, and not get bent out of shape, and feeling like a shafted landlord on a broken lease was remembering that the tenant came along at a perfect time for me.

I had just finished up renovating the place I was moving into (ie. the <300 sq foot co-op), and I had just listed the PR condo with less than a week before the start of April. I had carried both properties for the month of March, going back and forth between the two. Carrying both properties meant double expenses for internet, fees, utilities, insurance, etc. Further the costs of the move, purchases and renovations meant the months of February and March were very high expense months.

The tenant was the first viewing for the rental and she offered to pay 4 months as a deposit.

If I were to have turned back time and asked myself

"If given the opportunity to have a really nice solid tenant, who pays you 4 months of rent as a deposit, and you have to only do one showing to find this person, but you run the risk of the tenant giving notice at 5 months with no recourse, would you have done it?"

When I re-phrase the situation to myself in this way, the answer is yes, 10 of of 10 times.

At that time especially, I was quite stressed out with things and the move in addition to my cash expenses flowing like water.

In addition, during the negotiation of the month rent rate, she had asked for $100 off the monthly rent asking price, and I countered with $30 off, including a three year rent rate freeze.

By her ending the lease, I no longer was bound to a frozen rent rate.

My tenant also broke lease with giving me two months notice, which is more than enough time to find a new tenant without missing a months rent.

So the end result of the broken lease and a new tenant:

-$30/month rent increase
-no more rent freeze for three years
-a much better written lease as well as a better communication approach in expectations

Corp Rental
The corporate owned property was more of a conventional situation, where my long term tenant left after two years when she bought a new place.

Because the rent rates in Toronto are kind of crazy right now, especially in the down town core, I was able to increase my rent $120/month (There is no rent control in Toronto for properties built after the 1990s), which was a 9% increase on the previous price.

I had to do about 8 showings to find the right tenant. I upgraded the light fixtures from really cheap ikea lights $3.99 ( to something to something that looked better and more modern. I also replaced the bulbs with low watt high luminescent CFL bulbs.

My Biggest Landlording Lessons Learned

1. Craigslist is dead.
At least in Toronto it is. I was posting on Kijiji (didn't have to pay for any services or advertising to list) and Craigslist (also free) for both properties, and every single one my my replies came from Kijiji. I was also selling an old beach volleyball net at around the same time, and the same thing happened with that as well.

2. Have Mandatory Tenant Insurance.
I (now) write into the lease that tenant insurance is mandatory prior to the move in/hand off of the keys. I ask for an insurance binding letter to be emailed or delivered. An insurance binding letter is what the insurance companies generate to demonstrate proof of a policy, even before the policy starts. Tenant Insurance costs about $15-$25 a month of a tenant. This also acts somewhat as a screening process as well, as good tenants really have no problems with this, given that the insurance is really for their own benefit. I also provide them with documentation describing tenant insurance and some links on where to get some quotes.

3. Write your own lease documents.
Previous to these two tenants leaving, I always used a template document that I downloaded off the internet. It looked and felt like a lease document, which was good enough for me, and good enough for the tenant. I realized how foolish, naive and lazy this was. I rewrote the entire lease agreement to the specifics my properties and expectations. I walk through the key points in my leases to my tenants prior to signing.

4. Manage expectations.
Being as open and honest as possible about the property before the lease is signed I found to be an excellent approach.

For example, I tell my tenants before they even sign the lease, what they can except in terms of rent increase after one year. I outline the inflation in property taxes, fees, and utilities, and say that they can expect a 2%-5% increase. After one year, no one likes a rent increase but its compounded when you aren't expecting it. But if you are expecting it, and you know approximately what it will be, the impact of telling the tenant of an increase is dramatically lessened. I find that gives me greater integrity as well with my tenants, as I'm not covering up some of the less glamourous issues.

I also tell my tenants beforehand, that I will never enter their unit for any reason without giving them a proper notice. The number one thing I disliked when I was a renter, was when my landlords would do this. It made me feel small, and it made me feel the place was not my home. Just communicating this one simple statement to my tenants before hand, I think goes a long way in selling the property and myself as a landlord.

5. The customer is always right, even when they are not.
When a tenant asks me to do something, even when it is not my responsibility, I will generally do it for them 99% of the time. For example, my PR rental both walls are exposed concrete. The tenant during her viewing asked if I would assist her with hanging her things. I said I would, and I proactively wrote it into the lease, that as condition of her occupancy, landlord would hang the belongings of the tenant. It took me 5 hours with my hammer drill, with my tenant and her mom, directing me how and where to hang things to complete this task. But when it was all said and done, my tenant and her mother were extremely happy and my condo felt like home to them. (The ERE part of it for me was that I became a lot better at how to hang various things or various sizes and weights. It can be tricky, measuring, and making sure things are balanced right).

6. Cater to your market.
Investing in real estate is no different than investing in the stock market in that risk and return are inversely related. IE. Flipping a fixer upper in a sketchy neighbourhood the returns can be huge, but the risk is also quite big. That risk can be somewhat mitigated if you have a great skill set.

My properties, the returns aren't super high, but I would call the returns very reliable, almost like a blue chip equity. The properties are a 20 minute walk to the financial core, and the properties are close to all the benefits of an urbanist life (walking distance to groceries, public transit, parks, banks, etc). They cater to higher income young professionals in the 24-30ish range. Every single one of my tenants to date, has been female. This was not intentional on my part, it has just happened that way (for my CORP rental this time around I came very close to actually signing a male tenant, but he opted on a different property). Now that I have six of them, I begin to get a better understanding what the abstraction is, in terms of what they all look for in a property and a landlord, and I cater my 'advertising' towards that. Young female professionals are excellent, excellent tenants: clean, responsible, and independent.

7. Use social Media/digital footprint as a reference/background check.
What I have also learned is that for my prospective tenants, ie. young professional tenants in the 24-30ish range, they all have a social media/online digital footprint that can be traced or reverse engineered from their contact info (ie. email, name,etc). This helps immensely in getting a sense of the prospective tenant. For their generation, and for their aspiring careers, LinkedIn has become somewhat mandatory. For example, I never realized how many companies now use LinkedIn for the job hiring proces.

It has made the screening process easier, and much more reliable.

8. A gift is a last impression that lasts.
During the key handoff, give the tenant a a small gift. I give a gift basket of chocolates that looks a lot more expensive than it actually is. It costs about $20.

This is the last time the tenant will see you, before communication primarily goes digital (ie. email, text, phone, etc).

If the very last impression you leave with your tenant is an unexpected surprise gift, the tenant will have a lasting positive impression of you. Also, the chocolate stimulates the release of endorphins at a time when the tenant will be moving, facing some stress and transition in their life.

9. Automate the process.
Given that both my tenants for both properties left around the same time, I spent time automating the entire process. Ie. creating template welcome packages/letters, as well as template emails that has instructions for the application. In the past, most of this was done verbally and I had to scrounge around looking for pieces of information to give the tenant (ie. concierge telephone numbers, how/where to call to book elevators, etc). Now, I have all the documents ready to be delivered at different stages of the process.

10. Don't be a feudal landlord
My entire approach is to try as much as possible to not be a 'landord' in the derogatory sense. I try as much as possible to approach the relationship as much as if my tenant is my customer. I recall my first tenant I ever had and how that went down. I would squabble like a typical landlord over trivial things in terms of who's responsibility was what. I would take things too personal. The relationship would get contentious, and it made my life and my tenants life more difficult. I now approach things with win win in mind, and generally try to form a relationship of mutual respect.


I have to admit that went both tenants gave notice, I gave serious thoughts to selling the PR property. Toronto real estate is somewhat of in a bubble, and definitely, landlording is a lot more hands on than a dividend portfolio. I spent about a week evaluating the market and seriously considering this option.

However, now that things are done, I am glad I didn't. For the most part if I try and not treat the process begrudgingly as a nuisance, but just like a learning experience, actually, its kind of interesting, and dare I say a little fun. Meeting different tenants, learning about their lives is actually quite fascinating. Having that human contact as well, and having that friction to chase my 'dividends', and solve problems, I think makes me a better person.

All the lessons I learned above came about from the last few months, and had I not went through it, I would have been less off for it (and also $150/month poorer) ;p

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »


Investing in real estate is no different than investing in the stock market in that risk and return are inversely related.

should read:

Investing in real estate is no different than investing in the stock market in that risk and return are strong correlated.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by spoonman »

This post couldn't come at a better time. I am on the other side of the equation, though, since I am trying to find an apartment. I am in the process of selling my house (I'll post something about that one of these days), so I am trying hard to find a good place to live. Today I had my first dissapointment, the landlord picked another tenant over me because the other tenant got there first! The landlord said that there were a lot of good potential tenants and that she had trouble deciding, so she went with the first one.

I don't remember trying to rent a place was this hard! The search continues...

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

spoonman wrote:... I am in the process of selling my house (I'll post something about that one of these days), so I am trying hard to find a good place to live. ...
Ahh, I'm excited to hear about the details! I'm hoping that you are either going to be fast tracking your plug pull date (was it 2016/2017?) or that you don't have to take that awesome bus anymore, lol. Either way I am sure your decision will be a good one.

I can tell you anecdotally what happened to me when I faced a multiple tenant offer situation with the corp rental (the previous time it was up for rent), and what really swayed my decision.

The first prospective tenant saw the place and during the viewing, she decisively wanted the place. She was already living in the building, and she worked for a law firm within a 5-10 walk from the property.

Slam dunk right? What's not to like? I mentioned I saw her as a strong tenant, and was thinking she will be the one.

Despite really wanting to close the deal after the showing (ie. start the paper work process) I had previously booked another showing for another tenant later in the day.

I told tenant #1 that I had another showing, and would give her a decision after that, no firm commitment or offer was made.

The second tenant saw the place and during the viewing, decisively wanted the place. Unsolicited, she then proceeded to hand me a package, with her credit rating info, employer and past references.

During the small talk of both viewings, I was able to extract that tenant #1 was moving from a roommate shared cost 2br situation (in the same building) to my rental (ie. a JR one bedroom), and that tenant #2 was moving from a full 1BR to a JR 1BR.

I.E. Tenant #1 was upsizing, and Tenant #2 was downsizing.

It was also casually extracted that Tenant #1 didn't have all her own furniture, and that Tenant #2 lived around the corner in another building (with all her furniture).

IE. Tenant #1 would have significant capital cost expenditures on move, Tenant #2 had no additional capital cost expenditures.

I did have some inclination to go with #1, because she was the first, but logically thinking things through, #2 was a better tenant. I also got a better 'feel' for tenant #2 (during the viewing she demonstrated more maturity and gave me a much better impression of mental and emotional stability) and a large part of it had to do with her preparedness with documentation. The situation (unconsciously) transfers in my thinking that I wouldn't have any issues with cheques, signing documents, etc.

Additionally during the viewing I told tenant #2 that I already had an offer from tenant #1, and that tenant #1 was a strong candidate that has a high likelihood of going through.

Tenant #2 really argued her case and actually pleaded why she would be a better tenant.

When I chose her, tenant #2, she was extremely grateful and happy.

I also did tell her exactly what I thought that indeed she was a very impressive tenant, and that she had changed my mind.

This made the landlord-tenant relationship a really good one from start to finish, as the relationship was built on mutual respect.

It never really crossed my mind to try and pit the two against each other and look for a higher rate, because again, the relationship would have started on a tenant who had to overbid. But that's just me, a good strong tenant is much more important that maximizing the bottom line.

Getting a really good tenant pays off in the long run in terms of headaches and stress. I'd much rather have a tenant I like with less headaches and less $$, than I tenant I don't like with more headaches and more $$.

Given your situation @spoonman, I'd think you'd make a very strong tenant (ie. professional job, downsizing, low expenses, etc) especially because I think you would 'beat' your 'competition' on paper and probably in person too. If you find the right landlord and property I suggest you try some of the tactics that swayed me!!

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#046 10/18/2013 Pen palling

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#046 10/18/2013 Pen Palling and Applied Classic Introversion

Does anyone here wish to pen pal with me?

My email is:

I don't care if you are male or female, married or single, young or old, black or white, hetero or gay.

I only care that you can either relate or connect to aspects of my journal/journey/life. That's it.

I don't care if this request sounds juvenile -- shoot me.

And I don't really care how trivial or small your message may be. It may be like:

"Yo Itchy, Wassup? My gold fish died last night and I'm feeling in the dumps, Nemo meant soo much to me! can I tell you about it?"

The other day I had a 1HR conversation with an 86 year old lady I never met before in our co-op laundry room. She told me fascinating stories about her sons and her life during her youth. I told her my plans to travel and retire in two years. She told me life is short and go forth! It was just a very satisfying social interaction which among many other things, prompted me to write this entry.

Basically, just a correspondence of the one on one kind of things in friendship that is not suitable in forums.

I'm a classic introvert (in the Susan Cain-Quiet sense) but I lived a good portion of my life learning to be adept at extroversion, so small talk vs deep talk on a one on one doesn't bother me.

If this interests you, please do give me an email (do not reply here). Regardless if I get 1 reply or 10 replies, it will be confidential and won't be written about here or on the forum.

My objective is just to form deeper connections with like minded people and hopefully build mutual social support for one another.

I've received PMs from other posters, and I just wanted to thank those peoples for reaching out. Please feel free to email me if you feel inclined to do so.

Social Complexity and Scalability of groups

In a previous chapter in my life, when I lived a much more extroverted existence, the larger and more complex my social life would become, the more bogged down and cluttered I felt. Stimulus overload.

Being an introvert and having my brain take in so much social cues and inputs made me not like socializing, at least in terms of how it was constructed in my life. This ofcourse was the exact opposite to my extroverted friends, where they lived by the motto "more is more". I term this the "social hording" epidemic.

At the height before when I was on Facebook I had three hundred facebook 'friends', and I also did quite a lot of social organizing. Socially, my life began to feel like an episode of the show Hoarders. Keeping and holding onto every social acquiantance, such that someday, it may come in handy.

When I quit Facebook and began to transition my life out of Extroversia things became much more real and clear. Much less pretenses and things became more genuine. Thoughts became more independent as well. (There were the obvious tradeoffs ofcourse as I don't want to make it seem like it was all roses).

I have been in a mode of pretty much self imposed seclusion and solitude seeking for the last 3ish years. I spent zero priority on my social life, and everything was about looking within.

Ironically enough, it is through the exploration of Solitude where I begin to value socialness to it's rightful sense in my life.

Solitude is not done yet and will hopefully play an integral role in my retired life, but so too should solid friendships.

I am extremely fixated on testing the constructed life structure of a semi nomadic existence of 3 months (100 days) of solitude travel (meditative/stoic retreat), with 9 months of community. Perhaps I should term this life, the Solitude Snowbird. It's gone under several iterations of revisions over these years, but I am finding it is getting more and more honed into me. It's been hard work, but rewarding.

There is a certain quality of socialness that I seek. Simply put, all my existing friends that I haven't 'purged' do not follow any sense of minimalism, voluntary simplicity, or stoicism.

Not that this is an absolute necessity, but it gets to a point where the things I talk about, things I do and things that interest or stir me, put my average friend to sleep. (IE. not having your social life revolve around alcohol induced events anymore severely limits your social life in an urban setting. I used to drink to numb myself which effectly made me act and think like more like an extrovert.)


The journalling process has certainly help me know myself better. Being honest and open with myself and attempting to break down my ego.

Truth be told, if you haven't guessed by now, I have been journaling all my life. Most of the journaling wasn't very deep, mostly just a record or transcription of events. Just a photocopy.

But it hasn't been until these thoughts were out in the open rather then only to myself was I able to reach what I feel are a deeper personal understanding and growth. Unintended friction perhaps ?

My journal here now has gotten to the point where most of my writing really has nothing to do with ERE.

I feel narcissism creeping in, and what I write is derailing.

I also feel that as my thoughts delve even deeper (ie my mountains), I really now question whether this is the proper place for me to devulge such things.

I've got two dozen journal entries (mountains, community, my mother, family, my nephews, love, etc) in my head I feel I could pound out in a momment, however it may just be not the right place to do it.

Don't pity me...;p

Anyhow, lol, don't email me out of pity or because you think I'm some pathetic lonely bugger (I'm not really!).

But if you do feel compelled to do so or are looking for a similar type of correspondence, I will be happy to correspond with you and hope to build a friendship of understanding and support.

Back to your regular programming ;)

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by spoonman »

Thanks for sharing your experience with selecting tenants. My wife and I definitely plan to have a package ready when we meet the next landlord. Some landlords use the same rental application so we'll have one filled out. We'll also have a copy of our credit reports.

Selling the house will help us pull the plug in Q3 or Q4 of 2014 (yup, next year!). We plan on doing quite a bit of traveling so having a house is not the best thing for us. Our HOA fee is very high and would have eaten into our profits had we decided to rent the place out. And, as you point out, landlording is not exactly passive.

"Solitude Snowbird"...I love it! My wife and I will probably do something similar though not quite as deep as what you're doing. I kind of look forward to going somewhere far away from it all for several months at a time, like Alaska (that's just a wild fantasy at this point, but you never know).

I will drop you a line some time, but I want to do the message justice by writing you something after the house-selling/apartment-leasing drama has abated a bit.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

@spoonman: That's awesome! I reread your intro journal post and read how you were originally planning on a 2015 tentative sell date, so its amazing that you are so ahead of schedule.

It's admirable that you are breaking through all the obstacles to get where you want to go.

And it's great to hear these positive stories among others. For me it has that upward spiral effect that definitely influences me for the better.

Kudos to you!

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Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

#047 10/26/2013 I can't help myself...

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#047 10/26/2013 I can't help myself...

I can't stop writing.
I can't stop journaling.

It feels obsessive compulsive. Uncontrollable.

Converting fleeting moments when my unconscious mind 'feels' like it becomes conscious. And then, there is a moment where I must scrawl as fast as possible to capture it. Thoughts and ideas come at the most inappropriate times: in the middle of the night, on a subway, sitting in front of my computer at work,

On a toilet...

And that's how it feels too. I feel the pressure on my bowels, and if I don't release, my mind will flood with fecal matter. An Irregular bowel movement. A disturbing visual, but one that is not too far off.

This wasn't suppose to happen, this way.

I am a private person.

This was just suppose to be something that helped me along my ERE journey, to hold myself accountable. That was it.

I have dozens of completed and half completed writings, at work, and at home. Some of it is very personal, some of it is drivel, and some of it feels too narcissistic for my liking. I suppose this writing falls may fall under that category as well. I still have my insecurities and I've lost a certain sense of figuring out what is appropriate or topical and what is not, what is drivel and what is not.

I have been journaling since I was a child, and it was more or less, also a compulsion. Just the need to write something down about my day, and if I didn't, it didn't happen. Most of it, near all of it, was just capturing the noise in my life, equivalent of hitting record on a tape recorder. It was controllable and pedestrian.

This is different. It comes from a different place, a different motivation.

I don't really know what this means in my life and whether things will stay this way.

For now I have concluded it comes from a mixture of solitude, meditation, introversion empowerment, right brain emancipation, life churn, and anonymity.

These ingredients are bound to change in the future, but for now, unfortunately you will have to tolerate my bowel movements.

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#048 10/26/2013 ERE Puberty

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#048 10/26/2013 ERE Puberty

I am applying for a patent with the Early Retirement Community to describe the period between FI and the plug pull of retirement as ERE Puberty.


Male Symptoms of Puberty according to mrclay10sci2: (I don't know who he is but he sounds like a smart guy)

-Voice range deepens
-Facial hair
-Armpit hair
-Hormone levels change
-Penis grows
-Pubic hair
-Wet dreams
-Mixed up feelings and mood changes

So let's see how this applies to ERE Puberty:

Voice range deepens- Metaphorically Yes
Facial hair- x
Armmpit hair - x
Hormone levels change - Metaphorically Yes
Pimples / acne - Metaphorically Yes.
Penis grows - Hmm..
Muscles - Metaphorically Yes.
Pubic hair - x
Wet dreams - Yes
Mixed up feelings and mood changes - Yes

6.5 out of 10 ain't bad.

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#049 11/03/2013 Monkey Mind Gone Wild

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#049 11/03/2013 Monkey Mind Gone Wild

Part of the danger I found in living a quieter, slower, less distracted life, is that it becomes much easier to think TOO much, as you allow your brain to have a louder voice in your life. Most of the time its just you and your brain hanging out.

It becomes easier to feed the monkey mind. I suppose this may be why there is a stereotype of loners or hermits being 'crazy'.

In a distracted stimulus laden environment (social events/media, TV, movies, etc) there isn't a whole lot of thinking going on. It's really just jumping from one distraction to another. This is notable for example when you have dinner with a friend, and all they do is stare at their phone every few minutes.

I have come to the conclusion that thinking too much lies on the opposite spectrum of partying too much. Where partying too much overstimulates and overloads the external, thinking too much overstimulates and overloads the internal. A dysfunction that introverts can be prone to.

Thinking is healthy and so is having fun. But TOO much of either, (at least for me), is not.

My trip to Vietnam of which I depart this week, could not have come at a better time. As I am entering into month 8 of being FI and a little over two years from pulling the plug from full time work, I have been thinking too much.

October was an incredibly manic month for me. A whole lot of things came together some of which I will not mention as it's a little personal. But largely, in thinking about the mountains and the planning/testing my future, I whipped myself into an overstimulated thinking state of excitement. A thinking high?

Regardless, it's was too much.


What I love about travel is that I very easily become present.

I don't think. I live without effort in the now. I am conscious of everything around me. Being present/living in the now ofcourse being central tenants of meditation, is why I see travel as so meditative for me.

Vietnam will be my second test of the nomad life that I wish to live when I retire.

Last year was Kathmandu. I am taking the lessons learned from that trip to refine this years trip to better shape the environment I want. To create the life I want.

Largely, I learned that despite packing no check in and just a midsize pack and messenger bag, I overpacked and I can do with less. This time around I am bringing even less than I brought to Kathmandu. I did a test pack yesterday, and my total baggage weighed in at 14 lbs. I am not sure how much my baggage weighed for Kathmandu, but I know it was more than that.

I also made some BIFL investments on multi-functional quick dry breathable clothing. It took me forever to finally learn not to pack my favourite Diesel jeans. Jeans are too heavy, hot and take forever to wash/dry. They are not very functional and the only function they serve is to make you think you look cool and hip. Remnants of my past ;p

New for this trip will be my first ever homestay via AirBnb. It's amazing how something like AirBnb wasn't possible only a few years ago. The family I will be staying with got very good reviews and seem to be very nice. They are located off the beaten path. I am really looking forward to this and I hope that I enjoy this as much as I think I will.

Also new for this trip will be the formal implementation of some of my self defined rules constructed not only from last year but previous travels.

Plugging Out

Part of those rules of course include plugging out of the internet. I will be plugged out for pretty much the entire month of November.

I will miss the current round of Book Club (which is okay since I still haven't found the book!), but I hope to be back for the next one.

I do plan on journaling and writing but not online. I hope I can find the balance to write for myself in a way that probes my unconscious mind the same way writing online does. So far I've only been able to do this if I know that the writing will live and breathe truly outside of me. I've concluded so far that this is the friction required for me to write meaningfully.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by C40 »

Have fun! I'd like to go to Vietnam some day so I'll be interested in hearing about it from you.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by rube »

I am very interested to hear how 1 month without internet goes. Kind of jealous on that.
Have fun in Vietnam!

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by wizards »

Enjoy Vietnam - looking forward to read about your experience when you get back.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#050 11/08/2013 Timing is Everything: Trip Cancelled..:(

It was a really interesting exercise in thought last night.

Needless to say there was a huge range of emotions.

Despite looking forward to this since last year, and the trip being booked three months ago, I was really going back and forth between my ambition and prudence. There was a lot of pacing back and forth last night.

But a couple hours before my flight last night, I cancelled my trip because of this:

Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of strongest storms ever, hits central Philippines ... on-haiyan/

Typhoon Haiyan to hit Vietnam on Sunday ... hpbreaking

Vietnam bracing for most powerful storm in 10 years ... n-10-years

I like the challenge of voluntary discomfort and making myself more 'anti-fragile' but after we experienced a flash flood in Toronto this past year and reading that Vietnam is already flooding when the storm doesn't even hit till Sunday (I would have arrived Saturday), I decided against it. When a good portion of infrastructure (roads, power, water, food) is inaccessible or extremely limited, its a nice SHTF exercise, and I'm sure I would have learned a lot, lol, but not exactly the meditative experience I was looking for.

So far, Money wise, I am only out $150 for a flight cancellation fee, but may be out more if one of the hostels follows through on their policy of charging 100% of cost if cancelled 30 days or less:(. Oh I'm also out some small deposits on hostels as well. My AirBnB was 100% refundable.

I have all the insurance coverages (cancellation, interruption,etc), however they said that they only reimburse if there is a government issues travel advisory which at this time there is not since I cancelled before the storm took the brunt. But I thought of the alternatives of losing $150+ and not going versus going vs spending $2000+ to play SHTF survivor.

My vacation days will be reschedulable. So really the huge deficit is just the experience I was looking for and not being there. My Monkey mind still needs mending as well.

Because I have another trip planned in January and also time/money allocated next year for a more ambitious adventure, I am not sure when I will reschedule Vietnam but hoping I may be able to do it as well (for 2014). I am writing this now to hold myself to make this happen again in the future.

To all those who have reached out to Penpal I hope to catchup with you this weekend as my plugout is no more.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by rube »

Sorry to hear that MBGI, but completely understandable. Hope you will reschedule soon.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by Dragline »

That's too bad, but I think you made the right decision.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by jennypenny »

I'm watching the coverage of that storm. You made a good call. I think it would have been a bit more 'friction' than you were hoping for.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

Thanks @rube, @dragline, and @jennypenny.

I'm very fortunate that I even had a choice in this regard and my first world problems of a cancelled trip are miniscule in the grand scheme of things.

Thoughts and prayers to the people of the Philippines. Hopefully Vietnam and China will be spared.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by spoonman »

I think you made the right decision. It's a real bummer, but hey, as you point out, it's a miniscule inconvenience in the grand scheme of things.

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#051 11/17/2013 Staring outside the coffee shop window.

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#051 11/17/2013 Staring outside the coffee shop window..

On this weekend morning, like every other past weekend morning, I went to my local coffee shop.

I sat down in my favourite spot by the window. A place where I watch the world go by like the front row seat in a theatre.

As an introvert and a connoisseur of solitude, this is my big budget movie. My entertainment for the next couple of hours for the cost of a few meager dollars.

I have an inner contentment with this retreat to the coffee shop. I smile to myself. A rare outward display of emotion from my stoic self.

I feel like I have gamed the system of life. I found a glitch. One shouldn't be taking so much pleasure in so little. But I do. It's the glitch of less is more. I have been doing this the last three years and can do it for the next 25.

I settle down in my seat, pull out a book, hot coffee in hand.

And the movie begins.

Where will my mind, my inner world, take me today?

As I begin to get cozy in the confines of my head, a man sits next to me.

He is quite older. What hair he does have left is grey. He is of different nationality. He is somewhat disheveled and overweight. Some of his teeth are missing and the ones that are not are crooked.

He seems senile and he looks a little crazy.

Before I can begin to register what is going on, my brain tells me I am looking in a mirror. What the heck is going on? What kind of fun house mirror is this?

He is not me, and I am not him!

I am in shape! I have my hair! I have all my teeth and they are straight! I certainly am not senile!

Despite these defense mechanisms, the mirror still reflects back. I cannot help but relate to this man.


This movie is quickly becoming a horror.

It is the smile.

This man who sits next to me, with a smile on his face, in his own world, is entirely too content.

He stares out the window in his own world, like me. And through that smile, it appears that he is talking to himself.

He has done this before.

He has gamed the system and found the glitch way before I have. And he has mastered it. His smile is bigger and broader than mine.

He is me in 25 years with the accumulation and mastery of experience.

I walk home, stunned and disoriented. I want a refund for my movie.

Next week....NEXT WEEK...

The movie better not be a sequel..

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