I don't usually like listicles and sappy personal essays but I wanted to share what I've been up to since graduating from Simon Fraser last year.
Unlike most of my friends, I haven't committed to working somewhere for more than six months after university. I regret not applying for co-ops and internships as I finished my degree—I entered the job market with experience in customer service and was traumatized by rejection after rejection when I tried to move to Toronto last summer. But life has a way of working out for the best
In my last year of university, I moved out of the fraternity house and slowed my life down—there's a strong correlation with Fireball and being a fuck boy—enough to reacquaint myself with two old friends: books and cardio fueled endorphins. I went from being an out of shape party boi, back to my introverted nature: I started to read books voraciously again and biked to work every day until I easily conquered the treacherous hill home.
During my last year in the fraternity house, I bought a Kobo eReader and started pirating self-help books—relax I'm paying for Kindle books now—like the Tim Ferriss and Tony Robbins type. After I moved out, I started reading books on Eastern Philosophy and Spirituality, but like self-help books, I got bored after I understood the gist: BE KIND! CALM DOWN! GO OUT AND DO SHIT!
I still read self-help books sometimes but practical ones, while avoiding "woo woo" motivation BS. Not that those books don't have merit—they can shock your mind into deep realizations for change—but it's easy to read tons of self-help books, grow an ego of self-improvement, and then avoid acting on anything about your life you should change.
Now I'm into history and non-fiction, like memoirs and biographies—SOME REAL SHIT TO LEARN FROM!
Back to my story.
After months of failing to land an entry-level job at an office in Toronto, I read two books that changed my life for real.
Cal Newport's book taught me I couldn't rely on my fucking degree to get the jobs I wanted. I had to build real skills and career capital. BE SO GOOD THEY CAN'T IGNORE YOU was Steve Martin's advice for creatives and artists, which Newport used to support his idea that we should adopt a craftsman's attitude for building skills until the market can't ignore how good you are anymore.
It's not passion that determines success—for example, your passion to open a restaurant will fail if you've never worked in one—its being good at something that allows you to control what you work on and with who.
I always wanted to be a sportswriter. I read so many SPORTS! but never actually wrote—doesn't make sense FRANK!
I no longer want to be specifically a sports writer, but broadly a writer and journalist—WOW REALLY FRANK? WHAT HAVE YOU WRITTEN???
I'll get to that.
The second book I read that summer which changed my life was Vagabonding by Rolf Potts. Its a book about setting your life up for long-term travel—whether, for a month or a year, you can learn how to pull it off.
Step 1: Cut your expenses. You don't need to be a gazillionaire, but you need to save money. Live with your parents if you can, its the easiest way to cut $500-1000 out of your expenses each month. Stop buying shit you don't need. Get a refurbished phone. Sell your car. Before your trip, your goal is to save as much money as you can. It helps to have a separate bank account for your travel money and to aim for specific bi-weekly and monthly targets.
Step 2: Pick a place and buy a plane ticket at least 4 months before your trip. You'll get a cheaper flight that way, but most importantly you set a real deadline to plan the essentials and save money.
With Vagabonding, you can show up somewhere and plan as you go—you're not a fucking one week beach resort! You don't need the latest guide book and you don't have to treat the trip like the typical tourist/consumer who is there to say they've "done South America." Take your time, try to learn the language, the culture and interact with locals. You can have a general itinerary but over-planning means you might not mistakenly wander wonderful areas and people that aren't mentioned in the guidebook.
That first September after graduating university in May 2016, I humbled myself and took two jobs: One in retail at H&M Eaton Center for $12 an hour and the other for Stem Wine as a delivery driver for $16 an hour. Mr. Degree bailed on his "dream" of working in an office and set sight for COLOMBIA!
I worked 6-7 days a week for 4 months and saved 8 grand. Mind you I tend to do things to the extreme and I lived with my dad—rent was cheap and expenses are low when you're working every fucking day—but you could easily do your own vagabond trip to Colombia for a month for less than $2000. Is that so fucking hard? Maybe if you have a wife and kids, a mortgage and credit card debt, sure, but if you're reading this in your 20's and you're dating your hand then get fucking real— you could do it too!
So I went to Colombia for 100 days, wrote a little, and had a wonderful time with family and new friends—despite some setbacks with Fireball Frank.
I went back to Vancouver to regroup for my next trip. I moved back in with my mom for the summer and this time saved 13 grand. Everything I own fits in two backpacks. But I struggled with anxiety about wanting to be a writer. I wanted to travel but I wasn't making any progress professionally. So here I am now, sitting in the beautiful colonial town of Cuenca, Ecuador, writing a blog!
I'm working on selling a story about Venezuelan emigrants I met and helped in Guayaquil, and decided to go into prolific writing mode once I got to Cuenca. I'm not living the typical backpacker's life—booze, cigarettes, and Instagram photos on swings—but I'm happy spending the day reading, writing and vagabonding around town making Instagram videos and stories. I just read the Steven King autobiography: "On Writing," and although I've never read his books and prefer non-fiction to fiction, I know I need to follow his advice to become SO FUCKING GOOD THEY CAN'T IGNORE ME: read and write 4-6 hours a day. So that's what I'm doing.
On a side note, I'm heading up to Medellin for January 22nd, where my grandparents, aunts, and uncles I haven't seen in over a decade will be flying in from Venezuela for a big family reunion.
After that, I hope someone will hire me to write—an internship, reporting or copywriting, I don't care! Hire me so I can work on my craft and so I can become SO FUCKING GOOD YOU CAN'T IGNORE ME!!!
Until then I get hired to work with professionals someday, this is what I'm up to in South America:
1. Writing blogs about the books I've read in recent months.
2. Trying to sell a story about two Venezuelan emigrants I befriended in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
3. Making Instagram videos to improve my speaking and presentation skills. @dankrides
4. Creating a reading list for anyone interested in cool books I've read.
5. Learning to improve blog metrics and SEO—MARKETING!!!!
If you're wondering how much I'm spending in South America, HERE IS A LIST OF MY TYPICAL EXPENSES LIVING IN ECUADOR (prices in Canadian Dollars—1 USD: 0.78 CAD)
One way, last minute flight, Vancouver to Quito to Guayaquil: $630 CAD
YOU CAN GET WAY BETTER RATES ON ROUNDTRIP FLIGHTS! Example: YVR to Bogota $700. I flew Toronto to Bogota roundtrip for $530 earlier this year.
Daily budget (not including touristy activities): Less than 25 CAD—20 USD
Hostel per night (breakfast included): $10CAD
Almuerzo, Lunch: $2.50-3CAD Dinner: $2-3CAD. Groceries per week: less than $20
TALL BOY BOTTLED BEER 700ML: $1.25CAD
Busing from town to town: $1-2 an hour (example: Guayaquil to Cuenca: $10CAD for 5-hour trip.)
You've made it this far. Do me a favor and share this story. It will help me find work!
SO GOOD THEY CAN'T IGNORE YOU!! #SGTCIY
Tweet me: @frankmcardona. Insta DM: @dankrides