How to Travel the World Before Becoming FI

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is a world-travelling early retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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Today, I’m super excited to introduce y’all to my friend Clover, over at SimplyCloverLiving.com. Clover and I met at last year’s Chautauqua, and we immediately clicked. Not only did we both grow up in Canada, we had to deal with the pressures of living in a high cost city with a crazy housing market, and both of us got bit with the travel bug!

But while I slogged away at my engineering job for a decade, hit FI, and then started travelling the world, Clover had a much, much faster solution that let her do it even sooner than me, but without giving too much away, I’ll let her talk about that.

Clover, welcome! First of all, tell us about your love of travel. Where did it all start?

I have been working in the travel industry for 14 years, but I actually didn’t really catch the travel bug until a few years ago! I did the annual trips to Japan in my 20s, but the true transformative moment was November of 2016, when my friend couldn’t join me for a Hawaii trip. That was when I decided to go solo. That trip opened the floodgates and showed me how empowering it is to see the world on my own, experiencing all types of adventures, cultures and have connections with diverse groups of people.

I actually love personal development and travelling hits all the right spots in terms of self discovery, pushing outside my comfort zones, and being more open minded with the world. Since then, I have been to 6 continents. I have tried scuba diving, skydiving, hiking Machu Picchu and Mount Everest Basecamp, swimming long distances in the Red sea and Greece, cage diving with crocodiles in Africa, camping out in the Peruvian Amazon Jungle, to name a few, and I am just getting started!

Conquering the Devils Pool in Zambia

 

Diving with Crocodiles!

 

Enjoying the view at Machu Picchu

 

Tell us about your job. Where do you work?

I work as a flight attendant at a Canadian airline.

 

So coming from a cubicle-dwelling corporate background, being a flight attendant is about as different as you can get. What’s a typical day like for you?

I guess the difference with our job is that there is no typical day! We are working with ever changing environments, people and schedules, and every airline differs. Having said that, at my company, a typical flight involves getting on board an hour or more before departure, to prepare the cabin and do a briefing. We board the passengers, take off, and then do our services during the flight. And of course, ensuring safety is always a priority.

After we deplane, we head to the hotel as a crew and start our layover. Most layovers at my airline is usually 24 hours or less. I am usually exhausted after a flight, after leaving out time to sleep and eat, there is still some time to walk around the city, go for a few bites and buy some groceries. Sometimes, I even get to meet up with people I met on my travels. Just like I did that one time in Zurich with another Chautauqua participant! There are occasions where some layovers can go up to a few days long, but I am not senior enough to hold those yet.

 

I’d imagine a job like that has some pretty interesting side benefits. Do you get massive discounts on flights?

I am very fortunate to pay only the taxes on the flights when I travel. However, it is at a standby basis. If the flight becomes full, we don’t get on. That’s when we have to adapt and try different routes, cancel the trip or go to another destination all together!

In terms of schedule, my company allows us to bid for our routes every month based on seniority and language. Therefore, every month could look different with our destinations, who we work with, and when we have time off. The average is about 71-80 hours of work per month. I am fortunate to be able to fly to Asia due to my ability to speak Mandarin, and since each flight is 14+ hours each way, I can bank 28-30 hours in 3 days, that brings me to working half or even one-third of the month. With all that time off combined with affordable flight tickets, I have been travelling lots!

Cenotes in Mexico
Reaching new heights in Peru

 

Skydiving in Australia

 

How do you go about getting a job like this? Do you need any special certifications or training before you apply?

For my company, you could apply online when they have an opening. Depending on the airline, you might need a second language that is used at one of the route they fly to. It is very hard to pinpoint exactly what each airline is looking for, because I think it could differ depending on the company culture. I would say having soft skills such as being a good team player, being able to handle stress, being adaptable would be some qualities most companies look for.

Most airlines don’t need prior training since they will give you formal training once you are hired. I do know there are flight attendant schools out there, but to my knowledge , most of my colleagues don’t have previous training. The 6-8 weeks flight attendant training itself can be grueling but that is how they see if you would be a good fit.

 

You also have some experience in the military, right?

Yes. I have done the basic military and soldier qualification in the Canadian armed forces. I like to challenge myself and that was definitely more challenge than I would ever imagined. But if a skinny girl like me could do it, I think a lot of people can do it too. I think in our society, we just have different limiting beliefs that hold us back. But you don’t know until you try, and that’s my motto. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but I am proud that I accomplished it and I actually think that helped me stand out in my flight attendant job interview.

Trust me, you don’t wanna mess with this badass

 

You also mentioned that your living arrangement as a flight attendant allows you to do did something interesting on the real estate side as well. Tell us about that.

In 2016 I bought a condo in the hot Toronto market. Since then I travelled so much and I was barely home. In 2018 when my mortgage was up for renewal, I was contemplating renting my place out while I go travel. But I was introduced to your blog by a colleague and started mathing shit up. I then decided to sell my condo instead and invest my equity in index funds. Now I rent a room in a house with other flight attendants and the difference in savings allowed me to travel more often or it can accelerate my path to FI.

Clover’s Condo

Way to MathShitUp, girl! I love how you broke down your decision process in your article “Why Did I sell My Condo to Rent a Room.You showed that you would’ve actually lost $145 a month by renting it out. Was it difficult to go back to renting after owning? Or was it easy because it was purely a mathematical decision?

To be honest, it was a very hard decision despite seeing the logical benefits behind selling the condo and investing in index funds. Emotionally it was still very difficult to ignore the whole owning notion I was ingrained with for so long. It took me two months of comparing spreadsheets, staring at my pros and cons list and reading countless FI articles.

However, my love for travelling and wanting to live my life to the fullest has outweighed that fear. Worst comes to worst, I can move to Southeast Asia with a smaller portfolio and I would do just fine! Downsizing to my room and seeing the world has taught me that I can be happy without much. I value experiences so much now that I don’t want to be tied to material possessions.

 

How often do you travel now out of the year?

I have slowed down a little more this year of 2019 since I am more careful with wanting to reach my FI number sooner. But I would say 4-5 times out of the year would be minimum for me. This still allows me to have a saving rate of 42%. At the height of my travel, I would go almost every month!

Searching for Simba in South Africa

And finally, financial independence. What does it mean to you? Because it sounds like you’re already pretty close to your ideal life.

It means to have the time and mental freedom to pursue a higher purpose. Having the luxury of so much time off, it has allowed me to question the meaning of life. I am still at a stage of discovery about myself, the planet and the people. But I have realized that contributing back to society in some ways would fulfill me in deeper meaningful ways.

By writing my blog and sharing my journey, I hope it can inspire others to ask themselves what they value, and go after the things they love, and give them some ideas of how beautiful our world can be. As cliche as it sounds, I honestly believe that if more people travel, and see for themselves that at the end of the day, we are all humans with the same desires, we can all share this planet in harmony and celebrate the differences between us and learn from each other.

Clover, thanks so much for joining us. You’re an inspiration as always. Clover can be found on her blog at simplycloverliving.com, Instagram, and Facebook.


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27 thoughts on “How to Travel the World Before Becoming FI”

  1. It’s fantastic to read about how people make their day jobs more conducive to their lifestyles. I never thought my own software gig would lend itself to that, but I’m beginning year four of full-time telecommuting and that taste of independence has really helped me focus on what’s important. Clover’s not the first flight attendant I’ve seen in pursuit of FI; if you’re not tied down and can handle the pressures of the job, it seems like a fantastic way to get out there!

    1. Nice! Full-time telecommuting sounds like an awesome gig. More flexibility and you can save money but not having to commute (or wear pants! :P) to work.

      The interesting things is I’ve spoken with several flight attendants and they ALL love their jobs. A few of them have families and can still do it (they just end up living near an Airport). I’m amazed at the level of job satisfaction–though it does tend to be more fulfilling the more senior you are and can be picky about your routes.

  2. Wow, that’s an amazing lifestyle. It sounds like Clover is living life to the fullest. Great job.
    Is Clover single? The jet setting lifestyle is probably more difficult if you have a family.

    1. She told me she loves her job! (very few people in my IT field could say that).

      It’s slightly more difficult if you have a family but I also know flight attendants who do have families (they tend to be more senior and have first dibs over which routes they fly). So I think seniority is pretty important for obtaining job satisfaction and being able to do it with a family.

  3. It’s funny how, in the age of the internet, we have access to all of the answers but sometimes we don’t know the questions to ask. I’ve always wondered what kind of travel benefits flight attendants receive; it’s interesting to hear that it’s a bidding system.

    1. I’m also fascinated by the logistics of it. I had no idea there was so much adventure and freedom that comes with the job. Every flight attendant I’ve talked to loves their job–another thing I didn’t expect. Seniority seems to have a lot to do with it. The more senior you are, the more options/benefits you have.

  4. This is so awesome! Thanks so much for sharing Clover. You’re making me wonder if I should quit my marketing job and try to become a flight attendant! Your life sounds wonderful and similar to how I picture my ideal life: traveling, exploring and thinking about the meaning of life. Excited to follow your journey!

  5. Let me guess FIREcracker… You possibly read some of my post on the “side hustle millionaire travel blogger,” and felt inspired to write this blog. It’s okay to admit my friend. We all need inspiration for content development from someone else, don’t we? (smile)

    🙂

    1. How’s that overactive imagination/delusional thinking working out, DNN? Maybe it’s time to put away the tinfoil hat? (smile)

  6. Whoa Clover is a total badass! Also, the career hack for getting all that time off and banking travel is super savvy. There is a lesson here about personalizing your own lifestyle to maximize what you love. Thanks

  7. This part of Clover’s story is such a clover “FI hack”: “The average is […] 71-80 hours of work per month. […] I can bank 28-30 hours in 3 days, that brings me to working […] one-third of the month. With all that time off combined with affordable flight tickets, I have been traveling lots!”.

    Such a great example on how someone can combine their skill stack with their passion to make their day job much more fulfilling as they are on their journey to their Financial Freedom. Really inspiring.

    I don’t think I had what it takes to become a flight attendant, but I wish to have studied this idea/concept as I could have been also enjoy travel more before my wife officially decided to do it after reaching our freedom.

    1. Yeah, I never considered it either (despite how much travelling I’ve done, I’m still a nervous flier :P). Had I known it’s a valid way to travel the world earlier I would’ve seriously considered it.

  8. When I saw the title “How to Travel the World Before Becoming FI” I thought “work for an airline”. Great seeing Clover profiled here. In the 2000s I worked for an airline for over 8 years and loved it. I was in corporate so I still had a 8-5 daily job, but we did a lot of world travel when we could. I think my time at the airline helped us maintain our passion for travel even after I left the job.

    In early retirement I will have to think about going back to an airline part time just for the flight benefits!

  9. You make me wish I had signed up for Chautauqua this year so I can meet amazing people like you all. 😭 Maybe next year. Clover, Kristy, and Bryce—let me know if you are ever in San Diego. Would love to meet up. Maybe you can make it to one of our ChooseFI San Diego meetups. 😉

  10. Does Clover still have a military obligation as a reservist to either train a couple of weeks each year like American Reservists do or to possibly be called up, or is that all finished? Back in The Good Old Days when I did my own US military service, every male citizen owed the country 6 years of military service (now it’s 8). If somebody did 4 years of active duty, for example, they’d be retained in the reserve system for the 2 years remaining and later get a large packet in the mail finally discharging them altogether. Females never had the obligation unless they volunteered, and then they’d incur the same 6 or 8-year obligation as male citizens. For the record, there hasn’t been a draft since the Viet Nam War, so only volunteers do their 8 years of service.

    And what’s Clover’s military job (we say MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty, in the US Army)? Just curious if it’s a fit with her civilian job, like cook or something in Aviation, or something totally different. Pre-World War Two recruiting poster: Join the Army and learn a trade!

    A HOOAH! to Clover from a 2nd-generation (now former!) US soldier, MOS 11A5SLA (11A = Infantry officer), 5S = Parachutist-Ranger, LA = Latin American Spanish linguist in Taipei, Taiwan, where my LA skills aren’t much in demand! (So much for “…learn a trade!”)

    Dan V

  11. Hi,

    FI with the travel interest combined with the occupation as the flight attendant is awesome! This goes to show that the world is an oyster. Anything is possible. It takes effort to combine FI with various aspects to enjoy life. I believe that this is the way in which one will derive satisification in life enjoyment.

    WTK

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