In bullet form:
- Quit my corporate job to travel
- Lived rent-free for 11 months
- Spoke at a conference in front of 100 Israeli and Palestine students
- Once drove 23 hours non-stop from Amsterdam to Vienna (don’t recommend)
- Finalist in Daily Fitness Challenge of the San Francisco Disc Association
In article form (prepared by my friend Sam Cooper):
Meet Vince Linssen, the insanely cool former Risk Management Consultant living rent-free and traveling the world
Vince Linssen; a “travel blogger” whose unassuming title belies one of the most successful applications I’ve seen of The 4-Hour Workweek Step IV: L is for Liberation.
Vince received his MBA in ‘Organizational Change and Consulting’ at the Rotterdam School of Management 2014. He started his professional career as a Risk Consultant at one of the big four accounting firms, all ready for a long, conventionally prosperous life. He fired on all cylinders for two years, working 80-hours weeks while training for the Dutch National Frisbee team on the weekends.
After the passing of this father, Vince had second thoughts about his decision to enter the corporate world, and embarked on an ambitiously un-ambitious year of living rent-free and backpacking around the world. He shares his adventures in a weekly travel blog on his personal website (savingonlife.com, @vincent.linssen, /vincent.linssen).
The purpose of this interview is simple: to make you think about what you want from life.
How did you end up at your former job?
It was actually quite straightforward. As soon as I entered grad school I started looking for internships, and was hired while still writing my master’s thesis. Toward the end of the internship I asked if the team was looking for staff and without even an interview I was hired. I started work the following month.
When did you know it was time to quit?
Working for a big four comes with a fair bit of pressure (mostly self-inflicted). As long as I was still learning and making a difference in the world I didn’t mind. At a certain point, however, the work became increasingly repetitive and I felt that my learning curve had plateaued. At the same time, I played for the Dutch National Frisbee team, which carved out a significant chunk of my spare time.
Weeks and months of keeping up this rhythm took its toll. In the spring of 2016, I booked a 2-week holiday to Israel where I realized I was close to a burnout. The trip finally allowed me the time and mental space to rethink and, potentially, redesign my lifestyle.
And that’s when you launched your year of rent-free living. What was your inspiration?
Actually, I began the rent-free experiment while I was still at my job. In the summer of 2014 I had worked for almost a year and I had barely managed to save one month’s worth of salary. I took my bank account details and categorized all my expenses for the month. For the detail-oriented reader, I used a simple Excel overview and entered my data manually, but there are a ton of free apps, such as BillGuard, LearnVest, and Level Money, that automate the work. It soon dawned on me that my rent constituted one third of my monthly expenses. As I was looking to buy a house in the near future I decided I needed to drastically change the way I spent my hard-earned money.
I decided to give up my apartment and started a project (or rather, social experiment) called ‘Food for Rent’. Every month I moved from one place to the next. In exchange for free rent and utilities, I would buy and prepare one meal a day for everyone in the house. Financially it turned out to be quite effective, saving half of what I earned each month. And in terms of quality of life, I was learning to cook and always meeting new people. So really there was no comparison.
But you were still working your Risk Management job at this time?
Yes, back to the job situation. After plugging on with the job for another year, I took my trip to Israel. I met so many inspiring people, most of whom had done some pretty incredible things in the Israel army. One woman I met, for example, had worked as a software engineer for air-to-missile rockets for the Navy. I saw the world open up with possibility, and I allowed myself to imagine a different kind of lifestyle.
When I came home, I felt physically and mentally more relaxed. Yet, this feeling was short-lived. Pretty soon anxiety about what I would do next started to build. I wanted to use my talents for a purpose that would give me fulfillment. Figuring out what my true passion was, though, turned out to be trickier than simply filling out some online survey.
I went into a downward spiral and was anxiously seeking guidance. I contacted all my friends to seek their advice. It was a conversation with an old family friend that really set me free. He asked what I truly wanted to do, and gave me only half a second’s response time. I told him, “I want to travel the world.” He gave me this look and said, “Well, why don’t you do it, dummy.”
That’s when it hit me. I handed in my notice at work and was going to travel to discover my passion.
And since then you’ve been traveling for almost a year. What have you taken away from your experience?
I have met so many inspiring people, been able to read plenty of books, and had such a variety of experiences. All these have had a great influence. Meeting fellow travelers has been most insightful for me, however. They can relate to your experiences, insecurities, and wisdoms, which I found to be a very useful way to collect my thoughts. Personally, being away from my normal setting provided me with an outsider’s perspective.
Concretely, these have been some more my profound insights:
- Prioritize quality time with friends and family over work
- Create a healthy mix between habits/routines and being free of structure to allow for creativity
- I enjoy alone time, but find life more meaningful when sharing experiences with others
- Once a week do something I am very good at (confidence boost)
- Once a week be the worst in the room at something (to learn and stay humble)
- Keep a daily journal that provides guidance, as well as a place to cage my monkey mind
Did you ever worry that a yearlong sabbatical would create a gap on your resume?
A few weeks into my travels I heard my colleagues had gotten better work assignments, were learning a lot, and were heading for promotions. It gave me a sense of missing out. I was afraid a year of travel would make me less competitive on the job market when I returned.
Yet, a year of travel builds certain skills at a pace unmatched in most jobs. Instead of fearing a loss of a year’s work experience, I highlight the skills I developed on my travels. I mention my skills in planning, negotiation, independence, flexibility, boldness, goal setting, task prioritization, and self-sufficiency. Instead of a sabbatical looking bad on your resume, celebrate it! Imagine you are a recruiter who sees ‘world travel’ on your resume. They’d likely invite you for an interview out of interest and maybe even a slight sense of jealousy.
Moreover, if you have half an interest you can develop nearly any skill you want online. I honed my writing and technical skills by posting weekly blog posts on my personal website, while simultaneously building a social network marketing campaign to promote the website. In addition, I’m writing an E-book on ‘Food for Rent’ and obtained a Google Adwords and Google Analytics certification. Coursera and Kahn Academy provide online courses, just like so many universities these days. You can work remotely by posting your services on websites like Fiverr, Upwork, etc.
After almost a year on the road, I’m satisfied with what I have seen and achieved. I’m looking forward to spending time with friends and starting a life with a bit more stability. Working in a tech startup (preferably remotely) would align well with my values and way of life. I’m currently looking for opportunities as a product/project manager or in business development.
Meanwhile, I keep growing my website into a platform for people who want to quit and travel. I share tips on how to save money on daily life and on the road. Finally I’m investigating ways to publish my E-book.
Are there any books your recommend to people who are ready, as you were, to start questioning their assumptions and figuring out what they really want in life?
Of course I love Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Work Week. But I would also recommend the book that provides the basis for it, which is Rolf Pott’s ‘Vagabonding’. He describes his philosophy on life, and posits that travel is a way to open your mind to new experiences. He also gives practical tips on how to prepare for travel, how to travel, and what to expect upon return. What I find most interesting, though, is that you do not need to travel in order to live a vagabond lifestyle. It’s a short read – you can finish it in an afternoon. And it’s a way of seeing the world that you can start applying today.