Thursday, 31 August 2023

ER2@48 - a year in

So then, aye, a full year of early retirement in Kampot. Has it been everything I'd hoped? Spose so aye. Can't overstate the gratitude I feel to be unencumbered by the trivial and mundane. Free of petty managers, mono-dimensional colleagues and insipid grind. A visa not contingent on thumbing-in-and-out of a prison. No longer a number on a ledger. A whole year. Free.



But can we ever be truly free? Three weeks of constant heavy July rain caused substantial flooding. Up past me knees man. The Pumphouse was marooned, a beacon of hope in a vast Evergladean expanse. The rubble roads were home to six inch fish swimming through the Mary's spokes. Resourceful neighbours deployed fishing nets on our doorstep - I shit thee not. I certainly wasn't free of nature's whims.

Woke up one Friday and couldn't turn me swede to the left. Trapped nerve. Shit. The Online Doc recommended rest and NSAIDS. Thus causing even more time to be spent hammocking with fluffy DtooDtoo. No complaints other than missing the gym for a few weeks. And constant pain. I certainly wasn't free of suffering.

Then an email from my UK bank informing me that they're unilaterally closing my account, after a pair of decades, for no reason! The Anglosphere nations are out of control man. I predict a new Iron Curtain but with the flow of human misery in reverse - Churchill's ferrous furnishing mod 2.0. I certainly wasn't free of malicious bureaucrats.

So am I free? I guess not. Perhaps it's on a spectrum? I'd contend I'm as free as it's possible to be within the limitations of the human condition in the current Zeitgeist. More words should have a Z in them.

El Capitan

5th place

We lost in the semi-finals of the Wobbly Cup though it couldn't dampen my spirits. Really enjoyed this debut season. I'd always wanted to play in a pool league but was never in the right place at the right time. Thanks to Bong Jonny and the team at POL for providing the opportunity. Great crack. Played 26 singles: P26 W15 L11. Not too shabby.

Toon Army

Bought a sports-ball shirt after years in the wilderness. However, as the initial excitement ebbed, I couldn't shake a damnable sense of inauthenticity. Plastic-ness. Buying in to what exactly? Tribe? Kinship? The West doesn't have that anymore since anyone can be Bri'ish. Soccer has been commodified, commercialised, globalised and, as a result, deracinated.

Muh roots

I watched them, largely unmoved, thump 5 past Villa on a jerky livestream. 11 foreign millionaires temporarily based in an arbitrary geographical area versus a mirror image. Who are they? 53,000 souls viewing from the comfort of an all-seater amphitheater.

The magic of standing in the rain with me Fatha in the 1982-1994 Gallowgate lost to the mists of time. £1 for him, 50p for me. Packed pubs before climbing the weed-strewn steps in giddy excitement. Wafts of beer as I caressed a nuclear-hot bovril, perched on a barrier, his presence protecting me from the crush. Camaraderie, kinship, humour. Falklands and miner strikes. Madonna like a virgin, Maradona hand of god. The smell of piss from the open air urinals. All crushed under a steamroller of progress.

Something valuable was lost when English stadia went all seater in 94. Something abstract, intangible. Working class sandpaper replaced with middle class emery cloth. Suddenly tickets became prohibitively expensive for the riffraff. London suits repackaged Division One as the Premier League - bigger, better, shinier. Sky Sports and Roy Keane's Prawn Sandwich Brigade were in charge now. Stand aside peasant - it's all TV rights, slimy agents and behemoth salaries - no longer grass roots and local heroes. Football, they claimed, was a whole new ball game. And they were right. The grass even looked greener.

Today? Too much. Too much bread and circuses. Too much Freudian social conditioning. Too political. Too decadent. A distraction from western cultural decline - or perhaps symbolic of it? Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Perhaps I've been away too long? Or shed another layer? Or the malaise is pointing to a deeper truth and the meaninglessness of existence itself? Or I'm overthinking it and it's just a game? Either way, glad I didn't shit a laughable £90 of me hard-earned on it.

Are you still AWOL Geordie?


That brings me to the blog's very name. Can I still claim to be AWOL and Geordie? I've spent 30/50 years in exile. More time AWOL than not, which suggests that AWOL is, in fact, the default state and thus a redundant term? And what makes someone a Geordie? Accent? Maybe. Roots? Possibly. Ethnicity? Not these days. I've lost much of the accent and feel a sense of relief to be immersed in more traditional environs. Not that I've ever truly felt a member of any group. Always on the fringe somehow. That one lad who never quite fit in. Square peg, round hole. A transient fraud. At home everywhere yet nowhere. I know some of you will get what I'm driving at here ..... who else would read this shit?

Exacerbating an uneasiness to claim membership of any particular group is the paradox of diversity. Today, for example, we're told that anyone can be English. Feet on the ground and a document (local passport) is all one needs to be as English as John Bull himself. Culture, ancestry, ethnicity, tradition, religion, clothing and national affiliations no longer relevant factors. This is the new post-national world espoused by the West, whereby formerly homogenous nations are transformed into Balkanised economic zones. Technocrats, spreadsheets and GDP superseding blood, soil and history.

Reducing the diversity
All very good but here's the paradox: if anyone can be that thing, then being that thing is of no value. Or, in other words, pursuing local diversity destroys global diversity. Uniqueness ultimately diminished. Delicious irony there. Perhaps Rabbie Burns best encapsulates the law of unintended consequences with his classic: The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley. Unless, of course, that was the plan all along.

Getting entropy vibes here so will use this as an excuse to needlessly shoehorn some physics in. Increasing entropy is a law of nature and decreasing it locally ultimately increases it universally. Air conditioning is a good example: cooling a room decreases the entropy in that room, however, there's always a greater increase in universal disorder (energy to run the compressor + heat transferred to the external environment). Similarly, increasing diversity locally ultimately decreases it globally. Mmm, inverted though, perhaps this entropy/diversity congruency theory needs more work?


Scouse Steve

Was lucky to have another two old shipmates pass through. Scouse Steve travelled through time and space to join us from The Hanging Gardens of Babylon where he teaches English. Not really - he's 100km north and 4,000 years ahead at Baghdad Uni.

Millsy, a family friend, was Steve's Sergeant during his Army basic training. Small world. We'd been online buddies since 2016 so it was great to finally meet in person. Nice to see a former squaddie building bridges in the Middle East instead of blowing 'em up.

We covered much ground but the most abiding impression was the sense that we're both Nowhere Men - accents too posh for home but too broad for middle claRss staffrooms. He left recommending Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. Great read - thanks marra.

Adjust the weekly schedule
based on SAR

Then it was Andy. One part Geordie, one part Irish, three parts vodka. A rock of sanity during two covid-riddled years in Saigon. He deflated my pool-ego by kicking my arse more times than I was comfortable with. The POL's YoY cocktail sales grew 60% by virtue of his two day bender. Canny lad, good laugh, sh1t weather.

Silver screen 

Previously I'd been drawn to the sea, this time the pull was economics. Watched The Wolf of Wall Street followed by The Big Short. Great movies. Then read The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin. A horrifying insight into the machinations of central banking. Mmm, a nice segue for:

Ket Loy

$4,925 USD
The data's in. A whole year for $4,925 USD. All in. Everything. Rent, food, visas, transport, entertainment. The lot. Averages to $410/month.

That's crazy. Did you live in misery? Poverty?

Not at all, on the contrary. I've had the most fulfilling year of my life. No stress, no drama and all the time in the world to indulge in hobbies, or, do nothing at all. Just be. Tracking the sun's arc across the sky each day from a hammock - perfectly situated in the building's Crow's Nest - is nothing but freedom, peace and contentment. Sabai sabai.

Full attention to every moment is life's greatest pleasure. And it costs nowt other than a shift in perspective. Here's an equation from the book Steve left:

Happiness = satisfaction / desires.

The secret to happiness, therefore, is not in seeking more but in developing the capacity to enjoy less. Quod Erat Demonstrandum. QED.

Graph Porn

So how did you get here? Well, I geeked out and graphed the journey. Short version: Started with $0 at 41. Retired 7 years later at 48. Worked 6 years with a year off. Some salaries good. Some shit. Lived frugally. Studied economics. Maintained a high savings rate. Got $50k back from the ER1@39 scam (75% loss - ouch). Started investing at 44. Put around $230k ($180k work + $50k scam) into a mixture of REITS, Bonds and Dividend ETFs. Shifted gears at 46 and pivoted to MSTR, TSLA, BTC and SCHB.

ER2@48 Thailand China Vietnam Cambodia

That $230k has grown to around $300k (CAGR a measly 4.6%) providing a supposed safe withdrawal rate of $1,000/month. I say "supposed" as nowt's guaranteed - as I learnt at the tender age of 40. Here's the rub, if I'd learnt this shit at 18 (as an apprentice) instead of at 44 (as a tard) I'd have been worth millions by 35. But, somehow, life doesn't pan out like that.

When I'm feeling particularly masochistic I'll reminisce about Phuket 2011 and torture myself with cudda, wudda, shudda thought experiments. If I'd have had even a cursory understanding of investing - and gone with a simple low cost index fund (great time to enter too - just after the GFC), that $200k would have been $700k today. Damn! But, somehow, life doesn't pan out like that.

No, rather than pick up a book, I chose to engage in a hedonistic alcohol-fuck-frenzy, took financial advice from a barely-literate Leo-drinking Cockney dipshit, and, in a haze, lost it all. The result of which was the lion's share of my 40s lost to A-Level Maths and Physics. Simping instead of hammocking. Something, something opportunity cost.

6yrs in Stocks: Choppy. Turbulent. Volatile.

In Year 13 Physics we touch on Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. I'd joke with students that uncertainty is the only certainty in life. Holding stocks is a bumpy ride as demonstrated by this gorgeous chart. However, over time you *should* make bank. Look at those vicious dips in late 2018 and early 2020 (Covid) - almost 50% underwater. And that's just an index. MSTR shat 90% in 2022! So hold tight.

So aye, that's it. Another pointless foray into the mind of a reformed monger living a life less ordinary in the tropics. Laters.

A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free ― Arthur Schopenhauer

1 comment: