I’ve lived in the Third World for 3 years: 10 important lessons I’ve learned

TL;DR — I've lived in "Third World" Latin America for 3 years, and I've learned a ton about happiness, tax reduction, relationships, the world, and my role in it. Learn from my mistakes and lessons.

I’ve squeezed a decade of life into the last 3 years. I’ve done things I never thought I’d do. And there’s still so much to accomplish.

But through the last few years, I’ve learned a lot about the world and my role in it. Learn from my mistakes and observations. Here are some of my favorites:

1. “Happiness is only real when shared”

Thinking you’ll be a lone wolf? It doesn’t work.

I’ve tried monk mode several times. Once in Cuenca, Ecuador 🇪🇨. Then in San José, Costa Rica 🇨🇷. And yet again in Panama City 🇵🇦.

While I grew my businesses and myself considerably during that time, my soul suffered.

The learning here? You need a significant other, your family, and your close friends around you to truly experience happiness. You need someone to share that progress with.

SPOILER ALERT: This excerpt from Into the Wild (one of my favorite movies) is incredible. Look up the full story to understand the context behind this video.

2. You’re at your best when every day is interesting

The best way to live an interesting life is by getting out of your comfort zone regularly. The more hard things you do, the more progress you experience.

And progress (not achievement) toward your goals is the root of all happiness.

Making every day interesting by stepping out of your comfort zone leads to good things. One step backward to take four leaps forward.

3. A new language opened more doors than any other skill I have

Learning a new language can dramatically expand your world. Since learning Spanish, I’ve opened my world to 600 million more people I couldn’t previously communicate with.

But apart from that, a new language has changed the chemistry in my brain. I think about problems, I think about marketing and sales, and I think about life in very different ways than I used to. (Someone who’s wiser than I has probably spoken about this mental shift at length.)

4. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you

Before I quit my job, I had a booming social life. Everything was going great.

But when I quit my job and had to fend for myself, that’s when everything changed. I began to take matters into my own hands, reach out to people I knew I could offer something to, and ask for their help in return.

Aim to consistently be the dumbest person in the room. It’ll hurt your ego temporarily, but we all need a little humbling once in a while.

This has changed the course of my business, my relationships, and my life.

Conversely, do not spend time with nihilists, complainers and cynics.

5. Working hard is not noble. Work like an athlete instead

Train hard, sprint, rest, and reassess.

It’s not about the hours or amount of energy you put in. Focus on working smart and prioritizing outputs.

6. Don’t over-analyze decisions (only the irreversible ones)

If you’re faced with a decision, determine whether it’s reversible. If it is, pull the trigger and you’ll learn along the way. Sometimes, your gut knows better than your head.

But if it’s irreversible, this is the time to analyze the consequences of each path.

For example, buying my home in Latin America was an irreversible decision. Therefore, I thought through all the possible scenarios.

But choosing to evolve the Freedom Files from a personal blog to a relocation resource hub is reversible. I can always pivot back or specify even more the focus of our content. 🤷‍♂️

“Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors. And these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions.

But most decisions aren’t like that. They are changeable, reversible. They’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.”

— Jeff Bezos

7. Pride in your country is silly

Being proud of your country is like being proud of your hair color. Yes, you were born with your nationality. But you can easily change it with some time or a process abroad (here are 6 ways to get a second citizenship).

What sense does it make being proud of something you were merely born into, didn’t consciously choose, and can change overnight?

However, pride in the values espoused by those who founded your country is different. That’s noble.

I talk a lot about this in my assessment of the American Dream.

8. Your decisions in your 20s will set you free in your 30s

Before you have real commitments, your 20s are the best time to travel. But what most don’t do during this time is travel purposefully.

By your 30s, aim to have homes around the world, multiple income streams, multiple citizenships, and complete location independence. Why?

The way things are going, most people will become less free in the future. So even if you don’t want to travel once you have kids, at least you’ll have the optionality and mobility our future world will require.

9. The chance you were born in the same place you’ll also be happiest is ZERO

The world is a big place. ~190 countries and in each country, hundreds and thousands of cities.

Do you really think you were born in the exact same location that will provide the best environment for your happiness and freedom? I don’t think so.

10. Nominal cost of living isn’t a big deal. But variable taxes are

“There’s a limit to how much you can save, but not to how much you can make.”

Temporarily reducing your cost of living is a great decision to extend your runway and relieve some financial pressure if you need some breathing room. That was one of the reasons I originally left the United States three years ago.

But long-term, you should focus your energy on reducing variable taxes rather than worrying about your nominal cost of living.

As your income grows, a high tax rate will affect your standard of living far more than high cost of living.

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What should I cover next?

I have a question for you:

If I were to dedicate the next Freedom Files YouTube video to you and one challenge you’re facing right now, what would that issue be?

Typically, I get something like the following:

  • I can’t find a remote job
  • I don’t know the right long-term location for me
  • I don’t know how to start a business
  • I am a digital nomad but haven’t settled in a country
  • I pay way too much in taxes and need a solution
  • I want to invest in countries before they are popular

Let me know by emailing or DMing me. I’ll write about it publicly because many others likely have the same challenge as you do.

Location freedom is near

I started an online business, lived in 10 countries, learned a new language, bought international real estate, and got residency in Latin America – all within 2 years.

It’s possible! I made a checklist to help you live your relocation dream. 

I’ll send it to you ASAP. Just fill out the form below.