This was first published in Singapore Man of Leisure and is reproduced with permission.

Jared Seah
During my business trip to Warsaw, Poland in 2010, I spent 2 nights at a hostel for my private trip extension.

On the second day when I was ready to roam the city, I thought I saw a cool middle-aged Japanese guy checking-in. He was wearing a red bandana and black t-shirt and pants. Looking very much like one of those chefs at Japanese noodle bars.

In the evening when I was surfing the Net in the common lounge area, he approached me. Only then did I discover he is a Hong Konger – not Japanese! 

He got 5 classical piano music CDs that he needed to copy into his netbook. And he needed my notebook since I got a DVD drive. He was in Warsaw to attend live classical piano competitions – a classical music buff.

While burning and transferring these CDs to my notebook, I took the opportunity to ask him about his travels.

Little did I expect this chance meeting would turn out to be one of those memorable people encounters that left a deep impact on me..…..

This HK “man of leisure” was 55 years “young”. He left his top management job 7 years ago when he was 47. He was an engineer by training and worked at one of the big telcos in HK.

Lounge area of the hostel where we can meet and chat with interesting travellers. Taken  in Oct 2010.
This is his story:

He had been on the road for the past 7 years!!! To him, vacation is spending 3 months back in HK every year (to plan his next adventure). For the remaining 9 months of the year, he is traveling and exploring different countries.

Some of his travel pictures blew me away. I especially liked his trip through the countries of South America. He even took a sea cruise from Chile to the South Pole. Ice-bergs never looked so interesting!

Our HK man of leisure travels on budget – staying at hostels instead of hotels. He prefers this arrangement since he can do his own cooking and meet other young travellers – it keeps him young and invigorated!

Sensing that I am “restless”, he offered me his life experiences:

1) Work hard; work smart

In his youth, he had no problem going the extra mile (work hard). He was always eager to volunteer and lead projects that can help promote his competence and visibility to management (work smart).

Save and accumulate first nest egg

This resulted in a series of quick promotions all the way to the top management rank. But instead of spending all his extra earnings on cars or a fancy lifestyle, he diligently saved.

He did not play the stock markets in a big way. Only invested in small amounts here and there; more to get a feel of the market than anything else. He focused on developing his career and accelerating his earned income – he is very conservative when it comes to money.

He prefers not to be distracted by so called opportunities in properties or stocks. He wasn’t affected by his peers who liked to brag about how much they have made….

Quit the rat race

He surprised all his peers and boss at age 47 when he announced his “retirement”. Our HK man of leisure took all his savings and sank them into safe and boring utilities and telecoms stocks.

He confessed he has little interest in monitoring the markets - his no.1 passion is adventuring. Just as long as the regular dividends can cover his travel expenses, he does not care whether the Hang Seng is up or down.

Below are other relevant details about him as these are important to put things in perspective (his way suits him and him only – not anyone else; but it’s an interesting alternative!):

a) He is single and has no children. (Lifestyle decision)
b) He lives with his parents whenever he is back in HK.
c) He does not own any properties – hence is debt free.

(I guess property is not needed if he can inherit the property from his parents, and/or if he is never going to sink roots in one place - gypsy lifestyle)
There are many routes and vehicles we can use to reach our own version of “financial freedom” – it means different things to different persons. I guess the keyword is we have to know what we really want.

Financial goals are not the same as life goals.

Jared Seah, 45, writes regularly on his popular blog,, which has many postings on a wide range of financial and non-financial topics.

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