Exploring life after the Cubicle

Self-Employment – The 3rd Anniversary

Self-Employment – The 3rd Anniversary

One of the great things about blogging is being able to look into your past and see what you were thinking/doing at any given time. For example, exactly three years ago today I sat down and wrote a post titled a new journey starts today.

I still remember writing that post because it was one of the most important days of my life. For the first time in my adult life, I woke up not having to go to work. I felt like my life had unlimited possibilities because there was no longer anything holding me back from giving self-employment a full-time effort.

Now that three full years have gone by, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what has all happened on that journey and talk about some of the things I have discovered along the way.

I’m Still Here!

The good news is I’m still alive and doing well. I’m living proof that you can in fact quit your job and make a living working for yourself. Hopefully you can use my story as a bit of inspiration if you find yourself in a similar situation where you completely hate your job and are planning on creating a new career path for yourself.

However, I do recommend reading the next few points first before making any decisions :)

It’s Not An Easy Road

One of the main things I mentioned in my blog post three years ago was the need to be challenged. Well, after quitting my job I quickly realized that working for yourself is definitely a challenge. It’s really, really, really hard. I’ve hit plenty of bumps along the way, some large enough to make me second guess my decision (luckily I’ve stuck with it).

Here’s some of the important things I’ve learned about working for yourself:

You Must Be Hard On Yourself

When you start working for yourself, you quickly realize that you no longer have a boss. The problem is you find yourself wondering who is going to tell you what to do. It took me a lot of adjusting to get used to the idea that I had to force myself to get things done.

If you tend to be easy on yourself, you might find yourself playing video games or watching TV everyday instead of getting your work done. In order to be successful at self-employment, you have to be willing to be hard on yourself since no one else is going to make you feel accountable.

No More Paychecks

Once I quit my job, I quickly realized that no more steady paychecks were coming in. I had to get used to the idea of getting paid sporadically instead of biweekly. This forced me to learn a lot about personal finance because you have to be on top of things in order to stay afloat. This is especially true when you have dry spells, which are guaranteed to happen.

The good news is learning about personal finance has changed my life for the better. I now have a much better understanding of where my money comes from and where it goes; two important things to know.

Working From Home Has Its Cons

When I tell people I work from home full-time, they usually respond by telling me how jealous they are. They have a beautiful vision in mind of working in their pajamas, not having to leave home, and not having to deal with co-workers anymore. All three of those things are in fact true about working from home. The problem is that I now look at them as negatives instead of positives (for the most part).

– I do in fact work in my pajamas most of the time. The problem is I often end up wearing the same pajamas for days with no motivation to change. Yes, it’s gross but it’s what happens when you no longer have to look presentable. I sometimes find myself looking like Robinson Crusoe after being stranded on a remote island for a few years.

– Secondly, not having to leave home on a daily basis isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. I often miss the idea of leaving the house to go work for a few hours. It’s easy for me to not leave the house for days because I don’t have to.

– Last but not least, I’ve found myself missing co-workers. I do a lot of solo work where I handle everything and I miss the idea of working with others. Co-workers are also a great way to make friends because you are forced to hang out with them often.

With all that said, I still wouldn’t give up the freedom that working from home does offer. I do love the ability to work from anywhere and wouldn’t give it up for anything.

Plans For The Future

So what’s next you ask? Well, I still love what I do and hope to continue to work on things I truly enjoy far into the future. Everyday I get emails from people who want to say thanks for the inspiration. These emails give me the motivation to keep dong what I do.

Things over at ZoopMedia have been going great and I hope to continue writing here on the blog. I have also taken on an interesting opportunity recently that may lead to something but only time will tell.

Changes – My Decision To Live In A Cave

Changes – My Decision To Live In A Cave

I’m writing this article in response to Justin’s blog just to show that what he is talking about can and does work in practice.  My name is Carl and I’m 56, born and raised in the UK although I have lived in Spain and Holland before.  I had been living in the north of England and working for the Council in  a dead-end office job along with 200 co-workers and hating every minute of it.  Working for the Council only to pay back half my wages in Council Tax and rent for a Council flat.  I lost both of my best friends to early heart attacks, I lost my mother, my dog died, I lost my father.  I began to suffer from depression and ended up on medication.

I decided a couple of years ago that when I received the cheque from the sale of my parents’ house I would move back to Spain.  I realised there was no way I could afford a big place or anywhere at all fancy and I didn’t want a flat in a town.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to find a job with a Spanish company as there was widespread unemployment and the start of “The Crisis” was upon us.  I had a few ideas for selling my own database software (opendatasoftware.net) and that was about it.

I decided eventually to look for a cave in the South of Spain and eventually settled on one in a small town of 20,000 inhabitants in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a cave in that all of the rooms are built into a mountain side.  Not a cave house where some of the rooms are extended outwards.  This was an important choice of dwelling as a cave hardly needs any cooling in summer and very little heating in winter due to heat being conserved by the sheer thermal mass of a 3-metre thick roof, solid stone floor and metre thick walls throughout.  The caves were previously used to house livestock but are perfectly habitable and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  And prices – this was a very cheap one at 25,000 Euros.

Typical Cave (Before)
The Cave (After)

The cave is halfway up a mountain and is subject to extreme heat and full sun exposure in summer and torrential rain and gales in winter.  The only heating is a small wood stove and there is only one window and one entrance door.  There is a small entrance room with a small kitchen and small bathroom off to one side.  Behind that is the living room with the wood stove.  Behind that is the bedroom and behind that is a storage room.  The garden is on top of the cave and the chimney protrudes up into the garden.  When I moved in the garden was completely overrun with fearsome weeds.

The Garden (Before)

I decided that the only way I could survive was to live on approximately a quarter of what I was used to getting for a living wage – a drastic cut and one that would involve a complete change of lifestyle.  I don’t smoke or drink any more so that helped.  I’m a vegetarian and thought I would be able to grow most of my own food.

I don’t go out much at all except for walks and bike rides which don’t cost anything.  The nature walk I use for a daily bike ride is just stunningly beautiful and I never tire of it.  I realised that the lifestyle I was planning on living would be quite hard work physically and so decided to get fit as soon as possible.  I started off just walking every day and now I jog 5 kilometres every day, bike 20 kilometres, train with weights and do Tai Chi, sit-ups and press-ups.  I feel so much better for it and I think I will have a six-pack by the time I hit 60!  Quite astonishing for someone who spent 8 hours a day sat in a chair in an office and never exercised apart from walking to work.  The thing is, it is vitally important to be fit for this kind of lifestyle.  I live on my own and if I cannot look after myself then I will have a serious problem.  Apart from which, this lifestyle requires commitment and stamina.  It is in no way an easy option or a cop-out.

I decided early on to dispose of most of the clutter that I had in my life and in the words of Thoreau “Simplify, simplify”.  I have no TV.  I sometimes watch Spanish television on my Eee laptop.  I have no fridge and haven’t had for a year although I will be building a small Peltier cooler as I like yoghurt and it goes off too quickly in summer.  I have a mountain bike – no car – I’ve never owned a car and I’m very proud to be able to say that.  I have a wide assortment of clothes as I have to do manual work in all temperatures so anything from padded lumberjack shirts and work boots to sleeveless T-shirts and jeans to shorts and sandals, really.  Lots of books, CDs and DVDs as I’m an avid reader.

I have no expensive hobbies.  Most of them are free or cost very little – walking, running, cycling, playing guitar, gardening and reading.  Watching the occasional DVD or documentary.

I try to do everything for myself as much as possible.  I wash clothes by hand unless they are very dirty or very large items in which case I use the Eco setting on the washing machine about once a month.  I use home made cleaning materials mainly made of either dilute vinegar or sodium bicarbonate solution.  I always cook for myself using home-grown or locally bought vegetables.  I use a home-made solar oven in summer and a home-made updated version of the old-time hay box or the wood stove in winter.  I have an electric cooker but I don’t use it.

I boil water in a Kelly Kettle (check their website) and keep it in Thermos flasks and in the summer I use camp showers to heat water.  I’ve learned how to sew, how to tie knots (a forgotten art), basic woodwork, electrical work and DIY.  I make bricks out of old cardboard and paper to supplement my wood supply.  All of this keeps my bills down to next-to-nothing.

I grow a small quantity of vegetables and herbs in the garden above the cave and on the metre-thick windowsill but I’m planning on setting up some square-foot gardens and potato-barrels this coming Spring.  It’s early days yet.  I use a (self-installed) 120-watt solar panel for some of my power and I’m going to build a couple of small home-made VAWTs as there is a huge amount of wind power available in winter.  Half of the mains power in this area is from windmills.  I only use mains power for power tools and the washing machine.  Most of my equipment is 12-volt or was deliberately chosen for low consumption (like the Eee laptop).  I use a Vodafone dongle for the Internet which costs about 4 Euros a week and the same kind of package for a mobile phone although I’m planning on switching the phone to Skype soon.

I have started a local magazine with its own website, I’m making and selling solar ovens and I’m planning on going in for producing Biodiesel for sale once I can find a cheap source of used vegetable oil.  I don’t have time for anything else as this is a full-time 24/7 365-days-a-year commitment.

What I would like to say is this.  I’m not by any means an expert on anything and I don’t claim to have all or even most of the answers.  I have found out how to do these things by researching on the Internet – something anyone can do.  And by trial and error in many cases.  When I came out here a year ago I struggled to wire a plug.  Now I’m installing solar panels!

Most of my ideas came from adapting old 1970s Mother Earth News articles to this century and checking out YouTube.   I won’t lie – the learning curve is pretty steep and many times I have had to start projects again from scratch.  Anyone who thinks that this is early retirement and an easy option is way off the mark.  Anyone who enjoys a challenge and really believes in Learning For Life will love every minute of it.  It’s an awesome, inspiring rebirth and a path to self-discovery and I would heartily recommend it to anyone.  And as for depression – sorry, I haven’t got the time …

5 Personal Finance Tips for Freelancers

5 Personal Finance Tips for Freelancers

There are many benefits to being a freelancer.  You have no boss to answer to, you can work from the comfort of your own home, and your income is only limited by the amount of time and effort you want to put into making money.  However, being a freelancer also comes with a certain amount of serious responsibility – responsibility that you wouldn’t have if you did have a boss, and worked for a company, and had a regular paycheck.  This is especially true when it comes to financial matters.  Protect yourself and your financial well-being by following these five critical personal finance tips for freelancers:

Budget.  Develop a monthly budget and stick to it, so as to avoid being sideswiped by unexpected income fluctuations.  Because your income is irregular, you will need to determine an approximate monthly income to use for your budget.  Total up your previous year’s income and divide that amount by twelve, then use that figure as a measure of what you can and cannot afford.

Safety net.  As a freelancer, it is likely that your income will almost always be at least slightly unpredictable (and sometimes extremely unpredictable).  It’s important that you prepare yourself for the tight months by saving during the bountiful months.  A good rule of thumb is to keep three to six month’s worth of expenses in an interest-bearing savings account, for “just in case.”

Save for tax season.  Don’t allow yourself to be caught off-guard by a tax bill at the end of the year.  Set aside a bit of each paycheck you get to avoid tax season shock, and to soften the blow of what could be a hefty IRS debt.

Debt.  Avoid it.  Period.  Keep your monthly expenses down to the bare essentials: rent/mortgage, utilities, car, groceries, etc.  This may be the biggest favor you will do yourself as a freelancer.  Staying out of debt means freeing up your cash flow, which will come in handy when you have a slow month (or more).  This is especially important considering that interest rates for things like credit cards can be very high, and that missing a payment (if the worst happens) can send you into a vicious cycle that will end up costing you way more than you originally borrowed.

Retirement.  Don’t forget to develop a plan for retirement, unless you plan on working forever.  The time to start planning for retirement is now.

Just like any self-employment venture, freelancing can be a risk.  But there are things you can do to hedge that risk.  Follow these personal finance tips and set your mind at ease.

About the Author: Dona Collins is a full-time writer and IT specialist who knows how important it is to have a financial safety net. When she is not working she can often be found helping other IT professionals find work through groups like Modis IT recruitment services and other local agencies.

A Drive Along The Apache Trail

A Drive Along The Apache Trail

A Quick Escape From Phoenix

The Apache Trail, also known as the AZ 88, is an old road running from Apache Junction through the Superstition Mountains towards Globe. Believe it or not, a good portion of the road is unpaved. When driving along the road, you get some good looks at Canyon Lake, Four Peaks, as well as the Theodore Roosevelt dam. It is really amazing to see the Superstition Mountains and all the different types of rock formations.

The 40 mile drive is an awesome experience, and it reminds you what the world looked like before gigantic cities took over. There are a few small towns (and I mean small) along the way but other than that, it is simply nature. No paved roads, just power lines running over the mountains.

The Drive

The road is pretty rough in some spots and the car I was riding in managed to lose a piece of a hubcap. Now the cars alignment is all out of whack and it raddles like its going to fall apart. But it was worth it, check out the pictures:

View of Four Peaks

A Bridge Overlooking Roosevelt Lake

Theodore Roosevelt Dam

Superstition Mountains

As you can see, it is a pretty amamazing drive. I highly recommend it to anyone in the Phoenix area because it is a great change of scenery.

6 Reasons Why I Ditched My iPhone

6 Reasons Why I Ditched My iPhone

I’ve been an iPhone user since it first came out a few years back. I even upgraded to the 3G version since I wanted to get some faster internet. But guess what? As of this week, I am officially iPhone free! I just sold my used iPhone on Craigslist for $250 and feel great about it.

Over the past year, I’ve been contemplating on and off whether or not I needed a cellphone. A few times I got close to pulling the plug but then changed my mind. I really don’t like the idea of constantly having a phone on me. Heck, I even saw two people run into each other on the sidewalk yesterday because they were both walking and texting. Have we really gotten this bad?

1. I Have A Land Line

Can you believe it? It’s 2009 and the main reason I ditched my iPhone is because I have a land line. I spend the majority of my time talking on the phone at home, especially when it comes to conference calls. Best of all, I only pay for the limited service which comes in around 8 bucks a month.

Now that I use Google voice, I can still dial out to anywhere in the US without paying long distance fees. Best of all, when people call my Google voice number it automatically rings on my land line. I also installed Gizmo5 on my laptop, which allows me to have my phone up on my desktop when I’m at the coffee shop.

2. I Didn’t Use It Enough

This goes along with having a land line. Over the past few months, I’ve been monitoring my iPhone usage on the AT&T website. For the month of September, I used a whopping 51 out of 450 anytime minutes. And the only reason I used that many minutes is because I was lazy and didn’t take the time to call the person using Google voice.

I also used 51 of my 1,500 text messages. Funny thing is, almost all of them took place sitting at my desk. I’ve now got into the habit of using Google voice for my texting and I’ve actually grown to like it a lot more than typical texting.

3. I Wasn’t Much Of An Application User

It’s true that there are tons of cool applications available for the iPhone. However, of the 85,000 or so available I had about 6 installed on my phone. I really wasn’t a fun of the stupid applications you always see on the commercials. Sure it’s nice to be able to look up a restaurant and see it’s rating. But it’s even better when you take a walk and randomly pick a place to eat.

The same goes for directions. I’ve decided it’s time to get back into the habit of using a paper map to find directions to where I’m going. It sure beats relying on your phone, only to have the battery die before you found your destination.

3. I Was Sick Of The Monthly Bills

Even if you go with the cheapest iPhone plan available, it’s still going to come in over 70 bucks a month. That does include limited data, but I already pay for internet in the form of DSL. The rest of the bill goes to the voice plan that I hardly ever used.

I’ve gotten much more efficient when it comes to email that I no longer feel the need to constantly be able to check it. I actually feel more relieved when I leave the house now because it actually means I get a break from the web.

4. I Bought A Tracfone

You read the right. I’ve upgraded from an iPhone to a Tracfone. Look how badass my new Motorola phone is. Not only is it lighter than my old iPhone, but it’s smaller. It even traveled forward in time from 1997. Best of all, it even has the one application I constantly used on my iPhone: a calculator.

I did a ton of research before canceling my iPhone plan because I wanted to keep the phone number just in case people still call it. So I knew that getting a prepaid cell phone was my best option. When I went to the store I wasn’t sure which phone I was going to get but I ended up with the Tracfone. The main reason being that I only need to add 20 bucks every three months to keep the phone active. That comes out at roughly $6.67 a month for my cell phone.

I also opted for one of the phones that doubles your minutes for life. Even better, I also managed to find a promo code online for some extra minutes and an extra month worth of service. I now have over 280 minutes and don’t have to add any until April of next year. Those minutes will easily cover the call and text messages I make while not at home. It will mainly be used for emergencies or when I really need to get in touch with someone.

Porting my number was really simple. I just went on to Tracfone’s website and started the port process. They automatically canceled my AT&T account once the port came over to this phone.

5. I Hated The Service

It’s no secret that AT&T has some issues when it comes to their services. I would constantly get calls that would drop, even when standing in downtown Austin. My internet was also hit or miss in terms of speed. What I disliked even more was using the account manager to access my account. Funny thing is, here’s what I saw when I tried to login just before cancelling my account:

Vibram Five Fingers: 4 Months Later

Vibram Five Fingers: 4 Months Later

Just over four months ago, I wrote a detailed review of the Vibram Five Finger shoes I purchased. I must say, the post ended up being a lot more popular than I anticipated. As soon as people started finding it via Google and YouTube, I started receiving questions and feedback about them. It’s amazing how many people are interested in these wacky looking shoes!

One of the common requests I got was to do another post about them and explain how I feel about them after owning them for a few months. So I’ve decided to do just that.

The Pros

First and foremost, I’ll take a look at the positives to the shoes:

Usability

One of my favorite things about the shoes is how usable they are. They can be used for basically anything. I’ve worn them to the beach, in the water, hiking, playing tennis, and riding my bike. I also use them for basic things like running to the grocery store.

They really are an all-around shoe that adapts to whatever it is you are doing.

Durability

Another positive to the Five Fingers is the durability. I’ve worn them quite a bit over the last 4 months but they seem to be holding up just fine. I’ve washed them a few times after hiking and they look as new as the first day I bought them.

They still fit like a glove and I haven’t experienced any shrinking or stretching, which was something I was worried about. I’m anticipating that shoes will easily last another year or two based on how often I use them. Who knows, they might even last longer than that.

Comfort

The main reason I bought the shoes is because I love to be barefoot all the time. Problem is, when you live in a city it can be pretty dangerous considering there is glass and other sharp objects lying around. These shoes do an AMAZING job at protecting your feet while still being lightweight. They really fit to your feet and after a while you forget you are wearing them.

These are honestly the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned. I’ve owned a ton of fancy shoes with air pocket, shocks, and all sorts of “comfort” features but none of them compare.

Reaction Factor

When I first purchased the shoes, I was a tad worried about what people would say. Turns out it’s pretty fun to wear these things around. I constantly get people who come up to me and ask questions about the shoes. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been asked if I’ve ever read the book “Born to Run.”

The shoes are an excellent way to get people to come up and start a conversation. Especially if you wear them out to the bar. However, from time to time I do get some fairly odd looks from people. This is especially true when going to the store. I’ve grown used to it though and no longer notice the looks I get.

Word of advice: If you don’t like being approached by strangers, you might want to think about getting a different pair of shoes.

The Cons

Now it’s time to look at the cons of the Vibram Five Fingers:

Cold Weather

So far, the biggest drawback to the shoes is that they are uncomfortable to wear if the weather is cold. My feet freeze if the temperature gets below 50 degrees. I especially noticed this in Austin when the temperatures were in the 30′s and 40′s. Even in Florida the last few days it’s been too cold for me to wear them outside.

However, there are a few different models available that work much better in cold weather. I happen to have the sprint model, which doesn’t cover much of your foot. If you do want some for cold weather, check out the KSO Trek model.

Putting Them On

Other than being cold, the only other con to wearing these shoes is they can sometimes be a tad tough to get on. They take a few seconds to get situated correctly on your foot, especially if you are just getting used to them.

I especially notice this whenever I’m feeling lazy and need to run outside to the car to grab something. I end up throwing on my slippers since they take far less time.

I Still Recommend Them

Other than the two small things I pointed out, I have absolutely no complains about the shoes. After wearing them consistently for four months, I still highly recommend them to anyone looking for some new shoes.

Best of all, they sell fairly well on eBay and Craigslist. So if you buy a pair and end up not liking them, you can always sell them off and get most of your money back.

Have a pair of Vibram Five Fingers? I’d love to hear how you feel about them.

What Exactly Is Lifestyle Design?

What Exactly Is Lifestyle Design?

Over the past few weeks, I have received a handful of emails on the topic of lifestyle design. Specifically, a few people asked me what lifestyle design actually means. Instead of coming up with a short definition, I decided to put together a post that answers that question in detail.

In a nutshell, lifestyle design is all about creating your own design and plan for life. You start by asking yourself some basic questions such as:

  • What do you want to accomplish in your life?
  • What is important to you?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • What do you want to spend your time doing?

Once you have a good understanding of what you want out of life, you then design a lifestyle to suit your needs. Last but not least, you create a plan to make it happen.

Want a longer definition? Here is what I think lifestyle design is all about:

It’s All About Choices

Lifestyle design is all about realizing that you have a choice in life. No one ever said you had to stick with your job or go to college (parents are an exception).

Instead, you have complete control over everything you do (or don’t do). If something isn’t the way you want it to be, you can change it. If you are not where you want to be, you can create a plan to get there.

Once you realize that you have control in life, you can start to think outside the box and start having fun with it.

It’s All About You

As selfish as it sounds, lifestyle design is all about you. Sometimes you have to spend a little time on yourself and truly figure out what it is you want to do in life. Otherwise you might race through your whole life without even realizing it.

No one can tell you how or why you should live your life a certain way. Many “Lifestyle Designers” will try to tell you that traveling and wealth are everything but this is far from the truth.

However, I have come to realize that time, passion, and freedom are the three things that most of us are after. Other than that, everything is custom to who you are and what you want to do.

It’s All About A Design

Lifestyle design is all about designing a lifestyle that suits you. Instead of accepting the typical lifestyle that many people have told you to follow, you go out and create one from scratch that suits you (a unique individual).

If you want to travel, then by all means design a lifestyle that allows you to travel as often as possible. If you like being a waitress, perhaps you should design a lifestyle that allows you to be the best damn waitress on the planet.

The key is to design something that is ideal for yourself. Do not listen to what anyone else has to say and do not fear what others might think of you.

It’s All About A Plan

Lifestyle design is all about taking your design and creating a plan to make it a reality. Trust me, it is a lot easier than you think once you already have the design aspect figured out.

The important thing is to completely breakdown your lifestyle design and figure out what obstacles, tasks, and projects need to be figured out in order for you to live life the way you want it to be. Then start coming up with small steps you can take in the right direction.

It is also important to realize that lifestyle design takes time. Don’t expect everything to fall in to place overnight. Try your best to enjoy the journey and constantly remind yourself that your life is happening right now.

It’s All About Action

Lifestyle design is all about taking action. Without it, you are not going to get anywhere you haven’t already been. So take my advice and get started today, not tomorrow. Start taking any steps you can and before you know it your life will be just how you planned it.

From personal experience, I have found that the very first step is always the hardest. Once you get started, you start to build up your motivation to keep going and things start falling into place.

It’s All About Dedication

Lifestyle design is all about dedication. While taking action is very important, it is not the only thing you need to be successful. Since most people are going to hit roadblocks (including myself) along the way, you have to be dedicated to making this all work.

Take my advice and realize that you will fall down sometimes. When it happens, force yourself to get back up and continue you on. Eventually you will get where you want (and need) to be.

It’s All About Passion

Lifestyle design is all about passion. Regardless of how you design your lifestyle, you should be 100% certain that you are passionate as hell about it. You should be ready to eat, sleep, and breath your lifestyle and everything that comes along with it.

Why is passion so important? Because you should enjoy what you do on a daily (even hourly) basis. Everything you do in your life should be something you want to do, not something you feel forced to do.

It’s All About Change

Lifestyle design is all about change. What kind of change? A change for the better.

This is a personal opinion, but I feel that lifestyle design should be about making a difference in the world, someone’s life, or in the way we do things. I truly believe that as humans, we have a desire to help in as many ways as possible.

Don’t believe me? Just ask someone what they would do if they didn’t have to work and many people will answer with volunteer, teach, or some other form of activity that benefits someone or something.

If your lifestyle design is nothing more than making a bunch of money and doing nothing, then by all means do it. However, I highly recommend seeking a lifestyle where you can benefit others (and/or the world we live in).

***
There you have it, an in-depth look at lifestyle design. I probably missed a few things and some people may have differing opinions but I think this is a great starting point.

8 Low-Stress Careers

8 Low-Stress Careers

I was reading a few articles on Yahoo.com today when I stumbled across one titled “8 Careers to Help Lower Your Stress Meter. (Full Article Here)” As soon as I saw it, I had to look at it since all I have dreamed about is having a nice, low stress, and decent paying job that still offers me the freedom to do what I want.

So to my surprise, most of the jobs on the list weren’t even close to being a job I would enjoy having. Here are the 8 careers they listed and my take on each of them:

1. Accountant

Looking at the accountants I have worked with in the past, they sure didn’t seem like “low-stress” people. Matter of fact, I remember an accountant at a job I used to have that would say everyday, “Just get me out of this place!” Maybe I just don’t have the “knack for calculations” they recommend in the article.

2. Preschool Teacher

Being in charge of 10 – 20 little kids crying, screaming, and throwing toys everywhere, no thank you! My stress levels would more than likely sky rocket with a job like this. Unless I was the nap time supervisor. I can nap as good as any of them. I could probably even give a few of the kids a lesson on how to duck out of class and setup the ol’ hammock in the bathroom stall for that much needed extra nap.

3. Nursing Assistant

Now this one I do not know much about. It could be a great career for all I know. But for some reason, all I think about is blood, needles, and sponge baths for patients. I think I will go ahead and say this one is not for me either.

4. Financial Planner

Being a financial planner would most likely drive me insane. First off, I am not the best with money so giving others advice on how to do it probably wouldn’t be a great idea. Plus I would probably deal with clients that are making tons more money than me which would just piss me off that tad bit more.

5. Massage Therapist/Physical Therapy Assistant

A massage therapist, now this is something I could see myself doing. Giving and receiving back rubs does not sound so bad. However, I have a gut feeling there is more to this job then just back rubs. But who knows, I will definitely be looking more into this career.

6. Pastry Chef

Now this one is interesting, a Pastry chef. I love how the article states “It’s hard to get stressed when your office smells of butter, sugar, and cinnamon.” Yeah, unless you actually have taste buds and an appetite. I would be more stressed being surrounded by endless piles of cakes and donuts. I mean, I would either be stressed about not being able to eat them, or worse yet, I would actually eat ALL DAY. Then after pounds of weight gain, I would be more stressed than I have ever been in my life. Let’s just throw this career out for me.

7. Graphic Design

Graphic design is something I do on the side and I admit it can be low-stress. However, it can also be very stressful. Especially when your dealing with multiple clients and projects at the same time. Which you need to be doing if you are actually looking to make enough money to buy food that doesn’t come in a brick with a salt packet for flavoring.

8. Desktop Support

As soon as I saw this, I just about pissed my pants. Desktop Support…low stress? Come on! I am a desktop support technician and this is anything but low stress. Sure, plugging in a few computers here and there and helping a few people with small problems is rewarding. But wait until you get a pile of projects thrown on your lap. Then you spend every second at work helping others or running back to your desk in between calls so you can actually sit down and figure out what project your supposed to have done and when.

I am sorry Yahoo, but this list could of been a lot better. Most of these jobs are far from being the best jobs for low-stress. Plus it did not say anywhere about pay being of any importance.
Off the top of my head, any of these careers would of been a much better pick:

1. Hot Air Balloon Captain

Your job is to fly this huge balloon around and take people on rides. Hmm, sounds like a great job for me. Where do I sign up?

2. Dog/Home Sitter

I have had a few friends that have done dog/home sitting for people. It sure it did not sound that stressful. Walk the dog at 3, feed him 3 times a day. I can handle that.

3. Tour Guide

I met a volcanic tour guide in Hawaii and she made it sound like it was the coolest career ever. You take a bunch of tourist out to the lava failed and show them around and answer their questions. Not exactly high-stress, unless of course the volcano erupts…

4. Surf Instructor

I surfed a ton while I lived out in Hawaii and met a lot of surf instructors. Every one of them loved there job and even made a decent amount of money. What is more fun than hanging out with tourist and doing the sport you love the most.

5. Librarian

How hard can it be? Put a few books away, tell a couple middle schoolers where to find the book they need for class.

6. Movie Extra

I have done this one a few times and not once have I come over after and been stressed out. It is one of the easiest jobs I have done and you literally get paid to just hang out and look like your doing something. I am trying my best to do this as much as I can.

7. Strip Club DJ

I have never done this job, but it sure sounds like something I would be interested in trying. What is there to not love about music and…yes strip clubs. What a perfect job!

8. Blogger

Personally, I think blogging is a great low-stress career. I really think writing/blogging is a great career since it has so much flexibility.

Mexican Coke vs American Coke

Mexican Coke vs American Coke

One of the many things I’ve discovered here in Austin is Mexican Coke. Prior to moving here, I wouldn’t of had the slightest clue as to what it is. Now I can’t get enough of the stuff.

So I’ve decided to have a battle between regular Coke and Mexican Coke. Here we go:

Round 1: Appearance

As the old saying goes, “appearance is everything.” Even when we’re talking about something as simple as cola. Lets take a closer look at the two different bottles and see which one wins:

American Coke

As you can see to the left, the American Coke looks like any Coke you would see at a gas station. It consists of a screw off plastic cap, a plastic label, and a paper (I think?) sticker known as the label.

There’s a bunch of crap on the label about entering codes on the internet to win like a billion dollars or something. Does anyone actually take the time to read the codes off the caps and enter them online? I sure don’t.

Other than that, we have some nutrition facts, bottle information, and that’s about it.

In terms of appearance, it’s not that appealing.

Mexican Coke

Now lets take a look at the Mexican Coke. As you can see, the Mexican Coke features a metal cap (it’s not even a screw off), as well as a SUPER thick glass bottle.

Apparently they don’t bother with the sweepstakes in Mexico, so the label is literally burned? etched? built right in to the glass. Kind of badass if you ask me.

It has far less information on it compared to the American bottle. The nutrition facts are actually on a sticker, which I’m assuming is added once it makes its way to the US.

Overall, this bottle kills the American Bottle.

1-0 Mexican Coke

Round 2: The Ingredients

In round two, we’re going to compare the ingredients. I know neither of them are healthy beverages but we’ll forget about that for now. Here’s a closer look at the ingredients of each one:

American Coke

Water, high-fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffeine.

Mexican Coke

Carbonated water, sugar, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffeine.

As you can see, there’s only one key difference. The American Coke uses high fructose corn syrup, which is probably one of the worst things on the planet in terms of health. The Mexican Coke uses real cane sugar, which is at least natural.

2-0 Mexican Coke

Round 3: Taste Testing

Finally, time to taste the two and compare them:

American Coke

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a regular Coke so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I took a few sips and really focused on the flavor. For some reason, it tastes a lot more “fake” and has a chemical taste to it. The sweetness is more bitter and sort of reminds me of a diet Coke that uses artificial sweeteners.

Mexican Coke

Once I got done tasting the American Coke, I immediately tried some of the Mexican Coke. Wow does it taste better. It’s sweeter and has a less acidic/chemical taste to it. It tastes a lot more like a naturally sweet beverage such as juice.

3- 0 Mexican Coke

It’s Delicious

Well the Mexican Coke dominated this battle. I’ll continue to spend a $1.25 on bottles knowing that the taste is far better. Now if only I could find it by the case somewhere…Mexico?

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