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I cannot believe that it is all over…
After nearly six years of practicing chiropractic in Southeast Asia, I chose to move on. Move on from what though? Things were going fantastic. I had a big and successful practice, great friends, a great relationship with Charine, and a handsome income. It was not the smoothest journey to get there but it was a lot of fun, dosed with copious amounts of learning. (You can read about the journey by getting a free downloadable copy of my book HERE. Shameless plug!)
Life was going so smoothly. I was playing tons of basketball, indulging in great food and wine, my social life was fantastic, and things were just easy. There are many great things about living in Singapore especially if you are doing well financially, it becomes a paradise. Many people who come to Singapore end up staying there forever. Life there can be very comfortable. You can move from great street food and be at a world-class restaurant in a matter of minutes, be it by bus, train or car in complete confidence of your safety. It was that though—the comfort—I was caught in a routine, things were just easy.
At work, practice was going very well. The practice was busy, people were getting well, and the staff was happy. I had deep feelings of contribution and appreciation. The practice was generating an annual revenue in the seven-figure range in 2014. There was a great support network there, as well as a valuable group of people within my profession to mastermind with. However, something wasn’t quite right. I wanted more out of my life—more adventure, more travel, and more freedom.
In 2009, I arrived in Southeast Asia, knowing no one, and with 50 bucks left in my pocket. During the the next few years, I would start several clinics, get blacklisted from a country, meet a girlfriend/business partner, and build a thriving chiropractic practice/business. In Singapore, I found myself in a conundrum. There was a lot of money coming in and a lot of people getting well in the clinic but I really did not want to be there in the long term. Questions flew around in my head all the time. Should I just wait it out and save more money? How much was enough? Should I just settle down in Singapore and keep practicing?
You have two options when it comes to the direction of your life. You can alter the course of it voluntarily in the direction that you want or life does it for you, often with a twist of unpleasant surprises. Neither of the choices is comfortable because it stretches your core inner being. It can be exciting, fun, and scary all at the same time.
I chose to redirect the course of my life. There had been the dream of long-term travel that existed deep inside me for the past five years. It basically was screaming out immediately after dropping my bags from the last globetrotting jaunt that led me to Singapore. With every passing year in Southeast Asia, that vision of travel kept getting clearer and clearer. The voice telling me to go became louder and louder. It was time to choose a different direction.
This might not be the rational choice, and it’s definitely not the traditional one but it is the one that I’ve made. Once that choice was done, things moved on and progressed very quickly.
The last month in Singapore consisted of closing all my accounts, saying goodbye to great friends, saying goodbye to all the patients whom I had the privilege to take care of, and planning for a book launch. After the nice routine that had been developed over the last five years, the last few months became a bit stressful. My longtime girlfriend and business partner Charine was so supportive but as the leaving date drew closer, our relationship became more strained. It was akin to bending a piece of your sunglasses frame to near breaking point. My previous travels had always been solo, traveling with another person was an unknown territory.
The last few weeks in Singapore flew by at a breakneck pace and before I knew it, the last week arrived with a jam packed schedule: Monday is the last day of practice, Tuesday is set aside for the book launch, Wednesday is for my last basketball game, Thursday is for packing the last of our things and move to Charine’s parents’ place before our flight out of Singapore in the evening. In that very short span of four days, emotions and adrenaline ran at their peak.
The last day of practice was very enjoyable with emotions flying all over the clinic, gifts and hugs all over. The next day, the book launch for Travel Learn Earn was successful and friends from the last five years, new and old, came out of the cracks to attend the event. Those two days were really special, I was blessed to see everyone that meant a great deal to me one last time. The end of an era took shape and passed much faster than it came.
The day after the book launch, Charine and I were at her parents’ home hours before our flight and doubts crept in again. Both of us were taking a step into the unknown, we were giving up our careers, very BIG incomes, and the comfort of our friends while living in an ultra-convenient city/country. We both want more, I don’t even know how it looks exactly. We want more travel, more adventure, more experience, and more income. We may not always have the answers, but what is most important is taking that first step into the unknown. Richard Bangs once said something about taking action:
It’s too easy to succumb to the low hum of ordinariness; the drone of stability… you are
most alive when you can imagine your own demise… risk is the flame of the evolution of
consciousness… I would rather die trying something new than live a long life of mediocrity.
So we set off. Our first stop was Switzerland. My father had always wanted to go back to Europe after been there as a teenager and my mother had never been. As a gift for their wedding anniversary, I arranged for a two-week travel for them in Europe, accompanying us in the first leg of our journey. The uneasy feeling of going into the unknown still sat heavily with me during those two weeks, albeit I did my best to hide it. We made our way through Geneva into Italy. One Sunday evening in Florence, most of the restaurants were closed in preparation for the Italian Independence Day. The four of us–my parents, Charine and I–chose a small-hole-in-the-wall cafe to eat dinner.
We started off with some great Tuscan red wine, as the cafe began to pick up customers and the atmosphere soon took a turn for the merrier. My father, not a big drinker but still high on the velvety red wine, ordered a Tuscan grilled pork dish. We received our first plates and minutes later when the mains came out, our table reached a new level of nirvana. As the pork was set in front of my father, his eyes grew to the size of a grapefruit as he mouthed without making a sound for awhile then said, “WOW, this is GOOD!”
Just seeing that look melted away all my doubt and anxiety about this new phase of my life. Charine and I have no idea what the future looks like, we don’t even have a clear idea of the business we are going to move into, we founded a company but have little direction. All I can do is move forward with the enthusiasm my father showed over his food. To repeat Richard Bangs, I am taking the risk that is the flame to the evolution of consciousness. I may see my own demise, or climb to Everest-like heights. All I know is, I am happy that you are along to share the ride with us. Be well and be alive!
Dr Matthew Horkey
The hardest part about making a plan, a trip, or a change in lifestyle, like this is reaching out and grabbing the choice to say, “Let’s do it.” Taking action is in fact the easier part (once you know your goal). Matt and I are fortunate to have each other—we are both risk takers; we are restless in the face of monotony; and we are ferociously curious about the world, people, and personal growth. So for the umpteenth time in our relationship, we acted as a catalyst for each other and said, “Let’s do it… together.”
Four years ago, we made the decision to act and for four years, we kept moving and acting in the direction of this choice, without absolute certainty about when this vision was going to materialize. During that period, in the intimate tango with uncertainty and fear, there were many times that I felt like we weren’t going to make it through and reach our goal together. At times, especially in the past one year, I even doubted that we were going to make it through as a couple. There were stress and pressure from different sources—finance, family’s responsibilities, career trajectory, and personal belief. Regardless, we continued to act in the face of fear, move to the sound of excitement, and practice faith in the commitment of a vision and accountability to each other.
Here we are today—a “self-employed” couple with a flimsy foundation of a business, perhaps fighting the society’s status quo, and insisting that we can absorb the world’s lessons beyond activities of the armchair variety. It may not be a wise choice to some people, but as far as the journey has gone, Matt and I have learned many lessons about business; about working and living together; taking risks; working hard; locking up our ego and pride; communicating with complete vulnerability; and throwing ourselves at the world with open arms, curiosity and courage.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” When we intentionally create and design our life, we can shift our environments and uncover serendipity; realities and circumstances begin to reorder and realign themselves to support what we stand for. When we commit ourselves to a vision, our possibility moves from an abstract idea to a viable plan. Just remember: it’s not a plan until it has accountability and a deadline.
With light and love, keep going –Charine