Designing Life

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The art and science of obtaining the currencies of ‘New Wealth’: Time – Mobility – Simplicity

Designing Life Designing Life Designing Life

Doing what you want, whenever and however you want to, and having all the time in the world to do it – right now and not one day when you retire.
Ever thought about or dreamed about this? I bet you have.

It is something I have feared ever since I started understanding it. Sitting behind a desk until I am 65, doing something unfulfilling, with people I don’t really like, making money to buy things I don’t really need. Just so I can have enough money to only start enjoying life at the end of it! Huh?

Graduates from top schools are channeled into high income, 80 hour per week jobs, and up to 40 years of soul crushing work. This has been accepted as the default life plan by many.

Shuffling papers, busy being busy, banging your keyboard, and coming home to a socializing, drunken existence on weekends, only to face increasing dread on a Sunday because the next day is Monday again.

So what actually is the pot of gold that justifies most of us spending the best and healthiest years of our life grinding away and hoping for wealth and happiness at the end of it?

This question leads me to the next one……
Is there a way to get the rewards for a life of hard work without waiting until the end of it?

Yes there is! It all starts with a simple distinction most people miss – something I have missed until about 3 years ago……

People don’t want to be millionaires – they want to experience what they believe only millions can buy. Holiday homes, butlers and exotic travel often enter the picture. Perhaps lying in a hammock on a quiet and exotic little beach on Lake Malawi, sipping on a cold one and staring into the sunset – sounds nice!

A million in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows.

So my next question was simply this: How can I achieve the millionaire lifestyle of complete freedom without first having a million? Most people will never get to the million, and therefore never experience complete freedom, or only when it is too late anyway.

It all starts with understanding how to design a lifestyle that allows you all the freedom in the world. Thinking and reading about the topic gave me some understanding and insight, but nothing enlightens quite as much as actually taking action. The taking action part is where most of us stop, and where it just stays a dream for many of us. Why? Most of the time people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty. Uncertainty and the prospect of failure can be horrible noises in the darkness of the road ahead. I don’t claim to be a guru at this. We are just doing something that the majority will think twice about doing, and most of the time not do anyway.

So this will purely be our story, with reports about our attempts to do something out of the ordinary and celebrating the experience of being totally free and liberated while doing it. In time our plan is to become gurus at this, but there still remains a lot of doing and action ahead of us.

In January 2012, Bouter (my wife) and I, both at the age of 34, finally took the decision to retire for 15 months. Yes, retire for 15 months – sampling the reward of retirement before working 40 years to experience it only then.

After 12 years in the corporate world and 15 years of city life, we worked our last day on 31 August 2012. By then we had sold all our properties and most of our belongings, packed our BushNav and went on our first Designing Life trip. The main focus of the trip: finding, exploring and enjoying the Weird, the Rare and the Wonder of the natural world in Southern Africa.

Searching for a rare bird high in the rain forests of Mount Gorongosa in Mozambique, bush camping on the banks of the Luangwa River in Zambia and practicing the art of extreme chilling on Lake Malawi for 10 days.
All of this plus a whole lot more in 70 days and 9000 kilometres. With all the time in the world and no rush to be anywhere at any time! The first real taste of our Designing Life venture. And a sweet taste it was indeed……..

Our DESIGNING LIFE dream in action and future dreams

With time, mobility and simplicity as the core currencies of ‘New Wealth’, it is just as important to understand what you want to use it for. Now this is definitely not about sitting on my ass the whole day doing nothing or lying on my couch in front of the TV, drooling on my shirt, flicking through mind-numbing channels.

I believe the basic wants of a human being boil down to 3 simple things … Having Something – Doing Something – Being Something.

The three currencies of ‘New Wealth’ is best spent on the last two wants. We have to let go of the Having Something want (or syndrome) and start to use our three currencies towards Doing Something and Being Something. Focusing our 3 currencies on those two wants, I can assure you, have and will yield a great return on investment.

Our Designing Life ‘Doing Something’ structure is currently alive and happening and will evolve with the passage of time.

Our current structure looks like this…..

Studying the Natural World

For us the world is divided into two clear categories: ‘the Natural World’ and the ‘Man-Made World’. We, by far, prefer the Natural World, Africa’s in particular. That preference is coupled to a long term vision of obtaining specialised knowledge skills.

We kick off this section with a 1 year course through Eco Training, during which we will be based at 4 camps located in the south-western and northern wilderness areas of the Kruger National Park, as well as the Thuli Block in Botswana. The course will see us complete the following:

1. Eco-Training Level 1 Exam
2. Field Guide FGASA Level 1 Theory
3. Field Guide FGASA Level 1 Practical Assessment
4. SASSETA Competency Certificate – Rifle
5. Advanced Rifle Handling
6. FGASA Trails Guide Back-Up
7. Birding with Lawson’s Birding Academy
8. Tracking Qualification (Level 1,2,3)
9. Wilderness Medicine (Level 1 & 2)

Africa Travel and National Parks

We love the bush and we love Africa. It is a love that is deeply embedded and a love we will cherish till we probably can’t walk or see one day.

We have had the opportunity to travel extensively internationally, visiting 32 countries over the past few years. The only continent we haven’t visited is Antarctica. We came to realise that the more we travelled abroad, the more we enjoyed our own country and our own African heritage. As we mostly travelled abroad for work, we deliberately spent our personal holiday time in our own country.

Our deep love for nature has taken us to visit a total of 18 National Parks across Southern Africa….some on the beaten track and some off the beaten track. On top of that we’ve spent time in a whole lot of smaller nature reserves, as well as private game farms.
We have also just finished a Designing Life trip through Southern Africa – 70 days and 9000 km took us through Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Limpopo Province of South Africa.

Our vision is to take at least 1 trip through Africa per year, lasting from 1 week to 2 months. The list is long and there are many places we would like to explore. Kgalagadi National Park in the Northern Cape and Ruaha National Park in Tanzania are shouting the loudest at the moment. Both West and East Africa remain at the top of our list, especially since they host a prolific amount of rare and exotic bird life. Now that is something to get our sense of excitement going. Birding has taken us places and will still do so for many years to come!

The Designing Life Ranger Academy

It all came about after meeting a local game ranger at Sinamatella Camp in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

Godfrey has been working as a park ranger in Hwange for the past 5 years, where he is responsible for general ranger duties on a rotational basis at various camps within the park.

After chatting with Godfrey about the challenges facing his own dreams, we quickly realized that Godfrey is a very motivated individual. For people like that we do have a lot of time. And time at the moment is a currency we possess.

Godfrey’s long-term goal is to enter the professional hunting industry in Zimbabwe. In order to do that he would need to write four different exams, at USD100 per exam. The exam subjects range from general knowledge of the Zimbabwean wildlife protection and hunting laws – yes, wildlife protection and conservation do go hand in hand with professional hunting – to rifle handling and general knowledge of wildlife behaviour and habits.

If you fail an exam you need to fork out another USD100 in order to write the paper again in 4 months time. Due to the monetary and logistical challenges it may take candidates years to complete the exams.
Godfrey is working in Hwange to obtain the finances for his exams, but the biggest problem in Zimbabwe at the moment, and for many others like Godfrey, is a serious lack of information. Information needed to study for the exams. There are no specific or formal text books available for the exams, most stores don’t stock proper books, and internet connection and availability is a story on its own. You pay your $100, write the two and a half hour exam and hope for the best.

The only study material Godfrey has, is what he observes in the bush on a daily basis, as well as some old exam papers from previous years. The papers only contain the questions though – so he needs to find the answers himself. Looking through all the papers it seemed that the questions vary often between different years’ exam papers.

So, we have a highly motivated individual with a dream, who for starters needs to complete four different exams. The only study material he possesses are old question papers without the answers…and no proper access to basic or specialized information!

We came to realise that Godfrey’s main challenge was not raising the initial finances. The main issue was the raising of extra finances in order to re-write the exams, because the lack of proper study material impeded his successful completion of the course.

That’s why it takes years for candidates to get the basic qualifications needed to enter the private sector of the wildlife industry. Those who do manage to obtain qualifications have increased exposure and options within the industry, which means they can develop their passion on a bigger stage.

Simply said, we are going to try to get Godfrey onto that stage and hopefully in less than the average time it takes many to get there. We are not planning on saving the world, nor are there any politics involved. Our aim is simple: we just want to get Godfrey onto that stage…

A more detailed update on how we are going about it and what we have done so far will be published in a separate article soon. We will be updating Godfrey’s progress on a regular basis together with all the action packed events regarding our academy in general.

Wildlife Photography

I can’t think of anyone I have ever met who loves wildlife and nature, and do not want to take good pictures of what they see and experience. The same holds true for us. However we would like to progress from the usual ‘point and click’ snaps, to being adept at taking quality, insightful wildlife photos. Our first steps in this regard will be ongoing self-practice, getting our current camera gear in order and hopefully having the opportunity to attend a specialised photography course with Sean Patrick ( a well known wildlife photographer), next year.

In conclusion, we have 15 months to sample retirement, filling our time with nature studies, do some more travelling, helping a motivated soul in Hwange, and taking quality pics of our adventures. Doing things we always wanted to do, right now, with all the time, mobility and simplicity in the world. Owning those three currencies will lead us to our own ‘New Wealth’.

If you enjoy reading about travel experiences, have a love for wildlife and nature, are wondering how this whole mini retirement exercise (at age 34) is going to turn out, or simply feel like taking the leap and making a drastic change in your lifestyle, keep on following our adventures here.

Going forward, we will be sending weekly reports, updates and interesting little stories on our Designing Life venture. From travelling through southern Africa, living in the bush for a year, to the progress and happenings of our ‘Ranger Academy’ with Godfrey in Hwange National Park.

Next week you can look forward to the first installment of our recent 70 day journey through southern Africa, starting with Mozambique: coconut trees, deserted beaches, ghostly hotels, waterfalls and rare birds in a sacred mountain rainforest … share the wonder, the amazement, and the odd bit of sweating …

Till next week,

Keep on Designing Life,

Edrich & Lelanie

9 thoughts on “Designing Life

  1. wow, wat n wonderlike vooreg was dit nie om julle storie te lees op n vaal woensdag oggend nie. As n mede 34 jarige kan ek amper nie glo op watse avontuur julle moet wees nie en al kan almal nie so vroeg semi aftree nie kan ons definitief n blaatjie uit julle boek vat en die lewe wat ons het met nuwe goetspa aanvat. al die beste en ek kan nie wag vir die vogende aflewering nie.

  2. I admire the two of you! You do what you WANT to do, not doing what is expected from you or how many millions you will need to retire at age of 50 ! Good luck!

  3. I feel that you made the right decision as we too love the bush life. I retired ten years ago, started my own business to be able to afford to live my dreams. Since then we travel into the Kruger and Okavongo Delta two to three times a year. I grew up in Zambia, worked and lived in Rhodesia and have been in South Africa for the past 31 years.
    We would love to do what you both are doing. Keep it up and we look forward to hear of your travels.

  4. Wow!! Julle twee het my mond laat oop hang Edrich!!! Wat ‘n voorreg vir julle om dit nou te kan doen en hoe bevoorreg vir ons om dit als te kan lees soos wat julle dit eerstehands ondervind! Baie Sterkte vorentoe en welgedaan. dis ‘n fantastiese lewensondervinding, iets wat julle vir ewig Sal Onthou en vir julle kleinkinders om die kampvuur kan vertel! Definately beats the Corporate and City Life! 🙂

  5. Some very inspiring writing. Sad thing is that most of us would be sitting in a cubicle reading this while you are sitting somewhere in the bush typing up the next installment of this very exciting blog!
    Hope you motivate many more to take control of their own lives and happiness.

  6. Hi guys, all the very best, you sure know how to make the people still stuck banging away at keyboards, wistfully dreaming of a life in the African bush, very jealous! Can’t wait to hear more. You’ve edged me one step closer to doing what I want & to hell with everyone else!

  7. Absolutely carried me awaaaay! Now how should I deal with the issue of my extreme jealousy about your courageous decision! Looking forward to your next article.

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