I recently turned 30, so the math tells me I've already lived through one third of my life. That also means I still have at least 20,000 days to make all of my dreams come true. Speaking of dreams, it's strange how they change as we grow older. When I was 25, I had one dream, one goal I wanted to fulfill by my 30th birthday: I wanted to become a millionaire!
Let me end the suspense right away: I'm not even close. To be precise, I can claim to have accumulated no more than 2% of that sum. What's more, I haven't worked in two years and my bank account is starting to run low. I failed to achieve my dream — or at least, that's what some will say — and I couldn't care less.
I long ago gave up on my dream of having millions. Not that I think it's impossible (everything is possible), but I came to understand that more than money, what I really wanted was to BE FREE!
Back when I was determined to earn millions, the most logical way to get there was the following: to create a startup and sell it. In 2011, I created my first company together with my associate, Michael. It's called Etudinfo and it was the first platform where students could rate their university. The site was a huge success, it got half-a-million visits per month. I was over the moon. I was my own boss and running the business while still able to travel. I was a digital nomad before that even meant anything.
But I still had one goal that I had to reach: growth. That urge to always do better was crucial at the beginning, we had to be able to live off that website. It took two years until we earned a minimum monthly wage. We were far from being rich, but boy were we proud to see our "baby" grow and to be able to live off the fruits of our labor. The website had such potential, and we wanted to do more, always more, to dedicate all our energy to this project, and this project only.
We stopped traveling to focus entirely on making our company grow. Once we were back in Paris, we sought the help of coaches, we looked for a place to establish our headquarters, our first clients, our first interns, and finally, our first employees. There were about 10 of us. Business was booming and my head was spinning.
I'd gone from roaming entrepreneur to office boss. I'd become the slave of my own company. Going to the office had become a chore, I didn't feel happy about getting up in the morning anymore. I'd reproduced the model I was trying to avoid. And yet, nobody was forcing me to do it.
That's the thing about wanting to earn a lot of money: You enter a neverending whirlwind where days go by so quickly you don't even notice. You always want more so you always work more. I would spend my weekends letting off steam — drinking like a fish — to start working again come Sunday evening. This wasn't making any sense anymore. For two years I'd been traveling the roads of the world, but now I couldn't even go on holiday anymore.
On the road again — Photo: Capitaine Rémi's Facebook page
But still, we had a clear plan: We'd continue for two years and, according to our infallible killer business plan, the company would be worth somewhere around 1,000,000 euros! Bingo! Everything was lined up to fall into place; we'd just forgotten one thing along the way: the desire.
That desire to have and earn more was gone. I was living very decently with my net monthly income of 1,800 euros. In fact, I didn't even know what to do with all the money. I'd grown so accustomed to leading a minimalist life, far from consumerism, that earning more just seemed like arrogance. What we longed for wasn't more money, but more time. The solution was self-evident, yet it took us some time to accept it. We needed to move on.
We managed to find a buyer in less than 6 months. I was 28 and I was selling my first business. From one day to another, I found myself free of all constraints and with 50,000 euros ($55,000) on my bank account.
What would you do with that kind of money? You're never short of ideas: invest in real estate, buy a new car, take a fancy trip.
I decided instead to be free, totally free. People say you can't buy time, but with that money, I've bought five years of my life, five years that will allow me to construct and deconstruct myself, to have a different perspective on society, to understand myself and what I long for a little bit better. I think there can be no greater investment than to invest in yourself. I have time to read, to improve myself, to talk, to travel, to learn, to create, to write... And the list goes on.
I'm 30 years old now. I've never been so alive as I am now. I'm not a millionaire, but I am free.
Rémi Le Calvez is now traveling around the world, writing his adventures on his blog Capitaine Rémi.
This is Worldcrunch's international collection of essays, both original pieces written in English and others translated from the world's best writers in any language. The name for this collection, Rue Amelot, is a nod to the humble address in eastern Paris we call home. Send ideas and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.