PLEASE vote for my blog post in the Rockstar Rumble Grand Final. YES!!! My blog post about showing my boys about compounding interest and superannuation has beaten 126 other bloggers to reach the final round. I’m so excited – it’s the first Grand Final I’ve ever been in. I won’t know the results of the competition for another 3 weeks, because I’m going to a place with absolutely no internet, but don’t let that stop you voting! Please leap across and vote for mine, the keyword is “Mistake’. – I’d really love to take it out. 🙂
It’s been a struggle to reach FI, I won’t lie and pretend otherwise. Actually, it’s only on paper that FI looks as if it’s just about been reached – emotionally I still don’t feel it, so I keep jumping on that early morning train and heading into work each weekday. But what I will concede is that I certainly have more ready cash floating around at the end of the month than I used to have – and that means that I can finally have the freedom to travel.
Three years ago I took a term of Long Service Leave and went on a 9 week trip to the UK and Europe. This was the trip I’d been waiting my whole life to take and I denied myself very little! I bought so many souvenirs that I had to send a large box back to Australia via post because there’s no way I would’ve been able to get all of that baggage into my suitcase. It was a dream holiday and I’ll probably never have its like again.
Fast forward three years and tomorrow I’m off again! The brilliant thing about financial freedom is that when an opportunity opens up, you’re able to take advantage of it. A woman I work with has a son who takes tours into North Korea. She went on a tour with him last year and I thought she was mad. Who in their right mind would take a trip into a country like that? Talk about risky as!!?? She must have been insane!
Then she arrived back safely. She had a group of us around after school and she showed us the 600 photos she had on her phone. Clearly, the things we hear about not being able to take photos isn’t true. She told us that it was just like going back to the 1960’s and that she’d never felt so safe anywhere in the world. This piqued my interest. It’s certainly nothing like the conventional things we hear about the country. When she said, “Frogdancer, if you ever want to go, I’d be happy to go back again”, I started to think about it. It’s an opportunity to see a country that very few people get to see. I have no doubt it’ll open up to the world, just as China has, but for now, it’s a bit of a mystery. I said yes.
My friend wanted to go back in April, to take part in the Pyongyang marathon. She and her husband are doing a 10km run. Anyone who knows me in real life knows that exercise isn’t my strong suit, so I’m WALKING the 3km section. I figure it’ll be a good way to see the city.
Let’s be honest: it’s a slightly scary place to be going to. We have had to sign a declaration saying that we’ll stick with our guides and won’t go wandering off. The tour conditions are very much like the ones tourists in China had to adhere to 20 odd years ago. When we get back to our hotels after dinner, we’re not allowed to leave, though we can wander the grounds. This rule apparently leads to many nights in the hotel bar, with lots of drinking and banter. Shouldn’t be too hard for a group of Aussies to keep up! I’ll have to switch from Shiraz to rice wine for the duration.
The hardest thing so far, for me, was the fact that there’s no ATM access to cash in either country. This means that I had to estimate how much money I’ll be likely to spend, then buy it all before I leave to take with me. How on earth do I know how much I’ll need?!? This has resulted in a sensible trip to buy money, where I had a responsible allocation of Euros and Chinese Yuan. Since then I’ve had 2 panicked trips back, where I was sure I needed more. I’m probably taking far more cash than I need, but I figure that it’s better to have too much than not enough. I’d better not get mugged though!
This will definitely be different to any other holiday I’m likely to ever take. This is a tour where we’re basically put in front of various things and given the party line. To counter this, I’ve been reading up on Twentieth Century Nth Korean history, both military and political; personal accounts and interviews from people who’ve escaped, and I’ve been watching every documentary I can lay my hands on. Scared myself silly a few times, to be honest. But I wanted to know the other side of the story while I was listening to them. Seems the sensible thing to do. And I always like to do the sensible thing…
So please vote for my post in the Rockstar Rumble. It’s been a hard-fought battle all the way through and I really want to win. This competition’s been going for weeks! I’m proud of my post and the idea I had to educate my boys and I’d love to be able to see it through till the end.
And there’ll be no more posts until I arrive home on April 21. It’ll be interesting to see the comparisons between our dreams of FI/RE and how people live in a vastly different society. I have a feeling I’ll be very glad to get back home.