Welcome to 24 Hour Travellers. 🙂
Hello there and thank you for popping by. I am Sammy Khoo, the photographer, writer and videographer in 24htravllers and Rene is my best friend, lifelong partner and soul mate. This March 2017 marks our 17 years of marriage. We met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1997 when he was a bassist in a band that toured Hard Rock Cafes around South East Asia.
Just a few months after we met, Rene left his band and we travelled to Shen Zhen, China in pursuit of opening a Rave Club with a Malaysian partner. We spent 6 months building this rave club but somehow our Malaysian partner wasn’t quite honest with the Chinese partner and there were guns involved towards the end of their disagreement. We didn’t stick around to argue, quickly we returned to Malaysia sadly with nothing in our pockets. I was able to go back to my freelance work in Film Production and Rene assisted me. We married in the year 2000 and we also became business partners.
We were in our 20s and although we yearned to travel, we did what we had to do which is build our new company from the ground up. At the time we rented a 3000sqft shop lot in Puchong which was in those days quite a dodgy area to live in. By dodgy, I mean gun shots at 3 am in the morning! The upside of living there was its cheap rent for such a large space and also my brother ran his martial arts gym on the floor above ours.
In the years to come we continued to toil the soil in film production and eventually we were able to sell our Puchong set up as a fully equipped rehearsal and recording studio to finance the build of our new audio house in a better business district.
Robert Kiyosaki – Rich Dad Poor Dad gave us one goal and we focused on executing what he advocated in his book which is “the importance of financial independence and building wealth through real estate and start owning businesses.”
We worked hard and from owning one studio we grew to two, Music and Photography. Nothing was more important to us than our work not even sleep. I once crashed my car because I fell asleep at the wheel driving home from work at 5am in the morning. We were running the rat race like two crazy workaholics with no short cuts. There wasn’t the internet and Van Life videos on You Tube at the time or else we definitely would have dropped everything just to run off and travel.
Fast forward 14 years to 2014, we reached the crossroads of do we expand or do we remain small? Our business had done well and bought us 4 properties, we had a good run but nothing lasts forever, at this point the advertising industry was getting increasingly price competitive, budgets were shrinking and clients could delay payments for up to 6 months, way after jobs were completed. Managing the company’s financial accounts was extremely stressful, one option was to hire more staff, expand our studio facilities, move to a bigger place and compete with the other studios in order to bring in more work and earn more money to sustain our overheads.
Our careers began as something we loved doing but we were inevitably burning ourselves out. Earning big means nothing if you’re spending just as big. What’s the point? Money earned went straight out to pay salaries, suppliers, rent, bills, taxes, mortgages, loans, insurances, upgrades, maintenance… and no matter how much money we made it was just never going to be enough. We felt lost.
What’s the opposite of living big? Living small. Desperate for answers, we turned to Google for help and searched for “Living Small” and that’s when we found the Tiny House Movement and Jay Shafer. Light at the end of our tunnel! If we could begin to live small with lower overheads, we could regain our freedom. But where the heck to begin? How to begin?
Although Rene and I were making good money from doing what we loved, we were caught in a vicious circle of work more to make more to spend more and if we chose to expand our business, we would have to get a loan to finance the expansion or find an investor. After debating about what to do, we knew that we could not commit our lives to another 10 years of debt. We were already well into our 40s and our dreams of travel was not yet in sight.
So as cliche as it may sound, one day, I asked Rene a question. If he didn’t have me in his life, what would he need? He said just his guitar and some clothes and he would travel, well that’s actually what he had when we first met. Then, I asked myself the same question and my answer was my camera, my laptop and some clothes. Keeping it simple. So then why were we then stuck in a huge house with so much stuff, two studios, a ton of stress, rooms full of furniture, always chasing bills, chasing time, arguing about finances, chasing money and postponing our precious dreams of travel! BIG AHA MOMENT! Hence a new miss
It was a blessing that our dedicated staff of 10 years wanted to open her own music school, this meant we could downsize our company responsibly without the guilt of letting her go. But the entire process did take a whole year to do. Amazing how long it takes to begin downsizing. To cut costs we moved our studio facilities to our home and ran small freelance jobs from a home based office.
We also learned new skills such as videography and video editing and using Creative Live we learned to create SEO content for You Tube. This simple move made such a difference to our lives because we cut so many overheads like rent, petrol, toll fees, salaries, insurances, taxes and we saved time sitting in traffic! Rene and I spent more time together learning, working from home and we began to feel passionate about our work again. We didn’t want to stop minimizing so the next step was to downsize our personal expenses and oversized home.
We loved the idea of a self sustaining tiny home on wheels that can utilise solar energy, have a composting toilet and live off the grid because a house on wheels meant we could move easily. Our 3800sqft home although beautiful was expensive to maintain and it just consumed energy like a monster! Not just electrical energy but human energy too!
I think the hardest part is making that decision to let go. We need to let go of the material stuff we don’t use. We need to be completely debt free in order to live out our dream of full time travel.
That’s where we are at now. We are in the midst of selling, donating and planning for our tiny home on wheels. Never realised how much stuff you got until you begin to downsize.
It’s going to take some time but we have managed to clear most of our debt and rent out our studio to bring our monthly expenses down to a minimum. For the first time in 20 years, Rene and I are able to take it slow. Our expenses are now at a minimum and once we move into our tiny home, am sure we be able to drop it even further. The smell of freedom is near.