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A lot of people have asked me how I came to live in Slovakia.
Answering that casts us back to around 1997 when I read Roger Gallo’s Escape from America. The book advances the Perpetual Traveler, or PT, philosophy, and provides a bunch of practical information for those wishing to go that route, perhaps now largely out of date. PT also stands for “Prior Taxpayer”, as one who arranged their affairs carefully could legally avoid becoming subject to income tax anywhere in the world, while maintaing a high-flying lifestyle.
At the time, I had been on a seemingly meteoric career path, going from hobbyist hacker to megabucks consultant in networking and internet technologies in just three short years. And then the big job offer came, with the first-employee options package attached, and I leaped. At the peak of the internet boom we went IPO and my paper promises came to be worth several million US$. “Fuck you” money. A fortune. As soon as my four years of options vesting was complete, I would cash out and embark on my own PT journey.
Needless to say, the story doesn’t have a happy ending. The market collapsed, investors’ metrics changed and, fine, I made out better in the end than if I’d never taken the position. But it wasn’t the “fuck you” money, and it wasn’t a fortune.
Unemployment, retrenchment and a great deal of squandering dissipation followed. The main impetus – leave the US, see the “other sides” – remained, though, and tickled me from time to time.
In 2003 I found myself isolated a thousand miles from home, stuck on a one-year contract doing a job that paid very nicely for about 3-5 hours of real work per week, with the rest of my time devoted to soothing, cajoling and repeating endlessly “yes, it will work” while the project schedule ticked by, me always ahead of it. Fortunately I didn’t have to spend most of that time at the office pretending to be busy 8 hours a day, but found ways to pretend while sleeping late, staying home except for the rare project review meeting, and doing little.
Around the end of 2003 I was bored out of my mind and started thinking of becoming a PT again, or at least leaving the US. I had been fed up with the political aspect of the country for a long time already, and having watched the launch of the Iraq war early that year drove the knife back into old wounds from Gulf War I. Time to go. Where previously I told myself that first I’d make a pile of money then leave the US, I now found myself thinking: learn how to minimize your lifestyle and expenses, save as much as you can through the end of this contract, and get out.
My girlfriend, still living back in California while I was freezing my ankles off in Wisconsin, was very keen on this. We both started fantasizing together about what we might do, and eventually she hatched a plan. She would get certified as an English teacher, and then we would bounce around the world every year as she got new contracts, perhaps traveling some more during the summers.
So, in summer 2004 she and I set off for Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where she spent 4 weeks getting CELTA certified and I spent 4 weeks improving my Spanish. We very much anticipated and wanted to get to a Spanish-speaking country. Latin America was not to be, though, as at least at that time it was quite difficult to conduct a job search, interview and acceptance as an English teacher strictly via phone and internet.
The case wasn’t the same in Europe, though, and having heard great things especially about Poland, she began contacting schools in the old Commie Bloc. Interest from Poland, interest from Hungary and some interest from Slovakia. And Slovakia’s where she got the contract, so off we marched to Bratislava.
The plan had been 9 months in Bratislava, a few months traveling, then repeat at a new location. I found myself rather liking the place, though, and making new friends. She, meanwhile, had a different circle of friends all connected with the English school. I started voicing the idea that I didn’t really want to split after 9-12 months. Other STUFF happened (none of your business!), and we split up, she taking up with another gentlemen who she’s still globetrotting with today. And we’re still great friends.
And here I remain, in Bratislava, Slovakia. Kinda funny writing this while I’m in Paris, but whatever 🙂