This is an interview-style post with Richard Meadows from The Deep Dish.
Hey Rich. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
Hi! I’m a freelance journalist and writer, originally from New Zealand. I’ve spent the last couple of years traveling semi-permanently, writing about minimalism, money, and travel for various publications, and working on my own projects.
What was your last regular job and how did you manage to leave the corporate world?
I worked as a full-time business reporter for several years. It was a great job, but I was dying to see the world and free up time to pursue my own interests.
After I started down the path of frugality and simple living, I managed to save up $100,000 by age 25.
Hitting that goal was the trigger to take what I originally thought might be a sabbatical of six months or so. Now it’s been over two years, and there’s still no end in sight!
People are pretty bad at managing their finances these days. What are your best money tips for them?
You can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.
Every time you open your wallet, try to remember that you’re making a trade-off: What else could you do with that money?
If you value time and autonomy, you might prefer to ‘buy’ back your own freedom instead of another consumer gadget or new wardrobe.
There’s no right or wrong answer, but you have to actually think about it, rather than just blindly follow what everyone else does.
What were the lifestyle changes you made that played the biggest role in living the life you love now?
I shared a house with friends, rode my bicycle to work, drove as little as possible, packed my own lunches, bulk-bought food, turned restaurant meals into a treat, regularly made sure I was getting the best deal on all my ongoing bills and expenses, bought things secondhand where possible, and generally became much more mindful of my spending.
I’ve written up a list of 100+ strategies for saving money here.
What’s the craziest thing you did?
I did some slightly odd things, like making my own furniture from scrap wood, but nothing too outlandish! There’s no need to re-use paper towels or steal ketchup packets from McDonald’s, or whatever other stereotypes are floating around out there about frugality.
If you focus on the low-hanging fruit, you can live a perfectly ‘normal’ lifestyle, which is still insanely luxurious by the standards of 99% of the world’s population.
I managed to live on half of my income, and it made my life more enjoyable, not less.
Can you say you always had it in you to live the travel life? Or did you fall in love with it once you were on the road?
Aww yeah nah nah nah yeah mate, not a bad view eh. Started out from this wee village in the foothills of the Himalayas, climbed to ~3000m over two days (fuelled by a carefully calibrated hikers' diet of no-brand oreos and chips). Good warmup for some serious altitude coming my way on the Anapurna Circuit! #himalayas #uttarakhand #movingup
For the first week, I was absolutely bricking it. I’d just quit my job, sold all my possessions, left all my family and friends behind, and I had a horrible feeling I’d made a terrible mistake.
Thankfully that passed pretty quickly.
Travel can be stressful, in the sense that there’s a constant series of small challenges to overcome. But l find it weirdly satisfying now.
It also forces your brain to confront new ideas, which is a good way to jolt it out of familiar ruts.
What’s the country you’ll always go back to and why?
India, for the incredible diversity in aesthetics, food, and people, as well as the sheer gut-punch of culture shock. I’m pretty sure I could visit every year and barely scratch the surface.
What areas of your life are you looking to hack by the end of this year?
I get a lot of satisfaction out of working, as long as it’s on projects that interest me.
So my main focus at the moment is on improving my productivity and time management so I can get more done, and feel less conflicted when I’m roaming around having fun.
What do you think those who aren’t satisfied with their current lifestyle should do first?
Read widely, and expose yourself to as many new ideas as you possibly can.
Surround yourself with people who you admire.
Save money and live frugally, which will increase your general optionality.
Experiment with small lifestyle changes, and see what happens.
Say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that seems remotely interesting.
Block out some time to think carefully about what you actually want out of life.
Even if you spend a solid two weeks sitting there contemplating your navel, that’s still only 0.05% of your time above ground, which is going to determine how you spend the other 99.95%.
What are some books, resources or people that affected your mindset the most?
I got hooked on frugality after interviewing a blogger named Mr. Money Mustache, who retired at age 30. His blog is hilarious and extremely thorough, and I highly recommend reading the whole thing.
Nassim Taleb’s Incerto series changed the way I think about risk and decision making under uncertainty, as well as improving life by the process of subtraction – what Taleb calls ‘via negativa’.
For old-school life advice, the Stoics – Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus – are as insightful now as they were 2000 years ago.
In modern times, the most exciting school of thought I’ve come across is the effective altruism movement, which I read about in Doing Good Better.
Finally, I’ve recently finished working my way through the archives of the Slate Star Codex, which has got to be the richest source of ‘insight porn’ on the Internet.
Where can people find you?
I publish new blog posts every alternate Friday at TheDeepDish.org.
You can also find me on Facebook (extra bits and pieces that don’t make it on the blog), Instagram (mostly calisthenics and travel pics), and Goodreads (come share your book reviews and recommendations with me!)