Saks Fifth Avenue

Well…I’ve been Canned. Again.

The inspiration behind this site is my story of what happened to me in the 2008 financial collapse. The long version is here. The “Reader’s Digest” version is below:

In 2008, I lost my job during what was the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Despite all my efforts to re-enter the job market, I remained unemployed until the fall of 2010.

It wasn’t until I thought outside the box and decide to go overseas and teach English in Taiwan that I finally started earning a wage again. This made for an adventurous life until I returned to the corporate world in 2014. I returned, but I would never be the same.

The short version of my 2008 Financial Collapse story

Well, wouldn’t you know it. I got canned. Again.

“I feel like this has happened before”

In the spring of 2019, I accepted a fantastic job consulting with an analytics firm and a great year followed. But like so many others, I got caught up in Covid19 layoffs at my firm and as a result, I’m now again unemployed. It’s starting to feel like 2008 again. But the difference is this time, I’ve been preparing for this for quite a while.

The unemployment rate in the US is now over 10% rivaling the 2008 financial collapse. Check out this popular gif that circulated back in April

Looks like I’m in pretty good company of other unemployed folks.

So what now?

I’ve got a strong desire to travel the world revisiting favorite places in Asia as well as new destinations like Central and South America and it’s about time I explored Europe a bit. But the current Covid19 situation has put this on hold indefinitely.

For others that are wanting to travel the world and are feeling stuck, I’ve found this website that shows you which countries are allowing tourism. It looks like Ukraine could be open for visitors. Hmmm.

So what about traveling the US?

So maybe travel bans can keep us from visiting other countries but if I’m unemployed and seeking some freedom and travel I think a good old fashioned US road trip may be in order. Mask on and hit the road mostly staying in your car can’t hurt anyone in these challenging times navigating covid19. (How many times have you heard that phrase or something similar)

Where in the USA to go?

Well, plenty of options if I do a road trip. If I do, here are some places that could be on the itinerary:

The Ozark Mountains Jasari / CC BY-SA (
Puerto Rico is the US which means I could go. Although probably not part of the road trip.
Jeff Kubina – originally posted to Flickr as Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii
I feel like Hawaii would satisfy the urge to leave your country while remaining in the USA. Probably will need an airplane to make this happen.

Travel Youtube

It’s not in stone but I’m seriously considering picking up a GoPro to capture some of these US and eventually world travel and expand my Youtube beyond the current scope of the McDonald’s Shrimp Burgerin Taiwan. After all, aren’t blogs like this a little stuck in an earlier time?

Quality Vlogging. Look at that old school fried apple pie

Have You Been Canned?

If you’ve lost your job and would like to share your story, feel free to reach out to me by email or in the comments and I’ll be happy to post select stories as well as help get your name out with links to your email or Linked In.

The secret to happiness

I’d like to share what I think is an important secret to happiness. Perhaps it was a bit of hyperbole to call it “THE Secret of Happiness” but it sounds a bit better than “A Secret To Happiness.”

There’s nothing worse than someone hawking a secret to happiness and then giving a vague answer that is stuffy and vague answer that just isn’t too helpful and applicable to real people’s lives. So with that said I’ll try to be concrete and to the point.

I think a major contributor to happiness is to at any point in time, have something worthwhile that you are looking forward to in your life.

Let me go a bit deeper. It could be a goal. It could be just a fun event that you are looking forward to like a vacation or a big date or family get together.

It’s probably not possible for every moment of life to be blissful and filled with leisure, adventure, and pleasure. There are times we simply need to work. But it’s when it seems like there’s no end to the work that we start to really suffer through our daily tasks. Knowing that we have a goal we’re working towards makes the work meaningful.

So if you’re not loving life at the moment, set a goal in the near future..try to make it less than six months out and see how you can work towards that goal every day.

Here are some ideas for things to look forward to in the near future.

  • A vacation or mini-retirement
  • Starting a project that is personally fulfilling or financially rewarding
  • Set up a social engagement that should be rewarding or exciting

Recently, I’ve found myself less than inspired. After traveling the world for several months and returning to the US, I set a goal to rejoin the workforce and save. I found a great job and have been learning a lot and everything felt great. Then suddenly, the monotony started to return.

The daily grind started to wear. The days started to feel like carbon copies of the previous day. I realized that I set some goals and accomplished them and then just sort of stopped.

Times for some new goals or things to look forward to

So the moment I realized this I felt like I found my place and am feeling better about the future. At the least, I want to travel in the near future before the year ends. Additionally, I’m going to set a goal to try to go full time remote within less than a year. If I can’t go full-time remote I may have to cut the corporate cord again and return to full-time freelance and pack the bags again. Either way, I think I’ll be back on the road again soon enough. And of course, it’s possible I might get canned again.


Job Loss AGAIN. Next stop ASIA.

Well wouldn’t you know it, the “Getting Canned” blogger is about to deal with job loss again. But this time around, I won’t classify it as truly getting fired because this is more like a contract wrapping up. Nevertheless, this is the end of a job and time to move on to the next thing.

At the time of the time of this writing, it looks like my current contract gig will end around November 26th. The death of this income stream is in line with my timeline and plan to get out of the Midwest by mid-winter to avoid the impending deep freeze.  Chicago winters get COLD.

I’m planning on getting away from the Midwest as far as possible and leaving the country to head to Asia for the winter or longer. On the itinerary is

  • Taipei, Taiwan
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Guangzhou, China
  • Laos
  • Phuket, Thailand
  • Singapore
  • Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

I’m going to travel the world a bit and hit a few spots in Asia. I’ll make sure and do some recon on potential retirement destinations and report back here. Subscribe below if you want a reminder.

Past Travel

But before I go, let’s take a look at a few memorable pics from the times I lived in Taiwan in the past.

There’s the famous “Toilet Restaurant” where you sit on toilets and eat out of little toilet shaped plates and bowls.  Good times.

Ximending "Modern Toilet" restaurant
Modern Toilet Restaurant – 便所歡樂主題餐廳 in Taipei Ximending area.  Sitting on Toilets!

You eat from little toilet-shaped bowls. Yum.

Yum Toilet shaped bowl
Modern Toilet Restaurant – 便所歡樂主題餐廳 hot pot bowl shaped like a toilet.

Oh, how I miss Asia! What other distant memories were captured? Let’s take a look. It was often the little things that were amusing.

My first trip to a night market back in around 2010
Quaker Oats Drink
These were a favorite of mine. Some type of quaker oats drink. Why not drink your oatmeal?

In Taiwan, the majority of people get around by scooter. It’s an economical way to get around. The streets are flooded with mostly scooters although some people do drive cars. The first time I saw a parking lot packed with scooters it was pretty wild. It reminded me of that scene in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” where he knocked over the motorcycles and they went down like dominos.  I had a fear of scooters tumbling down in this way.

Scooters Parked
Don’t tip these scooters over, lest they fall like dominos

So Just What is My Plan Anyways?

Travel.  Exploring. Earning side gig income through a variety of income streams. I’m doing some consulting for CRM databases. I imagine I’ll do a bit of remote English teaching here and there. I have a few clients that need WordPress sites managed. And then there’s this blog which has a little income potential.

The Risks

There is, of course, the risk that my income will fall short of what I’m hoping. This is a bit of a trial break at life abroad and I imagine, I’ll likely return in the spring. Although nothing is written in stone. There is a chance that I’ll face a different job market from what exists at this point. Right now it’s a glorious market with plenty of opportunities. In six months that could change.

Another concern of mine is that our Western culture seems to really frown on time spent not working. “You haven’t been working for six months? Well, the only possible explanation is you’re incompetent and your skillset it now outdated…”No job for you!”


The Life of a World Traveling English Teacher

Recently, I was asked to write about teaching English as a means to make money while traveling the world and how someone can do that.  I can share my experience of how teaching was an opportunity that was my last resort after losing my job in the 2008 financial crisis.   After around two years of not working, I faced a choice.  I could continue collecting unemployment and applying for jobs, or I could take any work available to me even if it meant leaving the country.   I chose the latter.

Night Market Taiwan
Shilin Night Market in Taiwan. A sugar cane drink available.

I first became aware of teaching abroad after having a random chat with a stranger who was freshly back to Chicago after having spent a year in Southeast Asia as an ESL teacher.  It seemed like one of those adventurous things that other people do, but that somehow wouldn’t be possible for me.   The guy said he had a blast and that it wasn’t difficult to become a teacher as long as you have a college degree.  I pressed him further to see what it takes to become an English teacher and travel the world.  I was sure I would hear an explanation for why I could never do this.

His response was the contrary.  The barriers to teaching English abroad aren’t that high.  Every country is, of course, going to have unique requirements, but I can say that many places will hire you to teach English as long as you meet some reasonable standards. Here’s a generalized overview of what’s typically required:

  • Most countries prefer you to have a college degree, but it often doesn’t need to be related to teaching.  Any college degree will do.
  • Your chances of finding work as an English teacher are much higher if from a native English speaking country.  Most teachers I met were Canadian, US citizens, or from S. Africa.
  • Many countries now require a criminal background check from your home country

This overview isn’t a comprehensive list of requirements as each government has their specific rules and regulations for teachers.  Some may require you to have TEFL or TESOL certification.   For an excellent comprehensive list of requirements broken out by destination,  you can check out the school where I picked up a TEFL certificate and download the guide here.

Dan Bing, Luo Bo Gao, and Gyoza.
Dan Bing, Luo Bo Gao, and Gyoza.

So let’s say you’ve decided you’d like to travel the world and teach English abroad.   What happens next?  Well, you’ll want to do your research and choose a country.  Wikivoyage and Wikitravel are good sites to research destinations.   Once you determine the country, do a targeted search for ESL jobs in the destination of your choice.  Then you’ll want to secure your teaching gig.

One reliable place to look for teaching jobs is a website called Dave’s ESL Cafe.  One thing I loved about searching for gigs as a teacher is you don’t have to deal with our US recruiting system that has you fill out 400 fields on Brassring or Taleo and type out all the stuff that’s already on your resume.   You only need to send an email with your resume attached.

A quick note about international culture.   Outside of the USA, a resume is often referred to as a CV, and it’s not uncommon to include a profile picture of yourself in your CV.  Keep this in mind when appying to jobs overseas.

The Actual Teaching Part

So there I was in the middle of Asia, an unemployed payroll software implementation consultant, about to lead a class teaching English to Taiwanese kids.  Let me be the first to tell you I had no idea what I was doing.  I’d never taught English before, or any subject for that matter.   Sure, I’d led a few employee benefits presentations and taught groups how to go through the online employee benefits enrollment process, but I wasn’t sure what to expect when teaching ESL (English as a second language).   As it turns out, it’s not too bad.

McDonald's in Taiwan
Look, it’s McDonald’s but the menu is in Chinese.

Every school that you teach at is, of course, going to have their own culture and way of doing things.   But given that I worked or subbed at several schools over my years abroad, I can say that I got a fair sense of what it was like for English cram schools in Taiwan.   First and foremost it’s important to keep in mind that you are not likely to be teaching at a proper public “school” as we know it, but rather at a cram school or in Chinese “buxiban.”

The buxibans are more business than school, and the students (or their parents) are customers.   Part of what this means is that there is an aspect of teaching whereby you need to be a bit entertaining, and the kids need to like you.   A previous American teacher once described teaching ESL as being a bit like being a “dancing monkeys” for the children’s amusement.  I don’t know if I would go that far, but there is an entertaining aspect of being an English teacher in most schools.  You need to bring the charisma. You will likely be playing a fair amount of whiteboard and classroom games.

I remember most of my classes either typically ended up being fun and engaging for the students and me. Or they ended up being pretty dull if the students were exhausted from a long day at school and didn’t have the energy to learn English.

The Life of an English Teacher

So I talked a little bit about the actual teaching. But what about the life of an English teacher?  How is it? Well, it was mostly fun. I’ll take you through a fairly typical day for an English teacher.  The schedules tend to be lax, and you have a lot of free time.

9:00 AM.    Wake up.  As long as you’re up before 10:00 or so you could head over to the local breakfast place and get some dan bing. Dan Bing is like a delicious Chinese egg crepe. There’s not much reason to get up much earlier than this. Many of the teachers I worked with sometimes slept in until noon if they had a late night.

10:00 AM.   Perhaps go to the gym and workout followed by lunch. You might want to meet up with friends and go for a scooter ride or head to the mountain and go hiking. Or perhaps some shopping followed by a hot pot lunch. The big city in Taipei was about a 40-minute bus ride away, and depending on your schedule you could head to the big city and be back in time for teaching if you head out before noon.

12:00 PM.  Might as well grab lunch with a friend or a native. Plenty of places to get a nice meal usually for less than $5.

1:00 PM   If you want to take a nap no one is going to stop you.

5:00 PM   I might be misremembering but, typically class didn’t start before 5:00 PM.   Classes usually ran from 1.5 to 2 hours. You typically had one to three classes per day. Two was the most common schedule for a day. For most schools, your day will be finished by 9:00 PM.

9:00 PM   You taught two classes and worked for a total of four hours today.  A busy day to be sure.   Time to meet up with your friends and grab a nice dinner for probably $5.   Maybe hotpot, maybe an Asianized version of spaghetti, teppanyaki was always a favorite.  Westernized restaurants were available as well. There was a TGI Friday near us as well as a Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonald’s and Subway.

10:30 and on.   Well, a lot of the people that go to teach English overseas are in their mid to late 20’s so this meant there was a fair share of drinking and partying.   My first year I spent living in a dorm.  I was about 33 and had a little partying left in me but also was starting to wind down.   Some teachers would drink and go all night.  I usually wanted to bow out by 1:30 or so but now and then a late night wasn’t a bad idea.  After all, there was nothing to wake up for the next day besides breakfast.

Acacia Nut is otherwise known as “betel nut” is chewed for caffeine-like energy.  A  bit like chewing tobacco.

Betel Nut
The packages were sometimes provocative with half-naked ladies

Life in East Asia

The country where I ended up spending around three years, was Taiwan.   I spent my first year in a medium sized city called Taoyuan that was about a 40-minute bus ride from the big international city of Taipei.   I had no idea what to expect as this was my first time setting foot in Asia.

The first thing you’ll notice upon setting foot on the island of Taiwan is that the primary method of transportation is the scooter.   Taiwan’s roads are vibrant and alive with scooters darting in and out of traffic.

The streets of Taipei have plenty of neat little restaurants and coffee shops.  Here’s an example of a charming, quaint coffee shop where I wrote some of my first blog posts.

One of the cornerstones of Taiwan’s culture is their night markets. Most cities have a few night markets in different neighborhoods. Night markets have a vibe that is about like a county fair.  Many people come together and set up shops that are a bit like flea markets, and many vendors are selling all kinds of foods.  Quickly prepared and sometimes fried foods are a favorite.  A favorite and somewhat notorious food in Taiwan is “stinky tofu” which is fried fermented tofu which has a powerful odor that many would consider a bit harsh or stinky.”  But the taste is pretty good.

Teaching English as Part of The FIRE Plan

To anyone that is pursuing Financial Independence, I would strongly advise them to consider teaching English as part of their plan. I’ve often heard of the idea of “barista FIRE” which is the idea that once you reach a certain savings goal, you sort of “coast” and work a job that is low paying but less stressful. I think Teaching English is a great coast plan for the following reasons:

  • Teaching English often has a relatively relaxed schedule where you might work around 20 to 25 hours a week. This type of program frees up your time to pursue other activities and freelance or develop a side business
  • Going abroad allows you to use geo-arbitrate to leverage your dollars somewhere where they might go farther.
  • If you’re an American, you can potentially save a lot of money getting away from our broken health care system which is costing many over a thousand dollar a month for health insurance that is little more than blackmail payments to avoid getting stuck with a $100,000 medical bill in the event of a health catastrophe.
Teaching English was a memorable part of my life and will likely play a role in my plan for the future. I should mention that you can teach at a school and also online. I have friends still living abroad teaching, and one did a guest post talking about teaching online while traveling. Consider teaching English abroad as a part of your FIRE plan.