About Me

The Why


On an ordinary night in August of 2010, right outside my home in Orlando, Florida, I was robbed at gunpoint and almost murdered.

When it’s one in the morning and you’re on the ground with a gun to your temple and four cracked-out kids screaming at you for money, you really think twice about all that you’ve done, what you’ve become, and what your life means.

Three weeks before attacking me, the same gang had shot a neighbor and left him a paraplegic – a terrifying fact of which I was painfully aware as I lay on the ground, trembling with terror.

For reasons I’ll never know, the four kids decided to run away that night. They left me alive, face down on the pavement, my life intact but forever changed.

I don’t think anyone I know, even close friends and family, really understands how much that night impacted me. I’m sure they see the good-humored Banker, always smiling—but my soul was rattled in ways even I couldn’t comprehend at the time.

Somehow, in the moments and hours following my attack, I became unhinged from the norm. Suddenly the outside world shone more brightly than the world I’d lived in all my life. Deep-seated desires to immerse myself in distant cultures and trek through exotic kingdoms and sultanates bubbled up to the surface, refusing to be ignored.

My father used to say that golden opportunities come only once in a lifetime. If we’re lucky, really lucky, maybe twice. But that’s it, and if we don’t seize these opportunities when they arrive, they won’t come around again.

The truth was that I had always wanted to be a traveler and a writer. I’d been writing since my early teens. But I had played it safe, opted for the secure 9 to 5 existence, and only pondered my missed opportunities during the rare hazy moment of drunkenness or extreme fatigue.

But then the kind of opportunity my father always talked about slapped me in the face – with the barrel of a gun. It was the kind of wake up call I needed. Looking back, I hate to think who I might have become had it not happened.

I’d still be a banker in an office, crunching numbers behind a cubicle wall, talking about my 401k, my piddly 2-week vacation plans, and how much my work sucked. I’d be the exact man I never wanted to become.

The How

Untitled-2I was raised in a family who frowned upon travelers and wanderers and philosophers. I was raised to be practical, to plan ahead, and to always have a financial safety net.

Because of this, when I decided to break free from the banker’s shackles, I didn’t leave with only a thousand dollars to my name and no place to call home (god bless those who did). I left with a plan and a strategy.

This is what Banker in the Sun is all about—not escapist fantasies, but exercises in realism. I want to show you how to make your travel dreams realities through inspiring stories, out-of-the-box financial advice, and real-life examples of others who are making it happen.

The Money

My view is anti-establishment. I don’t believe in the typical savings advice we’re spoon-fed from the time we enter our first jobs: 401ks, Roth IRAs, retirement and pension – it’s a bunch of BS.

During the 2008 crash, I saw thousands of people’s savings evaporate in a matter of months. They became so focused on their savings that the rest of their lives went completely out of focus, and when the crisis hit, it hit hard.

Talents, passions and enjoyments had been set aside in order to save. After years of sacrifice, everything they’d worked so hard for disappeared in a matter of weeks. What was the point?

The lesson so many clients (and friends, and even myself) learned quickly was that the return doesn’t match the investment. Spending 30 years accumulating savings that amount to 2 years of living expenses—omitting social security—just doesn’t make sense. And it certainly won’t make you happy.

The Lifestyle

Banker in ThailandBanker in the Sun isn’t about learning how to exist; it’s about learning how to truly live. It’s about losing yourself in the wonders of travel without having to worry about pinching pennies and living on beans and rice.

Yes, you can afford to travel. Yes, you can afford to move abroad – I’ll even show you how. But the real lesson is that it’s not about the money. It’s about designing your life and making your dreams a reality – no matter how expensive those dreams may appear right now.

It’s about living the kind of life that, if held up to the barrel of a gun, allows you to say “I’ve seen and done and experienced everything I’ve wanted to – I’ve truly lived and I have no regrets.”

As you transition from corporate prisoner to inspired nomad (or part time traveler, or whatever the travel-dream lifestyle means to you,) I invite you to lose yourself in the inspiring stories that appear on this blog. I invite you to begin a journey towards financial freedom, time freedom, and ultimately – freedom of the soul.

 

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January, 2014

82 comments on “About Me

  1. Being held at gunpoint like that must have been a horrific experience. I can’t imagine how terrifying that would have been. Did you have ‘post traumatic stress disorder’?

  2. Love how you responded to such an ugly experience and the reason behind the blog. My experience is so different and yet I still relate – the Universe, Fate, Coincidence, God (whatever you relate to) so often finds ways of waking us up. My husband got the opportunity to move to New York from the UK and although we had the right visa for me to work, not only was I having real problems getting people to talk to me (too old, too female, too long in an industry I couldn’t work in the US, too temporary – not on a green card), trying to find that stable job with leave, 401K, healthcare etc. was starting to drive me crazy. So started my journey of self-exploration and re-invention – I am loving my new game & coach approach to life helping others reinvent & transition themselves.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Katie! We all have so much potential and sometimes it takes great obstacles to teach us, and in turn for us to teach others. I’m so glad you found your place of “peace” 🙂

  3. Hi Rashad,
    My name is Magesh and I belong to Chennai, India.
    You are a gifted writer! I find that your articles have had a huge impact on so many people…
    I also admire your courage to follow your dreams and Live your dream, no matter what struggles you will face as you live your dream life. Even though many people dream, so few of us have the courage to let go of the insecure feeling, conquer the fear and go on to live the life of our dreams…I find that your blogs have inspired so many people. I wish you all success in your life ahead filled with lots of travel, lots of travel blogs to guide other people and lots of fun.
    May your public service continue for ever..
    Your advice for a Expat Job seeker in Dammam, Saudi :
    I worked in Muscat from Sep 2012 to July 2016 and now planning to work in Dammam, Saudi. I am a religious person ( Hindu ) , who likes to visit temple once in a week atleast for prayers. Luckily for me , in Muscat there was religious freedom, as Churches, Temples and other places of worship were allowed and also in general the atmosphere was not as conservative as in Saudi.
    In view of this i am apprehensive about taking up the Saudi job offer. Also iam likely to get married in the coming 6 months and iam worried about life for a Non-muslim family in Saudi as all women have to wear burqa whenever they go out of home in public areas…

    Your ardent fan,
    S.Magesh,
    Chennai,
    India.

  4. hey,
    me wanting to live an expat life in pattaya, have traveled a times to pattaya. But i am not having any debts at this moment, but income source is also not that great to take care of me or my family.

    I can work in pattaya.

    how can you help me ??

    thanks kudos.
    dom

    1. Hi Dom, Thailand is really closing off more and more opportunities for foreigners in an attempt to keep a very low unemployment rate. Aside from the typical expat jobs ie. teaching, real estate, consultants, scuba divers, business owners… there isn’t a lot more one can do. You’d have to consider Cambodia or Vietnam if you want more opportunities, especially the latter.

  5. I’m in for the ride. This is a fascinating introduction to your blog. Looks like you actually didn’t survive that gang: they shot your old self.

  6. It’s often overlooked and overpowered by the fear of the unknown that one decides to break free. I’ve swung between listening to those who have their best intentions for me vs the desire to explore and experience our wonderful world, free spiritedly. We cannot choose of whom or where we are born to, only those that allow what’s unknown worlds lay beyond that horizon. Our society and cultures silently mould us into what it wants us to be vs what we could be. Amen.

  7. I am studing about medetation but when i am reading your story. I cant sitting medetation for few hours that is your interesting story.

  8. Great profile. I can say I’ve done what I wanted to and yes I’ve seen 10-15 years of savings down the hole too from living expenses enduring a skin sickness in Brazil.
    I know it is TMI but it is what it is. My only regret so far is not getting to Australia. and with my growing fear of flying, after flying for 20 years, I am stuck (for now) in North America. I really want to get back down to South America

    1. I’m really glad you’re okay now, though. Your experience must have been invaluable! I’m a little jealous, I’ve never been to Brazil and have always wanted to go 🙂 Perhaps very soon…

          1. I teach English in Brazil and love it! Need to get the proper visa though…haha so I’ll leave in July, probably go to Hong Kong next or Macau (preferably) then return to Brazil later. There’s so much to do here!

  9. Hey buddy, I am so glad to have come across your page. I went through depression at an early age, and the way I got through it was to push myself through it was the thought of traveling the world before ‘ending it all’.

    That it was the greatest 4 years of my life that could easily outshine the lives of every 9-5er I know. I got married to a traditional Viet girl whose skill set is to maintain the household and not step out of her comfort zone. I now have a kid, and unfortunately, that yearning to travel is burning ever stronger…. i’ve been locked back into studying for a 9-5 job to support them. hopefully, my kid has good social and adaptation skills – perhaps we could give the UAE a go.

    You and I are of one mind when it comes to the BS of retirement. But seriously, have you thought of any long term plans to get yourself a stable passive income to live on when you’re too senile for any more traveling?

    1. Thanks for the comment! I’m really glad you got over the depression. I’m actually about to write about that, since it can hit me too while I’m on the road. And as for retirement, I used to want to plan and prepare–but things never end up going the way I planned them. Ever. So my thoughts are to return to banking at some point, or consult. Or who knows, if this blog gets enough traffic, it may provide enough passive income (although I barely monetize it right now).
      Rashad Pharaon recently posted…Six Months of Traveling: Looking BackMy Profile

  10. I love your life and you are an amazing man. I just wrote a long email but it disappeared. I am 65, lost my husband to a senseless death and want to go to Laos. Thank you for the good stuff you wrote about it. I love life. I can do this, I’m smart, attractive and wise and old.
    Blessings. Jan

    1. Thanks so much for your kind comment, Jan! I did get your email and I will respond very shortly as I am on the road. Laos is a gorgeous place and I’m sure you’ll love it there. Stay in touch, would be very interested in hearing about your adventures! 😀

  11. This is probably one of the most inspiring about stories I’ve read in a long time. It reminds me of fight club, when Tyler holds the gun up to the convenience store workers head and tells him if he’s not on his way to becoming a vet in a year, he’s gonna kill him. Nothing like a near death experience to reveal your true desires eh?

    Thanks. Keep it up!

  12. Hi Rashad,

    Landed on your blog via Google search for Laos! I must say this is one of the most beautifully designed and very well written blog i ever saw! Loved the ‘museo’ font and your writing style! I’ll be checking out your ‘Cost of Living in….’ articles. Keep writing!
    Cheers!

    Sunny
    India

  13. Rashad,

    While the situation which brought about your awakening is unfortunate, you seem to be living according to your true will now! I like your blog because you, like myself seem to be mid career and left at a high point, which is difficult.

    Sitting here in Orlando, FL. I’ve wanted to break free since 2004 and tried several things and was always broke.
    After a decade of learning location independent skills, I finally have that ideal job which pays a ton. I’ve never chased money, however I lived paycheck to paycheck until I was 35 years old, Electric constantly getting shut off, months behind on bills, working 2 or more low end jobs for way too long, never having taken a vacation. I’m now 39 making great money and have $30k saved with zero mortgage, wife, kids or debt ( just a student loan of $25k) and bill $100/hr. freelance consulting, as well as productized services. The goal is short term contract work, taking several months off at a time to just LIVE.

    With al of these resources, I STILL have those fears. Fear of not making enough income, fear of blowing through savings and winding up on the street, after having finally gotten stable after 20+ years of work life struggle.

    I am planning to give up my 1 bedroom rental apt. and minimal stuff to hit the road. I’m the type who loves bonfire drum circles, forest raves, surreal/psychedelic experiences, etc. The plan is to spend about 5 months in Asia (India, Thailand, etc.), then do some car road trips around the Pacific Northwest in the U.S., hit some festivals and reassess the next move.

    I’d rather sit on a dirt floor cave with locals eating ground pit fire cooked Roti in India, then I would a sterile hotel doing tourist crap.

    I’d love to hear any insights you have on my situation and fears.

    I’m the type that preaches meditating on death, how it can come anytime, and to not die with regret. Yet, as one of your post mentions the insanity of the 9-5 boredom day after day, gridlock traffic, heat and hours spent wasted is an abomination. Especially for someone like myself with a gypsy soul, who feels ‘trapped’ by this system, since I still would have college loans, health insurance and minimal bills to pay, in addition to travel costs, cheap lodging, food, etc.

    1. Hey Jeff,

      First I’d like to thank you for your comment. It rang out with a lot of heart.

      Like yourself, I lived in Orlando for a long, long time (10+ years). I took that drive up and down I-4 to work more times than I care to remember. I was sick of seeing that SunTrust tower while nomads I knew were seeing pagodas and age-old temples. I think you nailed it when you said that it’s really hard to leave at your high point. If we left at our low point, at least we’d have some kind of excuse that would make sense to others and ourselves, but the fact you left at your peak–that’s an accomplishment in by itself.

      You’ve saved up a good chunk of money and the fear you have is normal, it’s that instinct to survive. But even when I had a cushy job in the U.S. at one of the biggest banks–and everyone said we were infallible–we still fell. The answer I found out is that there is no answer–there never is security. There is just adventure, and I’d rather not dwell on what could be’s, and just do it.

      I still have these fears, but like everything else in life, I have to weigh my fear against the reward. The reward far outweighs the fear. Plus, you have a good amount in the bank, so what if you set aside–say 10k–and just do it? That should last you 5-10 months.

      At the end, you have nothing to lose (you can always make money, even on the road), and everything to gain.

      If you ever make it to SE Asia, hit me up.

      1. Hey Rashad,

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply and poignant words. WHEN I make it to SE Asia, I’ll hit you up!

        Ah, I-4, yes I’ve been here 14 years already, quite unexpected. While I’ve found a small alternative community here, the predominant atmosphere is still strip malls, non-walkable areas and being trapped in one box to the next.

        Yes, I think setting aside at least $10k to make it happen, with a big cushion is a great idea. Three years ago, I was down to $43 dollars , so things can change rapidly.

        I’ll refute one point, I do have something to lose……my Sanity, if staying put.
        Anyway, I appreciate your reply and happy journeys!
        Jeff Bronson recently posted…8 eCommerce Business Mistakes To AvoidMy Profile

      2. Rashad and Jeff,

        I just graduated from Florida State University. I’m only 22 and I’m just starting out on my adventures in the world. I have worked hard over the last five summers and I am absolutely terrified of ending up in a 9-5 job. I went door to door selling kid’s educational books for five summers, working 80 hours a week.

        It’s really inspiring to see more people who are older than me striking out on the same type of wild adventures. (though I will admit mine is a lot less planned than yours was Rashad)

        Anyways, thank you both! Keep loving the adventure.

        Jon

  14. Hi there, i stumbled upon your site through This Life in Trips. I have always love travelling and seeing the world but too scared to leave my comfort zone. I have just started blogging recently to express some words to the world (hopefully). Its inspiring to see such sites as yours and someone i can relate to, although i am not a banker.. 🙂 Anyway, will be following your site to know more and all the best in your journeys.

  15. I came across your blog via #TRLT. I love your attitude about approaching travel blogging from a practical perspective. I think too often travel bloggers fall into the fantasy of traveling broke, scraping by, and still enjoying it. Kudos if you can pull that off, but your approach (essentially having it all) is really refreshing. Loving your content so far and look forward to reading more.
    Ariana recently posted…My Failed 11% Cash Back ExperimentMy Profile

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ariana–posts like yours inspire me too 😀

      I do admire those that hitchhike across Europe and India and sleep on floors or camp out in a yard. That must be an amazing experience, but I really prefer a more… mainstream (normal? lol) experience. I also don’t want to be stressing out about money every time I buy a bus ticket.

      I appreciate you visiting my blog, stay in touch!

  16. Rashad, such an inspiring story and so beautifully written. Its hard when you come from a background that is so structured, yet always found myself to be the travelling nomad, and after a lot of planning and preparation start my trip in July – your story has been amazing inspiration and i look forward to sharing mine with you as well. Brad ;}
    Brad Frankel recently posted…What to do in LondonMy Profile

    1. Hi Brad, I could have sworn I typed in responses on this and other comments, and they all disappeared! Either that, or the coffee here in Vietnam is laced with some serious liquor lol.

      It was very hard breaking free because I was at a stage which lead to my dream job. And I chose to give the opportunity up for a complete change of life. I just wasn’t happy, and the gun robbery really awakened the dormant longings within.

      I’m so happy you’ll be traveling–I’m following your posts so it will be exciting to see where you go, and of course, to hear your stories! I wonder how long it took you to prepare…

  17. I don’t know if you realize that, but you’re a true inspiration for many people who are still afraid of leaving their comfort zone to make their dreams come true. I see that travelling has been in your blood. My family members are not into travels that much so that even gives me more reasons to show them what they are missing :)!
    Agness recently posted…Visiting Düsseldorf On A BudgetMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Agness. It was very tough quitting, I was at the top of my career–and boom, I walked away. Many called me a fool. I even called myself a fool, I doubted every second of my decision. I almost asked them to rehire me, but then days passed, and days turned to months… 😀
      You have a very interesting story as well, it’s impressive and difficult to take off and travel for such an extended period. It takes a lot of courage to do what none of your family (and possibly friends) have done, and to do it so well and for so long. I’m taking much interest in your next step: China… Indonesia…back home? I’ll be tuning into your blog to keep track lol

  18. Hi Rashad, I’ve only seen your site this week for the first time too and am delighted to cross paths with you. This story shocked me to the core and is totally powerful. I grew up in a warn torn country (where organised gang crime and political violence was seemingly normal back in the 80s) and luckily I only saw a few riots and didn’t experience anything like this. In the end, escape for me was travel. I haven’t looked back since leaving Northern Ireland 11 years ago. It’s a brave story to post and it’s nice to be able to follow your adventures. Safe travels. Jonny

    1. Hi Jonny, you really are living the life of adventure most of us seek. Over a decade on the road… I bet Hong Kong must make for a great temp home base. Hope we cross paths someday! Safe travels

  19. I came across your blog through a comment you posted on Don’t Stop Living recently. What a powerful, inspiring story. And believe me, you aren’t the only one jaded by the whole cookie cutter, 9-5 experience we’ve all been raised to believe in will help us in our future. The 2008 U.S. Housing market crash proved otherwise that playing it “safe” doesn’t necessarily guarantee security, either. You have to seize opportunities when they are there like you said. Look forward to following your blog. Cheers!

    1. Thanks for visiting, Ray. I appreciate it. I only wish inspiring stories didn’t come this hard on the body and mind. You’re totally right, the crash totally wiped out dreams of even those who thought they were playing it safe. At the end, nothing can wipe out the experience gained from our travels.
      Following you blog also, Ray, thanks again!

  20. Hi Rashad!

    When I came across your site I was thinking you were another cubicle escape with the same story of so many. Your turning point however is by FAR the most dramatic! Sad that it takes situations like that for people to accept change but sure glad, and I bet you agree, that it happened!

    Cheers!

    Shaun – http://www.thislifeintrips.com

    1. Thanks Shaun! Yeah, eating dirt was kind of rough, but some good came of it 🙂 I definitely am.. kind of.. glad it happened? I don’t want to sound like I’m courting any more bad karma lol

  21. Hi Rashad! Great to getting to know you a bit better and what an inspiring story you’ve got to tell. I would like to tell you what a love about your blog, but honestly I guess it’s pretty much all! Great writing style (reads like a novel), love your website name and stuff like ‘Banker in the Sun isn’t about learning how to exist; it’s about learning how to truly live’. Great website and as an M.D. I kind of a feel like you: M.D. by day … ;)! Will definitely follow your blog! Manouk

    1. Hi Manouk! Thanks so much for visiting 😀 I’ve been following your blog, visiting it often, and I really like the freshness and appeal of your articles. I learn something new every time and I like that you don’t rehash info. It all truly is unique. It’s great that you’re an MD and that you’ve now decided to travel… it’s amazing, actually. I’ll be following your journey to learn more about your aspirations and inspiration. Thanks again for your comment!

  22. Wow what a powerful story! I applaud you for breaking free! After 2 years of travelling/ working I’m facing the same struggle, I don’t want to succumb to the cubicle lifestyle (I graduated from university nearly 2 years ago) and bow to the pressure of what people expect me to do, especially after 2 amazing years of living and working abroad.

    I always thought travel was something you could get out of your system, but it;s like a drug, the more you travel, the more you yearn! Now I can happily say I have no regrets and have fulfilled a lot of my life dreams by the age of 22. Even if I don’t have a salary, 401k and still stay with my parents in between trips, what does it matter if I’m happy. I can’t wait to see what you get up to 🙂
    Settit recently posted…Learning Italiano Part II (E come puoi imparare l’italiano)My Profile

    1. Thanks for your comment 🙂 I agree with you, and you’re still 22 so you have so many years ahead of you to experiment. So what if you go out there for a year or two, or five? You’ll have everything to gain and nothing to lose!

  23. What an inspiration and definitely had got me going to keep on doing the things I am passionate about, they are more than just things actually and when you put yourself into it, it creates another dimension of your world. I cannot thank you enough for sharing this amazing website, the knowledge and the experiences are so well explained and is highly motivated. Please continue to inspire us!!! I am looking forward to more of your travels and adventures! I am defo your avid fan and will continue to follow you.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, Meowie. I adore your blog and those beautiful photos, especially those of Laos. You know, that sleepy town is definitely a place I could stay at for a while. I wonder if they have good internet, and if they don’t then all the better. More focus on writing. I look forward to reading more of your stories and seeing more of your photos!

  24. Wow, inspiring words:

    “It’s about living the kind of life that, if held up to the barrel of a gun, allows you to say “I’ve seen and done and experienced everything I’ve wanted to – I’ve truly lived and I have no regrets.””

    I said something very similar to a friend not long ago, could be time to stop talking and start acting!

  25. Hi
    I have just discovered your blog and I am glad too I did.
    You seem to be in Saudi Arabia now. I am in Sinai, Egypt and have been here for almost a year now. Everyday I see the mountains of Saudi Arabia across The Red Sea, and wonder what life is like over there.
    Would be nice to hear stories from there and see some pictures.

    Wish you well and good journeys

    Marja

    1. Marja, how intriguing, we’re neighbors! Thank you for visiting the site 🙂 I was in Egypt for an aunt’s wedding many years ago, did the tourist thing, but wished I had had a more authentic experience. It was quite rushed and we were only there for three days. Egypt’s history is fascinating. As a kid, I remember wishing I’d be a Pharaoh someday lol.

      I’ll be traveling through Saudi Arabia soon and will take photos of Mecca, Medina, and other cities. It’s very difficult since photography is shunned in some parts of the kingdom, but I’ll be sharing some stories soon enough. It’s a pleasure meeting you 😀

  26. I came across your blog from Twitter and i am so glad i did – i am yet to read your blog posts but i gotta say – this is the most inspiring about-me page i have ever read (traveler or not). So decided to drop you a note as early as now and congratulate you!

    There’s nothing wrong with being practical and having a plan (i am that way, too!) – but it is super wrong to suppress one’s calling only because one has been taught that way. I am sorry it took a gun to your head to realize that – but as odd as it may sound, i am happy for you that it took a gun to your head to realize that – this way, you know your passion for travel is for real, and for life. There’s no doubt in your mind now that it is the freedom and the traveling that truly makes you feel alive – keep on traveling and blogging.

    You just earned another loyal reader 😉

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  28. This is the first time I’ve thoroughly looked through your website. I was raised the same; to do everything the practical way. It was drilled into me so hard that I used to think for the longest time that there was something wrong with me for having this irrepressible wanderlust. Then, thanks to bloggers like you, I realized that thousands of people were living my dream and being successful at it, so why couldn’t I? I love your blog because it mixes sound financial advice with dreamer logic. Also thanks for always acknowledging me on twitter! haha.
    -Kiersten

    1. Thanks Kiersten, what a great comment and compliment. I think I want to use “sound financial advice with dreamer logic” in my marketing materials, lol! Yes, it’s absolutely possible to indulge your wanderlust and still make money and live well. I never want to stop traveling, but I also don’t want to live the budget backpacker lifestyle forever. I think it’s possible to find a happy medium. See you on Twitter (:

    1. Hui, thanks so much for your comment. I completely agree, there is much to be learned from an experience like that one. I think sometimes life has a way of throwing us curve balls to wake us up. If we don’t listen, the wake up call gets louder and louder.

  29. Banker is really a skilful writer, about to publish his novel. Therefore, each essay on his blog conveys a feeling or touches the problems of the country. Each piece has the flavour of a short story.
    Good Luck Banker!

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