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I remember growing up and people saying to me that your school days are the best days of your life so make the most of them. This scared me. Then, at university, even more people told me that your university days are the best days of your life so I should treasure them. To be perfectly honest, this terrified me – if the best days of ours lives are behind us at the tender age of 22 then what does life really hold for us all….

what is lifestyle design
So what is lifestyle design?

Well, since leaving school and uni behind I’ve been living and traveling abroad for over 5 years, through 50 countries or so, met some of the best people imaginable, done things I never thought I’d get the chance to do and genuinely have had the best time of my life. Long may it continue! Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time at school, and my time at university even more, but anyone who says they are the best days of your life is wasting the opportunities that they are lucky enough to have.

lifestyle design
Freedom to life the life you want

Social conformity dictates that we go to school, go to uni, get a job, work 9-5 until we get a promotion that allows us to work 8-6 for a 10% payrise. I don’t know at what point in the development of mankind that society decided we should work for 5 out of 7 days each week dreaming of the 2 week holiday in Spain that you get to have each year. Society needs to have a good, long look at itself because I just don’t think that’s right.

We have one life and it’s very short. Our youth, even shorter. Do we really want to spend the majority of our best years working and saving for a retirement that might not even come? If we are entirely honest with ourselves no-one wants to do that and it is that honesty that gave birth to the concept of lifestyle design.

tell me about lifestyle design
8-6, Monday-Friday doesn’t need to be your reality

Lifestyle design is a concept that discards the old theories on what you should do in life, but talks about doing what you want to do. Living a life that puts a smile on your face every morning when you wake up at 10am. It’s about working out a way to live your life in the way that you want to, working how you want to work, it allows you to travel the world, meet awesome people and generally live an exciting, exotic life – and it’s really not that hard!

Lifestyle Design got me thinking of these old idioms about “your school/university days are the best days in your life”, and I wondered why people thought that. So I wrote down some of things that may caused that mindset. At university/school:

  • You have lots of free time
  • You can wake up when you want
  • You have long holidays
  • You don’t have a lot of things tying you down
  • You have the liberty to make free choices
  • You can look forward to your future, a future of endless possibilities
  • You’re not jaded by a lifetime of long days, overbearing bosses and grey suits
  • You constantly meet other people and your social life is active

So it’s not necessarily that being at school/university was the best time in your life, it’s the things associated with your lifestyle at university that caused it to be the best time in your life.


How about if we recalibrate our thoughts, our preconceptions, and our biased opinions about what is expected of us as we move into adulthood for a while – is it truly necessary to work 5 days out of 7 (over 70% of your week)? I categorically say “not at all”. All the things you loved about your school or university days can be had again, and more.

lifestyle design money
Don’t put off until tomorrow, something that can be achieved today

In the five years that I have been living my dream, I have travelled continuously around the world for years, worked 3 hours a day, 4 days a week in Thailand for a year, dipped into office life in Australia to earn enough money to start my businesses in Bangkok, played with kids on a Korean English camp for a couple of months and I’ve just finished an amazing Cape Town to Cairo trip through Africa before moving to Thailand. I’m telling you all of this not to brag about my lifestyle, because I am not anything special by any degree, but to let everyone know that anyone can live like this if they choose to. Anyone.

lifestyle design traveling
Spend your life doing things you want to do

I will continue to write about lifestyle design, how to live the life you want to live but rest assured none of this requires a huge bank balance. You don’t have to be rich to live rich, any Travel search can tell you that. If you’re interested in shaking up the status quo and getting out to see the world, stay tuned because I want to help people make the step into this lifestyle. Remember, you can live the life you want to live – you just need to recalibrate your preconceptions and the rest will follow.



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27 thoughts on “What is Lifestyle Design?

  1. Hi,very interested in the above and lifestyle design in general. How much of this should be attributed to Tim Ferris?

  2. Johnny, since I read your post on “Lifestyle Design” a few days ago the concept has been on my mind ever since. I totally get what you’re saying and I agree wholeheartedly.

    In the past few years I became aware of the fact that ultimately I wasn’t so happy just going through the motions of going to work in the corporate world every day to simply come home to my condo every night, vacation a few times a year and then repeat, repeat, repeat until retirement (if blessed to live to that age). All of that for what?

    So while on a tropical vacation three years ago I had an epiphany of “I used to feel this way inside and I haven’t felt this way inside for years”. Ten months later I returned to that exact spot for more introspection and I had an aha moment of sorts. Last year at the age of 46 I returned to school full-time to become certified in massage and reflexology with a dream of liquidating and living a more portable life with a portable career. I did lose my way (so to speak) during the past year where I lost sight of my vision of pushing forward to design my life as I envision it. Your article totally reminded me of why I put so much time, energy and expense into re-educating myself.

    I’m looking forward to more articles on lifestyle design.

    Thank you for your article and for leading me back to my path!

    1. wow Brenda, thanks for that msg 🙂 really reminds me why i write a blog when i get a comment like that so.. cheers! I really hope you can achieve what you want to achieve – the thing is, it’s so possible and without sounding like some sort of self-help crackpot, the only thing holding us back from living our dreams is us. We can all do it, the logistics and finances aren’t that difficult, what is difficult is having the confidence, desire, and drive to do it. The Western world can be so negative and so many people will tell you it’s impossible, but they’re wrong, really they are! You can do it, and you can do it as soon as you want so get your qualifications and take the plunge (and msg me from your hammock while your sipping on long island ice teas on some tropical island) 😛

  3. Excellent post! however though as much as I agree I am still on of those who work the 45-60hr week in order to be able to take the 2 week vacation to Spain. Its all a mindset and you have to get over what society has led most of us to believe which is the jobs with 2day weekends it just life.

    1. couldn’t agree more Kirk – if that’s life, then I don’t want it! I hope, in the internet age, mindsets are changing although I think that’s just wishful thinking because people seem to working more and more hours, for less and less holiday :S

  4. This is such a great post Johnny! I love that you have “stuck it to the man” and gone out and done your own thing. Of course, I am writing this as I’m trapped in my low-paying 6:45am-6pm. I wanna be like you when I grow up!

    1. haha hey Elle 🙂 and thanks for commenting, I’ve been thinking about getting it down on paper for a while. Sometimes it’s good for me to be reminded of what life can truly be, it’s all to easy to get sucked into a way of life you don’t want…

  5. Hi Johnny,

    Great post as usual, you are very read and admired from Qatar 🙂

    I agree that a great deal of people working in cubicles is not happy, and travelling full time could be both a dream and a great escape for them. However, others (like me) may feel that the intellectual challenges and the learning experience are worth for them as of now and they can keep a good balance in life. For instance, my job is giving me the opportunity to know local cultures very difficult to interact with otherwise, and the money to afford traveling without any economic worries. I also posted about this issue not long ago

    But I do agree that when that is not the case, you should quit and end your unhappiness! I hope your experience in South-East Asia is being great so far.

    Keep going,

  6. OK, now how about a curveball. You say: ” I don’t know at what point in the development of mankind that society decided we should work for 5 out of 7 days each week”. Actually, not so long ago, the only holiday in a week was Sunday. That’s when everyone went to church and rested. 2 day weekend is a relatively recent achievement in the industrial relations. Throw in a possible 6 weeks leave (4 free, 2 unpaid), public holidays, and you get people working just over 200 days in a year, thus leaving about 30% of total calendar year for rest, relaxation, travel, hobbies and everything else we call ‘life’. Not too shabby?

    Plus, consider that many people really do love their jobs. They say: “Find what you love to do, and you will never have to work a day in your life”.

    Also, idea of non-stop travel does not appeal to everyone:) You really can only travel long term when you are young, single, child-free and, most importantly, healthy. What happens if you have a child? Would you leave the kid fatherless in order to ‘life the best life’? Kids need routine. Or what if someone in your family became sick? Would you stay to look after them? What if you become sick? Sickness costs in time, money and emotional energy – you might not have much left for travel.

    I have to admit that lifestyle design does not mean ‘travel’ for everyone. For some, it could be just enjoying their life in their own house, within their community, having lots of free time to pursue their passions. But imagine if everyone got into lifestyle design. Doctors; firemen; policemen; scientists; engineers; pilots; Who will run the world? Lifestyle design is only possible because of the premise that we are a society drastically more privileged than the majority of the world, and we can rip the benefits of someone’s hard labour without producing anything, but enjoying Western productivity gains in terms ability to outsource, mobile technologies, communications and the power of our currency. It is like a pyramid structure – sure, we can engage in lifestyle design on the top, but we can only do it as long as there are untold masses toiling day and night to make the world tick.

    Now, I am not bagging lifestyle design. I am essentially a selfish first-world person who wants a better life for herself and her family. I and my husband are exploring avenues of creating a business that can be franchised, sold, cashed-in so that we can enjoy an easy life by the ocean. So in that way, I very much agree with you. But that does not mean a life like that will be a particulary smarter way to live. In tnis way, we won’t be making any real contribution to the society or the world. I have utmost respect for those who remain the pillars of our world, those whose essential work 5 days a week, 8 or more hours a day makes it what it is!

    1. hey planjapan,

      Thanks for the feedback 🙂 Not once do I say lifestyle design has anything to do with travel, i merely stated that living MY dream was to travel the world and experience everything imaginable. If your dream is to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week – it’s not my place to knock that, maybe you have designed your life perfectly already, but that’s certainly not my dream.

      Furthermore, lifestyle design doesn’t rely on your loaded premise – “we can rip the benefits of someone’s hard labour without producing anything”. At what point do i support, promote or admit to anything of the sort? Speaking personally, I know my lifestyle design, and the businesses that I have set up do nothing of the kind and, in fact, they actually change lives and produce untold benefits.

      The “pyramid structure” you refer to I feel is quite a naive analogy, in what way does wearing a suit for a faceless Western corporation not mirror a “pyramid structure”. Or low-level engineers working for a large engineering firm, striving for promotion, that too is a pyramid structure. Life is a pyramid structure. We get one life, we can do with it what we choose, I proactively choose not to be one of the “masses toiling day and night” because I feel I can enjoy life more, do more good, and spend more time smiling every day by choosing to design my lifestyle more intelligently – I would argue that that is the definition of a “smarter way to live”.

      I guess it’s all about choices, and ultimately, I know I’ve made the right one, for me – a choice which does contribute to society, a choice which allows me to live on my terms and a choice that may not sit well with the status quo but a choice that when death comes knocking on my door I know I can stare at it straight on satisfied, content, proud and happy that I lived my life to the fullest, gave back when I could and have no regrets.

      1. Hey Johnny, that was not an attack, just a friendly debate, another angle so to speak! 🙂

        See my disclaimers above – I did agree that lifestyle design does not necessarily mean ‘travel’ and I also told you that in principal, I agree that there are more interesting ways to live and me and S have a particular plan ourselves, so no ’12 hours a day, 7 day a week’ in sight.
        But I do believe that the premise on which lifestyle design is based – less work, more play – is only possible because you and I are privileged middle class people with a Western passport.
        For example, you move to Bangkok. You have savings from the job you had in a rich Western country. You target your business at rich Westerners, while living in a less developed, thus cheaper to live, country. It would not work the other way around. Would an average Thai person be able to relocate, on a spur of the moment, to Australia and run a business? Don’t think so. So in a way, you perpetuating Western service-based economy (where manufacturing has largely been outsourced to less developed world), while riding on the strength of foreign currency against Thai baht.
        Hey, this is not a criticism. If this is whithin your reach, grab it. Like I said, I am totally with you. I don’t particularly like working, neither does S. At least not in a corporate environment. May I’d feel different if I was a scientist or a politician. We’ve had long standing plans to avoid corporate world and slowly working towards them. But – lifestyle design is an intrinsically non-productive concept. A simple test of that proposition is the scenario where everyone in say, Australia, decides to ‘work less, play more’, including people who perform essential services, guarding our safety, health, security and democracy and human rights. What would happen then? Our world would collapse conpletely. So I do believe it is an unsustainable, selfish concept, which I am totally for! Anyway, I only commented because your post made me think – so take it as a compliment, not an attack:))

        1. I wouldn’t actually consider my upbringing middle class at all Plan Japan, I’m from a poor, single-parent family who, growing up, struggled immensely with finances. The Western passport of course is a huge benefit though.
          However, the currency arbitrage possibilities are there for all nationalities to utilise, not just Westerners and online business don’t cost a fortune to start. A Thai entrepreneur can generate online income (normally in USD) and redesign their lifestyle too – but of course they wouldn’t move to a more expensive country to do it, that would be madness. I honestly struggle to comprehend how “lifestyle design is an intrinsically non-productive concept”, i produce far more now than i ever did in the Western world and as for it being selfish – my new business are in place to change people’s lives for the better, is that selfish? Or even more extreme – my housemate in Bangkok, who redesigned his lifestyle, spends each day researching, tutoring and assisting Burmese refugees, lecturing UN staff on issues related to that etc, how in anyway is that selfish? I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree – while I understand there will be selfish lifestyle designers, in the same way that there are selfish people in any walk of life, but to label the lifestyle itself selfish i feel is quite dismissive and perhaps even arrogant?

  7. Great post Johnny. Really love what you are saying here. Both my wife and I had the 8-6 high paying corporate jobs, the fancy cars, the big empty house. Maybe we were smiling at times, but we weren’t happy. We gave it all up, sold everything and have been on the road since 2009. We are by no means rich, but our lives have become richer. We wake up every morning feeling energized, happy and content where our lives have taken us. We get the same questions all the time, “did you win the lottery?, No, then how do you do it?” It’s simple really. You don’t need the big paycheck. You just need enough to get you thru the day. Society has been brainwashed that we need all this stuff and happiness will come along with it. Ugh, people have lost sight of what is truly going to make them happy. Again awesome post, some inspiring stuff. Wishing you all the best in 2011. Cheers!

    1. hey peter, yeah mate and hearing your story just confirms it further. You’ve seen both lifestyles in full flow and it’s clear which you enjoy more so thanks for sharing that!

  8. Great topic, information and realities, Johnny. I really like this. I sorta took that route when I joined the Navy. I mean, obviously I can’t really wake up when I want or go where I want exactly when I want, but being in the Navy has certainly put me on that path to that direction. I like the advice you give and look forward to you posting more blogs like this.

    1. hey Fidel, cheers mate – i’m gonna right a lot more on this sort of topic i think, try to help people change their lives 🙂 in navy you get to travel loads i guess so it’s certainly a million miles away from being chained to a cubicle!

      1. “You don’t have to be rich to live rich.” I like that sentence. It is very true.

        I was chained to a cubicle for almost 10 years. The money wasn’t worth it anymore. I wanted a job that allowed me to be outdoors and have every today be different from yesterday.

  9. Nice. For sure college can be a wonderful time, but as you say it’s because of how we spend our time when we’re living it. It IS sad when we look back and think our best days are behind us–especially if we’re doing it before we’re 90.

    1. spot on Gray, it’s sad and completely unnecessary. Life can be so much fun, we just gotta embrace it 🙂

  10. I couldn’t agree with this statement more: You don’t have to be rich to live rich.

    Wish more people GOT that!!!

    1. i know Andi, right!! oh well, we can only live our own lives and try to help others, anything else is a bonus 🙂

  11. Thanks for yet another great post. So many valid points; the primary one (for me) being, WHO the @#%&* decided that we have to slave away at a job we hate for 5 out of 7 days, making the company or owner rich, all so we can get those precious 2 weeks of vacation, use them up quickly, then go right back to the meaningless, monotonous grind. That is a sure-fire recipe for sucking every last bit of life from your soul. I’m pretty sure that’s not how we’re meant to live! Actually that’s not living at all; it’s simply existing. To which I say, ‘F’ that! Keep up the good work Johnny; you’re an inspiration to many.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Andy 🙂 I know mate, it’s a crazy world we live in when that lifestyle is not only ‘expected’ of us but indoctrinated into us from such a young age – it’s difficult to shirk the mindset but once you do, you never look back!

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