Alan Donegan: PopUp Business School Co-Founder, Entrepreneur, Financially Independent Pizza Lover, Marvel Movie fan and soon to be Script Writer
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How did you end up in Mexico? Aren't you worried about Covid? Isn't it illegal to leave the UK at the moment? Let's start from the begining..........
Can you spot Alan?
That's me on the right of the photo under the umbrella. It is 24 degrees Celsius, bright blue skies and sunshine. Two weeks ago I was cycling in Leipzig, Germany and my bike gears froze over on the way home so I couldn't change gear any more. This was a first.
When the pandemic hit we went back to the UK for 5 months and Katie and I decided to resume our nomadic life in September. We left the UK and headed for Berlin where we had an incredible month of sunshine, cafes, coffee and food. We didn't know how well we had it.
We finished our Take Control of Your Finances Course in September and started to work on the feedback. We were loving Germany. You can hire a bike for €20 a month there. We left Berlin to do a road trip just as the Covid numbers started to increase. We visited Hamburg and Hannover and seemed to be one step ahead of increasing Covid numbers. As things got more serious we decided to settle down, find a place to hide and wait out the pandemic.
We rented a beautiful Airbnb in Leipzig, Germany and relaxed into our new place. Shops and restaurants were shut just after we arrived and we went back to shopping at Aldi, cooking at home and saving a HUGE amount of money.
Our time in Leipzig and our Airbnb
We were having a great time in Leipzig and enjoying the place but lockdown got worse and worse and restrictions got tighter and tighter. We focused next on what we could create during lock down and started a new Investor Series about index investing for the blog.
If you need help with index investing and getting started with Financial Independence then Katie and I wrote an entire series of articles just for you. The first is "What is Diversification?".
We focused heavily on creation and it was all inspired by Katie. She woke up one morning with the question "How much of our money is invested in Apple?" She thought this would be an easy question to answer but took two weeks of data analysis and visualisation to get to an answer.
I was so inspired by her graphs, charts and amazing work that I told her we should turn it into a series to help people properly understand index investing. This kept us buy for about 2 months! It takes a lot to create content sometimes!
Then we had a tough time over Christmas (shit happens). We caught Covid, I had a fairly big rejection at work and we had some arguments. Turns out the Donegans are human after all! We got through it, our health was 100% back and we started to look forward to 2021.
We decided we needed a change so moved Airbnbs to a shiny new one in a different area of Leipzig and had renewed hope. Which didn't last long! After about 2 weeks in the new place we hadn't seen another human being and restrictions were getting tighter with curfews and more.
After a long zoom call with our friend Sean, where Katie and I whinged about lock down etc. etc. (we've all been through it) he asked the question "why don't you move then?"
This set our minds racing and we started to explore where in the world would let us in.
What's the catch?
I emailed the Mexican consulate, I emailed the tourism board, we spoke to friends from Mexico and did our homework and we couldn't see any catches. Other than the obvious one, namely that with minimal restrictions Covid was probably rife there.
We had just had Covid so we were not too worried about us. We didn't want to spread it to anyone else but we had survived and that changed our outlook.
So within a week we had booked flights, accommodation and organised to leave Germany and fly direct to Mexico City. We didn't want to fly through another country for fear of getting trapped there!
Why didn't we do this sooner?
We arrived in Puerto Vallarta and were blown away by our new surroundings. We moved into the block you can see in the pictures above. We went for an afternoon swim and then went out for dinner that night.
We went to a roof top restaurant with amazing views over the city. We arrived early for sunset and were nearly the only people in the place. I had forgotten how much I missed eating out. Towards the end of the night I started to notice how busy the restaurant was. It was full of locals. There was 16th birthday party going on next to us with a table of 10 celebrating!!
No wonder Covid rates are so high here! We wouldn't have come here before Christmas because we were still afraid of getting the virus. After we had it things changed. We survived and we had our health back and we were less afraid.
If you can avoid getting Covid, avoid it. It is not a nice experience and people are dying from this. Avoid the virus and you don't want to be the one spreading it! That is one thing I am proud of in Germany, we got the virus but we didn't pass it to anyone else. We had to make one phone call to someone we had seen but thankfully she did not catch it from us.
What a strange year this is! We picked 2020 to become nomadic and travel the world and I don't think we could have picked a worse year to start! Who would have imagined a pandemic shutting down the world!??
Social media sharing.....
So here we are in Mexico. Swimming in the ocean, going out to cafes and working on our projects. I have avoided sharing pictures of our location up until this point because it didn't feel right. Not because we are doing anything wrong (we are obeying all the local covid restrictions, we are being safe and avoiding contact) but because the UK and other countries are on such extreme lock down.
It felt wrong to share pictures of us on the beach when people in the UK can't leave the house. We were lucky to have left the UK before all that kicked off. In fact we nearly went back to the UK in January.
We had booked flights and everything. We were going to go back to renew my passport and see the PopUp team for our annual company retreat. We had done all the research of where to get tests, how to quarantine when we arrived and how to travel. Then on the day that we booked our flights, Boris announced that Christmas was cancelled.
That day the PopUp retreat turned into an online event and Katie and I cancelled our flights back. We are so glad we did. The next day flights in and out of the UK were starting to be cancelled and we felt like we had dodged getting trapped there.
I am so grateful for the financial position that Katie and I have created for ourselves. Financial Independence has really come into it's own for us. If you ever wanted a reason to take control of your finances and improve your situation this is it. When shit hits the fan if you have financial resources you have options.
I still feel nervous sharing even this post of what we have been up to with Europe on extreme lock down and the virus ravaging the world. I am not sure where this guilt comes from; we haven't done anything wrong, we have obeyed all the restrictions, why should I feel guilty?
If you are still with me this far then let's turn our attention to the more exciting part of the update. What we have been doing!
The Rebel Entrepreneur Podcast
Season 2 of the Rebel Entrepreneur launched on Monday 1st February with Simon, Katie Coombes and me delivering the 12 Rebel Principles and we have had a great response so far!
I also launched a brand new Rebel Coaching Series where I coach a real entrepreneur building her side hustle and working to make money doing something she loves. The aim of this is to inspire you at the same time I help her to make progress.
If you would like to listen to the two episodes you can click on the images below to listen
Everything got rebranded
You may have noticed that my website looks slightly different! lol! No more black backgrounds and dark colours and a brighter look. Thank you to Dan and Ella from Developer Rocket for helping me create this new site! You have done a great job.
I wanted a site that reflected the size of the projects we were working on from the Take Control of your Finances course that Katie and I are going to run again soon to the Podcast and the blog series we have spent 100s of hours writing for you!
And not only did my site get rebranded but PopUp Business School changed it's name! Jack who works for PopUp made an incredible 2 minute video for the launch sharing why we have done it. Have a watch and let me know what you think and please enjoy the start which was super uncomfortable for me to watch! That video was recorded 9 years ago for the first ever PopUp Business School with my partner Simon in my Basingstoke flat! Cringe!
Data, Data, Data
Katie has been spending her time crunching numbers (no surprise there!). She has been working on analysing our spending and net worth data and has produced some cool graphs, maps, charts and other bits that show where our money goes, how much it costs to live in different countries Donegan style and more! Watch out for the results soon!
She has also been working on improving her Spanish. Our Spanish is pretty good and we can have conversations in Spanish but she wants to be able to express herself better so has been putting some energy into that!
What have we learnt?
Katie and I always look for what we have learnt each month to help us improve what we are doing, work towards a happier life and avoid making the same mistakes repeatedly! Here are some of the things we have learnt from these last few months.
You don't know what you are missing until you get it back
We didn't realise how much we were missing our freedom whilst on lockdown in Germany. We had a general sense of unease but it wasn't until we left Germany and got to Mexico that we realised how much we had given up. Focusing on what you can do is a BRILLIANT tool for staying positive and if something is not right you need to look for what you can change to improve it. Sometimes you don't know what you are missing until you try something different
Sometimes things need to happen in sequence
Katie and I wondered when we arrived here "why didn't we do this sooner?" We soon realised the reason was that we were scared (rightly so) of getting Covid. We had to go through the pain of getting it to then get to the other side to be able to make the change. Many times in my past shit things have happened for me to be able to create something new. I had to get fired to build my own business, previous girlfriends had to dump me (very painful at the time) for me to find Katie, I had to fail at certain businesses to find ones that work for me. Sometimes you have to go through the tough times to learn the lessons you need to learn to get to where you want to be. If you are going through a tough time now I am sorry to hear that, it's easier said than done but keep going and search for the silver lining. It may not be apparent at the time but you will find it.
If something isn't working for you change it
I am always amazed at the number of people that complain about where they live, complain about their jobs, complain about their lives. If you don't like it, change it! Don't like where you live? Think about moving somewhere else and trying a new town! Don't like your job? Start searching for a new one or start a side-hustle. Something isn't working for you? Let's work to improve it. You don't have to be as drastic as Katie and I changing continents but you can start to make small changes today, now, to improve your life. If you don't like something then change it or improve it
Focus on what you can do not what you can't do
This one has been a lifesaver through the lockdowns and quarantines. We spent 12 days in quarantine in a 2 bedroom apartment over Christmas in Leipzig. If I had focused on what I can't do (leave the flat, walk around in the fresh air, see friends, go to the grocery shop), I would have gone mad! In fact the only melt down moment of those 12 days was when I got a repeating thought that I couldn't go out for a walk. That nearly destroyed me that day!
What kept me safe was focusing on what I could do. I could write blog posts for you (we created an entire series on investing), I could record podcasts, I could walk around the flat; some days I even got my 10,000 steps inside the flat.
Focusing on what is possible and what you can do will keep you sane in tough times.
Making the most out of 2021
The vaccines are coming, things are improving and 2021 is looking brighter than last year. Now we just need to work to make it the year we want to actually have.
What are you planning for 2021?
Katie and I are planning:
What are you planning for 2021?
Talking about looking for what is possible rather than what is missing I want to end with a question for you to ponder and consider.
How can you make 2021 the best year so far? What could you do/build/create or experience that would make 2021 an incredible year?
Let's focus on having fun and making things happen.
Please stay healthy and safe
Love from Mexico
Alan and Katie