Alan Donegan: Rebel Business School Co-Founder, Rebel Entrepreneur podcast host, Rebel Finance School co-founder and Queen's award winner. Marvel movie fan fanatic, breakfast lover and financial independent traveller
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The picture to the right is from today outside our hotel in Montevideo, Uruguay. We landed as a cyclone started to batter the coast of Uruguay. Let's start at the beginning of 2022........
Back on the road: Mexico
We spend Christmas in the UK, we loved seeing family, eating mince pies and brandy butter and the long family days. There was a stage though where we didn't see the sun for nearly 9 days, it was grey, rainy and cold. This inspired us to get out of the UK and back on our travels.
The favourite British pass time is to discuss the weather. It is the first thing we talk about when we meet. They say you can't do anything about the weather but I found a way! Just move country.
So we headed to Mexico, Puerto Vallarta after the Rebel Business School team retreat in Essex. Quite the contrast. We had made friends with an apartment owner last year and messaged them saying we where coming back and we struck a deal to stay in the same apartment!
We would head home in the heat of the day and chill on the balcony overlooking the ocean, maybe write or read, I would go to the gym, then we would meet friends for dinner or watch a movie and fall asleep with the sound of the ocean waves crashing against the beach. As I write this I am wondering to my self why did we EVER leave?
There is a simple answer to that question! Mexican summers! It gets HOT HOT HOT in the summer there and with near 100% humidity it is not somewhere we want to be in the summer.
We felt so at home there and so productive. We wrote a TV show pitch, did the 6month follow up to the last RFS, created documents pitching RFS to a bank for sponsorship to help us reach more people, completed the Reporting from the last Rebel Finance School and send it to the sponsors South Oxfordshire Housing Association, launched Chautauqua (our annual Financial Independence retreat), paid our UK Taxes and did tax returns and went whale watching lol.
The biggest realisation for us about our time in Mexico was when some friends came to Puerto Vallarta (PV) and we met up. We had raved about this place and how cool it was but that was not their experience. They stayed in a cheaper part of town away from the beach and found it hot and not to their liking. After they had gone it struck us that being right on the beach was what made this cool for us. PV is awesome but to get the real experience staying right on the beach made the difference.
Being able to roll out of bed, walk down stairs and run along the beach, swim and move before breakfast was what really bought it to life and that cost a lot more!
We did not want to leave Mexico, we kept looking at each other and asking "why are we leaving?" We knew the answer was because it was about to get hot hot hot but that didn't change the feeling.
Biggest learnings from our time in PV:
The next stop for us was Bogota Colombia and we were so excited to be back. We visited twice last year to help set up Rebel Colombia and have made such good friends. Bogota is starting to feel like home to us (although we had some challenges this time!)
Bogota is high in the Andes Mountains on a plane. It is a vibrant, busy dynamic city with so much going on. There are incredible cafes and restaurants, parks and always something going on. Every Sunday, nearly 1 million people enjoy the fact that they shut down the major roads of Bogota and have Ciclovia where you can cycle, scoot or run through the city traffic free.
Katie found a personal trainer and has taken up Calisthenics, she went to train in the park 4 times a week and enjoyed the fact that an hours personal training in Bogota cost £12 or $15! She got so fit and strong.
I worked on the podcast and tried to secure it's future. ChooseFI and my friends Brad and Jonathan decided they could afford to keep producing the Rebel Entrepreneur so I was looking for a new home, creating content and working out if I still wanted to keep going. I did an episode of the show all about that and after asking for feedback I was OVERWHELMED by your emails of positivity and have doubled my efforts. In the next few weeks we will announce a new podcast partner and things seem to be going from strength to strength. We had 11,000 downloads last week alone!
FI Chautauqua is an annual Financial Independence retreat where some of the biggest bloggers in finance and some of the community get together to chat about money, happiness and creating an extraordinary life.
Katie and I went along as attendees in 2016 and it changed our lives for ever. At the end of that Chautauqua JL Collins (the founder) asked us if we would help him put them on. We ran one in the UK in 2017, 2 in Greece in 2018 and 1 in the UK and 2 in Portugal in 2019 before the pandemic ground us to a holt.
This year we are back. The tickets to the two events sold out in 18 hours which is crazy and Katie are so excited because this year we are running the event in Villa de Leyva, Colombia. This will be the first event that we have organised completely in Spanish!
You don't not need to come on the event. Everything you need to know about FI is on JL Colin's blog, in the Rebel Finance School or on Millennial Revolutions blog. All the information is free for you so you aren't missing out by not coming.
We just LOVE it because we get to meet the most amazing people each year. I will tell you more about the adventures of putting that on another day! This year we are going to be running the event in Villa de Leyva a stunning colonial city three hours north of Bogota.
The dangers of Bogota
Some of you will have already the blog I wrote about Katie's phone being stolen on the last trip to Bogota. This trip was not without incident.
After going to watch Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness with our friends we were walking home. I went to hug Omar goodbye and the next thing I knew I was on the ground and had a searing pain in my right leg.
The manhole cover below my right food has swung open and crashed down. My leg was hanging down over a 20 foot drop into the sewers below and the concrete and metal man hole cover had trapped my leg in it.
Omar reacted quickly trying to pull me up which just closed the cover harder on my leg. I shouted with pain as the other two reacted to work together to open the man hole as Omar pulled my up. They got me out, we worked to close the cover properly so it didn't happen to anyone else and I lay on the pavement of Bogota in pain.
The next day we found out from Colombian friends that this happens sometimes and kids fall down these things and die.
We found this open manhole walking round the city the next week. At least with this one someone had put a tree in it so you could see if was open and dangerous.
After more or less healing from that one we went decided to go on a hike up into the Andes Mountains with our friend Alexa. It was called the Camino del Indio and promised beautiful views of a lake up in the mountains and Bogota.
We hired a guide, left early and headed out. The first part of the hike was awesome. There was a wide stone path that we walked up and up with amazing views of the lake and then down over Bogota.
As we started to go down again the guide asked us if we would like to take a detour to look at some of the petroglyphs, ancient rock carvings created by the Muiscas people. He said we could hike through some of the jungle and it would be fun. So we agreed. Although I IMMEDIATLY started to doubt my self as the start of the part involved going through an underground cave!
To add context to the story I broke my hand 5 weeks earlier and was in the early stages of healing. I has just got to the stage where my doctor said I could put 1 pound of weight through my hand and start to exercise. I was also healing from the recent incident with the man hole cover in Bogota!
We start with some light pot holing, only 10 meters but still! Then down the mountain through wet jungle trying to stay on our feet on the damp ground. After descending for 15 minutes we reach a part that the guide says is easy but you have to use the rope to get down.
I made it down the first bit, naughtily using my right hand until we get to a section that is more or less rappelling down the side of a slippery jungle incline. By the stage I can't really head back so I decide to keep going. I have no choice but to use my broken hand and put all my body weight through it. We continued on and at one point the guide is telling us to hold onto the trees for support as we are close to a cliff edge.
Katie and Alexa go first and make it round but as I move forward and grab a tree for balance i realise it is rotten as I touch it. I hear it crack and break away in my hand. my feet slip beneath me and I crash onto my damaged knee sliding down the wet and leaf covered slope towards the cliff edge. Katie calls out as I slid trying to stop my self.
Tree falling past me as I grabbed the floor to stop my self from going over the edge. I stopped with my feet at the edge of the cliff looking out over the edge.
The hardest part was getting back up without slipping over the edge further. I feel like we barely made it out of the jungle and after getting back to the main trail after an hour of hard hiking and climbing I could feel my body relax and the adrenaline subside.
I could feel my knee swelling as we descended and my limp got more and more pronounced. I tackled the guide and told him it was not cool to take us through that without explaining what we were up to. That killed the mood of the hike and we returned to the town in Silence.
When we were back I sat in the central park and locked the guide in my stare asking him in my clearest Spanish "what have you learnt today?"
He told me he would explain more clearly what he was taking people to do, he told me he would ask people if they had injuries before starting and told me he didn't like it when people didn't enjoy his trips.
What more could I do other than try to help him learn from this so it didn't happen to anyone else?
I have been hobbling for the week afterwards and my knee still aches walking. I feel physically damaged after this trip to Colombia! time to heal and look after my self and get back to strength.
What have we learnt?
Launching Rebel Finance School
The fight against debt & an idea
Currently in Uruguay, Montevideo
I am sat in my hotel in Montevideo, Uruguay typing this as a Cyclone blows outside. We arrived at 6am this morning. The plane nervously touched down in raging winds and we have been blown and soaked getting around today.
I have to admit arriving in a shuttered up city (we don't know if it because of the weather or not), in a hotel that hasn't been updated in decades and in the middle of a storm made us both feel like we wanted to leave immediately. We both felt homesick today which we have learnt is not homesickness but rather comfort sickness.
We only get this feeling when things aren't quite right and it is a feeling of wanting to retreat somewhere where we can feel comfortable. For both of us it made us long for the beach in Mexico again!
If you don't try new things, if you don't explore how can you grow and develop. Without these experiences, the people we are meeting then we will be exactly the same next year as we are today just a little bit older.
Although when the waitress in the café said "you will be fine, just maybe the windows will be blown in by the storm" it did make me want to get out! We will see what happens tonight!
For us we are exploring Uruguay and Argentina for the next 3 months. If you happen to be down here in the Southern Hemisphere then say hi and come and hang out or put us in touch with new friends! We love meeting people as we travel. We will be back in Colmbia to run Chautauqua in September and for my 44th birthday!
The big things for all of us:
One last big idea
As you know we started the petition to ban advertising of high interest debt and Katie and I have been shocked at how unethical some of these finance companies are. We met people on the course with a 50% interest overdraft from Halifax (WTAF). We found out Wealthily does more to damage your financial future than help you and we are constantly shocked at their behaviours.
We want to crank up the level of protection for the consumers, we want to crank up the level of scrutiny on these companies practices, add legislation that stops the really bad stuff and increase consumer awareness so they can avoid this shit in the first place.
Simon my business partner last night gave me the idea of a wall of shame for the worst interest rates. I LOVED that idea and wanted to do it straight away. We can have a list of the worst lenders to avoid in the country and shame the lot of them. Then I thought why not go BIGGER?
Why not have an annual awards for the finance industry where we give awards to the companies that have the worst practices and interest rates. Sort of a Razzie awards for finance.
The Golden Raspberry Awards (also known as the Razzies and Razzie Awards) is a parody award show honoring the worst of cinematic under-achievements.
I feel like we could put something together that would do the same for finances and maybe shame some of these huge companies into changing and taking action. It would give us something to get press with to highlight the issue and take the fight to them. It could be completely public voted and an incredible tool to fight some of this financial injustice!
This idea is probably too big for me to do on my own. SO I wondered if any of you wanted to help me do it? Who is up for changing the financial industry with me? Fighting back against unscrupulous lenders, deceptive investment companies and the finance industry in general! Write me a message on the contact form and let me know!
Thanks for reading
Watch out for lots more financial and business articles over the coming months inspired by Rebel Finance School. Thank you for being a Rebel and joining me on this awesome journey.
Sending love from a very wet Montevideo, Uruguay!