We’re nearing up on the third week of 2020, that was fast! I’ve been in Phoenix for the past few weeks still, though I’m looking to get out soon.

In today’s post just wanted to share some of my reflections from my recent mistakes, how my 2020 is going so far, and what I aim to accomplish in 2020.

This post is more about my travel plans + experience around the world, with some lessons sprinkled in. Tomorrow’s post will have less logistical data about myself, and more actionable information for you.

America: Cool, Kind Of

I’m not gonna lie. I’ve been dying of boredom living in the Phoenix area. This is mainly because my family’s residence is far from downtown Phoenix, technically in a small town.

It seems that the general vibe of the Phoenix area (and Arizona as a whole) is more family-based, slow living. It’s frustrating for my social butterfly heart.

In the entirety of the Phoenix area- which from one side to another is more than half the distance from Sofia to Plovdiv- there is a grand total of three party areas.

All of the bars & clubs are on three separate areas, yet they still manage to be mind-numbingly dead on weekdays. Only last Friday was it relatively okay, yet still many dance floors remained barren.

Even with Arizona State University back in session, the clubs are still SO meh here.

However, I am rarely in downtown Phoenix, as it’s the farthest club area from my home, so perhaps there it is cooler. Bad logistics is frustrating.

Lesson learned: I definitely do not like areas that aren’t walk-able, or don’t have a vibrant social scene. The entirety of the Phoenix area (around 5 million people) seems to have LESS going on than “small town Chiang Mai” (population 220k).

Planning to Fail?

I didn’t plan to stay in Phoenix so long actually. The combination of jet lag + reverting to a previous save” of myself left me a bit dazed and out of it.

I did feel excited to return to America. Great customer service, cheap electronics, and food diversity is great. Everything in native English makes things easy.

However, I think that I would enjoy other areas than the Phoenix area. I didn’t have a clear plan on “what to do” though, so I quickly fell into old habits & loops until too much time had passed.

I’ve learned now that certain environments can GREATLY affect your behavior. In my case being around family + old friends triggered me to act in old patterns, many of which were not productive for my well-being.

I kind of got locked into old habits. I’ve since improved a fair amount, though I still need to get out & reset.

Ultimately I let too much time pass without deciding where to go, and I must go to Texas for a business trip. This created a difficult situation in which I could either stay in Phoenix with family but remain bored, OR go somewhere else to be happier yet still have to return for the Texas business trip.

It was a hard choice- Mexico + other countries ‘south of the border’ were calling me but my values for 2020 is to “travel less, focus on connection more,” so I’m headed to Montreal, Canada next Wednesday despite the absurdly frigid temperatures.

And by absurdly frigid temperatures, I don’t mean the Bulgarian version of cold which is currently -1C in Sofia. The forecast in Quebec for my arrival is currently -42C in some areas.

This is Canada, my friends! But… At least I get to practice some French?

Lesson learned: by not planning for my next step BEFORE being jet lagged and in a previously unproductive environment, I fell into old patterns very quickly and ended up missing out on an action that might be ideal for my happiness.

Another lesson: being decisive and going to Montreal was the right choice. It was eating me up for some time but I kept procrastinating, but I could finally sleep well after I bought the flight.

Why Canada over Mexico?

In my previous post, where I wrote about my 2020 plans, I explained that I was done traveling to new places, for the most part- unless it was an explicit vacation with friends OR there was substantial evidence that I would enjoy moving there, and thus it would be a more-permanent move.

Mexico is cheaper, nicer weather, etc. but ultimately I’ve decided to stick to my values.

It’s been a while since I’ve experienced such cold (in my hometown it’s -11C right now in the day) but it’ll be worth it for my favorite bars, favorite restaurants, etc.

Now… I need to buy some serious Winter gear.

For my Montreal friends: I am excited to be coming! I’ll be there until February 6th, and I already have several of my favorite events lined up.

Despite the deathly cold temperatures, Montreal is STILL more of a lively city than Phoenix it seems…

If I were to live in America- which I’m not opposed to down the line- I’ve realized that it would have to be in a more walk-able (or fast commute) place, such as California (NOT L.A. but the smaller cities like San Diego) or Boston.

After Canada: Business in Texas

After Canada, I’ll be headed to Texas for a yearly meeting at my top client’s company.

I’m quite excited for this event, and it was necessary that I go. This is what created the whole dilemma & frustration for me- I wanted to go to Sofia or Chiang Mai, however I would have to be in Texas in February to guarantee my contract for the year of 2020.

There are some older board members in this company that do not understand the concept of remote work- how can Michael work from Thailand, Bulgaria, Phoenix, everywhere?

By showing up in person it allows me to leverage my social skills to maintain the contract. I just found out I’ll also be speaking to the company on two of the days, which I’m slightly nervous (but more-so excited) for.

After Business: Freedom

I feel quite frustrated to be stuck in North America at this time of year to be honest, which may have not been clear in the previous paragraphs. I am writing dispassionately on my blog these days, as my priority is elsewhere (more on that later).

I wanted to scope out Phoenix as a place to live, which I didn’t do a good job of doing quickly.

Quickly I realized it wouldn’t be the best place for me to live- due to long commutes + lack of social scene- however I stayed too long.

It was a hard choice: my visa was still pending in Sofia (can’t go until February), Thailand is a LONG + expensive flight, Phoenix bores me to death, and Montreal is expecting a brutally cold Winter.

Others would say “just go to Mexico,” and I have friends in Mexico. But like I said, I’m a bit burnt on travel- long-term social connection is a big value.

So I’m stuck in North America until the end of the business trip in Texas.

After that I intend to return to Phoenix for a week max to enjoy time with family + friends in Phoenix, mainly family though, and then I’ll be off to Sofia or Chiang Mai.

However, Chiang Mai has “smoky season” every year between February-April, in which pollution levels reach an all-time high.

Funny enough Sofia pollution levels are quite high now as well… However they’ll be nothing like Chiang Mai when smoky season kicks into full gear.

The idea to go to Bangkok or the islands down South is in my mind, but my values for 2020 dictate that I should not go unless it’s an explicit vacation or I intend to move there.

If I suddenly have MANY friends go to a specific island (ie. Koh Samui) THEN I will go there in February, however it’s not looking like that’s gonna be the case.

It will be most probable that I will return to Sofia in February, as sad as it makes me to extend my farewells for another 3 months to those I love & miss in Thailand also.

I intend to arrive in Sofia on such a date so that 90 days later is 1 week after May 14 because May 14 is my birthday.

In 2019 I did absolutely nothing for my birthday, and the trend has always been that my birthdays are less-than-exciting.

I want to make up for the apathy by purposefully celebrating my birthday in Sofia, Bulgaria in the best way possible.

This also adds another stone AGAINST going to Thailand in February- I’d only stay 1-2 months MAX so that I have 1.5 months prep before my birthday to plan something epic at a bar.

Thailand vs. Bulgaria

I THINK that at this period of my life I’d like to obtain a permanent visa for Bulgaria, which is still quite difficult. It’s an absurd amount of money, especially compared to the work they require you to do.

Actually, I wouldn’t complain about the money IF I could get residency WITHIN Bulgaria, like most normal EU countries allow as far as I know (ie. Germany).

However, they make you fly to Chicago MINIMUM 2 times just to get a visa, AND pay their fees.

It’s making it hard to move to Bulgaria and live there long-term. So for this year, as I’ve written before, will likely be the case of me going to Sofia for 3 months, Chiang Mai for 3 months, returning to Sofia for 3 months, then finishing the year in Thailand (then getting a visa for Bulgaria).

Who knows what will happen in that time? Maybe I will fall in love with Thailand more, and give up on Bulgaria. Maybe I will decide to live in Boston.

It’s a shame the visa process is so complicated. It’s okay that it’s a bit expensive- these things are worth paying for. The primary frustrating part is flying in-person to Chicago, two times, and the second time they don’t even tell you when to expect to fly back- they just expect you to pack up and go at their whim. Ugh- what about managing accommodation, cheap flights, etc.?

I don’t know if I wish to live in Bulgaria long-term. There’s a lot of downsides.

But for now, I have the best friends in the world, so it’s worth it. We’ll see where the chips fall though, as I’ve had the best dating & culinary experiences in Thailand.

I’m chilled out though. You know, life is simple: just do what makes you happy. And sometimes there are obstacles like visas, and sometimes life shows you new paths that you never would’ve expected. Just gotta go with the flow.

Business & Life Goals

Stay tuned for my next post tomorrow, where I’ll share my business & life goals + direction for 2020.