On July 19th, 2019, I turned 40.
When I was a teenager, I saw 40 as REALLY old.
It was the age you properly became an adult. No more using youth as an excuse for anything, plus you have to consider things like visiting the doctor for prostate exams… yikes!
As I got closer to 40 my opinion of turning that age changed, yet it still felt like a milestone. Because of this, I began considering ideas for how to celebrate my 40th shortly after I turned 39.
I wanted to do something bigger than my normal birthday parties, but I wasn’t sure what that might look like. As it turned out, I had an idea that even just a year prior I would never have considered, yet it seemed an obvious choice as the 12 month countdown to my 40th began.
A Decade Of Blogging
It doesn’t seem that long ago that I published this blog post about turning 30 years old – How To Become Comfortable With Yourself.
In that article I wrote about how I apparently ‘had my shit together’ based on societal standards. Yet the years leading up to that point were a mix of coming to terms with how to be happy, how to make money and why living through experience was so important to my own evolution.
The most important conclusion from that period of my life, I stated in this one simple paragraph:
As humans we have freewill, which means we have the power to make the ultimate decision – how we perceive every moment and every event in our life. If you truly understand this, then nothing in your life can impact you in a way that you don’t want it to.
This self deterministic framework continued to be helpful in my 30s, especially as I faced the loss of my mother from a stroke, and the two years we spent in hospital watching her go through what I can only describe as a nightmare.
I never considered my mother would die when I was just 33 years old. That event was also a catalyst to do something I would probably have done eventually anyway, but it made the decision much easier — I left Australia.
In my 35th year I departed the land of my birth. My reasons for leaving were many…
Australia is too hot.
I wanted to be closer to the action in the USA and Europe and avoid long flights to get there.
Plus, I always felt a little bit like an alien in my own country, never quite fitting in with the culture, or speaking the language (I’ve had a Canadian accent all my life despite being born and raised in Brisbane Australia).
From 35 to 40 years of age I became a proper digital nomad, traveling around the USA, Canada and Europe, and also testing out ‘being Canadian’ living in Toronto, Vancouver and now Montreal.
Many events happened during these years I did not see coming. One particular travel experience led to a surprising decision of where I’d celebrate my 40th birthday — I visited the country of my father’s birth, Ukraine.
Some Things Never Change, Some Do
Looking back on the last decade, the one thing that remains consistent is I continued to create content.
This doesn’t surprise me as I knew at 30 I would continue to write regardless of what kind of business I had. Writing I expect will be a lifelong activity for me.
I also kept podcasting, something that remains a lot of fun to do as I get to hear stories from amazing people and ask them whatever questions I am curious about.
My business in some ways, had two phases.
The first five years began in 2007 at the release of my first course and ramped up as I released two more courses. By the time I’d turned 30 I’d made a million dollars primarily from sales of my courses, with customers discovering me thanks to my blog or relationships I’d made thanks to my blog.
The second phase was an expansion and automation phase, taking the same core components – blogging/podcasting, email marketing and digital teaching products and setting them up to sell like a machine. Another five years under this second phase led to another million dollars in sales.
However, by the time I was heading towards 40, while my blog and coaching business remained a still-consistent part of my life, everything else was changing…
AT 35 I left Australia physically, then as I neared 40 I left financially as well, selling my remaining assets in that country – including my apartment in Brisbane and in a case of good timing, exiting from an investment I made in CarAdvice.com.au (started by my friend and podcast guest Alborz Fallah) when it was acquired by an Australian media company.
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My stunning 2-bed #Brisbane apartment in #Highgatehill is for sale! The outdoor patio area and the kitchen are highlights for me, as well as the view and the location nestled between West End and Southbank, two of the best areas in Brisbane. I’m a little sad to see her go, lots of amazing memories in this place with friends and Ramses the cat, but it’s time. Thanks to Jessica @jessicavine_ for the great video and pics — good to see a real estate agent using social media well! If you’re interested in the apartment get in touch with Jessica. Open houses are starting soon and then it’s up for auction.
I decided to begin investing those funds in various ways, including buying property in Montreal Canada. I chose Montreal because I like the city (I currently live there as I write this) and thankfully it is not incredibly over-priced like Sydney/Melbourne and Vancouver/Toronto have become, although I can see in a few years it probably will be!
I also managed to get an investment in Pinterest pre-IPO via the platform EquityZen. As I write this, my investment has turned a nice profit of over 30%, if the Pinterest stock price holds or grows by the time I’m allowed to sell my shares (I’m still in a lock-in period).
You can see all the companies I’m backing as an angel on my About page under the investing tab.
One of the most exciting changes was putting back on my Entrepreneur hat and starting a new company with Claire Giovino, who was part of my customer care team before we combined forces on this new project. I managed to get us the domain InboxDone.com, and we slowly beta-tested and then launched our email management service.
Although this company is completely new, it’s based on the Services Arbitrage model, which I used with my very first successful company BetterEdit.com started all the way back in the year 2000 (and sold in 2007). It’s been uncanny how similar these two companies are in terms of the challenges we have faced, yet they sell completely different services. Some things change, some don’t!
I also had incredible fun riding one of the cryptocurrency waves, the first time I’ve ever had significant skin the game during a bubble period of an asset-class.
During 2017 there were some days were I’d watch as $100,000 was added to my on-paper wealth as crypto prices rose. I also had days where’d I watch as $50,000 was wiped out in just a few hours, so I had to be very careful with my emotions during this roller-coaster ride.
Thankfully I did have a strategy with my crypto investing, which ended up saving me from much of the big collapse in January 2018. The strategy happens to have a lot do with a certain country I mentioned earlier…
Did You Know My Name Comes From Ukraine? Well Sort Of…
For most of my life I had to explain myself.
Growing up in Australia with a name like Yaro and a Canadian accent meant I had to repeat a certain conversation over and over and over again that usually began with this question…
Where are you from?
This question, or something similar because my name and accent didn’t fit in, was part of nearly every conversation I had when I met someone for the first time.
I would go on to explain that I was born in Brisbane, talk about my Canadian immigrant parents who speak Canadian and thus influenced my accent, and how my father was born in Ukraine, so my name comes from there… if my name was actually Yaroslav anyway, which it is not.
I like being unique, so I was never particularly bothered by these questions, although they certainly contributed to my sense of not quite fitting in to Australia.
Strangely enough, I never had Ukraine high on my list as a place I wanted to travel to. Then they went and won Eurovision in 2016, which meant they would host the competition in 2017.
I’ve already explained my passion for Eurovision and how I ended up traveling to Ukraine to attend live, so I won’t repeat that story here.
I discovered my father’s birth-country during the same year the crypto boom happened. Because of this I was financially open to more crazy ideas than usual. It felt like I was winning at the casino every day, yet I was well aware with every up comes a down, with every win there is a loss around the corner.
Thus when my new Ukrainian friend Andriy talked about starting a solar company to take advantage of a government tariff incentive, I was motivated. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got, which happened to coincide with my crypto balance sheet rising too.
Then came the flash point. Andriy agreed to quit his job and get our solar company up and running. I agreed to live in Lviv for a few months to help and focus on finding the funding we needed, beyond whatever I was willing to put in from my own money.
This project also gave me something very important — a goal, a target to reach for regarding my crypto investment.
The danger with a bubble market is you make so much money that you start to believe it can only go up. You don’t want to miss out on the next big run, so you never pull your money out… and then it crashes.
I certainly felt this urge, but I agreed to start a solar company, which is a much more fun idea than just gambling in the crypto markets, and we needed funds to do so.
Although we didn’t raise all the money we wanted for the project, in a case of good timing and discipline, once my crypto earnings reached the first big goal I set, I pulled that money out… and that was one month before the crash at the start of 2018!
I left (and lost) a lot in the market still as things came tumbling down, but what we needed to get things going with the solar company I had safely stored in USD. My client manager at the company I used to trade crypto told me I was one of the only people who managed to pull out money and walk away a winner.
By the end of 2018 our solar project was complete (I’ll explain how it works in a future blog post). My apartment renovation project in Lviv also wrapped in 2018.
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On July 19th 2019, day 5 of my 40th birthday week in #Lviv #Ukraine and my actual birthday, I was surprised when most of the party people wanted to join in on an excursion to visit the Pure Power solar array. We all packed into a rented van (thanks @jsvyripa for organizing) and headed an hour out of town to see the project that Andriy @a.tabinskyy and I began two years prior. I’ll go into more background on this project in a future blog post, but needless to say for Andriy it was a long journey after quitting his secure job to take a risk and start this business. For me the risk was more financial, putting a large chunk of money into a country that doesn’t always have the best reputation for stability. Two years later we were proud to stand together in front of our completed solar panels that began feeding energy back into the region at the start of 2019. It was also amazing to bring so many friends and family members from around the world and share the story of our solar project with them on my birthday. @allycatmtl @curator_art_group_coordinator @ihorstarak @downshift_matyi @ana.escarzaga @the.magic.of.everything #solar #greenenergy #solarenergy #greenbusiness #entrepreneurs #entrepreneur #greentech #solararray #solarpanels #greentariff #purepower #birthdayparty #climateaction
One of the reasons I purchased an apartment was because I knew with the solar project I’d be back to visit Ukraine, plus it helps that apartments sell for just $50K USD.
It didn’t take long for me to decide after my 39th birthday that I would celebrate the big 40 in Lviv. I could return to Ukraine, see the finished solar array, live in my apartment and celebrate my birthday.
The only thing missing were people to celebrate with…
The Party And The Pre-Launch
Once I decided that my 40th birthday was going to be in Lviv, I knew I had to start promoting it early.
It was a big ask for my friends and family to travel all the way to Ukraine, to the city of Lviv that they have probably never heard of, in a country they probably have never considered traveling to.
I didn’t know who would show up, but I figured if I sent out the invites early and kept a little campaign going to get people excited about Lviv, then I might just get a few people to travel to Ukraine and help me celebrate my 40th.
Roughly nine months before my 40th birthday I created a Facebook party page and sent out a bunch of invites to people I’d be happy to hang out with in Ukraine.
I wrote an explanation of what I was thinking for the party, included some enticing photos of the city and the locals, and then watched as a select few of my friends and family said they were coming.
Of course I knew nothing was for sure until people bought tickets to fly to Ukraine, so I committed to doing a birthday pre-launch campaign to get people excited.
Over the nine months leading up to my birthday I tapped into my marketing skills from years of doing launches online and began creating a little buzz for my party. I wrote about what we could do in Lviv, what kind of food we could eat, the places we could go and the lovely locals they could meet.
As July drew close it was a surprising group of people who had committed to come.
My family were coming including my father, little brother and his mother, old friends from Australia I hadn’t seen in years, new Canadian friends including Sid from Vancouver and Alex from Montreal (we met earlier in the year and have been dating since), European friends like Alexis from France (fellow blogger and tennis coach), Ukrainian friends Andriy and Yulia, Laura who previously was my project manager (we’d never met in person so we had a laugh that it would happen first in Ukraine!), and even Ana, my Montreal real estate agent who I’d only met recently, was coming too.
I put together a rough itinerary of events over a five-day party week, culminating on my birthday, which conveniently was on a Friday this year.
Here are some of the Instagram posts I made from the party week so you can see what we got up to, click through to see the photos.
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This was the last day of my birthday week in July in #Ukraine, including a picnic in the park and later that evening dinner with my friends and family. The biggest surprise was the cake, a vegan gluten free cake organized by @allycatmtl and @jsvyripa plus the entire restaurant of Ukrainians singing a traditional birthday song (video of that coming next!). @ana.escarzaga @follownictravel @downshift_matyi @ihorstarak @curator_art_group_coordinator @a.tabinskyy @heureux_nat @the.magic.of.everything @sidbharath #digitalnomad #digitalnomadlifestyle #travelnomad #lifestylenomad #laptoplifestyle #nomadlife #nomadworld #travels #travel #traveling #nomadtravels #nomadtravel #travelblogger #travelblogging #travelblog #remotework #digitalnomadgirls #expats #digitalnomadcouples #travelinfluencer #travelwriter #globetrotter #worldtraveler #businessblogger #entrepreneurlife #entrepreneur
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Day two of my birthday week in #Lviv in July with the gang included cemetery tours (with new party person Alexis joining us from France), opera houses, Italian dinners (thanks Andriy and @tistopizza) and @ana.escarzaga eating candy floss. @allycatmtl @jsvyripa @downshift_matyi @follownictravel @the.magic.of.everything
After the party week was over my friends and family left Lviv. I still had another week in town so I could spend some time with my co-founder Andriy to talk about our Solar company, and also because I was doing a keynote talk at a local digital nomad conference.
Orest Zub, a well-known travel blogger and coach in Lviv, contacted me after he learned I had Ukrainian heritage and was returning to visit Ukraine. He runs a membership program for aspiring digital nomads and hosts internet marketing events in Ukraine. In a case of good timing, Orest was running a conference in July that I could speak at.
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Thanks to an invite from local legend @orestzub I got to experience my first speaking gig in #Ukraine and also my first time speaking with a live translation of my talk, into Ukrainian in this case. I added the Ukrainian flag to my usual intro slide explaining my Aussie/Canadian heritage, this time to explain that my father @ihorstarak was born in Ukraine. This was my last event in #Lviv before I left, completing a fantastic two week visit. Next I headed to #Croatia (and yes, photos coming up!).
New Countries And Life Beyond 40
Before arriving in Ukraine I traveled to a few places I’ve always wanted to go to, including Iceland, Norway and Denmark.
After Ukraine I continued to travel, heading to Croatia for a couple of weeks and then Dublin, Ireland, before flying back to Montreal.
It was great to visit so many new cities and take a proper holiday. I barely did any work during these weeks.
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Just a couple of days spent driving around #Croatia, including stops to swim in secluded villages, saying hello to a sleepy cat, blue tinged water views, an island that looks like the moon (#Pag), and card games by the water in #Vodice. Thanks @allycatmtl for being my chief navigator!
Now that my 40th birthday is over I have to say I feel relieved.
As much fun as I had, there’s plenty of stress involved moving around so much, booking flights and AirBNBs, organizing a birthday party in another country, and coordinating friends and family.
Staying in one place, living in your own home with your own food and familiar patterns like heading to the same gym, and just doing work you enjoy, is actually my preferred way to live.
I don’t take for granted the incredible freedom I have to go almost anywhere on this planet. I especially appreciate being relaxed about spending money as I travel since that is a huge blessing most people don’t have.
Yet for the most part I’m happiest eating a healthy home cooked meal, sitting in a Starbucks writing on my laptop, going to the gym and then settling in at night to watch Netflix.
This is in fact my plan for the remainder of the year. I’m looking forward to getting some work done and enjoy watching the seasons change here in Montreal.
While I do feel at 40 I am officially ‘old’ in some ways, there’s a lot to like about this stage of my life.
I’ve already achieved many of the goals I set myself in my twenties. I have the time and finances to go after what I am excited about, there is a lot of variety in the projects I’m focused on, and I have goals I still want to achieve, which keeps me motivated.
I do miss a few things from my younger years — especially my ability to eat any food. I used to eat burgers and pizza and ice cream and Chinese food and cookies and…you get the idea.
I’d like my body to last at least another 40 years — heck, maybe even another 80 years so I can beat my Ukrainian grandmother who just passed on a couple of years ago at the ripe old age of 102 (we think, the records aren’t exactly reliable).
No matter what happens next, I can certainly say the first 40 years were capped off in a great way — and included all kinds of events, people and places I would never have expected were in my future.
Let’s keep the party going.
40 Years Old