This is part 2 of my origin story. If you haven't read part 1, I suggest you read that first to give you some background.
I remember the moment I first looked over the Pacific Ocean from the Post Ranch Inn. It is a moment that changed me forever. We were on Honeymoon in the summer of 2013 and life could not have been better.
The Post Ranch Inn is a super high end, luxury resort in the Big Sur region of California. It is little known, but if you read any of the ‘luxury’ magazines, it may seem familiar.
The Post Ranch Inn appears on all sorts of ‘top 10’ lists. Top 10 Views, Top 10 Infinity Pools, Top 10 Restaurants and so on. I would have no hesitation in putting it as my number one place to be on earth.
The reason for this however has nothing to do with the luxurious accommodation, the mind-blowing food or the impeccable service. It is more to do with the place itself, the setting.
The magic of the California coast does something to me. Being in this place give me a sense of inner calm. I don’t get this anywhere else and to me that is priceless. It is like fairy dust has been sprinkled all over the place.
I’m not sure I could describe the sheer beauty in words alone. Pictures don’t do it justice. But as I stared in dumbfounded awe over the wonderfully calm, deep blue ocean, I knew this was somewhere I wanted to visit again and again and again.
The only problem – the Post Ranch Inn costs over $2,000 per night!
On the day we left, I vowed that I would return regularly in the years that followed. I just hadn’t quite figured out how I would pay for it.
Now at this point you might be thinking that I was on a self-indulgent rampage and had been sucked in by the pomp and poshness of it all.
However, on that same Honeymoon trip, we stayed in several places that were similar in terms of price and luxury, but none of them had the same effect on me as the Post Ranch Inn.
My visit here was a turning point in my life, and is probably the moment I can pinpoint as being the start of my Financial Freedom journey.
I wanted to come back here again and again. I wanted to feel that feeling again and see that view again and I didn’t want money to stop me!
Despite the almost life changing effect this place had on me, the significance of those few nights would be overshadowed in the most profound of ways sooner than I could have expected.
As we continued our trip down the Pacific Coast Highway (you must do this drive by the way) I continued to be stunned by the scenery.
We stopped for a night in LA, before completing the drive across the desert to Las Vegas. On arrival, we were upgraded to the Honeymoon Suite and had champagne delivered to our room – life was good.
At this point the story takes a nosedive. We walked across the street from the Vdara hotel, via the Bellagio, stopping to gawp at the magnificent fountains, and went to a fantastic Steak restaurant.
We ordered glasses of wine and waited to be seated. As we were guided to our table the waiter wheeled over a trolley covered in an impressive array of steaks to choose from.
Porterhouse ordered, the waiting staff then proceeded to bring over a woven basket with a crazy selection of breads: Rye wheels; olive ciabatta; sourdough – all my favourites were there.
A few bites in, I felt my throat start to tighten and immediately knew that something was very wrong.
You see, I’m allergic to nuts and there must have been a nut in the bread.
I knew something was wrong very quickly, but I didn’t mention anything to Katherine. It will get better, I lied to myself, knowing it wouldn’t.
The allergic reaction worsened and I asked for the bill while Katherine raced off to vainly buy allergy tablets.
The waiters showed their concern but I think they were just happy to get me out of there without a lawsuit. They even packed up our leftovers to take home!
Then the anaphylactic shock got me in its jaws. I remember trying to make it back to our room but collapsed in front of our hotel. Katherine acted fast and called 911.
She tried to pull me to my feet but I was too weak. The anaphylaxis had taken hold. Apparently I was then violently sick in the doggy bag!
As the ambulance arrived, a paramedic asked me a question I will never forget:
WHAT THE…! I thought. Of course I want to be treated, I’m dying!
The question behind the question however, was “can you afford to be treated?”
I could see in Katherine’s eyes that she was both seething with rage and consumed with worry. Her expression then turned to helplessness as the realisation hit her that the people who we thought were there to save me wanted paying first.
The cost of the ambulance ride alone was $1,200!
As we arrived at the Desert Springs Hospital, my condition seriously deteriorated. My ears started to drum and it felt like I was underwater and disconnected from the real world. I almost blacked out in the hospital corridor.
When I made it into the Emergency Room after what seemed like a lifetime I breathed a sigh of relief. At last they are finally coming to treat me, I thought.
The next words out of that doctor’s mouth are etched in my mind:
“Can we please take a $6,000 deposit before we can take you up to the wards?”
Can you imagine Katherine’s anguish, her eyes bleak and tired from the whole experience, as she started the lengthy process of logging into internet banking to start moving money around as her husband lay there dying?
Thank God we had some savings left over from the wedding. I wonder what happens if you can’t afford to pay. Do they just let you die?.
I was finally admitted to the ward and medication began. Usually this would be the end of the story, but not in this case.
By a bizarre twist of fate, the medication that they gave me caused deadly pancreatitis and plunged me into a three-week fight for survival.
When you have three weeks in a hospital bed doing nothing but dealing with the reality of your impending mortality a lot goes through your mind.
You start to question your purpose in life, what you have achieved and what it all means.
The view from the hospital window left a lot to be desired. The dramatic cliffs and turquoise sea of the west coast had been replaced by a car park.
I’d been put on incredibly strong painkillers that pretty much put me to sleep each time they were administered.
I’m told pancreatitis is one of the most painful conditions for a human to go through (yes, up there with childbirth apparently) and although the medication was heaven at the time, I quickly started to feel that it was doing me no good.
Two weeks into my stay I made the brave decision to ask the medical staff to take me off the painkillers. They looked at me as if I was an alien asking what on earth made me make such a ridiculous decision, but they finally submitted. Two days of withdrawal later and I finally started to feel (a little bit) better.
It was a desolate time during which I felt nothing but emptiness and regularly turned to contemplating my demise.
I started asking myself some pretty big questions:
Will Katherine be okay?
What legacy have I left behind?
What things have I missed out on?
In those vital weeks, although I perhaps didn’t realise it explicitly at the time, I made some pretty big decisions.
First of all, I promised Katherine that we would re-do our honeymoon. I’d made a bit of a hash of the first one!
I know you vow “in sickness and in health”, but I don’t think you’re supposed to test that theory a week into a marriage!
I also vowed that from that moment onwards I would only do work that I loved. No more running on a treadmill to stand still, no more hamster wheel. Only deep, meaningful work that made me feel alive.
Finally, I promised myself that I wanted to have a great life. I wanted to achieve Financial Freedom as soon as possible, but not at the expense of doing all the wonderful things that the world had to offer (and especially not at the expense of never visiting the Post Ranch Inn again).
Despite the sheer terror and anguish of this type of situation, in hindsight, it is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
It is the reason I committed to Financial Independence and I believe it is the reason for almost all of the good that has happened in my life since.