I thought it was mine. This is how I realized it isn’t.
I like money. Don’t you?
I am in my early 30s and, two years ago, I decided to change career paths. From the poorly paid area of journalism, I changed into IT. When people hear “IT jobs”, they assume you are rich. Disclaimer: I am not.
I am still at the early stages of my IT career, but I will not lie: the biggest driver in my decision was money. I knew that, after the initial transition period, I could get a much higher salary.
I wanted money. We all do.
I wanted money not to buy things, but to buy freedom. To travel. To travel some more. And some more.
Traveling is my favorite thing to do in life. I have been almost all over Europe, but I want more, I want further. I always needed more money because I always wanted to travel more. Or so I thought.
Recently, two situations made me realize that, truly, I was never in search of money. There is something else driving me.
Realization #1: Happiness Makes me Happier Than Money
I am Portuguese but for the past two years, I have been living in Budapest.
For those of you who don’t know where Hungary is: it is in Central / Eastern Europe. And for those of you who don’t know what that means: it means low salaries.
When the coronavirus pandemic stroke, I came back home to Portugal temporarily, to spend this period with my family. Almost all my friends asked me whether I plan to go back to Budapest. It got me thinking…
Like I said, I work in IT. That means I probably can get a job anywhere I want. Anywhere like Western Europe, for example. If I moved to France, the UK or Switzerland, my salary could be three times higher than what I get in Hungary.
And that is when I realized… That would be such easy money. But I don’t want it. I do not.
People ask me all the time why I moved from Western Europe to Hungary. The answer is simple and honest: I love this city.
I lived in Lisbon, Paris, and London. I had nice jobs in some of Europe’s most famous capitals. But guess what… I never lived in a place that made me as happy as Budapest does. I never had a job so fulfilling as my current one.
I am happy in Budapest. For me, it’s the coolest city in Europe, and I get to live here! There is no money in the world that could buy that. Happiness makes me happier than money.
Realization #2: Excitement is More Exciting Than Money
I mentioned I changed careers recently. Before that, I worked in journalism for about a decade. It’s an exciting field but the money is not the best.
Don’t get me wrong, I always had more than enough. But I could always use a bit more. After all, I had all those places to go to, all those trips to make.
So, for ten years, I always had side hustles. Some gave me money, others gave me headaches. I do not remember life with a 9 to 5 job. In fact, I never had it. I always wanted more. And during all this time, I always thought my main motivator was money.
When the pandemic started, a couple of months ago, I lost one of my steady side hustles.
It was something I had been doing non-stop for five years, a very good source of income. But you know what else was it? Something I couldn’t stand anymore.
I was tired of it, and every task I had to do felt like torture. I had been thinking about quitting it for a while. But the money shined bright every time I pondered. So, I always stayed. Until the world changed and made that decision for me. That was it. The end.
With that, I lost about one third of my income. Oh, the trips I could make with that money!
After that, I did what I have always done. I threw myself at new side hustles. I decided to write for Medium and, hopefully, reach a decent enough income after some time and hard work.
After two months, I earn on Medium about 20 times less per month than I did with the side hustle I lost. But I am about 20 times more motivated and less stressed. I love the writing process. I fall asleep thinking about article ideas. I wake up excited to check my stats from the previous day.
And with this I realized… I was never doing these side hustles for money.
I was doing them for pleasure, for the opportunity to challenge myself, and for the sweet taste of victory with every little win. Excitement is more exciting than money.
Do you know when people ask you if you would do your job for free? And they expect you to say yes because you love it so much? Well, I love my job, but I would not do it for free. Do you know why? Because I need a place to live, food to eat, and clothes to wear. I need my travels, at least every now and then. I need to not worry all the time to make ends meet.
So, when I say money is not my priority, it is because I live a comfortable enough life. I have my basic needs met. If you have yours too, and you keep chasing money, I urge you to look deeper. Is it really money you want? Or is it a feeling? A sense of accomplishment? An ideal?
Sometimes, it takes the world to go upside down for us to see things from a new perspective. I hope you find your answers.