Close your eyes, allow your imagination to roam to the deepest corners where your wildest dreams live and imagine that any barriers between you and that place no longer exist. What do you see? What kind of life are you living and where? How are you spending your time? Is this life radically different than the one you are currently living? Many of us are programmed to keep our deepest calling tucked away, settling for varying levels of comfort rather than true fulfillment. Creating our dream lives took risk and effort so we greatly appreciate it when we see others taking charge of their own destinies.
Recently we heard from a new friend, Michael, who immediately piqued my interest when he casually mentioned that he wanted to start a hOMe build upon his return from Kenya. “Kenya?!” I asked. “Tell me more!” Michael’s story is so rich and captivating that I asked if we could do an interview; partly because I’m a bit obsessed with airplanes and flight (one of my greatest regrets is that I didn’t become a pilot…turns out I may not be too late!), and also because I was really inspired by hearing how Michael turned his passion into a fulfilling career. I hope you enjoy reading his story!
Thank you SO much Michael for taking the time to share your story! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello, my name is Michael. I am a 41 year old adventure seeking guy that can’t sit still very long. I am going to start building my hOMe in September 2017 and I need to have it complete by April 1st 2018 as I have other adventures to chase!
What is your background? How did you come to be a pilot?
I have wanted to be a pilot since I was a small child but I didn’t know how to chase that dream. Nobody in my family was a pilot, it seemed so far out of my financial reach, it was always something I just dreamed about. Every time a plane flew over, I always and still do look up. In life I tried to stay close to airplanes, when I was 18 and got my first credit card with a $1,000 limit, I immediately went to the local flight school and maxed out my card on flight lessons. Unfortunately, $1,000 didn’t get me very far so I had to go back to dreaming and paying my credit card debt.
At 20 years old, I landed a job with Boeing and I started building 757 aircraft for a living. I worked for Boeing for years and then moved onto high tech networking with a company called Terabeam. Terabeam moved me to Los Angeles to start an office there. After 2 years working for Terabeam, I was laid off, leaving me with money in the bank and time on my hands. I used this opportunity to move to Florida to start my flight training with Delta Connection Academy and I’ve never looked back.
I went from Florida, back to Los Angeles where I was a flight instructor for a few years and I also started selling airplanes. I decided early on in my flying career that I didn’t want to fly for the airlines, I wanted to fly the smallest airplanes I could while still earning a living. I have been making a living for over 15 years flying airplanes no larger than 10 passenger and it’s been amazing.
Kenya? How did that line up for you?
When I was living in Los Angeles, one of my clients was a guy in the movie industry. One day he told me “I’d like you to meet a good friend of mine that operates and eco camp in Kenya”. I wasn’t going to question him and he gave me some free nights at the lodge so I booked the trip. He was right, I really get along well with Luca and his wife Antonella who started Campi Ya Kanzi 20 years ago. They’ve been working with the Maasai community here ever since.
I continued to book trips to Kenya to visit the camp and do a little flying in Kenya which then turned into an opportunity to fly a great air safari, taking 12 guests in two airplanes through 10 countries over a month long trip. I was so hooked I couldn’t stop thinking about flying in Africa. It was then that I made the decision to give up my career and company in Los Angeles to move to Kenya full time. I have been living here now for 2 years and it’s been incredible.
What is it like living and working there? What have been some of the highlights? What are the challenges?
Living and working in Kenya has its ups and downs. I am incredibly fortunate as I live at a top notch eco camp in the middle of the Chyulu Hills of Kenya. My view when I wake up everyday is Mt. Kilimanjaro and my view at night is an unobstructed starlit sky. There’s no light pollution here and the only noises I hear at night are animals. I have countless animals visit the water hole in front of my tent each month. I have seen lions, buffalo, zebras, hyenas, porcupine, warthogs and giraffe in just the last couple months.
The challenges come from the same place as the highlights. It’s very secluded living here. If you run out of something and you need to drive to get it, it’s a 2.5 hour to the nearest town on very rough dirt roads. The cost to maintain a vehicle here is extraordinary because of the abuse it takes. The other challenge is maintaining a pilot’s license in Kenya which requires me to go to Nairobi (5 hour drive or 1 hour flight). Maintaining a pilot’s license in the States is quite easy where here it’s much more difficult and time consuming.
What does the next chapter of your life look like? How did you come to find out about tiny houses?
The next chapter of my life is full of adventure and full of unknowns. I have been considering building a tiny home for a long time. I have been doing a lot of research as I’m sure most people do and I came upon a tiny home that I fell in love with. The problem was there were no plans available for this model and the company that builds it wouldn’t reply to my request for information.
I went back to the internet and started searching for plans that were close to what I wanted and I stumbled upon tinyhousebuild.com. Not only did they offer plans for hOMe but it was exactly the home I wanted and more. The more I looked at it the more I fell in love. It ticks every box for what I want in my tiny home and after watching the videos available and signing up for the free week of courses, I was 100% certain that this was the perfect home for me. Andrew is such a great teacher and such a precise builder, I will strive to be like him when building my home.
What has your experience in Africa taught you about what you need, what makes you happy, and how to find true fulfillment?
One of the reasons I came to Africa was to learn how to be happy with less stuff. The first time I visited the Maasai people of Kenya I was taken aback by the almost complete lack of possessions. The Maasai live in mud homes, cook on wood or coal fires, sleep on sticks covered with animal skin, and push cattle around the land. Livestock is their most prized possession.
The thing that struck me the most was everyones willingness to bring me into their home, smiles on their faces, and they’d offer me what they had. Also, the kids here are running around with nothing in terms of material possessions (toys and such), but the one trait they all seem to share is a smile. Coming from a lifestyle where I had a beautiful house, two cars, an airplane, and countless electronic entertainment devices, I often had no smile. I knew I had a lot to learn from the beautiful people here.
You seem like someone that follows their passion. Do you have any recommendations for others that want to do the same?
My recommendation for people who want to follow their own passion is to do it. I know it’s not always easy, it’s still not always easy for me. What I’ve found is that before I do something or buy something I question if I am doing it for me or because of societal pressure. Societal and peer pressure can be a killer for dream chasers, especially if your dream is at all different from what society thinks you should be doing. It has always been a struggle for me to turn down airline jobs or to figure out how to make a living flying smaller airplanes. I really love to fly “entry level airplanes” but all my peers are moving up to bigger, faster “better” airplanes. They’re also moving up to bigger paychecks. This is the normal ladder of success for professional pilots. The problem is I don’t like flying bigger airplanes, I just love traveling the world on them. My goals are to have just enough money to live comfortably while being able to travel around the world, taking as much time as I want to really get to immerse in a culture.
What are top 3 experiences/places you’d recommend to someone wanting to visit Kenya and Africa?
Africa is such a beautiful place and it’s huge. There’s everything from huge mountains and valleys in Ethiopia, gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda, true wildlife safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana. Deserts in Namibia over 1000 miles long, huge typical cities in South Africa. The Indian Ocean and some incredible scuba diving, sailing, snorkeling and relaxation opportunities in Madagascar, Zanzibar, Tanzania and Kenya. The list of things to see and do in Africa goes on and on. For me, I have a couple of favorite spots that I love for animal viewing. I’m not a beach guy though I understand the draw to the beautiful white sand beaches and incredibly clear waters of the Indian Ocean. I love the Serengeti for the pure density of animals and I love Botswana for the Okavango Delta. My next favorite place is in Northwestern Namibia, home to the Himba People and some of the most pristine desert land I’ve ever seen.
Where do you go from here?
I am planning on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, starting at the Mexican border in April 2018 and hopefully finishing at the Canadian border in September 2018. I could not even think about doing something like this if I had a mortgage payment. Who can take 5 months off work to go for a hike? The only reason I can even consider something like this is because I plan on having such a small footprint in the world that I can just lock the door and walk away for 5 months without having to worry about a big mortgage payment or utility bills or anything that comes with a typical home. I can’t wait to live this lifestyle, I truly believe this is how I’m meant to live.
How about you? What is your dream career, adventure, place to visit? Who would you most want to spend time with? One of mine has been to learn how to fly and Michael may just be the inspiration I needed to start taking lessons!