Coffee With A Stranger Cup 121 Todd Nevins

Cup 121 – Todd Nevins: Podcaster, entrepreneur and ripcord puller.

Coffee With A Stranger Cup 121 Todd NevinsThe Place: Thai Fresh

The Cup: An Americano for Todd, and I opted for plain old drip this time around.

The Background: My pal Albert met Todd recently and started chatting with him about Todd’s newest project, the Go Hunt Life podcast, where Todd interviews people who have pulled the ripcord on the “normal” adult life and have instead opted for the path less travelled. Sometimes leaving corporate life and starting their own business, or leaving the US and trying out some alternative life. Albert mentioned to Todd the little Costa Rican adventure Dave and I had two years back and offered to connect us. Todd reached out and when he asked if I’d be willing to be a guest on the podcast and share my wild moving to Costa Rica story with his listeners, I happily agreed.

The interview was a ton of fun and was a surprising trip down memory lane. I shared stories and thought about aspects of life in CR that I hadn’t thought about since we left. More than anything, I was surprised by how much the idea seemed far crazier in hindsight than it ever did at the time. I mean, leaving our normal lives behind in exchange for running a bed and breakfast in a country we’d never even visited…what’s crazy about that? :-)

I rarely find myself on the answering side of a Q&A session, so once it was finished, I immediately wanted to know more about Todd and hear his story. I asked him if he wanted to meet up for coffee and be interviewed for my project. He agreed, and here we are. Before we get into Todd’s exciting life, let’s cover a few:

Common Grounds:

  1. What is the best gift you’ve ever been given? A soccer ball. My parents gave it to me when I was about 4 years old and it kind of set the tone for my entire childhood. I played from when I was 4 years old until 18. Everything my friends and I did, year-round, revolved around soccer.
  2. How did you make your first buck? Mowing yards in Rochester, Illinois (a small farm town about 10 miles East of Springfield).
  3. Imagine you are 80. Complete this sentence: I wish I had spent more time on: An airplane. I just went to Europe for the first time last Fall. We did a 17 day trip with three other couples. It was an incredibly great time. I wish I had spent less time on: Worrying. Hands down. Specifically, worrying about money. It doesn’t matter how much or how little we’ve had. The worry is always there.
  4. What is the best, recent documentary or movie you’ve seen? Making of a Murderer. I am from that area. It’s about 3 hours from where I grew up. It greatly impacted me because I could relate to the people. I know what a midwestern wrecking yard with snow all over it looks like. I’ve been there. That’s impacted me probably more than anything else right now. It’s just a shame of a story. I don’t know what the truth is, but there was a lot going on that was outside of that family’s control.
  5. What is the best way to unwind? A run. Running has been my go-to since I was about 22. It’s always there.
  6. What book do you feel should be required reading for everyone? Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. And I just recently read it, but it’s probably the book that has influenced me the most, at least recently.
  7. What’s a food you can’t live without? Pizza.
  8. If you had a year to get really good at something, what would you try? Spanish. That’s a thorn in my side. I lived in Mexico and took lessons for 12 months and then I just got busy and didn’t continue with practicing and learning Spanish. That’s my biggest regret – is that I lived in Mexico for five years and my Spanish isn’t as good as it should be…after living in Mexico for five years.
  9. What’s your guilty pleasure? Craft beer. I used to brew my own beer, but when I moved to Mexico, I gave my supplies to a buddy. I love craft beer.

Todd grew up in small town America. He went to school with the same 111 kids from Kindergarten until 12th grade. But when he was 22 years old, Todd pulled the ripcord on his safe, comfortable life and moved to Dallas, TX. Little did he know this ripcord pulling would become a theme in his life.

Todd had a successful career in Dallas and had met the love of his life, Allison, when the pair worked together. They were just friends at first, but reconnected after they both left the company they’d worked for when they met. Todd shares with me that it was a conversation on a date early on when he revealed a little detail to Allison that made her realize he was the one. He said, “If someone told me I didn’t have to have kids and my life would be complete, I’d feel like a huge weight was lifted from me.” Todd tells me she said that was the moment.

Another huge life decision that they both agreed on was an eventual plan to do something big. What, they didn’t know for sure. But maybe, leave their corporate jobs, pack up and jet off somewhere exotic for an extended period. Maybe forever.

I’d have to say these are both life choices you are going to want to be in sync on when picking your partner. Lucky for Todd and Allison, they were matched perfectly!

In 2009 the couple took a Valentine’s Day trip to Mexico where they met a couple of expats who had checked out of the US rat race and were living in Playa. Todd says, “It was a lightbulb moment for us. Like wow, people can actually do that? Within about 14 months we were in Mexico four times. We knew we didn’t want to live in Playa, or anywhere where everyone was on vacation. We went to Mazatlan. On paper it looked awesome. But after being there a week, the cartel action became very apparent and it didn’t feel safe. Another option we explored was Manzanillo but it was just too small. You had to fly through Mexico City – which was not a big deal for us, but telling our parents they had to fly through Mexico City wasn’t going to happen. We always thought we’d live at the beach or in the mountains. But we kept hearing about a town called Merida – which is about 30 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico and roughly three hours to Cancun.” The pair researched and read a lot about the area from blog posts and books.. In April 2010 they flew in and rented a 3 bedroom house for $55. They unloaded their suitcases and headed out for a stroll. The streets were closed off and there were people walking in the streets, dining outdoors, dancing and enjoying a lovely evening. Todd says it was like Europe, but only a 1.5 hour flight from Houston. DONE! After exhaustive researching, they were sold!

Todd tells me they went home and the plan was to work for two more years, save up some more money and then do it. For both of them, their jobs started to get bad and the economy was taking a beating. On top of all that, their hearts were in Mexico. So Todd says, “We decided to just go for it and figure it out when we got there. We sold everything we owned and sold the house and in Dec. 2010 we were living in Mexico.” And that’s where they stayed for the next five years.

Todd tells me, “The biggest lifestyle change for us was that it turned us into pedestrians. We walked everywhere. I’d say with about 90% of our friends, we were within walking distance to their homes. All the bars, shops, restaurants – we could walk to.”

So when Todd’s business changed, and once again it became necessary for Todd and Allison to be back in the US to grow his company, this walkable lifestyle was something that factored heavily into their decision about where to move. Austin, with it’s walkable downtown, the gorgeous Lady Bird Lake right in the heart of the city and its expansive trail network, was an easy choice. Plus, add to that a thriving business climate, and the choice was made.

I ask Todd about something he believes that everyone else thinks is crazy and he says, “That you don’t have to have kids to feel fulfilled.” This is something I don’t think is crazy, but I know Todd and I are in the minority on this one. He jokes about how he’d gotten tired of all the people saying, “Oh you’ll change your mind.”  He says, “When I was 34, we had a scare and we thought Allison was pregnant. She wasn’t, but I went in and had a vasectomy after that.”  So now Todd has an answer to that changing-your-mind business. He’d have to change a whole lot more than his mind.

I ask Todd who’s life has had the greatest impact on him and he says, “My parents are primary and then my wife. She’s a fearless girl. Her family moved every two years growing up and she was always starting at new schools. And she explained to me that you’re one of two types of people. You either become totally introverted and go into your shell because you know that these people aren’t going to be your friends in two years, or you just blow into the room like a storm. She chose the storm. She truly doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She can walk into anywhere and be totally fearless. And that’s had a really cool impact on me. Sometimes it throws me out of my comfort zone, but that’s who she is. She’s so authentic and real and says what’s on her mind.”

I’m curious what is something Todd hates that he wished he loved. He tells me it’s working out in a gym. Adding, “I wish I liked working out in a gym or the CrossFit thing. But my go-to has always been running.”

How about a habit, ritual or practice that Todd feels contributes to his overall happiness or well-being? He says, “Getting up early. 6 or 6:30am. And getting up together. Doing our morning routine together is something new for us and it’s been really healthy and I look forward to it every day!”

A simple change that Todd made that has made his life better is reading every night before bed. Todd adds, “When I’m not doing it, I feel like something is missing. And it’s not always something big – it might just be a little Stephen King.”

I want to know if Todd has a life mantra or motto and he shares with me that he had a Ted Turner quote on his wall in college that read “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.” He says, “I had no idea at the time that I would end up in advertising/marketing. That’s been a quote that’s stuck with me my whole life.”

If Todd had just 30 seconds to make a speech to the world, his message is this: “Pull the ripcord and do it, because you only live once. We’ve done that in our lives and then we haven’t done that at certain times in our lives and it’s always so much more fulfilling and I’m happier when I’ve pulled the ripcord. We can look back and see all the amazing things that wouldn’t have happened it we hadn’t pulled the ripcord. We’ve never done it and then been disappointed that we did.”

Todd’s story is a reminder to all of us to evaluate the choices in our lives and to make sure they are supporting the life we want to live. Not the life we think we’re supposed to want, or the life society tells us should want. Life really is just a series of big and small decisions and every moment presents a chance to make new choices. Nothing is permanent – a truth that is both upsetting and comforting. Tony Robbins has a quote I love. He  says, “It’s your choices in life, not your circumstances, that determine your destiny.” I have found that to be a powerful truth. When I find myself coasting on auto-pilot, a quote like that is the reminder I need to get back into the driver’s seat. Or like Todd suggests, maybe just pull the ripcord and see where you land next.

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Be sure to check out the Go Hunt Life podcast. If you have an interest in hearing my crazy Costa Rica story, here is a link to my podcast episode.

If you enjoyed this interview, “Like” the Coffee With A Stranger Project Facebook page and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming interviews with new strangers and other fun stuff. Big, exciting news coming very soon! And you are NOT going to want to miss out on that!

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