Welcome to BushLife and our very first blog post! My name is Stelios Lazos and I think it would be fitting as the founder to talk about my personal journey. It’s the story of “from fiscal to forest” and how BushLife came to be. If you have few minutes, grab a coffee and let me tell you an interesting story.
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The Early Days
I grew up a city boy spending my weekends and summers heading north to our family’s little place on the lake. The solitude and beauty of Ontario’s north far away from the vast cities was always my happiest place on earth. But as many people experience, priorities get in the way of what we want in life. I eventually found myself stuck in the city with a corporate job and nowhere to go but visit the same city parks over and over again.
You know the motto: get good grades, go to college/university, get a good job, etc. So I would study hard at computer networking in college but by the time I would finish the trade, it was no longer in shortage, it was oversaturated. And as you know when supply outweighs demand, the value drops. I did not go to college just to get a crappy job, so I never worked a day in my actual trade.
My wife took graphic design which was flourishing. While she was gaining experience, like many young people after college I would drift around aimlessly trying to find myself until one day we opened our own graphic design firm.
As long as I am alive I will never forget her dropping me off at one end of a retail plaza or a corporate street and picking me up at the other. At this point my job is to walk through the deep snow in my freezing cold dress shoes, knock on doors and make sales. It took literally around 600 stops of being told no over and over again until I made my first sale and our little business found a start!
Time went on, the portfolio got bigger and better and we started to make some money. But we worked from morning until night and wondered how much more we could possibly work to not only make ends meet, but to actually be able to afford a home one day and start a family.
In 2009 an opportunity came my way and I joined a restaurant franchise chain of 12 locations. By 2020, I had grown that chain to 100 stores with another 100 in the works. This was all without ever having worked a day in a restaurant or a corporate job for that matter. Nor did I have a degree in anything remotely related to business. What I did have going was real world experience running that little company of ours and no shortage of ambition.
In my role as Chief Operating Officer, I was selling the franchises, choosing locations, negotiating the leases, overseeing construction of new restaurants, negotiating the supply chain of food, controlling the operations, managing franchisee compliance amongst several other hats I had to wear. It was extremely hard work and yet again I worked from morning until night in those early years but it was very lucrative so it felt great at the time.
I had overnight literally become a restaurateur, a salesman, finance person, realtor, lawyer, etc. Because if you think about it, that’s what it really takes to run a business franchise. My personal story is such a compelling success story, it was featured multiple times in newsstands across Canada. But it comes with a price… Stress
From Fiscal to Forest Challenges
Here’s the thing being stuck in the city: you buy an overpriced home. You renovate or do an addition because everyone else is doing it. You buy a new or classic car, the neighbour buys a car. The neighbour buys a boat, you buy a boat. Several neighbours have a cottage on a beautiful lake somewhere, well that sounds great so you need that as well. You think that fancy Armani suit will make you look successful, make you even more money and impress your friends. Do you see where I am going with this?
The problem is a day comes when you realize you are up to your eyeballs in debt. Keeping up with the Joneses and that demanding city life forces you to work even harder at an already stressful job and it becomes a vicious never ending cycle.
You drive to work and it should take half an hour but the traffic makes it two and you are stressed. Now you might miss a meeting not to mention you are behind all day. As you sit in traffic sniffing exhaust fumes and staring at asphalt, cars and buildings, you start to wonder how you got there and why are you even doing this in the first place. I never quite understood how I landed in the restaurant sector as I never had the slightest prior interest in it. All I know is I was growing increasingly unhappy putting on the suit and trudging to an office doing the 9-5 routine. The whole time I thought to myself Friday is coming and I’ll get some actual fresh air at the cottage soon enough.
Reality is that you wake up one day happy to be making money but deep inside you know your life is not quite right or where you want to be. The other thing you know is you literally feel trapped. Is this my story or does a lot of it sound like the same things you’ve already been thinking yourself ?
Thank You Covid – The Final Push From Fiscal to Forest
Yes, you read that right. The illness and loss is sad, believe me I lost a family member in the covid fallout but I can’t say it’s all bad either. Covid is forcing us to spend more time with family, re-think our priorities, our careers, our values and so on. It’s also causing a surge in anything to do with the outdoors. It may well be the single largest driving factor in recent human history pushing people to the country. People are looking for things to do, places to go, perhaps even finding themselves. It’s reconciling and I don’t mean the books, I mean of ourselves as people.
As to me, we moved to our cottage and sold everything in the city which is the meaning of from fiscal to forest. There are less people here and far less chances of catching covid or any other contagion for that matter. It’s a cheaper lifestyle with a natural abundance of a food source if things ever got really bad. It’s more safe and secure in uncertain times and most of all, its freedom. Why live for the weekend, live every day!
From Fiscal to Forest
Now when I drive, I feel the seasons change a lot more. I see farms and know where my food comes from. For fun, I don’t go shopping, I go fishing or out on an ATV ride. I don’t need to go outside for “fresh air”, I enjoy real fresh air 24 hours a day. It’s a lifestyle change and a career change towards something I actually chose myself for a change.
BushLife will teach you everything I know about the outdoors. Share ideas on fishing and hunting. Get you started or better at ATVing, snowmobiling, canoeing, camping, etc. And we will review gear so you can buy with confidence and get it right the first time. So my story doesn’t end here, it begins here. For the first time in my life, I have fully gone from fiscal to forest and am following my own path. And if you are reading this to the end, I truly hope it helps you follow yours.