How To Blow Your Money On The Best Experiential Course You’ll Ever Sign Up For

Ever thought to yourself, hey I’ve got some spare cash sitting in my bank I think I’ll take said savings and buy something I have no idea how to use then send it to a country that I know nothing about and spend my days figuring out how I’m going to survive here? Nope? Welcome to Fili Beans Espresso, the biggest self-experiment of my life.

Step one- Fall in love

Travel to a place that captures your heart then forget anything your financial planner, year 12 economics teacher or family accountant ever told you about being “sensible” with your money and make the decision to move there. If you want to go all out pick an island that takes two days to reach, is prone to typhoons, earthquakes, black outs, ferry break downs, airport closures and one of the most resistant strains of staph in the world.


Step two- The more challenging the better

You don’t have enough money to simply live here without the inevitable dodging of debt collectors for the maxed out credit cards you’ve compiled so you’ll need to do something that covers your living expenses and a trip home to visit the family every once in a while. Best you don’t pick something you know loads about though, you want to come up with an idea that not only you know very little about but you want to make sure that the factors in step one make whatever you chose a logistical nightmare. Jobs to avoid for their ease and sensibility:

-        Anything online that you can earn you a strong currency and spend it in a much cheaper country.

-        Twisting string and selling it to travelers. Unless you’re Argentinean and wear fisherman pants and have dreadlocks, in which case this would actually be a feasible source of income

-        Use your artistic talents and play music, DJ, trade murals at hostels for accommodation and food.

-        Sell organs.

Any of these would’ve made more sense than trying to bring a coffee machine, grinder and premium grade coffee to a remote island but remember we’re not going for the sensible option. Come up with an idea that’s going to be really difficult to establish and to maintain, this way you’ll always have things to keep you occupied. Like when customs destroys 20kg of your coffee because you didn’t have a form that you didn’t know existed because the last two times you sent coffee the form didn’t exist.

Step three- Who me, prepared? Ha  

Now that you’ve decided on how you’re going to fill your days in on the remote island paradise go out and spend all your money on the necessary equipment and get rid of any of your possessions that won’t be of use where you’re moving.

From most important to least important. Stickers? Check! Facebook Page? Check! Expensive machine that will have more setting that you don’t know how to use than ones you will know how to use? Check! Training and experience? Ahh come back to me on that one.

Step four- Jump in the deep end

If you’ve made it this far there’s no turning back. Well that’s a lie actually, you can pull out at any stage but you’ve done the hard work already so why pull out now. Moving day. Take a mate, it’s more fun that way and they can carry stuff. You’ll be bringing lots of stuff so bring a strong mate. Once you arrive however long you’d planned to get things up and running, triple it, quadruple it, add a couple of months. You chose a remote location that means when you’re missing an important valve for a piece of equipment you’ve got you can’t just run to Bunnings Warehouse, no, you need to take 3 ferries, a taxi, and bus and caribou to pick up another one, this takes time.

Step five- Learn to swim

Start winging it. You’ve heard the expression fake till you make it, well you’re in the thick of it now. You’ve got your machine, you’ve got your coffee beans, you’ve made the epic two day return journey into the City to buy everything you forget to pack or your poor selection of travel buddy wasn’t strong enough to carry 4 surfboards, 30kg of coffee, all of your clothes and 20 coffee cup… useless. There’s nothing like learning on the fly, though perhaps making more than a total of 10 coffees prior to opening a cafe wouldn’t have been such a bad idea but whatever, I’m pouring love hearts in my coffees now (with the occasional phallic looking shape... accidentally)   

Step six- Find your island family

Find amazing people to help you out. Three months into this experiment I was thrown a bit of a curve ball. I got an opportunity to head back to Australia and take on a role that has me travel around the east coast and present to teenagers, encouraging them to get out of their comfort zones, travel to challenging but inspiring parts of the world and start doing things for themselves that they’re a little unsure they’ll actually have the ability to do. Sounds like a familiar story. Essentially I’m telling kids to go out start their own Fili Beans Espresso. Well not exactly but I do ask them to spend their hard earned money one of the most challenging though equally beneficial experiential learning courses they’ll ever experience at that age.  

The thing is I need to spend a fair bit of time in Australia to be able to do this; I’m just not convincing enough presenting to a thousand kids over Siargao’s 3G skype link. Luckily for me one of the islands charms is that it’s full of great people willing to jump into the cafe and lend a helping hand when I have to head back to Australia and without the support of these superstars and the guys down at Harana I would’ve had to pass up on the opportunity in Australia.

So there you have it. If you've been wondering why I've been posting so many photos from Aus or why you haven't seen me down at Fili Beans for a little while, that's the reason. The coffees are still flowing, the vibes are still awesome around the bar and the Espresso Martinis nights (now Saturday) are still a hit. The last 6 months have been an absolute adventure with so much to be gained from the experience and so much still to learn and while hindsight would have me do some things a little differently next time around, there's no way I'd want to have missed out on the roller-coaster that got me to where I am today.

*Anyone who read this and took everything as legitimate advice please disregard steps 1-5.


Here’s a little bonus section of things I’ve learnt moving to Siargao. Enjoy

1.      When choosing what to do on an island that parties every single night, keep in mind what time you’ll be starting in the morning. 6am starts after waking up for the 3rd night in row on the bar at Barrel Chicken is not ideal. Luckily we make great coffee to get me started.

2.      Glitter face profiles are the best, tee-bagging profiles are not.

3.      There’s a reason setting up a life in a developing world country is cheaper, ease and convenience are not the reasons.

4.      People who drink coffee are the best. I love my coffee bar chats.

5.      Buying things in a country like Australia to be served up on a remote island is not the most economic way of doing things. Luckily I get hooked up with the legends at Social Espresso and the payoff is we serve up what's fast becoming known as the best tasting coffee in the Philippines (according to our fans on TripAdvisor).

6.      Coffee brings in people from all over the world to sit and share their stories. 

7.      Sometimes fulfilling the role of Barista has you venturing into other professions; psychologist, mediator, match-maker, life coach, tour guide or travel agent just to name a few.

8.      Before you agree to take home a retarded abandoned puppy from the bar you were drinking at all night you should sleep on it first and not at the bar.

9.      Wet seasons are like German Sausages… the Wurst. Although rainy weather is good coffee weather.

10.   It’s not unusual to be sat at a table and there’re 5 different conversations going on in 5 different languages.

11.   Work Place Health and Safety… Ha, good one.

12.   If you have a mozzie bite, infected hair follicle, scratch or reef cut below your knees, 3-4 months is standard healing time, if you don’t lose the limb.

13.   If you pass out at a party 1 of 4 things will happen- you’ll wake up to an entertaining profile pic, you’ll have a lot of new male matches on tinder, you’ll be dropped in a pool, there’ll be photos circulating of close encounters with other islanders’ genitals.

14.   Optional clothing items include shoes, flipflops, undies, shirts, shorts, all at the same time. Only non-optional is a hat.

15.   Going with your gut feeling good way to make judgement calls.

16.   Living on an island with about 20 surf breaks heightens happiness exponentially

17.   Philippines has some of the most spectacular sunsets around the world. Capturing one of these while returning from a sunset surf will fill you with elation

18.   The encounters with people in these destinations is more often than not the reason for our attachment to it.

19.   Doesn’t matter where in the world I live, take away my ability to jump on a plane and travel anywhere I want at any time and I can guarantee you I won’t stay there long.

20.   Espresso Martini nights are the best. Whoever decided to mix an espresso shot with Kahlua and vodka then call it a martini even though it doesn’t resemble a martini in any way was an absolute genius.