How To Devise An Escape Plan

As retold in a 2016 Forbes article, Fidel Albelo and his two cousins secretly set out from the shores of their home in Cuba on a perilous journey to freedom in the United States on June 26, 1990.

​​Like the millions of other Cuban refugees who successfully made the life-threatening trip across the Straits of Florida to American soil before him, Albelo was escaping a life under an oppressive Communist regime, poor living conditions, meager pay, and little prospects of a better life. The depths of despair are bad enough to drive millions to risk their lives to taste freedom.

However, getting to that fateful day on June 26th, took Albelo the entire decade of the ’80s to plan his escape. And this was after his first failed attempt in 1980, where he didn’t even make it to the water because one of his group of fellow escapees got cold feet and ratted out the others to the Communist authorities. The consequence was a year in prison, spending time in a 200-foot cell with five other men, one open toilet, and a 2-hour weekly time block for viewing the sun – a fate some considered worse than death.

Never wanting to step foot in a Cuban prison again, Albelo took ten years after he left prison to plan his next escape. Like many refugees before and after him, Albelo would attempt the trip by floating on man-made rafts. Nicknamed Balseros, these people would spend years collecting tubing, compasses, wooden boards, gasoline, motors, and flotation devices like oil drums and tires for their vessels. The entire time, they must be careful to conceal these items and their intentions from the government to avoid getting caught and thrown in prison.

Albelo’s upbringing was typical of life in Cuba. His parents lived off combined earnings of $20/month, with his father as a taxi driver and his mother as a school assistant. His house was 300 square feet with nine people living under the same roof, including his parents, five brothers, and a sister. Albelo was a gifted wrestler who worked as a coach and officiated matches, making a meager wage and living in a humble home as his parents did. Albelo’s impoverished life in Cuba was worth the ten years of planning and worth risking his life to escape. In the end, Albelo found a better life in Florida.

How many of us dream of escaping our current lives like Albelo – hoping to flee the grind of a 9-5 job with little prospects for advancement? ​​How many of us would like the freedom to come and go as we choose?

​​I’m not talking about political freedom. All of us can come and go as we please. I’m talking about financial freedom. Many of us are prisoners to our jobs – not free to come and go as we please but obligated to be there at our office or cubicle on designated days at designated times.

For the millions of Cubans who make it to the States, millions more remain in Cuba – many clinging to the ideology of their parents and either resigned to their condition or afraid to take the risk to cross the waters to a better life. How many of us are conditioned by society to conform a certain way? We’re expected to graduate high school, go to college, get a job, contribute to a 401(k) and retire in our 60’s. This is as good as we could hope for most of us. For others, this is not enough. There’s a better life.

Do you seek a better life? Do you feel trapped by a corporate job? Are you a physician and tired of fighting insurance companies over billing or constantly working under the specter of a malpractice suit? Are you a lawyer or CPA tired of worrying about billing enough hours just to pay your bills?

​​Many of us played the game. We supposedly achieved our “dream jobs” and kept our heads down and kept striving for the next step… junior partner, senior partner, VP of this or that, and Director.

If so many of us have achieved the pinnacle of what society has deemed the mountain of success, then why are so many of us miserable? Because we’re prisoners of our own making. In reality, you’re trapped. You’re in deep, and you just can’t walk away. You have too many bills, obligations, and debts, and you feel like there’s nothing you can do. What are your options? Work another job? Change careers? That won’t solve anything.

Do you need an escape plan? It starts with a new frame, a new way to look at where you are and where you want to go. A successful escape will require a new way of thinking and new knowledge.

First, start with your routine. Begin by adding podcasts to your drive or walk. Listen to the Investing for Freedom Podcast (I heard it’s quite good ). Next, seek out a new group of friends or mastermind group that enjoy the freedom you’re seeking. The best advice will come from someone that has escaped too. A warning, don’t tell others around you about your escape. They will hold you back and discourage you from leaving the safe haven of your current position. Ignore them.

Next, be patient. It takes time for those seeking refuge in the U.S. to plan their escapes. You have to plan carefully. ​​Start seeking wise counsel, gathering resources, and making connections with those that can help you along the way. Then, ultimately you will need to take the plunge.

​​You will need to push out from familiarity into untested waters, but the reward on the other side will change your life. It’s out there for you. Now go get it.



Mike Ayala has owned and operated mobile home parks since 2007, and has been active in construction and management since he was 15 years old. He graduated from the Associated Builders and Contractors 4-year project management program at age 22 and then became a licensed instructor. He is also the host of the Investing for Freedom podcast.