It’s Been 13.5 Months

Our younger selves in 2005 in Ethiopia.

It’s been 13.5 months since we resigned our positions at Fisher Investments. We’ve walked the Appalachian Trail, we’ve ridden bicycles from Washington to the Mexican border, we’ve lived in Mexico, Guatemala, and Italy, run marathons and ultra marathons, and visited with great people all along the way. So what?

It’s a rainy day today, and it’s Friday (traditionally known to me as philosophic Friday…I am often pensive towards the end of the week, apparently even when I’m not working). So I think it’s time for some introspection and evaluation. Are we doing it as well as we can? What have we accomplished? What have we learned? How are we different today than 13.5 months ago when we logged into the company computers for the last time and received that last paycheck? And as some may wonder, how are we doing this and how long will we keep doing it?

To start, it has been a very rewarding experience both as individuals and as a couple, but not without its challenges. We are always trying to improve ourselves and grow as individuals but until we put ourselves in the position we’ve been in for the past 13.5 months, free to do what we want without much of a plan or schedule but also without the security of any income, we didn’t fully realize all that was out there for us. We didn’t have to answer to a boss, a teacher, or anyone other than each other and while this is very freeing, it is also very self-exposing. The lights shine brightly on us showing all our virtues and all our faults and we get to choose how we’ll deal with what we see.

At times, we didn’t deal well with the light of introspection. We felt lost individually and as a couple wondering to ourselves what we were doing, what we should be doing, and were we doing it right? We even wondered if we should be doing it together. These thoughts would creep in at moments when we were being challenged with even some of the basic necessities of life, sitting in a tent hungry and dirty, or walking through the rain for the 8thday in a row, or during the middle of a long ride that wouldn’t seem to end. And we’d get frustrated with ourselves and each other because we weren’t sure what we were doing and if we were making the best decisions for our lives.

But the beauty in this is that we have had the opportunity to be in these situations, to ask these questions, and most importantly, to take the time to attempt an answer to them. As this 13.5 month adventure has progressed, our self confidence, our love for each other and our love for the way we have chosen to live our lives together have grown stronger. We have developed purpose, passion, and remain excited to continue the adventure for many years to come.

“But how are we doing this and for crying out loud, when are you going to get a job again?” We did not win the lottery (neither of us has ever even purchased a ticket). To put it simply, we are doing this the good old fashioned way: we saved our money and now we’re spending it. A little more detail will tell that we had good paying jobs and were fortunate to be able to put a lot of it away. We also were working during a time when the financial markets were depressed enabling us to invest money in the markets while stocks were cheap and reap the benefits as the market has come back. We also had jobs that taught us about money, the value of it, and what it can do for you if you can put it to work for you. We also lived well below our means. We have always kept a budget, tracking our expenses, and evaluating our purchases based on whether or not it’s worth selling our time for. As a result, we have been able to save up and use that savings to “buy some freedom” for awhile.

How long that will be is based on a few factors. One is how much we spend while not working. We don’t like to completely scrimp on everything but we’re also mindful of what we spend our money on. We have been fortunate that we’ve had many good friends to stay with and have had people help us out along the way finding deals for us on all sorts of things. Another factor as to how long we keep traveling or at least not working is how much of our savings we are willing to spend. Knowing the value of money and what it can do for us, we are reticent to go too far into our savings because then we won’t have money to work for us.

The biggest factor right now, and something we’ve learned on these adventures relating to what we’ll do next and when we’ll work next has to do with finding something we’re really interested in focusing a large portion of our time towards. The more we think about going back to work, the harder it seems to get because the reality of most jobs is that we are required to give a huge percentage of our time to them. A standard 40 hour work week takes up roughly 35% of our waking hours each week, and that doesn’t include time getting ready for work, getting to and from work, or lunch breaks. It’s a big commitment and it’s not that we think work is bad or wrong, or shouldn’t be done, but simply that if we’re going to use that much of our life doing it, we want to make sure we can be excited about it and doing it purposefully. It may get to the point where the purpose is simply to make money and if that’s the case, we’ll do that as well as we can, but being away from a steady job for 13.5 months definitely makes me think about my time and how I use it very differently.

Plus, it’s hard to think about giving up all this awesome free time! I’ve thought about doing some sort of part time work and then I think about trying to schedule time off to go to races or take a trip, or visiting family and I think, “I can’t fit work in right now” because there is simply so much to do. We have another trail to hike and so much more to learn. Plus, the kid adventure would be pretty cool to get started on too and I want to be around as much as I can for that.

In conclusion, I feel very good about where we’re at and what we’re doing. I’m glad we’ve done things the way we have and I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot. And I don’t mean that we’ve simply accomplished things that we can cross off a list like hiking a trail, or completing a 100 mile race. Those things are cool accomplishments, but the bigger gains for us have come in terms of greater self awareness and growth as a couple. We are stronger, more confident, and more driven now than ever. While we are currently focusing our energies towards improving our skills by studying for the CPA exam (Julie), CFA exam (Matt), and preparing for nursing school (Matt), there will be other things to do in the future, and it most likely includes going back to work. And when we do, we’ll be ready and will take the work world by storm because we’ll be doing it with a purpose and with passion.

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