Any life changing decision can evoke plenty of emotions and this one is no different. But we were not really expecting the variety and magnitude of what we continue to experience. So far, this journey has been one big emotional roller coaster. One day, we're absolutely certain that this is our destiny; the next, we wonder if we've lost our minds. We have found ourselves excited for the upcoming adventure, guilty for not living up to the expectations set for us, sad at the thought of having to get rid of so many of our valued belongings, overwhelmed at how much there is to do, and scared out of our minds about the unknown future...sometimes all at once! But what we've learned from others who have preceded us down this road is that all of this is quite normal. I suspect that many of the questions we've been agonizing over will be the same ones that our family and friends will ponder as well, so I wanted to share some of them here. I don't know if it will offer comfort for those who are concerned about our plans, but putting my thoughts 'down on paper' helps me to understand them better and hopefully will help some of those who follow us in this journey.
Are we crazy?
We have a life that so many would love to have, especially during the current hard economic times. We both have steady jobs which provide us a comfortable living. We are both well respected in our workplaces and feel pretty secure about being able to retain our jobs for the long term (although that could change in a heartbeat). We own a home, 2 fairly new cars, a fairly new RV, and lots of nice 'stuff'. We can afford to eat out, go on vacations, and for the most part do whatever we choose. So why would we want to give this all up to live in a few hundred square feet with very few 'things' and no idea where our next paycheck will come from? It just doesn't seem logical. And it's not, which has been very difficult for me to digest being the far left-brained type of person that I am. But there are times in life that you just have to trust your heart. And more often than not, I'd suspect that most of our gut instincts are spot on. Both our hearts and guts are telling us that we need to go for this. This is the right decision and the right time. We've done our homework and we know the risks, but we also have an inkling of the rewards. Our heads are serving as the devil's advocate, but I think that's good because it keeps us cautious and alert. So in Billy Joel's words, "You may be right, I may be crazy". And in all honesty, I don't think we'd have the courage to do this if we weren't slightly off our rockers!.
If the traditional lifestyle is good enough for your family, friends, coworkers and neighbors, why isn't it good enough for you?
I don't know. I've asked myself this question more times than I care to admit. Is there something wrong with me? Do I have a mental ailment? Do I have some form of A-D-D? Do I have some other disease? I believe the answer to all 4 questions is 'no'. As I touched upon in Our Decision page, I believe that there are people who have some gypsy blood in them and we fall into that category. Why should we have to settle for something that doesn't feel quite right for us? Don't we all have the right to live our lives as we choose, as long as we're not harming others? We've tried the traditional lifestyle and now we're ready to try something different. Different strokes for different folks.
Aren't we worried about giving up the security of a regular paycheck? How do we expect to support ourselves?
I would say being self-sufficient is our number-one concern. It is very scary to trade in a secure source of income for the unknown. I wish I could honestly state that we have everything figured out and we know exactly where our next job will be and how much we will be making. But that would be a lie. What I can say is that we've identified many potential sources of income. And while we hope that at least one of these will always be profitable, there is no guarantee. There very well could be times that we aren't able to land the type of job that we were hoping for, but that is what our safety net is for. We have committed to maintaining at least 1-year's worth of expenses. And if we have to 'borrow' from this for a while until something comes through, that's what it's for. After all, is this really any different than the traditional lifestyle? Are there really ever any guarantees? Isn't that why we all try to store away some money for those unexpected hard times? We believe that one of the biggest keys to success will be flexibility. We are willing to do just about any type of job...after all it will only be temporary. And by living in a house on wheels, we can pick up and move to a more profitable area if needed. The other critical key to success is faith in ourselves. We have a variety of marketable skills. Those combined with a good work ethic, easy-to-get-along-with personality, and the desire to succeed...who wouldn't want to hire us? :)
Do we have enough restraint to strictly follow a limited budget?
While we currently have a budget and we track our income and expenses at a pretty detailed level, it's mostly monitored after-the-fact. We hope we stay in the ballpark, but we have enough of a slush-fund built in that if we miss the mark, it's not too big of a deal. That will need to change because we don't anticipate being able to handle much excess. Of course, we'll have a catastophic fund for those emergencies, but I'm talking day-to-day expenses. We may not necessarily be able to go out to dinner because we don't feel like cooking. We may not be able to buy that shirt just because we like it. Since our sources and frequency of income are unkown, it's a bit unsettling because we really don't know how much we'll have to sacrafice. If it begins to feel like we're sacraficing too much or if we're working more than we want to so that we don't have to sacrafice, that will probably be the point that we decide that this lifestyle no longer works for us. But until then, I expect to be a little more thoughtful about how and where we spend our money. After all, isn't that something we should be doing today anyway?
How can we justify selling our house, which is typically an appreciating investment, for an RV, which could depreciate as much as 30% as soon as it's driven off the lot?
As I've mentioned before, many of the decisions that go along with this lifestyle are not logical. This is one of them. From a strictly financial perspective, this is probably one of the stupidest moves we could make. But this is not all about money. Actually, it's not about money at all. It's about happiness. I don't want to find myself at the end of my life full of regrets for not taking a chance on my heart. Honestly, I can't imagine much worse. So back to the house thing. I've tried to imagine the worst-case scenario: we sell the house, spend all of the proceeds and then can no longer live the nomadic lifestyle. We can't afford to buy another house, so we end up having to rent until we can save up enough for a donwpayment. Either that or maybe our grandkids will be old enough by then to support us! We've admitted that this is a risky lifestyle, but so is signing a 30-year mortgage with no guarantees that the house will appreciate or that you'll always be able to afford the payments. I didn't even touch on the catastrophes that happen everyday which lead to foreclosures and such. In that realm, the low cost of fulltiming makes far more sense!
How can we feel comfortable with disposing of all of our 'stuff'?
Just like all of the questions above, this is an agonizing one. Do we keep everything and pay for a storage unit in case we change our minds in a year or two? Do we get rid of everything and re-accumulate if and when we go back to a 'sticks n bricks'? There will undoubtedly be some things that we just can't get rid of. What do we do with those? We certainly don't have all of the answers, but we've decided to land somewhere in the middle. We plan to rent a storage unit for the sentimental items and a few bare basics needed to re-establish a permanent household. If after a few years we are fairly certain that we will continue the nomadic lifestyle, then we will get rid of the basics and give the sentimental items to family and friends. This will no doubt be easier said than done; but the important thing to keep in mind is that getting rid of tangible items does not equate to getting rid of memories. It is the memories that we will always have with us and cherish most. We are also aware that just because we come to terms with shedding our belongings, doesn't mean that it will come as easily for those who are close to us. There may be items which some will take offense to our discarding of because they were gifts. It may be perceived as a slap in the face or that we didn't value the item. This will be a hard situation because the last thing we want to do is cause anyone pain. But we hope that if these circumstances do arise, we will be able to diffuse them with some heart-to-heart discussions and comprimises. And I think it's important to remember that these same issues arise in the traditional world too. So we're really not all that different.
While we may be able to leave 'stuff' behind, how can we so easily leave our family and friends?
Although the initial departure from our current hometown will no doubt be emotional, we believe that the opportunity to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones will be one of the primary advantages of hitting the road. First of all, just because we're leaving doesn't mean we won't be back. As we're passing through we will have the flexibility to stay for a few weeks. And it's very likely that we'll choose somewhere nearby to spend a season or two. Because we won't be bogged down by the stressors of work and home, we anticipate that the time spent will be much higher quality. And just because we're not living in a traditional house doesn't mean that we won't expect visitors. We plan to spend time in some very cool places and while we may not be able to offer a bed in our domicile, many campgrounds have cabins or RVs for rent or there will be lodging nearby. With the ease of communications these days, it will be rare that we will be out of touch. We hope to be living a very exciting life which we plan to share often. As our parents age, it is worrisome for us not to be nearby. But with the flexibility that this lifestyle offers, all we have to do is pack up and we can be there in a matter of days. And in the case of an emergency, there's always airplanes. Once again, these are struggles that many people encounter today, whether they are living a traditional or nomadic lifestyle.
And what about other relationships, such as doctors, dentists, and other service providers?
This is another one of those unknowns. My dentist recently retired, but I really like my doctor. I don't care for the idea of seeing a different doctor each year who isn't familiar with my history. Luckily, we're both pretty healthy and usually only have to visit the doctor once a year. So one possibility might be that we arrange an annual trip back to the area, during which we schedule our annual exams. This is what I'm leaning towards currently. But there will be those times when urgent care is needed and we're too far away. It is imperative that the health insurance plan we select has nationwide coverage. We will not go with any other option, even if it costs us a little more. So it may not be the ideal solution, but I think it's certainly workable. This is one issue which has probably caused me the least amount of sleepless nights!
I could go on and on because there are hundreds of other questions that we've agonized over and anticipate being asked, but I think this post is long enough! Maybe I'll post a 'Part 2' some other day. But one thing I hope that this post illustrates is that even though we don't have all of the answers, we have thought this through as thoroughly as we are capable of at this time. We'll continue to gain answers over time and I imagine that we'll look back on many of these and realzie that they were really non-issues. But I hope you get the impression that there is no "whim" in this decision. We feel comfortable that we are as prepared as we ever could be. There's only so much thinking, analyzing and worrying that you can do...at some point you just have to have confidence and go for it!
Time in Jacksonville
5 hours ago