Friday, September 25, 2009

Our Decision

For many of you, this may seem like a drastic decision. For some, it may sound like a mid-life crisis. True on both accounts. According to Webster, the definition of a mid-life crisis is “a period of emotional turmoil in middle age caused by the realization that one is no longer young and characterized especially by a strong desire for change”. There’s no doubt that that fits us to a “T”. Although there were many factors which brought us to this point, I wanted to attempt to summarize the major ones. I have no doubt that this concept raises many questions for friends, family and strangers alike. I hope that this page will help provide answers to some of those.

Not a spur of-the-moment decision
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific time when this idea was first formulated, but I can say that it has been building for a long time. We’ve been wanting to leave the city for years, but just didn’t know how to do it. We seriously thought about leaving when our Morrison house was on the market, but mostly out of fear of change, we settled back to the life we knew and bought our current townhouse. Then 5 years ago, upon returning from our 3-month sabbatical, we again discussed moving. But as we did before, we came up with justifications to stay and we settled back down into life. The desire never disappeared; we just stored it away.
The concept of full-timing was introduced to us in 2004, during our 3-month RV trip. Prior to that, I knew people took extended trips in an RV, but I had no idea that one could make it a permanent way of life. Initially, I had a lot of misconceptions about these folks, mostly assuming that they were down on their luck and had no other options. As we met more and more people who were living this way of life, we became more educated and realized that for many it was a choice. Our eyes were certainly opened to a different way of life and little did we know that the ‘bug’ was implanted in us…permanently.
Upon return to traditional life, we tried to quell the desire. We frequently dreamed about full-timing, but it was always in the context of retirement, which was ‘a long ways in the future’. A couple of years ago, our conversations started to get a little more serious…moving away from a pipe dream and toward the ‘what ifs’. Initially, we started pondering how early we could really afford to retire and targeted our mid-to-late 50’s. But that still seemed too far away and after awhile, we started thinking about semi-retirement –working part of the year and traveling the rest of the time. We decided we would shoot for this in 5-7 years, when we anticipated being ‘empty nesters’ (i.e. our pets will have passed on). But as our jobs continued to drain our spirits, even this time frame seemed too long. We had to come up with another option
It was about this time that we started researching in earnest the full-time lifestyle and our eyes were opened! We discovered that there were a lot more people living this way of life than we ever imagined…and they weren’t all retirees. So we started reading, asking questions and learning as much as we could. How do these other people do it? What kind of jobs are they working? Are they struggling to make ends meet? The more we learned, the more certain we became that this could be possible.
So as you can see, this is in no way a spur of the moment decision. In many ways, I feel like we’ve been planning this for many years…we just didn’t know what we were planning for.

Nomadic Soul
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a feeling of “unsettledness”. After a few years in one place, I get antsy. This applies to both my work place and my home place. I have never lived in any one dwelling, worked for any one company, nor retained a large expenditure item such as a car for more than 7 years. I’ve always attributed this desire for change, in part, to the frequent moves I encountered during my childhood. And maybe that is partially to blame, but I really don’t believe that is the sole factor. After all, Tracy has the same itch and she grew up in a small town. I truly believe that there are people who are born to be sedentary – those who can remain in one house until its paid off or stay with the same employer and same job for years on end. There is definitely a certain security to that lifestyle and it works for many, many people. After all, it is the traditional American dream. But I also believe that there are people who are born to roam – those who get bored easily and are constantly seeking something new. I believe that we are part of the latter. And as I get older, the yearning for change gets stronger.

Making A Difference
In addition to wanting to make a difference in my own life, I also want to make a difference in others’ lives. I feel like I’ve been searching for the meaning of my life for many years. Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids of my own or maybe it’s something that everyone ponders, but I frequently think about my legacy. What will I leave behind when I die? Will I have done anything to make this a better world? After I’ve been gone for awhile, will anyone even remember who I was? These concerns continue to grow stronger as I age, which I suspect is normal. But the stronger they grow, the more I feel the urgency to start building that legacy now. I want to have the opportunity to give back. I’ve tried to achieve this in my daily life in small ways – through volunteering, through my choice of employers, through making smart environmental decisions – but it doesn’t feel like enough. Maybe because the results aren’t always immediately visible, or maybe because I don’t feel like I have enough time or energy to devote to the effort. Whatever the reason, I don’t feel like I’m achieving what I want to achieve in life. And I know that only I have the power to change that.

Just going through the motions
Maybe because of my nomadic soul or maybe because I’m looking to make a difference, but I feel like I’m constantly yearning for “the” job for which I have a true passion. One that I can get excited to do day in and day out; one for which I can actually look forward to a Monday instead of dreading it. Yes, I know that’s why they call it work, but I believe that it still should be fun and nurturing. For many years, I’ve felt like I’m just existing…just trying to make it through the week to get to the weekend, or to the next vacation. But the problem is that these are temporary and they eventually end. I feel like I’m wishing my life away. None of us knows how many more days we have left in this life and I would hate to think that I used all of mine wishing for something different.

Taking control of our lives…and following our hearts
Enjoy life…this is not a dress rehearsal”. I don’t know who said this, but I want to live by it. I don’t feel like I’m truly enjoying life. Instead, I am following the path that is expected of me…by my parents, by my peers, by society. But who says that this is the right path? Or the only path? Or that everyone must follow the same path? I know that I am ready for a change; that I need a change. So I could continue following my current path and wish that things were different…or I could jump the track and make the changes happen. I have chosen the latter. Ultimately, I know that it is up to me and only me. No one will do it for me.

Isn’t this a huge risk? How can we be so certain that we will succeed?
Absolutely, it is a big risk. But isn’t it the big risks that offer the biggest payouts? There are no guarantees that we will succeed and cash in the big payout. But if we don’t try, we’ll never know. We are giving ourselves the best chances for success by mitigating our risks. First and foremost, we are educating ourselves as much as possible. We realize that we’ll never have all of the answers, but we are learning from all of those who have preceded us down the road. And we are building a support system for those times when we find ourselves stuck. Second, we are planning. Analyzing, list-making, and generally being prepared is in my blood. I wouldn’t know how to proceed without my eyes wide open. We have developed a very detailed budget and have been tracking our income and expenses for quite some time, so we are very familiar with the ins and outs of our money. We have also agreed that we will always maintain a ‘safety net’ of 1-year’s worth of expenses for those inevitable “hard times”. Also if we ever decide we want, or need, to return to our old way of living, we will be able to do so. We have identified and researched several different ways to make money, some of which are professional contract gigs, temporary employment agencies, seasonal jobs and workamper positions. There are other options as well. We don’t expect that all of these will yield results all of the time, but the more options we have, the better likelihood that we’ll be able to bring in the income we need to survive. Thirdly, we are confident that as long as we believe in ourselves, we will make it happen.
But in the off-chance that we find that we cannot support ourselves or we determine that this lifestyle is not what we thought, then we know we can always return back to our former lifestyle. This doesn’t have to be a permanent change. We are still young enough that we should stay marketable in the career world for many years to come. Do we think we’ll be able to jump back in right where we left off? Probably not, but we can certainly work our way back up. The most important thing to remember is that there are always options.


  1. What a great blog!

    mind if I add it to my blogroll?

  2. Ok, I have a lot of reading to catch up with... ...This first post was incredible though & I cannot wait to get to the rest. Inspiring decision, great vision, & very engaging blog. Thanks for sharing!