When I was introduced to the concept of Financial Independence Retire Early I was intrigued with the idea of retiring early, but then what would we do? When we realized that life could be more than work and traditional school for the next 20 years. It led us on this journey of “what do we want our life to look like” I have done extensive thought-leadership to this since then and each year we make progress towards testing concepts to see what fits.
It’s hard to imagine a lifestyle other than what it currently is and recognize limiting beliefs that get in the way of what we think is possible.
For the last several years we’ve had a dream of longer term extensive travel. We have been testing various forms of what that looks like when we are able. About 5 years ago I learned about the Round the World tickets and I thought that was our goal. After extensively researching the restrictions, timelines, stops and cost I ultimately decided that felt unrealistic to attain with a family of 5. It wasn’t a good fit for our family, but the idea of extensive travel was not lost on that idea. It ignited new ideas – which led to us experimenting with different aspects of what our ideal life might look like.
It led us to things like :
- Notching up our adventure experiences with kids to get off the beaten path (started in 2012 in a little town called L’Anse Michigan in the UP)
- Taking other family travel advice and realizing it didn’t fit us
- utilizing travel rewards – 3 weeks in Hawaii in 2021 was a great experiment with family travel rewards (episode .
- Untourism: traveling deeper in less known areas to connect with others. We love meeting friends, or meeting other people’s friends and family. On a trip to Arizona my daughter and I stayed with friends from podcasting and work whom I’d never met in real life and it was life-giving. We LOVE connecting with others and having interesting conversations in the car or around a patio.
- Building our foundation with simple adventures in our backyard and local community. When we realized we didn’t have to GO somewhere to create these adventure experiences, it really allowed us to be less about the destination and more creative and comfortable being anywhere.
- To an RV rental which opened an entirely different route than we expected. If you told me 5 years ago that we would buy an RV I would’ve told you that you were crazy and thinking of the wrong family. We were tent campers and gitty airplane travelers. Today I sleep in the RV when it’s parked in our driveway. I simply love the feeling of having a vacation home on wheels.
I would look at adventure tours and experiences as a guide and figure out what the DIY version could look like for us. Rather than thinking we needed to do all those things, what were the parts and pieces we wanted to do, and how could we hack it to do it for less and still make it a meaningful experience. The Warm Pools in Hawaii at sunset was the perfect example. We could’ve hired a guide and maybe they could offer an insider view, but for the price we were able to create the value and experience a hidden gem for a small fraction of the price.
When you look at your ideal lifestyle, what are core tenants? Begin testing what that means for you. Do you expectations align with reality?
Here are a few core learnings over the past summer and some insights from our 30-day RV life experiment.
Travel: Resist the bucket list of destinations, Foundation of simple adventures- we can have meaningful experiences anywhere AND there are so many places we don’t even know about. Example: Golden, British Columbia (Book Store, Market, Bridge, Bakery, Biking, Culture)
Time together: unplugged, not distracted by life or the outside world. At one stay my youngest 2 played for over 4 hours at a creek behind our campsite. Creating stories, turning leaves and natural world into vivid stories. Meanwhile our oldest was reading the Fly-fishing bible and testing how to tie various flies. Time together doesn’t have to be forced family time. However, being intentional about unplugging and making time as a family to not be in 5 different places is important. Sometimes I spend the entire weekend with my phone in airplane mode and only use my phone as a camera.
Consensus is not the goal; Engagement is: We don’t all have to agree on what to do, but we all do something that someone else wants
Slow Down: Notice things differently. Less about time and pace and more about creating conditions for your brain to process and take in what you are experiencing. Mindfulness, be present, document. When I was doing photography session for families I would scout places throughout the community for backdrops and lighting before the session. It’s amazing what was in our community that I never noticed before. When you begin to notice things like an interesting building, a trail or a tree you hadn’t paid attention to despite driving past it for year, you also see the ordinary things in a different light.
What do you actually NEED? I enjoy the research and planning portion of the experience, and sometimes it can go too far and become stressful. Or perhaps the plan seemed good, but you found something you want to experience that is not in the plan. During our most recent 30 days in the RV, almost half of it was a planned route with reservations and key points of interest. The other half was more whimsical. I still researched options, but there were no reservations. Going back to the engagement theme, we asked each of the kids what they wanted to experience on this trip. My daughter wanted to go to natural hot springs and my son wanted to fly fish. That determined our route from Coeur d’Alene ID to MIssoula MT and then down to Stanley ID. When it comes to the planning part I like to ask, what do I actually NEED?
I also think living in an RV for 30 days helped us define the parts and pieces of our life that we missed and craved. No one missed home. When we got home there were a few things we appreciated more however during the time away no one mentioned them or longed for the things we left behind. I compiled a list of key learnings from the most recent 30-day RV living experience and this is what this experiment highlighted:
What our family of 5 learned traveling 30 days in an RV
- We used this as a location-independent lifestyle experiment. How far? How long?
- Simple adventures were foundational to our experience. (Creek in Jasper)
- Daily reminder to SLOW DOWN.
- One of our highlights was the people we met: The lifeguard at Radium Springs, the rafting guide, the van life couple and later a family in the hot springs in Idaho, our camping neighbor family in Spearfish.
- Regardless of how much research we did online, we found the greatest gems by connecting and interacting with others, usually other adventurous travelers, or locals with an adventurous lifestyle.
- We don’t need very much to enjoy life. We even felt a bit more creative with less. It validated my “toothpaste theory”. When you have a plump tube of toothpaste, we use excess without much thought.
- Flexibility is a critical value in our life
- Cold water is refreshing
- The ROI of my stress was a losing game. I noticed I was extremely stressed about work and spent several days stressing about a 60 minute meeting.
- Once we had a Home date, then we began to notice we were “ready” to be home. None of these thoughts or comments emerged, in fact we asked each week if they were missing anything from home.
- Once we returned home the things we realized we missed were minimal : Big bed, the recliner, the piano, the trampoline, our drinking water.
Next year we will do a version of a family gap year. Meaning we will take a break from traditional life and explore the world together with our kids for an extended period of time. We might travel part of the time, we will do things we love to do, and we will also be home and plugging in from time to time to reconnect. What we have decided is the route we take will be based on the people we want to see and build or sustain relationships with, and the experiences we want to try, cultivate, or do again, on a timeline that allows us to slow down and disconnect from time to time.
The reason I encourage people to not only think about their ideal life, but also to experiment is there are so many things we wouldn’t know until we actually practice doing the thing.
I don’t think we would have landed here when I first imagined what life might look like. It is easy to see all the reasons this doesn’t make sense, but without trying it and testing portions of your idea you may be artificially writing off an opportunity or delaying something that is completely feasible.