Coffee Date With Ms. Our Next Life

Coffee Date With Ms. Our Next Life

When I was on the road, I started this series so you guys could get to know some of the people I was spending time with. Even though I’m home now, there are still a few people I connected with who I want you to learn more about – and Ms. Our Next Life (ONL) is one of them.

If you’ve been reading for at least the past few months, you should recognize her name. Ms. ONL wrote the first guest post I shared while I was tackling a week of long driving days, and it contained lessons that I carried with me on the road. It doesn’t surprise me that she was able to do that; Ms. ONL’s writing is always thought-provoking, as she constantly tackles the deeper thoughts and considerations around retiring early (which she and Mr. ONL plan to do in 2017). We didn’t get to spend “enough” time together at FinCon this year, but the time we did have quickly shifted our friendship from online to offline. I can’t wait to see her again at FinCon next year (if I don’t road trip to her home first!). Based on this Q&A, I think you’ll understand why we became fast friends. :)

Before we get started: how do you take your coffee? Or what would you order if we were at a coffee shop?

Mr. ONL is the most down-to-Earth guy, and is a snob about nothing… except coffee. So we drink whatever locally roasted beans he’s chosen that week. But hey, he makes me coffee every day, so no complaints! If work is paying, or we’re splurging with a coffee date, I love an almond milk latte, extra hot. Always hot, no matter the weather.

(Cait: an almond milk latte = the way to my heart.)

Now, talk to me about breakfast. What do you eat in the morning?

I try to eat healthily for the most part, so will usually do something like eggs scrambled with mushrooms and zucchini, or black beans and veggies. If I’m traveling for work, I’ll usually add a green juice, the more hippie dippie the better. I can pretend it all tastes as good as donuts and croissants, right?

Ok, now that we’ve taken care of the serious stuff, what are you really excited about these days?

I’m crazy excited to retire early next year! We’ve made way faster progress than we ever could have imagined, and we’re soooo close. The excitement includes so many things — no longer needing to work for money, being able to spend more time outside, having time to cook more things from scratch. But really, I’m most excited to have real time to devote to all the creative projects I have swirling around in my head.

Coffee Date With Ms. Our Next Life

Why did you decide to launch Our Next Life?

I realized that after we reach early retirement, the journey of getting there would compress in our memories and be hard to remember. So I started the blog simply as a place to document the journey so we could one day look back on it.

What has been the toughest part of starting and maintaining your blog?

Starting was the easy part! The tough part now is sticking to the twice-weekly posting schedule that I’ve established, because sometimes I feel like I have nothing to say. But, I really believe that posting twice a week is easier than once a week because it forces you to stay more disciplined and in the practice of writing often. Even when I am scraping for ideas, I still usually look up and realize I’ve written 1500-2000 words, which I attribute wholly to the power of the practice. The other tough but completely awesome part is finding time to respond to every comment — that brings me tons of joy, but as the blog grows, it definitely requires a bigger time commitment.

What has been the best part? :)

The people! If not for the blog, you and I wouldn’t have met in real life, and same goes for the other bloggers I met at FinCon or in other places. And among the people we haven’t met, I still consider several of them real friends. I definitely didn’t expect that, but it’s 100 percent the best part.

What is your favourite social media platform right now, and why do you love it?

Twitter all the way. I love Instagram too because I love photography, but it’s less interactive. Twitter is amazing because anyone can talk to anyone, no matter how famous (and, let’s be real, I mean “blog famous” — haha). It’s not about closed networks, and it doesn’t have that overly curated, fake feel of Insta or Facebook because it’s so immediate. Though I definitely mute accounts that clearly just schedule a bunch of posts and don’t really interact there. I’m not interested in talking to robots.

How do you measure success?

I’m kind of a measurer by nature, so I define it a lot of different ways. Even though we’re plotting our exit at work, I still care a lot about keeping my clients happy and mentoring junior staff, so that’s my success there. In life, I measure it by how I feel. These days I’m not doing great on the sleep front, but I’ve been doing well with exercise and eating healthily and mostly feel pretty good, so I’m calling that success despite the lack of sleep. On the blog, I purposely don’t have ads, for the same reasons you don’t, so I’m not looking at revenue as the measure of success. Of course I love when comments continue to go up, but I also recognize that there’s almost no correlation between the posts I love most and the number of comments they receive, so it’s a poor measure. Right now I consider each month successful if the work I put in ultimately feels “worth it,” which I can define however feels right — usually by whether I got to express something that started an interesting conversation.

What does “financial independence” mean to you?

Having the freedom to pursue what I want without worrying about whether it will pay off. Though we talk a lot about retirement, I will never stop working and creating. I feel like I will soon have this amazing gift of essentially going back to childhood. I’ll get to work on whatever I feel passionate about the same way a kid can, with zero concern about ego or money or any of that. To paraphrase Liz Gilbert in Big Magic, I don’t have to ask my creativity to pay my bills. I will be pinching myself every day, guaranteed.

Let’s shift directions. What were your favourite hobbies as a kid?

I danced from an early age, and was into tons of nerdy stuff like devouring novels and learning everything I could about space and aviation. But once I started going to summer camp, that was it. I figured out fast that spending as much of my life as possible outside was the ultimate.

What is one of your favourite hobbies now?

That camp spirit never left me! I love being outside absolutely everywhere. I travel a ton for work, so I try to take long walks in all the cities I visit, and often happen upon some unexpectedly awesome things. When I’m home, I’m hiking in the mountains as much as I can. And we try to plan a few big backpacking or climbing trips a year, in addition to skiing almost every weekend in the winter. Soon we’ll have more time for all of that and won’t have to fight the weekend crowds!

If you could have an unlimited supply of anything, what would it be?

Time. I joke that I would be an ideal vampire because I’m endlessly curious and never get bored, so I’m well suited to immortality. But if I can’t have endless time, then I’ll go with unlimited gluten-free donuts from Do-Rite Donuts in Chicago and gluten-free pizza from Tony’s Napoletana in San Francisco. Both are celiac-safe and the real deal. I don’t actually want an unlimited supply, but it would be nice to be able to get either whenever I want, without having to get on a plane!

Coffee Date With Ms. Our Next Life

When was the last time you tried something new?

Going to FinCon! I’m definitely an ambivert and can function as an extrovert in limited amounts, but I’ve never committed to something big like that where I’d have to be social for days on end without knowing anyone. But it was such a good decision — I completely loved it and can’t wait for next year. Everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming, and in truth I knew lots of people, I just hadn’t met them in real life before!

What has been one of your most memorable vacations?

I was incredibly lucky as a kid to get to visit Berlin multiple times, including the year before the Wall came down and at regular intervals during reunification and reconstruction. Getting a glimpse behind the iron curtain has given me good perspective on what freedom really means and how much we take for granted in democratic countries. We have so, so much to be thankful for, even those of us who are “stuck” at work.

If you could magically gain one new quality or ability, what would it be?

Patience! The journey of getting to early retirement has forced me to sit with my impatience, which has been very humbling. I would love to be a person who can just be happy in the moment and not always be looking to the next thing, but I’m not there yet.

Are you reading any good books right now (or have any old faves you want to share)?

The best book I read this year was Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff — I love that book so much. And I find myself referring back to the War of Art all the time. Mr. ONL and I have a plan for our first year of retirement to read only books we’ve read in the past and loved. So I’ll definitely be revisiting the Harry Potter series, followed by my old favorites by Nabokov, Kundera, Hemingway and Tom Robbins. After that, I can’t wait to tackle all the BIG books I haven’t had time for — the Proust series, Infinite Jest, Gravity’s Rainbow.

What movies or TV shows could you watch again and again, without getting sick of them?

Anyone who follows me on Twitter already knows I love Clueless and the Harry Potter series more than anyone should, and I have the GIFs to prove it. I’d add The Princess Bride and Dazed and Confused to this list, too. On the TV side, every episode of Archer is an instant classic, and we watch SNL, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee religiously.

Coffee Date With Ms. Our Next Life

Tell me something you love most about where you live!

I could go on for days about how much we love our mountain town and the mountains themselves, but I think what I love most is that every season is great here. Everywhere else I’ve ever lived, part of the year was nice, but there was always some season you had to suffer through. We see the sun almost every day, which is hard to beat, and there’s always something to do outside.

What’s one of the best decisions you’ve made for yourself, so far this year?

I reprioritized my health. Work — especially all the travel — has taken a toll these past several years, but I made a decision this year that I’d eat better and exercise no matter what. It took a little time to figure out how to do that with all the travel especially, and the truth is that I am often trading sleep for exercise time, but I’m feeling so much better and I’ve dropped some weight. For too long I told myself, “I’ll get healthier once we retire,” but I’m glad I didn’t wait for that.

If you woke up tomorrow and had no plans and no work to do, how would you spend your day?

I think about this question often, because that’s what our days will be like very soon! I’d wake up with no alarm clock, walk the dogs, then take time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the actual dining table instead of at my desk. I’d spend the rest of the morning outside, doing whatever seems most fun that day — going for a hike or bike ride, or going skiing. In the afternoon, I’d spend a few hours writing or working on another creative project with a dog in my lap, and then cook a big dinner for Mr. ONL and some friends, followed by hours of conversation and doggie snuggles around the fire.

  • I think living near the mountains so you can do endless skiing and hiking would be a blast but I’ve never been able to make that happen yet. Perhaps in early retirement…

    Thanks for the great interview!

  • Ahhh! Two of my favorite blogger peeps teamed up. I love it when worlds collide like this. Amen for patience and making health a priority. And that FinCon photos makes me feel like buying my ticket for next year was a genius move.

    • Sooooo excited that you’re joining the FinCon fun next year! I honestly didn’t get much out of the sessions, but the time to meet so many of my favorite blog people in-person made it worth it ten times over. xoxo

  • Major girl power today! :)

    Love the action shot of the Ms. skiing. Really illustrates the true nature of what the ONL family enjoys doing far more than sitting in front of a computer (or on a plane) doing full-time work.

    Ah, doing things we enjoy instead of full-time work…now THAT’S the spice of life!

  • I so miss living by the mountains. People come to Florida all the time for vacation, and tell me how lucky I am to live here. But truth is I hate it, I’m hoping changing my financial life also means changing my location.

    Great interview

    • I have no doubt you’ll make it happen if it’s important to you to get back to the mountains! We were super fortunate to get to buy in an expensive place when the markets were down a few years ago — most mountain towns have a lot of second homes, which makes them more susceptible to market crashes, so if you put yourself in a position where you can pounce when the current bubble bursts, you should be sitting pretty.

  • ONL is such an inspiration to all of us in so many ways. I don’t really do cold climates, but if I did, I can see why mountain living would be one of the more peaceful and adventurous choices.

    Thanks to both of you for doing this interview.

  • Cait thank you so much for introducing us to Ms. ONL. I cannot wait to see the big reveal next year…once they finally retire. She provides such inspirational posts…just makes me yearn for retirement.

    Cait so glad you made it back from your American Road Trip…come back anytime (perhaps to the South….we have fantastic weather down here).

  • It’s amazing how much you can learn from someone in just a few questions/answers. I was wondering why Mr. & Ms. ONL faces were covered, but then I checked out their website. LOL 2017 is just around the corner so they won’t have to be patient much longer! Can’t wait to hear more about them!

  • Can’t wait until Ms. ONL starts blogging about the transition. Being in a stressful career with a lot of egos, I’m sure it’ll be different than some of the other quitting stories we’ve read. Best of luck!

  • I LOVE HANGING OUT WITH YOU BOTH! (yup… yelling about how I’m virtually in a coffee shop because I’m getting all crazed over here about this mashup!) Patience… ask my kids. I ain’t got it. :) Luckily, we all know it and they’re very good about calling me out on it. I gave them permission early on because I know it’s a weakness of mine. Also, I’m very excited about you revisiting the Harry Potter series. As you know, 2016 was a bit of a Harry Potter year for us… but even so… Florin just got “Harry Potter trivial pursuit” for her birthday and I’m embarrassingly terrible at it for being such a fan! NEXT STOP: My place for salmon!

    • Your place for salmon is happening! Question of when, not if. ;-) And I think I’d probably do badly at HP Trivial Pursuit, too, despite my love of it. There are soooo many details to keep track of! Can’t wait to revisit them all. :-)

  • As a fellow coffee snob, I salute you, Mrs. ONL!

    Dude the weekly posting schedule is a struggle. I have an ambitious 3-posts-a-week-or-more schedule and some days it’s hard! I sometimes will reach out to Mr. Picky Pincher, Picky Nikki, or Frugal Phyllis for help, so that’s always good to have a network to leverage!

    Also, kudos for maintaining some online anonymity! It’s really really hard to keep this stuff under wraps while writing a blog, so I salute you yet again. :)

    • Do you think you get more out of it by posting 3 times a week or more? For a while, I was doing three posts, and it was too much. (I also found that it didn’t boost traffic to have that third post, FYI.) So I dropped the Friday ones, and have felt a lot better about all of it. More engagement, just as much traffic, but less insanity to get it done!

  • What a fun post! I’ve found that the question “what would you do if you didn’t have to work” is the key to explaining financial independence to critics. They may say they like their job or that work is just a normal part of life. However, they always have plenty of ideas on how they would rather be spending their time.

    We love bonfires. Maybe some day we can enjoy one together :)

  • Oh my goodness I love this! Makes me regret my decision to cancel my trip to FinCon. And, I OWE YOU A COFFEE! I was going to buy you one at FinCon, and then I didn’t show. Next time we’re in the same region it’s an almond milk latte on me:)

  • Oh hi there! Love the photo of you two and Kara and Taylor! Funny how much you can feel like you know people who you haven’t actually met in person. (Actually I have met Kara in person though!)

    SNL is really great this season, I feel. Anyone who hasn’t watched the David Pumpkins skit yet should go do so immediately.

    • Hahahaha — David Pumpkins. I love that there’s so much great feminist comedy these days, too. Sam Bee is my spirit animal, plus love Broad City, Amy Schumer, etc. And I know exactly what you mean about knowing people you haven’t met — you’re one of those people I feel like I know and consider a “real” friend. :-)

  • This was a lot of fun getting to know Ms. ONL better! So many fun details – like your future reading list and morning breakfast routine. I too share making progress in many areas of life (writing, exercise, nutrition), but sleep seems to keep suffering! I just want to keep reading and thinking:) Sigh.

    Thanks to both of your for an interesting Q/A!

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