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.
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!
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.
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.