This is a guest post from my friend Nick. It’s a refreshingly honest story about two people who are doing things their own way—including shifting gears and moving in a new direction.
Two years ago, my wife and I started planning a new life. I worked as an engineer at a well-established company and Hanna was in physical therapy school. We liked our lives ok, but we wanted more. I couldn’t stomach working for someone else and Hanna couldn’t bear the idea of working for the same employer for too long.
But most of all, we wanted to travel. We dreamed of days spent hiking through Glacier National Park and nights around campfires. We longed for sand between our toes and the smell of the ocean. Instagram took over our phones, our time, and our thoughts. Travel was everything.
On top of that, the timing was perfect. Hanna and I are young and we don’t have kids. Now is when we should be running off on an adventure. After all, when else are we going to have this opportunity? The plan was for her to take a travel physical therapy position after graduation, and get sent to a new city every three months. In the meantime, I had two years to build up a freelance business on the back of blogging so that I could work remotely.
For two years, we both worked 70+ hours a week. Hanna focused on knocking grad school out of the park, and I built my freelance business on the nights and weekends. Other than being tired all the time and gaining weight, things couldn’t have gone any better.
Everything worked out according to plan. We bought our Airstream Safari in November of 2016 and began renovating it. New paint, new floors, new cushions, new curtains, and new wall decor. We spent the summer after Hanna’s graduation finishing up renovations and even took a practice trip.
It was all so exciting and the timing was perfect. Hanna got a job the last week of August and I was able to quit my day job the week before we left. This allowed us to seamlessly roll from my health insurance to hers in September. Literally, everything went so according to plan it was almost uncanny.
But that’s when things abruptly stopped following the plan.
We’d been so busy building our dream for the past two years, but when we got there we realized that it wasn’t what we wanted. Less than a month in, we were questioning everything.
Sure, the travel is fun. We love our Airstream and we love being with our pets. We spent our second weekend traveling at the beach. It was everything we wanted—except, we weren’t happy. We didn’t feel the joy we thought we would. We missed our family, I struggled to find time for my business, and our budget was bursting at the seams.
Everything we’d been working towards for two years finally paid off, but we didn’t like it once we got there. We didn’t want this life.
A couple weeks ago, Hanna and I sat down and talked about our life. We discussed houses and kids and travel and family and careers. After talking in circles for hours, we decided to rank the things that were most important to us over the next 5 years.
Here they are (in order):
- Our individual relationships with God
- Our relationship with each other
- Our relationships with our family and grandparents
- Getting into shape and focusing on our health
- Growing my business so that Hanna has the option to quit her job in a couple of years
- Saving money for a down payment on a house
- Saving money for adoption (this a personal thing we feel called to do)
Did you see that? When we were honest with ourselves, travel didn’t even make the top five. It barely made the top ten. And while some of these things can be accomplished while traveling, others can’t.
The way Hanna and I like to travel includes eating at cool local restaurants and going to places that cost money. But we realized we can’t travel the way we want AND save enough money for our other goals on the list—the goals that we ranked higher than travel.
Secondly, it’s difficult for me to focus on my business the way I want with an unstable lifestyle. Granted, we’re slow traveling and not moving every day, but we still don’t have a routine—and I thrive on routine. We want to get out and explore the places we’re visiting, which means less time to grow the business. Again, a business that needs to support us fully in just a couple of years.
Lastly, and most importantly, family. I recognize that lots of people don’t have the options we do. They have to move away for a job or for their kids or for many other reasons. But we have flexibility. We can practically live wherever we want. But we’ve realized that we would kick ourselves one day if we chose to actively not live near our grandparents right now.
So I asked one more question before we finished our talk, to make sure it wasn’t all about money: “What if money wasn’t an option, and we could still travel the way we wanted and hit the savings goals, then would we do it?”
The answer: no.
Even if we could travel in the way we wanted, we still want to stop.
We still love traveling and living in the Airstream. Hanna’s still going to be a travel physical therapist and I’m still going to grow my business remotely. But now, instead of traveling most of the time, we’re planning to take more positions near home. We plan to travel a couple times a year in-between Hanna’s rotations on shorter trips.
I recognize this isn’t for everyone. Some people full-time RV and love every minute. Others would’ve never even tried because they know that life isn’t for them. In our case, we had to taste it. We had to learn that we’re both extreme planners and often become blind by being hyper-focused on the goal.
We’re learning how important self-awareness is and that plans change. For now, we’re going to live life three months at a time. We’re going to look up more often and take more deep breaths. We’re asking more questions like: “Is this what we actually want?” and “Do we feel this is the direction we should continue going?”
I’m not sure what the future holds, but I do know that we’re going to be more flexible. We’re going to make sure that what we think we want, is what we actually want.
Nick True is a married twenty-something from Tennessee and father to three fur-children. He focuses on helping young professionals create a personal plan with their money, based on their own tendencies and emotions, via his website Mapped Out Money.