If your dreams don’t scare you they aren’t big enough
Last week Jason and I both told our employers we will be leaving our jobs in February. I can’t begin to describe how surreal it feels to be here after fifteen years of dreaming and planning. I am also surprised by how terrifying it is to take this giant leap into semi-retirement.
The plan we made in 2004 has evolved over the years. Goals and timelines have shifted, but the overall theme has remained the same. As great as our careers have been, we’ve wanted something different almost from the very beginning. We are tired of the grind. We are ready to stop living Bill Murray’s life from the 1993 movie Groundhog Day. You know, the one where he relives the same day over and over. We sleep, commute, work, repeat and dream of our next vacation. Don’t get me wrong, we’re incredibly grateful for the security and comfort our careers have provided. But we’re ready to live different lives. We’re ready to truly live Evans Outdoor Adventures.
Originally, the goal was full retirement by 55. As we’ve progressed through our mid-40s, and with Jason now staring down the barrel of 50, we have decided that we don’t want another seven years of this lifestyle. We are pulling the trigger significantly earlier than expected knowing that we’ll need to supplement our income. I had hoped to hang in there at least another year or two, but special projects, promotions, and increasing overtime expectations at work are leading to further discontent with our work-life balance.
As terrifying as it is exciting, the time is now. We are taking the big leap. This isn’t easy for a couple of conservative individuals who have always taken the safe road. Most of our family and close friends have been very supportive. Time and again we hear, “I wish I could do something like that.” But they’ve also had some legitimate questions and concerns.
I thought you like your jobs and you work for such good employers! Yes, we both like what we do and are incredibly grateful to our employers. But we don’t want our careers to be the focus of our lives any more. Jason has worked for the same phenomenally successful company for over 22 years. They were 100+ employees when he started and now they employee thousands worldwide. His career there is what makes all this possible. I have been blessed with the nicest boss in the world who has treated me with more respect than I ever deserved. Our CEO is a fun and brilliant man who I love talking about the outdoors with. And my coworkers, they make every day rewarding. I will miss walking the halls to the sounds of their greetings and the sight of their smiles. No doubt about it, this transition is bittersweet. We are leaving great companies at the peak of our careers. But as my dad says, “you can always get another job.” What we can’t get back is our youth. Daily aches and pains already remind us that we are alive. Our hobbies require a fair amount of physical conditioning and we need to savor this middle age thing as long as we can.
Are you going to work AT ALL?! At first, maybe, maybe not. We are currently working on some remote work possibilities. But if those fall through, consider us on an extended leave of absence—gainfully unemployed if you will. We want some time to decompress and reinvent ourselves. But yes, we will be supplementing our income and have several good options for doing so.
How can you afford to do this? This is a legitimate question since neither of us come from wealthy families, neither have inherited money, nor do we play the lottery. For many years, we both worked and went to college. We lived an extremely frugal lifestyle and self-funded twelve combined years of college with zero student debt. Once we graduated, we didn’t change our lifestyle much. We didn’t buy a bigger house. We didn’t take fancier vacations. We didn’t acquire expensive tastes or hobbies. Really, it wasn’t that hard—we discovered that we both hate spending money. As our salary increased and our bills didn’t, the dream of a different life quickly began to take shape. As un-American as it seemed, we lived significantly below our means and made being debt free our number one goal. Being debt free and having financial freedom would bring the opportunity to live a dream.
What are you going to do with all your free time? You have to do something! Well now that’s a silly question! We’re going to do what the Evans do best—adventure! We plan to hike, backpack, fish, and photograph our way across this diverse nation. And we truly hope you will join us here for some (or all!) of our adventures! We also hope that family and friends will join us on the road like our friends Mick and Suzy who are already planning an October adventure with us.
Will you have a real home? For the first couple of years, my family home will serve as a base while we take extended trips in our RV. This beautiful home full of so many wonderful memories was designed and built by my Grandpa and decorated by my Grandma. We are caring for it until my uncle retires here. This situation relieves my family of added financial burden and gives us some time to downsize and adjust to our new life on the road in a 28′ motorhome. It also gives us important time at home with family and friends. Do we want to travel full time? We think yes, but we won’t truly know until we hit the open road. There is simply no way for us to comprehend our new life.
What about your boys? We have two very spoiled ragdoll cats. They are 12-year-old litter mates with personalities more similar to lap dogs than cats. They follow me everywhere and are my loving little shadows. They are very chill for cats… except when it comes to traveling. They hate to travel, but they are coming with us. I see a big adjustment period, but we have to make it work. We’ve taken them out to the RV for a couple acclimation visits to get them comfortable with their new home. So far so good. As soon as the weather improves a little, we’ll start taking them out for short trips close to home in preparation for extended travels.
Do you really think this will all go exactly how you planned it? Absolutely not. Life is what happens while you are making other plans. But we’re going to try our best to enjoy the ride that we are given. Life is more about attitude and gratitude than anything else. If we are grateful for the blessings of every experience and every day, how can we be disappointed? But who knows? Perhaps two years from now you’ll find us happily working back in a cubical full time. This seems unlikely, but the unknown is just part of the adventure.
Friends of ours retired and hit the road a year ago. We’ve watched Tom and Claudia with great interest as they’ve adapted quickly and are loving their new lifestyle. Our circumstances are very different—they are a generation ahead and therefore don’t have some of the challenges that we face such as healthcare and so many years before we can tap retirement accounts. But Tom is a very intelligent man and he thinks deeply about things before speaking. There is great wisdom in his words. I recently asked Tom if he could do it all over, would he make the change sooner. His words of advice really nailed the biggest question that I have. Perhaps just as important as the money concerns, will I be able to apply the breaks when I’ve always been so driven in my career? “You are going to have to decide how important your working lives are to your sense of personal satisfaction. Today you both are making large contributions to the worlds that you live in. If you retire a lot of that will be lost. Of course you gain a bunch of freedom at the same time. Will the net be a gain or a loss? Will the gains in freedom outweigh these loses? Only you can answer that.” Wise words Tom. Only time will be able to answer that important question.
And so our transition begins. During these last months at work, our weekends will be busy getting the motorhome ready to hit the road. As we progress, you’ll start to see some new content hitting Evans Outdoor Adventures. We’d like to tell you a little about why we chose a class C motorhome and about the upgrades we are making to it. Later, we’ll write about our experiences boondocking across The West. And, as always, we’ll share great hikes and beautiful locations with you…and likely a few great burger spots.
To close, I’d like to share some song lyrics from the Canadian rock band Rush. Their songs Working Man and Making Memories show the contrast between our old life and what we are hoping for in our new life. For years we’ve been the Working Man, “I got no time for living I’m working all the time. It seems to me I could live my life a lot better than I think I am. I guess that’s why they call me the working man.” But we’re trading that in for Making Memories,
There’s a time for feeling as good as we can
The time is now, and there’s no stopping us
There’s a time for living as high as we can
Behind us you will only see our dust
So we’ll just keep smiling, move onward every day
Try to keep our thoughts away from home
We’re travelling all around, no time to settle down
Satisfy our wanderlust to roam
You know we’re having good days
And we hope they’re going to last
Our future still looks brighter than our past
We feel no need to worry no reason to be sad
Our memories remind us maybe road life’s not so bad