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Around 2010 we began to realize that we had more control over our lives than previously thought. With this newfound knowledge, we assessed our current situation and noticed our current life plan hadn’t been updated in a very long time. We were living what most would consider a normal traditional life. We had average jobs with average pay, took 2 weeks of vacation per year, bought a house, was about to get married, and were saving for retirement. We were following a plan that we didn’t create, it was just the only one we knew.
After living life on autopilot so long, it took some time to figure out what we wanted. So, the question became, what the hell do we want? That question would take quite a bit of time to figure out. The only life planning I had done was back in 1999 during a class in High School when I was asked where I would be in 10 years. I spent all of about 5 minutes to map out that major life decision. My answer was that I would be working as an automotive painter with an awesome wife, dog, and house. Was I still following that clueless high school kid’s 5 minute life design eleven years later?
The answer I gave that day was simply the average person’s life, because I didn’t know what I wanted. This plan was easy to attain, except the wife. She took quite a while to find. Somehow that design managed to be accurate 11 years later, which meant I was still following that clueless kid’s design. But a major overhaul of this plan was long overdue, time to do some life planning.
The steps required to create our updated design would prove to be far more challenging. First you must look within yourself, try to find what brings happiness into your life and what doesn’t. Introspection is difficult, when I began to look within myself, I stumbled upon things that I didn’t like. Dealing with things in your past that aren’t pleasant won’t be the highlight of your day but they should be to be dealt with sooner rather than later. For example, noticing that you have been coasting through life for the last decade. Addressing these unpleasant issues will allow you to forgive yourself and move on.
Introspection was not something that came natural to me. Examining feelings and emotions, that’s for people with problems and the weak minded. Right? Umm, no. Doing this is also part of personal growth and is needed in order to become a better person.
You can’t figure out what truly matters in your life unless you observe how those things make you feel. I started with positive and fun activities because those were the easiest to find. Here are a few examples.
- Spending Time with Spouse
- Reading Various Subjects of Interest
- Riding a Motorcycle
- Walking the Dog
- Accomplishing Something Challenging
- Quality Time with Friends/Family
Here is a few of the negatives that I found brought nothing good into our lives or were holding us back.
- Current Employers/Jobs
- Smoking Cigarettes
- Old Fixer Upper House
- Wasteful Spending
We began by removing or altering the negative things in order to add more time for the positive. Depending on your personality, it could be easier to add and subtract these items slowly over time or it might be better to just rip off the band-aid and get it done quickly. There is no one size fits all for something like this. As we continued to make changes we noticed that some of the changes worked and some didn’t. Some would take a weekend and others would take years to finish.
All of these changes are leading us to our ideal life. We asked ourselves to try and envision what the most amazing life we could dream up would look like. We both had a slightly different vision, but there was quite a bit of overlap. Here is a few of our top ranked items that overlapped (Generalized):
- Being Mobile (Traveling)
- Part Time/Seasonal Job
- Making an Impact on the World
- Simplify Our Lives
- Experience New Things
- Being Full of Laughter and Happiness
The idea of working part time or seasonal kept coming up in our conversations about our ideal life. We were spending 8-10 hours per day working at our regular jobs, and that didn’t include the time to get ready, commute time, lunch, or the decompression time once we finally got home. Once you think about it, that is an awful lot of time and money to spend on a house that sits empty all day. While assessing the employment portion of my own life, there was one thing that became abundantly clear. I only have one life to live and I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend it around the horrible stench of automotive paint. I still hadn’t came up with a plan to get out of the industry, I was trying to stick it out until the after we got rid of the house and had more time to find something else.
There is a quote that really stuck with me by Ernie Zelinski in his book How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, “Resist accepting society’s way of living as the right one. Your primary duty is to be yourself. Invent a lifestyle that expresses who you are. In the end, there is no right way of living. There is only your way.”
Now that we have somewhat of an idea of our ideal lifestyle design. What steps need to be taken to get there? Here are some of the steps we took:
- Finished Fixing Up House and Sold It
- Downsized to a Smaller Home
- Changed Occupations/Employers
- Quit Smoking
- Cut All Wasteful Spending
- Simplified Life
- Save Large Nest Egg
- Learn to Invest Our Savings
In spring 2014 the big final push to get rid of the house began. It took us right up to our breaking point. I was working my normal day job and at night worked on fixing the house until I went to bed. Most days, I would wake up around 4 AM to work on the house some more before going back to the day job. I wasn’t sleeping more than 6 hours a night for months.
During this time our dog (Roxie) had started to display signs of pain and started acting differently. Because I was so focused on the house and day job, I basically didn’t notice. Luckily, Adrianne was present enough that she did notice. It was eye opening for me once I realized that I wasn’t mentally present enough to notice those changes, which could lead to her suffering. If you can’t be present while living life, what’s the point in living it? That is something I hope to never repeat, from now on we will be living life daily. She ended up passing away the day before the house went on the market. She had cancer that was rapidly spreading throughout her body. The house sold quickly and we moved into a rental that was half the size of our previous home. What was supposed to be a happy end to this chapter of our lives, turned out to be bittersweet.
While that house caused a fair amount of grief for both of us, I’m still glad we had the privilege of living there. We had to constantly repair things, be cold in the winter, and rake the leaves of 18 maple trees which took days. However, we created some great memories there. We also learned so much about ourselves and each other during this time in the old fixer upper. Building sweat equity was very beneficial as well, but it wasn’t bringing joy into our lives, so it had to go.
Now that we have created this excellent but still evolving plan and are implementing it. Here is something for you to remember, Life Does NOT Follow Your Plans. You can’t control everything, be prepared to adjust your plans as needed.
In August 2015, we were implementing our plan and getting close to a major change in employment. The plan was that Adrianne would quit her job, while I would continue to work another 6 months. Then in spring, I would quit my job and we would start our RV adventure in the RV we still haven’t purchased yet. What actually happened was very different than what we planned. Three days before Adrianne was going to give her two week notice, I was told that I would be laid off in 2 weeks. So much for that plan.
We came up with a new plan that next evening. Adrianne would still quit her job but now we would try to purchase an RV, sell all of our stuff, move into the RV, and head south before winter. It was almost October at this point, so we would really be pushing it.
October 1st 2015, the first day we were both unemployed and scrambling to find an RV. We found ourselves sitting in an excellent 1997 Foretravel Motorhome and we are discussing how much to offer for it. Adrianne’s phone starts to ring, she answers it and starts talking to someone about a job offer. I hear her say, let me consider your offer and I’ll get back to you. She interviewed for that job months ago, didn’t hear anything, and assumed she didn’t get the job. Here we go again, time for another plan.
Over those 2 months in 2015 our plan changed dramatically multiple times. We learned a few things about making plans that year. All new plans would be more of an open design, doing so would allow for any more changes that would come our way. We were trying to make life fit into this perfect box that we created.
In the end, we decided Adrianne would take the job and I would stay unemployed while taking care of everything else. Both of us like the idea of part time jobs, but with this new opportunity we needed to try something different. We would try it for 6 months and then reassess whether or not it’s working for us. While this experiment wasn’t without difficulties, I do believe it was a success. The plan has held up for 2.5 years, but now it’s time to move on in a different direction.
All future plans we create will be left open, this will allow us to be flexible and jump on any opportunities that come our way. Our lives have shown us that a rigid plan simply won’t work for us. Personal growth will continue to be a priority of our future plans. It has proven to be extremely valuable during high stress rapidly evolving stages in our lives. We created many different blueprints of our future plans, possibly involving international travel, buying a small cabin in the woods somewhere, or settling down in a cool town we find along the way. We will continue to move forward and update the plan as we go. Where we end up, nobody knows. Especially us…
Looking back, if I was asked, what was the most beneficial step taken to get us where we are today? I would say that simplifying our lives was the most beneficial. It allowed us to cut wasteful spending, cherish the things we do have, save massive amounts of money, and opened our eyes to new possibilities that we didn’t know existed. Such as, traveling around the country in an RV. What an amazing journey it has been so far and we haven’t even started the RV adventure yet.