5 years of freedom
and trying to make sure that timeline continues... I know, I know. I've been noticing for a while that our attention seems to be directed towards instagram and other quicker/easier modes of posting updates rather than updating the blog, but a month between posts?? That's my bad, and really, mostly ridiculous for a guy who used to update daily in the peak of our travels. I guess on the upside, that means (since the blog has now mostly become either trip report or counseling session via writing for me) that's proof that there's very little I have to deal with or work through emotionally. ;)
The time in between posts shouldn't lead you to believe we haven't been busy... in fact it's been quite the opposite. Before and after our time at Overland Expo, we spent in Portland shopping for real estate. Yes, like a house. No...that's not because we're looking to settle down or stop living in our van, but because we are realizing that to continue this little adventure is going to require continuing to find ways to make money.
Here's the thing... we just celebrated our 5year anniversary of freedom from jobs and of living on the road. Wow. That's unbelievable even to us, and we're the ones living it. When we left for our trip through Mexico and Central America in 2012 we thought we might (at best) be able to survive for a year or two off our savings. Once we came back and started trying to find ways to continue our minimal existence and live without jobs it seemed a stretch that we could even make it another year off what was left. Now, here we are 5 years in and are convinced we will never take a job working for someone else again. We are, officially, broken... in all the right ways.
For those of you missed it, we used our instagram account for a little trip down memory lane, reminiscing about all the adventures over those years...feel free to give it a look.
We have now successfully created a lifestyle that works for us both short and long term. One that includes more travel, freedom and happiness than we've ever known in our live's, but also means having a bit of a budget and living nomadically in our van. For now, we wouldn't change a thing.
But...we're also well aware that we didn't get to where we are by taking the easy path and watching or hoping for the outcome we wanted. We're also aware that while we are very much enjoying our lifestyle that we may not choose it forever and don't want to be forced into anything later because of a lack of effort or foresight now. It's also coming to light that we have a very strong desire to never be forced to say "no"...to anything. I realize it's a bit like wanting to have your cake and eat it too...but we still want more.
We want to be able to say yes when friends invite us on an exciting trip/destination even if we can't drive the van there to meet them. We realize that we are feeling a tinge of jealousy as we watch our friends with high paying jobs spend oodles of money to take trips to the islands or go on safaris or go to India for a month. We are seeing ourselves starting to say yes to extravagant dinners and events from time to time even if we don't need them as a normal part of our lives.
We wouldn't take our jobs back in order to go on/do any of these things and are thrilled for how many things we already get to say yes to...but the point is that as we look to the future we realize what we really want is to have the funds to go/be anywhere we want (whether we dream it up or whether our friends invite us). It seems almost greedy to be jobless and still want enough money to go/be anywhere in the world whenever we want... but I guess that's not going to stop us from trying to figure out how to do both. After all, what's the use of having cake if you cant eat it (i've never understood this phrase).
Frankly, we also are well aware that while we live comfortably right now, those luxurious options simply won't be an option in the future even if things stay the same as they are right now. Furthermore, IF anything should happen to our current environment (we no longer choose to or can no longer live in our van, the economy takes a nosedive, etc) our current lifestyle will no longer be possible. We aren't sitting around stressing every day about that possibility, but we also have ample time to discuss, plan, scheme what path(s) we should take. Do we make another investment, do we put the money into zenbox and turn it into a "real" business that tries to make money, do we flip a van or two instead of flipping houses??
All of these have their strengths/weaknesses... but we know one thing for certain- Rather than sit and wait for that day of bad news to come, we'd prefer to be proactive and the only way we've ever really known/trusted to invest/make money (other than taking a job/boss) is in real estate.
The timing also seems to be right for us now because: - we seem to have taken enough work/clients last year that banks actually think we're financeable (aka. they trust us with their money). I've really never understood what makes us financeable, and i'm even more bewildered now that we've been jobless for 5 years, but if they are willing to give us money we're going to take it and use it to the best of our advantage. - our worst investment in life (our purchase/renovation in ogden, UT) finally sold after 10 years of testing (and failing) the market. We didn't exactly walk away with a fortune...in fact, we barely broke even after 10 years, even if you don't count our sweat equity (blood, sweat and tears) of working almost nonstop to renovate it for a year.But hey, even getting our money back out seems like a huge win compared to what we thought would happen... so we now needed to find a place to move/exchange that money to an investment we know/trust/understand (which means the insanely hot Portland real estate market). This creates any number of problems, because despite having the best real estate agent in the biz, we simply don't have enough cash or the ability to get a large enough loan to buy what we want or where we want.
This started a month-long roller coaster of emotions that swung back and forth from "YAY, we can afford an investment" to "we can only afford THAT, way out HERE??" and back to being thrilled the conversation was even going on. We also felt a lot of pressure because there's a timeline on the exchange and because we see fed raising the interest rates, which could actually make our loan no longer possible.
Regardless... we did a lot of checking in with ourselves and our egos, regretting that we couldn't compete and kept losing properties to actual investors and their big cash offers and talked about simply taking our money (and the tax hit for not exchanging it) and forgetting about the whole idea. But eventually we came to our senses... we found and bought the worst house in the best neighborhood we could afford, oddly the same as we did long ago when we first bought/invested.
This one hurts a bit more as we've had to come to grips with the changes (both in our status and in the portland market...seriously, when did homes in portland go from under 200k to pushing a million dollars??), but you don't get ahead by doing nothing or by sulking. As a wise man once said..."you gotta get on the train, and if the caboose is the only seat you can afford... than get on the caboose!"
We committed and bought, are now looking for renters and hope that this home (eventually) does what our other home does...which is allow us to continue to living off of passive income rather than clocking in and out every day (or working to save some X-million dollar savings to make us feel comfortable retiring at 68, 69... 85, whatever year our generation will actually get to retire.
We have already started drawing up remodel plans and creating spreadsheets for the projects we will do to improve the property just as soon as we have some money to do so...but as for now we are as deep as we can get in the property and need to wait a bit and see what happens to the neighborhood, the economy, the market, etc. Which means, we go back to the drawing board for more scheming, planning, dreaming about what else we can do to make money and secure our all-too-unreal lifestyle for as long as we possibly can.