The end of March signaled the two year mark of quitting our jobs and beginning this nomad lifestyle. So, it seems appropriate to take a few minutes to explore how it feels to be unemployed for two years. Noelle here, by the way.
This will be a short post. It feels great!
Just kidding, as there’s so much more to it than that. On the one hand I can’t really believe it’s been two years! On the other hand, with as much time as we’ve spent in Colorado Springs caring for Steve’s parents, it seems like a lifetime. We didn’t really expect or plan for that wrinkle but I do feel thankful that we had the time available to spend with them.
For our first eighteen months, we still had Cobra insurance, so I still felt a bit like a normal person. Once it ran out, I somehow feel “less than”. We got coverage, but we’ve not used it, because we both have this fear that they’ll somehow decide we didn’t really qualify for a lower income plan. I’m not sure how we do actually. Yes, it’s true we don’t have paying jobs or income, but we do have money. So I guess the lack of health insurance has been weird for me. It’s definitely what will drag us back into the workplace. Of that, I have no doubt.
The Nest Egg
When we first started our journey, we set a limit of how much of our nest egg we want intact at the end of our exploring. Next month or the month after, we will dip below that comfort level. It’s the money we set aside to buy another house. To start normal life again. I feel peaceful about dipping into it, as I’m really enjoying life on the road with Steve. However, when I think of not being able to pay cash for a home, I feel some anxiety. We’d paid off our last house years before we sold it. And then we just kept making the mortgage payment to ourselves. Not just the real payment either, but the double one which we’d gotten used to. So, knowing that now we’ll have to have a mortgage again when we go back to regular life feels unsettling.
How does it really feel?
I keep asking myself how it feels to be unemployed for two years. And it’s harder to answer that I expected. I haven’t had a technical job for years, since I left semiconductor manufacturing. And frankly, I miss the mental challenges of pushing myself daily to learn more. After that I worked as a funeral director for a few years. And I loved it. Except I really hated working evenings and weekends. Back then Steve traveled for work and was only home on weekends. So when I had to work and we didn’t see each other, it wasn’t ideal. But that was a great heart job. I think it taught me how to be a kinder human, which was certainly a skill I needed to learn.
a little bit of my journey
Then I took an administrative role in a small engineering firm, a role which I suffered through for 8 1/2 years before it finally came to an end. The people were good (mostly) and the flexibility of being low on the totem pole meant that I could take time off for volunteering and then when my mom got sick. After we moved downtown, I worked at an industrial construction company. A whole new kind of industry, so I got to learn and flex those brain muscles again. That short time was probably my favorite job yet. I learned, organized, supported and grew. Super fun.
All that to say I like working hard. I know what it means working right to the legal limit of the amount of overtime allowed in a pay period. Been there and done that for a bunch of years. So now, to be foot loose and fancy free, it’s weird. I really like the freedom, but I miss the community of coworkers. I miss having a group of colleagues to discuss issues with, to learn from and maybe even to share my own knowledge with.
Steve and I found a strong sense of community with a marriage group we volunteer in. Although we’ve not been involved for the past two travel years, I hesitate to use the past tense for our involvement in it. We helped teach communication skills to married couples and we met some amazing couples along the way. Some of our dearest friends we’ve met in this volunteer community.
So having no work or volunteer community plays a huge part in how it feels to be unemployed for two years. I just miss people. Not everyday, lol, but some days. I miss companionship of a coworker who can tell at a glance when you’re having a great day and they’re right there to celebrate. Or when you’re having a not so great day and they offer to go out for lunch. It’s a sense of belonging that’s missing now. In the past, I often felt defined by my work self, so I don’t always even know what to talk about now, when it isn’t about work.
Check out Steve’s view of the dream vs reality of traveling for one year.
What life’s like now
Today, as I type, we’re boondocking on Hole-in-the-rock Road in Escalante, Utah. This is our third night here. It’s beautiful. Also it’s very hot. I’m sitting outside the camper, in the shade of its awning. There’s a slight breeze blowing, but sweat is still pooling and streaming down my back. Glamourous, huh? Yesterday we hiked to Zebra Slot Canyon. It was a fairly easy hike without much elevation gain or loss to a short stretch of accessible slot canyon. On the way back, I kind of melted. I’m not sure what happens to me physiologically in the heat, but it’s not the same reaction as Steve. Or even as other hikers we meet along the way.
My legs get heavy and my head turns beet red. Each step can feel like I’m dragging my legs through deep sand. Oh wait! That part was literal. 🙂 It was very deep sand for most of the hike. Anyway, we got back to Cupcake where I collapsed in savasana pose for about fifteen minutes before I felt revived. Savasana is the end pose for most yoga practices. It literally breaks down to mean “asana” pose and “sava” corpse. So, yeah I fell into the corpse pose for a little bit.
This morning’s hike took us meandering through desert also, but just as we got “too” hot, we’d intersect the Escalante River again and have to cross it. The water only came up to our knees or lower and it was gloriously refreshing. A little hiking mixed with cooling water. Throw in an ancient cliff dwelling and an arch for a perfect day!
Living in the moment
This is a good kind of living. I feel incredibly alive when I’m baking in the sun or wading in a river/creek. I don’t so much love the dusty wind of the desert, but I do love that today was an 18 lizard day! That’s a new record, as before I’ve had two tying 11 lizard days, but 18! Too many to ask for. And we even saw a small snake sunning on a rock by the river. Totally understood his reasoning, as I was finding rocks in the river to sit on, myself.
How it feels to be unemployed for two years
That’s how it mostly feels to be unemployed for two years. I miss our kids and grands, you’ve heard me say that before. But FaceTime is a blessing. Sometimes, our grandson Hunter just randomly FaceTimes us. How cool is that? He’s 12, but he still wants to call his Grammie. My heart sings! His brother, Carter, is generally in the room, but not as interested as Hunter. I miss them. I still say all their names as I hike. All of our grandkids have two syllable first and last names, so I start with the oldest and go down the line. It’s a walking meditation of sorts, while I think of them and send them a little loving kindness. While the missing of family is real and it stays with me, overall I feel fulfilled in life at this point.
We have all that we need in Cupcake. Plus there’s a bunch of stuff in storage in Portland, that we need less and less of as time passes. We have laughter and disagreements too. It’s similar to thru-hiking, where we just need to make sure we have enough water and some propane. Steve and I rarely know where we’ll stay more than a night or two at a time.
If you’re thinking of making some life changes, then I say go for it! There’s just no guarantee about tomorrow. So today, I feel fulfilled in this quiet, meandering life we’re carving out. I am pleased with how it feels to be unemployed for two years.
I hope you find your “just right” place too! Drop me a note and tell me about your plans. I’d love to hear what you’re thinking or how you’re feeling about this time in your own life!