Deciding “where to go next” is a big topic for us. Here’s my answer; I don’t know. We had a rough master plan put together when we left our jobs two years ago. Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, India and a solid maybe to somewhere European. Toss in a smattering of random trips, and we’d arrive at a complete 24 months of adventure, and we’d then head back to our respective careers.

A strange thing happened about midway through our two years…a world wide pandemic and family challenges. Instead of global exploration we returned to the United States to sit and wait, and wait.

After waiting, and waiting…we decided to purchase a truck and a truck camper to explore the United States. We’re now traveling around the United States in our camper truck. It’s a country mile from what we planned, yet, here we are, adjusting our plans of “where to go next” on a sometimes daily basis.

How did we did decide to pull the trigger and hit the open road two years ago?

When to go: pulling the trigger

I had to admit to myself that I wanted more out of this phase of my life than a steady paycheck. (It’s also OK to admit that a steady paycheck is the most important thing in your life!) Being rather risk adverse, I remained at my last job for 18 years.

The happiness arc of my last job

If you know me, you know about my love of graphs! Here’s a graph I began creating in 2017. Calendar year versus happiness. I started reverse plotting my major job accomplishments and my level of job happiness for each of the 18 years. The blue dots told a clear story of decreasing happiness and diminishing career accomplishments. I stayed at that job, too long, out my own fear of change. (On a side note, I took out specific product names and the initials of my managers, but you get the overall graph concept, yes?)

I found “The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)” to be a great read.

Where to go next: don’t wait for retirement

We made a decision, a long time ago, that we didn’t want to wait until retirement to really enjoy life. Four heart surgeries gave me the gift of a honest, self-administered, longevity evaluation. As much as I may not want to admit it, I may not be immortal. Not to worry though, I’m still buying green bananas.

I sat through an employer sponsored 401k investment seminar a few weeks before I left my job. I hadn’t attended one of these little ditties in about a decade, so it seemed like I was overdue! The 401k folks were aggressively pushing the concept that we should plan our financial investments as if we are going to live to be 100 years old.  I was mortified when a co-worker began quietly weeping.  Seriously?  100 years old?  Shut the front door on your way out!  I’ve stuck a fork in the dirt at 85 years old.  Maybe I’ll live longer than 85, but 100? I think that having an honest discussion, about our own projected “life arc”, is beneficial.

Where to go next: employment future

I worry much less today, than I worried when I was employed, about my employment future.  The worst has happened! Oh No!  I’m unemployed!  Two years ago I was a bit consumed with the thought of entering the job market again, keeping up my contact list, engaging with my former colleagues, etc. 

Today, I’m not as worried about it.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still on my mind. Yet, whatever is going to happen, will happen. I do keep in loose contact with a few former colleagues, but that’s more out of a desire to stay in contact with them and maintain friendships, not out of a desire to maintain business contacts.

Where to go next: What do you “do” for a living?

I’m still not great about answering the question about what I “do” for a living.  I’ve been working with my dad setting up his financial investments.  The financial advisor asked me what I “do”.  Uh, “unemployed?  Retired?” (Even using “retired” word is enough to send my own financial advisor into heart palpation’s!)   When I filled out legal paperwork to assist with his finances, the paperwork asked for my employer and address.  Uh….”Self employed?”

I suppose it’s natural. People that we meet want to know what we “do” for a living. We’re still relatively young, we can move quickly for a good buffet, so we don’t necessarily look to be a exact match for so many other older nomadic travelers. It costs money to live a nomadic lifestyle and everyone kind of wants to know how we afford this lifestyle.

In non-official discussions I now respond to the employment question with something along the lines of “I’m a recovering Engineer.” If they press for more of an answer I’ll give them “Once upon a time a I was a fairly smart fellow. Today, not so much.”

Where to go next: LinkedIn (thinks it) has the answer!

LinkedIn still drives me a bit batty with jobs that look fantastic!  About once a month a really plum looking job will float through my In-Box, and it still gives me pause.  If I were at home in Portland, I’d jump on these opportunities, but I’m not in Portland, so I don’t. 

Perhaps it’s my mindset, and not the jobs themselves, that’s slowly evolving. It seems like there are more jobs that are appealing to me today than were appealing to me two years ago. This may also be related to our dwindling savings accounts!

Where to go next: I wish…

I can’t tell you how many people we’ve met during the past two years that tell us “I wish I was doing what you’re doing! I wish, I wish, I wish….”  To which I say, “just hush up and do it!”  Now that we’re out here traveling, we meet people ALL THE TIME that have opted to do something completely different with their lives and have walked away from homes, cars, careers and families.  When we visit family or friends at their homes, we’re the two wing nuts that walked away from great jobs.  Out here, on the road, we’re just part of the normal, everyday scenery.  I wish that we had acted sooner, rather than later.

I interviewed (Yes, interviewed with a list of questions!) everyone I knew who had walked away from good job to be travel for more than a year. Wanna know something crazy? Every single person told me that I should just do it, they had very few regrets to their choices.

Walking away from everything absolutely requires difficult choices and sacrifices.

Where to go next: End of life finances

I’ve become completely absorbed with my parents finances during the past 18 months. I’m taking a hard look at the remaining resources of two mid-80’s aged, relatively “good” savers. I’m eyeballing the fiscal reality of two different care facilities and their individual associated costs. Here’s my conclusion; it’s almost impossible to save enough for the extended cost of two care facilities unless you’re seriously rolling in the dough. It’s quite easy to hit $100k, per person, per year, and that’s on the low end….and it’s all cash baby!

So, our financial reality is that if we live into our 80’s, and we both end up requiring an assisting living/memory care facilities, we’ll end up broke at some point. While that’s kind of grim, it’s also a bit freeing. We’ve made good decisions and hopefully invested our money wisely. Yet, even having done that, we’ll loose it all if we need prolonged medical care. This isn’t a statement of right versus wrong, it’s just statement of reality for us as Americans. At some point, everyone will (well almost everyone), if they live long enough, run out of retirement money.

When I strip this kind of financial craziness thinking out of my lexicon, that I must be able to take care of myself financially through my own death, retirement planning is actually easier. 

Where to go next: This is a one way ticket

There are many ways to create large changes in our lives without quitting the job, selling the cars, selling the house and sticking out our thumbs for adventure. Yet, that’s what Noelle and I opted to do, and it’s working for us so far.

We’ve met so many ‘almost’ fellow travelers who are just waiting for the situation to be almost perfect before they make that leap into the unknown. What’s the worst thing that can happen? We’ve already shit on our shoes, so we can rightly testify, you’ll survive.

So, Damn the torpedoes!  Four Bells!  Full speed!

What’s stopping you?

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