Can I afford to travel? Or can I afford not to?
We can all agree there is a struggle between working to save for our retirement, and living in the present and affording our passions. Most people believe they can’t afford to travel over long periods of time and still save for retirement.
But it doesn’t need to be this way.
We’ve been there. Somewhere along the line though we took a leap and decided to temporarily throw caution to the wind and try traveling long term.
Not only did it pan out, it was the best thing we’ve ever done! So much so that we’ve made it a bit of a habit. The good news is that if we can do it, anybody can. The even better news is that we are still able to save for our retirement while doing so.
This post, by the way, is not a “how to”. We merely want to address a common barrier in the hopes that people re-examine their lives especially if they are not feeling fulfilled.
In our opinion no one has explained it better than Sterling Hayden in our favorite quote. The first time we read his words it felt like being punched in the gut.
Feeling inspired to pursue your dreams instead of putting them off yet?
You can replace “sailing” with any dream that would require you to step out of your regular life for even a little while. Not everyone has a desire to travel, but have you ever wanted to pursue a hobby you love, change careers, or start your own business?
We were blown away by this quote and hope it can inspire you in the same way it did for us! Let’s break it down and see if we can address some of the common blocks we put in front of ourselves.
Is job security a myth?
Why is our fear of change stronger than our fear of losing years of happiness? This worship of security, particularly job security is so ingrained in us that we will stay at a position we dislike or even hate year after year. As it turns out most of us actually don’t have job security. The stats below may surprise you.
As you can see you will likely need to find a minimum of 5 jobs in your career lifetime. Depending on your age this has most likely confronted you a couple of times. FYI, we’ve had 3 times that many and as a matter of fact, it keeps things kind of fresh and interesting. We cover this in greater detail in our first blog post that discusses ways we go about facilitating our long term travel.
Some of the reasons for this low employment tenure are being laid off due to company restructuring, downsizing, or even going out of business altogether. Whatever the reason, it is always untimely, unwelcome and out of our control.
There are also times when one must put in their notice due to the job being too untenable. The best case scenario is when you’ve had time to line something else up beforehand. The worst case is when the job is so bad that quitting with no safety net is the lesser of two evils.
No matter how unemployment comes along, we stress about finding another job to stop the financial bleeding and to a lesser extent, to get back in good standing amongst the employed. We look at want ads, prep resumes, wait for a call back from one of many applications. And what happens? We get another job! Maybe it’s a week later. Maybe it’s a month or three or 6 months later. In some cases longer but it ends up happening.
It pretty much always looks and feels bad when your faced with unemployment but it is most likely going to happen multiple times in your career. If you can survive that, what’s so scary about choosing and planning your own short term unemployment to do something you’ve always wanted to do? A mini retirement, if you will. If that’s not attainable could you ask for a leave of absence? We’ve been happily surprised by an employer who accommodated a two month leave so we could go to Colombia.
If one plans financially, there are many benefits to letting go of the “security” of employment. Taking time away from the monotony of the 9-5 can be a life changing experience. Having time for introspection can foster a new perspective on your life. It’s also a great opportunity to travel, learn a new skill, take a course, improve your employability or develop a plan to land that dream job you’ve always wanted!
What if you lost or left the job you hated and you found a position where you made less money but really enjoyed it? Don’t worry about status when speaking in terms of your job. Do what brings you fulfillment or happiness. Would it not be worth the loss of income to have quality of life? One could reevaluate their living situation and perhaps lower their cost of living.
Nobody likes to be broke. It’s a valid fear, but most people usually end up spending whatever amount they make. If you made less could you simply just spend less? Do you need to have a vehicle with monthly payments? Could you drive an older or more basic vehicle?
With an intentional exit of employment one can plan out their expenses instead of being in the reactive mode of employment loss. Without employing extreme budgeting we’ve been able to save money for time off and save for the cost of travel.
These are some simple money savers that don’t really affect quality of life:
- Buy a home for less than you CAN afford to create more disposable monthly income OR
- Live in a RV for much cheaper rent and often utilities are included
- Shop for a deal on a phone and bargain for a good monthly plan
- Cut the cable! It’s so expensive and there are so many cheaper online options
- Pack a lunch to work, you will save enough for a trip in a year
- Make coffee at home, again a huge yearly savings
- Don’t buy useless shit
OK some would argue that living in an RV would affect quality of life but we spent years living comfortably this way. Those were some of our happiest times and we literally could not buy many material possessions for lack of space.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is the less you have, the less you need to work to maintain it. This brings us to the next part of the quote.
Is materialism flinging you under the wheels of routine?
We live in a hyper materialistic society. We all know it. Yet it is so difficult to not be distracted by the shiny things and forget what’s essential or important. Take for example commercials that are in our faces every time we turn on the TV. How about ads that are in our faces on billboards, bus stop benches, etc? Of course there are things we need and companies out there providing it to us. The problem is when we are brainwashed into thinking we need every creature comfort to survive.
We have become unquestioningly convinced that we deserve more things because we work hard. The harder we work the more things we need for convenience because we have less time.
It is a vicious cycle that is apparently putting most people in debt and keeping them working at jobs they hate. We live in a culture that even has us believing that we need these things so much that it is perfectly acceptable to go into debt to obtain them.
The website facingthefuture.org makes a good point here in a blog post titled “Mindful Consumerism” about this problem and how it relates to the self-storage business. Actually it’s one of many articles on the internet about it.
According to this CBC article here as of March 2017 Canadians now average $1.67 in credit market debt for every dollar of adjusted household disposable income. That is ridiculous! Keep that up and no you can’t afford to travel or take time off for any pursuit!
Everybody gets this but why do we keep making the same mistakes with our money? Perhaps it’s because we think we have plenty of time to get a handle on it. We think there is all the time in the world to make changes.
No one is saying to go without. While we admire this whole minimalism movement, we’re never going to be minimalists. All we are doing is making sure that our money is spent on things that bring us true happiness.
For some people, not living their lives has nothing to do with debt. For them it’s feeling that they have not saved enough to be deserving of following their dreams. They feel they never have enough and that it would be irresponsible to let off the gas too soon. Either way it’s the same thing. “We’ll get to living our dreams at a later date.” Good things come to those who wait, right?
Is there risk in being too patient?
This sums up perfectly how easy it is to defer life in the name of security. For us, the risk in deferring is much too great.
We all want to feel secure. Who could fault someone for looking out for their and their families future? No wonder it is easy to be lulled into keeping your nose to the grindstone. But what if those things don’t come? We are not trying to come off as alarmists here but shit happens. Let’s look at some risks involved by deferring life until retirement:
- Physical limitations due to age or medical condition(s)
- Spouse or yourself inflicted with a debilitating disease
- Travel insurance premiums becoming prohibitive
- Savings wiped out due to a major unforeseen expense or economic crash
- You simply die before your estimated expiry date
Also as we touched on earlier, if people don’t seem to miss the money when spent on shit that’s put into storage, why would it be missed because of an extended sabbatical? What’s the risk?
Again, not to be alarmists but what if for example you turn out to be that guy we often hear about? You know, the one who worked hard all of his life? The guy that gets about two weeks into his retirement and boom! Dead from a heart attack. Odds are slim that you are that guy but maybe it’s something else on the list of possible outcomes. Maybe it’s as simple as not being able to do the things you were looking forward to doing because of an ailment of a loved one. For us the risk is just too great. So based on this info, we decided to do something about it.
To tell you the truth, the first time we quit our jobs to travel was a little unnerving. We had moments of panic where we questioned our choice. Had we thrown our entire lives to the wind? Turns out we were sweating for nothing.
When we returned home after 5 months of rv’ing through Mexico both of our employers offered us a pay increase to come back to our previous positions as well as receiving better paying job offers. We were actually in a better position than before we left! There was no loss of security. More importantly, the memories we made, the places we saw, the people we met (you know who you are!) and all that we learned will stay with us forever.
That “once in a lifetime” trip taught us an important lesson about deferring life for security and changed the way we think. We met amazing people and were told by so many of them that they wished they had taken time off to fulfill their dreams when they were young. It was reiterated so often and sometimes with such a feeling of desperation that it changed the way we saw our life. Although we choose jobs that we enjoy, work is now a means to live our dreams not the thing that defines us or gives us our status in life.
We’ve taken a leave of absence, found seasonal employment, or quit our jobs in order to support 9 long term trips now. An unexpected benefit is how much we enjoy working when we’ve had 5 months off. No, we do not have as much security but that feeling of a never ending 9-5 work life does not feel secure anymore. It feels like a vacuum sucking our lives away!
You might be saying to yourself that this is all pie in the sky. Maybe you’re thinking we are being foolish and gambling with our retirement years. That’s valid. There’s the possibility that by living this way and maybe growing older than we expected, we could run out of money. We see it differently though. It depends which kind of bankruptcy scares you most……
Are you choosing money over life?
Do we have a choice?
Here’s the amazing thing…..yes we have a choice! It is completely up to us. What was the dream of your youth that lays covered in dust? What is stopping you from pursuing it?
- Financial? Are you bankrupting your life in the hopes of financial freedom in the far future? Can you find ways to save and avoid both types of bankruptcy?
- Responsibilities? Can you manage to take time away? Delegate responsibilities?
- Loss of security? Do you really have security? Is it a founded or perceived fear?
- Kids? Could they benefit from seeing you fulfill a dream? Or better yet, be a part of it?
So can you afford to travel or pursue another dream?
We want to hear from you! What is preventing you from doing this? Please comment below as we want to know what’s stopping you! Maybe we’ve been there too! Our absolute favorite thing in life is when someone realizes that they can do this. We may not have the answer but maybe we can point you in the right direction.
As always if you liked our content and found it useful, please feel free to share it on Facebook and Twitter so that others can get inspired as well. Ciao for now.