One Year on the Road

Three hundred sixty-five days ago, Daniel and I did one final check of our possessions, started up the engine of our van, and pulled out onto the road. We’ve been gone eleven of the twelve months since.

I liked the poetry of starting our travels on the spring equinox. The end of winter and the beginning of a season of life and light felt like an apt metaphor for this new season in our own lives. We’ve watched sunrises and sunsets in forests and deserts, slept under the stars, hiked among ancient cultural wonders, and trekked through towns and countries I couldn’t have pinned on a map.

By no means has every day been perfect. Approximately three seconds after we first pulled out of the driveway, I looked in the rear view mirror and watched our newly purchased five-gallon water carrier go flying off our storage platform, bouncing off the bed before settling against the driver’s side sliding door. There were still a few kinks to work out. But in spite of a few little mishaps, it’s been the longest year of my life in the best way possible.

One Year on the Road - The Resume Gap

We started this journey with a fair bit of trepidation. Would we enjoy traveling for more than a few weeks at a time? Were we insane to think we could spend months camping out of a minivan? Would there be things I missed about my prior working life?

One year on the road has given us the opportunity to work through a lot of those uncertainties – thankfully with largely positive answers.

We’re still grappling with plenty of other questions as we cross our one-year anniversary of life on the move. But in spite of any concerns I might have about the future, there is one thing of which I am certain:

There is no scenario in which I will regret having done this.

Naturally, we share a lot of our “highlight reel” moments on this blog, but the truth is that I still feel plenty of uncertainty and concern about the future. At some point in the next year or two, we’ll likely stop traveling full-time. Then what?

Will we settle down in one location? What will I do with all my newfound free time? Might I actually want to work again? Would I even be employable?

Then there are the “downside scenario” concerns. I’ve been out of the workforce for almost 14 months now. If the market crashed and burned or if we had other unexpected financial issues, going back to work would be more difficult than before. Potential changes to U.S. healthcare regulations could affect me, too. I might decide my savings aren’t sufficiently padded to comfortably cover five-figure annual health insurance expenses in my older years. That’s concerning, to say the least.

There are a million ways our lives could potentially change over the coming decades. Most of them are positive; others are downright catastrophic. But I can’t think of a single one that would have me saying years from now, “We should have waited longer to pursue our dreams.”

It’s easy to put off our big goals waiting for some perfect moment. “One day,” we fantasize, “all the stars will align, and the timing will be just right.” We wait for our finances to be bulletproof and for our commitments to be minimized, hoping we’ll maintain our youthful energy and good health long enough to enjoy the time we have left. But sometimes the perfect moment never comes.

There’s a version of our futures in which things have gotten really bad. The global financial markets are in turmoil. Maybe there’s war, famine, and disease. Perhaps we’ve lost basic human rights and personal freedoms. Maybe my standard of living will never return to what it once was.

Even in that worst-case scenario, there’s only one feeling I’d have about the decisions we’ve made: gratitude. Gratitude that we took the leap. Gratitude that we were ever in a position to pursue our big dreams at all. Gratitude that we lived the life we wanted, not someone else’s version of success. Gratitude that we didn’t wait.

Don’t wait.

38 Comments

  1. Happy one year travel! Keep sharing the stories and life lessons… They inspire the working bees!

  2. I love this so much. And while I probably have a slightly higher threshold to feel comfortable walking away from work, I completely agree that I can’t imagine any scenario in which we regret quitting. If the zombie apocalypse comes a few months after we quit and renders our savings worthless, we’ll still be grateful for that sliver of freedom we’ll have had! Happy FIversary! Can’t wait to join you guys!

    • I’m positive you won’t regret it, either! You two aren’t the types to just sit around and waste away the years. I bet you’ll be just as “busy” in ER… but having much more fun along the way.

  3. Congrats on the anniversary! Your posts are very motivating for those of us still chasing the early FI dream. Good luck in the coming year!

  4. Happy vanniversary!!

  5. I like the “Happy vanniversary!” above, so I’m going to steal that 🙂 Your views feel very real to me since I’ve been thinking of taking the plunge much sooner than originally planned. The worst thing that happens is I have to work for the man again down the road… oh wait, that’s just where I am now. So falling wouldn’t be falling that far.

  6. Congrats on one year of travel! Such a great reminder that we don’t have to wait to pursue our dreams!

    http://www.doseofdiscovery.com

  7. Congrats on one year!!

    Is there anything you’ve changed about your plans going forward now that you’ve done a year of travel? Staying longer or shorter periods of time at destinations, for example?

    • We’re slowing down a bit more this year. We knew that 2016 would be a whirlwind with various commitments (mostly friends’ weddings) and wanting to see and do a lot right away. With fewer commitments this year, we’re taking more time in each country. By the end of the year, we’ll have spent multiple months in Mexico, ~2 months in Thailand, and probably around a month in Vietnam — with a few other stops in between. We’re still far from true “slow travel” pace, but this speed suits us well. I’m not sure I would want to commit to months in any one destination before I’d ever visited, anyway.

  8. Congrats on the 1 year mark!! I totally feel the same way. It’s almost impossible to describe how much has happened inside and outside of us in the last year away from the 9-5. No matter what direction we take, I am SO thankful we did this. For us as people, for our marriage, for our kids, for our dreams, for everything. I’m glad we didn’t wait till we were 100% sure we would never, ever, ever need more income. We were 100% good for 3 years, mostly good for 10-15 years, and then the number might have gotten more squishy. =) But no matter what we would never get another year where I was 33 and my 5 kids were 0-8 years old.

    • Such a great point — we can spend years padding our safety margins, but we’ll never have what we have today again. I’m so glad you took the leap, too!

  9. I loved this post. “There is no scenario in which I will regret having done this” That is the most powerful statement you could ever make about your life, and one we should all aspire to.

    You’re making me chomp at the bit. 45 more months feels like an eternity.

    • Thanks, Mrs. BITA, and sorry for inspiring any antsiness. Seems like your plan is a good balance of not waiting too long but also not doing any reckless. Nothing wrong with that 🙂

  10. We are planning a long trip starting in 2018… like you were thinking… I wonder how we will actually end up liking it. We are going to stay away from touristy attractions and try to get to know the local culture. More like short term living, instead of slow travel. We want to start in SE Asia, so I’d love some tips if you have any.

    • Fantastic! We are beyond in love with this lifestyle. If we’re feeling burnt out or exhausted at any point, we try to work in more down time. And we’ve also made a point of getting back home every few months to see our families and regroup, which I think has been helpful. We’ve been in SE Asia about two weeks now, and I’ll definitely be sharing our experiences here shortly. Lots to love here so far.

  11. Can’t agree more about the “don’t wait” advice.

    I retired at 52 last summer and now wish I had done it ten years earlier.

    • I’m with ESI now and I’m ready to take your advice (after a year of one more year syndrome…) We’re not going to wait! If I need to go back to work someday, I can always get a job doing something. But I’m not even going to think of that now. Onward…

      • Agreed. I appreciate the arguments that we may not be able to go back to our same old careers, but my backup plan doesn’t require making a big income again. Even a really modest part-time job or side hustle (something like $10k/year) would provide enough buffer to cover any turbulent times given our low living expenses. Time for you to take the leap!

    • That’s great to hear. Gives me confidence that we haven’t completely given into youthful foolishness 🙂 Retiring at 52 is nothing to sneeze at; congrats on making the change and achieving it so young!

  12. Happy anniversary! I’ve been enjoying your posts from the road and look forward to seeing what the next year holds in store for you.

    We’re almost 6 months into retirement and no regrets. For anyone who feels ready to pull off retirement (or another version of quitting the 9 to 5) but just can’t seem to pull the trigger, they should heed your advice: Don’t wait!

  13. Happy Anniversary!

    I’m a long time reader but first time commenter – it has been really neat to read through your posts about ‘Van Life’ and your traveling adventures so far. This makes me that much more motivated to reach financial independence faster. Hope you guys keep having incredible experiences out there and keep up the awesome posts 🙂

  14. ChooseBetterLife

    March 21, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    Happy anniversary! You’re another real-life example that we rarely regret taking calculated risks, yet often regret the ones we don’t take.

  15. Mind. Blown. My thought process has always been “maybe I shouldn’t retire because the apocalypse”. But your last paragraph completely flipped that. Mind. Blown.

    • Yes, the end of the world weighs heavily on all our retirement planning; that’s why 90% of my budget is dedicated to bunker supplies.

  16. I swear I’d left a comment the other day but I find that it’s disappeared into the ether. Maybe I imagined it! In any case, Happy One Year of freedom!! I hope you feel inspired to share your journey for many more years, I love hearing your adventures and thoughts.

    We’re still well away from the point of our own freedom, our situation being vastly different from yours, but I still find the joy inspiring and a great motivation to do what I can to accelerate toward our own day of freedom.

    • Oh no! Thanks for writing a new one 🙂 I’m always happy to hear that we provide some inspiration, even if our situations and goals are a world apart. Thank you for reading!

  17. The Resume Gap – inspiring desirable restlessness in others since 2016.

    Such a beautifully written post that is sure to inspire your readers to do something more with their lives than waiting for the perfect jumping off point.

    Enjoy year #2!

  18. Don’t wait, but also, don’t just go, right? 😉

    I love that you guys are still loving it! I’m curious to see where you end up if you get “bored” or “tired” of moving around.

    I’m not sure where I’ll be in Mid May. I guess it’s cool to have options!

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