Isn’t it fun to fantasize about what you would do if you won the lottery? I used to think about this idea quite frequently. It would go something like this: If I had an (almost) unlimited supply of money, I would pay off my debt, help out various family members financially, and become a vagabond, traveling the world for an extended period of time. Growing up, I visited my grandmother in Brittany, France over the summers and would spend hours listening to her intently while she talked about her worldly travels around Vietnam, the Congo, Romania, Belgium, and more. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted my life to include travel like my grandmother. Whether she realizes it or not, she planted the traveling seed in me.
One day last year, something clicked in my mind. I didn’t have to win the lottery to live the life I fantasized about. I could live my “fantasy” life right now. This concept was trigged by a simple yet impactful article that I read by David Cain titled “Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed“. Cain wrote this article after coming back into the working world after traveling for almost a year. His eyes were more open to the culture of unnecessaries that is constantly being cultivated in the West. Most of us work standard 9-5 jobs, which means our free time is scarce. Americans spend billions of dollars a year on convenience because we don’t have “time” for anything but work. Why do you think the diet industry is so popular? Americans would rather spend money on a convenient “magic pill” than they would cooking themselves a healthy meal to lose weight. Infomercials sell us crazy contraptions like the Shake Weight or the Thighmaster because we don’t “have time” to work out. And we go to Happy Hours at 5 pm to drink off our frustration from work because we don’t have any energy to do anything else. Cain says, “we spend to cheer ourselves up, to reward ourselves, to celebrate, to fix problems, to elevate our status, and to alleviate boredom.” And I have to agree with him.
My boyfriend, Blaise, and I discussed this article at length for months, constantly bringing it up after a tough day at work and venting about our lack of time after work. Could we escape the 9-5 and have more time to do the things we loved? Could we actually challenge the status quo and leave our cushy jobs as engineers and management consultants? We both did exactly what was expected of us; we graduated from good colleges and entered the working world, working for big corporations. We make great money, but at the end of the day, are we really living our life if we can’t do the simple things that bring us joy? Will we look back on our lives 30 years from now and be satisfied that we spent most of our waking hours in a cubicle? I don’t think so.
Paying off the Debt
Cain’s article was the kick in the butt that I needed to start taking my debt seriously so I could consider the vagabonding lifestyle that I always dreamed of. I wasn’t going to let this “default lifestyle” keep me in my cycle of debt any longer. I stopped using credit cards cold turkey and put myself on a spending diet. All of my spare money went towards paying off credit card debt, my car loan, and my student loans, and a chunk went into my savings account. On March 13, 2015, all of my hard work paid off! Not only was I debt free a few months ahead of schedule, but I also saved a lot of money along the way. This crazy idea that Blaise and I had about traveling could now actually happen. There was nothing holding me back any longer and Blaise had already been ready to go for a few months.
Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, says, “$1,000,000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows.” And after finally being debt free, I could not agree more. I have a sense of freedom that I haven’t felt since I was a kid. I don’t have debt weighing me down, I don’t owe anyone anything, I don’t have any children to take care of, and I’ve realized that all of my material possessions are easily replaceable. I am ready.
Leaving the “Default Lifestyle”
“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.”
– Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek
Friday, June 12 will be my last official day of work (Blaise already quit his job earlier this year). To be honest, giving notice was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I respect the company I work for and my coworkers tremendously. I’ve been given the independence to choose where I want my career to go and have even had the opportunity to share my cooking passion by giving cooking demos at work! For the first time in my life, I’ve been able to be myself at work, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. Leaving my current 9-5 lifestyle and current job isn’t really about me being “miserable” as it is wanting to explore some of my passions further. I have the freedom to make choices and am exercising that freedom.
As soon as I quit work, Blaise and I will be hitting the road. We’ve been preparing for this journey for a LONG time. We’ve spent our weekends at REI checking out and buying gear, talking to people that have traveled extensively, reading traveling books and blogs, and listening to traveling podcasts (Extra Pack of Peanuts is one of our favorites). We’ve also been consolidating our material possessions and donating or selling the majority of our things.
The Itinerary and My Purpose
So now that it’s official, you must be wondering, “Where are you going?! How long will you be traveling for?” To be honest, we don’t exactly know and that’s the beauty of this journey. We started out with somewhat of a set itinerary and recently decided that the best part about having this new found freedom is that we can travel at our own pace.
Personally, I have my eyes set on exploring my cooking passion further, which can be done anywhere in the world. I want to volunteer on farms to better understand where my food comes from, meet the grandmothers of the world to learn their secret recipes, catch my own salmon in Alaskan waters, be challenged by having to cook outdoors with a campfire, and expand my palate.
Our first adventure will be a road trip from Philadelphia to Alaska, with stops along the way to see friends and visit National Parks. Stay tuned for more travel updates soon!