Hi folks! Welcome to the second post in my Wednesday series. These are real stories from people who have become location independent, work internationally, and/or continuously travel. They’ll be sharing how they became location independent or how they got jobs abroad, but most importantly, they’ll share how their lifestyle has positively or negatively affected their finances and how they got to the life they’re living now.
The reason for this series is to showcase people who have already achieved what the ThreeYear family is working towards: location independence and/or securing international jobs. Since we’re not sure which route we’ll take, we thought we’d hear from people who’ve already achieved the life, so we can learn more.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to Steve, from the blog Think, Save, Retire. Steve very kindly agreed to share his story when I reached out to bloggers on the Rockstar Finance Forums (check them out! Tons of financial nerd types like myself discussing all aspects of financial independence!).
Steve retired at age 35 and he and his wife Courtney currently travel the United States in their Airstream (a.k.a. my dad’s dream mode of transportation). Steve has given up traditional employment and now blogs about how he and his wife created a life that freed them up to do more of what they really value the most–namely, travel.
Without further ado, take it away, Steve!!
Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where you’re from, how long married, degrees, pets, etc.
I’m 35 and recently retired from full-time work. I worked in the information technology industry for my entire career doing things from computer programming and database administration to being the Director of Information Technology at a not-for-profit organization. I was born on the East Coast, but I’m definitely more of a West Coast kind of person, so I moved out here in 2007 after starting my first real job in Virginia. I’ve been married for almost three years, and my wife and I live in our 30′ Airstream Classic with our two rescued dogs, Patti and Penny.
I don’t consider myself to be a “smart cookie.” No prestigious degree (I have a degree in Information Technology from a no-name school in Colorado). I’m not published in journals. My ideas haven’t been studied by industry experts. I’m a normal person just like anyone else. The main difference is I chose a very different life for myself.
How did you and your wife make the decision to 1. become financially independent and 2. travel full time?
I wasn’t satisfied with my job. It paid well, but that was about the only thing going for it. I had lots of toys and spent plenty of money on things that I believed made me happy. But, they didn’t. My wife was indifferent originally but then was totally on board with quitting the rat race and retiring early. We both like to travel and see new things.
My parents traveled full-time for 13 years, so the RV lifestyle wasn’t completely foreign to me. In the end, we felt like that was the perfect fit for us. We can go places and see new things while keeping our expenses down because we always have our home with us. No flights. No rental cars. No hotel rooms. It’s awesome having your possessions with you where ever you happen to be traveling!
What was the process like for becoming FI?
Pretty straightforward stuff. We just stopped spending money. We rarely ate out. No cell phone upgrades every year. We talked about every purchase we made (and still do!). Both my wife and I worked in IT and made good salaries, and we saved 70% of them for the better part of two years [Laurie here: That is majorly impressive. Good work, guys]. That adds up, and fast. We both had some savings before we got married, but I was only saving the society-approved 10%. My wife was similar. Once we decided to retire early, we kicked our saving percentage WAY up and never looked back.
Where have you visited? What was your favorite place? Least favorite?
While we’ve lived in our Airstream for more than a year, we’ve only traveled full-time for about three months. We were stationary in Tucson while we finished up our jobs. Then, we traveled north and saw Valley of Fire State Park, Zion, Bryce and so many other state parks along the way. We’ve camped in the middle of the desert, out in the forest and right next to lakes.
My favorite place is Bryce Canyon [Laurie: I have many friends who say the same. Got to get there!]. The landscape is truly amazing. Other worldly. We definitely plan on going back to Bryce again. And honestly, I don’t have a least favorite place at the moment. Every place that we’ve visited has been unique and exciting thus far. I know that will change eventually, but for now, we’re enjoying the ride!
Do you have any funny “culture shock” moments?
Hmm…I wish, but not really. The only thing that we quickly realized, though, is how little my wife and I actually need to feel satisfied. At one point we both owned homes and had lots of stuff, and now we live in a 200 square foot RV. We don’t feel like we sacrificed anything to make this move.
How has your life changed since you’ve started traveling full time? What are some unexpected benefits? Unexpected difficulties?
This experience is life-changing in a way, but then again, it’s also just a very different lifestyle. We don’t have a home base. When people ask us where we are from, we don’t have a good answer to that question because we don’t own real estate. We say Arizona because it’s easy, but truthfully, we just don’t have a home base. We travel 100% of the time. We set our own schedule. We hike. We bike. We do whatever we want to do, whenever we want to do it.
I would say that early retirement has had a bigger impact on our lives than full-time travel.
It’s early retirement that got us into this position. The travel part just made the most sense to us, and we wanted to do this while we were young and spry!
Why would you recommend or not recommend this for other people/families?
This lifestyle isn’t for everyone. I wouldn’t recommend this for those who have big families. The living space isn’t conducive to that – although people certainly can and do travel with kids. Also, if you commute for a living, this probably isn’t a good fit either.
Working remotely (or not at all!) definitely makes this kind of lifestyle much, much easier to handle. Also, some people just don’t enjoy traveling. Or driving. I’m definitely not one of those people who thinks that travel is the be-all, end-all to life’s happiness. It works for us, but it won’t work for everyone.
This lifestyle is about freedom. The freedom to choose where you sleep at night. The things that you do and see. Getting out into nature and meeting new people, seeing new things and exploring so much of our nation that most of us never get to see. Full-time travel teaches us how little MOST of us need to survive and feel happy and content. The traditional sticks and bricks home and working until you’re 65 need not be the reality for all of us. We can change our direction…for the better.
In the end, I guess that I would recommend this for anyone, but not everyone.
How has traveling full time positively (or negatively) impacted your finances? (Since this is a personal finance blog!).
It’s had a HUGE impact on our finances. Our tax burden has been reduced because we don’t own land. No utilities to pay. No mortgage. If we’re boondocking out in the middle of nowhere, we don’t even have rent. This lifestyle can be as cheap as you want it to be. Our solar system enables us to spend extended periods of time out in nature without any electricity or water hookups. Even when we do stay in campgrounds with hookups, we pay a flat fee for the site, and that fee includes all the amenities, like water and electric. We can use as much as we want without paying an extra dime.
Our expenses are very, very low – which is what enabled us to retire at the ages of 35 (me) and 31 (my wife). We live cheap. We pay for everything with our credit card, which means we maximize our credit card points every year. No debts. It’s wonderful.
What are your future plans for your family?
Honestly, we don’t have many future plans. We like to keep things fairly spontaneous. We know that we’d like to pursue international travel at some point, but that is still many years in the future. For now, our plan is to just keep traveling throughout the country and seeing as much as we can. Experiencing new things. Exploring whatever we can, while we can. Whenever we feel like we need a change, we’ll address it then.
Thank you so much, Steve, for answering my questions. It’s very interesting that financial independence has made more of a difference in your life than full-time travel, but it makes sense if you think about it. I was also surprised how inexpensive it is to travel full time in an RV!
For more about Steve, Courtney, their dogs, and thoughts on early retirement, visit Think, Save, Retire or visit him on Twitter and Facebook. Or comment below and he’ll answer any follow up questions you have!