Right up until the time I quit my 21-year career, I was in a fairly fast life-situation.
I managed a $4M business with 25 employees, had a mortgage (still do), had kids in school, and we traveled every chance we got.
By any measure, we were living the American dream. And it kept us very busy.
The problem was, we wanted to slow down.
Out-earning the problem
For years, we’d tried to out-earn this problem.
We grew our finances by advancing our careers (climbing the ladder), investing in real estate and the stock market, growing our financial education, and hustling on the side.
Our main goal was always to create more time for ourselves. Time, of course, being the real asset.
We aimed to create options in life which allowed us to control our own time. We wanted to be able to spend our time where, with whom, and for how long we wanted.
The secondary goal, of course, was to have enough money to enjoy all that time 🙂
Out-earning the problem is generally an approach we recommend. (I mean, what other choice do you have, really?)
However, a challenge arose during my last two years at work which forced us to reassess. The challenge was simply this…
Our goal (health, travel, family, experience), and our means of achieving that goal (more work, less free time, stress, degraded health), had become diametrically opposed.
The first 19 years of my career had been fulfilling and generally enjoyable.
However, during the last two years, we went through a corporate merger which – as mergers often are – was a pretty bumpy ride.
I had become overworked and overstressed to the point that it was affecting my health.
Slow > fast
That’s the challenge with working and living fast.
You can wind up creating circumstances that are the exact opposite of the lifestyle you’re trying to purchase with all that hard-earned money.
For us, this meant working 60+ hours per week, just so we could spend our weekends and holidays going into nature and trying our best to destress.
We were able to unwind and expand, but for only as long as we could stay away from the office.
This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you when you spell it out in black and white. But its exactly what we were doing.
The breakout point
So, partially through our own drives and desires, but mainly through circumstances beyond our control, we decided to call it quits. At least temporarily.
We abandoned, if only for a few years, our old philosophy of out-earning the problem. It was now time to take the money we had and to leverage it as hard as possible, in exchange for some of our time back.
This allowed us to express ourselves in a way that hadn’t been possible before. Which, for us, specifically, meant full-time travel.
We spent 5 months crawling the northwest US and Canada, from Wyoming to Whistler, from Tahoe to Tofino.
Then another 5 months on the eastern seaboard, visiting as far south as Key West, and as far north as New York city and Niagara Falls.
We saw (and made) friends and family along the way.
Then we took a two-week, transatlantic cruise to Europe where we’ve lived for the last 8 months. During that time, we’ve visited Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Slovakia, Croatia, Austria, and northern Italy.
This coming summer and fall, we’ll spend another 5 months traveling Europe even more extensively (from Scandinavia and Great Britain in the north, to southern Italy and Greece in the south) before boarding another 2-week transatlantic cruise back for America.
We share this information, not as a brag, but as an illustration.
We are incredibly, and humbly, grateful for our opportunities and experiences. But let’s be crystal clear:
This type of travel was possible for us, not as function of money, but of time.
We needed money, yes. (And not nearly as much as you’d imagine.) But the real catalyst for our experiences was having time.
Time > money
We learned from experience that there comes a point where you have to weigh financial and social values against the values of time and health.
If you burn your candle at both ends for too long, in a rush to out-earn the problem, you risk creating an even more formidable problem.
The halls of every industry are littered with the remains of individuals and families who didn’t heed their internal guidance system. They ignored their quiet inner voice for so long, they lost their power to heed it, at all.
For, time is an appreciating asset, in the most frightening way.
Not only is there no more of it being made, but if you wait too long to leverage it, even the time you have may not be worth much because of your diminished capacity to enjoy it.
They say, the best time to plant a tree is yesterday. The second best is today.
What time is it for you?