8 Working Hours Left to Go, Again

Charlie loves a beach, but hates having his stone chasing interrupted for a photo
Last time I finished work just over two years ago

I’ve one more working day to go and, in theory at least, I never need work a day again. Being 45 years old, this isn’t a usual situation I know, although it’s becoming fairly normal to me (I’ve been here before…).

So. I’ve never quite known what I wanted to do with my life. I ended up doing Maths, Physics and Chemistry at A level as I was good at them, not because I wanted to be an engineer. I studied Physics at degree level, as I was fairly good at it (and I had the luck of having supportive parents), not because I wanted to become a scientist. I started a PhD in a Physics-related subjects (firing neutrons through big bits of metal), not because I wanted to be a researcher, but because I’d got a good degree (and got a scholarship). I started ‘real work’ writing technical manuals for computer parts, not because I wanted to be a technical writer, but because I’d quit my PhD and I needed a job, and again I was pretty good at technical writing.

And on and on it went, shifting around and being promoted from time to time until suddenly I was 39 years old, running multi-million pound IT projects, and all I knew was that I was doing something I really didn’t want to do. I was depressed, burned out, a bit broken. But I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, and until we managed to pay off our mortgage, we had to keep the monthly payments flowing anyway so it didn’t seem to matter.

An answer came to us one day after the mortgage was cleared: to travel, to see how far we could get. Which is when this blog was born, over six years ago now. Two years and a sensational time later, having spent as much of our savings as we dared, I (frankly) sobbed my way back to UK soil, before Ju took the reins and steered our lives back onto a new course. I would have turned around and headed south, looking for anything which paid enough to enable me to avoid coming back. Back home meant reality, back to commuting, the 9 to 5, office politics and lots and lots of sticky red tape. Once Ju had got us settled back in a rented house, I started to get fired up, and we jointly decided to climb a mountain, to create a new, alternate reality for ourselves.

I forced myself to go back through the same doors I had walked out of two years earlier, and a further two years later we reached the peak – financial freedom. Not without problems on the way up mind you, and we’d worked a gazillion hours by the time we were done (no more than a couple with a newborn baby, perhaps). I regret the speed at which we did it, and the impact it had on Ju’s mental health, but I wonder if we’d done it any slower we’d have been able to sustain the effort to do it at all? I don’t know the answer, but the end result was we reached a tipping point where we’d enough passive income coming in and, coupled with a promise in ten year’s time of private pension income, we didn’t need to work for money again.

Frugality played a large part in all of this, as you might imagine. To get financially free in this way requires you invest around 25 times your yearly expenses. So the more you spend each year, the bigger the pot becomes that you need to fill, largely by selling your time for money. Balancing the see-saw of frugality versus fun while you build this pot is an art form, and an ever-present challenge for anyone doing it. But in the end, most of us are playing this game, just with varying timescales.

We made it. the North Cape in the Norwegian Arctic. Yeah baby!
We made it. The North Cape in the Norwegian Arctic. Yeah baby!

Having built this new lifestyle, we were determined to enjoy the fruits of it and headed out again in another motorhome, spending another 18 months on the road, from the Arctic to the Sahara. And in that time it became clear to me that I’d still not really worked out what I wanted to do. I had a couple of low points where I’d have happily quit the road and headed back to the UK to find some work again, for reasons I couldn’t quite nail, mainly a sensation we were doing the same thing as we’d already done before, or just following a tourist merry-go-round.

This third time as I step out of the doors of the office tomorrow, having gone through the motions of handing in my badge, phone and laptop, and becoming a non-person in the eyes of the company, I have the bones of a plan in my head (which will include more motorhome travel – still in Europe for now as we’ve our wee Charlie dog to think of).

As I’ve found time and again in the past few years, books often hold answers for me, exposing me to new ideas which help me get my head around the crazy problems it seems to create for itself. This time it’s Simon Sinek’s Find Your Why, which basically gets you to look back over your life and pinpoint the times in your life when you felt fulfilled, elated, moved by someone or something, and to seek out themes which link these times together. From these you can further distil the themes into a purpose, something which likely formed in your head as a child or teenager, and something which drives you to feel good about what you’re doing. That’s the process I’m currently working my way through, although I have to admit, it’s still not easy.

It’s become more and more clear to me over the past couple of years of not needing to work for money, that I do need to work for other reasons. Nope, I don’t plan to be spending any more time commuting or being sat in a cubicle, Dilbert-like, but I do plan to do more work, interspersed with periods of non-work. Some of the work will earn us money (I enjoy earning money doing something I believe in, even if at massively reduced rates to that the corporate jobs pay), and some will be for free.

I already know that I enjoyed (mostly – some serious editing was offloaded to Ju!) writing the second edition of Motorhome Morocco, and I’m thinking about fleshing out the Funding Freedom Mini Guide into a fully-fledged book. Other ideas are forming in my mind, such as making more of an effort on thematrixexperiment.com, and I’ll pick them up as soon as I’ve finished the job of self-analysis in Find Your Why.

The sensation I feel at the moment is one of being on the brink of working out what the hell I want to do with this incredible gift of time, albeit I expect this to be an ongoing job. It’ll be interesting (selfishly), for me to come back and read this in a couple of years, and see what I’ve been up to…

Cheers, Jay

20 Comments

  1. Hi Jason
    Great to read that you are on the brink of yet another dose of freedom.
    It’s also interesting to see the perspective of someone who has traveled full time for the last few years and the lingering question of why. It’s a great place to be!
    Looking forward to reading your travel stories again soon. :-)
    Cheers
    Swathi

  2. Congratulations on coming out the other side, again… I look forward to reading about your next journey. Also hope you start writing on thematrixexperiment again. I really enjoy UK FIRE blogs and their’s not yet enough of us out there.

    I’m 6 months behind you now. Then it’s off to the continent so we can make sure we are resident pre-Brexit (if the omnishambles ends up as a Brexit).

    • I’ve just read your latest blog post RIT, and hey, congratulations back at you! That’s some impressive analysis, and a massive, determined effort which you should be hugely proud of. Your financial position looks more than rock solid to me (dividends only – you bad-ass!). Good luck with that final hump fella, cheers, Jay

      • Thanks for the hat-tip Jay. We’ve gone about achieving FIRE in very different ways but the end result is the same. Well almost the same… I’ll be leaving work at age 45 for the first time where you’re 45 but doing it for the third time. So a hat-tip right back to you good sir.

  3. Dear Jason, if motorhome travelling is only an escape from boring life at home with enough money but no work, you would fancy, it will be stressfull. You can’t run away, because you ‘ll take yourself always with you. Everywhere.So only getting around with new hobbies is not a solution.
    Perhaps your talent is not only in science, but language & writing.
    A Travel Guide is nice, but gets very fast useless(?) with the infos.
    It came up to my mind that you could write a crime novel/thriller in the motorhomers or housesitters or the British crowd at the Algarve after Brexit scene, because that topic would be a novelty .If it were written in ‘Bill Bryson’s ‘ language style…. I would buy it immediately.
    Writing is not the hard work, but getting it to a publisher, that takes a long time & would be a real challenge.
    I wish you & Ju well to make the right decision for you both .
    kind regards ,Heide from Herne, Germany

    • PS .We(*45/48 in a safe financial situation ) are motorhome travelling because we want to get to know different landscapes & meet interesting people in a kind of a free life. Heide

  4. You can bring the dog in-cabin to the US for a time over here if you fancy. Lots of good RVing this side of the pond too. Either way hope you find your passion. The why’s of life are an ever-evolving thing, but the journey is often fun.

    Nina

    • We’ve decided not to fly with Charlie (our pooch) as he’s getting on a bit but we will make it over there at some point. We’ve both travelled in the US although not in an RV, and enjoyed it (big opportunity to speak English!) Cheers, Jay

  5. Happy retirement day Ja.My last day of work and financial freedom was 31st August(17 years early) thanks in part to you and your blog.We are in Spain for the next few months touring in our motorhome.Looking forward to reading about your travels.

  6. Hi to both of you.
    The path not to have paid employment is a difficult path to follow.
    Peer pressure, and comments of what you doing/ done this week, then our justification of our actions.
    We are in our 13th year of not having paid employment, and now in our mid fifties it has got easier.
    I have now started to say I am retired, before we just fudged the issue.
    What I find great is that after 13 years of learning how to be retired we have the rest of our life to explore it.
    If we had waited untill we were 67 we would now be 80, have learnt the same

  7. Hello J&J, here’s another two penn’orth

    Thought Heide Haake above hit the nail on the head ” You can’t run away, because you ‘ll take yourself always with you” This thoughtful lady has cut through the symptoms to the heart of the matter.
    There are charities who give real help to real people both in the UK and abroad, they would give their right arm for a commitment from you two for say for 6 months or a year. You both have massive talents and I guarantee you would come out the other side of such an experience realising your place in the world, and how lucky you are compared to many.
    Realise that it’s your preference not to take Charlie with you on a plane, but there will be serious opportunities within a few miles of where you live or if you need somewhere warm for the winter help in southern Europe and drive there.

    Good luck whatever you do, please don’t waste your lives by just going through the motions.

    • Seconded about the charity work – your talents would be snapped up by any cause and if you find one that you’re really passionate about, it’s so fulfilling knowing you’re using your time for the good of others.

  8. Hi Jason. Your blogs and travels were inspirational in getting us doing a similar thing although we needed a job for six months to pay for the travel six months. It’s interesting reading that you grew tired of life on the road and we find working 6 For six months means we look forward to our adventure but also look forward to working again albeit our jobs are in leisure and we still live in the Motorhome so it still feels like we are on holiday (ish) look forward to following your new adventures. Gids & Angie

  9. Hi to both of you, as always your blog is fantastic reading, as we are about to go on our first adventure 29th April until 2nd September 2018 which cannot come quick enough, we find all your advice so helpful. We are going to France and Spain for our first adventure and are excited and very apprehensive. Jay we have emailed you directly a few weeks ago regarding looking after our finances and you made a few suggestions which were greatly appreciated. Thank you enjoy your next adventure. Chris & Keith ( Young at Heart )

  10. Hi everyone. Thanks very much for all the positive and insightful comments. The laptop’s gone back, the card handed in, and we’re back into the world of the free(ish). Some other (non-office-based) freelance work to complete in Dec, but come Jan we’ll be fully free spirits. Bring it on. Cheers, Jay

  11. It’s been great to read your Blogs. My wife and I will be starting our new life adventure mid next year. I finish work in 14 days to prepare for our life changing journey, sell the house and those items that are purely materialistic. Time to get back to basics, find out what is really important but above all tick off those bucket list items. We wish you a safe journey to wherever you go next on life’s adventures!!

  12. Hi, hope you’re both well? We’ve followed your blog with interest for years, and the wealth of information you provide is exceptional. As such, I’ve found a site for finding sites wild camping etc that’s free and though I’d share it with you, the best part being it’s free to join and cover not only the UK but Europe too. I’m not sure if you’ve used it before.
    Searchforsites.co.uk

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