Prioritizing Your Passion

So you’ve sold your unnecessary possessions, paid off all your debt, downsized your home, and traded your corporate career for a more fulfilling way of life. You feel clear-headed for the first time in a long time. You’re happy. You’re free. But the folks around you – your friends, your neighbors, and your family – they just don’t get it. They think you’re nuts. They question your “motives” and have major discussions with each other behind your back about “how you can do this or that”. It’s okay. I feel your pain! Not a week goes by that I don’t have to explain (or sometimes defend) the way we live.

Just a few weeks ago, Angie posted to Facebook that we had booked a trip to Hawaii for the fall. The very next day both of our phones rang.

My mom: “Hawaii. That’ll be nice. I was talking to your uncle last night and he thinks you must be rolling in dough.”

Angie’s mom: “[Betty] saw your post and asked me if you’d gotten a job. She wanted to know how you could afford Hawaii when you’re not working. I didn’t know what to tell her.”

I used to be offended by comments like this but now I just smile. I know how we got here and it was not an easy task, so I feel pretty good reveling in the fact that we defy “normal” reasoning. Now when people tell me how jealous they are or how lucky we are, I just nod in agreement. Yes, we are lucky. We’re lucky to have figured out that the key to happiness is finding that one thing that satisfies your soul like nothing else can and making it your priority. Exploration is our passion! From traveling to far away places to exploring our own backyard, everything we do in our life is dedicated to the maximization of exploration opportunities.

Taking "shadow pics" in DC.
Taking “shadow pics” in DC.

When we read, it’s mostly travelogues and blogs by fellow travelers.

When we have a meal, 98% of the time we do it at home so that the money we would’ve spent going out to eat for convenience can be enjoyed on a meal in a more exotic locale.

When we have to buy something, we use coupons or research like crazy to get the best deal so that we’re not wasting our future travel dollars.

When we want a cup of coffee for the road, we bring a thermos.

We own one car, wear the same clothes multiple days to save on laundry, borrow books from the library, frequent the RedBox for date night, and take our own lunch and snacks everywhere we go.

Stopping for our signature sandwich (PBJ) near Lookout Mountain

In the past two years, we’ve visited 5 countries and 11 states. This year, well likely add 8 more locations to that list. And oh yes…we live on roughly $32,000 a year. I mention this last part only because money is the number one reason people give when asked why they don’t do more of the things that bring them joy. I don’t really buy into this excuse. If we can manage to live a full and happy life in Florida and spend 5-7 weeks traveling each year on what qualifies as “low income”, then I’m pretty sure other folks can do it too.

Boogie boarding on Sanibel Island.
Boogie boarding on Sanibel Island.

I think the real reason that most people don’t live their dream life is because it requires sacrifice. It requires that you forego the American dream and live life in a way that won’t make sense to others.  And that’s okay. When you’re sitting on the beach sipping a pina colada and reading a James Patterson novel, your critics will be toiling away at work to pay for their big screen TV and $5 a day Frappuccino habit. But your good friends…well, we’ll be checking Facebook for the photos of your adventure so that we might be inspired to head off on one of our own.

Watching the sunset in Panama City, FL

This post was originally made on May 21, 2014. We made it to Hawaii that fall and had a wonderful time, but shortly thereafter, we moved to Tennessee to be near my aging mom. Though we have different responsibilities now, our priority remains the same – to see and do as much as we can, as often as we can. Since 2015, we’ve added 3 countries and 14 states to our total. 

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