If there’s anything I’ve been hearing as we’ve started talking more about our dream, then hope, now plan to spend a year slow-traveling the U.S., it’s been
“I wish I could do that.”
I really do think it’s possible for many people to make that kind of wish into reality, but they have significant hurdles — mental, logistical, financial — to overcome. We’re no different. Here are some of our challenges, past and present, and how we’re approaching them.
- Debt. This is a dragon slain long ago in our family. We were blessed to inherit a not-insignificant amount of money from Rob’s grandfather several years ago, and we used it to pay off our last remaining debt: the mortgage. What struck me as odd was how we were advised not to pay that off in advance due to the loss of tax benefits. We followed different advice and I’m extremely glad we did! Off the top of my head, I think all of the Early Retirement / Financial Independence blogs I like to follow — Mr. Money Mustache, Afford Anything, and The Mad FIentist, to name a few — list getting out of all debt as Priority Number One no matter what your other goals are.
- Work. It takes a strong stomach to walk away from a “perfectly good job” and step into the unknown. For many years, Rob and I joked that we were playing Employment Survivor: Outwit, Outplay, Outlast…and Wait for the Severance Package. He always wanted to try his hand at having his own business, but we agreed that it was more financially sound (and, truthfully, more comfortable) to stick it out working for the Major Educational Publisher. When the inevitable finally happened and the reduction-in-workforce layoff news reached us, we knew that we had just been given an opportunity to make some changes. I’ve been pushed to think outside the box in many ways, making forays into pet-sitting, using Craigslist to find new clients for Rob, even putting together a résumé for the first time in more than ten years to enhance my profile as I entered the world of freelance writing.
- School. Probably the least of our worries, having been homeschooling our kids since 2009 with primarily an interest/passion-driven approach. With no one tied to a public- or private-school schedule, we’re free to move about the country. I’m beyond excited to watch them learn while we’re “seeing ALL the things”, especially with how much we loved our three-week homeschool road trip to the South last year.
- Living arrangements. The digital nomad approach to this really runs the gamut. Some decide to become full-time RVers. For many reasons, we didn’t feel that would be the best option for our family at this point in our adventures, not the least of which being that I do not want to live on campgrounds most of the time. Others decide to pull up stakes where they are and choose another part of the country — or world — to settle in for a year. The really adventurous types tune up their bicycles and/or grab their backpacks. Nothing felt right for us until I became online friends with Annie Reneau, a homeschool mom who did the slow-travel adventure by packing up as much as would fit into the back of the family SUV, putting most of their belongings into storage, and renting vacation homes for a month or two at a time. “Hey…THAT I can do!” Because of the aforementioned lack of a mortgage, we could rent out our home and use the income to pay the property taxes and most of the cost to rent vacation homes in other places. Just this week I heard from another nomad who has had many successful experiences as a long-term house-and-pet sitter (WARNING: don’t follow that link unless you have some serious daydreaming time on your hands!), and I’m honestly a little giddy at the thought of being able to do our year of travel with some, if not all, of our accommodations costing us nothing.
Lest you think I have it all figured out, I will share our biggest unanswered question at the moment:
- Medical insurance. That’s the thorny one, right there, at least for those of us who live in countries without universal healthcare. When Rob was laid off, his former employer continued our insurance, at their own expense, throughout the period of his receiving severance. Today is February 1st, folks, and as of today there is no more Cadillac-style insurance plan covering the Worldwide Watsons. Back in November, I started researching our options, and each fill-in-your-information-and-get-a-quote site I visited said, “Whoa. You make THAT little? You have to apply for Medicaid.” We’re in the middle of navigating that process; we’ve been told that Rob’s severance counts as a gift, not wages, but we’ve also been told this week that our first application was denied because his severance shows up as wages. (Is anyone surprised at the bureaucratic run-around?) We were counseled by the case manager who had to deny our first application to submit a second because, strangely, as long as you have an accepted (not approved) application, you are covered. We’re certainly not opposed to finding and paying for private coverage, but it can be a full-time job just figuring it all out. So, for now, this one is classified as a work in progress as far as unanswered questions go. And yes, that gives me a slightly queasy feeling that I try to alleviate by reflecting on how we typically enjoy good health in our family and do not usually need to visit the doctor more than once or twice a year. Knock on wood!