“We’re looking for people who want to commit to the company until they retire at 65,” said the man who sat across from me and my husband.
Greg and I looked at each other, then answered almost in unison, “That’s definitely us. We’re in until 65!” Being an entrepreneur was certainly something I didn’t want. The security of a steady paycheck and a 401(k) retirement plan seemed so much safer.
My husband was given the position, and we were more than thrilled. We ‘bought’ our first home, adopted our first child and settled into living an unremarkably average life – me as the stay at home mom and Greg as the bread winner.
It’s not that there is anything wrong with that sort of lifestyle. Life was good. My husband enjoyed his work, and I spent an inordinate amount of time, thought, energy and stress decorating, painting and ‘homemaking’, and I loved it. It was a great life, only it was… unremarkable.
We had some vague dreams that might happen ‘someday’ — live in Latin America, learn Spanish, eat at street cafe’s in Rome or ride in a gondola in Venice. Perhaps we would contribute time to some great world-changing cause.
Maybe we’ll do it when the kids were grown and we are retired with sufficient funds in the bank… maybe. IF things worked out.
Someday. We’ll have to see…
I mean, that’s just the way life is, right? You go to college, get good grades, jump through the right hoops, become a good cog at a factory with a 401(k) and good benefits, commit to 30 years of debt, save up for your kids college, and then MAYBE at the end if it you have enough money you’ll be able to experience the intoxication and life transformation of travel that you can only dream about right now.
Those far off ‘golden years’ is when I can spend more time doing the things I really want to do.
That’s only 30 or 40 more years… maybe shorter if I’m lucky and I work really hard. Right?
NEGOTIATE WITH REALITY
I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.” Alan Keightley
I’m here to inform you (in case you haven’t already been informed) that if you want it badly enough, and are willing to create the changes necessary, you can create the life you want (even if right now you can’t see how.)
Yes, you can negotiate with reality, and set the terms you want. All that’s required is letting go of assumptions. leaving your comfort zone, and eliminating limiting beliefs that are holding you back.
As Chris Guillebeau reminds us, ‘You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.’
You don’t even have to experience life in the way you currently expect to. There are other options, even if you’ve never considered them.
When my husband and I began pursuing the traditional, unremarkably average path of corporate career, mortgage and traditional retirement, we THOUGHT we were making our own choices about how to live life. We thought we were in charge of our decisions.
In reality, we weren’t even aware of options outside of this traditional societal formula. If we didn’t ‘get a good job’, what else would we do? Be an entrepreneur (scary!), or be unemployed. Right? If we didn’t buy a house and make the ‘best investment of our lives’, we’d just rent our entire lives and ‘throw our money away’. Right?
Sure, we were making choices about the type of career we wanted, and the size of the house we wanted to buy… but they were limited decisions within in a limited paradigm. We didn’t know there was more.
Then that began to change.
Sometime around the time I was expecting our second child I started to think about my kids future. How would we pay for college? (How far my views have come now.) Studying college funds, led to investing, which led to real estate.
One afternoon, I picked up a little book on real estate investing at the thrift store for $0.25. It was very plain, and simply written, but it forever changed my life.
It wasn’t so much the ideas on real estate, but on the paradigm shift it presented.
While studying its pages, an ‘A-HA’ hit me.
“Reality is negotiable.” Timothy Ferris
“You mean to tell me that we can design our life to be the way we want it to? If we want something different than what fate has allotted to us, we can do something about it? We can actually follow a different formula than the one society prescribed?”
I had never contemplated such ideas before.
I’d never thought about WHY we pursued the social prescription of college, career and climbing the social ladder until 65.
But now I began thinking, “Is there a way to live the life I dream of living ‘someday’, but doing it right now instead?”
Can it be done? Can we live a fun and fulfilling life – the kind of life we imagine we’ll live when we retire – while we’re ‘raising a family’?
When I first started asking those questions back in 2005, I didn’t know the answers. I didn’t know anyone who had done it. I didn’t know if it was possible.
Now, eight years, eleven countries and five children later, I can tell you that, YES! there is another way! (And there’s lots of people living it.)
I’m the first to admit that I don’t know all the answers, and I can’t know how your life will transpire. I can’t (and won’t) dictate how you should live.
BUT, I do know there is a way to live your dream life now, no matter what it is. It’s probably difficult for you to see how, but that’s why this book was written. To teach you how to live deliberately and create that ridiculously awesome life that is uniquely yours.
As individuals, we are no better than you. Living deliberately doesn’t mean that you have to sell all your stuff and go nomad like we did (that was OUR dream.)
But it does mean that you consciously design your family lifestyle to be the way you choose, instead of mindlessly following the path that others have prescribed.
At the most foundational levels, deliberate living is about questioning the prevailing ideology that turns us into factory workers punching a time clock for 40+ hours per week during the most important years of our family’s life.
It’s time to abandon the ‘delayed-living’ proposal of family time, travel and pursuing your passions when you retire.
It’s time to do it NOW! Keep reading to learn HOW.
SOMEDAY IS CODE WORD FOR ‘NEVER’
So that’s great… you now realize that you can negotiate with reality, and tell life what you want instead of accepting what it has to offer.
So now what?
How do you actually make it happen when you have to get up and get back on the treadmill tomorrow — go to work so that you can pay your bills so that you can go to work so that you can pay your bills.
‘Living your dream’ won’t happen overnight. You can’t decide to do it, and wake up the next morning on a beach with a piña colada in your hand.
As my husband loves to say, “You can’t change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction.”
One morning in 2009, we DID wake up in the tropics.
A white sand beach emerged before us from a grove of coconut palms, fanning out into a silvery-white crescent embracing the aquamarine sea.
This was our first glimpse of this heaven-on-earth called Playa Rincon in Las Galeras, Dominican Republic.
Less than one year previously, we’d asked a friend where his favorite part of the world was. The beach now stretching before us was his enthusiastic answer.
Now here we were in person, and making this island paradise our home, with our four small tots in tow.
How did we discover ourselves in this dream destination you ask?
Well I can tell you what we DIDN’T do. We didn’t just wish we could be there. We didn’t just daydream about ‘wouldn’t that be nice?’ We didn’t talk about doing it ‘someday’.
Our arrival in this tropical port-of-call was made possible ONLY by taking daily, consistent action toward our goal.
“Work will win when wishy, washy, wishing won’t.”
We didn’t wait until ‘someday’ to start planning. We made plans today. We didn’t wait until we had more money to pick a travel date, we gave ourselves a deadline. We didn’t wait until we were sure things would work out before started selling our furniture. I listed it on Craiglist already… (sorry hon, we’ll be sitting on the floor — more motivation to get our butts to the beach!)
We had an aspiration and we deliberately and consistently worked on achieving it EVERY SINGLE DAY. Everyday we took action that would change our direction and bring us closer to our destination.
Did we know that we would be able to do it? Was I sure I wouldn’t just have to buy another couch because our relocation plans didn’t work out? Nope.
But one thing was sure. We would definitely never make it if we never really, really tried.
I’ll say it again!! We didn’t wait until ‘someday’ to start planning and implementing our plan… we started today. Waiting for ‘someday’ is the same as waiting for never. Instead, we scraped together every resource. We sold everything we could (even my wedding ring). We came up with solutions to every obstacle we encountered. We bought one-way tickets (to a destination we’d never even been to). We packed our luggage, loaded up our family and boarded that plane, heading blindly to the island we wanted to call home — still unsure of ‘how it would all work out’, but trusting in the process.
That’s how it works. You have to believe me.
WE ALL LIVE BY OUR PRIORITIES
But a lot of people will look at our beautiful travel photos in exotic locations and say,
“You’re so lucky!”
“I’m jealous. I wish I could do that.”
“I would love to travel, but I’ll never have enough money.”
“I wish I could live like you do.”
Do you want the truth about these kinds of people?
(Are you ready for it? Be prepared, because you might not like it… especially if you’re one of them.)
The truth is, these people don’t REALLY want to travel.
They say they do, and they’ll argue the point. But they don’t REALLY want it. Not more than they want their comfortable home, and the convenience of transportation. Not more than they want their nice things, or the security of a paycheck with benefits.
Anyone can travel the world with their family. It’s not hard, and it’s not expensive. But it doesn’t happen by accident, and there’s always an exchange rate. If you really want to travel more, than you’ll have to give up something you already have. You have to want it more than you want to breathe, or eat or sleep, or all your pretty things.
Some people say they want to travel. They say they want to live abroad. And maybe they do… but they don’t want it more than they want what they currently have in their life. We all live by our priorities.
And that’s okay. If you only want to travel when you have enough money to keep the house and see the world, well that’s fine. (Though they do have houses in other parts of the world that they’ll rent to you, and usually for pretty cheap.)
If you only want to travel when you can stay in the luxury hotels, and still keep all your nice things at home, that’s all right. Just recognize that those are your priorities.
But if you realize that you value experiences over possessions, that you’d rather have personal transformation over bragging rights and social status, and that’d you’d rather live life now than dream about living it in the future, then you need to prove these are your priorities by living by them everyday.
“You have to want it more than you want to breathe, or eat or sleep or all your pretty things.”
We currently live a life of full-time travel with our family, but it happened because travel became the most important thing in our life (aside from our personal relationships).
We want to travel more than we want a high-paying, location-dependent income; more than a house or a car or even a wedding ring. We want travel more than we want security, more than we fear failure. Travel is our magnificent obsession, and has gained highest priority in our life.
Does that mean it’s been easy, all sunshine and seashells? Not by a long shot.
We’ve had to overcome countless obstacles, experience multiple failures, eat crow and ‘come home’ more than once. We’ve learned what doesn’t work, and made course corrections.
Life isn’t perfect, nor problem free. It never will be (and anyone who tells you differently is selling something.) But life can be on purpose everyday.
Everyday you can choose to pursue your ambitious plans or acquiesce to the status quo. Everyday you can work on building a freedom income, instead of only giving your life to your job.
Everyday you can choose to have faith that you CAN achieve your dreams, and live the life you want to live, no matter how unreachable or unreasonable it may seem to others.
Everyday you can choose to embrace all that you are meant to be and believe in yourself and what you have to offer the world.
Everyday you can choose courage over fear.
Everyday you can gain more personal freedom by acting according to your priorities. Everyday you can take action that will bring you closer to living the life you want.
What will be your choice?
Mother of five amazing kids, author, family travel expert and full-time traveler. Besides writing about their family travel adventures, Rachel also shares information on The Art of Family Travel, how to Fund Your Lifestyle, and is co-author of the popular book, Living Deliberately: How to Create a Ridiculously Awesome Life.