You guessed it, we’re off on another adventure. This is the tail end of our month long road trip. This week however, we’re spending a week bonding as a family on the North Carolina-Tennessee line. This trip came about in an odd way, but there is lots to like about it. Even more important, it should remind all to be open to new or unusual opportunities. Our pursuit of Flexible Independence has allowed us to capitalize on some unique opportunities, and we haven’t regretted any of them. In this case, some outstanding kids in our congregation needed a ride to camp…..and by taking them we get a week in beautiful western North Carolina. Sure, we need to pay for our accommodations…..and I consider $180 per week super cheap for a family of three. That includes food and lodging for all of us, in an outstanding lodge. This place feels like a corporate retreat center, but I don’t mind because the views and hiking are outstanding. We splurged on another $65 so Ms. IS could enjoy a few other activities….. like a day of white water rafting….. but come on. That makes for a super efficient week. Wi-fi also allows me and Ms. IS to complete some of our usual activities remotely. Anyone in our congregation could have signed up for this trip, but I feel really blessed that we are in a place where we could participate. (Twitter users can follow many of the pictures @IncomeSurf)
Next week I’ll start addressing a two week backlog of my consulting clients, but this week is about family bonding and reinvigorating the mind, body, and spirit in the great outdoors. John Muir famously wrote about how he believed that people needed to spend time in nature to be revitalized and refreshed. I have always been inclined to agree with him, but where to find the time in our busy…. modern….. lives?! Like most anything else in our lives, if we aren’t intentional about things…….the opportunities can easily just pass us on by.
Lessons From The End
This discussion isn’t about making anyone feel guilty, or suggesting our way is the “only way”. In telling our story we always try to be very honest about the choices we’ve made, as well as the pros and cons that accompany those choices. We could have a net worth of a couple million dollars and many more toys, but we decided several years ago that those things wouldn’t make us any more happy. Such discussions got underway when we first started dating…..and really kicked into high gear when Ms. IS was working as a hospice chaplain. You know what hospice patients don’t spend a lot of time talking about?! How they wished they had made more money or bought nicer/fancier toys. Nope, Ms. IS shared tale after tale of how her patients valued first their RELATIONSHIPS with loved ones……and second, following their PASSIONS. Some patients had focused on these things, and some patients were full of regrets because they hadn’t focused on these things, but most conversations near the end revolved around these topics. Death is a sobering conversation, but it also provides some people with a lot of clarity. If we can learn from that clarity and get think about what is important to us…..all the better.
Relationships and Kiddos
So the conversations began, and once we had zeroed in on what was most important to us…..we tried to figure out how to focus on those things intentionally. How could we spend time learning and growing as a family, if we had different lives/jobs? Was it even possible? Were we sure we wanted to try this experiment? We could be earning a great deal more money, and paying someone else to raise the Little Man….. but we feel really blessed to have had the chance to choose other options. We made other choices and those choices have worked really well for our family.
Is everything perfect?! No, of course not. This is life….and stuff happens. Cars break, people get sick, etc. For instance, I am not a huge fan of the baby stage…..I have found it really meaningful to experience things with the Little Man for the last year. I love the questions and the curiosity. He’s so engaging. He comes to us with all kinds of questions and musings….and I consider us blessed to be able to answer his questions and stoke his curiosity. Who would answer those questions if we weren’t around? I doubt he would save all of them up to ask me when I got home late from work. The mind of a toddler is fleeting. Twenty or thirty years from now he isn’t likely to remember the answers given, or even the things that caught his attention today. What he likely will remember however, is that we were/are around……. and the experiences we share with him.
I speak from experience on this topic. I know I’ll never forget playing cowboy in an amateur rodeo in Cody Wyoming with my grandpa, or pushing cattle with him outside Yellowstone National Park 20 years ago. I’ll never forget sleeping out under the stars in the Petrified Forest with my Dad and Grandpa 25 years ago. Likewise I’ll always remember the countless fly fishing trips to North Carolina with my mom, or the first time I camped on a sandbar with my parents (more than 30 years ago). The Little Man is only three, but his trips/experiences will soon be locked in his psyche. There is nothing more important to us, than being there to make those memories as a family.
Current North Carolina Trip
This week we are staying north and east of Asheville North Carolina. We are about 4000 ft of elevation, and the ridge line above us is about 4900 ft of elevation. We have done several nice hikes, and look forward to several more. (As an aside, have you ever noticed how much better food tastes when you have to hike a trail to get to meals?) Each day we have been bonding as a family, playing games with the Little Man, spotting bugs and frogs down in the creek, listening to the song birds in the trees, and laughing at strange and marvelous wild flowers/weeds. The weather is fantastic. Although it is as humid as our home in Florida, the daily temperature has ranged from 60-80 degree Fahrenheit. I don’t know that I will ever get used to the beauty of watching it rain down in the valley below……from above the clouds.
Ms. IS had never been white water rafting, so we worked that in while I watched the Little Man. Later this week we are also thinking about doing the high ropes course and zip line, but we’ll see. I care a lot less about what exactly we do, compared to us doing things as a family. As mentioned above, we were able to capitalize on this opportunity because of the type of lifestyle we’ve laid out….and that’s precious to us.
Focus on What Matters Most to You
I wouldn’t expect everyone, or even most readers of this post, to desire a similar lifestyle. We’re all different and have different goals, passions, and desires. The process to modify your lifestyle to meet YOUR goals however, is largely the same. It starts with thoughtful discernment of WHAT you want, and what feels right to you. If you’re in a relationship, talk it over with your significant other. Once you’ve thought about what you want, you get to come up HOW to make it happen. This part is the most fun for me because I am a planner and tend to be task oriented. You’ll probably tweak/modify your plan a half dozen times before you settle on something that feels just right. Don’t worry, just like life…..this was an iterative process for us.
It’s also really important to remember that the dream/vision you settle on probably won’t look like other people’s dreams. Case in point……we met a very interesting young woman on the trail yesterday. She is mid twenties and lives somewhere around Charlotte. Her passions are traveling with friends and dancing professionally. She shared with us how she lives in a 500 ft2 tiny house and dances in musicals. She also volunteers a fair bit, but she loves to lock the doors and go off traveling with friends. We discussed our vision for life/work balance and she shared hers. It was clear we had similar ideas and had tailored them to fit what is really important to each of us. Have I ever mentioned that we meet the most interesting people while traveling….
For the next few weeks, our posts will be about investing and discussing interesting reads, but the travel and lifestyle aficionados among you should have no fear. Next month we’ll have a family vacation piggy backing on one of Ms. IS’s professional training opportunities. We also extended that trip to include our annual reunion with some of our best friends. In September, the family will follow me for a week of family and craft beer in Denver…. for Denver’s Start Up Week. October, well I am probably flying solo to FinCon…..but who knows
Did I mention that we feel really blessed. Out here living life and wishing you a wonderful and purpose filled week!