For the last couple months, we’ve been listening to audio books during our daily commutes to and from work. I know many people listen to podcasts, but we’re old school and have rediscovered the public library and the awesome resources available there. During this time, we’ve listened to works on Buddhism, psychology, genetics, economics, memory, generosity, and healthy eating. Personally, I’ve found this to be a great way to be more productive and actually learn something during the hour to an hour and a half it takes me to complete my daily 24-mile roundtrip journey.
On Friday, I finished listening to Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels. At a high level, the book talks about recognizing and prioritizing the important things in your life, while not being consumed by things that don’t matter. One topic the author mentioned was the idea of life seasons. Our lives are not just one long period of existence. Instead, they are made up of a series of seasons or phases. This got me thinking and I began to notice that my own life really has been comprised of about half a dozen distinct seasons of varying lengths.
I’ve listed my life seasons below with a short description of each.
- Childhood and adolescence – Raised in a middle class suburb and attended public schools (with the exception of one year) with pretty much the same kids from Kindergarten through high school
- Undergraduate Phase 1 – Enrolled at the local state university, studied engineering, and played rugby
- Undergraduate Phase 2 – Joined ROTC and met the future Mrs. DTG
- Active duty and becoming a parent – Moved away from the area I grew up, lived in multiple states across the country, and had 3 kids along the way
- Corporate experiment – Transitioned from active duty to the corporate world, solidified plans for financial independence
- Moving to Europe (August 2016) – Goals: simplify, travel extensively, and cut back to part time working
I want to focus on our current season and the one we are about to enter. We have changed so much the last 2-3 years. Though we’re still the same people at heart, it’s amazing to look back and see how our goals and priorities have evolved. When we arrived in Texas in November 2013, we both planned to stick it out on active duty for another 12-15 years to qualify for a lifetime pension. We purchased a 3,100 sq ft home (everything’s bigger in Texas), filled it with stuff, and were “living the dream.”
Shortly thereafter, the military announced a massive force reduction. For the first time since graduating from college, I began seriously pondering what it would be like to leave active duty. I never really liked the idea of working until my 60s and was constantly looking for a way out. Up to that point, a military pension always seemed to be my best option. Now, I was eyeing the increased earnings potential in the civilian world. In September 2014, I voluntarily left active duty, joined the reserves, and began my corporate experiment.
Throughout 2014 and 2015, I became increasingly disenchanted with the typical American lifestyle and what society considered normal. I devoured blogs like Mr. Money Mustache and Brave New Life. Work meetings and deadlines began to feel silly. I lost all motivation to climb the corporate ladder and knew I needed to escape the rat race. Soon, I discovered an entire online personal finance community and was hooked.
Fortunately, our above average household income and propensity to save throughout our marriage allowed us to build a solid nest egg. I began to focus on creating passive income streams. I’m still not terribly fond of the idea of drawing down our current funds once we stop working and instead prefer living off of cash flows created by our investments (dividends, interest from private lending, and rental income). As I type this, I’m confident that we could live comfortably for an indefinite period of time off a combination of part time work supplemented by passive income.
At the same time, we began making other changes in our lives. Through Mrs. DTG’s classmates, we discovered a whole new world of foods and healthy eating. We’d always thought we were health conscious, but by cutting out almost all processed foods, increasing our fruits and vegetables, eating more healthy fats, and purchasing higher quality meats, we noticed a drastic improvement in our health. I quickly lost about 10 pounds, not that I was overweight before, and felt so much better. Instead of eating just to eat, I was eating purposefully. I felt fuller for longer and rarely snacked in the evenings anymore. Now, I can hardly eat processed foods without feeling gross afterwards.
We began decluttering last fall and will get rid of a lot more stuff before our big move later this year. This brings us to our next season. Aside from the births of each of our children, moving to another country across the Atlantic Ocean will probably be the biggest event of our lives to this point. And it feels like it’s happening at the perfect time. It’s almost like we’re being given a fresh chance to make a clean break from our current lifestyle to start a new one where we can implement everything we’ve learned over the last two years.
No more $2,000 a month mortgage. No more hour long daily commutes. No more spending the majority of my waking hours trading time for money. We cannot wait to begin our next season and hope you continue to follow us on our journey!