A Year of Ditching the Daily Grind

Los Gigantes Tenerife Canary Islands

Los Gigantes, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Tomorrow marks one year of ditching the daily grind.

My last day as a full-time employee in corporate America was August 5, 2016, and I can honestly say without any hesitation that the time since handing in my employee ID badge has easily been the best year of my life.  Even though I’d been looking forward to and planning for the day my creative and productive energies would no longer waste away in cubicle hell, the abrupt finality at the age of 34 happened mostly by chance.

My wife, who is active duty military, was reassigned to a base overseas and I was more or less forced to quit my job.  At least that’s how it appeared from the outside, giving me the perfect cover to implement my new career plan, one in which I’d never work a traditional full-time job ever again.

I had wanted this for years, but didn’t have the courage to give up a borderline six-figure salary, especially with three kids under 10 still under our roof.  Although we’d had a good handle on our money for years and I knew we could easily pull it off financially, it still didn’t seem logical. Continue reading

Our Top Tip for Moving with Kids

 

Nottingham Castle

Nottingham, England

We’re right in the thick of the U.S. military PCS (permanent change of station) season.  This means that military families all over the globe are packing their belongings and heading out to new and sometimes familiar destinations.

We were in their shoes last year, prepping for our move from Texas across the pond to England.

For most people, this is a crazy way to live.  But we couldn’t imagine it any other way.  We’ve become accustomed to and comfortable with moving every 3–4 years.  In fact, we look forward to and fully embrace each move.

So why do many find this lifestyle to be so bizarre? Continue reading

A Change in Focus: Money No Longer a Top Thought

2017-06-21 02.16.22

Bath, England

As you may have noticed, I’ve been really lazy with the blog lately.  It’s been over a month since my last post and I wonder sometimes if I should keep it going.

I remember a time not too long ago when I thought about money constantly.  I’d wake up and immediately check my stocks to see if any news came out overnight.  I’d monitor our account balances daily.  I’d read personal finance blogs nonstop and think about posts to write.

And then it just stopped. Continue reading

April Earnings Update and More Traveling

Oxburgh Hall

Oxburgh Hall, England

Guten Tag von Deutschland!

It’s been a couple months since I’ve provided an income update.  For new readers, I quit working full time last August when we moved from the US to the UK and now do a variety of part-time jobs and freelancing.

Lately, though,  freelancing has been on the back burner.  I’ve been spending a fair amount of time on military orders and, as I alluded to above, I’m actually in Germany right now.

Not to mention, I’ve also been busy completing two separate training courses over the past couple weeks.  One of the courses is for the adjunct teaching position I was hired for back in March.  I’m pretty much done with this one and should teach my first class(es) during the fall semester.  The other is a beast and will be ongoing for probably the remainder of the year.

German Beers

Enjoying some German beverages

As expected, March saw a huge spike in earnings, mostly resulting from my reserve job.  Between the two weeks I’m working now and another two weeks in June, we should see a couple more spikes like the one in March over the coming months.

In a way, it’s almost like I’m back on active duty without a lot of the day-to-day BS.  I could go without the daily shaving, though.  My face does not appreciate it.  A scruffy beard is one HUGE perk of semi-retirement!

To be fair, it is nice to be making some extra money.  I do feel bad leaving Mrs. DTG alone with the kids, though I think they’re secretly glad to get rid of me from time to time.

April saw a sprinkling of several income sources.  Because of our Mediterranean cruise and a visit from family, I didn’t work for half the month.  This will impact May’s freelance income.  No more PTO for me 😦

Still, it’s better than dragging myself to work every day.  No complaints here!

One a positive note, I finally got paid for an editing job I did on Upwork the first week of February.  I had nearly written it off as pro bono work to an ungrateful Chinese engineering student.  Thankfully, he pulled through and I got my $80.  Ballin’!

My primary source of freelance income continues to be from technical editing.  I’m not making a ton, but the work is there any time I want it.

Anyway, here it is.  Nothing spectacular, but some extra cash nonetheless.  The next few months should see a nice boost and I’ll hopefully start teaching in the fall.

Regardless, I don’t ever see myself going back to sustained full-time employment, especially after our recent net worth calculation turned out better than I’d expected. 😉

Freelance Earnings 201704

Is a Mediterranean Cruise Worth It?

Palma Cruise Ship

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

It’s been 10 days since we returned from Italy and things are finally getting back to normal… at least for me.

Mrs. DTG went back to work the day after we returned and the boys went back to school the day after that.  Our daughter was off of school last week and we also had a family visitor in town.

Now, the house has returned to the quiet I’ve grown accustomed to.

In all, we had a great family vacation.  Fortunately the kids’ school schedules lined up and we were able to spend nine days traveling around the western Mediterranean, the bulk of which was a weeklong cruise around the Italian, French, and Spanish coasts.

Because of its low cost and great itinerary, we chose a Costa cruise out of Savona, Italy, flying into Milan and taking a train down to Savona.  The ship docked in five ports with one full day at sea.  We were in each port for between 9–11 hours, which meant five long, and sometimes rushed, days of sightseeing.

Our ports of call included:

  • Marseille, France
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Palma de Mallorca, Spain
  • Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
  • La Spezia, Italy

I won’t go into detail about each place, but instead will outline some highlights and disappointments of our trip.  We didn’t do a ton of research on each destination beforehand.  I prefer to go freestyle and just wing it.

Highlights

    • Spain: Both Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca were beautiful.  I was surprised at how clean and open Barcelona felt for being a relatively large city.  Palma de Mallorca is in a class of its own.  It’s easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.
Cathedral in Palma

Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma (La Seu)

    • Cinque Terre: While in La Spezia, we took a short train ride up to Cinque Terre, a series of five picturesque villages along the Italian coastline.  Walking through those towns felt like being in a postcard.
Manarola Cinque Terre

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Vernazza Cinque Terre

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

    • Cathedrals: Pictures do not give you a true appreciation for the size of some of these cathedrals.  Both the Duomo di Milano (Milan) and the Sagrada Familia (Barcelona) are absolutely massive.  We didn’t get a chance to go inside Sagrada Familia, but the Duomo di Milano seemed to go on forever.  Extremely impressive.  The other day, I went by a cathedral near our house that now looks tiny in comparison.
Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

Sagrada Familia Barcelona

Sagrada Familia – to give you an idea of its size, a red double decker bus is parked right in front of the cathedral

  • Daily Step Count: I walked over 32,000 steps in Barcelona alone, a personal record!  Other days averaged closer to 20,000.  We definitely worked off whatever calories we consumed on the ship!

Disappointments

    • Rome: Don’t get me wrong, I’m stoked we got to see the Coliseum, Pantheon, and other ancient Roman sites, but I did not care for the overall vibe of Rome.  It was just too hectic and not my style.  We’re glad we left the kids at the Kids Club on the ship that day.  It would’ve been chaos with them.  We didn’t have enough time to go inside Vatican City, though we saw Saint Peter’s Basilica from the outside, and that’s probably the only reason I’d want to return to Rome.
Coliseum Rome

Coliseum 

  • Breakfast: I love breakfast and was looking forward to chowing down on some freshly made omelets.  But being an Italian cruise, the buffet-style breakfast only had breads, pastries, and fruits – a continental breakfast.  If you wanted a hot breakfast with eggs, sausage, bacon, etc., you needed to go down to the restaurant.  This wasn’t a huge deal, but it was a bit of a surprise the first morning and the system they had in place was a bit of a cluster.  After that, we adjusted and it was fine.
  • No free water at dinner: Along the same lines as the previous comment, water was not provided in the restaurant during dinner (it was available at the buffet, just not the restaurant).  If you wanted to drink something with your meal, which I presume most people did, you had to buy it.  The €3 for a bottle of water each night wasn’t a deal breaker but more of an irritant, especially the first evening.

Expectations management sums up our disappointments pretty well.  If you know what you’re getting into ahead of time, it’s no big deal.  The initial surprise is what gets you.

Prior to this, we’d be on at least a half a dozen or so cruises, primarily to the Caribbean and once to New England/Canada.  As you’d expect, those all had a distinctly American vibe.  This cruise, on the other hand, was a complete cultural immersion.  All announcements were made in four languages (Italian, English, Spanish, and German) and sometimes a fifth (French).  It was amazing listening to the cruise director and other crew members switch from one language to another without missing a beat.

For the five of us, we spent roughly $2,500 over the nine-day trip.  This includes airfare, the cruise itself, one night at a hotel, train tickets, pizza, gelato, and other miscellaneous costs.   In total, we visited nine cities in three countries.  Aside from a cold and rainy day in Marseille, the weather was perfect.  The main downside, it was exhausting!

At the end of the day, was the trip worth it?  You better believe it.