Though we grew-up strangers, continents apart, and in entirely different cultures, Cay and I were both raised in pretty traditional households with typical sorts of values- work hard, go to school, work hard at work, build a “nest egg”, enjoy said “nest egg”. Along with our similar and separate upbringings, we both shared a sense of adventure and exploration that would find us uprooting ourselves from our respective homes and moving to California- where we later met. It was there that we dated, married, and moved in together, and where, after a few years of cohabitation, we realized that the “work hard and get ahead” traditions we had both been raised with, seemed to take more than it gave.
We were both 30-somethings who had worked off our debts, had respectable careers and the ambitions of someday owning a home, maybe having a family or at least a few furbabies, and retiring- hopefully early, with the “nest egg” we had been raised to work towards.
Our reality was that we were two full-time working adults with above-average salaries, no outstanding debts, modest tastes and spending habits, and more than our fair share of advantages. And yet, despite all our best efforts, and following conventional wisdom for “success”, we were several years away from ever being able to buy property in the areas we desired, and many other benchmarks of the “traditional adulthood” we had been groomed for. Granted, we were living in California, specifically Silicon Valley, where this was exacerbated by especially high living costs. But, the trend of rising housing costs that far exceed salary increases, appears to be an epidemic throughout most of the country- especially in urban areas.
Having devoted our attention to real-estate news, we also read and saw countless reports on “Millennial living”, trends in things like tiny homes, co-op living situations, skyrocketing housing prices, and on how the “American Dream” was dead. I am not going to stray off-topic to touch on any of that, but if, as some of the grimmer predictions foretold, there is even the modest chance that we won’t be enjoying the “fruits” of our labor, such as: a comfortable nest egg, option for an early retirement, Social Security, or even the prospect of one of those mythical pensions, then we didn’t see any point in wasting the best years of our youth on the “Dream” that may very well be dissolving around us.
OK, so fast-forward several months of discussions, strategizing and so on, and we decided that as much as we loved our adopted state of California, it was time to embrace our inner adventurer, change our perspective, and broaden our landscape to see what opportunities awaited us outside of our comfort zone. If we had played by all the “rules” thus far, and it still felt as if we were barely treading water, then we might as well throw the “rules” out the window and shake things up.
With lots of brainstorming, and a few brain farts along the way, we eventually decided that living a mobile existence, while working remotely, was a better fit for our goals and interests. It satisfied our inner nomadic souls and gave us the direct exposure to learn about other parts of the country, while still working hard and saving. It was one of those epiphany moments where we realized that for us, it was a now or never type of moment in our lives. We were debt free, child-free, of good health (knock on wood), and without any major impediments that would anchor us in any specific location. We were fortunate to be jointly independent and in a flexible position.
However, it felt like we were at a strange age to choose such an unconventional lifestyle. We were not in the 18-25 demographic, where things like gap years and nomadic existence are more accepted as a right of passage. And, we weren’t in the 55+ market, where retirement lends itself more seamlessly to a mobile lifestyle. We are the new ‘tweens. We were, and are, an underrepresented portion of the population that desperately needs more representation.
Having made the leap. Here are some of the reasons why we feel that your 30s are a great time to take such an unconventional path. Being 30-somethings with over a decade of work experience meant that we had gained more knowledge and perspective than our 20-something self. We have established retirement funds that can sit and accrue, even if we have to take a short pause from contributions. We have had years in the workforce to pay down our debts. We have more experience in navigating the unknown, more skills in our toolkit, and more confidence to fudge the rest. We have better technology now than we did yesterday (and continues to get better each day). Our age shields us a little more from parental criticism (luckily- neither of us suffered any). Should we go the family route, we are still relatively young. Having learned post-college that my body cannot sustain itself on fast-food and naps, I eat far healthier now and workout regularly, and feel more physically capable of our on-the-move lifestyle. And, while Cay’s profession is very well suited for remote work, because my line of work was not receptive to remote working, I have the comfort of knowing that though I am taking a gap in paid employment, when I do re-join the paid workforce, I have a decade+ of experience on my resume that my 20-year old self would not have had.
I cannot speak to how my 40-something, 50-something, or 60-something year old self would respond. All of them may equally advocate that their age is the perfect time to make the same leap. Who knows, hindsight is rose-colored and 20-20. I can, however, attest that the people we have met on the road, who are older than we are, all respond in the same way- that they wish they had done what we are doing at our age. Whether that is wisdom or lip-service, I like to believe that they know something we do not yet know and are not filling us up with false confidence. Admittedly, I was pretty nervous about breaking the news to my parents, who by their nature, are very invested in my progress and growth. They completely shocked me by being utterly understanding and even encouraging of our new path, and still are (though, I like to tease them that they would have agreed to anything if it meant I would “finally” move out of California).
Eight months into our road existence, we have realized that the act of making the change was the scariest and hardest part of the process, and a lot of our worries stemmed from the fear of the unknown and in straying so far from convention. But, as scary as taking the leap was, we are so happy that we did and feel very grateful that our circumstances afforded us this opportunity to live with more direction and ownership over our path. There is no wrong time to take steps towards a future you find fulfilling, and we wholeheartedly attest that being a “30-something” does not make you too old to take risks nor too young to embrace a life of intention.