Each of us chases financial freedom for a reason. And for me, travel is a big part of my dream life. After a year of crazy-long hours, I finally took some time out to visit family in Germany. This trip gave me a taste of freedom … and made me hyper-aware of my shortcomings. It’s time to get serious about making some changes and earning a living on my own terms.
My Low-cost Trip to Bavaria
I’ve been out of the workforce for over a year and I have yet to earn an income from the Early Exit Academy, so how in the world can I afford to spend a week in Bavaria? Well, travel is pretty darn affordable when the flight is free and you have a place to crash each night. My previous career was high stress and high travel – but there were perks, like frequent flier miles. I cashed some miles in to fly to Munich for free, although it required a drive and hotel stay near Dulles airport. And my generous brother and his wife welcomed me to their apartment and treated me to home cooking and guided tours. Sweet!
Experiences over Stuff
My trip was a terrific reminder that experiences matter more than stuff. We toured castles, slid down a wooden slide into the salt mines, ebiked up mountain roads, hiked to the waterfalls, ventured to the top of snowy peaks, and learned about beer making in Bavaria. My memories are my souvenirs. I brought a t-shirt home for my child – that’s it. Fortunately, my friend and family are not shoppers either, so there were few temptations.
Vacations also serve as excellent reminders of the things we miss when we’re not at home. I invest a fair amount of money into caring for my cats and my outdoor space – gazebo, walkways, gardens. So this trip made me feel good about the way my spending is aligned to my values. The other aspect of home is my friends, especially my Master Naturalist friends. Fortunately, most of those activities, like last night’s bat monitoring excursion, don’t cost anything. I can live pretty cheaply and still enjoy the things that are important to me.
Shortcomings … Front and Center
When my career crashed, I was confident that I would have the time, energy, and motivation to lose weight and get fit. I FAILED MISERABLY! I became obsessed with building the Early Exit Academy courses and worrying about money. I neglected my health, and this trip made me realize just how bad it had become. When I sit behind the laptop typing away, I can forget about my appearance. But when I’m the subject of the camera, my wide hips and fat face can’t be denied. I did a lot of cropping on my photos and I found myself trying to hide behind people and objects. Not good. I’m ashamed, humiliated, and saddened by my failure to tackle my weight issue.
This is hardly a new problem; I have gained and lost considerable amounts of weight over my entire adult life. I know what works for me – low carbs and more activity. I’ve let stress, and at other times, injuries and illness, push me back into the obesity zone. It amazes me that I can be disciplined in so many parts of my life, except when it comes to my own health. BUT the good news is that I’ve tackled this issue before and I know I can do it again. This time around, I’m going to give keto and intermittent fasting a try. I don’t want my body to continue to dilute my happiness.
13 Months and Counting
I can hardly believe that I am now into my second year of living without a paycheck. I want my blog, Better Life Challenges and Early Exit Academy to succeed. And it was a comment by a fellow blogger that made me consider why I can’t seem to turn the corner. She noted that I hadn’t really become a contributing member of the community of personal finance bloggers. She was spot-on. I’ve been obsessed with building my courses and I haven’t devoted much time to building relationships with other bloggers – relationships that are mutually beneficial. Admittedly, I didn’t realize how important these connections could be.
After some introspection, I realized what’s been holding me back – my identity. I spent 20 years building a very successful career working on justice system reform. I still feel a little lost. That chapter is over, and I haven’t completely embraced this new chapter. Now that I am close to finishing my courses, I will work on relationship building. Part of the process requires me to think about my identity – what I do should not define who I am. I need to get over myself!
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Dr. Brenda is a financial coach, educator, researcher, and sociologist. In addition to blogging at The Five Journeys, she writes 30-day challenges at BetterLifeChallenges.com. Her passion is guiding people on their journey to financial freedom through coaching at DrBrendaMoneyCoach and online courses at EarlyExitAcademy.com.
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