I’ve got Coeur d’Alene on the brain, and it just will not leave

Published February 8, 2016   Posted in Having some fun

They say that struggle is the bedrock of any great story, but this particular story has no struggle. This is a tale of happiness and inspiration, one that I hope to see through to the end very shortly.

Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

My wife and I walked slowly along Lake Coeur d’Alene, glancing back and forth between the beautiful water and the gentle hum of city bustle. It felt like a small beach town. Kids played in the sand. Parents sat on beach towels keeping sanity. A sand-swept two lane street laid between us and lake front homes. A peaceful beginning, Hollywood-style.

It was July of 2015, and my wife and I stopped in Coeur d’Alene on our way back to the Spokane airport after our trip to Glacier National Park we took for my birthday. It seemed like the perfect place to grab some lunch.

But as we began to experience more of the city, it soon turned into much more than a simple lunch spot. This felt like destiny.

It was a hot day. I found myself walking just a bit slower under the welcoming shade of trees and a little more swiftly when exposed to the sun. But, I was calm. My wife was relaxed…grinning.

Boats sat gracefully out on the water, occasionally rocking back and forth in the wake of a passing jet ski. Along the boardwalk (the world’s longest floating boardwalk, by the way), we stopped to witness a water plane take off and ascend slowly into the crystal clear Idaho skies.

Boat owners tended to their floating prized possessions at the dock, hosing down the sides, fiddling with adjustable awnings, restocking their watercraft with supplies. Like a well-oiled machine, the activity seemed organized and polite, boaters never holding back a quick smile as we passed. People appeared happy and content. We continued to walk, taking in the warm Idaho afternoon.

American flag near Lake Coeur d'Alene

American flag near Lake Coeur d’Alene

We poked our heads inside a coffee shop. We noticed a few patrons with laptop computers working via the shop’s free WiFi access, cup o’ Joe in hand. I smiled, then procured myself a cup.

For a moment, I had completely forgotten that we were on our way back to “normal life” and a full-time job. My wife and I knew full well what we were experiencing that day.

We were living our definition of retirement

“After retirement, this will be our life almost every day,” we said. The life of travel and seeing new places, new faces, new coffee shops, new towns, and villages.

In the short time that we enjoyed Lake Coeur d’Alene and the surrounding area, we got to put our future plans into action and live our travel goals for post-retirement. We got to experience the feeling of “newness” first hand, of mindfully taking in our environment, trying new things, interacting with new people – and enjoying every minute of it.

And being completely carefree while doing it. It was almost too good to be true.

I felt a very real sense of excitement develop within me, but slowly, that feeling slowly gave way to a realization that we are not yet at that point. We are not retired. We have full-time jobs to go back to.

“But I want to stay right here,” I thought. Then, go somewhere else, maybe spend more time in Spokane, then take a few months and see the Cascade mountains in western Washington. I want to experience life, not spend it working in some office (even if it’s my own home office)!

While my emotions were mixed, my vision of our goal of financial independence and early retirement became more laser focused than it already was. We both felt the same emotion that day.

This is what we want. We do not yet have it. Let’s get this done, now!

And from that afternoon, we promised ourselves that we would return to Coeur d’Alene, walk the very same path along the lake, perhaps buy a cup of coffee from the same coffee shop. But this time, I’d sit down and use the WiFi, because I have no place to be.

We will look around and enjoy the same beach town feel, listen to the low drone of happy children splashing around in the lake and the occasional roar of a speed boat’s engine as it knifes through the water, observe a water plane take off from the lake waters. And, watch beach ball-wielding families pick the perfect spot on the warm sand to call their own.

And we will do all of that – retired.

“The last time we were here, we had full-time jobs to go back to. Now, look at us!”

Word for word, baby. My wife and I are determined to make that happen, experience those sensations and say those very words.

One day, we will return to Coeur d’Alene.

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28 responses to “I’ve got Coeur d’Alene on the brain, and it just will not leave”

  1. Sounds like a great place to be. I have several days like that in the summer, where I know it FEELS free, but at the back of my head I know I will still have to go back to work. Having my summers off is a nice perk of my chosen profession, but they seem to go by far to fast. I’ll have to check out Glacier National Park on a road trip one of these days.

    • Steve says:

      Do check out Glacier – truly amazing place if you like the great outdoors. We left literally a day before the raging wild fires last year, too. Weird coincidence.

  2. Very powerful. Words can’t describe the fleeting moments of freedom felt along the way to achieving our goals. Knowing you are on the right path for you and doing everything that needs to be done to get back to bliss is motivation to push you toward your goal. Congrats on your experience. And, congrats on knowing what you want your life to be. Soon enough. Soon enough.
    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

  3. Sounds like a wonderful slice of inspiration. One of the biggest benefits of travel is that it frames two things for you: 1) what a big, wonderful world it is to explore; 2) it opens up a different sense of who we are and how we truly like living. Neither of these two dimensions reveals itself in the normal work week. I gave my 45 day notice at MegaCorp next week and will make note of this town. Idaho is one of the 2 states I need to reach to hit all 50!

    • Steve says:

      Definitely plan to visit – though we haven’t seen a lot of the city, we know that summertime around the lake is a prime spot to be in! You guys are so darn close to making this whole ER thing a reality for you. Full time work is almost a thing of the past!

  4. What a lovely vision! That sounds a lot like our first trip to the small town we now call home, and we did return! 🙂 I think the life you guys are putting together sounds so ideal for what you want to experience in life — as you said, you’re baking in a lot of newness and discovery, which is bound to feel exciting. And when you want to slow down, you can take more time to linger somewhere… maybe in Coeur d’Alene!

    • Steve says:

      There is something about small towns that we like, that’s for sure. Your town is a little smaller than Coeur d’Alene but I’m sure offers visitors that same sense of uniqueness and excitement all wrapped up into one – especially if you enjoy winter sports, which you two do. Lingering in Idaho during the summer sounds pretty darn close to…perfect. 🙂

  5. Beautifully written. These are the moments when I’ve most craved the FI lifestyle — not when dreading work or exhausted from an intense client meeting, but when enjoying and deeply experiencing day-to-day life without the looming time pressure of hurrying back to work.

    I’ve never been to Coeur d’Alene (a shame given that it’s only a morning’s drive away). You have me intrigued.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Matt, appreciate the kind words. Definitely add that city to your list of places to see, especially in the summertime if you like the lake scene.

  6. That’s pretty good motivation! I’ve only driven past the place, but I’ve heard good things about it.

    If we manage to retire (we got a late start for a variety of reasons), I definitely want to travel more. Or if I can even just go down to part-time to travel more.

    We can take trips now, but money is always an issue. Not to say that we won’t watch our spending in retirement, but we’ll be able to know that the money is there. That we’re not saving up for the next big project or catastrophe.

    • Steve says:

      Nothing wrong with transitioning over to part-time. Having a job that only costs 15 to 20 hours a week sure beats the demands of a 40 to 50-hour per week job and would allow you the freedom to travel much more than you probably do now.

  7. I think many people have these types of thoughts at the end of the vacation–that this is what they want life to be–but few think outside the box enough to make it happen so quickly. Of course everyone has a different realistic time table for retirement, but to even consider the alternatives to the typical 30-40 year career is pretty counter-cultural and also freeing! Thanks for sharing your story; it is inspiring.

    • Steve says:

      You are very welcome, Kalie – thanks for reading. It’s true, after virtually every vacation that I have ever taken in my life, I always have the “work” burden stuck in the back of my head. I never really mind returning home, but the thought of going back to my regularly scheduled programming of full-time work demands was definitely on my mind as my vacations came to a close. That is a feeling that I never want to feel again! 🙂

  8. Matt Spillar says:


    You sure do paint a beautiful picture with this post, I felt like I was there with you. You guys are so close that you can taste it. Good luck with this final push!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Matt – yup, we’re so close now. Sometimes it seems like we still have a ways to go yet, but I know that anything less than a year isn’t all that far off after all.

  9. Awesome story. Those trips are what intrigue me as well when I’m on PTO. Makes me want FIRE that much more!

    • Steve says:

      I know exactly what you mean, Fervent. That was a bitter sweet post to write because I was remembering how strongly I felt that very same emotion when we were there. 🙂

  10. Linda says:

    I enjoyed your beautifully written post. I love how this experience made your retirement goal so much more tangible and real, and lit even a greater fire and desire to achieve it! I have no doubt you will get there soon enough! I’ve experienced Coeur d’Alene in a different light in 2014 when I completed my Ironman there. I remember the struggle the most from the cold ice lake to the hilly, endless bike course, but I also do remember the beautiful scenery, sunshine, and the amazing people. I will have to return with different pair of lens and a different mission! Thanks Steve for the continuous inspiration. You and your wife rock.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for your comment, Linda! I’m sure the Ironman was an awesome experience, but yeah, you probably weren’t focused all that much on the city when you were there. Next time will certainly be different! 🙂

  11. Mr. SSC says:

    We’ve had those same feelings and moments, in most little towns we visit when we’re on vacations. Always the fleeting thought, “oh yeah, we’ll have to go back to work soon…” It’s those times that help push us towards getting to make our Lifestyle Change sooner than later, even if it may not be fully funded when it happens.

    We’re hoping to get to Coeur D’Alene and Whitefish this fall and check it out as one of our potential landing destinations when we enact our Lifestyle Change. One of the things we liked about Coeur D’Alene is what you mentioned in just having that small town aspect, and finding someplace where we could be part of a community. Plus, they have a nice little microclimate, so while you’re geographically, almost Southern Canada, the winters don’t necessarily reflect that. 🙂 Allegedly…

    • Steve says:

      I’ve spent some time at breweries in Whitefish – another really awesome small town that I would love to re-visit as well. I bet you guys will love exploring as much as we will once the time comes. The western U.S. has a ton to see.

  12. Ryland says:

    Hey Steve, With $675,000 in net worth ($27,000/yr passive income) at the young age of 35 with two people who have great 1. work resumes/backgrounds, 2. understanding of personal finance and flexibility in spending, and 3. likelihood to make money doing something you love in the future — Why put off quitting your jobs and starting your adventure/early retirement life till 2017?

    I know you guys pushed your ER date forward a while back by lowering your spending (which I loved!), but why not go after your dreams sooner? It seems like you have some incredibly deep safety margins on your side to act on the F-You money you’ve grown to start living your early retirement lifestyle before even hitting your early retirement number. Why not start now?

    • Steve says:

      Hi Ryland – honestly, my wife is a little more risk adverse than I am…okay, she is a LOT more risk adverse, so we are choosing the more conservative route. With less than a year to go for me, I’m not thaaaaaat upset about it – I can make it work. 🙂

      • Ryland says:

        Thanks, Steve. Just wanting to see if I could push you both a little further. 😉 Hope you keep it in mind. Appreciate everything you share. Thanks for writing

        • Steve says:

          Ha! I think that I have pushed us about as far as possible at this point. But make no mistake about it – our goal is to retire ASAP. We think that December is that date, but if for whatever reason we believe that an earlier date is better, I definitely won’t hesitate to make the move sooner. 🙂

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