In December of 2016, I officially called it quits from full-time work. Hopefully, forever. I remember my last day vividly – I did virtually nothing that was work-related. My manager allowed me to ride out the last day on the company’s overhead budget to free up some project money, and away I went.
I took a few moments to reflect on what was happening. I had done it. Finally. After all those months of saving and investing, through all those times I would have done virtually anything to just quit that day, I made it to the end. It was surreal, but not entirely unexpected. It was cool, though.
Today, I sit in our little 200 square foot Airstream after spending an entire year free. Free from full-time work. No meetings. Not a single performance review. No real need for an alarm clock. I was the master of my own destiny, and I sure as hell made it count.
After one year of early retirement
If you’re wondering whether or not this whole early retirement business is all that it’s cracked up to be, then let me answer that question first.
Yes. Hell yes, it is.
It’s a remarkable feeling of control, each and every day. It didn’t take long before I forgot entirely that I didn’t have any major income coming in. That part just didn’t matter. My wife – the money master in the family – worked the budget so we were able to travel the country and have fun doing it.
I almost never got bored, but that’s also because I had set up a plan of attack. I knew what I wanted to do with myself before I quit. That’s essential. If you have no hobbies, then you probably won’t be happy sitting at home doing nothing. Doing nothing isn’t what early retirement is all about.
Here’s what kept me busy
Full-time travel – As most of you know, we sold both of our homes and travel the country for a living. Full-time. Our Airstream is our home. Yes, our only home. We pulled out of the KOA in Tucson, AZ April 1st and began our new lives of travel.
This kind of lifestyle tends to keep ya busier than normal.
The United States is a beautiful country, and our plan is to see it. Valley of Fire, Bryce Canyon, the Great Salt Lake, the Oregon Coast and the waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge were stunning.
Idaho, actually, was WAY more beautiful than I had thought. You often hear the bigger-named states like Montana and Colorado as beautiful (and they are, at least in some areas), but Idaho surprised us a bit. It’s on our short list of where we might look to invest in property down the line.
Here are just a few of my favorite snapshots from our travels this year.
Rockstar Finance – For damn near the entire year of 2016, I worked closely with J$ as his primary technical resource. I built out the entire Rockstar Directory from scratch (with J$ delivering the vision, of course). I’m also an administrator over on the Rockstar Forums and serve as the technical dude behind the entire Rockstar system of websites. It’s been incredibly fun, and it’s amazing to me what we’ve been able to build in a relatively short time.
Big things are ahead on this front. 2018 is going to be an amazing year.
YouTube channel – My wife and I spend time running a growing YouTube channel called A Streamin’ Life. I’m the one filming the majority of the videos, and I’m also the guy who edits the videos and puts together the final product. Talking videos only take about 30 minutes to edit, but hiking and exploration videos can take hours to edit with music. It’s fun, though!
My wife is the pretty face in front of the camera, and she’s also the visionary behind the channel. She’s the one coming up with ideas for the videos, responding to comments and generally just being the face of the channel.
At over 5,500 subscribers, we are extremely excited about the possibilities of that channel and where it might go. We’ve doubled our subscriber count over the past year. It’s a sign that we’re doing something right. Lots of ideas brewin’.
I also designed a custom 2018 mini-calender that’s selling pretty well. It’s filled with the best of my photography from our travels this year. It brings in a tiny bit of income, but it was super satisfying to put together!
As you can tell, I’ve been busy, but not too busy where I’ve felt overwhelmed by the work I was doing. There is a balance that needs to be maintained throughout early retirement. The idea is to keep that buttery sweet feeling of freedom and combine it with satisfying work that makes you feel productive, accomplished and useful.
The need for income
I cannot put my finger on why, but I’ve always felt the need to maintain a little cash flow in early retirement. We don’t need the money. In fact, the market increased our net worth by around $40,000 during the summer of 2016. But still, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that we need cash flow.
Instead of fighting it, I’m embracing it. It doesn’t need to be much. A few hundred here and there takes care of that feeling for me. I switched out the ads on this blog from Google AdSense to Mediavine, which has made a drastic difference in revenue (in the neighborhood of four to five times more revenue after the switch). This blog is now at the point of producing fairly dependable income that’s not exactly chump change.
Our YouTube channel brings in some money as well, though not quite as much as the blog at the moment. As we gain subscribers and viewers, that only stands to increase. We have no plans to start affiliate marketing or accepting sponsorships on YouTube. That’s not what we want to turn the channel in to, at least at this point.
And, any IT work I do brings in a little income as well, but they are projects that I enjoy doing. It keeps my mind in the IT game a bit, too.
On average, we’ve brought in between $800 and $1,000 a month in early retirement doing things that we thoroughly enjoy. We don’t feel stressed. We don’t feel like we have a “job”. We’re working on things we enjoy, and the added cash flow is never a bad thing, especially when we have another 40 or 50 years of our lives ahead of us!
In the midst of writing this report, I tried my very best to include the negatives too. But honestly, there aren’t many. We had a tire blowout driving 70 MPH through Utah earlier in the summer. We bottomed-out our Airstream getting out of a steep slope, causing some minor damage to the rear end. But other than that, the needle has been pegged on happy.
I don’t miss my job. Like, not even close. I don’t miss anything about it, really. I’m as productive as I ever was because my interests have always lied outside of the office. That’s helped a bunch. It’s easy to keep busy.
So far, so good!
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.