SO it's not exactly the magical first step you picture after getting married, but... it's a big part of what we've been doing for the past 5 years together.
Our HOPE is that in sharing our experiences, ideas, methods of madness to pay off student loan debt quickly, etc., we can help others in their journey. That's the simple goal of The Wild Drive!
Into the Wild, please!
Note: There are MANY, many ways to get from point A to point B, this is simply the way we chose. We're not experts and we're SO not done learning what the heck it is we're supposed to be doing...
In 2013, we secretly wanted to hit the road, and climb some mountains for, well.. ever. Turns out you can't really DO that with $100,000 of debt. Well, you could, but it wouldn't last too long.
We had more practical dreams too. We wanted to start a business together, provide for ourselves and make an impact on others; pretty simple. One of our first ideas was a delicious taco food truck with just TOP NOTCH, memorable service. We really love tacos. I also really love making people's day with something I said or did. BUT we could barely get a credit card back then, how were we supposed to take another risk with all this debt?
Our entrepreneurial plans have evolved greatly over time but our dream of traveling the country and living in a creative, healthy, mobile way remains the same. We just couldn't see ourselves in the same place, in the same house, in the same job for any extended length of time. We wanted an American Dream of our own design.
Patience and being okay with not fitting in.
We tried to fit in for a minute and almost bought a house after we got married. We backed out. Not long after failing at that, I created what I still call my "Budget Spreadsheet of Awesomeness", bought an Appalachian Trail thru-hike guide for motivation and we started annihilating the thing that was holding us back from our dream: student loan & vehicle debt.
As difficult as it was for us to ride this debt payoff journey out, we knew it would be worth it. We didn't want to just tour the country for a month, run out of money, and have to take two steps back! No!
We wanted to make this sustainable. We wanted CHOICES, SECURITY and FREEDOM.
We know now that you can have all three if you're stubborn enough.
Looking back, I'll explain it like this: I felt like we couldn't really GET STARTED with a life of our choosing with that amount of debt looming over us. Student loan debt isn't attached to an asset that appreciates and can be sold at a profit later. It just accrues interest and causes stress. Ask anyone, it's seriously the worst. Vehicle debt is also the worst because cars depreciate so darn quickly. Story for another day...
Teamwork (we don't even like sports)...
It was all a game. When it came to debt annihilation, Ben and I were unstoppable. Every extra payment we made was like we earned extra points, every time we chose to make delicious food at home instead of going out to eat, we WON AGAIN! It's all about perspective! We found ourselves modifying and simplifying all areas of our life to speed up our mission. It turns out there are A LOT of things within your control.
It's A LOT easier to spend LESS money than to make MORE money.
Every smart financial decision is like getting a raise! The more we simplified, the lighter we felt and the more we could allocate to extra loan payments. A lot of the things we thought we needed, we were perfectly happy without, like plastic wrap or store bought bread... that stuff adds up! Did I mention it's all about perspective?
Thanks, John Lennon!
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
Don't forget this! It's so true. Paying off loans isn't what I would call a good time. Buckling down so that it's done in 4 years instead of 20 is AMAZING though! What I've learned is that every day is an opportunity to LIVE and do something great, big or small; IMPROVE yourself, surprise yourself, do something! As much as we looked forward to that $0 balance goal, we enjoyed and learned and made the most of the present moment. We got to live ½ mile from a beautiful beach for five years, life could be worse.
It all came together when we bought the bus in 2016.
Rather than lamenting about the things we did without: nights out with fancy drinks, going out to eat, shopping for entertainment, etc. we celebrated what we gained in minimizing. We found what truly makes us tick by getting rid of the clutter. We simplified our possessions and habits, discovered AMAZING entertainment in the outdoors, pride in saving money and so much more.
What started as a simple mission to attack our debt became a COMPLETE change of perspective and lifestyle. It evolved. It's more to us now.
We're not just going for this willy-nilly. It's been a long road.
SO... the second I start beating myself up for being almost 30 and just beginning the life we feel like we were really meant to pursue together... I remind myself... we've done a heck of a lot these past few years! Without the experience we wouldn't be where we sit today, I guarantee. It wasn't for nothing. It all matters and I'm incredibly grateful.
Now... in just FOUR DAYS... we can end our last day at our jobs with complete assurance that we will do something truly great and touch many lives with this new adventure.
In the Past Five Years:
1.) We've had AMAZING, professional work opportunities and learned how to find success in being ourselves, managed people and projects, made important decisions and realized our true potential. I'm so unbelievably thankful for the positions we've held over these years. We believe in ourselves because of the mentors we've had the pleasure of learning from. SO MUCH LOVE FOR YOU!
2.) We became 100% debt free and saved a nest-egg to embark on this great adventure that starts next month and ends never. (below is an actual grainy picture from the day we made our last loan payment, yay!)
3.) We adopted the BEST four-legged, rugged hiking companion we could have ever hoped for, Moose. He's complicated but we love watching him grow.
4.) We bought and built a BUS HOUSE ON WHEELS from the coolest American Picker! I mean, guys! Ben taught himself the skills to convert our bus from the studs up FROM YOUTUBE. Mind blown.
DID YOU SEE WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE WHEN WE BOUGHT IT?! Ew. Also, look at me helping!
5.) I taught myself skills we can take on the road, utilize remotely and for our own future business ventures. THE DIGITAL AGE IS SO AMAZING! I even started my own business this year, Creative Trails Marketing & Design and worked with clients throughout this year.
6.) On December 1, 2016, I made the personal decision to stop drinking alcohol. I've been REALLY hesitant about going public with this choice because it often comes with questions and the potential belief that I'm judging others. I'm not. I believe that we all deserve to do what's right for our bodies and minds and for me, alcohol just never worked. I wanted to get to know myself without it. It started as a simple commitment to go one year alcohol free and evolved into the BEST decision I've ever made for myself.
Ben joined me a month later and is about to reach one year alcohol free as well. It's brought us closer as a couple, and I couldn't have done it without him. It's made us more positive, productive and balanced.
7.) We realized what our bodies and minds are capable of! We road 180 miles on a bike together from Bethel to Belfast, hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim (coolest thing ever!) and hiked 48 4,000 footers in New Hampshire (Moose too!). We're preparing for a north-bound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail starting in April 2018 and have no plans of stopping there!
I love meeting and knowing people who are living a life they WANT to live. Whether it's in a big, gorgeous house, in a van, or something in between, they're just HAPPY with it, you know? You can tell they're doing something they love and it's right for them. Hold on to those people! NOTHING is more motivating to soldier on with our path. That simple joy. Success is defined differently for EVERYONE and that's the beauty of life. JUST CHOOSE YOURS.
Is it completely idealistic for me to believe that we all deserve that joy in life?
I don't think so. It's inspiring and restores my faith that we're not just here to toil away and wait for the most productive decades of our lives on earth. We're here to live.
If you're interested in my budget template, fill this out and I'll send it to you (it's a Google Sheet now!) once I'm done perfecting it this month.
[contact-form-7 id="2718" title="Budget Spreadsheet Interest"]
I'm a retired educator, but thankfully, was able to live THE DREAM while teaching and residing in Alaska. It's so good to read your positive blog and the advice given. Keep it up and good luck. God bless!
Thank you SO much for your kind words and for reaching out. THIS is why I write! 🙂 Alaska is on our travel list, you'll have to let me know the best spots to spend some time in the warm(er) months! Wishing you all the best...