On August 7th, 2018, I quit my six-figure job, we sold everything we owned, and hit the road with our family of 5 to live in an RV for a year.
AM I CRAZY?
But I’m guessing since you’re here, you know that following the “normal” path with your money or your life is NOT working.
So I wanted to share our story of going from “normal” to “FREE”, and how sometimes making a BIG change can lead to the BEST result.
Grab a cup of coffee and ENJOY!
Part 1: When Your Dreams Are Not Reality
I had been lying there for 59 minutes.
I hadn’t said a word.
I honestly don’t even remember breathing.
“I need to get up” I thought.
I finally lifted my head. I could hear the kids upstairs, reading their favorite bedtime stories as Mama (aka “super mom”) was finishing up their bedtime routine.
I rose to my feet. My head was still spinning, and I could still feel the knot in my stomach.
It was early December, and I had just come downstairs after a few business meetings in our home office. This was normal, as I had been working from home for a few years.
But things weren’t going well.
I was in sales, the numbers were looking terrible, and I couldn’t stomach the thought of failing this quarter.
But It Wasn’t About The Numbers.
A few years earlier, Michelle and I came up with a new date night routine. Since we had 2 young kiddos, date night was usually a stay at home affair, sometimes involving take-out and some Fixer Upper on Netflix. But we recently discovered something that we were both surprised interested us so much.
We stumbled across a blog called “Recalculating Route“, the journey of a family of 5 who rented their house and took off in an RV for a year to travel the country.
There was something inspiring about packing up “normal life” and going out to explore for an entire year.
And we couldn’t get enough.
We would grab a bottle of wine, some takeout, and read week after week of their adventure, dreaming about what it would be like.
We talked about what kind of RV we’d get, and what we would want to see. And we even figured we wanted to do this before our oldest was a teenager, so we had just under 9 years to figure out how to make it happen.
We actually started looking at HOW we could possibly do this financially, but eventually concluded I would need to save up enough to retire (like a million dollars), and we just didn’t have the means.
But it was nice to dream.
We finished reading through the blog, and life went on as normal.
I went to work. Came home. Hung out with the fam. Ate some food. Did bedtime. Worked on our home remodel or watched some Netflix.
Life was good.
And once our baby girl was about 6 months old, we were in for some shocking news.
WE WERE PREGNANT!
We didn’t realize it would happen so soon, but we were filled with joy, and excited to start planning life with baby #3.
We told the kids and some family, and were eagerly anticipating adding another bundle of joy to the Wade family.
But at about the 6-week mark, we received the horrible news.
There was no heartbeat.
It always stings to hear those words.
I saw “always”, because this had happened before. Before our first was born, we had a miscarriage, and it changed everything.
So, to know we were about to go through that again deflated our excitement, and replaced it with a gaping hole in our lives.
Even worse, this miscarriage was clouded in some medical uncertainty, which caused doctors to stress out, try to prescribe too much medication, and required lots of blood draws and “waiting.”
The worst part about miscarriage is that it takes time. Only prayer and holding on to each other can get you through it.
But the scars remain.
Heartbreak Again (And Again, And Again)
There is a sense of relief when it is over. You feel guilty for even feeling relieved, but it’s there nonetheless.
We coped with our loss and held our 2 earth babies a little tighter each day.
A year later, we got the good news again, but shortly after, the same devastating result.
This happened 3 more times.
At one point, we wondered if we were going to ever have baby #3. We were also in a constant state of heartbreak, which just weighed on everything in our lives.
We loved our kiddos, and would love to have another, but it didn’t seem in the cards.
You never “get over” losing a child. You just learn to live life knowing that there are a few of your babies waiting in Heaven to greet you.
It’s a hard reality thinking of who they would have been.
The Rainbow After The Storm
When we got pregnant again, we were cautiously optimistic. We knew that we had to hold our breath for a few weeks to see if we were in for another round of heartbreak.
With much prayer and hope, we saw a beautiful heartbeat just before the 6-week mark.
Though we knew that nothing is ever for sure, we were finally able to rejoice in this pregnancy, and start preparing for baby to arrive.
They always call your baby after a miscarriage a “rainbow” baby.” As a storm dies down, a rainbow appears with hope of a brighter future. And having a baby after loss definitely shines a light in our heart revealing the miracle that our new baby is.
As we prepared for baby to come, things changed once again.
More Money, More Problems
A blessing that came our way shortly after finding out about our new pregnancy was a job opportunity that would change our finances forever.
I was able to apply for and get a job that not only allowed me to work from home, but nearly doubled our income.
It was something we had always dreamed of, and it seemed that we were well on our way toward Financial Freedom, as well as enjoying a more flexible lifestyle. We were definitely feeling blessed, and excited.
The only thing different about this job is that it required SOME travel.
“No biggie”, we thought, “travel is just a small trade-off, because working from home balances it out.”
Unfortunately, the travel became more than anticipated, as well as a few people quitting, and I was quickly in over my head. The stress weighed pretty heavily on me, though I tried to fake it as best as I could.
It was a trying few months with a lot of stress, but eventually I was able to find some balance. Which was good, because we had a few big home projects going on, as well as preparing for Baby #3.
Lots Going On
We decided to install all-new floors, doors and trim upstairs, hopefully before baby would come in October 2016 (it was April). This was more an accident project than anything.
The catalyst for starting the project was when our daughter (2) decided to get out of bed, grab the concentrated fabric softener, and proceed to pour it over her head while singing Elsa’s “Let It Go.”
After several steam cleanings and trying EVERY product on the market to get rid of the stain from the carpet, we decided we had to rip it up, paint over the sub-floor with KILLZ primer, and put in a new floor.
But if we were replacing one floor, might as well do the whole upstairs, right? And throw in new trim and doors for good measure.
I had 6 months to get this done, all while traveling 30% of the time and working a TON.
The Search For More Always Came Up Empty
At the same time, we were starting to look around our 3-bedroom house and wondering how we would manage.
The kids currently shared a room, and I had to have a home office for work.
What in the world would we do when baby arrived? How would we manage when we eventually split boys’ and girls’ rooms?
So, we decided to start seriously looking for a new home, one that could accommodate our growing family, and preferably had more rooms AND more land.
We contacted our Real Estate agent and let him know our criteria. We wanted 4+ bedrooms, a one-acre lot (or bigger), and in the location we desired (Snohomish, WA).
We had always talked about our “forever home”, which we knew we would buy one day. It seemed the time had come, so we wanted to find a house that was exactly what we wanted FOREVER.
We figured it would take a little while, maybe 6 months, to find our dream home. Our first home we bought on the first day of looking, but this one we were going to get EVERY detail right.
Little did we know that even 2 years later, we would still be searching.
Part 2: The CRAZY Idea
Discontented, But Not Knowing It
I eventually finished putting in the floors and doors, but ran out of time to put in the new trim. Baby #3 arrived in early October, and we were overjoyed.
We didn’t know the gender beforehand, and we were so happy to be blessed with another baby boy!
Work had settled a bit, but a few months later there was a “merger”, some “downsizing”, and my workload essentially doubled overnight.
That cranked up the stress a few notches, and required more travel as well. Combined with now being outnumbered by our kids and having a newborn in the house again, things were HECTIC!
I eventually broke down from stress in February 2017 on a trip to New York, realizing that I could NOT sustain our current state of life, and needed to make some big changes.
Michelle and I jumped into counseling to continue building our marriage and work through some issues (counseling is AMAZING btw, highly recommend it for ANYONE!).
I was also able to plead with management to get me some help (as I was shouldering a double workload), and was able to find balance once again. Travel reduced a bit, and I was able to continue being a top performer.
But below the surface of all of the ups and downs throughout this time, was an undercurrent of discontentedness.
Neither of us knew it at the time, but we were unhappy with our lives. It wasn’t any one thing, but we couldn’t seem to sit still, we were always talking about “when we get the house”, or “when we hit <next milestone>”, and we couldn’t just live in the moment.
This was also the reason we could NOT find a house to buy.
Every time we found a house feature we liked, we would say “we need THAT in our dream home”. Whether it was simple like “a hot tub”, or “fully fenced land”, we continued to add to our criteria to the point where the “perfect” house did NOT exist.
And if it did exist, it was WAY out of our price range.
I felt bad for our Real Estate agent, because essentially, we created an IMPOSSIBLE list of criteria for our “forever” home, and after looking at DOZENS of houses, we were no closer to finding it than when we had started.
The truth is, we thought we wanted ALL THE THINGS, but really, we were trying to find some way to fill the holes in our hearts.
Whether it was the babies we lost, or the stress that we couldn’t figure out how to manage, or simply not knowing what we REALLY wanted out of life, we felt empty and discontented with where we were.
We thought setting goals, and making plans would help. We convinced ourselves that getting our “forever” home would make us feel complete, and everything would fall in to place.
But God had other plans for us.
Another Storm, And Yearning For Freedom
During this time, I was able to score what I thought was a BIG promotion. I become the Account Manager (aka “sales guy”) for the entire Northwest.
I moved to 50% commission, and was now accountable for the sales numbers overall.
This was a big change, but I figured I was doing a TON of the work anyway, might as well reap the BIG rewards too.
I was wrong.
At the same time, we got another surprise. We were pregnant again!
(p.s. when I say “surprise”, it’s because we didn’t think it would happen that early. We DO KNOW how babies are made 😉 )
It was earlier than anticipated, but we welcomed the news. Things were looking good, but then we had the all-to-familiar ultrasound appointment, and we heard the words “I’m sorry, we don’t see a heartbeat.”
Once again, we were crushed, and frustrated, and having to deal with another loss.
But this one was worse.
As we went to the standard follow up appointments, the numbers were NOT showing that Michelle’s body was letting go of the pregnancy. In fact, they stayed exactly the same, and the doctors were concerned that things would not go well if she could not miscarry the baby naturally.
Over the next 6 months, there were dozens of appointments, weekly blood draws, and a ton of fear-based diagnoses that tested our resolve, our marriage, and our faith.
I wished I could take it all away.
At the same time, I was also a bit numb to the loss as I was dealing with my own stress. Work had taken over my life again, and now that I had been promoted, I was on an airplane every week, as well as fulfilling the duties of my previous role.
Things were not going well. I could not meet the weekly sales quotas, and it was going to take a while to build up business.
As a perfectionist, I loathed the weekly calls where I had to basically admit failure. I know now that I was being WAY harder on myself than anyone else, and my team was only encouraging me, knowing it takes a while to really ramp up.
But I quickly become overwhelmed facing (in my mind) failure every week, and I was debilitated by the stress.
Facing the loss of another child, the stress of my day job, seeing my family less and less, and still looking for a new house…left me unable to cope.
When I was home, I was mentally somewhere else. Conversations were a blur, and I was a shell of a person when I was supposed to be a husband, or a father.
I yearned for freedom, but saw no way out.
Time For A Change
December 2017 (continued)
…I was finally able to get up, go upstairs, kiss the kids, and say goodnight. Their sweet little faces were still full of joy, even though daddy was unresponsive for most of the night. They knew I loved them, which is all I could ever ask for.
This was not the first time I had shut down from stress after work.
But it is the first time I remember that I couldn’t even get up to acknowledge my kids, or my wife. It was the first time I was unable to snap out of it.
And it was the first time I knew something was going to change.
Shortly after “the incident”, after the kids were asleep and I was talking with Michelle, we knew that we could NOT sustain this lifestyle. The stress and overwhelm were having us question where we were going in life, and what we could possibly do about it.
Somewhere in the discussion, I came to the revelation that a BIGGER house with more land would only lock me into a career that wasn’t working out well.
I would be a slave to making a high income just to pay for the massive mortgage, all while traveling too much, and pushing Financial Freedom down the road at least 10 years further than before!
And I then I said “well, what if we just sold everything and traveled instead of getting a bigger house?”
Michelle simply said “ok.”
Our Crazy Plan
We just looked at each other, each with a playful grin, knowing that we just thought of something that we would NOT be able to un-think!
We talked about the old blog we used to read on date nights, and how maybe we could just take a year off to travel the country.
The thought of selling EVERYTHING was exhilarating!
But how would we do it?
It was a nice idea, but there seemed to be too many things in the way (namely money).
But, on a cold night a few weeks later, after a particularly stressful week at work…..I kicked in the door to our bathroom while Michelle was in the shower and stated “we’re doing it! We’re selling it all and traveling the country. We have 12 months, we hit the road January 2019!”
Then I marched out.
Michelle was shocked, but could tell there was no turning back. This was going to happen, and she was thrilled!
We went through a LOT of ideas, including buying a “cheap” house to rent while we were gone so we had somewhere to come back to, or renting our current house and living on a home equity loan.
Both of those ideas were nixed because not only were they risky (HELOC idea was just dumb), but it left us with strings attached back home, and we did NOT want to be tied down while on the road.
So, we decided we needed to sell the house.
We told our agent what we were doing, and he gave us the checklist to prepare selling our home.
We had 12 months to get ALL our home projects completed, buy an RV, sell all our stuff, and hit the road.
This was about to get crazy.
We decided to crank it up a notch, and instead of leaving Jan. 1st, 2019, we pushed it up to August 2nd, 2018 as our “launch date.” This was our 10-year wedding anniversary, why not celebrate it with the craziest life change we have ever done.
It was ON like DONKEY KONG!
Part 3: FREEDOM!
SELL! SELL! SELL!….BUY! BUY! BUY!
I was a sales professional, but Michelle flipped a switched and turned into a SELLING MACHINE, putting me to shame!
She started going through EVERYTHING we owned and listing it all.
By FAR the quickest and most convenient way to sell our stuff was through Facebook Marketplace.
She went through all our clothes, kitchen items, toys, furniture, tools, ANYTHING that couldn’t come with us, she posted and sold.
We had like 1,000 visitors in those 6 months, grabbing their items on the porch and sticking the cash under the mat.
The kids even got in on the action, and we created an “Adventure Jar” to put ALL the cash in.
We told them that anything we sold was going toward our new Adventure, and that money was reserved for the “fun stuff”, like digging for dinosaur bones, adventures in new cities, and anything we wanted to do. At any time we could yell “take that exit” and we would have the funds in place for it.
We ended up making over $7,000 selling stuff we didn’t need anymore. That was over $500 per month for making memories to last a lifetime!
We still have a small 10′ x 10′ storage unit for our bed (we had just bought), tools and keepsakes, but EVERYTHING else was sold or donated.
At the same time we were selling, we were also on the hunt for the perfect RV for our trip.
We settled on a “travel trailer” (towed behind a vehicle), because it would keep the kids safe in their car seats (motorhomes are less safe, seat belts in the back are not bolted to the frame), and we could get more space for less money.
We ended up buying a used one for $15,000. It had 3 bunks in the back for the kids, and a separate room for the parents. It was a great layout, and we were ecstatic.
We also need a vehicle to tow the trailer.
We ended up with a Suburban, but it was the worst financial decision I have ever made. It was a lemon, and even after dumping a ton of money into it, it could not handle the job.
Long story short, it ended up dying and sold for very little, and we got a turbo diesel Ford F-250 instead.
You live. You learn. And then you go Diesel.
Remodel The House, Remodel The (Tiny) House
At the SAME TIME we had to get our house ready to sell.
Remember that “floors, doors and trim” project?
Yeah, still needed to paint the doors, and cut, paint and install ALL the trim.
The new trailer was going to be our home. We wanted to ENJOY living in it.
Michelle wanted to paint it from floor to ceiling (it was FUGLY!), and redo the floors and furniture as well.
So we decided to rip out all the gross carpet (it smelled), and put in new vinyl “peel-n-stick” flooring.
We only had a few months to get it done. We ripped out everything, and as we were pulling the carpet out of one of the slides, we found black mold.
Long story short, we had to rip out 2 walls, rebuild with new insulation and plywood. Then we dried all the wood, and sprayed with KILLS primer to take care of any mold.
Now we only had a few weeks to paint and fully remodel the rest.
We were still remodeling the house. Prepping to paint doors and trim was PAINSTAKINGLY long, and don’t forget I was still traveling 2-3 days per week.
Here’s what our schedule looked like.
Monday thru Friday
- 8am – Work
- 6pm-ish. I get off work and then start working on cutting trim pieces.
- 8pm – Put kids to bed, I still work on trim. Michelle gets rocking on organizing and selling more stuff
- 11pm – Finish working on trim and selling, both collapse into bed
Occasionally, during the day, Michelle would take the kids out to the trailer (we parked it at her brother’s house), and start removing stuff (carpet, furniture, etc)
- 8am – Get up, one of us does breakfast, the other goes to the trailer to work on the remodel
- 10pm – Get home from working on trailer, collapse in bed.
It was NUTS, but we saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and we knew we wanted FREEDOM more than anything else!
How I Quit My Six Figure Job
During all the craziness, I still had to work 50+ hours per week.
Though things were nuts, I was actually able to find some success, and learn a LOT at the same time.
But I knew greater things were around the corner, so I had to take the BIG LEAP and put in my notice.
First, let’s rewind.
As someone who OBSESSIVELY plans our finances, it was a HARD pill for me to swallow, thinking about not only quitting my job, but then burning through savings for an entire year.
I ran the numbers in my head OVER and OVER and OVER, and realized I would quitting a multi-six figure job AND blowing through 35% of our walk-away home equity.
On paper, it seemed like financial sabotage.
And it was.
If we were still using our old priorities and goals, the numbers showed that it was a stupid financial decision.
But our life had shifted.
No longer did I need a paid for home and a million dollars by the time I was 50.
Financial Independence was knocking at the door, freedom was our new goal, and investing 35% of our savings for one year of FREEDOM was worth more than ANY return we would get by staying where we were.
We traded in “bigger, better, more” for “smaller, simpler, slower.”
I gave my company 3 weeks’ notice on June 15, 2018. Of course they were shocked, wanted to see if there was anything they could do, but realized I had made up my mind and was moving on.
On July 6th, I turned in my laptop and badge, and was officially unemployed.
And it FELT. SO. GOOD.
Of course, we had an emergency fund in place (or “opportunity fund” as it was in this case).
And we had listed the house, so I knew we would be OK.
But quitting my job was scary. It seemed like a CLM (career-limiting-move), and I was worried about what people would think of me. Would I ever get a job in the industry again? Would think people I quit because it got hard? What will happen to my professional reputation?
But I feared missing this one-in-a-lifetime adventure more, so I did what I had to do.
**Side Note: I have had more job opportunities and job offers since I quit than any time in my career. I have ALWAYS strived to work with integrity and do the right thing for my customers and my company, and was SO afraid that I would tarnish that reputation by quitting.
But I experienced the opposite.
Doing the right thing and working with excellence always pays off in the long run.
Now that I was jobless, my full time job was to finish EVERYTHING!
We had completed the house remodel, listed the house, and now only had a few weeks to finish the trailer.
We burned the candle at both ends to get it done.
We would come out to the trailer during the day to work on the remodel, and then one of us stayed and worked all night as well (sometimes coming home after midnight).
We did this 7 days per week.
But we also had to wrap up EVERY detail of our lives.
- Sell the house
- Get storage unit for keepsakes and some furniture
- Sell everything else (2 massive garage sales, and goodwill runs)
- Order parts for towing the trailer (tires, hitch, etc.)
- Finish the trailer remodel and then pack the trailer with our stuff
I’m not going to lie, this was a VERY stressful 3 weeks.
Too much eating out, too much wine, and not enough sleep.
At times, it seemed like there was NO WAY we would ever be done. The days and night blurred together, and EVERYTHING was a mess.
But we never wanted anything more in all our lives.
A Goal Is A Dream With A Plan
We set out to complete something that seemed impossible, and maybe even stupid.
We put in every ounce of effort we could muster, and then 1000% more into this dream.
We planned obsessively, worked tirelessly, and prayed continuously.
AND WE DID IT.
We left on our initial outing on August 2nd, 2018. It was our 10-year wedding anniversary, and we took our new home on the road for the first time. (it was the worst night ever, but that’s a story for another time).
A bottle of wine, take-out and a small dream on a quiet date night, became a life-altering adventure that we find ourselves on today.
Dreams are really important. They represent hope of a better tomorrow, and something worth fighting for.
But dreams are just that, something you think would be grand, but nothing is ever done about it.
This is why goals are SO important.
You will always hear me say
“a goal is a dream with a plan.”
Dreams and goals are intertwined, connected.
Goals NEED to start with a dream. You will NEVER accomplish a goal if you don’t care enough about it to do what it takes to get there.
And dreams need a plan, a goal, to ever be fulfilled.
Had we just kept on dreaming, we would be watching the world pass us by.
But because we built that dream into a goal with a plan, we were able to achieve what seemed impossible.
What does the future hold for us? Only time will tell.
We planned to take one year off, but who knows? We may move back to Seattle, we may not.
I am hoping to build my website into a thriving business where I get to help people every day, turn their dreams into goals, and accomplish their own version of Financial Freedom.
I hope that everyone I help can see their budget, as a modern day “dream catcher”, allowing them to harness the power of a BIG DREAM.
Whatever is in store, I know that quitting my job and selling everything is the BEST thing we have ever done for our family, and will set the foundation for EVERYTHING we do for the rest of our lives.
Thank you SO much for reading our story.
Our last 12 months has been the most challenging, stressful, INSANE, character-building, freeing, magical, worldview-shattering, life-changing time in our lives.
But we’re not special.
We just decided to be INTENTIONAL with our money and our life.
I hope our story can inspire you to TAKE ACTION in your own life, and start turning your DREAMS into GOALS that you will actually hit.
My entire goal with iHeartBudgets is to show you the EXACT steps to re-gain control of your money, and start living the life you want.
I may seem like a broken record, but I am always going to recommend starting with a plan, and the best way is to get on a BUDGET.
If you haven’t already, join the Free SMART Budget Online Course, and get started on your DREAMS today.
If you have ANY questions, you can contact me directly HERE.
I want to hear from you.