About me, Midlife gap year

The journey begins

Remaining time to Life 1.2: One Year

Hi! My first blog post seems an apt moment to share with you how I got to this point in life, discovering the FI* movement, my early midlife malaise, and why I wish to blog about it. I’ll assume you’ve already read my basics, so that we can get straight down to the nitty-gritty!

The days go slowly but the decades sure fly

Since I was a child, I was always a bit of a saver, always deliberated hard on the big decisions in life and wanted to make the most of my life ahead (aka not making the same mistakes as those I saw around me!). I’m telling you this not to brag (and certainly not for the cool points), but for full disclosure. If you are in the process of changing your mindset and learning about FI, please don’t compare!

Most of the saving happened before I knew of the FI movement, though I wasn’t always disciplined with money! Needless to say, none of what I write constitutes financial advice but documents my thoughts and experience. Still, I hope what I write inspires someone somewhere regardless of circumstance or background.

I’m one of life’s maximisers

To take an example that’s left a big mark on my life is having maxed out what travel I could do while working/studying, without having to take a year out, and without breaking the bank. I maxed out annual leave and bank (public) holidays, mixed it with international conferences and any opportunities that came at me to go abroad.

My reasoning was thus: I could take time out to travel (and lose my job), OR in eight years of full-time work, I’ll have had spent the equivalent of a year abroad on full pay! And without the cost of ‘down time’ days, which some days would no doubt have been while on a gap year.

The result is that I’ve now been to around 70 countries, many solo, and some several times. Not bad for someone who never had a conventional family holiday as a child! I had well and truly caught the travel bug and this has no doubt changed the way I view the world. Sure, from a solely financial perspective, this was a huge opportunity cost (imagine many thousands of pounds invested over 10-20 years in trackers!), but I wouldn’t change it for the world. The opportunity cost for me* of not travelling while young(ish) is even greater.

Roadtrip to Life 2.0. Nice.
…With lots of stops and mishaps along the way, no doubt!

I would’ve lost out on the profound way that travel has enriched my life throughout my 20’s and 30’s, learning how to be truly independent, having time to stand back and re-evaluate my life, making lasting friendships around the world, as well as the many tangents of interests I’ve come to develop, such as an interest in history, say, or the Spanish language, or different cultures, photography, and foods.

And we know that the ability to cultivate interests is such an important part of life satisfaction, which includes satisfaction in ‘retirement’.

I can see some analogy between that and my approach to work and finances (and ultimately my gap year ideas). With all of this, I’ve been ‘buying’ (hoarding) some future freedom. Always scratching away. I always rented cheap until I bought an apartment just before hitting 30, then a few years ago, my hubby and I bought a house. I didn’t like the bank taking our moolah, so with some concerted effort we paid off our mortgage last year. Yippee! We were ecstatic! One step closer to FI, even though we hadn’t heard of the concept at that point.

I’m not sure at what point I fell upon the term FI or FIRE. I’d been reading up on personal finance and investments, figuring out what to do next with the income we’d previously earmarked for the mortgage. I read Early Retirement Extreme. I liked and admired Jacob Lund Fisker’s analytical if extreme approach. Then at some point, I started coming across the ‘big names’ in the FI world and looked for UK equivalents. I didn’t see myself as an FIer. I was looking for a less conventional path; some nuggets of wisdom.

For years now, like others, I’ve felt the grind. I have put in so many hours above-and-beyond with work (for my career) that I’ve been losing out on all the other important stuff I’ve been putting off until tomorrow since forever.

If I was to ever pursue these interests, I need to take time ‘out’. Part of it is also to feel my true self. And this point hits on the lack of authenticity I often feel at work. I feel stiffled. I’m expected to play the ‘game’, which is all a drain of life energy. Slowly, the cynic and persistent back pain (from years of sitting-at-a-desk) rear their ugly head. The wake-up calls add up.

But despite this, the major thing that has stopped me from leaving is knowing I’ll lose my much coveted (in society’s eyes) job and will unlikely obtain a job that’ll pay this well again (without moving anyway, and that’s not on the cards).

Image result for paper work
As many ‘what ifs’ as there are sheets of paper on my office desk.

My reasoning was: If I leave my job of 17 years, what exactly are all these things I want to do in my time out and what do I want to achieve from them? What will I ‘return’ to when I will need paid work again? What if I ‘waste’ a year just deciding what I want to do and realise none of it is what I wanted after all??! The Maximiser in me is alive and kicking!

As usual, I resolve the internal conflict by telling myself: Just one more year. Yes, I can do that. Except this time, I tell myself: This Year really has to be the last year I say ‘One More Year’…!

So, that’s essentially why I decided to start a blog – to share my journey to my midlife gap year. And then I came to a moment of clarity when I was doing my pie chart exercise: What if I reframe my midlife gap year as part of a lifestyle redesign as a prelude to Life 2?

So, there you have it: Over the next 12 months, I’ll document the prelude to my year out (which I’ll call Life 1.2 – a kind of life-retraining phase, if you will), as part of informing and prepping for my longer journey to FI (Don Ezra’s Path 2). Nothing is completely set in stone as yet (yup, disclaimer!), but that’s where I’m at as of the end of July 2019. I’m excited by the prospect of ‘pulling the plug’, but I know I need to put the prep in.

Each fortnight or month, I will invest time into, and document in this blog, three overlapping areas to help me get closer to my ‘dream gap year’…

·       Financial investment

·       Reading

·       Personal and skills development

I will also blog about general life design and FI stuff, and look forward to any comments.

And what about you?

Do you see yourself as a maximiser? How has it helped and/or hindered you?

If you have an FI-related blog, how have you benefited most from journalling your path? Has the process of writing altered your thinking on anything?


*FI = Financial Independence, just in case it has escaped you! It’s a growing movement, seemingly Millennial-driven (but a good range really), and mine is one among of raft of new blogs popping up daily covering the topic.

**The value of travel: I realise this is a very personal thing and depends a lot on personality and outlook. I can only speak for myself. You may have your equivalent interest.

2 thoughts on “The journey begins”

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