While we have been quiet online a lot has been going on since we got back home about 25 days ago. This isn’t going to be a recap email though. Instead, we will give you insight into how and where we live when we come back home. But first…
Health update for Brock
As we talked about in the last post Brock had emergency surgery for an acute appendicitis (plus another procedure) on December 21, 2021, at 2 am. The good news is that he is making a lot of progress. He is getting better each day. He still has some pain from the procedure sites and is not back to “normal”…or at least as normal as he gets 🙂 Friday, January 7, 2022, was the follow-up appointment. The surgeon said everything looks good and is improving at the expected rate. With that covered we can get back to the main topic. As our family, friends, and readers know we are houseless (we sold it in 2021). So where we live when we come back home is a complicated topic given our now generally nomadic lifestyle.
The main answer is that we don’t live in one place. Instead, we have stayed at 4 different houses since being back. We have stayed at 3 houses for multiple nights. At all houses, Brock has used his 8-inch foam twin bed. He is not a fan of inflatable beds. Using his twin bed has helped to make each location comfortable for all four of us to sleep at. We also take the tote of bedding items for the twin bed. To answer the question you may be thinking…yes, every time we go to a new location we load and unload the bed and bedding tote!
The other part of being houseless is where you store your stuff. We were able to sell the majority of our large items. Hence we do not have a storage unit. But even with all the selling we still have too many possessions. At this time we have our stuff at four different locations (1) Waunakee, WI; (2) Boscobel, WI; (3) Sherrill, IA; and (4) Dubuque, IA.
Our primary location
Our primary location is near Madison, WI in Waunakee, WI. We live with Brock’s cousin Matt, his wife Rachelle, and their son Marek. There are also 3 other cool adult guests staying at this house. The room setup is that we are located downstairs. We have a large room that does not have a window (which has been nice for sleeping in some mornings)! There is also a bathroom/shower right next to this room, which is also used by the other house guests. Our queen bed is permanently at this location. We have the ability to use the kitchen and living room which are on the main floor. There are no bedrooms on the main floor, so everyone other than us sleeps upstairs. This works well in case our kids are being loud when we put them to bed. We have about 33% of our possessions at this location.
We have loved being here and find ourselves spending so much time chilling and talking to Matt, Rachelle, and everyone else! The house has the energy of a hostel, which has been great (especially for Brock and Becky). Our kids have had a lot of fun playing with Marek. They have also loved having interactions with Rachelle (for example reading books together) and Matt (he is an expert fort builder). Lastly, being near a city the size of Madison is great for being able to shop for the items you want/need.
Family location closer to roots
The place we have been the second most is at Brock’s parents in Boscobel, WI. In this location, there is no set sleeping room. Here we use a blow-up queen bed by the couch in the living room. Brock’s bed also goes in the living room (or some nights downstairs). Most nights we have been there Kyra has slept with NaNa (Brock’s mom Sheri). We also use all the shared rooms like the kitchen, bathrooms, and so on. We bring what we need with us each time.
At this location, we have many items stored, most of which are outside. We have about 33% of our items here. Most of our items here are stored outside in a truck shed. However, some items like our kid’s toys are stored in the basement.
Being here has allowed us to see family, celebrate Christmas, and help with business items. This is where we stayed after Brock’s surgery until he was ready to travel. Kyra has also stayed overnight for several nights with Sheri on her own. The kids love being here, it is the place they ask to go to the most. They are always excited to see Brock’s family and the outside cats who live here.
This is also where we have the bulk of our mail delivered. We use this as our mailing address. A point of emphasis when we decided to retire early and become nomadic was becoming as digital as possible. Sadly some items still require sending snail mail. Thad, Brock’s brother helps us by handling the mail that comes in. As a first step, he throws out the junk. For the important items, he scans them in when we are on the road so we can see them. We are grateful for his help and support!
Family location closer to where we used to live
We have also spent several nights at Becky’s grandma Janann’s house in Sherrill, IA. We have done this to make family events and doctor appointments in and around Dubuque, IA. It was also where we spent our first night back. In this location, we have two small bedrooms we use. Again we share all common areas. This location is not ideal for Brock’s allergies so we can typically only stay one night at the most. An upside of being here has allowed Janann to have time during the day with the kids. Janann is the Grandma who is always cooking and has numerous yummy sweets ready to go. Also, Janann is such a fun person, which makes for a lot of laughs.
At this house, we have about 25% of our possessions in the basement. These are mostly items from our kitchen and kids’ clothes. We also do have some hanging items in the closets. We also have a few items we are still trying to sell here.
This is our residency address since it is the only one in Iowa. For now, we do not want to change residency (mostly for medical provider reasons). We appreciate Janann being willing to have mail we can’t send to Boscobel at her house. Becky’s mom Sharon has sent us images of the mail as needed which has been great and we appreciate her support.
Other locations; plus weather
But wait there is more! We stayed with a friend (Nicole) one night in Dubuque, IA. This allowed us to spend time with a great friend and for the kids to have a sleepover with friends. Lastly, we spent a night overnight in the hospital when Brock had his surgery. Although Kyra and Verity were with Brock’s mom in Boscobel overnight.
Lastly, we stored the last several items with a friend (Rick) in Dubuque, IA in an upstairs room. These are items that we would like to sell. Many of these items were left from Becky’s last business closing. The timing of this being so close to when we left made it hard to get the items sold. My hockey equipment is also here for the time being.
We know that being in Wisconsin/Iowa in the winter means you have to be willing to be flexible to stay safe. Based on weather conditions, we have had to change plans but so far it has only directly impacted one day’s appointments and plans. We could also see a point where we need to stay in a hotel due to either weather or wanting to be somewhere outside of the normal area.
Why not one place?
After reading to this point it would be reasonable to ask “This all sounds like a lot of work, wouldn’t it be easier to have one place?” The easiest answer is yes, but we are not sure it would be better. Plus, there are practical realities that make that hard unless we want to spend a lot for a place we will only use a few weeks a year. Part of why we were able to retire early is that we got rid of all the payments that go with maintaining housing.
Despite our best efforts we simply have too much stuff. At this point, it is not feasible to expect any one person/place to allow us to store it all. Our plan is to continue to downsize and we have even worked on this since being home. We think that being on the road will help to make more clear what we can get rid of after a few trips. In part, though we kept more in case we decided we wanted to reverse course. Additionally, our kids like seeing different people and being in different places. This flexibility has made it easier to see friends and family which we have done frequently since being home. We also suspect that all the people we stay with probably need breaks despite loving us and our kids. Additionally, if any place wasn’t available for some reason we have other options.
In regards to, where we live when we come back home we know all or part of our options could change at any point. Nothing is permanent in life. For us, this working situation is what we needed as we changed from a family in a house to a nomadic travel family. We want to thank all the people who have hosted us, helped us to store our items, and helped with our mail! We are lucky that people have stepped up to help us.
Having this has allowed us to pursue our FIRE Travel Family lifestyle. It has also allowed us to come back home and spend time with the people we care about. In the end, retiring early (and life really) is about spending time with those you love and doing what you love. As we shared in the “what retirement means to us” post, we love having this life and time flexibility.
Where are we going next?
As of Wednesday, January 12, 2022, we have not made any official plans or booked any flights. For now, we are just spending time with friends and family and getting things done, like preparing for taxes for our and other family businesses. When we have official plans we will let everyone know.
We started our first post-retirement trip on September 24, 2021, with the knowledge that we didn’t have a set end date. The plan was to travel for as long as we wanted and come back whenever it made sense to do so. We were traveling by van in the United States. This lack of need for a return flight gave us the flexibility we do not have when traveling internationally. A few weeks ago we decided that we wanted to come back home for Christmas. We planned to come back in the week leading up to Christmas. However, last Wednesday, December 15 we decided that we had seen what we wanted and that it was time to head home for Christmas.
Our last Florida tourist stop was at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Then we shopped at a couple of thrift stores and started the drive north. On the way, we decided to drive later since the kids were doing well in the car. Additionally, we wanted to get north of Atlanta at night. We didn’t have to deal with city traffic in the morning time. On Thursday, December 16 our plan was to do a couple of tourist stops and drive some more. Our plan at that time was to finish the drive on Friday.
The Land Between the Lakes
Our first planned stop was The Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky. Given the recent tornadoes, the park visitor center had been closed until that morning. It sounds like we were the first visitors to the Elk and Bison prairie as well. They were not sure if the entry machine was working or not. The visitor center gave us a crisp $5 bill to put in since the machine is very picky. Plus the credit card part was not working due to the storm. Luckily the cash option did work so we could go and see the animals!
For the most part, we had amazing weather for our drive home. The exception to this was the last 30 minutes driving to the Elk and Bison Prairie, while we were there, and the 30 minutes after we left. During that time we experienced heavy rain and wind. On the upside, the Elk and Bison didn’t care so we got to see them and with most of the herd right by the road. Also luckily Verity woke up from her nap in time to see most of the big herds by the road. Despite the weather, it was an amazing stop that both us and the kids loved!
Our Last Stop at the Arch
Back on the road, our second planned, and last stop of the trip, was the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. By this point, it was about 8:15 pm. We had thought we would just do a drive-by viewing for this. However, the parking lot was free access at this point in the night (normally $8). Plus Kyra was so excited when she saw it on the drive there that we knew we had to walk up to it. What ended up being really cool was that at this time we were the only people at the arch. Kyra loved that it was shaped like a rainbow. She also saw a rat on the walk up the stairs which she thinks is cool because she loves animals so much. The Arch was a very cool and fun last stop, so Brock was happy that Becky talked him into going!
Do We Drive Back?
At this point, we had a decision to make. It was about 5 hours to get home. Earlier in the day, we had scheduled Kyra’s 1st COVID vaccine shot for the next day. The latest appointment we could get was 2:40 pm. So we knew we wanted to get within 3 hours of Dubuque, IA. What we decided was that if we could get the kids to fall asleep in the car we would drive through the night. And if not we would stop at a hotel. The kids both got to sleep around 9:30 and 10 pm. So we decided to drive all the way back to Becky’s Grandma Janann’s house.
We arrived at the house just before 2 am on Friday, December 17. Interestingly, the kids both woke up in the last 30 minutes of the drive. We were able to get what we needed out of the car and then all get to sleep. It was a short night of sleep for Becky and Brock. But it was also nice not to have a 3rd day of driving, since that could have been difficult for the kids.
It’s Reunion Time!
Friday was a busy reunion day. We all had a great time hanging out with Janann in the morning and early afternoon. The kids put puzzles together with Janann, put up the Christmas tree, played with toys, and relaxed. After Kyra’s COVID shot (which she did great getting), we met with Tom, Lisa, Collin, and Ellyn at the mall in the play area. It was so amazing to see them again! Brock especially loved the huge hug he got from Collin as soon as he got out of the car! The kids played together like in old times, it was so relaxing. We also got dinner at HuHot which was great since it had been over 2 years since we had eaten there.
After that, we had another reunion. This time with our friend and former daycare provider Nicole and her two kids Blake and Charlie. Blake and Kyra are such good friends, they have known each other since they were one. They had both made crafts for each other which was fun to see. Nicole commented about how much more Verity is talking from when she last saw her. We stayed at Nicole’s house overnight, which was great. In the morning, we had a great breakfast and cinnamon rolls.
Saturday included another shot and more reunions. This time it was Becky’s COVID booster shot and groceries at the Asbury HyVee. Then we went on to Brock’s parents, Bill and Sheri, in Boscobel, WI. The kids were so excited to see NaNa, PaPa, and the kitties (although they are all grown cats now). The kids also loved seeing Thad, John & Shelby. It was great to see John playing with the kids in the living room.
We did a Christmas tradition, decorating Christmas cookies, which was a lot of fun! Kyra also really enjoyed putting a puzzle together with NaNa and PaPa. The kids were able to go out to the garage to spend time with two of the cats which made them happy. They love feeding, playing with, and petting the cats. Our plan was to stay 2 nights and then leave to go to Matt & Rachelle Waterman’s house. This is where we are living when we are “back home” or in this case home for Christmas.
Brock Needs Surgery
The Pain Starts
Sunday night Brock started getting pain in his abdomen. While he was mostly able to sleep through the night he did wake up several times. By Monday morning the pain had increased a lot. Brock tried walking, using a heating pad and other measures. He wasn’t sure if it was some bad food or some other stomach ailment. Alas, by 4:30 pm the pain, exhaustion, nausea, and chills/sweats were terrible. So we called the clinic’s 24-hour nurse line for advice. They strongly encouraged going to acute care right away.
So Becky and Brock quickly got ready and headed to Dubuque, IA (about 1 hour away). At the time we assumed we would be back that night. So we grabbed some of what we needed but could have been more prepared. On the drive down we talked about this being the first time in nearly 3 months that we did not have kids. Shout out of thanks to Sheri and Bill for watching the kids overnight. It would turn out to be an eventful “date night”…
Getting to Acute Care
By 6:20 pm we were at Acute Care in Dubuque, IA. Sometime around 6:45 pm, we got to see the Doctor, and after doing an exam he told us he thought Brock had appendicitis. During the exam, Brock was in so much pain that he had involuntary tears while getting up from the exam table. Thankfully, the doctor got him a pain shot that helped to take the edge of the pain in about 20 minutes. He also had Brock take an anti-nausea medication so they could do the CT scan. After getting a urine sample and doing a blood draw Brock was off to get the CT scan. At this point, he was in a wheelchair. He was too weak to walk across from Medical Associates Acute Care to the Mercy One hospital.
The first step was to drink a large cup of liquid prep from 7:45 to 8:30 pm. Then we were told his scan would start at 8:45 pm. On most days this liquid would have been unpleasant, but Brock actually welcomed it. For the whole day, the only food he had been able to keep down was one Saltine cracker at around 2 pm. Also, he had been so nauseous that he hadn’t drunk much either. With the pain pill now taking some effect, Brock also started to get some appetite back. But obviously, he couldn’t eat so at least the drink was something. Anyway, 8:45 pm came and went. Eventually, we were told that 3 other people had come in through the ER and were now ahead of us. Finally, around 10 pm Brock got his CT scan.
After another hour’s wait, we got a call from the doctor. The news was that the CT scan confirmed that Brock had appendicitis. He stated that Brock would be having surgery either that night or in the morning. It would depend on the on-call surgeon’s availability and opinion. We were told that they would be having the surgeon visit us in the CT waiting room. We had been in that room since 7:45 pm on our own (it closes at 8 pm technically). But by midnight we still hadn’t seen the surgeon.
Meeting the Surgeon…eventually
Shortly after midnight we were moved to the ER and told again the surgeon would be in soon. So to give a little background by this point we were getting quite antsy. This is in part because Brock’s father Bill had his appendix rupture earlier in his life. It required 7 days of hospitalization and was a story that Brock thought of as soon as he heard appendicitis.
Around 1 am on Tuesday, December 21 we finally saw the surgeon. He said the appendix was very inflamed and recommended surgery as soon as they could be ready. Our other option was to take medicines to reduce the size of the appendix. This option was thought to work 80% of the time. However, it only treats this instance. Surgery is still often required for people in the future. The main downside of the surgery was a complication because of Brock’s pre-existing conditions. If his colon was inflamed as well as the appendix then they would abort the surgery and not remove the appendix. The surgeon felt like the CT scan showed no colon inflammation. However, he would only know for sure during surgery.
Surgery it is
We opted for surgery and were hopeful that he would be able to have it done successfully. We also talked with the surgeon about another problem Brock was having. It was a procedure normally be done at an office visit that is very painful. At first, the surgeon didn’t want to do this since it would give Brock two very painful things to recover from. But we talked about why we thought it made sense. The surgeon agreed to handle that while Brock was under anesthesia as well.
Now things finally started to move fast and by 2 am Brock was being operated on. Just before 3 am Brock was in the recovery room (and really wanting food). The doctor talked to Becky and shared that they were able to successfully do both procedures. Brock no longer had an appendix! By 4 pm he was in the hospital room with Becky and was finally able to get some food and drink (applesauce and sprite). Shortly after that, he was asleep again.
Leaving the Hospital
By 9 am Brock had been out of bed several times, displayed bowel functions, and walked without assistance. Thus he has hit all requirements to be released to go home. For some reason, the surgeon didn’t stop by during his morning rounds. The RN said that we could either wait to see the surgeon at noon or go home now. We chose to go home now, once we got the pain killer prescription. We wanted to go as soon as possible, so we could get home to the kids and rest more fully outside the hospital. However, that wasn’t how the day was going to go.
By 12:30 we still were no closer to leaving the hospital so we started calling around. We found out that the surgeon was off-site until 1 pm. Despite our best efforts to push along the process, we didn’t leave the hospital until 2:30 pm, which was disappointing. But at least we had the pain meds and Becky had run errands during the wait time.
Getting Back Home
The car ride back was ok, since Brock got a pain pill not too long before leaving. Once back it was great to see the kids. Brock’s nephew John had not felt well, so he didn’t attend school. Instead, he came out and helped Sheri with the Kyra and Verity, which was great. He helped with all the diapers and everything else. Sheri said he was a huge help and the kids loved spending the day with him.
Brock laid down when getting back, then had dinner, and then took a nap. After the nap, he was able to get a shower which helped him to feel a little fresher. On the upside, he was able to put Verity down for her nap which he was happy about. All the items that he had been given did a number on his stomach. Brock was up until around 11 pm before he felt well enough to go to bed for the night. But overall he had a good night of sleep despite having a lot of pain to manage.
First Day Back
The first full day back was December 22. Brock has been in and out of bed. He is generally managing the pain but does have sometimes that he has to breathe through it. He has to be very careful how he moves and can’t lift much of anything. The pain meds are also giving him some hallucinations when he tries to rest. Therefore he stopped taking the pain meds in the afternoon. He just went to Aleve and Tylenol instead. But this morning (12/23) we are hoping to get a new pain med for him to try.
The pain is the worst at the site of where the incisions are (so on his left side), not where they took the appendix out. He also has a lot of pain from his second procedure. This is likely to linger longer than the appendix surgery pain. He has a follow-up with the surgeon on January 3, 2022, and has several restrictions on him until that time. Overall, he is happy to be on this side of the operation and back home.
Family Support, and Health Update
Brock is happy to have such a loving and supporting wife. She did a great job feeding me in the first few hours where it was hard to move. Becky was awesome during the whole process despite her not getting much rest. Another cool thing that happened was that Kyra made 2 amazing cards for Brock. She spent a lot of time writing and designing these cards and Brock loved them!
Future Travel Plans
The question we get from everyone is when and where is next! We plan to enjoy the holidays and Becky and Brock’s birthdays (both next week). Then at some point, we will figure it out from there. Now we also must allow time for Brock to recover and we are also waiting for Kyra’s 2nd COVID shot.
We don’t have any dates or places to go picked out. That said we do have a new Lonely Planet travel guide ordered so we can do some research on one possibility. We will be going somewhere at some point. But we have some things we need to do that we were not able to finish before we left on the last trip. We still have a few items we are going to try to sell. Additionally, we need to take some time to fully invest the money we have from the sale of our house and other items.
We also have a lot of video and blog content from the trip that we would like to edit and post online. Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel! But most importantly we want to:
Spend time with the people back at home that we care about
Spend time together as a family
World schooling Kyra
Teaching Verity the basics (she can already count to 13, and knows some colors now)
We are looking forward to relaxing at home for now. When we feel like it, we will hit the road again. It could be sooner or later. As we shared in the “what retirement means to us” post, we love having this life and time flexibility.
The “FIRE” part of FIRE Travel Family stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early”. In this post, we will answer what it means to be an early retiree. Or at least what it means to us…at this point. As with everything in life, what retirement means to us can (and likely will) change over time. Life is dynamic and we plan to stay flexible so we can live our best life. Additionally, our kids are small now. Who knows what will change over time for both them and us as our family ages. With that said let’s cover a bit of background about our situation…
What is early retirement?
We officially retired early on Labor Day, 2021. We closed our businesses, sold our house and cars (and most of our possessions), had a retirement party, and started traveling. Many people have asked us, “What do you mean you are retired?” Often accompanied with another remark about being so young. Thanks for the compliment! People often also say “How do you think you can retire early?” The power of math is what helped us know we could retire. It is not some intangible feeling. It is not a date on a calendar or an age we had to turn. In our view, it is knowing our assets, expenses, lifestyle, and goals. It is knowing what we must spend money on, what we want to spend money on, and where we can cut corners.
On the negative side, we have had several “Who do you think you are?” and other questions where people think we are somehow dismissive of their life or work ethic. For us, this reflects more about the person with that opinion than anything in our lives. This should be able to go unsaid, but our early retirement is not a judgment of anyone else or their lifestyle. We also know some people truly love their jobs or companies they own, which is great! We are doing what works for us and understand this is not something that everyone can or would even want to do. Our choice to retire early is our own and we are genuinely excited about it.
What early retirement does and does not mean to us
For us, retirement is a relatively simple concept. It means time and choice over possessions and displays of wealth. We do not have to do a job that we do not want to do. If we choose to never work again we should have enough money to live on for the rest of our lives. Early retirement means the freedom to do what we want. It means we get to choose how we live every day. Early retirement for us means that we are able to world school (home school while traveling) our kids. It means we are nomadic when we want to be. It gives us the freedom to live basically wherever we want. Of course, this is within limits. We still have stuff we have to do just like everyone else.
What retirement doesn’t mean for us is that we are crazy rich. We don’t plan to own a house, expensive cars, expensive hobby items, or other depreciating assets. We are not buying a yacht or private plane anytime soon (but we are open to gifts!). And to be straightforward we really have to monitor and control our spending. If we make poor financial decisions or outspend our budgets math starts to work against us and we are forced to work again.
How can this work?
Part of how we are able to retire is the concept of financial arbitrage. Put simply this means the money you have in US dollars goes further in countries with less valuable currencies. Countries in Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia provide some of the best places to stretch our dollars. We know that we can travel for cheaper in many developing countries full-time than we could have lived in the United States! And most of the time we can have a nicer standard of living while traveling.
Since we are traveling in the United States right now we knew we had to work hard to keep expenses down. This meant we are traveling in our van and tent camping. We also make most of our own meals and we are avoiding the most expensive tourist attractions (for example – no Disney World while in Florida). And we have observed that our kids often enjoy the free or cheap things in life more anyways at their current young ages.
Retirement doesn’t mean that we will never work again. Instead, it means we don’t have to ever work again. This is a simple but incredibly important and powerful difference. It is likely that we will take on projects in the future to make money. However, we will only do things we want to do and which engage and fulfill us. We get to say no automatically to everything else. And if we don’t like something we start we always have the power to walk away.
What are the downsides?
Interestingly, early retirement also means more work in some ways. For us, we now must be even more planned out for how we handle investing, income, and taxes. We have to be even more aware of changes in how our medical insurance will be handled as US Citizens. Additionally, we have to think through how sometimes large expenses will impact our retirement savings and plan accordingly. We have to make sure that we are able to schedule the needed appointments when we are back in a short time frame for our family.
As an example, when we left for this trip we should have gotten the flu shots for our kids while we were still in Iowa. But we didn’t and that meant that only Becky and Brock were able to get the shots while on the road using insurance. We also may do certain medical procedures while on the road now. As it stands right now Becky and Brock do not have dental insurance. So we will likely do cleanings and dental work in countries where it is both cheap and still have high standards.
We just have certain items that now require a little more thought and creativity to make sure we are staying on budget and still prioritizing the well-being of our family. If we were citizens of just about any developed country other than the United States this wouldn’t even be something we had to deal with. But it is what it is.
In summary, financial freedom is life freedom. We get to design our lives how we want. We will do what is fun, for as long as it remains to be fun. For instance, if we are traveling and don’t like something we will make changes. This could be how we are structuring our day, what we are doing, or even what location we are in. Financial freedom is family freedom. We get to be involved in everything our kids are doing now.
Already the time with the kids has been amazing. Seeing Kyra start to read and learn math has been a real pleasure. Being around and seeing how Verity’s vocabulary is expanding rapidly has been incredible. Financial freedom is choice freedom. We now get to start every choice with an open path ahead of us. Some people might see this as a scary thing. For us, it means we get to do the things we have always wanted. Then when we want to do the next thing, we get to start over and plan it out again.
After a few months of being retired, we can both say that we love it. Although, sometimes it still doesn’t feel like we are retired. It just feels like a long family trip so far. But we are starting to adjust to the freedom we now have to live life the way we desire. As we travel and spend time together in early retirement we will learn, adapt, and grow. Early retirement gives us this time and freedom.
The article below is one I was looking for before our first camping experience with kids and could not find. So I told myself after a few camping stays I would write this article about camping with small children. From Saturday, September 25 to Tuesday, September 28, 2021, the FIRE Travel Family had our first camping experience. We stayed 3 nights at the Streetsboro / Cleveland SE KOA near Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. From Friday, October 1, 2021, to Sunday, October 3 we also stayed two nights at the Houghton / Letchworth KOA near Letchworth State Park in New York.
While camping at these locations we spent most of the day hiking in the nearby parks. We essentially used these locations for sleeping and showering. At the time Kyra was 5 years old and Verity was 2 years old. We mostly did a great job preparing, but we learned some valuable lessons. We also appreciate those who gave us advice as we prepared for this trip.
Lessons learned from camping with small children
The coldest we want the overnight temperature is 45 degrees (although 55 or above is preferred)
It works well to line sleeping bags with blankets, especially for the kids
Don’t take a blender
Fruit doesn’t stay frozen in the cooler, this was a waste of space that could have been better used
High quality sleeping bags are more important than a lot of blankets
Having a campsite in view of a playground is great so kids can play while adults setup and cook food
Buy an RV adapter plug (30 amp male to 15 amp female) for the typical campsite RV plug in to the normal power plug in (we were also able to borrow this at our first site with a $10 deposit)
Dish washing pans can be used for holding/cleaning dirty dishes and to set sandals or shoes in a tent inside overnight so they don’t get cold or disappear
Keep a Ziploc bag of ice in the cooler to use for drinks during the day if you are a person who likes to have cold drinks during the day
If the forecast calls for rain the day you are leaving do your best to pack and prep the night before
Campgrounds may have cool events for kids or adults, check their schedules and ask for details when you arrive
When packing up from a rainy day think about having the kids with food and activities in the dry car
When packing up on a rainy day pack a change and towel in a bag. Then use it, along with a warm shower, once everything is in the car so you don’t start the day dirty, wet and cold
Assuming camping sites have picnic tables you may not need camping chairs or a camping table.
Thoughts confirmed from camping with small children
High-quality sleeping bags are critically important for cold nights
Having a large tent with room dividers makes the experience more enjoyable
Focus on making sure you get a good night’s sleep; it makes everything easier
It is worth the extra money to get a lighted tent
Headlights are also a good investment, although phone flashlights can also be used
It is best to have a 50 foot outside extension cord and a large surge protector if you have multiple devices you want to plug in
Have a bucket or something else for overnight pee breaks so you don’t have to leave the tent
Bring a picnic table cloth to put down for cooking and eating
Make sure to get to your campsite early enough to be completely setup and settled in before it gets dark
Rain sucks, especially while packing up, that said it is completely managable with some preparation and thought
Let’s start with some background. Becky and I have done overnight tent camping on multiple trips in both the United States and abroad while traveling/hiking. We used a two-person 3-season REI tent and typically had thin air mats and high-quality sleeping bags. All these items had to be ones that we could carry in our backpacks while hiking multi-day trails. With this setup, we have camped in areas that had the water freeze overnight and we still did not get cold.
While abroad we did rustic camping along trails, meaning there were no water, electricity, or bathroom facilities. We also camped in the US while traveling in a vehicle so we could access a few more items and had some items like water and electricity. That said it had been over 7 years since either Brock or Becky had camped. Neither Kyra nor Verity had ever slept outside or in a tent before this. It was their first camping experience. Kyra is a seasoned traveler. However, Verity has only been on one trip which was cut short after only two and a half weeks due to COVID in Belize in 2020.
We reached FIRE (financial independence retire early) at an average couple age of 37, in 2021. We always thought our first post-retirement trip would be an international trip. Much of this was because our travel budget was created with developing countries and their lower costs in mind. Geo arbitrage (which means we use the US dollar and its strong relative value to most foreign currencies) was a core part of our budgeting. However, COVID did not work with us in this regard. With about 2 months to go before we left, we finally decided it would be a US trip for many reasons.
To keep costs low we had two options (because staying at hotels exclusively was too expensive). The option nearly everyone told us to pick was to buy an RV. This would allow us to be comfortable and have all the stuff with us we wanted. The downsides to this were many for us. First, it was a huge outlay of capital and higher insurance, maintenance, gas, and other costs. It also meant less mobility and more to be responsible for. It also generally went against the minimalism tenant we have embraced. We believe that stuff = stress. On the upside, it would have been easier. But hey, why do what is easy? That isn’t how we roll!
So we choose Door #2 or the path less traveled. This meant we would take our minivan and tent camp for stays of 2 or more nights (weather permitting). So we were going to be doing a lot of camping with small children. When we couldn’t tent camp or were just passing through we would look for a low-end motel or hotel. Our goal here would be to pay less than $80 per night when we had hotels. Our hope was to tent camp for way more nights than we spent in hotels/motels. The hope was to bring the average per night costs more down around $50 to $60 across the whole trip. Our ultimate goal is to travel on less than $100 per day total in the United States.
The questions we faced
So we had a plan but were faced with many questions like:
What type of tent to get? (How big, what seasonality, what weight)
Would we get a good night sleep?
How would we cook food? (it was way too expensive to eat out all the time)
What was important to take and what could be left home?
How much could we fit into one minivan and what would need to be left home?
Would the kids handle this?
How would all of Kyra’s homeschooling/worldschooling fit into all this?
Also in the back of Brock’s mind was one truly horrible tent experience. It was when Brock was hiking to Machu Picchu in 2006 on the Salkantay Inca Trail. At this point, he had no overnight trekking experience or gear. So he was completely dependent on the provider to give good tents and sleeping bags…this did not happen. Brock has never been so cold in his life. At one point overnight he emptied everything from his bag on top of himself, it didn’t help. Brock slept for only a few minutes and was so happy when they came to him at 4 am with a hot beverage.
Since then he has always made sure to have a good tent and sleeping bag, plus good other equipment. This story points to what should be an obvious point. The main use of the tent is for overnight shelter. If you don’t have a good night’s sleep in a tent you will not want to do it over and over again.
What We Valued
With all that in mind, our focus became how do we make sure we are having a good night’s sleep every time out. To be successful camping with small children we focused on 3 main points:
Becky and the kids
Becky and the kids can sleep anywhere (and yes they all 3 sleep together when we travel). Air mattress, double bed, basically they make anything work. So this part was easy, we got a cheap queen air mattress. We did make a point of having the pump be battery operated in case we stayed at a campsite without an electrical hookup. Specifically, we planned for all aspects of camping to be on battery when possible in case electrical hook-ups were not easy to come by. We choose not to buy a power cell for charging items.
For sleeping, Brock had some special requests/needs. While young he could do the inflatable 1-inch thick mats just fine. With age, waistline expansion, and back pain, he has concluded that no air mattress was going to make him feel comfortable. Most made him feel horrible and sleep poorly to boot. So we had to get creative here. What we were able to figure out is that we could fit a twin mattress in the minivan. When it comes to traveling people have one or two luxuries they can afford. Somewhere they use space that others might not. For this trip this was Brock’s luxury, having an actual mattress for tent camping.
Two days before we left on the trip, Brock did an epic extreme mattress shopping experience before ultimately buying an 8-inch foam mattress for the trip for $300 plus tax. We had figured we could have gotten the 10-inch, but it was another few hundred and the 8-inch seemed like it would be a good night’s sleep. Brock tested it out the night we bought it and was very happy with the choice. In truth, he actually liked it even better than the king bed we had sold a few weeks back. He even found himself sleeping on his back more (typically he is a side sleeper).
How this has went
After 5 nights we can say we hit the comfort area perfectly. Becky and the kids have enjoyed sleeping on the air mattress. Brock prefers sleeping on his twin foam mattress to any of the hotel beds he has slept on. We all took the box springs and frames out from under the bed before the trip. Therefore, sleeping low to the ground was not an adjustment and has not been a problem.
To protect the twin mattress we put both a thin liner on the bottom of it. We also put the plastic it came in under the bed to have a layer between the tent and the bed to keep the mattress from getting wet.
We also brought two camping chairs and one camping table. All pack down to a small size. None of them have been out of the minivan yet because the first two camping sites have had picnic tables. If this continues these could be items we would not have needed to bring. This could also be different if you want to sit around at campgrounds during the day. But we view them as mostly just lodging for the trip.
In regards to warmth, we were primarily concerned with the kids and Becky. They all tend to be colder in most environments. Kyra struggles the most with the cold of anyone in the family. Whereas Brock is not likely to get cold. We made sure we had some thicker sleepers/jammies for both kids and a comfortable, thicker sweatshirt for Becky. We also packed stocking caps and gloves for colder nights.
From previous trips, we had three high-quality camping bags. We decided that Brock would use the older one when needed. Becky and the kids would zip the other two together to sleep in. Becky sleeps in the middle and the kids fit beside her. This worked well and mostly kept the kids close to her overnight. We have two kids who move in bed a ton. Kyra often is completely out of the bed overnight. Verity also moves around a lot, although she is less likely to fall completely out of the bed.
On our first night of camping with small children we put our preparations to the test with overnight lows of around 48 to 50 degrees. While sleeping bags do a great job with warmth overall, they are initially cold to the touch. After some experimentation, Becky lined the bottom of the sleeping bag with one blanket and put another on the top. When she did that Kyra was much more comfortable and warm. What we found on the cold nights is that the kids stayed close and slept very well with this setup.
We used all the blankets we had brought, around six in total (plus the kid’s small ones). Neither Becky nor Brock used their Under Armour base layer 1 clothing. Kyra used her stocking cap on the fourth night (got down to the high 40’s). No one has used gloves yet. While this has all worked well we have decided that we would prefer to only camp when the overnight temperature was over 45 degrees. This could vary for others and it is important to note that our tent is more a summer tent than a 3 or 4-season tent. We went with this tent because we also could see using it in very hot places and wanted one that allowed for air movement. If people had a more sealed-up tent they could likely stay in even colder temps, if they wanted.
It is truly weird how tent capacity is measured. It is how many average-sized adults could sleep in sleeping bags in a tent packed like sardines. While this makes sense for 1 or 2-person tents this is not something families or large groups are likely to do. So for instance you are just about never going to see 10 people sleeping in a 10-person tent.
We knew right away we wanted a tent that allowed us to have two sleeping areas as well as a common area. We looked at small tents (6-person tents) and huge (up to 16-person tents). What we pretty quickly realized is that we wanted a tent that was around “10 to 12 people”. We preferred one that would be able to have 2 queen mattresses on each end and a common area of about the same size in the middle. A future post can go fully into all the research we did but we ended up buying a CORE 12 Person Lighted Instant Cabin Tent which is 18’ x 10’. This tent was also nice because it had room dividers so we were able to get the 3-room setup we were looking for.
We also knew that we wanted the space to be physically comfortable and part of this included having it be well lighted for the kids. While this cost around $70 extra by the end of the first night before lights were out we knew it had been well worth the money. This could have been done in other ways. However, having the lights built right in and with several settings (including night light mode) was so easy to use.
Other Comfort Items
So other comfort items include that we brought a 50 foot outside extension cord so that we could have electricity to charge phones and other devices at night. We brought a bucket for overnight pee breaks so that we didn’t have to walk all the way to the bathroom (only Brock has used this). We also put down a blanket in the common area to make the space more appealing to walk or sit on. It also protects the feet if there is debris under the tent. Doing this also made walking around warmer on colder nights. We choose not to buy some special awning or rain shelter for outside the tent.
Food and Drink
An important warning
Another important thing to understand is food and drink. An important warning to cover, NEVER store food or drink in your tent. No snacks, drinks, fruit, anything. We even take the extra snacks out of our day hiking bag each night. The reason is that this can bring in animals. We had friends who stored bananas in their tent and had a raccoon join them in the middle of a stormy night much to their dismay. Not only is this potentially dangerous, but it also can destroy your tent.
Know yourself and plan accordingly
With that out of the way let’s talk about how we view this. If you are slightly overwhelmed with this being your first camping experience and having kids then make the food prep easy by going out for food or having pizza delivered. Do not feel like you have to tackle everything at once. In general, this is good advice when traveling with kids, learn in increments. We take the view that this is all a learning experience and we want to get better each time. This attitude has served us very well.
For us, we have a two-burner stove that uses propane that we use to cook on trips. Our personal preference is not to leave the campground once we have it set up at night. Additionally, buying groceries and cooking is much more economical than eating out. It is easy to blow your budget on restaurant meals. This also allows us to cook healthier meals than we can typically buy while traveling.
So there are many benefits, but a drawback is that it does take some effort. The worst time is always the first time you cook because you have to locate each item you need. A smart item Becky decided to bring for this trip was a picnic table cloth. It has come in handy while using picnic tables provided at the tent sites.
We have also used the divide and conquer method here. Brock has taken the kids to the playground or elsewhere, while Becky cooks. It is much more difficult to cook a meal with the kids sitting around waiting or even when they are trying to be helpful. If playgrounds are not an option, a walk, going to look for animals, getting ice, or just about anything else could also get the same result. We also always have a lot of ready-to-eat snacks with us to keep the kids from getting too hungry while waiting for meals or while on hikes.
In regards to drinks on this trip, we borrowed a 5-gallon water holder with a spout you can use to fill drinks (Thanks Thad!). This has been great because it means we can get water whenever we want throughout the day. This helps us all to stay better hydrated. Additionally, we keep a Ziploc bag of ice separate in the cooler. This bag is used for drinks which was a great new trick we started on this trip to have cold drinks on hot days. We also wrap our Nalgene bottles with hand towels to keep the ice in them longer when on hikes. We brought a blender because we make fruit/vegetable shakes at home each day. Having used it only once, we can say it was probably our biggest packing mistake.
Homeschooling / Worldschooling
Camping has not affected how we are worldschooling (homeschooling while traveling the world). The tougher challenge is finding the time to get the work done and have focus with Kyra. We find that we like to do her workbooks in the morning while we are making breakfast or packing to go. She has done her workbooks while sitting on the bed, on a picnic table, or in the car. The biggest thing is making sure she has enough focus to be able to keep moving forward.
The truly cool part about worldschooling Kyra is that the world is her mental playground. We let each hour bring the lesson to us as we experience the world. Sometimes it is animals or plants. Other times it is how things are made or done. Often it is concepts like gravity. The variance she is getting is amazing. Also letting her bring the questions helps her to feel like part of the process. I will go more into this in another post, but the important point for this post is that where you stay shouldn’t affect how you homeschool. However, it can enhance the list of things you can teach your child. Also being at campsites has been great for our kids to socialize and play with other children.
How it went
Overall our experiences camping with small children were great. Despite the colder temperature on the first night, the kids slept like rocks. It probably helps that they were exhausted from a long day of hiking and activities. The second and third nights were much warmer and Brock didn’t even use his sleeping bag on nights two and three. Becky slept as well as you can between two kids and Brock slept well. At our second stay, the first night was in the high 40’s overnight again, and the second night was warmer. The second night of that stay it started raining at 4:30 am, which did wake up both Becky and Brock (but not the kids).
After staying in some hotels, Brock prefers sleeping in a tent. This is likely due to the quality of his twin foam mattress in the tent and the lack of hotel smells. Becky likes the tent camping better assuming the bathrooms are close (they were not at our second stay). The kids are both excitedly anticipating our next camping experience. At our second stay, we hit their Halloween weekend, despite it being the first weekend of October. So we were able to take part in their trick or treating and candy hunt in the dark. Becky and the kids also did a bingo night at this campground.
Every family, adult, and kid will have important items. Before you go camping with small children it is best to have a conversation to make sure all the big issues are covered. That said we made sure to focus on the most important items and not worry about preparing for every contingency. We felt like the best thing to do was have the essentials and then adjust whatever was needed based on our actual needs. We were also greatly limited by space given that we were on a cross-country trip in the minivan. In a way, this required more focus and likely helped us to make better decisions.
Once you get comfortable with the basics up your game. Think about having a night where you look at the stars, play games, or do other activities. Both us and our kids love tent camping together. We highly recommend doing this as it is truly a different experience than being in a hotel or hotel on wheels (RV). With a little planning and a willingness to learn and improve we think any family could find this to be a great option!
Written By: Brock Waterman & Becky Waterman
Written: 9/27/2021 and 10/4/2021 (mostly) Posted: 10/5/2021; 1/17/2022 (updated for SEO)
We are on the road and it feels so good 🙂 I am writing this 2021 trip leaving email while sitting in the van near Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio. We set up our tent for the first night of camping. First, let’s do a quick update and give out some thank you shoutouts.
A lot of people to thank
Since the last update on Sept 14, 2021, we have been busy completing the move from our house, selling our 2017 Chevy Traverse, and seeing how much stuff one family can fit into a minivan. Spoiler…it is both too much and still not everything we wanted.
There are so many people we want to thank. I am sure we are missing some people (our apologies) but here is a brief list of the ones that come to mind:
Matt & Rachelle Waterman for giving us a room in their amazing house in Waunakee, WI from which we can base ourselves and be when we are “back home.”
Thad Waterman for items too numerous to mention and helping with our mail and things to be done while we are gone, plus getting his passport for any emergency situations
Bill & Sheri Waterman for helping us to store items, use the truck and trailer for the move, and with other items
Janann Ambrosy and Rick Kenny for helping to store our stuff
Lisa & Tom Hast for all the general support and advice
Nicole and Pat Richey for general help during the house sale and lending us an air mattress when we sold our King Bed before the move
Readying for 2021 Trip Leaving
Since the last update we did the following:
September 15, 2021 – officially sold the Traverse to Carvana.com; this was the last big item we had to sell before we left
We were also selling smaller items up to a couple days before we moved
September 16 to 18, 2021 – we moved items to Janann’s and Rick’s to prep for the big move
Sept 19 – we got the truck and trailer from Brock’s mom and dad and took a load to their house; also dropped off the kids for their last stay with Na Na & Pa Pa
Sept 20, 2021 we packed all of our items (somehow – Becky did amazing) into the trailer, truck bed, and minivan and drove to Waunakee. With Matt and Rachelle’s help we unloaded what was staying at their house and put everything else in the trailer.
Sept 21, 2021 we took the truck and trailer back to Boscobel and got everything put away at Bill and Sheri’s house. We also got the kids and came back to Waunakee.
Sept 22, we got the needed items for camping including an epic search for what twin mattress Brock will use while camping
September 23, 2021 we spent the day finishing paperwork, test packing the van, and preparing in other ways
2021 Trip Leaving
Now onto the good stuff, the travel! We officially hit the road on Friday, September 24 at around 11:30 am. It took several attempts and a lot of items left behind, but we finally got everything into the van. We were so excited to finally be on the trip. It was the culmination of over a year’s worth of planning, selling, and many tough decisions/conversations. We felt like a huge weight was lifted off our shoulders.
We had previously decided that we would be going East on this trip, at least originally. Past that not much else was planned. We love the outdoors and hiking so we knew our first destination would be Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. However, that was around 9 to 10 hours of driving away. On the first day, we drove to Toledo, which put us about 2 hours from the park. Our first attempt at frugal hotel nights was a fail…
We didn’t have a set location for the first night because we did not know how far we would get or even wanted to drive. Chicago traffic was not amazing and caused us some lost time (around 30 to 45 minutes). However, once we were about 30 miles into Indiana the traffic improved.
Needing a Hotel
We started looking for a hotel about two-thirds the way across Indiana. We were on highway 80, which is a toll road. There were surprisingly few options available for us and most were fairly high-priced. While still in Indiana, we concluded that the best option was probably to go to Toledo, which is pretty far into Ohio. Normally this would not have been a problem. But with the time change and extra time in Chicago it was getting dark as we started into Ohio.
We did other online searches, but the best options were clearly in Toledo, so we decided to push through. We were lucky because the kids were so well-behaved. One thing that helped was we have saved the cool surprise of the TV being in the minivan for this trip. We showed it to them around 6 pm on this day. So they were enjoying having a TV in the vehicle even as night fell. This helped to keep the are we there yet questions to a minimum.
Our First Hotel Doesn’t Work
When we finally got to Toledo at around 8 pm we went to the Motel 6. This looked like a decent option. Just to be safe we did not book online ahead of time so that we could view the room before paying. This was a smart choice because the room we were shown was bad. It had what I can best describe as the combination of smoke and mold I have smelled. On the upside, the front desk person was nice enough to let Kyra use the employee bathroom so we appreciated that…
At this point, we were back to square one and we needed food because everyone was hungry. This is where it helps to split tasks. While I had been in looking at the room with Kyra, Becky had stayed in the car and was looking for food options online. She found a place to get food very close to where we were. So we decided the next step was to get food. While we waited for food I did a new search. I found a Country Inn & Suites that had a special. It included Breakfast for about $25 more than the Motel 6, so we booked it happily. Having stayed at these before I was not worried about the room quality. At this point in the night, this seemed like a smart trade-off. We booked it via Hotels.com to get the rewards for it.
Arriving at the Hotel
When we arrived at this hotel it was great because we got right in, had an amazing room, and got free oatmeal creme pies to wash down the amazing meal, Becky had found for us. The kids were starving and excited to eat. While we ate we video-called parents at home and got set up for the first night in the hotel. Kyra was very excited to announce to everyone that her mom would be so happy. This was because Becky didn’t have to make breakfast the next day since it was included in the hotel price. It is funny what our kids get excited about 🙂
After eating the kids got to do some things they loved. This was great because they needed the attention after the long day:
Help get ice from the machine
Ride the luggage cart pretending it was a choo choo train
Do physical therapy by Brock on his yoga mat, while laughing the whole time
It was a great end to a productive day. And the upside was that we would start the next day only 2 hours from Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Written: 9/25/2021 (mostly) Posted: 9/28/2021, 1/22/2022 (updated for SEO) *For FIRE Travel Family videos see our YouTube Channel!
While things may have seemed quiet, in reality, a LOT has been happening. I have had over a dozen people ask for an update which is why we wrote this post. We are planning to officially be on the road within the next week (on or before Sept 21). Although we are not sure what the exact start date for the trip is yet. We are almost ready!
Here are the high notes of what has been going on over the past few months:
As part of that sale, we negotiated up to 60 days rent-free post-closing
This gave us up to September 21, 2021, to be in the house
This was a cash offer with no contingencies, which Brock negotiated since we did not have a realtor
Early July 2021
On July 2, 2021, we purchased a 2007 Chrysler Town & Country Touring Edition Minivan
Our original intent was to
Have a low-cost vehicle we could use while in the United States
We needed to save money on insurance (only carrying liability coverage) and vehicle registration
We wanted a vehicle we were comfortable storing outside while we travel
Buying this minivan allowed us to sell our current nicer vehicles quicker to capitalize on high used car prices
On July 13, 2021, we registered FIRE Travel Family LLC as an official business and all associated accounts were open
Late July 2021
July 19, 2021, Brock closed his Innoative Dubuque LLC business which focused on consulting and business assistance
On the morning of July 23, 2021, we closed on the house sale and officially became renters!
In the afternoon of July 23, 2021, we learned that Brock should not leave US due to the medical treatment he is receiving. The doctor suggested he stay around for between 12 to 18 months from when he started the treatment in January of 2021
Interestingly, we had already mostly decided that we would not be leaving the US for this first trip anyway due to COVID-19 uncertainty
On July 26, 2021, we sold our 2014 Chevy Equinox
That brought us back down to two vehicles again
It also allowed us to capitalize on the higher used car values which made us feel good about buying the minivan
On July 29, 2021, Becky closed her Platteville Massage office.
It was a bittersweet day since she loved her clients and had built a great/successful business
On July 31, 2021, Adam Rohn, Brock’s best friend from kindergarten through high school had funeral services held in Boscobel, WI
August 4, 2021, Kyra got her first haircut from her aunt Karen Hoffman
Kyra and her mom both donated their hair to kids in need
August 14. 2021, Brock completes the Platteville Super Sprint Triathlon. He did so with a personal best time and gets first place in his age range
August 20 and 21, 2021, Becky’s grandma Rose Heiderscheit has funeral services held and is laid to rest in Balltown, IA
August 22 and 23, 2021, Brock, Becky, Kyra, and Verity go to Wisconsin Dells. This is our first overnight trip and stay in a hotel since having to return home due to COVID-19 in March of 2020.
There will be a future post detailing how we made this a cost-effective outing by utilizing one of our superpowers…frugality!
August 27, 2021, was Kyra’s last day at the daycare she has been going to since 2017
On August 31, 2021, Becky closed her Dubuque Massage office and cleans out her office. In just over a month she has gone from 2 businesses to being retired!
September 3, 2021, we learn that the place we were going to live while “back home” is no longer an option. So we have to find a new place to stay and store our bed
On September 4, 2021, we had our final garage sale. We sold items left under $10 for 50% off and the items left worth $10 or more at 25% off, with the exclusion of about 12 items.
In total since starting to sell our items in August of 2020, we have sold over $14,000 and this does not include the house or vehicles
We estimate that we sold between 75% to 80% of everything we owned via garage sales and online Facebook Marketplace posts
To give you an idea of how much was sold for large furniture we now own only one item, a queen bed set
We kept a few items, otherwise, everything else was donated, consigned, or put on the curb. Although there are a handful of items we are still trying to sell
On September 6, 2021, we had our retirement party with family and friends. It was the last celebration we hosted in the first house we owned as a couple and family.
September 9, 2021, was Verity’s last day at the only daycare she has went to.
On September 13, 2021, was Kyra’s first day of home school (world school) as a kindergarten student, she loves her teachers and is doing great so far!!
September 15, 2021 is the day we have set to sell the 2017 Chevy Traverse to online car dealer Carvana.com. We hope everything goes smoothly with our drop-off meeting, which is set to take place in Monroe, WI.
Our Current Work
Other than this we are waiting for one piece of mail to arrive and these are the last items keeping us from leaving (once we have moved). As far as what we are doing now we are mostly:
Packing items to store while we are gone
Completing the electronic cleanup we need from owning 3 businesses that have been shut down
Determine what we need for our trip and get it bought/packed
Finishing the preparation we need to be away from home while traveling
Tired from reading all this? We are from getting it all done! The upside is the hard work is almost done and the fun is about to begin….
Written and posted 9/14/2021 Updated: 1/22/2022 *For FIRE Travel Family videos see our YouTube Channel!
Becky and I are EXCITED to announce that we have accepted an offer to buy our house! We accepted this offer on June 23 and the closing is set for July 23, 2021. There is a lot to love about this offer. For one, we sold the house for more than we had it listed on Zillow and Facebook. Second, the offer we accepted is from a cash buyer who has waived all contingencies. Our lawyer has the earnest money payment, although this did take some time. At this point, we are waiting on the abstract work to finish. In the meantime, the lawyer we hired is completing everything else needed for the closing.
We sold this house on our own (more to come about what we learned doing this in another post). Becky and I spent a lot of time cleaning and preparing the house for showings. We had a day of fixing small issues that buyers could have noticed. I did all the marketing, showings, communications, and negotiating. It was at times stressful, but this brief period of work will save us the 5 to 6% fee that realtors normally charge.
Marketing and showing our own house allowed us to get to know the potential buyers. This made it easier to negotiate for what was important to us. For instance, we will get up to 60 days rent-free and without a security deposit after closing in the house.
Selling the house was one of the biggest to-do items. Now on to other items like selling our vehicles, selling larger items in the house, and getting packed. We also are still working to determine our first travel location(s) and prepare for the travel we will be doing. It is not official until we close (sign the papers and receive the full payment). That said, it is great to be at this point!
On March 4, 2020, Becky, Kyra, Verity and I flew to Belize City. It was the start of a long-planned one-month family trip to Belize. Off the plane, we took the taxi to the ferry and went directly to the island of Caye Caulker. For those who have been there before it is a small reef fringed coral island, home to around 2000 locals. While we were there we walked the island to see the local seahorses, tarpons, and pelicans. We enjoyed the beach areas and playgrounds. We even took Kyra (who is 4) snorkeling for the first time at The Split, which was great.
Kyra Wants a Coconut
However, what we didn’t do was something we came to regret later due to something we never saw coming. During our walk around the island, there was a freshly cut coconuts stand. Kyra did a great job asking politely for us to buy the coconut for her to try. As parents know, it takes so much time to teach this skill to a child. If memory serves me correctly we had just finished a meal and didn’t think the timing was right to buy it then. We instead promised we would do this at some other point in the trip.
We assumed we would buy it on a different day. Additionally, we were in Belize for a month and had the last 10+ days on the beach. We figured it would be no problem to get one later. As it went we didn’t happen to go by this stand again while on Caye Caulker. We next spent a few days on Ambergris Caye and while there didn’t have the best weather. We also didn’t see anyone selling the fresh-cut coconut. After that, the next 2 weeks of the trip were inland.
What happened next wasn’t something we could have planned for at the time. However, it will likely surprise no one reading this. We arrived in San Ignacio on Monday, March 16, with a plan to check out and head for the coast on Saturday, March 21. Our first day in San Ignacio was like every other one on the trip. Additionally, we were not limited from doing anything during our time in San Ignacio. As you might be guessing at this point COVID-19 changed our plans dramatically. By Friday, the government announced the closing of the borders. The airport closed to international flights on Monday, March 23. So on Saturday, March 21 we flew home to the United States.
Kyra never got her coconut. Now to be realistic we know there have been larger issues many kids deal with. Plus to be honest she forgot about this after asking a few times earlier on the trip. But this stuck with us as parents. Especially given how great she behaved on the trip and how much she loves new experiences. Since then Becky and I have a shorthand expression that we apply to all parts of life now to “Always buy the coconut.”
Always Buy the Coconut
To be clear this doesn’t mean spending on everything the kids ask for. Nor does it mean that money buys happiness, we know better than this. It simply means don’t put off unique experiences you can do today with your children. Because you truly never know what might happen in the future!
To end on a happy note, we used what we had learned near the end of our trip. We got these drinks called Slooshie (crushed ice-styled drink) and Smoozie (fresh fruit-based drink). A small shop called Bambu Tea + Coffee, in San Ignacio sells these drinks. In them, you can put what they call bobas, which pop in your mouth when you drink it. We decide to get one to try something new and because when we talked to Kyra about the options she wanted one. She loved it!
Interestingly, to this day when she talks about Belize, this drink is the first thing she is likely to bring up. What is special and important now for a child might not be special in the future. Lastly, because you miss one opportunity do not take it too hard. With kids, there will always be another opportunity to do something special. Make sure you take it…Always Buy the Coconut!
Brock Waterman Originally Uploaded: 6/28/2021 Updated: 1/22/2022 for SEO *For FIRE Travel Family videos see our YouTube Channel!
On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, we announced that we had reached financial independence and that we will be selling most of our possessions to travel the world. We had told our immediate families and some close friends in the months leading up to this announcement. Below is the email we used to communicate our decision with everyone else and launch our FIRE Travel Family venture:
At this point in the email, you may have some questions or want to know more. If that is the case follow us on social media at our new FIRE Travel Family venture (see below). Our plan is to discuss our experiences and source content from people’s questions so everyone can have their questions discussed. As always, we also look forward to what we can learn from others and in our travels. Once we have had some time off to chill on the road we might even start teaching clients how to attain financial independence themselves.
So far we don’t have much online other than a few blog posts (https://firetravelfamily.com/blog/). We don’t even have the logo created or website design/content done (only a general template). That will change once the selling work is done in a few months and we are ready to hit the road. At most, our current plan is to send one more email like this before going fully to social media.
Becky and I are frugal people in many financial aspects, which has led to our financial independence. The biggest place this shows in how we acquire material items (aka “stuff”), but also extends to experiences. But before we get to what we buy, let’s talk about the why of buying. For us, we always start with the question is this something we truly need. When you think this way, you often find you have something else that you can use to make due. Or you might be able to temporarily borrow an item from someone else. Lastly, can you rent or otherwise get for free temporarily? We utilize the public library just about weekly. We can get books, movies, and more for no cost. Need a book they don’t have, fill out a request form and usually, they will get it.
This mentality also extends to activities. For instance, we take part in the free kid’s activities available at the library and through the city. Want something more in-depth? We are part of a local Parent’s as Teachers where we have bi-weekly meetings with a Parent-Educator. This brings weekly hands-on activities and social interactions for our kids. It also helps us expand our parenting knowledge and skills because of the educational documents we read as part of this. We love hiking, which is often free (or low-cost). Not only do you get away from electronics, you help your kids connect to nature and have time together. Parks are another great free option. Again our city also has free events and at many of these, they include meals, activities, and sometimes even free items.
But what about when we need to buy something? When possible we try to make sure we are not surprised by an emergency need. This is important because when you have the time it opens up your options. Options for getting great used items include family and friends, garage sales (online and in-person), thrift stores, corporate second-hand stores (like Goodwill), online websites and groups (like Facebook Marketplace and the various groups selling items in your area), free curb pickups, and more.
We buy the majority (probably around 80% to 90%) of all non-perishable items used. This includes clothes, toys, furniture, workout equipment, books, and more. We often pay cents on the dollar for these same items as you would if you purchase them new. Often times we get items, use them for years and turn around sell them for the same (or more) than we paid for them.
As an example, at one point we picked up a bike we thought our oldest daughter might use for free off a curb one day. As we found a better other option a couple of years later we turned around and sold this bike for $45. This isn’t the norm, and I am not advocating being a hoarder. When you buy something that has some use the price can drop substantially from its new price. Additionally, people often really want to get rid of the item, so they take a low price. We have found that most larger items we have bought used have held their value or sold for more on the recent garage or online sales we have done.
Do we ever buy new things? Absolutely! Because of my allergies, anything that has cloth that can’t be put in a washing machine (for instance couches or recliners) are something we typically buy new. I use my computer daily and always want one with high-end specs. While I do shop around, I buy high-end here. TVs are also something else we have usually bought new. Lastly, and most importantly, we spend more to get quality, healthy food items. While it is cheaper in the short term to buy fast food and low-quality food, the long-term health costs are not worth it. We spend to get the best whole food items like vegetables, fruits, and meats. We buy local when possible (including for all of our beef). We watch specials and do our best to stay in season for fruits and vegetables to get lower prices and better quality. Also, we do a lot of frozen fruit which the kids love and which make the best fruit shakes.
This post has just scratched the surface of how we live frugally. For instance, we have saved money by getting low-interest loans from family members. But this post gives you an idea of how we were able to reach financial independence and retire early. When we spend we always think is this item worth the time it takes to make the money for it? Essentially, is it worth more time away from the kids and more work? We find the answer is often no, and this simple test helps to eliminate a lot of unneeded or want-based spending.
Brock Waterman Originally Written: 6/2/2021 Last Edit: 6/3/2021