How did this all get started?
Before I met my wife Cija (pronounced Keeya), I had been on a multiyear plan to train myself to travel the world.
I was renting a basement apartment, working part time as a night cook in downtown Portland, and after seven years…was eager for a change of scenery.
I had read the wonderful book by Randy Johnson called “Footloose and Fancy Free in the Third World”, where Mr. Johnson outlines his experiences traveling around the world for years at a time with just a backpack. He could do this on $5000 a year if he was careful about where he stayed and how he spent his money.
This kind of vagabond seeker lifestyle appealed to me. My parents had both grown up in small towns in Montana, and chose to leave for adventure, so I guess it is in my blood. I have plenty of permissions along the lines of:
“If where you’re at doesn’t excite you, your life isn’t being lived to it’s god-given potential! Go find something that does excite you!”
The internet was just taking ahold of the general public, and exciting new communities were forming online. I discovered couchurfing.org, workaway.info, international youth hostels, bootsanall.com, as well as several other avenues founded by like minded travelers designed to facilitate travel and work at the same time.
These websites connected people interested in travel, with others open to hosting, or hiring people with specific skills…all around the world. This was the spark I needed to start making concrete moves to feed my wanderlust.
I get really fired up by working on documentaries short films for organizations that I want to help. I had dreams of traveling the country helping to spread editorial and independent film production skills to needy communities. Sort of a “Johnny Video-seed.”
So I spent roughly a year liquidating my miscellaneous possessions, and converting my various paper notes, writings and artistry into digital formats that I could travel around with.
Finding my Running Buddy
It wasn’t until Cija and I had started dating in 2010 that I got the privilege to meet some of her good friends, who also happen to be long term full-time RVers and traveling entrepreneurs. They recommended Tim Ferris’s game-changing book “The 4-Hour Workweek” about creating a “Lifestyle Design Plan” and it was perfect for us.
Jim and René are bloggers, entrepreneurs, and the founders of an amputee pets nonprofit organization that helps counsel humans when their pets or going through possible amputations. They teach these humans how to adapt to life after these amputations. You can find more information about Jim and René’s wonderful work here at tripawds.org.
Convincing Cija I’m not Crazy
At first blush to her, my ideas must have seemed quite radical. I wanted to quit a job that I’ve been doing for years, give up a secure home and go work for room and board at unknown locations with a very vague itinerary.
I showed her how Workaway was basically a classifieds work trade website. Property owners hire travelers with a specific skill sets for five hours a day, five days a week in exchange for room and board in some fantastic locations, as well as building great relationships around the world. If you don’t like where you’re at you can just move on to the next one. This seemed to me a affordable way to build worldwide contacts and increase my worldly knowledge.
“The 4-Hour Workweek” was pivotal in crystallizing a shared plan that Cija and I could both agree on. Early on, we had a whirlwind romance, and after only a few months together, Cija invited me to travel to Europe with her for a convention she was working at in Germany.
Running off to Europe Together
We figured that if this relationship was going to work for the long term, we could tell by traveling together. I had never been out of North America, and on that trip we visited Ludwigsburg, Germany, Paris and Barcelona on a romantic 17 day adventure. Lucky for me, our relationship survived!
Moving in Together
I had come out of several years of living in roommate situations or house shares, the last few of which had been very disruptive to my lifestyle and plans due to erratic behavior, financial instability and carelessness of my roommates. I had determined not to have anyone else live with me for the foreseeable future.
But, as our relationship progressed, it became impractical for Cija or I to drive all the way across town each day to spend time with each other, and Cija’s lease was expiring on her apartment. We decided it was the best time to move in together.
Going from two full homes of independent adults into one 1000 ft.² apartment was not an easy task. We both had to sacrifice some of our mementos furniture, kitchen gear, duplicated bathroom and housekeeping materials and various flotsam.
I had taken on a part time position as a maintenance man at very nice apartment complex in Tigard. I would find quite a lot of discarded furniture and household goods, often better quality than the ones that I already had. It became a cycle for me to search craigslist free section, or the dumpsters in our apartment complex or during the changeovers between tenants to regularly upgrade my household goods, furniture, kitchenware, electronics, etc.
This helped me realize that as long as I was moving the usable pieces along, donating them to goodwill or value Village giving way on Craigslist, or even selling them. I was really just a steward of these objects for a period of time. Cija found this concept somewhat strange at first, but eventually came around to see how we are really just temporary stewards of most of our belongings.
“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
We spend most of our lives going to and from work and working to pay rent and to heat and protect our physical belongings when we aren’t even there. This is the basic premise of the great book “Your Money or Your Life”
Living where you work can be a complicated situation since any hour of the day neighbors could come knocking on my door and demand attention. We decided that it would be best if we found a living situation that did not include living where I worked, so when a third set of property managers were brought in, we decided it was time for us to move to another apartment.
Moving is stressful. I’ve done plenty of it in my lifetime as has Cija. She introduced me to the magic of hiring movers, and we had a fairly trouble free transition from our 1000 square foot, two bedroom apartment with a garage down to a one bedroom loft, with around 850 square feet.
Around this time Cija was able to begin her process of disconnecting from the 40 hour workweek, leaving a job that was bringing stress home every day and impacting her health. Together we worked out a phased exit plan for her to quit her 40 hour a week job, hire and train a replacement, and develop a workable consulting relationship with her wonderful boss.
I have had many jobs over my lifetime in many different types of work and career paths. I’ve always felt that jobs do not define me, but must feed my interests at the time and not take away from my quality of life. A job should financially and creatively support me as a person. I won’t stay in a job if it is destroying my quality of life. This is not easy for most people to understand, as most of us are taught that any job we can get is a good job and we should never bite the hand that feeds us.
In the periods where I didn’t have regular employment I would support myself with art, pursing profit by making video, or business projects, fixing up or selling cars, odd jobs, or just live on my savings. This whole method of surviving with my mental health and interests as the priority were somewhat strange to Cija, who had been working a 40 hour workweek job ever since she graduated college.
There was a period of adjustment of three or four months where Cija had to adapt to this “new normal,” defining her own schedule, and deciding where to spend her time on a daily basis. She started to go a bit stir crazy with nothing more to do than chores and surf the Internet or watch television.
When we first met, I noticed that she has a gift for incisive comments and wise advice. I encouraged her to share these opinions about relationships and love with more than just me and her closest friends.
In classic Cija fashion, she didn’t just start a blog, but she wrote, laid out and published a whole book on her own, called “Modern Love: The Grownup’s Guide to Relationships & Online Dating.” She is incapable of doing anything half-assed, one of the many reasons I love her.
Although this did help alleviate some of the initial stress of leaving the safe and sound 40 hour workweek, she still drove herself harder than any boss would have. Cija had to wrestle with a whole new world of feeling guilty about not generating instant income from her activities.
Cija and I chose to start a podcast where we could banter back and forth our different opinions about the various aspects of relationships, dating, divorce, marriage, building a family, adultery, the in-laws and all of those aspects that complicate what should be something fairly simple, you can find it here at “Love Bombs”
Years after finishing this book and trying to promote it, she came to several profound realizations about the relationship industry, and the public’s interest in helping themselves evolve away from bad habits. She was burnt out as a book marketer, and wanted to return to the more encapsulated projects of web design, and to use her new social media marketing skills and promotion skills to help small businesses get their message out.
As arduous as this path was, it was perfect for disconnecting from the 40 hour workweek and following Tim Ferris’s plan towards Geoarbitrage, or being able to do your work from anywhere in the world as long as you have an Internet connection!
That should hold you for a while…1789 words!
In Part 2, I will talk about how we got our house, and the money to pay for our Gap Year!