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In the blink of an eye, 2023 has come and gone. Whether you had a great year or not, it’s time to decide if you’re going to make 2024 a better one!
Our 2023 was something truly different and not anything I would have imagined. Our wanderlust took over and we ended up buying an RV, letting the lease lapse on our apartment, putting our stuff in storage, and set off to travel the country.
We’ve been learning the RV ropes and finished the first loop we wanted to do. Now we’re ready to start the next loop and learn from the mistakes we’ve made before.
In the meantime, I’m working on improving my mental health and continuing down the fitness path.
But once we’re done with our RV travel in the summer, what’s next? What are we going to do and where are we going to live? Is our wanderlust going to take us down another crazy path again? Is our early retirement life sustainable?
Yeah, 2024 is going to be a fun ride…
Wellness – Mind, Body, and Soul
Working out / Fitness
I had always said that I didn’t have time to work out during my career and would start to work out once I retired. Well, I got half of that right.
There’s never “not enough time” to do something. Rather, it’s what you decide to prioritize in life. You can always make something important enough to be a priority and push something less important down on the list.
That was the case with me. I should have made working out a priority throughout my working years. The good news though is that I did make it a priority once I retired at 43 at the end of 2018. Five years later, it’s still something I continue to do regularly.
I’ve documented my fitness journey over the years:
- 02/07/23 – The Art of Self-Improvement: My Journey to Living a Healthier Lifestyle
- 09/06/22 – This Set of Dumbbells Is So Good That My Cheap @#$ Just Spent $300 on Them!
- 01/28/22 – Strength Training – One of a Few Big Workout Changes I’ve Made
- 01/26/21 – More Topless Photos for Your Enjoyment!
- 12/15/20 – Overthinking the Cost of a Gym Membership
- 12/12/20 – Here’s Why I’m Liking… The Fitbod App
- 03/27/20 – My Home Workout during the Lockdown in Panama
- 01/14/20 – Would You REALLY Work Out Once You’re Retired?
- 04/02/19 – Early Retirement = Healthier Lifestyle
- 06/13/17 – The Lazy Man’s Guide to Fitness
You’ll see in prior posts that I would put up photos of my physique changes over the years (sorry you had to see that!). I’m no longer doing that though since I decided that I wanted to focus on strength training instead of muscle building.
Regardless, I’m very happy with my progress over the years. I’ve been extremely diligent about my workouts and I was doing 5 days a week. As of last year though, I decided to cut back to 4 days a week. It was becoming too much of a burden on my time and I felt that 4 days was a good balance without forfeiting the benefits too much.
I still use the Fitbod app to generate and track all of my workouts. It’s not quite a personal trainer, but it does do all the hard lifting (pun intended!) of coming up with unique workouts each day that slowly increase in reps and weight. I just show up and do the workout.
Speaking of showing up, I don’t go to a gym. While that’s motivating for some folks, it would be the opposite for me. Thinking of getting ready and going to the gym would de-incentivize me. Instead, I’m still just using the Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells that I’ve had for about a year and a half now. Although they’re expensive, they’re so worth it!
I’ve brought the dumbbells on the road with us for the RV trip so I can continue my workouts. I will say though that I struggled to always do 4 workouts a week while on the road just because we weren’t moving slowly enough.
For 2024, we’re going to be slowing things down in our travels so I anticipate that I’ll be able to keep the 4 workouts per week schedule a lot easier. Of course, once we finish the road trip this summer and settle in somewhere, it’ll be even easier to get back to a regular schedule.
The other big part of fitness though is getting up and being more active. I haven’t been happy with how little activity I’ve been doing since the road trip started. I’ve done some walking and some really good hiking, but the problem is that it hasn’t been consistent.
I’m going to attribute this to us moving too quickly on the road trip as we spent too much time driving and moving along and not enough time exploring places we were in. We’re fixing that for the rest of the trip though so this shouldn’t be a problem from here on out.
My big goal for 2024 is just to walk more… a lot more. Whether walking or hiking, I plan to be out and about quite a bit more often.
This is an easy one. When this post comes out, it’ll be about 470 days since my last drink and it’s been extremely rare that I’ve even thought about having one.
I was not an alcoholic so this isn’t some major feat, but it’s been nice to have that out of my life. I was always thinking that I should quit, but it was a YouTube video from Dr. Andrew Huberman that tipped the scales and made me pull the trigger right then and there…
I may go back to having an occasional drink down the line but right now, I just don’t see the point. I’ve been content without alcohol so why bother adding it back into my life?
2023 was an interesting year for me on the mental health front. I was coming out of one of the roughest mental lows I’ve ever had which started in the fall of 2022 and carried on until a few months into 2023. I was in such a rut and it took a lot for me to work my way out of it.
But I got myself back on track and I’ve been in mostly good shape since. It’s still not perfect though and I’m not yet where I want to be.
I think a lot of things have contributed to where my mind’s been lately. There’s no doubt that I struggled moving back from Panama. That country was home and I loved so much about it. The change of being back in the U.S. has been a hard adjustment, to say the least.
Then there’s probably a bit of a mid-life crisis in the mix, which is sort of weird. I’ve accomplished some amazing feats in my life that I think are crazy cool. For example:
- Starred in a Walmart commercial
- Wrote and published two books
- Retired at 43
- Sold everything and moved to Panama where we lived for 2 1/2 years
- Starred in House Hunters International episode
- Spent two nights sleeping in a jungle lodge
- Hiked up Volcán Barú
- Appeared in two Kiplinger articles
- Appeared in a Business Insider article
- Appeared on various podcasts, websites, and a popular YouTube video for Modern Aging
- Turned things around and became physically fit
- Quit drinking
- Learned to speak Spanish (and still learning)
These don’t even include the awesome family that I have! These might not mean much to others, but for me, each of these is something I’m very proud of in my life. So how does a mid-life crisis come into play?
I guess I’ve had a taste of doing some extraordinary things in life and now I want more. The ordinary stuff now seems a little mundane – not all the time, but it does happen frequently. When I’m just sitting around doing nothing exciting, I start to think about how I’m letting time go by without focusing on my bucket list or next-chapter matrix.
As a side note, you can get the Next-Chapter Ideas Matrix and Bucket List spreadsheet along with a bunch of other spreadsheet tools I’ve created just for jumping on the Route to Retire mailing list. C’mon, all the cool kids are doing it!
I’m 48 now, too, and as the fun creeps into my life where my knees start acting up or the pain in my shoulder intensifies, there’s no doubt that I’m slowly getting older. I want to do some of the more physical activities now before I can’t do them any longer. Combine that with the wanderlust that I’ll talk about shortly and this throws my mind into the wringer.
And believe me, I know that this isn’t something everyone feels. It’s just that for me, I want to see, experience, or accomplish everything I can before I’m too old to be able to do so.
A third contributor to where my mind’s been lately is that I’ve lost that comradery with my guy friends over the years. We’re always on the move and everyone’s moved on to different things in life so hanging out like we used to is tougher. I still talk to old friends and we get together infrequently but, man, do I miss the days of just hanging with my high school/college buddies and laughing up a storm.
Don’t get me wrong, I spend the majority of my time with Lisa and Faith and we have a ton of fun and laugh a lot. But guy time is just different – just like I’m sure girl time for the ladies is different, too.
Anyway, life is a balance and I need to figure that part out. My goal for 2024 is to continue hitting on some of the items on my bucket/next-chapter list and working on getting together with some of my old buddies more often.
5 years of early retirement… how’s our portfolio doing?
I use the Empower Dashboard to track my net worth as well as my portfolio. It brings all your accounts together, presents everything beautifully, and has some really useful retirement and investment tools. Plus, it’s free and who can argue with that?
Here’s where we stand as of 12/28/2023:
I’ve been taking the net worth number from Empower each month and popping it in Google Sheets for your viewing pleasure for about 6 years now…
You can see the up-to-date info anytime on my Net Worth page.
Here’s a little summary of how things have gone since I called it quits at work…
|01/01/2019 (First day of retirement!)
|12/28/2023 (the day I’m working on this post)
In other words, we’ve seen our net worth grow by over half a million dollars ($511,314.91) since I retired. That’s even after we’ve drawn about $50-50k each year to cover our living expenses.
So far, I’d say we’re doing well on this front. There will absolutely be times when our portfolio will go up and other times when it will go down. But over the long run, our nest egg should continue to grow and grow.
You can read more about our portfolio and withdrawal strategy in my post, Opening the Books to Our Investment Portfolio.
Where will our wanderlust take us this year?
1. A very strong or irresistible impulse to travel.
2. A natural impulse to change of place; a craze for travel.
3. A strong impulse or longing to travel.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition • More at Wordnik
I think “wanderlust” is the right word for me. There’s a part of me that takes comfort in routine. I have a little bit of OCD and having a day-to-day routine keeps the anxiety level down.
But there’s another part of me that appreciates change and that enjoys the unknown. That’s the part that I want to win out more often because that’s the side that brings the adventure and makes the most memories. It’s the part that keeps us from looking back and thinking, “Wow, time has really flown… I wish we had done xyz.”
Every time we settle down somewhere, that itch eventually surfaces to travel again… wanderlust.
Living in the country of Panama for almost 3 years helped to quell the wanderlust itch to a degree (though we did still travel while there). But then we moved back to Ohio and got back to a “normal” life for a while.
In the spring of 2023, I wanted to do something different again but I wasn’t sure what that was. That’s when Lisa and Faith helped brainstorm and Lisa came up with the idea of buying an RV and traveling across the States (they get wanderlust, too!). So that’s what happened… well, it did after we knocked out a month-long trip back to Panama! 🙂
We bought an RV and a towing vehicle, let our apartment lease lapse, moved all our stuff into storage, and moved into the basement of my mother-in-law’s house for a few weeks. Then, in October of 2023, we started our monster travel experiment.
We moved into the RV and started our travels across the country in 3 different loops with the idea of coming back to Ohio periodically to see family and friends.
You can read more about the game plan in my post, You Gotta Spend Money To Make Money, Right? Our Monster Travel Experiment.
So wanderlust has taken us on a pretty big adventure. Loop 1 is complete (though not without some stumbling blocks). This weekend, we’ll be pushing off onto Loop 2. We’ll be taking it a lot more slowly on this trip so we can enjoy everything more. A big pro that wanderlust caused is that we’ll escape from most of the winter snow, too.
We should return around March for a couple of weeks before continuing onto Loop 3 out west. Our time out west will likely take us into June sometime – maybe less, maybe more.
But then what? What will happen in the summer of 2024?
That’s the million-dollar question and one that we’re still not sure of an answer to yet.
A lot of this depends on what Faith decides to do. We’ve been homeschooling her since we moved to Panama in 2019. Next fall, she’ll be in high school and we’re leaving it to her to decide if she wants to go to a physical school or continue homeschooling.
For a while, she was leaning toward going to a bricks and mortar school so she could socialize a little more. However, since we moved back to Ohio, she’s been taking horseback lessons again and has been spending time volunteering there as well. In the process, she’s made some really close friends there, including another homeschooler.
So now she says she’s leaning toward sticking with homeschooling because, apart from the social aspect, there can be a lot of advantages over traditional schooling for the right kid.
We’ll see what happens but she’ll need to make her decision in the next couple of months. If she wants to go to school, we’ll need to decide where to plant roots so we can make that happen. That would likely be in Ohio just because of family being close by but that also means I’ll be back to suffering through the winters again, which I’m not looking forward to (but would for her).
If she decides to continue homeschooling though, we now have a lot more flexibility in our choices. One thought we’ve thrown around is to become snowbirds and live in Ohio in the summer and let our wanderlust dictate where we go each winter. That could be Florida, South Carolina, Panama, Mexico, or wherever! Other countries are a great option because normal apartments in places outside of the U.S. generally come fully furnished. If we stay in the U.S., we’d either have to look at something like an Airbnb or figure out another option.
Another idea would be to just move somewhere that doesn’t experience the harsher Ohio winters but is still relatively easy to travel back and forth to Ohio to visit. We seem to always toss Tennessee and South Carolina out there but who knows?
So 2024 is going to be a pivotal year for us but I’m without an answer right now. Stay tuned as we let the year unfold and start to make some decisions!
Outside of the living situation, I’ve been missing cruising (that wicked wanderlust strikes again!). Depending on what the year brings, I’m hoping to sneak in a Caribbean cruise sometime later in the year (maybe for Thanksgiving?). I’m still working on trying to get a free cruise, which is something I’ll post more about if we make that happen, but if not, I’m willing to pull the trigger on dropping the dough for it.
So there you have it. I’m extremely grateful for the past 5 years of early retirement and the options and freedom it’s given us. 2023 was a great year for our nest egg and the traveling to help satisfy our wanderlust. The mind and body side of things continue to improve as well and that’s just as important.
I think our plans for 2024 will continue to build on 2023 and provide some new experiences along the way.
Cheers to you and I hope this year proves to be everything you desire as well!
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!