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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 9:53 pm
by RoamingFrancis
Cool you helped out the homeless guy; in my opinion, the whole point of financial independence is to navigate yourself into a position where you can optimally serve others. I don't obligate myself to give to every homeless person I see, but I do obligate myself to look them in the eye. When I was hitchhiking, some people who didn't pick me up would at least give a friendly honk or smile, and that felt a lot better than when people pretended I didn't exist.

@CDR Thanks for mentioning Learning With Texts! I had no idea they existed, and am totally happy to use them instead of LingQ! Portugues e uma lingua belisima!

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 10:38 pm
by CDR
@RoamingFrancis glad to let you know about it then! I'm a big fan of budget language learning! Gosto para aprender e praticar. Minha esposa e uma brasileira, então tenho um motivo muito bom.

By the way Western Cedar, I liked the backpacking idea at the beginning of every year to clear your mind and set the goals for the next year. It reminds me of what Cal Newport spoke about in Deep Work about Grand Gestures, I was able to find this medium post that describes the idea if you haven't read the book: https://medium.com/publishous/the-magic ... 817136ea32

I think most of the example he gives are money-based, like purchasing a more expensive than average notebook for your journaling habit. I think your epic backpack idea channels a more ERE version of this idea, where you trade spending more money for spending more time/skills on a pre-cursor task or adjacent task. It's a grand gesture because of the skill and time you put into planning the trip. If I go out and chop a tree and carve a writing desk by hand, it's the time and skill I took in doing that which makes it a Grand Gesture in establishing a writing habit.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 10:44 pm
by RoamingFrancis
Yeah, I am a huge LingQ fanboy but paying money for it is anti-ERE. O meu portugues e o espanhol com um acento brasileiro! Voce conhece a banda Tribalistas? Eu amo issa musica.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 12:12 am
by Western Red Cedar
@RF

"in my opinion, the whole point of financial independence is to navigate yourself into a position where you can optimally serve others."

This is something I've been thinking a lot about over the last year. When I first started out on this journey, I initially envisioned a relatively self-indulgent early retirement (travel, reading, hobbies, and a life of leisure). I now realize this may be fine for an initial decompression phase, but it's not going to be fulfilling or sustainable over the long-term. This is one of the reasons why I've started to lean towards the semi ERE strategy. I suspect that an approach to serving others will either cut my costs, or come with some form of compensation (ex. WWOOFing, teaching overseas, volunteer work, etc).

I'm also in a profession that positively impacts the environment and peoples lives, so, even though I haven't walked away yet I feel a little guilty at times about not continuing on that path. I'm able to take a one-year, unpaid sabbatical so that is something else I'm considering.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 12:25 am
by Western Red Cedar
@CDR

I read Deep Work and So Good They Can't Ignore You earlier this year. I heard Newport on the Mad Fientist's podcast, among others, and was impressed with his research and they way he engages with interviewers. I particularly liked the MF interview because they jump around his different books/ideas, but also get into his perspectives on FIRE. I never connected the concept of the grand gesture and my birthday backpacking excursions, but it makes sense. DW likes to call those trips my walkabouts.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 12:45 am
by RoamingFrancis
Yeah, I am 20 so I am leaning towards a "use semi-ERE to go on a bunch of random and bizarre adventures" model.

I wrote about Cal Newport's work fairly extensively in the earlier part of my journal. Overall good, but I do think he falls into a very American careerist mindset. His material on productivity and "traditional success" is good, but he sometimes gives me the vibe that these are the only areas of life that matter.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:22 am
by Western Red Cedar
@RF

This was generally the path I took. I did the traditional 4 year undergraduate experience after high school (at least in part because it made sense financially to stick it out with my scholarships, financial aid, and work study). I spent the next 5-6 years on different adventures and non-traditional jobs. In many ways I think I may have transitioned back to a more orthodox lifestyle a little too soon. I still had about 10 grand in the bank when I went back to grad school at 27 and could have traveled for another year on that sum. I remember starting to worry around 25 or 26 about not having a "stable profession" and looking at my friends who were getting promotions, buying condos, or getting MBAs.

I realize now that was foolish, but it can be really challenging dealing with the opportunity costs of life decisions. I think because I saw quite a few "burnout" travelers and even a few ESL teachers overseas, I worried I might end up in that situation. One of the beautiful things about going on a bunch of adventures in your twenties is that it exposes you to so many new ideas and people. It could easily open doors to a rewarding and fulfilling career later in life that you never knew existed.

I liked Deep Work quite a bit more than So Good They Can't Ignore You. It really challenged me to keep some of my internet and technology habits in check. We are living in a new reality where everyone's brains are being rewired through smartphone dopamine hits. It's a little scary to see how young some kids are when they are exposed to phones and tablets.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:36 am
by RoamingFrancis
That sounds cool. What career did you end up in, and how did dirtbagging affect your ability to progress/establish yourself?

Could you elaborate on the opportunity costs? I definitely have seen people get stuck in a vagabond lifestyle even when it's likely better for them to transition out, and don't want to end up there.

So Good They Can't Ignore You was really impactful on me because of where I was in life when I read it, but I think I like Digital Minimalism better.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 8:11 pm
by Western Red Cedar
@RF

I suppose I should probably clarify that I never truly dirtbagged to the extent that some in the climbing community have. My experiences did include plenty of couch surfing with friends/family, living without a car, getting around the states and internationally w/ public transit, and plenty of aimless wandering. I was more of a budget backpacker with dirtbag influences. I was conscious to keep moving around while I was in the US so I never overstayed my welcome. Overseas, I focused on slow travel in low cost countries. I always made sure to have at least a few thousand dollars in the bank and paid my own way unless others strongly insisted.

Because I sandwiched my two years of slow travel between Americorps, teaching abroad, and graduate school, the 5-6 years of adventures in my early to mid twenties were never an issue for future employers. If anything, this work made me stand out in interviews and provided lots of opportunity to exchange stories with colleagues. As someone who sits on the other side of the table for interviews now, I find it incredibly refreshing to talk to candidates with some interesting life experience that can hold a regular conversation. A lot of people kind of ramble around in their twenties - particularly in the millenial generation. I was just rambling through Thai jungles, Korean monasteries, or Mexican canyons instead of working at Urban Outfitters or Applebee's.

I always thought that some of this would hold me back from getting my first job or two after graduate school. I love school, was a solid student, and a competent research assistant. As a result, I had a couple different professors who made sure to leverage their networks to help me land jobs. Staying mobile and renting allowed me to change jobs when new opportunities arose without much difficulty. After doing this twice I was in a senior-level position 2.5 years out of grad school. I thought it would take me at least 5-7 years to get there.

I'll elaborate a bit more on the opportunity costs in an additional post as I realized after thinking about this that it's something I'm still dealing with in a different fashion today.

*I'm going to avoid going into specifics on my field for the time being. I might get into it later, but I've never really shared anything online so I want to think about it more.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 8:44 pm
by Western Red Cedar
Life Decisions and Opportunity Cost

I have observed a pattern of hesitancy over important life decisions due to my fear or concern about foreclosing on other opportunities by choosing a particular path. This started around 16 or 17. From selecting a university, to choosing a major, to picking jobs, careers and life partners. Families and society put a lot of pressure on young people to make really important decisions over and over again. I think this fear can easily creep back in when getting closer to FI.

I never read the Bell Jar, but was watching Master of None when one of the characters referenced this scene.

"I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet."

The dialogue immediately resonated because the show transitioned from a somewhat traditional comedy to providing an unexpected insight and critique into the millennial generation. It encapsulated the relationship of the two main characters, and their fear of continuing on their path without chasing some of their dreams. I experienced a fear about not choosing the "right" path continually as a young adult, and still do today when thinking about transitioning away from traditional work.

I never suffered from the inability to choose a "fig" but I often think about those figs I never chose. I'm grateful for the opportunities, experiences, and relationships in my life; however, when it comes to work and lifestyle I need to make sure I don't sit too long as the fruit dies at my feet just because the numbers in my bank account keep moving in the right direction.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:44 pm
by Western Red Cedar
Purchasing a house represents one of the other major life decisions that has me heavily weighing opportunity costs. DW and I have been living in a historic apartment near the central business district for the last five and a half years. It has hardwood floors, french doors to the bedroom, and is a good size for us at approximately 600-650 sq. feet. We also have our own private patio. Our ERE housing score is probably quite high. Less than a mile to downtown, a block to a major grocery store, and five restaurants and a coffee shop within a minute walk. We have two bus stops just out of our front door. It has old radiator heaters and heat, water, sewer, garbage are all included in the rent - $785 per month.

It's basically an urbanists dream...but it comes with some of the downsides of typical apartment living. Lots of neighbors, some of who can be loud. We are also right next door to a restaurant/bar. When they got new owners, they extended the regular closing time until midnight on weeknights and 1 or 2 on the weekends. They sometimes have loud bands, including on weeknights, so we might randomly hear some death metal rocking at 9:00 with no idea when it will end (I think a lot of this violates the noise standards for a residential neighborhood, but I don't want to be that guy). I can also easily hear conversations from the bar while in my apartment - which has actually made for some interesting eavesdropping and social analysis. I even briefly thought about writing a screenplay or short stories about some of the conversations. The noise has been much better with COVID 19 restrictions, but I'm sure it will be back at some point. We've also had some minor theft on a few occasions in the last six months (lighter fluid, a bocce ball set, and my platypus hydration bladder that I use for backpacking and biking).

We've seriously considered buying on a couple different occasions, but after looking at the fees and transaction costs, I was a little put off. Housing prices continue to rise, and I'm a little amazed considering larger macroeconomic trends. I had a conversation this weekend with a friend who is a realtor and we discussed the market - the median home price is about 260,000. He said everything around $250,000 is highly competitive with multiple offers over the list price. There are cheaper houses available, but the neighborhoods are somewhat rough. My friend was really surprised when I said I would want to put 20% down. He said everyone he worked with was putting 3.5% to 5% down. I was pretty shocked and I don't think it's necessarily a good sign for the housing market in this economy. I also recently read that about 7% of all mortgages are in forbearance, so that could shake things up if/when the eviction moratoriums expire.

DW and I talked and we are just going to stay put for at least a few months; possibly much longer. We both like the idea of traveling for a year (or more) in the next couple of years, so it seems like buying might not make the most sense. On the other hand, buying now or in the near future would allow us to "fix" our housing costs and provide me the space to do intensive gardening. Our household expenses would obviously go up, but we like the idea of having roots in a community with lots of close friends and family nearby. Sometimes I feel a bit limited in terms of hobbies in an apartment (brewing beer, making music, gardening, getting an electric guitar, etc.) Part of me wants to buy soon because I've got a good job history, and if I move into true ERE then it could be difficult to qualify for a mortgage. My dad also offered myself and my siblings $25,000 from an inheritance about a year ago, but only if we used it for a major purchase like a car, home, renovation, or to pay off a chunk of the mortgage. Very generous - but not something that fits easily into our simple, frugal, minimalist lifestyle.

From a financial perspective, I thought a house might be a good opportunity to diversify our assets. The regional economy is fairly diversified, and there is an abundance of water in the aquifer. Of course, wildfire season and substandard air quality has become an unfortunate new reality. There are also quite a few duplexes, triplexes, or quads which we could live in and rent out the remaining rooms (probably the best option from a financial perspective). Prices have been rising 8-10% over the last few years, which is likely very unsustainable considering the median household income of just over $55,000. I tend to subscribe to the notion that a healthy, sustainable market shouldn't have a median price that is more than 3 times the median household income, which I believe was established by Robert Shiller.

A house could also tie us down and limit our chances of taking off for some grand adventures. Dealing with the management if we decide to rent may also be a headache. Lots of decisions, and in the meantime it is quite easy to stay put, keep stashing away money, and choose to do nothing. Indecision in the face of such different paths.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 7:42 am
by mooretrees
I think housing is such a key decision to make correctly for ERE and setting yourselves up to have a life you want and good finances. We were those people your realtor friend told you about, we only put 5 % down when we bought our house a few years ago (obviously before finding ERE!). Now, sometimes the house feels like a good decision and a huge weight around my neck. We bought a house because that's what people do when they're following the norm. I think buying a house because the stock market is overvalued, or you want to diversify are MUCH better reasons to buy a house. I think mortgage rates are going to stay low for awhile so there's really no rush to buy.

As far as getting access to gardening and increased hobbies, buying a house really opens up possibilities. However, that's not the only way. You seem creative, so putting on your thinking cap could allow you to come up with some slightly imperfect work arounds doing hobbies that usually require a bigger space.

For us down the road we'll be converting our basement into a separate apartment. We don't need the space and it'll be a good, relatively cheap way to reduce our housing costs.

Also, I didn't answer about where we're going on our little vacation a bit ago. We're heading to Steens Mt and the Alvord desert. Seems like one of the few areas of Oregon that isn't smokey.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 9:11 am
by RoamingFrancis
Thai jungles and Mexican canyons sound like a good replacement for Applebee's XD Good luck at figuring out the housing.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 10:54 am
by RooBadley
mooretrees wrote:
Fri Sep 11, 2020 7:42 am
Steens Mt and the Alvord desert
Seriously remote. I like the way you vacation. Be ready to hit the brakes after dark, the rabbits are big enough to do real damage to your car.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 6:30 pm
by Western Red Cedar
@RF

I actually also did a silent meditation retreat in the Thai Jungle. I don't think it was Vipassana though. I was trying to budget near the end of a 3 month trip and it looked like a really cool experience. It wasn't a true "silent" meditation, as there were a couple of English speaking monks who would lecture for 30-60 minutes per day or give basic instructions. I actually really liked that part of the experience. We had our own dorm room w/ mosquito net and used a wooden block with a semi-circle carved out of it for a pillow. I still remember a great joke from one of the Thai monks - "When you sleep on wooden pillow, you don't have trouble waking up at 4:00 to meditate."

One of my favorite parts was yoga from 5:00 am to 6:00 am led by a German monk. The monk led us through Hatha poses in the dark under a large, open air gazebo. We had a nice long Shavasana as the sun rose. The birds and wildlife would explode with sound and it was amazing! They also had a natural hot spring which you could use near the end of the day. The bats would swarm past as the sun set. If you structure your slow travel around experiences like that, you can travel for a very long time. I think I paid about 4-5 dollars per day. I'm pretty sure I stayed here:

https://www.suanmokkh-idh.org/

Temple stays were also popular in S. Korea. They co-hosted the World Cup with Japan in 2002. They realized they didn't have enough hotels and accommodations in some areas, so they created a system of temple stays in various provinces. It turned about to be extremely popular. I only stayed for a couple of nights at a Korean Temple, and I chose one that also focused on martial arts. I met an American who had studied there for 2-3 years. He just led some classes and did some chores in exchange for accommodation and training. As a result he became fluent in Korean and learned a bad ass martial art. The practice combined martial arts and meditation - called Sunmudo:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunmudo

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 7:01 pm
by Western Red Cedar
Western Red Cedar wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:44 pm
We're heading to Steens Mt and the Alvord desert. Seems like one of the few areas of Oregon that isn't smokey.
I've spent quite a bit of time exploring Oregon but had to look both of these places up. They look great! Lets hope we get some rain (or at least some friendly winds)! While most of my excursions have been West of the Cascades, one of my favorite backpacking trips of all time was in Eastern OR at the Eagle Cap Wilderness in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. I went down there for the solstice a couple years ago and did a 45 mile loop over 5 nights. It wasn't quite in the zone of totality, but my last morning I was alone in the wilderness next to an alpine lake (the other Crater Lake) as I watched the solstice. I also had a chance to summit Eagle Cap Peak which was very cool. The State Park is a bit of a zoo in terms of car camping, but there are probably some great car camping spots on the south end of the national forest, which is where I started and finished the loop.

mooretrees wrote:
Fri Sep 11, 2020 7:42 am
However, that's not the only way. You seem creative, so putting on your thinking cap could allow you to come up with some slightly imperfect work arounds doing hobbies that usually require a bigger space.
I appreciate the feedback on housing. I realize I could pursue a lot of the hobbies I'm interested in by developing and leveraging social capital. In fact, I've been successful and happy doing that with some of my current interests. I have a community garden a few blocks from my apartment and have never used it. Something of an irrational notion that a small plot isn't enough, and I want some land/space that is mine to take on a larger project.

I saw one of Jacob's posts on the homepage and it really resonated after writing up my thoughts about housing:

"Conversely, friends and family will most likely look at a skill-based lifestyle with some suspicion. They will wonder why you don’t have a full set of tools, a blender, a juicer, a food processor, a (larger) car, nicer furniture, or walk-in closets full of suits and shoes. It will also be hard for them to understand why you would not want these things. This is something one needs to get used to when going against the norm. Thinking and living differently from 95–99%of the rest of the population is something that must be learned."

DW and I have noticed that males in their thirties develop a strong desire to own property. Possibly biological - or just social conditioning. I've been fairly open with my friends about my early retirement ideas, but most tend to believe the notion/propaganda that buying a house is the best investment you can make. I'm a bit of an anomaly because I have a successful career yet still live like a college student. I'm also happy to tell them how much my net worth increased in the previous month, so that usually shifts the conversation a bit.

Like you said, interest rates will probably remain low for a while. We can stay put, see how things shake out with the economy, and see what the prospects are in 3-6 months. "Free" heat in our cold winters always make me appreciate living in our apartment when my coworkers are talking about their $200+ heating bills.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 7:17 pm
by RoamingFrancis
If you were in Thailand it was likely Vipassana or something closely related. Theravada Buddhism is the dominant strain of Buddhism in Southeast Asia, and Vipassana is part of Theravada. The place I went to was a center in the tradition of S.N. Goenka, which teaches a handful of techniques from the Visudhimagga, one of the early texts in the Pali Canon.

I should clarify that although Goenka retreats are intense, they wouldn't be "silent" by your definition, as there is a discourse each night with instructions for the following day. Additionally, you are allowed to ask questions about the technique once per day.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 9:45 pm
by RoamingFrancis
Man, your stories are giving me wanderlust again...

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 11:23 pm
by mooretrees
RooBadley wrote:
Fri Sep 11, 2020 10:54 am
Seriously remote. I like the way you vacation. Be ready to hit the brakes after dark, the rabbits are big enough to do real damage to your car.
Ha ha, that made me smile. We changed our mind as the smoke is oppressive. Heading to Utah now.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Sat Sep 12, 2020 1:02 pm
by Western Red Cedar
@ mooretrees

Probably a good call to avoid Oregon right now. The wildfires are out of control and the smoke is toxic. I hope you have a blast in Utah. Let me know how it shakes out.