Western Red Cedar's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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Ego
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by Ego »

Nice! Congratulations!

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mountainFrugal
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by mountainFrugal »

Little known biological fact...Western Red Cedars are one of the only trees that can move! ;) They may or may not be back to root in the same place, but they can uproot, move, and explore. Congrats.

RoamingFrancis
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by RoamingFrancis »

Wow, have fun! Looking forward to hearing about it. I'm also curious to learn more about your career - I just read through G+J's journal so I'll wait for another time but might dive into yours.

shaz
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by shaz »

That's great about the sabbatical! It must have been a bit nerve-wracking to initiate the conversation; good for you for doing it. I can't wait to read about your adventures.

theanimal
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by theanimal »

Congrats on the sabbatical! I like how you framed the conversation. A win for you either way and putting that FU money to work.

Jiimmy
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by Jiimmy »

Exciting times ahead! Enjoy!

mooretrees
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by mooretrees »

So many nuggets in here! Getting older and more money can stifle one, and it is extra scary to “blow up” ones life. But I think you are so right, it’s highly unlikely you’ll regret this sabbatical. And who knows what avenues this will open for you two?

Also, I’m so pumped to see you both at ERE fest!!

2Birds1Stone
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

Congrats!! This was the update I've been waiting to see for a while now :)

I've been following your journey here closely and rooting for you to make this an epic year (or more) off work!

Scott 2
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by Scott 2 »

Congrats, psyched for you

Depending on the health insurance you need, it might be possible to play some games with COBRA to buy a couple months.

In my own case, leaving the employer on even the first day of the month, meant I had coverage through the end of that month. Then COBRA gives a 60 day grace period to sign up.

So I left with in early February, but bought my insurance via the ACA exchange in April, effective starting in May. Had there been a medical event requiring insurance in March or April, I could have retroactively paid the COBRA premiums. They were expensive, but I was unlikely to need them. The ACA plans were close to $500 at the time, so the savings were pretty good.

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

Thanks everyone for the well wishes. I submitted a formal, written request yesterday and my management team has been talking with HR to put things in motion. I got a really nice message yesterday from my boss saying that he was excited about my trip and that I deserved to take that time off.

@Scott 2 - Thanks for the suggestions. In terms of health insurance, I'll be covered through at least September by working the first day of the month and using some vacation days. We'll be using travel insurance while abroad, and out of pocket costs are typically quite reasonable for basic medical care in most countries. DW and I have relied on travel insurance and utilized medical care in multiple countries. It generally worked out quite well.
theanimal wrote:
Wed May 24, 2023 10:29 am
Congrats on the sabbatical! I like how you framed the conversation. A win for you either way and putting that FU money to work.
I actually borrowed the technique you used with your boss in the PCT discussion. I've thought about how to approach a sabbatical request for months, possibly years. Reading your story recently made me realize that I should probably just tell them what I plan on doing, let them know that I'd prefer to come back if they can figure out the logistics, and basically avoid the request in the first place.
mountainFrugal wrote:
Tue May 23, 2023 8:47 pm
Little known biological fact...Western Red Cedars are one of the only trees that can move! ;) They may or may not be back to root in the same place, but they can uproot, move, and explore. Congrats.
Love this :D

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

Mastermind Deep Dive:

I was on the hot seat for our mastermind group this morning. I opted for a discussion on how to think about and approach my upcoming sabbatical. We talked briefly about some logistics - storing a vehicle vs. selling it, pros and cons of traveling with a laptop, traveling with a guitar - but I was primarily interested in feedback on pursuing some deliberate goals and how to think about structured vs. unscheduled time. Part of me wants to be deliberate about how I spend my time. DW and I are giving ourselves a gift, and I don't want to fritter it away. On the other hand, I think it is easy to succumb to hustle culture and get sucked into a productivity spiral.

I found some notes that DW and I made together last year, and spent some time reflecting and journaling while out on my first solo backpacking trip of the season last weekend. Our shared priorities for the trip are:

Build memories and strengthen our relationship
Explore world class cities and natural areas
Spend time near the water
Examine if this is a sustainable lifestyle


Some of my personal priorities and goals include:

Improve Spanish
Document Street Art
General Photography
Workout Routine (bodyweight, bands, gyms?)
Daily Meditation
Yoga
Gratitude Practice
Writing & Journaling
Hiking/Trekking/Flaneuring
Leisure Reading (Focused Reading?)
Sit Spot/Observation/People Watching
Improve Drawing/Art Skills
Experiment with Filmmaking
Try out WWOOFing
Guitar/Music


Some of DWs include:

Developing and practicing a daily routine
Travel Painting (watercolor)
Learning local art techniques
Sampling authentic, local cuisine
Volunteering
Experiment with Procreate and digital art


In terms of feedback and discussion, we discussed the importance of feeling comfortable with quitting some of the goals or pursuits, such as a focused reading curriculum, if it doesn't feel right or isn't particularly engaging. Deliberate practice is valuable, but it shouldn't feel forced. We talked about the role the physical environment plays in supporting or reinforcing certain habits and activities. Moving regularly can disrupt habits and requires a certain amount of cognitive bandwidth just to get through the day/week/month.

I'm leaning towards a deliberate practice or schedule that includes a morning routine of gratitude, meditation, yoga or exercise, and journaling. I might include some type of focused reading as well. I think I could apply this in most environments, and I know from experience that it usually puts me in a good headspace.

We also discussed the creative benefits that emerge from boredom. One challenge as a nomad is the minimalist nature of vagabonding, and the fact that some of the endeavors one can pursue are limited by what one carries and what is available in the immediate environment. Accepting the constraints of nomadism is necessary in having realistic goals/hobbies.

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

June Update:

Financial:

June was a pretty exciting month on the financial front. We saw our largest ever NW increase (just over 30k) and finally joined the 500k club. The market is doing the heavy lifting at this point, and months like these make me grateful I've stayed on my current path. As we are getting closer to our household financial goal, I started questioning whether a sabbatical was the best approach. Perhaps it would make more sense to just to get to the FI target and not worry about coming back to a job, maintaining my professional certifications, and keeping a foot in that world? I was listening to an interview with the mad fientist about life after retirement, and the interviewer asked him at the end of the interview his standard closing questions - what is the one piece of advice you'd give to someone on the path to FI. His advice was to experiment. https://www.madfientist.com/bogleheads-interview/

That reminded me that my current approach is actually one of experimentation, and reassured me a bit. The upcoming year is an opportunity to experiment with how DW and I will feel as nomads, an experiment with intrinsic motivation, and an opportunity to challenge ourselves. I've deliberately chosen a path that keeps a lot of future options open, and I think that is ultimately a wise choice.

Relationships and ERE:

Van Neistat had a video that popped up on my algorithm and based on the first minute, I knew it was something DW needed to watch. He explores the notion of Object Visualizers as described by Temple Grandin. DW had described how she thought multiple times in the past, but it was helpful hearing and seeing it described by another object visualizer, with references to Grandin's work and descriptions of the experiences object visualizers have in the school system. As a verbal thinker, I've done well in traditional academic and professional settings, and I know that sometimes DW and I are talking past each other.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_lg6b0Osfo

DW is an amazing artist and this type of thinking allows her to deconstruct materials in her mind, and reconstruct them in different capacities. It has allowed her to tackle some pretty innovative sewing projects, and design some of her own wardrobe. She can also do impressive things with oragmi, water colors, mixed-media, and other art forms. She has an intuitive understanding for how things like machines or engines work. When we first met, she quickly became the designated chainsaw maintenance person on our work crew. This is all consistent with Neistat's description in the video.

In terms of ERE, it reminded me to think of us more often as a team. For something like bike maintenance, I'll typically try to tackle it on my own because that is a skill I'd like to hone. For maintenance projects I haven't tackled, I'll be bringing DW into the project as she simply seems to grok the problems and solutions better than I do.

Professional

Work is going well and I made a public announcement about the sabbatical at a staff meeting last week. Lots of support and excitement from the team. I'm getting a raise and small bonus this month. I've been plugging away at a large, new project but trying to establish boundaries on my roles, which helps due to the fact that I'm leaving in a couple months. I'm enjoying working with a new group of people and observing how they function as a team. It is refreshing when everyone comes to a meeting having accomplished the task they were supposed to work on, and seeing how quickly things progress.

I had the opportunity to attend a two day conference at a beautiful lake resort. It was a good opportunity to connect with some people in my field that I hadn't seen in a long time. At the conference I sat by the guy who got the job I applied for. I told him about it later that evening, and let him know that I was glad he got it as DW and I were planning on traveling later this year. I knew him by his work and reputation prior to meeting him, and think he will be a great fit. It was a nice reminder that things often work out as they do for a reason.

The Shire

My brother-in-law hosted a work party at his property on father's day weekend. My parents were at the cabin so I decided to make an overnight trip up there to help out. I spent the first day splitting and stacking firewood. My BIL's coworker is from Ghana and had brought his son up for the work party. I taught the son how to split wood, and of course his dad had to come by and give it a try. They both really enjoyed it and ended up splitting for almost an hour after dinner (they had already worked most of the day before I arrived). My dad and I were hauling the wood to the woodshed and stacking it. As we were winding down they were getting some photos with the maul, axe and wood pile. I asked if either of them had split firewood before and they said they hand't. It felt like a special moment, watching a father and son bond over something like that on father's day.

Gratitude

Somehow my region has managed to avoid most of the wildfire smoke. It has allowed me to get out and walk, hike, bike and explore the outdoors almost every day. We've had quite a bit of rain, and I'm grateful every time it falls. Years ago, I might have been a bit annoyed that it was affecting my plans. This year, I'm looking at every day with good air quality as a demand on me to get out and make the most of the day.

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

Trip Report:

A couple weeks ago I was at a graduation party and my brother-in-law mentioned he was taking a couple of my nieces to the Salmo Priest Wilderness to hike the Salmo Priest loop. He casually asked if I'd like to join them over the 4th of July weekend. He enjoys when I join them on their family adventures because it provides another experienced backcountry hiker and the kids are a little bit better behaved. This trip has been on my bucket list for over a decade and I just haven't made it happen. Until now.

We planned a two-night, three-day hike in the last remaining, intact old-growth forest in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. There are chunks of old growth trees in certain remote areas in these regions, but nothing quite like the Salmo River Basin. The hike offers a nice balance of mileage along the crests in the Selkirk mountains, just south of the Canadian border, with miles of trails through old-growth forest composed primarily of Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock.

My sister ended up joining us, along with their dog, so we were a party of six in total. We got an early start and had a fairly long drive to the trailhead, hiking for six or seven miles to our campsite. We stopped at a nice creek for lunch, dodging mosquitoes and walking around barefoot to give our feet some reprieve. My BIL and I decided to press on from the creek, which was about five miles in, so that we could find a campsite up on the crest. We didn't know what the water situation would be like on top, so we filled up and humped about nine liters for the next mile or two.

If you look closely you can see the trail we climbed up:

Image

We found a nice meadow to set up camp that was large enough for three tents. The temperature dropped quickly as the sun went down, but my BIL made a delicious dinner of couscous, with curry seasoning cashews, and chicken. We were fortunate to find a relatively easy bear bag spot among the alpine trees, which can often prove quite tricky. My sister and the kids got in the tents around 8:00, but my BIL and I decided to scurry up a nearby peak to see what the vistas we could find.

We were thrilled with what nature had to offer and spent the next couple hours up there as the sun went down.

Image

I wrote this poem while sitting by myself on the peak:

Ode to the Salmo Priest Wilderness

Sitting on a slab of rock
Seeking refuge in the light
of the sun
Enveloped by an explosion of
organic beauty
Lichen, moss, wildflowers, and succulents
Alpine firs and echoing bird songs.
Wind brings the vegetation to life,
at least in my eyes,
and reminds me that I'm alive,
in a beautiful moment, with
mountains beyond mountains.
With nothing to do but exist,
and channel gratitude for the
preservation of wilderness


Image

The next morning we all climbed up to the peak and brought our provisions for tea, breakfast, and hot cocoa. We spent a couple hours up here savoring the view and the warm drinks. The plant life growing on the peak was quite varied and complex.

Image

Unfortunately our water was starting to run low and we still had some mileage to cover, so we packed up and hit the trail. We had a lovely, hot hike along the crest with amazing views of Canada, Washington and Idaho. After we were getting close to the last drops of water, we finally found a small creek and stopped for lunch and had a chance to refill and rehydrate.

We quickly dropped down to the Basin and had our first river crossing. There were a few more along the way. Some opted to wade through, and some opted for log crossings. The sun was beating down at this point and we stopped again to cool off in the creek. A few more miles down the trail and we found an amazing site, next to the river that would fit our party. We were able to have a fire that night, as well as the next morning (we had water to put the fire out and fire risk was low/moderate).

I always love to spend time in old-growth forests, and there is so many interesting things in every direction:

Image

I had a chance to talk to my nieces about the role of nurse logs in old growth forests. Describing how the death of a tree that is hundreds of years old would go on to provide nutrients to other species, continuing to play an important role in the ecosystem for another hundred years. This nurse log - a Western Red Cedar, was in our camp site and provided a nice example of how western hemlocks utilize the organic matter of other trees:

Image

This was my second backpacking trip of the season, and so much better than my first solo overnighter. On the way back home we stopped at a large lake and all had a 15 minute dip to cool off, then back home to celebrate the fourth of July. I'll be off again early tomorrow morning for four nights and five days with a big group of friends. I'm hoping to see the Northern Lights for the first time.

guitarplayer
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by guitarplayer »

A blast of an update! Thank you @WRC, made my day (it is early morning in the UK now).

2Birds1Stone
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

Thank you for sharing, amazing pics as always!

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

@gp and 2B1S - Glad you enjoyed it. Until the last week, I've been blessed with a beautiful summer free from smoke and wildfires. I've tried to make the most of it with lots of hiking, cycling, backpacking, car camping, and outdoor excursions to rivers and lakes with friends and family. I didn't end up seeing the Northern Lights (though I tried for four nights in a row), but was able to catch the Perseid meteor shower on a subsequent camping trip with friends.

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

What Stands in the Way Becomes the Way

Everything was humming along nicely this summer and DW and I were making lots of preparations for our upcoming trip. A couple weeks ago I got a message from my supervisor asking to talk. He let me know that my HR department was recommending denial of my sabbatical, and we needed further discussion with my management team. This came as quite a shock, because the management team had already approved the sabbatical two months earlier. DW had declined a contract with the school district based on that approval, and we were days away from buying plane tickets and putting notice in on our apartment. I had a follow-up meeting with my managing director and supervisor, and sure enough they were begrudgingly planning on denying the sabbatical. They are encouraging me to take the trip, and are fairly confident there will be positions open when I return. Apparently this is the first time someone has made a request for a year of unpaid leave, and HR was concerned about the precedent it would set considering the large workload for the organization.

I am fairly confident that there will be jobs open in the future, but I was pretty harsh on my bosses for reversing their decision. Particularly in light of the fact that I just finished a huge project over the last three years, and had already set myself up with a graceful exit in the fall by supporting multiple other teams this summer. While annoying and inconvenient, I'm looking at the change in circumstances as an opportunity rather than a setback. As Marcus Aurelius says in Meditations, "what stands in the way becomes the way." Once I removed the time constraint from the trip, my imagination immediately started running in a productive fashion - WWOOFing on a permaculture farm in NZ or Australia for a couple months, perhaps a winery in western Europe, extended stays in SE Asia to focus on art/editing/recording, cheap trekking, etc... The lack of a hard deadline for returning dramatically altered the rough itinerary DW and I had developed.

The stock market run-up over June and July actually had me questioning if keeping one foot in the door was the best path moving forward. DW and I are relatively close to FI as a household, and I'm at 3% SWR for my portion of the expenses. I looked a little more closely at my spreadsheets and SS assumptions in 20+ years, and realized I hadn't added any inflation adjustments to my SS estimate, which makes me feel better about the 65+ bucket of my pension and SS. We could cover current expenses at a 5% SWR and travel quite comfortably on a 5-6% SWR. I'm not particularly concerned about eating into some of my capital, as the portfolio really only needs to last 25 years before we have other income sources. We'll be using the cash portion of the portfolio to cover expenses over the next 2-4 years, and I'll have a pretty good idea on whether any additional work is necessary based on how the markets perform over that period. In addition, DW is fairly certain she'll want to work again if/when we return to the states, which makes a lot of these financial calculations and projections moot.

The plan moving forward is to keep working for a few more months, and resign either after the Thanksgiving holiday or at the end of the calendar year. Financially, working to the end of the year makes quite a bit of sense. The extra few months alone would fund almost a year of frugal but adventurous travel. I would be able to use the remainder of my vacation time in the first 6-7 weeks of 2024, which would allow me to max out at least one Roth IRA, possibly make a spousal contribution to DWs Roth IRA, and add an extra year of SS credits to my account. DW would like to take off immediately, but work is pretty manageable at the moment and I'd like to pad the pension and bank account a little more before I step into the void.

I'm not sure whether to call this SemiERE, Coast Fire, Lean Fire, Expat Fire, a mini-retirement or a sabbatical. I suspect I'll only know what it actually is in hindsight. Extended time away from FT employment may allow the necessary space to come back in a year or two with renewed energy and vigor to tackle a new job. There are lots of interesting opportunities to work on climate change and environmental issues, so I'm not completely closing the door on coming back at some point. That could provide the capital to buy a house or some land a few years down the road. Alternatively, I may love the freedom and shun conventional careers for the foreseeable future. I'm doing my best to find some level of comfort in the uncertainty.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

Wow, I would be livid regarding the reversal of approval for sabbatical......if you're a valued member for the organization and they already agreed, maybe an NDA regarding the terms would solve the whole "precedent" issue.....

I digress, hope that you pull the plug ASAP. It's so easy to chase just one more IRA bucket, one more set of SS credits, keep moving the goal posts.....Fall/Winter are fantastic times to travel, don't get caught in the "just one more X" game.

Speaking of winter, where do you see yourselves starting the travels? We're currently still waiting for some direction on a work-stay we applied for in Hawaii, but if it doesn't pan out then the world is our oyster and I have no idea what to do starting with Nov/Dec =P

Scott 2
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by Scott 2 »

Yeah, I'd be very upset. If HR wants to play games, it's time to use the bureaucracy in your favor.

How important is keeping that door open to you? This is a prime reason to quiet quit or engineer a layoff. Maybe trigger a little medical leave to be extra protected.

My retirement date was early February. One thing I did, was sign up to max the FSA account on my health insurance during open enrollment. That money was allocated 1/1, so I spent it all. The FSA contributions stopped when I did, so it was a couple thousand of medical supplies, for a couple hundred on my end.


It's likely you'll find expenses go down when you stop working. You could already have enough.

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

@2B1S and Scott 2 - Thanks for the commiseration. I was definitely upset and had a weekend to develop some strong talking points before meeting with my management team. I was pretty blunt, and they knew they were in the wrong. I'm a union employee, and a sabbatical is actually part of our contract, but is at the discretion of the employer. They violated the collective bargaining agreement in my opinion, but I never got an approval in writing so pursuing that route would be a bit of a headache. It would also require filing a grievance and at least a few months of negotiation without any clear end date or outcome. I wrote out a pretty detailed email making a stronger case for the sabbatical after meeting with my managers, then I shared it with DW. We talked for a while and she helped me realize that I didn't even necessarily want it.

It was a way to keep my foot in the door while testing out a FI lifestyle. I'm not exactly thrilled with how this all played out, but the prospect of leaving without any real hard date to return to the states is actually a bit of a gift. It opens up a lot of possibilities for adventure. I'm suddenly much more open to ideas for different jobs and opportunities now that I don't have that commitment. I've already made the announcement that DW and I were planning on traveling to friends and colleagues, so a resignation to pursue the trip hasn't come as a surprise.

In terms of the departure date, it gives DW and I a bit more time to wrap things up here in the PNW. Fall is one of my favorite seasons here, and DW will be able to keep addressing some mental health issues with her therapists. I'm planning on finally pulling the trigger on my documentary project this fall, and intend to get my parents on film to talk about their journey through Europe, their experiences in England and Germany, and the history of the family homestead. I'm planning on editing it while in SE Asia. I've started drafting interview questions and recently met up with a friend who had been working on a documentary in LA for the last five years.

The money is also a factor, and I can basically cruise through the next few months while earning the highest salary of my career. The extra few months actually has a pretty big impact on my pension calculation. I suspect that in a year or so, I'll be happy to have the extra funds.

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