Avoiding the Fog
Over the course of my 34 years of life, the world popultion has grown, local infrastructure has degraded, national GDP has gone up, and climate has gone awry. Personal debt has gone up exponentially and the generational prospects of retirement have gone away.
Is it any wonder that Millenials are throwing in the towel? Is it really so surprising that most idolize living out of a van rather than a condo in Florida? Is it so strange that they desire meaningful work over high incomes? We don’t fear change, we crave something different. Our generation does not want to perpetuate the problems of the last one. We no longer believe in their dreams or aspire to their goals.
But maybe I should just speak for myself.
I reached a huge milestone this last week: after a year-and-a-half of busting ass and proving my worth, I’ve finally reached my goal of permanent remote work! I’ve been working part-time for Skagit Connext as a website and web-app developer, and also building up my own freelance business. I started working in the office three days a week. After six months I negotiated it to two days remote and one day in the office. My new schedule only requires I go into the office one day per month!
With this new freedom I have the ability to cruise further and longer. I can even shadow my boat Solace with my camper van, as I plan to do this summer. I can travel further and still make it back to the office when needed. It also means I can spend more time on Decatur Island, working on my true retirement plan.Over the last eighteen months, I’ve proven to myself that how I make my money is far more important to me than how much money I make. I just filed my taxes and claimed $21,000 for last year. The ‘official’ poverty line is $12K, so I’m not as close to it as I originally thought, but still, it’s the least amount of money I’ve ever made since I started filing taxes. Thats a monthly average of $1,750 before taxes. My take-home pay has been closer to $1,500 per month, but I’ve still managed to maintain my boat and develop my land on Decatur Island.
I was raised as a stereotypical ‘you’re special’, ‘you can do anything you put your mind to’, rainbow-puking-unicorn-type upper-middle-class millennial. I went to private school. Poverty was not something I ever experienced. I’ve never understood it, and so I’ve always feared it.
A big part of this journey to living on a boat in the San Juan Islands involved letting go of that fear and getting comfortable with tight budgets. And this last year of my life has been the best yet. Hands down. No question. And I’m optimistic about my future. I walk around with a constant sense of contentment and security.
In fact, the only time I feel a sense of dread is when I come back to the mainland. That’s when I hear about terrorism and demagogues and automation stealing peoples jobs. That’s the only time I have to interact with people living in this constant fog of fear and frustration. Going into the modern world is the emotional equivalent of stepping barefoot into a puddle of raw sewage. Eww! It’s gross. All I can feel is a mixture of pity and disgust for the denizens of the muck.And I’m not the only one who feels this way. I have dozens of friends, both islanders and sailors, who live on less than I do, more happily than I do. I’ve met dozens of nomads, both millennial and not, who feel happier and more secure living a simple, mobile lifestyle as opposed to chasing down the dreams of the last generation or measuring their success by income.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from all these kindred souls, it’s that each one of them came to this lifestyle, and sustains it, in their own unique way. We share solidarity in our dissatisfaction with the status-quo, but the alternative lifestyle we each live is as unique as the person themselves. We came to it through similar reasons, and we sustain it with conviction and desperation. A desperation born of the sense that anything, even poverty, perhaps even death, is better than being miserable, living the way society tells us we are supposed to live.
On one hand, I’m optimistic about the fog of fear enveloping society. It makes me think that we are collectively reaching the bottom: the emotional point of no return. For what my friends and I have learned, what anyone living an alternative lifestyle has learned, is that there is beauty on the other side of that existential crisis. There is a new identity and a new purpose.
On the other hand though, I’d rather not suffer through societies crisis. I’ve had enough of my own, thank you very much.
And so, this new work schedule has come just in time. I’d just as soon spend as little time on the mainland as possible. I have gardens to build, root cellars to dig, and solar panels to wire up.
Oh, and I also have seas to sail. After all, what’s life without priorities.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. How are you pursuing a lifestyle of True Wealth?