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Semi-ER'd at 30, now 36
Old 07-01-2011, 01:07 AM   #1
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Semi-ER'd at 30, now 36

Hi everyone. I've been browsing this forum for a good part of the last decade and decided to come out of lurk mode today. I love this site.

My story: worked my butt off in Silicon Valley from 1997-2005 and did well financially, first from the dot-com boom and then from the housing bubble. After scheming for years on how to escape the rat race of SV, I finally quit my job as a full-time mechanical engineer in early '05 and then sold my Bay Area home in July 2005 at nearly the peak of the market.

Did an epic road trip through 20 states and provinces to investigate places to relocate to. Places that were close to mountains, had mild weather, lively downtowns, low cost of living while having a high quality of life, etc. Ultimately, I picked Fort Collins, Colorado. Purchased a home out here for about the value of the capital gains from the Bay Area home sale, and consider the move one of the best decisions of my life. I love living here and in the last few years some of my closest friends have moved here as well.

The lower cost of living coupled with large savings to fall back on has enabled me to work as a mechanical engineering consultant just 3-7 months of the year, mainly to ensure that my net worth continues to grow over time to facilitate perpetual semi-ER. For the most part I am frugal, with the main discretionary expenses being travel and athletic events--two things I figure I could easily cut back on if funds became tight.

During the months I am not working, I've done things like 100-mile runs, marathons in 20 different states and a self-supported 2700-mile mountain bike race from Canada to Mexico. In October I will be racing the Furnace Creek 508--a 508-mile bike race through Death Valley--in the classic randonneur division on a vintage Gitane bicycle using 1983 technology. I am doing this to raise money for charity and also for the adventure.

Lately I've also developed an interest in volunteering both locally and abroad. For example, in January I went to Guatemala to help an organization called Maya Pedal to design and manufacture bicimaquinas (machines made from bicycle parts) to help the locals with manual labor such as pumping water, blending liquids, shelling macadamia nuts, etc. It was a very rewarding experience and I'd love to do more things that help others in tangible ways while using a few unique skills that I have, without the commitment of an 8-5 year-round job.

On the domestic front, I am unmarried with no kids, which probably helps on the ER front. I do have a wonderful girlfriend, however, who also has an interest in working less and living more.

Anyhow, enough about me. I'm looking forward to reading your posts and to continue obtaining knowledge and inspiration from this site.
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Old 07-01-2011, 03:07 AM   #2
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Congratulations, Felix. Please could you let us know more details about Maya pedal ?
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Old 07-01-2011, 04:03 AM   #3
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Thanks for your interesting story!
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Old 07-01-2011, 09:40 AM   #4
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Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by obgyn65 View Post
Congratulations, Felix. Please could you let us know more details about Maya pedal ?
Am happy to.

Maya Pedal is a non-government organization (NGO) located in San Andrés Itzapa in the hills about 16 miles west of Antigua, Guatemala. The town is very small, walkable and quite poor, but reasonably safe (unlike Guatemala City).

Maya Pedal was founded over a decade ago and mostly volunteer run, with only two full-time employees. There is a board of directors (the junta) that is made up of local businessmen and businesswomen that meets once a week; otherwise, the organization is run mostly under the direction of Carlos, one of the founders and full-time employees who is regarded as a mechanical genius.

The main goal of Maya Pedal is to provide Guatemalan with labor-aiding solutions using machines constructed from bicycle parts. E.g., bicibombas (bicycle water pumps) deployed in the countryside where there is often no electricity, bicilicuadoras (bicycle blenders), bicimacademias (bicycle macademia shellers), etc. We even made a bicilavadora out of a large metal garbage can, although that was something of a failure.

The organization gets is bicycles and bicycle parts from donations (mostly from the U.S.) When I was helping out, Maya Pedal was starting to run awfully low on sellable bicycles. It largely funds itself by selling bicycles, bicycle parts, and bicycle repair services.

The volunteers--who are mostly English speaking and come from all over the world--help out with three things: 1) the design, manufacture and documentation of the bicimaquinas, 2) the repair of bicycles that locals from San Andrés bring in or piecing together complete bikes for sale, and 3) keeping the shop in order, including organizing parts, cleaning, marketing, etc. The majority of the time is spent on (2), with the rest of the time split between (1) and (3).

Basically anyone can volunteer for any length of time and stay in the extremely spartan volunteer quarters (e.g., cots made of steel tubing and bicycle tubes and sometimes no working shower). The area is beautiful and locals are friendly. Guatemalans tend to speak slowly so communicating in Spanish is not too hard as long as you have a fair grasp of the language.

Their official website is mayapedal.org. I also posted a lot about what it's like to volunteer there at felixwong.com/category/guatemala/.
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Old 07-01-2011, 09:47 AM   #5
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Welcome, from another Bay Area refugee!

I sold my home in late 2003, not at the peak unfortunately.

Like you, I used Cap Gains to buy a home in the Sacramento area.

Unlike you, I am married with 2 grown kids.

You certainly lead a very exciting life, wish I were your age again.
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Old 07-01-2011, 11:05 AM   #6
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Welcome to the board, Felix.

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Originally Posted by colorado_felix View Post
...bicimacademias (bicycle macademia shellers),
Excellent. Around here the (automated mechanical) shellers use two hard metal rotating drums... I wouldn't have thought that a rubber tire could provide the necessary pressure without a blowout.
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Old 07-01-2011, 11:33 AM   #7
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An inspiring OP. Sounds like you are living the dream. Congrats and enjoy. And thanks for your contributions.
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Old 07-01-2011, 12:29 PM   #8
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Welcome, from another Bay Area refugee!
Thanks! Yes, another Bay Area refugee.

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Like you, I used Cap Gains to buy a home in the Sacramento area.
Ah, Sacramento. I grew up in Stockton ("America's #1 Most Miserable City" according to Forbes the last two out of three years) about 40 miles south, so have been to the state capital city a few times. It is much nicer than Stockton.
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Old 07-01-2011, 12:36 PM   #9
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Welcome to the board, Felix.
Thanks, Nords.

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Excellent. Around here the (automated mechanical) shellers use two hard metal rotating drums... I wouldn't have thought that a rubber tire could provide the necessary pressure without a blowout.
I would love to seem some photos of your automated mechanical shellers; I'm guessing they are a lot more effective than our bicimacademias.

We used a mountain bike tire inflated to about 50-60 psi mounted on a bicycle wheel that was encased in concrete to make a flywheel. Very crude but it worked.
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Old 07-01-2011, 05:39 PM   #10
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What a great story! Excellent first post, Felix. Welcome to the Board!
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