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My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-15-2006, 02:20 PM   #1
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My "unconventional" route to FIRE

I must admit that I never intended to jump into the "soup" of* this message board so soon since I have not completed my thorough research of the archives (75% done) and I've been lurking here since sometime last summer.
Unfortunately, I let myself get drug into a political thread pre-maturely so here I am. Sure hope that I haven't made too many enemies yet!

First, I don't expect to be a prolific poster here because it's so time consuming but I'll try to add what I can to "give back", which isn't much when it comes to financial matters, but I'm learning and am very grateful to dory for providing this forum and the regular posters who have created such a wealth of information...I'm learning so much and have just opened my first Vanguard account! Now, if I could only stay out of the political debates... fat chance!* You folks deserve a medal!

I'm also not much for introductions but I thought that I'd go ahead and put it here in the "Young Dreamer's" section since hopefully what follows might provide some help to those, like myself, who are seeking FIRE through somewhat unconventional methods, at least as it coorelates with lifestyle. This is especially true when I see so many of the board's member's with near-million dollar/million dollar net worths. Wow!

While my own net worth isn't too shabby I've never had this much financial wealth nor do I ever expect to with no rich relatives! But at 49 years old I still could have retired a few years ago with what I consider "plenty" for me and I had absolutely NO savings started until I was 32 when my salary was still below $20,000./yr working as a teacher with at-risk kids and today my salary as a vocational teacher is still under $35,000./yr. so it can be done by anyone no matter what your income if FIRE is a serious goal for you.

I knew at a very early age during high school that I was on an unconventional path, that I was going to follow the beat of my own drummer even if it meant a low income. Finding ways to do the things that I loved was my first priority by far and if the money followed, then fine. It really all began a couple of days after I graduated from college in 1977 (Associate Degree) and I aimed my '68 Ford Falcon north to Alaska to begin living out all of my youthful dreams. I spent that entire summer driving and exploring the most northern route across Canada, then up the Alaska Highway to the Far North. Since then I have followed my dreams with the following lifetime of adventures... so far. Here's a very incomplete sampler:
  • Worked two 6-month seasons with a well known Alaskan hunting & fishing outfitter.
  • Built two full size log cabins from scratch and lived in them between adventures.
  • Paddled solo across Alaska via the Yukon river from the headwater lakes in British Columbia, across the Yukon and across Alaska to the Bearing Sea. Took seven weeks.
  • Hiked the Appalachian Trail, Georgia to Maine... TWICE!
  • Hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Mexico to Canada.
  • Bicycled the Alaska Highway.
  • Hiked the Colorado Trail, Denver to Durango.
  • Paddled the Athabasca river across northern Alberta, Canada.




I could go on and on but you get the point. Choosing to live a life of adventure was always the dominant thouhgts flooding my brain through my teen years and I knew that I'd have to find a way to make it all happen and so I have. For 13 years I worked as a counselor and teacher in a wilderness camp for at-risk kids 24 hrs/day and 5 days/wk, unless we were on a 28 day canoe trip or backpacking trip then it was 24/7. It was a job that I thrived at but didn't pay well financially. I guess dreams are worth something!

Even at such a low salary... heck, I started out at just $8,0000./yr in 1981, I was always a good saver and while on time-off the job did provide free housing, free utilities, etc. so I had absolutely no bills for 13 years which provided a great opportunity to create a decent nest egg over $100k during that time and my salary did triple during those 13 years as I worked into supervisory positions. Throughout these years my employer has been very gracious and flexible in meeting my needs to be "on the trail" and for the last 24+ years they have always granted me leave-of-absences to fulfill my dreams which have lasted up to six months for some. They must like me because my job is always there when I get back. They even covered my health insurance on a few but after the mid '90's I've had to get my own private insurance but that was easy via the BC/BS website.

During the last 11 years I've been working as a vocational woodshop teacher with the same alternative school but I have a much more "normal" life and they still have continued to let me get out and live my dreams so I feel very fortunate, but then again they know that when I'm back that I'll be giving 110% as I consider myself to be a very driven, goal-oriented person. I do produce measurable above average results in my field of working with troubled kids.

In 2006 I'll be turning 50 and it's amazing how much more closely that a fellow begins to examine his financial portfolio as the senior years begin to approach! And although I got a late start at saving at age 32, I can now look back and feel so thankful and secure that I did! As for the future I expect to ER between age 53-55, but reserve the right to continue working if I still feel the calling at that time... and I do LOVE my work so who knows!

I can begin to draw a fixed pension at age 55 which is small but it should easily* pay for my health insurance until 65. Right now, I could retire and easily make it on the modest returns of my investments of approximately $16,000./yr. While I don't have anything aginst the so-called "finer things" in life, I personally am just not a materialistic person... remember I'm the fellow who paddles a sea touring kayak across Alaska for vacation and comes back to live in a log cabin that I built from scratch. Some of the shallow folks that I encounter consider me "cheap" but I always tell them that if I wanted something then I'd get it... I just can't find many "things" that I want. I'm very content and happy with friends, family, and the very basic things in life and excess material wealth means nothing to me. If a Porsche would make me happy, then I'd go get one, but why do something that is going to make my life more miserable? I find immense wealth just in knowing that I can buy a Porsche... and choose not to!

This is the path of "wealth" in living that I have chosen on my way to FIRE but other routes to "wealth" are just as valid for other, more conventional folks... such as having a family, building a business, buying a Porsche, or finding other routes to what you conceive true "wealth" to be for YOU. Meantime, I hope to cross paths with you "on the trail" and look forward to learning more here on the board!
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-15-2006, 03:08 PM   #2
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Hey FreeBird,

Quote:
Worked two 6-month seasons with a well known Alaskan hunting & fishing outfitter.

Built two full size log cabins from scratch and lived in them between adventures.

Paddled solo across Alaska via the Yukon river from the headwater lakes in British Columbia, across the Yukon and across Alaska to the Bearing Sea. Took seven weeks.

Hiked the Appalachian Trail, Georgia to Maine... TWICE!

Hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Mexico to Canada.

Bicycled the Alaska Highway.

Hiked the Colorado Trail, Denver to Durango.

Paddled the Athabasca river across northern Alberta, Canada.

So Free, what do you do in your spare time?
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-15-2006, 05:21 PM   #3
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE


I enjoyed hearing about your adventures. I keep meaning to hike the Appalachian Trail.

You've done a great job of living along the way and not waiting for retirement to follow your dreams. Congrats on that.

I skip the political stuff you referred to. Never seems worthwhile on the internet.

Welcome!

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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-16-2006, 09:02 AM   #4
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Great story, but a wife and kids don't seem to have factored in anywhere. The perpetual freedom espoused by FreeBird is only possible if you're responsible only for yourself.
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-16-2006, 09:05 AM   #5
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay_Gatsby
Great story, but a wife and kids don't seem to have factored in anywhere. The perpetual freedom espoused by FreeBird is only possible if you're responsible only for yourself.
I know couples with children who choose unconventional routes too. I think they can do it because both parents want to.
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-16-2006, 09:18 AM   #6
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

You're right - you are very "unconventional"!

As to political discussions - I've found that after the heated debates and name-calling are all said and done, none of the people arguing about politics change their political orientation much. There are a few posters here on these forums that enjoy political debates from time to time, and are willing to engage in a shouting contest over why they (and their political views and opinions) are more correct than you (and your political views and opinions).

That said, it sounds like you have better, more fun things to do than chat about politics with a bunch of bozos on the other side of cyberspace.
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-16-2006, 10:35 AM   #7
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Yep

Got a T shirt for Christmas: "I May Be Left Handed But I'm Always Right!"

Heh heh heh

Sometimes, I change my mind though.

Sooo "unconventional" - when are you going to try someplace - like er ah WARM! Great adventures - but a little too cool for me.
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-16-2006, 11:31 AM   #8
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay_Gatsby
Great story, but a wife and kids don't seem to have factored in anywhere.* The perpetual freedom espoused by FreeBird is only possible if you're responsible only for yourself.
I think the responsibility of kids would definitely cramp the OP's lifestyle but I think lumping "wife" in that catagory is not necessarily true.* There are many females of the species who enjoy this sort of adventure as much or more than the males and would happily participate.

Hiking the Pacific Crest trail has always been a dream of mine but SO thinks I'm nuts and is not interested in three months of backpacking...* Men! :
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-16-2006, 12:06 PM   #9
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Lumping the wife is also illegal in many states. Maybe all of them.
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-16-2006, 02:19 PM   #10
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

FreeBird,
I went to Outward Bound when I was 30, 40, & 50. Sound if your organization is similar. I recomend it to all those thinking about RE.

http://www.outwardbound.com/
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-16-2006, 03:54 PM   #11
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Quote:
Originally Posted by ()
Lumping the wife is also illegal in many states.* Maybe all of them.
Took me a second to get this one...

Then again, I have to ask: What would lumping a wife in with make doing so illegal? I doubt women would allow lumping them in with their mothers to be illegal in this day and age (<ducks>).
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-16-2006, 04:35 PM   #12
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Oh boy are we taking this thread off track.

Backpacking in my old Colorado days - many a female 'out there' could outhump the men.

Lame - I know - but I had to give it a shot.

Bonnie Lou from upstate NY comes to mind. She was also an ace on snow skies.

Also - I do not bet with step daughter in spare room when fishing. I know better from experience.
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-16-2006, 05:01 PM   #13
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheryl
Hiking the Pacific Crest trail has always been a dream of mine but SO thinks I'm nuts and is not interested in three months of backpacking...* Men! :
Sounds like fun but I doubt if I would last a week.*
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-16-2006, 05:59 PM   #14
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Quote:
Originally Posted by DOG51
Sounds like fun but I doubt if I would last a week.*
It's probably one of those things that sounds much better in the fantasy stage than in reality.

NOW DON'T START WITH ME - YOU LUMPERS AND HUMPERS!!!!
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-16-2006, 08:07 PM   #15
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Wow! So much to comment upon... Amazing what can accumulate when I can only get to the 'puter for a little time in the evening- hey, I'm still in the "accumulation" stage!

Posted by: kate
Quote:
I keep meaning to hike the Appalachian Trail.
If I could give any long distance hiker one single bit of advice then it would be to be sure that you're committed. If you're going to have any chance of making it all the way then it's gotta be the most important thing in your life at the moment. More important than girl/boyfriends (gurl's fer me, thank you!) careers, or whatever else that might compete for your attention.

When I share my photos and experiences from the trail most folks are literally swept away with the idea of life on the trail, month after month. All of my pictures and stories are only short tiny flashes from a multi-month experience and almost always portray the happy, warm-fuzzy moments. A prospective long-distance adventurer had better first test their ability to deal effectively with the hundreds of hours of incliment weather, being alone for long periods of time, and very limited creature comforts.

Those who are successful have learned how to effectively value the "whole" experience and can keep their eyes on the prize. It's a very fulfilling lifestyle and I have no regrets.

Quote:
I know couples with children who choose unconventional routes too.* *I think they can do it because both parents want to.
Very true! Personally, by nature I am a loaner in the core of who I am so I find the most fulfillment from moving down the trail alone. Yes, I'm human and still have a strong need for others, but I "click" into another world (mine) when I'm in the wilderness.

Back in the mid '80s I worked with the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School with their OB Directive program- adjucated youth. Both Outward Bound and the National Outdoor Leadership School among many others, are full with folks who are married, with and without kids. On the Appalachian Trail and all trails I constantly met married couples of all ages hiking the trail, but never any long distance hiker's with kids. If I ever had kids then I'm sure, without a doubt, that THEY would become my primary responsibility and I might have to adjust somewhat until they got older... then we'd be "out there" together!

Posted by: unclemick2
Quote:
Got a T shirt for Christmas: "I May Be Left Handed But I'm Always Right!"
I had a bumper sticker on my truck (before it finally wore off) that said: "Why be politically correct when you can be RIGHT"

Oops... I said that I was gonna stop going there!!* *

Posted by: Sheryl
Quote:
Hiking the Pacific Crest trail has always been a dream of mine but SO thinks I'm nuts and is not interested in three months of backpacking...* Men!
I hiked the entire 2,600 miles in 109 days and was the third thru-hiker to finish the PCT in 2001. Guess that's a bit over 3 months but the time really flies by on the trail and especially now that I'm pocessed with ultralight methods. My backpack has a base weight of only 9.3 pounds which includes everything from shelter to stove, excluding consumables.

As for being "nuts" ... actually there might be a bit of truth in that for those of us who actually find happiness in such mental/physical demanding ways. Yeah, I take pride in being somewhat crazy... especially if being "mainstream" is the alternative.
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Enjoyed all the comments! As time permits I will add more information to this thread about my investments and just how I have come to "flirt" with about 1/2 million$$ (presently, but continuing to snowball) while in a relatively low-paying profession and I've never robbed a bank yet!! . Just like committing to hike the Appalachian Trail, it can be done if the idea of FIRE becomes foremost in your thoughts!
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-16-2006, 08:28 PM   #16
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheryl
It's probably one of those things that sounds much better in the fantasy stage than in reality.

NOW DON'T START WITH ME - YOU LUMPERS AND HUMPERS!!!!
Hmmm...to hump a lumper or lump a humper...thats a tough one...
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-17-2006, 07:20 AM   #17
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

I had a professor in law school who is half way through hiking the Appalachian Trail with his son (I think the son is 13). They do it a week or two at a time (some might say that's not really hiking the AT). He was featured on some tv show on PBS about hiking or something a few years ago. The show was focusing on how hiking the AT allowed him to bond with his son. So hiking with kids can be done, at least for a few weeks.
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-17-2006, 09:11 AM   #18
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Speaking of extreme outdoor activities - if I can take this thread on a slight detour -* I have always dreamed of going to Antarctica - I found this trip in my PADI dive magazine this morning, and am salivating.* Must have something to do with watching March of the Penguins a couple weeks ago.* *However I have already promised SO that Christmas 2006 will be somewhere tropical....* and the ole' portfolio needs a couple bull market years before we pay for something like this... but a girl can dream, eh??

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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-17-2006, 11:30 AM   #19
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheryl
Speaking of extreme outdoor activities - if I can take this thread on a slight detour -* I have always dreamed of going to Antarctica - I found this trip in my PADI dive magazine this morning, and am salivating.* Must have something to do with watching March of the Penguins a couple weeks ago.* *However I have already promised SO that Christmas 2006 will be somewhere tropical....* and the ole' portfolio needs a couple bull market years before we pay for something like this... but a girl can dream, eh??
I've been told that going to Antarctica is as close as any us will get to going to the moon. Regardless, I've had the same dream, and would love to do it if I had the chance.
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE
Old 01-17-2006, 08:02 PM   #20
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Re: My "unconventional" route to FIRE

Quote:
Originally Posted by justin
I had a professor in law school who is half way through hiking the Appalachian Trail with his son (I think the son is 13).* They do it a week or two at a time (some might say that's not really hiking the AT).* He was featured on some tv show on PBS about* hiking or something a few years ago.* The show was focusing on how hiking the AT allowed him to bond with his son.* So hiking with kids can be done, at least for a few weeks.
Justin: I believe that at 13 years old section-hiking the AT is the best way to do it since a thru-hike is equivalent to a 10 hour/day job X 10 IMHO... except you don't get paid!! Come to think of it, section-hiking is probably the most "sane" way for anyone to hike the trail!! Thru-hiker's are definitely a rare breed and the record for multiple thru-hiker's presently stands at only 125.

I found the following interesting records of AT hikes that might interest you on the following site: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/site...2000Milers.htm

"Youngest thru-hiker. A 6-year-old boy became the youngest person to hike the A.T. when he completed a flip-flop thru-hike with his parents in 1980. Twenty-two years later, in 2002, another 6-year-old boy completed a flip-flop thru-hike with his parents and 8-year-old sister."

Not sure how I missed this hiker since I also hiked the AT in 2002.

"Oldest thru-hiker. In 2004, Lee Barry, known as “Easy One,” became the oldest thru-hiker at age 81 when he completed his fifth hike (and second thru-hike) of the A.T. Only 11 thru-hike completions have been reported by hikers age 70 or over, and most of those hikers had already thru-hiked the A.T. at least once before."

Seems to me that little kids need to be playing in sandboxes and nursing their moma's at 6 years old without this kind of physical/mental stress.

As for 81 years old at least he didn't have to worry about waking up the wife every 30 minutes to relieve the bladder!!*
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