This month Allison and I are celebrating our 4-year anniversary of achieving FIRE (Financial Independence / Retiring Early). We each got laid off from our startup jobs (within a month of each other) at the beginning of 2015, and since then, we have never looked back.
What could have been disastrous for us ended up being a blessing in disguise. Losing our jobs gave us an excuse to test out the FIRE lifestyle and see if it made sense for us. FIRE sounds great on paper, but you don’t really know how you’ll like it (or if you can truly afford it) until you start to live it.
As it turned out, we took to FIRE likes ducks to water. We created new daily routines, started eating better and working out more, and began planning all kinds of new adventures.
Some people are afraid to FIRE, because they think they will be bored and won’t have anything interesting or worthwhile to do with their lives. First of all, just remember that “only boring people have boring lives.”
Secondly, if you need any inspiration or motivation, just take a look at what we have been up to in the past four years. It actually feels like we FIREd eight years ago, because we have done so much in the past four years.
10 Cool Things We’ve Done Since Achieving FIRE
Here are just ten of the fun and amazing things we’ve done in the past four years:
1. Trip to Europe
We kicked off our newfound freedom with a trip abroad to Europe. While we had traveled together to Europe once in the early 2000s (visiting some friends in Germany and France), we never made it back due to our busy work schedules.
So, we booked a cruise around the Mediterranean, starting and ending with extra days in Rome. We got to see all the sights in Rome (the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, the Forum, the Pantheon, etc). From there, we visited Pisa, Florence, Monaco, Nice, Barcelona, Valencia, Sardinia, Sicily, and Naples.
And what may have been a sign or premonition, we witnessed the most amazing full double rainbow on Good Friday as we exited St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Maybe this FIRE thing was meant to be!
2. Started Two Blogs
We realized that it would be useful to have a hobby that doubled as a side business to keep us engaged and active. The logical idea was to create a blog of some kind to chronicle our new lifestyle and adventures.
We started with a blog called Experiencify about having cool and interesting life experiences, focusing on travel, adventure, events, and food. While we don’t update it that often, it is still live and provides a great place for us to talk about some of our adventures.
The second blog, of course, is this one, Retire By 45. We stumbled on the idea of writing about early retirement after some of my answers on Quora went viral. We realized there was a large and captivated audience for this subject, and we dove right in!
Tip: If you want to start your own blog, check out our how-to guide in this article.
3. Panama Canal
In April of 2016, we took our second big trip. This was a two and a half week cruise from Miami, through the Panama Canal, and up to Los Angeles. Along the way we stopped in Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and various ports in Mexico.
This trip was very interesting, because we got learn about the history and architecture of the Panama Canal and witness firsthand the engineering marvel of maneuvering a big ship through the complex locks system.
We also really enjoyed meeting and interacting with locals at each stop. If you are ever in Cartagena, Colombia, definitely sign up for a free walking tour of the old “Walled City,” but be prepared for hot, humid weather.
4. Southeast Asia Trip
From December 2016 to January 2017, we spent five weeks touring around SE Asia, exploring Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Hong Kong. It was my first ever time in Asia (Allison had visited China when she was a teenager), and it was an amazing, eye-opening experience for me.
Highlights included a street food tour on motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City, kayaking on Halong Bay, and visiting Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai. The one lowlight was getting Dengue Fever in Bangkok.
When we got home, one of the first things I did was chronicle our amazing journey with all the things that blew my mind: 30 Epiphanies from a 35-Day Epic SE Asia Travel Experience.
5. Trip to China
In February of 2018, we took off for a two-week trip to China, visiting Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, and a few stops along the Yangtze River. It was an organized tour, so we had English speaking native guides for the whole trip.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I ended up really enjoying China, the people there, and the many interesting sights and landmarks. We hiked the Great Wall, explored the Terracotta Warriors, and devoured delicious food.
If you ever get to China, here are some recommendations: eat some Biang Biang noodles in Xi’an (their local specialty); make time to visit the Great Wall; check out the Muslim Quarter for miles of food stalls (also in Xi’an); and don’t be afraid to go off on your own from time to time (we ventured out for Peking duck in Beijing and the Shanghai Zoo to see panda bears).
6. 30-Year H.S. Reunions
I left Columbus, Ohio in 1995 at the age of 24 bound for the bright lights, big city. Little did I know when I packed up my Saturn coupe with all my worldly belongings, that I would not return to Columbus for 23 years.
I may never had gotten back to C-bus if I was still working, but now that I had the time, it seemed like a great excuse to go back for my 30-year high school reunion. The best part was getting together with my small group of close friends who still live in Columbus. For those few days, it was like I never left.
Not to be outdone, one month later we went to Allison’s 30-year high school reunion in New York City. It was fun seeing the differences between our two reunions -- mine was at a country club in the suburbs and hers was at a trendy bar in the East Village.
It was a lot of fun seeing and hearing others’ reactions to our FIRE lifestyle. To give you an idea what that was like, check out my post From Joy to Confusion: 8 Priceless Reactions to Retiring Early.
7. Attending & Speaking at FinCon
On a whim, I decided to apply to speak at FinCon 18 in Orlando, Florida. I figured if I got chosen to speak, it would be a great excuse to go to FinCon for the first time.
Fortunately, I was chosen, and I am so glad we went. If you’re not familiar with FinCon, it’s an annual conference for finance bloggers, podcasters, and other “money nerds.”
We met some very interesting and inspiring people, from famous finance bloggers to everyday folks who are striving for FI(RE). The FIRE community is truly a wonderful and inspiring group of people.
You can read about our awesome FinCon experience in my post It’s Hot! What We Learned about the FIRE Community at FinCon18.
8. Disney World
It's hard to believe, but I had never been to Disney World (or any Disney park) in my entire life. Allison had gone a few times, but never as an adult.
Since we would be in Orlando for FinCon, it seemed like the logical way to spend a few days before the conference. I honestly didn’t think I was going to enjoy it that much (too hot, too many kids, too much money, etc.), but I ended up having a great time.
We spent six full days going to Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Animal Kingdom, and Disney Hollywood Studios. Although it was about 95 degrees with 95% humidity the whole time, we were like two little kids frolicking in our own little enchanted village.
For tips and inspiration, check out my post 14 Things I Learned Visiting Disney World for the First Time (at Age 47).
9. 120 Movies in One Year
We normally don’t buy each other Christmas gifts, but last year we heard about a cool new app called MoviePass, so we ended up purchasing an annual membership for only $90 each. That gave us access to unlimited movies, with the only caveat that we were limited to one movie per day. We managed to see all kinds of movies (Oscar-nominees, documentaries, and foreign language films), not just the blockbusters we normally go to the theater for.
Unfortunately for MoviePass, their business model did not account for early retirees who live within walking distance of a multiplex movie theatre. We were their worst nightmare. By the end of the membership we had seen 120 movies, for an average of $0.75 per movie!
10. Our Community
When Allison and I were working full-time, we rarely had the time to get too involved with our community. Sure, we did the random community service event, and Allison was the HOA Board president at two of our condos, but that was the extent of it.
Now that we’ve FIREd, we have gotten much more interested in working with our local community. We participate in the neighborhood improvement district meetings to help shape the growing Jack London Square area on Oakland’s waterfront.
We also had an opportunity to work with the Oakland A’s management team while they explored options for relocating and building their new ballpark. Through these community meetings, the A’s have put together an ambitious plan for their new ballpark on the waterfront a few blocks from us.
It’s great to meet the people who live and work in your neighborhood, and it feels good to work together to shape the culture and direction of your shared environment.
Some other things we did since achieving FIRE:
It was hard to whittle my list of cool things we did these four years to just the top 10. Here are just a few of the other fun things we have been up to the past four years:
- Attended a Grateful Dead show at Levi’s Stadium (where the 49ers play)
- Went to several Golden State Warriors games (Go Dubs!)
- Enjoyed four clothing optional hot springs & beaches
- Explored Toronto for the first time
- Checked out the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
- Visited Niagara Falls (from both sides)
- Toured the Cape Canaveral Space Center
Woo, it’s truly been an amazing four years!
5 Things We’re Planning to Do
Once you FIRE, it’s always a good idea to be planning your next big adventure. It keeps you inspired and allows you to always have something to look forward to.
Here are just some of the big things that we are either already planning or considering in the next couple of years...
1. Hip Replacement
Believe it or not, I have been doing all the fun and adventurous things listed above while nursing a painful arthritic hip. Somehow I developed arthritis in my left hip several years ago, and it has only gotten progressively worse over the years.
So, one of my first orders of business for 2019 is to get a new hip. I have met a number of people who have done the procedure, and they all say their only regret is that they didn’t do it sooner. If it all goes smoothly, I will be able to continue doing all the fun trips and adventures (but this time with no agonizing pain) for many more years to come!
2. Road Trips
When it comes to road trips, we have stayed mainly around the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe areas. Since our car is getting up in age (we have a 2003 VW Jetta), we are looking to upgrade to a newer hybrid model.
Once we do that, we’ll feel more comfortable doing longer road trips (and get better gas mileage). One that we would like to do is to travel north to Portland and then on to Seattle. We have been to Seattle several times and enjoyed it (especially in the warmer months), but we have never been to Portland and would love to finally check it out.
3. Train Ride Across the U.S.
We have always wanted to do some sort of cross-country trip, either by car, RV, or train. Driving seems like it might take too long and require long stretches of flat and uninteresting terrain.
But the idea of taking a train seems more enticing. We could sleep when we’re tired and get out at the more interesting stopping points. In fact, we may take it to our next planned event…
4. FinCon19 in DC
Yes, we will be attending FinCon again (we already have our tickets, so we’re committed!). This one is in Washington DC over Labor Day Weekend. If you’re interested in attending, you can learn more at this link.
5. South America
We have already booked the first part of an epic South American adventure. We will be leaving from Miami, going through the Panama Canal again, and down to Santiago, Chile. From there we will be spending several weeks exploring Brazil, Argentina, Machu Picchu, Patagonia, and the Galapagos.
Other things on our radar: Getting our Scuba diving certifications, exploring Australia & New Zealand, and going back to Europe (Scandinavia, Baltics, Greece).
I hope I have convinced you that you won’t get bored after you achieve FIRE. In fact, you will probably find you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do.
If it inspires you, you can start putting together your own lists of things to do, people to meet, and places to go once you FIRE. Remember that you will never regret the things you have done in your life, but you will regret all the missed opportunities that you did NOT do!