Now that we’re back at our home base for a bit, it’s time to start thinking about what’s next. Actually, we’ve been thinking about it for a while now, and we’ve got some pretty concrete plans for the next year.
By all accounts, our winter snowbird trip was a success. There were times when the weather wasn’t cooperating when we felt a bit cooped up inside our tiny aluminum home, times when we missed our Portland home, and of-course we missed our and family and friends. But overall the experience was as rich, rewarding, educational and exciting as we had imagined it would be. That’s why we’re planning to do it again this coming winter!
Before then, however, we’ve got the rest of Spring and Summer to enjoy life in the Pacific Northwest.
When I left my job last April, I wasn’t necessarily planning to work again in the near future, but I also didn’t discount the possibility that I would want to. Our primary income right now is our AirBnB (and renting our main house when we’re away), and that’s basically enough to keep us from dipping into savings.
Over the past year of non-employment I had many mixed emotions toward work. Although I felt a little burnt out on software development when I left, I certainly expected that after a few months away from the keyboard a strong urge to write code would return. After all, I’ve been coding since I was about 12 years old, so it’s pretty ingrained in me.
Month after month, however, I was surprised that the urge wasn’t returning. I was half disappointed and half excited that perhaps I was ready for a new phase in my life. However, at the same time I found myself going through cycles of feeling guilty for not spending my time being more productive. Raising kids is an important job and is rewarding in a very different way than is workplace work, but it doesn’t provide that same instant-satisfaction of checking a task off your task list, knowing it’s done for good.
With a year to contemplate the value that work brings to my life, here is my list of what I find important:
- Stretches of focussed time working on concrete goals (achieving ‘flow’)
- Having the satisfaction of completing tasks with quality
- Practicing skills and achieving mastery of them
- Being a contributing member of a high-performing team
The big surprise from my year of reflection is that I didn’t come to the conclusion that I miss software development per se– that “urge to code” never really came back. The above list of qualities could be found in just about any profession. In fact, I definitely don’t miss sitting hunched over a computer for 8+ hours a day.
It also wouldn’t take a paying job to fulfill those 4 qualities. In-fact, #1-3 are being satisfied right now by learning to weld:
- I’m focussed on the goal of creating a great bunk bed. I find that welding puts me into a similar state of concentrated “flow” as coding does– it really takes a lot of concentration and requires being “in the zone”.
- When I succeed and produce a strong, high-quality weld, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction– one that is even more tangible than a piece of code, as I can hold it in my hand (and show it to other people and they ‘get it’)
- I’m practicing a new skill and quickly improving. There’s always something new to learn in the world of software development, as the tools are constantly evolving, However, advancement slows as one gets closer to mastery– it’s nothing like being a beginner.
You might notice I didn’t mention quality #4– being part of a team. That one’s the kicker. In my year away from the workplace, that’s something that I haven’t fulfilled completely (although Sarah and I are definitely more of a parenting team then we were while I was working).
So what am I leading up to here? Well, I’m getting a summer job! Here are the 3 reasons why this makes sense for me right now:
- I’ll get to be a part of a great team again for a short time
- We bought an expensive van, and the AirBnB income certainly doesn’t cover that. I’m feeling guilty about the extra spending and want to work a bit to compensate.
- Software development is a very marketable skill– I want to retain the future ability to use it for income, so I need to keep my skills sharp.
When I got back in town I contacted my old employer– as it was a place that I loved working– and fortunately they said they could use some help this summer. So I’ll have a summer job for about 3 months!
We’re planning to hit the road again September 1st– one month earlier than we did last year– so that we can see some of the northern destinations before they get too cold (Yellowstone!). That means that we really only have 4 months left until we hit the road again– yikes!! I have a ton of work to do on the new van and building the bulk bed in Wobbles before then.
We did make a few concrete plans for this summer outside of work and camper projects:
- McMinnville UFO Festival: Sarah started making the girls alien costumes last year for this UFO festival, but we didn’t end up going (although we did get to use the costumes our winter trip at an alien convenience store). We hope to finish up costumes for the girls (and for us!) and visit the festival this May.
- Camp Mustache: I’ll be attending this financial independence camp again this May (I went last year as well). It’s a good opportunity to talk with other people who are taking similarly unconvential paths with their finances and lives.
- Oregon Country Fair: We’ve never attended this event, mostly because we didn’t think it would be super fun when our kids were really little and we weren’t getting great sleep. Now our kids are a perfect age for this magical woodsy hippy festival.
- Renaissance Fairs: We really like any excuse to make costumes, and especially when it involves old fashioned clothing. There are a couple of renaissance fairs in the Portland area this summer that we hope to attend.
- Mt Hood Camping with friends: It’s become a tradition now that we go camping every August out in the woods around Mt. Hood with our good friends and their 2 kids.
We’re still not sure whether this will be a long term pattern for us– Portland in the summer, travel in the winter. But we’ve worked so hard to position our lives to make this type of lifestyle possible, and for now it’s working out– so we’re going to keep it up for as long as it feels right.
Although for now there’s still plenty of warm-ish winter destinations for us to travel to, we are starting to think about all the wonderful places up north that we’d like to see (Banff, Alaska, Glacier National Park, and more). We’d also love to be able to do an east coast road trip so we could visit more with family and friends.
We haven’t quite figured out how to make that happen yet. Getting out of Portland in the rainy winter makes sense, but if we travel for the whole winter we’re not sure we’d want to stay on the road into the summer (a whole year on the road consecutively might be a bit much for us). Plus Portland is so nice in the summer!
For now we’ll just have to play it by ear and re-assess our plans after we get back from this coming winter snowbird trip.