Back Where I Started

I stumbled onto my old post about my time living in a tent in the desert and I started to think about how my life has changed since. Back then I didn’t have to work because it cost me so little to live. And now, recently, I have finally achieved that status again. My land lording income covers my living expenses, which remain small compared to my neighbors, but enormous compared to my past self. – That guy who called a tent in the desert his home, and a foraging rabbit his dinner.

I rode out of that desert for the final time on my motorcycle, determined to work, save, and invest enough so that I could spend the rest of my life as peacefully as I spent that year in the desert. – Without deadlines, commitments, mandatory projects or assignments. And with time for reflection, friends, rest and solitude.

Here I am, it’s been eight years since I lived in a tent without needing a job. And now, after years of effort, I live in a house without needing a job.

All that work to get right back where I started! Except now I have a refrigerator, a car, computers, a tv, a varied and downright indulgent diet; I don’t have to light a cow patty ablaze to cook my supper. I have air conditioning, a washing machine and dishwasher. – As much running hot water as I could ever want. – A flushing toilet, virtually unlimited electricity, a warm hearth and even a paved driveway. If I could stand next to my old self it would be like seeing a king with a pauper.

Back then I was worth maybe a couple of thousand bucks. Now I’m up over a quarter-million and climbing.

It was a lot easier to be free then because my costs were so few. I had almost nothing but was able to go for over a year without a job. All I needed was a steady hand to catch my dinner. My more typical lifestyle I live now requires, as a minimum, my quarter-million bucks to maintain without income from a job. – Quite a difference in start up costs between the two ways of living.

For me, it was worth the effort, because it really didn’t take all that much. I was lucky enough to land a high-paying union job, diligent enough to save the vast majority of my earnings, and smart enough to make some clever investments along the way. But if those opportunities weren’t there I probably would have been better off just building a small adobe cabin where I was, rather than trying to toil away at some job for the rest of my life just so that I could have silly things like a refrigerator.

My modern house is comfortable, and I’m grateful for it. But it isn’t necessary for a happy life. I’m sure of that. And it definitely takes a lot of effort to accumulate enough assets to keep such a home without an earned income. Especially when you can go live in a tent for close to nothing.

Having that knowledge, and the ability to be comfortable living in a tent again if I had to, is empowering. It makes me fearless.

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  1. Posted January 17, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    You’re an inspiring dude.

  2. Posted January 17, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m finding the balance between these two ways of life as well. For me, the pull of permanent dwellings is the communities they compose. I like the city of Portland where I sometimes live, and it takes a lot of money to live there.

    On the other hand, I can build a cabin in rural Alaska and have an inexpensive place to live quietly forever. And reading a book in that cabin, fishing for my meat, I will have a clear view of both my place in the universe and the long but narrow road that will take me to my death.

  3. Posted January 17, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure the desert rabbits are happier for your current station in life.

    This entry reminded me of the story of the fisherman and the tourist.

  4. Posted January 17, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    It’s so great to hear about your achievement. Not quite there yet myself but working steadily towards it. It is no doubt a lot of effort… also persistence and patience. Hopefully in a few years over here for me.

    On the other hand, regarding your last statement “Having that knowledge, and the ability to be comfortable living in a tent again if I had to, is empowering. It makes me fearless.” It’s equally empowering for me to remember that I know I am flexible in my abilities to work so many jobs or just somehow survive even if I lose everything I have, or if I simply want to walk away from it all.

  5. Posted January 17, 2013 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Knowing that my side hustle of flipping used electronics is becoming more and more profitable and streamlined is likewise empowering, because I know that when I decide to leave my full time job, I’ll be able to fend for myself. If I wasn’t married, moving out in the middle of nowhere would be a very enticing possibility.

  6. Posted January 18, 2013 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    “If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as getting.”

    “Content makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor.”

    – Ben Franklin

  7. Tera
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Great post…thank you for sharing your journey!

  8. Magnus
    Posted January 20, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink


    I really enjoy reading your blog – thoughtfulness and purpose are difficult to achieve and it seems as if you are succeeding – kudos!

    I never lived in a tent for a year, but I’ve done my fair share of camping and I have always felt that I’ve gotten more out of my day when living in this manner, since “being on a hiking trip” allowed me (in a socially acceptable way) to ignore much of the noises otherwise known as daily life.

    To me your post sounds like an internal calling to minimize in some way or to push yourself to use your FI outside the confines of your cozy modern home.

  9. Posted January 22, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Deep thought by Mike. It doesn’t take much to be happy. Wealth has nothing to do with it. Contentment with life’s basic necessities almost everything to do with it. When once we discern the difference, the secret to happiness is no longer a secret.

  10. Posted February 3, 2013 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    I highly recommend thru-hiking the PCT : )

  11. Posted February 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Inspiring. I’m trying to do what you did, in the tent, but with 640/month in student loan payments… I start at the end of February and hope that I can make it last, and find some peace in being frugal and not depending on too much.