Our Life/Travel Model Rounds Into Shape

26 Mar

Latest trip is in the books!  At the risk of speaking blasphemy to the larger FIRE community I’ll relay some of our experiences and lessons learned from our recent “mini-vacation” to central Virginia.

I AM Jefferson!

I AM Jefferson!

First, I know the usual orthodoxy from many of the well known FIRE bloggers on the topic of travel and entertainment. I would loosely define us as being in the explore stage of our new life as we are now approaching the 18 month mark of moving out on our own and away from a formal work setting. I’ve studied at some length how other people in our circumstance have designed their lives and have deduced most of it to several “life/travel models” that vary on some key metrics. Below are four such possibilities though this list is hardly all inclusive:

– Home: Rented in United States
– Home QOL: Lesser Importance
– Move: Every 3-5 years
– Travel Frequency: Every 3-4 months
– Length of Travel: 1-3 months per trip
– Focus: International / United States

– Home: Owned in the United States
– Home QOL: Extremely Important
– Move: N/A
– Travel Frequency: Every 1-3 months
– Length of travel: 3-10 Days for regional interspersed with occasional longer trips
– Focus: Local experiences and short regional excursions

– Home: Home Is Where You Are. Rented On the road – Abroad or the United States
– Home QOL: Lesser Importance
– Move: Every 3-6 months
– Travel Frequency: Constant
– Length of travel: Explore Locally Where You Live And Move Every 3-6 months
– Focus: International experience and foreign culture

– Home: Owned. Both main home and vacation home (usually Florida)
– Home QOL: Very Important in both homes
– Move: N/A
– Travel Frequency: Every 6 months
– Length of Travel: 6 months each trip
– Focus: United States (climate centric) – two well-known and familiar locations

The above isn’t meant to be a rigid construct or an all or nothing proposition. Many people will blend several of the models to varying degrees and some may change focus from one to the next at varying points in their lives. That said, I can’t help but notice some distinct patterns and I think it’s important to know what works best for you and what’s feasible. To pick three well known bloggers from the FIRE community I’d say that:

Mr. Money Mustache ( http://www.mrmoneymustache.com) mostly uses Model B

Go Curry Cracker ( http://www.gocurrycracker.com ) tends towards Model C

Jim Collins ( http://www.jlcollinsnh.com) tends towards Model A

Many friends and family use Model D.

With that said, our personal preference is beginning to take shape and I’d say we are settling upon Model B. To lay the setting, I’m 53 and my wife is 45. Our daughter is out of college and now out of the house and on her own. Our son is 17 and about to go off to college next Fall. We chose to “hoist the flag” near Williamsburg Virginia and our home which we purchased in 2010 serves as our rather permanent home base from which we plan to travel and live life to the fullest. We chose to purchase a low-maintenance duplex in an active community with a lot of things to see and do. The Williamsburg location we chose quite intentionally and it’s a key component of our overall planning. We chose Williamsburg so that we would have plenty to see and do during the non-travel months of the year and where our interests would jibe with the local community:

1. Ample local opportunities to see and explore whether historical sites or wineries or the ocean.
2. 4 seasons but mild winters
3. Within driving distance of major metropolitan centers (Washington DC, Charlotte NC)
4. Great schools and universities
5. A highly educated populace
6. Close to military facilities which is important to veterans such as myself
7. Close to three major airports (Richmond, Newport News, Norfolk) with ample options to fly direct to.
8. Ample regional opportunities to see and explore.

Our latest trip I think confirmed how we like to travel and validated Reason #8 above.  The trip was what I’ll call a regional trip that lasted four days and had the following components:


Nothing beats good wine

1. Travel by personal car.
2. Stayed in a nice, large hotel suite with kitchen and family room and separate bedroom.
3. Dining done at very nice restaurants.
4. Visited numerous historical sites and wineries that are located about 1.5 hours from our front door.


Our dinner setting

We had a FABULOUS time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Since the trip was only four days long there really wasn’t much point in using the kitchen in our hotel room although the option was available if desired. We toured Monticello and James Monroe’s farm. We toured numerous wineries. And to cap it off we had a nice dinner (next to a warm fire) in one of Virginia’s finer restaurants.

I unlocked $350 worth of travel points/rewards to lower the cost. Our total out of pocket cost came in at $435.89 which considering all that we saw and how well we lived doing it I consider to be well worth it. What about the alternative? We certainly could have stayed in a far cheaper Airbnb option, cooked our own meals, and stayed for a longer time for the same amount of money. Yet, after four days we felt happy to return home to the sanctuary of our books, our nature walks, and fishing on our local lake.

What’s optimal? For us, optimal enjoyment seems to be numerous trips of shorter duration with higher-end dining and constant room service in a hotel suite. We plan on doing this about 6-10 times per year. We will augment these numerous shorter trips with 1-2 longer trips of 10-20 days in each calendar year. If we do that, it means a max of 80 days on the road or call it 22% in any one year. All of this takes into consideration our age, our personalities, our past travel history (have already visited over 30 countries), and our family situation.  Knowing all of the above is crucial because it means that 4/5ths of our time will be spent at home and living well at home with a high quality of life needs to be a high priority. It’s therefore important to properly design that at-home lifestyle so that we get maximum enjoyment.

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