Kelsey and I had the pleasure of having The Penny Hoarder on board a few weeks ago for an interview. They wanted all the intimate financial details of our lifestyle and we happily obliged. The article provides another person's perspective of our lifestyle and goes into greater detail about The Chaise. Read more about it here!
I recently watched Live like Alex and it left me questioning if what we were going to do was going to give me the answers I so relentlessly sought. Alex, someone who I could relate to in numerous ways, circumnavigated and did it in unprecedented style. I by no means am as charismatic or downright risky as he is but a lot of the things he was searching for I find myself seeking. What impact, if any, am I going to leave behind on this earth? Why am I here? What is my purpose and how can I live a fulfilled life?
Alex did it all, man. He brought people who have never even considered they would be lucky enough to be on a real boat and let them get behind the helm, just so he could bask in the joy they experienced. During his circumnavigation, Alex did something very few sailors actually do, he got to know this world's people. Yet after all of this, he completed his journey and was left feeling unfulfilled. During the film Alex says before he left he was confused, he didn't know what he wanted out of life and thought once the trip was complete he'd have all the answers. In reality, the exact opposite happened. He was more confused when he came back than he was when he left.
This left me questioning a lot of what we had planned to do. If this guy, someone I could only hope to emulate, was unfulfilled after a 3+ year circumnavigation, how could I be fulfilled after sailing the Caribbean for a year? Maybe I wasn't making the right move. Maybe traveling isn't meant to be fulfilling in this way, just rewarding and thought provoking? Once Alex arrived back home after his trip all I was thinking was he needed to do something like his Dad did - embrace his entrepreneurial spirit and do something centered around social impact. For those who haven't seen the film, Alex's Dad was an extremely successful entrepreneur who founded one of the nation's largest egg producers. Now I never had the pleasure of meeting Alex so I can't say for sure but for me as the viewer, I felt like that was what he was missing.
I tried to keep my doubts off my mind. We were pretty much on cruise control at this point, we had enough saved for our trip and were just waiting until next Fall to cast off. Then old man universe decides to throw me a curve ball.
As I'm talking about Abandon Comfort in my graduate class, a classmate of mine pitches me his business idea revolving around sparing Millennials from the burden of student debt. He knew it'd be right up my alley and he was right. Kelsey and I paid off our 50k in debt and we can't recommend it enough to anyone else who feels tied down by their finances and wants to travel. Fast forward 6 weeks and we have an incorporated business ready to launch this week. Our mobile application, known as Spared, has the potential to save our average user $9,000 in interest payments and get them debt-free 7 years faster. I want my friends and my generation to relish in the freedom that living debt-free awards them. I want to stop seeing people put up travel quotes and inspirational videos of people living life on their terms on social media, and start to see videos of them actually doing it themselves. I feel fulfilled in knowing I can get them there quicker and I can't wait to see my fellow Millennials actually out there doing the things they've always dreamed of doing.
So what does this mean for sailing the Caribbean for a year or Abandon Comfort in general? As of right now all of my time is being dedicated to Spared but Kelsey and I are by no means giving up on our plans. Sure the majority of my funds have been thrown at the business but I can recuperate if Spared fails and we have the time to sail as planned. But for right now I know I feel fulfilled and am overjoyed at the opportunity that has been laid out in front of me. Who knows what the next few months will hold or even the next year for that matter. All I know is I'm moving towards making my days count and leading a life of purpose.
For those who haven't seen it, carve out 1.5 hours of your time and learn about Alex and his adventures.
We had just cleared through our first lock and gazed upon a welcoming open body of water, riddled with westerly winds and not another boat in sight. Our perfect opportunity to hoist the sails. Up they jostled and consequently off went the engine. I couldn't believe it, after a year full of meticulous planning and unrelenting research we were finally under sail aboard our very own 35' sailboat. Only one problem (at this time) still existed and that was getting her to our soon-to-be home port of St. Petersburg with zero sailing experience between the two of us. Sure we had read our fair share of books and watched copious amounts of YouTube videos in preparation but now we were really in it, no turning back.
An alarm pierces my moment of reminiscence and brief celebration as I'm brought back to the task at hand. Never heard that alarm before, must be something with the engine. Nope, can't be the engine considering its turned off. My significant other and co-pirate, Kelsey heads down below to investigate. Within minutes Kelsey comes back up to answer our pre-voyage question, as if the alarm had coerced her into providing us an answer to if she still gets sea sick or not. Simultaneously the wind kicks up to an untimely 25 knots as one of our sails wraps around the mast and tears our head sail. I prioritize - Take care of your crew first, taking on water alarm second then deal with a shredded sail. Kelsey and I begin to tackle each task individually as we discover the source of the incoming water and take down the torn sail to replace with a back-up. I give Kelsey the helm and she stares at the horizon solely focusing on keeping water under our 6' draw. Ah the perfect cure for seasickness - distraction, some wind on the face and the horizon. The exhilaration eventually subsides as we get everything abated and under control.
I remember being overwhelmed and overcome with brief moments of regret at numerous points throughout our 5-day shakedown sail from the Atlantic Coast of Florida to the Gulf Coast. We planned for stress and feelings of being overwhelmed as any ridiculous/absurd Type-A couple would, we just had a different term for it; leaving our comfort zone. We wanted to be challenged, to finish our voyage with a temporarily quenched thirst for adventure. And our journey did just that, along with reaffirming to us why we opted for this in the first place.
As we made our stoic approach to our new pier we'd eventually call home, I remember being overrun with feelings of accomplishment. As our bow line wrapped around the cleat on the pier, our five-day cruise of overnight passages, high-water alarms, and other stern lessons had become a thing of the past. We wanted this life because it breeds everyday challenges, each day is uncertain with what potential problems may lie ahead. Living in this type of ever-changing environment allows us the privilege to tackle life’s curve balls with a different mindset. A life of cruising and living aboard a sailboat is a perpetual puzzle; one we are happy to be solving everyday.
Here I am: 3 a.m. on an early Wednesday morning lying in our balmy aft cabin, reliving our unrelenting first week living aboard. It's a thick 85 degrees inside the boat, my head’s throbbing, our fridge refuses to turn on and my phone will be dead all day tomorrow…that is until I get to work where I can plug my charger into an outlet without fear of it not working. You would presume, given the above, that I would be missing life on land, but somehow by some unfathomable stretch of my own imagination, I don’t. I know things can only go up from here and the fact that we survived our first week without a thought of selling the boat I say bodes well for us.
Now before we get ahead of ourselves with the boasting, I should really explain what else happened this week— other than us only losing power tonight in the middle of a Florida summer. This time last week was our first night onboard. It went without malfunction and was surprisingly very smooth. Our greatest fear, after spending our weekends working on Luci, was the heat. I've never sweat this much in my life, but it's been coupled with doing projects outside in a marina, in the St. Petersburg sun, so it comes with the territory. Somehow, we were freezing our first two nights living onboard—our standalone A/C unit was pumping out BTUs with authority.
This was pretty much the extent of our good luck for this week, because the next morning we were nailed by some chain-smoking GMC Yukon driver on our way to work. This driver apparently didn't see my bright red Prius in the left lane and completely side swiped us as she was trying to make a left turn from the far right lane. Needless to say, Kelsey and I were pretty banged up. Immediately after the accident, I assumed Kelsey would be in the most pain due to her side receiving the brunt of the impact. However, after my gracious tow truck driver dropped me off at work, I realized I had a pretty severe concussion. As the day went on, my co-workers noticed I was struggling to complete sentences and I was not feeling like myself at all. After the workday ended, I reluctantly went to the ER for some CAT scans. Luckily, everything came back ok and the Doc gave me a prescription for some muscle relaxers and some other drug for my head that he coupled with the abiding realization that he knew I wouldn't be taking them. I'm somewhat opinionated when it comes to modern medicine and our healthcare system, but we won't go down that dark, damp road.
The cherry on top of it all was a named storm heading right for our new home. Tropical Storm Colin decided he needed no invitation to our housewarming party and abruptly showed up two days after our accident. All he brought was some 50 mph gusts and a whole lot of a rain. Which leads to the green flash....
It's 10 p.m., I hear Kelsey tramping across our deck to come down below after her shower and simultaneously our power goes out. I'm inside, winding down for the evening, banking on catching up on some overdue sleep. I immediately reach a guilty verdict for Kelsey as the one who caused our power outage. She was the only witness to the notorious green flash, but apparently a transformer across from our dock (owned by St. Pete's energy powerhouse, Duke Energy) blew up! This led to us having no power and our perishables inside of our fridge, perishing. All the while, my battery on my iPhone withers away and tomorrow's alarm for work with it. With the hatch open above me begging for the slightest hint of a breeze, I lie in the subjective comfort of our bed, and I have an exploding sky full of stars serenading me to a short, much-needed sleep. But all I can do is be excited that it can somehow only get better than this.
I was reminded this weekend why we originally wanted our blog and video series to be 100% financially transparent and to really focus on the planning aspect of our journey to aid viewers in developing their own adventure plans. We were watching a new sailing video series on YouTube, which had unbelievable cinematography and was extremely well put together. Despite it being the best series we've watched aesthetically, Kelsey and I were extremely disappointed once we went back and watched their first episode.
They were speaking about the beginning of their boat buying process, their way of explaining how did they end up where they are now? They went into some detail on how they purchased their gorgeous blue water boat but prefaced it by telling viewers they were searching for a boat with no cash. Granted they are in their young 20s like us so we understand the lack of cash but how the hell do you go from no cash to buying a yacht for 60k? For the sake of lack of transparency on their part, I'll follow their lead and keep the name of the series a secret.
People follow, contribute and support sailing series and blogs for a variety of reasons. For me I interpret it as either they want to be entertained, inspired or educated. I believe majority of viewers want to be inspired and educated because they are most of the time dreaming up their own plans to do something similar to the series. Which in turn means the creators of the series not explaining how they magically produced the 60k required for the boat, are doing their viewers and supporters a major disservice. If supporters are backing them financially via Patreon or by donations, the least they can do is arm their followers with the best information possible to support their own adventure dreams.
This leads me to my next point - if you look on all of the major sailing creator's blogs or video series, their number 1 question on their FAQs is how did you afford to do this? Some people might say they have no obligation to provide us with how they afforded the dream or that speaking about money should remain hush hush. And I wholeheartedly disagree, unless the creators aren't asking for any donations or support.
S/V Delos & Sailing La Vagabonde both provide at least a little background on how they originally funded the dream, one offshore on rigs, the other Windsor knotted to a desk in Seattle. Both sites also go into how they almost had to give up the dream at one point due to running out of cash. Which not only makes for a good story but also a very realistic one that doesn't only show the romantic side of sailing around the world.
Maybe I'm wrong in thinking this way and if so, someone please comment and let me know so I can rethink the purpose of our blog and video series (just kidding it'll take a lot more than that). Now let me be clear that I'm not calling for sailing series to release their tax returns like some zealous politician. All I'm saying is when people are contributing to your dream in return for fueling inspiration of their own, the least we as creators can offer is transparency so they know exactly what it takes to make the dream a reality.
Why couldn't we have been raised to live on a boat? I mean c'mon Dad you were the one who showed me your passions for surfing, boating and everything else related to water, didn't you foresee this coming? We really could've used the foresight and background of having lived aboard previously throughout this process to know where to begin. But therein lies a victory, albeit a small one but nonetheless a victory for us, just to begin.
To say we envisioned ourselves being overwhelmed and having an exploding to do list chock-full of daunting hand scribed only documents and DMV visits, would be a lie. As with most when they are infatuating over their dream, we only saw the romantic side of it all. Yes, we are overwhelmed, or at least we were, but this is exactly where we wanted to be. Only difference was we had a different, nay sexier term for it when we were planning out our adventure, being outside of our comfort zone.
So here we are now as a fully insured, USCG documented, antique registered sailing vessel and an incredibly relieved pair of not-so-green anymore owners. Don't get me wrong we still don't have the slightest clue of where to begin on properly tacking, bleeding a fuel line or what amps we draw but man can we tie a mean bowline and furl the shit out of that headsail. Oh yeah by the way Lucidity is now in her home port of St. Petersburg after her maiden voyage from middle of nowhere Florida, I mean Indiantown but we'll dive more into that in the next post.
So where to start on the documentation process? I'd prefer to not relive it so how about the cliff notes version - you'll thank me later. So why USCG documentation? Well first off we liked the idea of not having to smear some random combination of Home Depot purchased letter & number decals on the front steps (port bow section of hull) of our home.
Secondly, being documented facilitates clearance with foreign governments when cruising their waters and provides certain protections while sailing under Old Glory. As for antique registration, easy answer is its crazy cheap. Cheap as in $5.25 per year. Lastly insurance, yea I saved the most exhilarating for last. We decided on going with hull insurance and 300k liability, due primarily to our lack of sailboating experience. What hull insurance does is provide pay out if you were to lose your boat to a hurricane, fire, what have you. They pay out what you have stated as an Agreed Value or Market Value, which for us sounded like a great way to be screwed out of what our vessel is truly worth due to the insurance industry's best friend, depreciation. Needless to say we decided on Agreed Value, paid for the full year and got unlimited towing as well.
Relieved is a subtle way of describing how I feel now that it's all done. We're legal, we're still afloat and we can somewhat back our boat out of its tight slip, lookout world. We are learning something new everyday, being challenged in more ways than we could've imagined and enduring the feeling of going from almost-experts at our current jobs to complete sailing novices. This is what we signed up for, we're happily overwhelmed and stoked to have you here for the duration of staying outside our comfort zones.
Well this didn't take long. We've now received a few emails from readers, the majority of which were incredibly supportive and we truly appreciate the good vibes - you all are awesome. But as expected we've had someone wanting all the details of how two 24 year olds afforded a Hallberg-Rassy without taking out a loan or without their parents throwing funds toward the boat. Let's debunk that now - No we do not have any liens on the boat, and our parents haven't helped us with the purchase of the boat, they have however helped both of us with paying for a portion of our undergraduate degrees. Obviously the question that was paired with the original one was the almighty, all-telling, how much do you make? Herein lies the problem with this question, it makes the assumption if you earn a lot then you should have a higher liquid net worth (cash available). However, this is typically not the case.
I used to play the "whose client had the most credit card debt" game with a co-worker of mine every day at work. Majority of the time the client who won each day was a doctor. One of the highest paying professions carried the highest amounts of debt, not just a mortgage or student loans but credit card debt - the worst of them all.
Clearly the question we should be asking is how much do you spend? Let's try an example, you have the doctor who makes 120k a year then spends 100k of it on his monthly expenses, mortgage for the 5bd home, car payments for his Mercedes and wife's BMW then his entertainment budget including restaurants, bars and much more. In the end his take home is 20k per year, and honestly I'd say this is much higher than most doctors I spoke with. Then let's use me as an example, this past year I made roughly 58k annualized (only working May-Dec due to Graduation in May) and my average monthly spending including rent, car payment/insurance, groceries and our small entertainment budget was $1500, annualize it and we get 18k a year for all my expenses. Me the 24-year-old kid straight out of college had a take home of 40k, thats double the above average doctor (derived from my anecdotal on-the-job data). If I can achieve this number, anyone can.
So where do we begin? How did we get from taking home and saving 16% of our pay to 68%. Well it truly doesn't have to involve boring excel spreadsheets where you dissect your spending with a scalpel, if you don't want it to. We had no desire to put that much constraint on our life, nor did we want to do anymore spreadsheets than needed outside of the office. All we had to do was start playing the don't spend any money on weekends game, start selling things we didn't use anymore on OfferUp and add an addition source of income to our daily grind salaries. Then in less than a year we bought a blue-water sailboat, paid off all of my debt and paid off 50% of Kelsey's student loans. So here's how we did it, we abandoned comfort through a variety of ways which ultimately lead us to where we are now.
- Airbnb'd our guest bedroom (Refer to first blog post for details)
- How you can do it? = Easy! Rent a two bedroom apartment not managed by a property manager and just a regular old landlord who is just looking for tenants who pay their dues each month. Or you can buy a 3-4 bedroom house with a decent down payment in an up and coming area then rent out each room individually. We will be doing a video on this soon so stay tuned to our YouTube channel.
- Packed our lunches at work, along with our snacks every single day
- Kelsey fronted this operation and was a huge reason of why we saved so much. She would find vegetarian dishes (Kelsey's vegetarian and the only time I eat meat is when we eat out which is virtually never) on Pinterest and from the Whole Foods app to make for us to eat on a weekly basis. As for where we purchase our food, we shop at Trader Joes once a week and Whole Foods once a month - so much for us being frugal eh? And the reasoning behind Whole Foods is we are huge proponents of eating organic and love their selection - queue the "Overheard Hipsters at Whole Foods quotes".
- Sold a car that carried a huge insurance payment along with high gas costs
- This is a very important piece if you commute to work. I (Ryan) had a 20-mile drive to work and had to feed my 370z premium gas each time it was hungry. A simple equation can give you an idea of how much you spend on driving. My 370z was $50 to fill up the tank and it got around 350 miles on a full tank. So $50/350miles = .14 per mile. Compare this with my sexy Prius which costs $15 to fill up and has a range of 450miles - $15/450 = .03 per mile. Now I am saving more than 4x as much as I used to on gas and commuting to work. If you're paying for the expensive or gas guzzling car seriously look at selling the car private party or through a fair consignment dealership, then if you can't after a few months sell it to Carmax or Vroom. Another option is to bike to work (this what Kelsey does and has for 2 years now) if possible and if not buy a small, eco-friendly hybrid.
- Became an Uber & Lyft driver or if you can't part with the expensive car rent it on Turo!
- We used all three peer sharing sites listed above. Turo was great when I owned the 370z because I couldn't Uber or Lyft with no back seat. Since owning the Prius I've driven a handful of times only on the times when there is a high surge in pricing, or a promotion going on. This is because I make roughly $25 an hour at work so if anything pays me more an hour I'm going to make time to do it. One week I was engulfed with my regular work schedule plus doing my grad school homework and Lyft sent out a promotion that if you drive 10 times in a week they'll give you a $250 bonus. Awful timing Lyft but this was a promotion I could not afford to miss. I calculated that I would make roughly $300 during about 5 hours of work = $60 an hour. Way more than I make at work! I made it happen, and if I hadn't I might have had to delay the dream further.
If you truly want something, you'll make reasons not excuses.
It all started with a fucking chaise lounge and this inconspicuous dream that we've been sold that a big house and fast car equals happiness. We had both graduated from our university, Kelsey a year before me, so she already had an exhilarating first year in the real world (She really did). As for me I had a very unconventional college experience so post-grad wasn't going to be my first exposure to the beloved real world. In case you can't tell I was quite stoked to be going back, but more on that later. Luckily I had a job set up well in advance of graduation with an awesome company I've always admired. Said company was also gracious enough to give me a $5000 sign-on moving bonus in which I decided would be best if the entire allotment was spent on furniture. Which leads to the chaise.
This was my first place, our first place together as well so we wanted it to feel right. It was an 800sqft two-bedroom apartment, which was the biggest space either of us have lived in outside of the houses we grew up in. I had anticipated spending some money on furniture but when all was said and done I had spent roughly $7500 on moving into an apartment that I didn't even own. Repugnance doesn't even begin to describe the feeling. I worked 40 hours a week to afford strips of fabric and synthetic wood stitched together that I got to see for 6 hours a day. Here I was not even 2 months into the real world and I was over it, there had to be more to life than spending and playing house.
After about two weeks of sleepless nights reading adventure blogs, I started to formulate our own plan. Van life it was for me, except for one hiccup - Kelsey was not for living in a van without a shower or toilet. Then came the liveaboard idea, which was brought up by Kelsey, not the guy who grew up on the ocean, whose greatest passion is surfing and spent 5 years in the Coast Guard on boats. Obviously I was all for it, Kelsey was onboard pun intended and the planning began. After about a full year of planning and researching we were fully inundated with becoming liveaboards. We looked at over 10 boats during the process in person and thousands online. Eventually we landed on Lucidity, do some digging and you can learn about her. Now enough of the sexy stuff and let's get into the things adventure blogs never tell you.
On the day we took on saving for our sailboat we had roughly a combined 50k in debt, and little to no cash. My debt consisted of a flashy Nissan 370z 40th Anniversary edition car loan, while Kelsey's consisted of all student loans. I was lucky enough to be down to my last 15k in loans and had been reading MrMoneyMustache.com along with this eye-opening book by Pat Schulte who circumnavigated well before 40 years old so needless to say I was prepared, and weirdly excited. The first few months weren't entirely difficult, we continued to travel at our usual pace but had completely cut out going out for drinks, dinner and packed every meal we ate at work. Anything we consumed was from the grocery store or free food at work. Within 4 months I had paid off my car loan and had about $250 to my name.
Fast forward 6 months and I happily sold my 370z, bought a Prius and had 40k cash to spend on a sailboat. During the last 6 months of saving Kelsey and I completely cut out traveling something we struggled immensely with. I was 24 years old and I accomplished it, if I can so can anyone and so should everyone else who has these desires. When I say I saved 90-100% of my bi-weekly income during this time frame, I mean it. How is this possible? How can you afford gas or rent? I'll explain.
My plan all along with the two bedroom apartment was to Airbnb the guest bedroom. Kelsey and I had been using the app for every trip we had taken in the past year and loved it. Kelsey took some woo-ing but she reluctantly came around to it and was all for it. What better way to be rent-free and meet people from all over the world? And that we did, guests from Pakistan, China, and India. All the while we were paying our rent in full each month from our Airbnb proceeds and half of the months we even had a surplus. Kelsey was paying down her loans at an astronomical rate and I was saving like your boring uncle who refuses to pay for heat or a TV.
The reality behind a lot of these adventure blogs is they don't take the time to break down how you should be saving, and more importantly what you should be spending on *IF* pursuing an early/mini retirement is what you ultimately desire. If not then spend on brothaman! This is meant to cater to those who want the great adventure, whose 2 weeks of PTO isn't enough and extended weekend vacations only grow their desire to travel. What you should be spending on is the absolute bare neccessities. Have weekends where you play the don't spend any money game. At first it sucks, then once you've done it a few times you end up doing it all the time without even noticing. Every weekend should involve extensive meal prepping for the work week ahead to ensure money won't be spent for lunch at work. Go to National Parks and pack PB&Js to eat all day with a gallon of water. Start to sell a useless item or piece of clothing you haven't worn each week. We owned two paper towel racks, one that we didn't use in which we listed on OfferUp and had to repost it 4 times over a 6 month period until we sold it for a whopping 1 dollar.
Everything is within reach with a plan. Formulate a plan with us for your great adventure, and abandon comfort.