For those of you tracking closely, you might have noticed this week that we didn't put out a podcast on Monday, and have probably been less active on social media than normal. That's because, a few weeks ago we made a decision we've been debating for a while, and decided to sell our place in Seattle and make a move. Some kind of move. We're not exactly sure what kind of move yet. We wanted to let you know a little bit about what's up with us here so you won't worry, and because we're pretty stoked about it. We'd also love to hear your ideas. What should we do next?
We've been tossing around the idea for a while, for a variety of reasons, but mostly it comes down to the way that thru-hiking ruined us as productive members of society. Since finishing hiking the PCT in 2015, we've never really re-settled. We moved back in to a unit we've owned since 2005 in a Co-op on Capitol Hill in Seattle, but we've also been in and out for 2 - 3 months of every year traveling for business or pleasure. We've both worked as nurses again, but never full time, and we haven't been able to stomach the thought of recommitting to spending the majority of our time following a regimented work schedule. The vast majority of Angel's working time, and an increasing amount of mine, has been devoted to this business, and our post-PCT life could be accurately described as a quest to figure out how to make enough money to live on while doing (primarily) things that we want to.
The decision to sell has been hard.
In 2005, we got a good deal on a place that's in maybe the most walkable spot in one of the coolest cities in the country, and our mortgage payment is significantly less than rent in our neighborhood would be. But we also aren't able to rent it out (because of Co-op restrictions), and the cost of living in our neighborhood has skyrocketed (thanks Bezos!), so it's made less and less sense to continue paying a premium to be based in a place where we don't spend that much time.
Financially speaking, our unit is a great investment, and it feels like a bad decision to get out of it, but staying there would require us to be locked in to quite a bit of work to cover the mortgage for years to come. If we were both normal people working in our trained professions as nurses, that wouldn't be a big deal at all. Since we're trying to start a small business that will likely never make a ton of money, and requires a semi-nomadic lifestyle, it doesn't make a ton of sense.
And as far as location goes, Seattle has been great to us. It was the first place we owned, and Capitol Hill has been home for longer than anywhere we've lived outside of our childhood in Ohio. We've gone through about a billion life changes there, and I get all worked up every time I really think about leaving. But we've changed in basically opposite ways to our neighborhood. It was headed this direction even when we moved in, but there's no debate that a couple of years ago it went over the hump from a nice neighborhood with a bit of grit in its teeth to an expensive, hip community in one of the richest cities in the country. A cheap haircut is $40 and all the dives are only ironically so.
And in the meantime, somewhere along the trail between Mexico and Canada we transitioned from aspirational and career focused city folk who liked to play outside on weekends, to rat race dropouts who would sleep outside every night as long as it's not raining, who want to be able to travel for months at a time on a consistent basis, and whose core identities only partially overlap with our paying careers. There's a huge "it's not you, it's me" component to this, because Capitol Hill is still one of the coolest places to live anywhere, but somewhere along the line we grew apart.
So, in two weeks, we're going to list our place, and if you know anyone who's interested in exchanging an exorbitant amount of money for 600 square feet of prime Seattle real estate, send them our direction.
The upside of all of this is that, at 38, we find ourselves in a position where we have a ton of awesome options. We spent our 20s and 30s working a lot, investing as much as we could, and developing skills in healthcare that can be used pretty much anywhere in the world. We have no kids, we have a little bit of momentum going with this business, and we should make a chunk of money when we sell our place, so the options of what to do next are endless. That reality, more than anything, is what's driving us to make this decision right now.
I can't exactly speak for Angel on this, but if I had to list my own life goals as we enter our second or third midlife crisis, I would list as things I'm pretty sure I want to accomplish after the sale as:
1) Continue to try to develop the aspects of the business that are working: in particular developing the events and the community around it, and professionalizing the content we produce from it - the podcast, social media and written content.
2) Devote more time to creating. For me, that will look like getting out the book I've been working on and starting more projects that are percolating. It will also look like fine tuning what we do here on the blog to be more complementary to the podcast and the experiences we're having at events.
3) Maintain a connection with my work as a nurse. As much as I love working on this project, I also appreciate the things I get from my work as a psychiatric nurse. I like my current job, and love my co-workers, and appreciate the steady income stream. I also like that I'm employed per diem, which means that I make my own schedule, and work whenever I want. It's a pretty hook up job.
4) Maintain a home base. A thing I learned about myself on the PCT and ensuing year and a half of travel is that I really do feel like I need a home base. And that I love the Pacific Northwest, and Washington in particular, as much as anywhere in the world. We're not interested in leaving that behind, even if we are ready to make some kind of major life change.
5) Drift around looking at pretty stuff. As much as any aspect of athleticism that's been appealing about hiking, biking, running, or paddling, Angel and I are, in large part, vagabonds at heart. All of those things are great, for us, because they're vehicles for exploration. They're also time and money consuming, and require a certain amount of planning in order to fit in on a regular basis.
6) Make a good investment with the money we make from the sale, and resist the temptation to blow it all on short term fun stuff. I could really go for a massive round-the-world trip right now. But it doesn't seem to be that great of a financial decision.
What we're thinking might happen.
With all of those things in mind, we have some thoughts about what our short and long term trajectories might look like.
In the short term, we're trying to figure out how to parlay the move into a Summer of fun. The last few weeks have been full on packing, cleaning, and working on the other logistics required for a mid-June listing (hence no podcast this week...). After that's done, we have a couple of ideas of grand adventures that we might tackle, depending on what happens with the sale. In likelihood, we'll figure out a way to get in some good outdoor fun this summer.
In the long term, our current thought is that we'll likely use the money from our place to buy something that is both more affordable and more flexible, so we can make some income from renting all or part of it when we're gone, and ideally part of it when we're there. A thing we sorted out on the PCT and backpacking in Latin America is that we can live on about $1000 a month as long as we're dirtbagging it, and if we can get a place where we can make that kind of income from renting, we've got some serious life options. What I personally envision is a life where we spend about half of the year at home and half traveling in some way or another - either for the business or because there are an infinite number of places to see in the world - even if you only travel on the cheap. And even if we get sick of traveling, having some amount of income from our property fits right in with our goal of freeing up time to work more on the business.
As far as locations go, we're aiming to keep our base within striking distance to Seattle both for work and to maintain our community. The Puget Sound region is great because the economy is booming, but it's also an amazing place to be a creator and to start a business, because it's full of those types of people. Plus we just like our friends and don't want to move away from them. There are a ton of amazing places to live within an hour of the city that would be dramatically cheaper than Capitol Hill, and I don't know that I'm at a place to make any concrete predictions, but the current front runner is actually the area where we're renting a room from a friend at the moment - Tacoma's south end. It's a world away from what we're used to, in lots of good ways.
What do you think?
We're the type of people who get distracted by possibilities a lot, and there are a lot of them. But we'd love to hear your input. Having heard roughly what we're aiming at, what should we do with our lives?
Tim and Angel
The goat in the picture lives in Silverton, CO, and tried to kill us. We survived to bring you this dirtbag wisdom for the ages.