I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean, Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens, Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance, And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance. I hope you dance… Lee Ann Womack
Exactly one year ago today, after a 2000 mile journey lasting six months, we ascended Mt. Katadhin and declared our honeymoon a victory! Our adventure on the Appalachian Trail was coming to a close, but our lives together were just the beginning. To celebrate the occasion, we wanted to take some time and share what we have been up to since we finished.
From Maine, we caught a plane to New Zealand for a few weeks of relaxation. No backpacking, no long hikes, no daily goals for mileage. In fact, no real itinerary to speak of. We just enjoyed exploring an exotic place at our own leisure. After living in the mountains for so long, we probably didn’t fully appreciate the spectacular views New Zealand had to offer. What we enjoyed most was being near the ocean, relaxing, and replenishing our exhausted calorie supplies on fish and chips!
After coming back to the states, we more or less went back to our old lives in Houston.
- Sherpa went back to being Rob. After shaving his beard, he returned to his job as an Engineer from a leave of absence almost immediately.
- Porter now goes by Krystal. Initially, she had some difficulty getting a job. She is a NICU nurse (very sick babies), and there were fewer babies than normal. We speculate that the Oil price collapse that occurred shortly before our trip was influencing family planning decisions in Houston. Eventually, the hiring freeze was lifted, and after about 6 months, she was able to go back to her old job. On a personal note, she has also been honing her violin skills with weekly lessons!
- Pepper, our pet golden retriever, moved back in with us after a six month vacation at grandma and grandpas.
But of course, after 6 months of one on one “team building”, our approach to life could never be the same. To start, we sold the house and moved into an apartment near Sherpa’s work. This has many benefits-
- First, it allows us to structure exercise into our lives. We discussed this in our trail journal when we hit 500 miles and reflected on how few people walk that distance in an entire year. At the time, we were a little anxious about having to cover another 1500 in only 4 months. Did you know that the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes/day of moderate intensity activity, 5 days per week. How better to get it than to walk to work?
- Second, it allows us to reduce spending in one area of our life. Did you know that every mile you live from your job imposes a $200/year driving tax on your life? And that assumes there are no tolls! This is not about saving money. Instead it is all about stewardship (how you use your resources). People often use the phrase “saving money” when what they really mean is that they reduced an expense (i.e. got groceries cheaper with a coupon). When you think about it, they didn’t save any money. They actually spent it! This is called deception and it is at the root of many advertising schemes designed to influence human behavior to spend money. Saving money means depositing it in the bank. All we did by reducing our driving expense was to increase our monthly cash flow, which allows us to decide where else to spend it. *Note: See basis below for the driving tax
- Last, but most important, it allows us to spend more quality time together. Many mornings, Porter and Pepper join Sherpa on his walk to work. Frequently, people will ask him, “do you actually live close enough to walk?”, followed by a “how cute…” when they find out that he was walking with his wife. We are not just stewards of our money. We are stewards of our time as well. You choose to spend your time just like you choose to spend your money. And unlike money, time is one thing you can never can never get more of. You make a decision about how you will spend every minute of your life. And what a terrible thing it is to waste. If you have to drive an hour each day to get to work, that equals two hours per day, 10 hours per week, almost 2 days per month, or 21 days/year that you will never get back and that you will spend away from your family! Most people can’t get four weeks of vacation, but a lot of them squeeze in a longer commute each year. Yikes! We could probably be a one car family right now which might sound terrifying to some couples, but works for us because we love doing life together.
For now, the apartment life is allowing us to break away from the insane American dream and just enjoy life together. We will probably buy a house eventually. The principal of stewardship as it applies both to time and money will strongly factor into the location we eventually choose.
Hike the Good Hike!
-Sherpa and Porter
So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom. – Moses (Psalm 90:12)
Comments on the cost per mile of commute:
- The actual estimated cost is $235.40/year which is calculated as follows: (220 commute days/year) X (53.5 cents/mile cost to drive your car including purchase price, maintenance, and gas consumption per the IRS in 2017) X (2 miles to account for the roundtrip to and from work).
- We keep very careful track of our finances, and the ~50 cent/mile assumption is very close to the cost of owning one of our vehicles. Cheap (i.e. used) and fuel efficient cars could theoretically average closer to 25 cents/mile over their lifetime which is still well over $100/year for every single mile commute you add by choosing to live away from your job!
- However, most people probably greatly exceed $200/year because the most dominant factor driving cost/mile is the purchase price. If you buy a fancy new car every few years, you will blow this out of the water. You can only get down to the IRS reimbursement rate of 53.5 cents if you drive a cheaper car ($30k or less) over 150,000 miles before replacing it.