cupcake anniversary reflection

Last year around this time, I wrote a reflection on our third year pursuing FI. I can’t believe we’ve just hit the four-year milestone.  

So many things have happened in the last four years:

  • In 2018, we started the blog. I also took a 6-month medical leave and decided to quit my full-time job.  
  • In 2019, I went back to work part-time and focused on my mental health. I learned about Coast FI and Semi-Retirement and decided I’d never need to work full-time ever again.
  • In 2020, as my mental health continued to improve, I started working with clients, helping them design lives they love and make key life transitions.  
  • In 2021, I took the leap to entrepreneurship. We also did our vanlife experiment and decided to buy our own campervan! 

Now we’re in 2022, and it’s exciting to see how far we’ve come.  

Over the last four years, I’ve kept track of how many words we’ve written on the blog. We’ve been remarkably consistent: 

  • Year 1 – 132,000 words 
  • Year 2 – 133,000 words 
  • Year 3 – 127,000 words
  • Year 4 – 120,000 words

It’s official. We’ve hit more than 500,000 (!!!) words on The Fioneers. That’s more than the full Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  

After writing 500,000 on a blog, I know that I could write a book. The average non-fiction book contains 60,000-80,0000 words. One of these years, I will write a book! It may not be year 5 though, since we have other exciting goals. I’ll share more with you at the end of the post.  

If you want to check out our previous reflections, you can find them here:

Year 4 Accomplishments

Here are the things I told you (in our third-anniversary post) that we hoped to achieve in our 4th year of pursuing FI.  

  • “Next summer (2022), we are hoping to take a 1-month trip around the Maritime Canadian Provinces.” 
  • “I will be exploring new ways to make an impact on the FI community.” 
  • “I’m expecting to focus a lot more on my health over the next year.”
  • “I’d like to dive more deeply into burnout prevention and recovery.” 

Sometimes, it feels like day-to-day progress is slow. I love taking time to reflect because it makes me realize how far we’ve actually come.  

Let’s talk about what we actually accomplished in Year 4! 

  • Four years ago we articulated our goal of becoming location-independent. This year, we took a big step in that direction by buying and building out our campervan! Through this process, we’ve learned a lot about how to spend money intentionally. We used to be serious penny-pinchers, so this is a big deal!  
  • We took a 3-week road trip to Maritime Canada. We originally planned to take a month-long road trip but opted to change our plans when we were invited to the Ecuador FI Chautauqua. Sadly, that was canceled because of civil unrest in the country, so we took an additional week-long road trip to Vermont instead.  
  • I learned a lot about myself this year. I spent time continuing to unpack the baggage that made me feel like I didn’t deserve to be happy. After working through this (more on it below), I decided to move forward with a life-changing foot surgery (which I am now recovering well from).  
  • We started hosting monthly Slow FI meet-ups in June! So far, we’ve discussed Coast FI, F-You Money, and Lifestyle Design. I’m excited about all of the potential upcoming topics, such as: working through scarcity mindsets, side hustles and passion projects, self-employment, re-learning to dream big, health insurance for Slow FI, part-time work, and many more.  
  • I wrote a post and facilitated a workshop on burnout recovery, but I decided not to pursue this topic further.  

My Ten Favorite Posts From Year 4 

Writing has allowed me to chronicle my journey and the mindset shifts that I’ve made along the way.  Here are the 10 most notable posts from year 4.  

1. I Deserve to Thrive: Baggage I Needed to Unpack Before I Could Believe it 

Over the last year, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it means to thrive. I truly believe that we all deserve to thrive. 

This is how I’ve defined thriving:

  • Every day, I’m learning more about what I value. 
  • I am aligning my time, energy, and money with those things. 
  • I’m growing, learning, and evolving into a better version of myself. 
  • I create the conditions in my day-to-day life to feel good and balanced. 
  • I am resilient in the face of challenges.  

But, I still had some mental barriers that were holding me back from fully applying this.  

One of the key questions I’d frequently ask myself would go something like this, “Why would I deserve to thrive when other people are suffering?”  

In this post, I unpacked the myths I believed for too long. I shared my journey that involved leaving organized religion, working through a severe mental health crisis in 2018, and forming new perspectives on what I believed I deserve.

These new perspectives helped me take action in new ways, including the decision to have surgery.  

2. Health is as Important as Time and Money: Why I Decided to Have Surgery 

At the time I wrote this post, I had suffered from the chronic pain of a pinched nerve in my foot for almost five years. And, I finally decided to do the “holy sh*t remove the nerve surgery” after exhausting other options.  

Some of my reasons for waiting so long were good. There was a small chance of serious complications that would make my chronic pain worse. I would sacrifice mobility in the short-term, and moving forward with the surgery meant that I’d always have numbness in part of my foot.  

Other reasons were not so good. I put off dealing with it partially because of COVID’s disruptions of the healthcare system. I also had a subconscious belief that I should be grateful for the health that I do have. Once I realized that this false gratitude was keeping me stuck, I decided it was time to move forward with the surgery.  

Fortunately, I did not have any complications from the surgery. I’m still recovering and experiencing some pain. But, I can do more activities than I’ve been able to do in the last 5 years! During our trip to Canada this summer, I took (what felt like to me) an EPIC 4.5-mile hike on the skyline trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia.  

nova scotia hike
This hike was EPIC!

My foot is still improving, and I’m so glad that I made the decision to have the surgery.  

3. Intentional Spending: What it actually means

As shared above, I’ve been a penny-pincher for a long time. We started off our careers with very low incomes, and we needed to keep our spending low out of necessity. Now that we have higher incomes, it’s been hard to adapt.  

I often still make do with what I already have for a very long time. For example, I recently bought a laptop stand for my desk after putting my computer on a pile of books for the past two and a half years!  

Recently, I’ve been learning a lot about how to spend my money intentionally. I used to think that intentional spending meant that I could only spend on needs, not on wants. Now, I realize that intentional spending actually means spending money on the things that add value to my life and cutting costs on the things that don’t.  

Realizing how much we value adventure, new experiences, and spending quality time together allowed us to get comfortable spending a lot of money on our campervan!  

4. Why Vanlife? (Part 1 of our Vanlife Series)

The decision to buy and build out a campervan was a huge decision for us and has taken up a lot of our focus in year 4 of our FI journey. When we originally articulated our goals for FI, we assumed that we’d need to reach FI before we could be location-independent. 

vanlife camper van
Our Campervan who we’ve named Ida!

Now, we know that we can make that goal a reality long before reaching FI. Buying and building out our campervan is a huge leap toward this vision.  

In this post, we shared more about why we chose vanlife over other types of travel and other types of RVs.  

5. Our Non-Budget Campervan: Layout and Features (Part 2 of our Vanlife Series)  

In part 2 of the vanlife series, you can see so many photos of our tiny home on wheels. We also share the reasoning behind many of the decisions we made.  

campervan vanlife van build

We wanted our van to have:

  • A comfortable bed 
  • Space to relax and hang out indoors (if it rains) 
  • A temperature-controlled environment 
  • The ability to cook healthy, tasty meals 
  • A shower and a toilet 
  • Space and web connectivity to work 

In this post, we talk more about why we made the design decisions we did.  

6. Our Non-Budget Campervan: Costs (Part 3 of our Vanlife Series)

In part 3 of the vanlife series, we unveil the answer to the question that everyone has been asking: How much did the van and the build cost? 

Even though we’ve embraced intentional spending and are very happy with our decision to buy the campervan, it’s a bit hard to admit how much we actually spend though. This is the second largest purchase we’ve ever made besides our home. It makes sense though since it’s basically a vacation home on wheels.  

In the post, we breakdown the full costs into three categories:

  • Vehicle
  • Supplies 
  • Labor 

I won’t give it away here… You’ll need to go read the post to learn just how much we spent on this.  

One of the most frequently asked questions we got was, “How long did it extend your FI timeline?” When we calculated the impact of this large 1-time purchase, we realized that it would only increase our FI timeline by one year. That was completely worth it for us.  

7. To Design Your Best Life, Start with Your Ideal Day

On the blog, I don’t just want to share what’s going on in our lives. It’s also important to me to share resources and tools that I’ve learned. I want to provide valuable insights that will allow our readers to improve their lives as well.  

One of these posts chock-full of resources and information was called To Design Your Best Life, Start with Your Ideal Day

woman relaxed happy self-employed

As ambitious people pursuing FI, we sometimes focus too much on the big goals. In this post, I encourage people, instead, to focus on the smallest building blocks – each day, each week, and each month. Even if we achieve our big goals, we might still not experience joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction on a regular basis. 

So, it’s important that we focus on both on the long-term vision and the journey to get there. 

In this post, I walk through strategies to help you determine what your ideal day looks like and to start putting those ideas into practice right away.  

8. You are Not Your Job: How to Reclaim Your Identity

One of the biggest reasons we don’t make changes to improve our lives is because our work is such a large part of our identities. 

In fact, in a Slow FI interview with Sam from Government Worker FI, he even said, “If my identity were still closely tied to my job, there is no way I could have asked to go part-time. Why would I want to be less of who I am?” 

Work has become so central to our lives. It’s not just a means of material production anymore. Now, it’s a means of identity production. So many people over-identify with their work which can lead to burnout and other mental health challenges.  

In fact, overidentifying with work often leads to objectifying ourselves. Objectification means that we reduce someone’s (or our own) self-worth to a single characteristic. This could be related to your physical appearance or your job title. Regardless, the outcome is the same. It increases depression, reduced our ability to solve problems, and leads us to sacrifice important things in our lives.  

If this resonates with you, I’d encourage you to check out this post. In it, I talk about various strategies to help you reclaim your identity and how I did that in my own life.  

9. Avoid the “Death March” to Financial Independence 

Over the last year, we’ve continued to release new Slow FI interviews every three weeks! We now have over 40 Slow FI interviews on the Fioneers! One of my favorite Slow FI interviews from the past year was with Carl Jensen, who is the blogger behind 1500 Days to Freedom.  

When I learned about FIRE, Carl was one of the first people I started to follow. In fact, Carl was a key voice that helped inspire our core philosophy that the journey should be as remarkable as the destination

After reaching FI, Carl called his journey a death march to financial independence and recommended not taking the same path. Carl was one of a handful of early FI bloggers who were starting to tell people to Slow down and enjoy the journey. I knew I wanted to listen to the wisdom of those who had come before us.  

I was incredibly honored to have Carl do a Slow FI Interview to share his wisdom on what he’s have done differently if he could do it all over again.  

10. Learnings from an Experiment with Fun-Employment

I love inviting people back to do Slow FI interviews to share the ways their life continues to evolve. In this Slow FI Interview, I invited Diania back to share more about quitting her corporate job (long before FI) and experimenting with fun-employment.  

This is one of my favorite Slow FI interviews from the year because it demonstrates the transformation and mindset shifts that can happen when we make changes to improve our lives. 

Diania was originally on a fast track to FI. When she quit her job, she planned to give herself one year to replace her six-figure salary through self-employment. 

During the year, she realized that she didn’t need to replace her income. She had already reached Coast FI and only needed to cover her actual costs of living. If she was enjoying her life now, there was no longer a need to reach FI quickly.  

She realized that she could cover her costs by doing things that she was passionate about, and she already gained the time freedom she wanted FIRE to provide.  

Looking Ahead to Year 5 

We have a lot to look forward to in year 5! If this past year is any indication, things will likely turn out differently from our current plans. But, here’s what I do know: 

  • We will continue to write regularly on the blog to share what we are learning with you. I say regularly instead of weekly because I’m doing a small experiment of writing every other week to see if that provides me with more time to work on a bunch of new ideas that are brewing!  
  • We will continue to amplify the stories of people who are designing lives they truly love through our Slow FI Interview series. We have over 40 interviews and plan to add at least 10 more to the archives over the next year.  
  • We will continue to build up our business in a way that aligns with our long-term goals of adventure, flexibility, and impact. And, we’ll continue to design every day to bring us joy.

Beyond that, here are the things we’re planning for next year! 

In 2023, we’re planning a three-month road trip to explore the western United States. This will be our first big experience combining vacation and working together. 

To make this happen, we have two options. Either Corey will negotiate a 3-month sabbatical from work, or he’ll just quit his job. We’ll keep you updated as we make any decisions.  During the road trip, we’d love to host a few live, in-person meetings. We hope to see you on the road! 

Year 5 will be a year of events! I will be attending (and speaking) at January’s Camp FI in Florida and the EconoMe Conference in Cincinnati. I’m also hoping that the FI Chautauqua gets rescheduled as well!  I’ll be attending FinCon and keeping my ears open for other event opportunities.  

I also want to plan and host a new live, in-person retreat for the Slow FI community. Over the last few years, I’ve gotten many requests for an event like this. I think year 5 of our FI journey will see it come to fruition. Stay tuned for more details! 

cheers toast party

I can’t wait to see what year 5 of our FI journey brings! 

Where are you on your FI journey and what have you learned in the last year?  

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