Author Topic: 3 Years of FIRE  (Read 2407 times)

Financial Ascensionist

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3 Years of FIRE
« on: June 23, 2020, 12:06:42 PM »
In June 2017, I left my high paying software job in Silicon Valley to dedicate my life to rock climbing.  I was 39 at the time.  Here if the summary of my adventure so far.

Rock Climbing
The ability to follow the seasons and climbing in many climbing meccas when they are at their best has been amazing.  Being able to climb on weekdays when allowed me to climb many classic routes without having to fight the crowds.

My main goal was El Capitan.  Seeing how I was living so close to Yosemite and yet never managed to spend much time there was a big motivation for FIREing.  I was spending a fair amount of time in the climbing gym when I was working, but I knew very well that I was gravely lacking in real rock experience.  I spent most of my first year getting as much mileage as possible doing trad and aid climbing.  After 9 months or so, I started to seriously work on the logistics of multi-day climbs, including spending many nights on a portaledge mounted in my friend's garage.

In October 2018, I finally got up the big rock via the Salathé Wall route.  It took my partner and I 4 days, plus one extra day to pre-haul our bags to Heart Ledge.  I lost 5 lbs doing this climb, despite very carefully measuring 4000 kcal of food for each partners each day.  It's that intense! 

I went from being a rather intimidated 5.9 trad climber to a confident 5.11 one.  I am particularly proud of the following:
* Hypertension in Squamish – 5.11a, offwidth;
* Serenity Crack in Yosemite – 5.10d;
* Heart of Darkness in Joshua Tree – 5.11a, on-sight;
* Pipeline in Squamish – 5.10d, offwidth;
* Abracadaver in Cochise Stronghold – 5.11a.

I'm OK with face climbing on limestone and sandstone, but more than anything, it's long granite cracks that make me the happiest.  I like how technical it gets, how comfortable the rock feels while still exhibiting texture, how confidence inspiring protection tends to be, and how I have to use my engineering brain to build an adequate safety system with the trad gear.


Nomad Life
I am a full time nomad.  Right after leaving my job, I made the drive to Texas to establish my domicile there.  It took about half a day to get everything sorted: car inspection, car registration, and driver's license. 

I am with the Escapees RV club and they handle my snail mail.  Most of my paper mail is scanned by them.  Things that I need physically like new credit cards and car registration stickers are forwarded to wherever I am.  I got stuff sent to Airbnbs, but most of the time I go for general delivery at the post office, which is more flexible, especially if mail is delayed and arrives after the end of my stay somewhere.

I travel in a passenger hatchback that gets between 28 and 30 MPG.  I like to stay in short term rentals, but there are places where housing is too expensive or too inconvenient, in which case I will happily camp in a tent. 


Software
During my first two years I hardly touched my computer except to find climbing partners and to research routes.  Anything else felt too much like work. 

I recently started coding for fun again.  I have been delighted to see how far some technology like Docker have evolved.  Being stuck inside because of the pandemic is probably helping me go back to my old habits, but I think I will keep it up after things open up again.


Purpose
As long as I was pursuing El Capitan, finding direction in my life was really easy.  Almost everything I did was to get stronger and more competent.  I felt a great void after El Capitan.  The satisfaction was still strong, but it was much harder to do long term planning.  I kept climbing and continue to enjoy it very much.  I have since set new goals for free climbing, but I have yet to set one as ambitious compared to my present situation.  I'm sure it will come, but I'm happy to chase low hanging fruits until the inspiration comes.

I feel like I should have non-climbing goals at some point, but I have not been very good defining those.  It might have something to do with the fear of being stuck with a commitment that feels too much like a job.  If there is something that I learned about myself during this adventure, it's that I really appreciate freedom.

There definitely are days when I wake up and ask myself what my purpose truly is.  I am not sure if this question can be answered, but so far I find relief noticing that many people out there seem to be living very happy lives without ever knowing why they do it.


Finances
I like to track my expenses with a daily allowance.  At the beginning of the month, I guesstimate my fixed costs, like housing and insurance, then I figure out my discretionary daily spending for the month.  I did my first year shooting for $100/day ($36.5k/y, ~3%WR).  After seeing that I had things under control and that my fairly high summertime housing costs consistently balanced out with cheaper housing in the Southwest during the winter, I started to increase my target to 4% withdrawal rate. 

I'm pretty bad at spending everything I can so my yearly spending hovers around $42k/y.


COVID-19
This one took me by surprise as much as everyone else.  I'm extremely grateful to have the flexibility to change my plans to avoid having to go to a crowded work place.  I was in Oman at the time.  I scrambled to get back to the US and have been spending a lot of time at home ever since.

At first, all parks were closed so I had to do pull-ups at home to stay in shape.  Then things started reopening, but I would rather avoid putting partners at risk, so I get most of my climbing fix by doing top-rope solo a few times a week.  I access the top of a cliff from a hiking trail, secure a rope to a top anchor, then climb back up after attaching myself to the rope with a one-way progress capture system.

I have perfected my bread and pizza making quite a bit.  It's hard to imagine buying grocery store bread now.  I will still go for a nice artisan bread when things are open again, but for now, the one that I know I can make at home are definitely above the 50th percentile of all the breads I ever had.  Besides, it's hard to beat the smell of freshly baked bread in your kitchen.  Even when the bread if a flop, the smell is always deeply comforting. 

I don't know when we will be able to travel again, but I have plenty of time to make plans for something grand and ambitious.  I'm the meantime I'm staying put in Portland, OR, a very bikable city with plenty to keep me occupied.

I sold my positions in bonds and some VMRXX early during the crisis.  I wanted to cover all my expenses for the next year with my cash.  I am pretty much back up to where it all started with my stock portfolio, but I don't think we have seen the end of this crisis yet, so I'm staying with a large cash position for the time being.


Future Plans
I don't miss work one bit.  I don't miss the pressure, I don't miss the meetings, I don't miss the free food, I don't miss the company supplied top-of-the-line computer.  I feel like I should miss the salary, but I only need to take a glance at what I actually spent to rationalize that I don't need it.  I might take a contract just for the fun of doing something technical, but I'm not going back to a full time job ever again. 

I plan on resuming my nomad life when things open up.  I don't need a home base, but I will probably simplify my migration patterns over time to add a few islands of predictability in my vast ocean of possibilities.

If you are on your way to FIRE, keep at it.  It's totally worth it!

flyingaway

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2020, 02:09:18 PM »
Thanks for your updating. It looks like you are living in your dream life.
By the way, are you single? It would be difficult to do those things with a family.

Financial Ascensionist

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2020, 05:01:59 PM »
I have a girlfriend who joined me partway trough the adventure.  It would indeed be harder to do something like that with a family, but then I have me this couple in Yosemite who travel the world in search of good climbing and good sailing with their 3 kids.  Both are writers and are disciplined enough to write while surrounded by majestic mountains, so it can done done.

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2020, 05:55:01 PM »



If you are on your way to FIRE, keep at it.  It's totally worth it!

Indeed!

As I type this post I'm looking out my window at the mountains that form the southeast border of YOSE.

Unhappily, ~1 hour ago YOSE announced that it is partially closing due to COVID-19.

I understand that only day visitors will be allowed to enter the park.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2020, 06:06:31 PM by John Galt incarnate! »

Much Fishing to Do

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2020, 06:22:30 AM »
Pretty amazing.  Talk about the opposite of retiring and becoming fat and lazy....

NorthernMonkey

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2020, 06:33:05 AM »
You're crazy. But the best sort of crazy.

Financial Ascensionist

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2020, 09:00:59 AM »
As I type this post I'm looking out my window at the mountains that form the southeast border of YOSE.

Unhappily, ~1 hour ago YOSE announced that it is partially closing due to COVID-19.

I understand that only day visitors will be allowed to enter the park.

There is a lot of really good rock outside the park on the East side of the Sierras.  It's all fairly high elevation, which probably translates into more forgiving temperature at this time of the year.  I am yearning to go back to Yosemite and feel the towering granite under my finger tips as well.  That's OK, the walls are still going to be there next year.

Loren Ver

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2020, 11:47:21 AM »
Love the update!  You rock ;).

Beautiful contrast to the gloom and doom that gets peddled around most of the internet.

Mr. Green

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2020, 01:05:34 PM »
Love the update!  You rock ;).

Beautiful contrast to the gloom and doom that gets peddled around most of the internet.
I see what you did there. I LOL'd.

Daisy

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2020, 12:46:26 AM »
Hello fellow Moab-ist!

I still say to this day that you are one of the most positive people I have ever met! FIRE suits you well. I also retell the story of your excellent knife cutting skills to friends of mine. Your skill at eating an avocado and slicing a tomato with a single small pocket knife were skills you learned while camping on the side of a rock on your multi-day climbs. I was amazed at your skills!

It's good to see you have accomplished a lot of your rock climbing goals. Have patience and let life show you your next path.

I too am feeling a little lost with this COVID interruption. My year was filled with FI related events throughout the country and then most of them have been cancelled. I was planning the rest of my travel around that.

Luckily, my paddling friends and I have had a chance to really explore the paddling waters in South Florida since we haven't been able to travel anywhere.

I hope to keep reading updates in your journal.

Financial Ascensionist

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2020, 12:37:33 PM »
Thank you, @Daisy.  It it very true that being a minimalist nomad thought me how to have a functional life with very little, fixing a nutrutious meal included.  I had a great time meeting everyone in Moab and I am looking forward for this pandemic to be under control so we can have these fun gatherings again.

spartana

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2020, 01:21:44 PM »
What a great story @Financial Ascensionist . Glad FIRE has worked so well for you.   IMHO it just gets better over time and while covid is derailing a lot of people's plans, including my own,  there is still an abundance of intetesting and challenging things to do close to whatever home base you chose now.

BTW I just returned from the eastern Sierra around Mammoth and its a mad house there. Soooo many people. So apparently the backside of Yosemite is still doable and everything was open for climbing around Mammoth as far as I could see. Impossible to find camping though. I'm currently injured and my hands are trashed so just scrambled about a little bit.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2020, 01:32:44 PM by spartana »

LoanShark

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2020, 07:09:02 PM »
Enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing!

soccerluvof4

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2020, 10:00:32 AM »
Congrats on you experience and doing it.

chevy1956

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2020, 09:19:26 PM »
Well done.

chn

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #15 on: June 29, 2020, 11:30:50 PM »
What a great story @Financial Ascensionist . Glad FIRE has worked so well for you.   IMHO it just gets better over time and while covid is derailing a lot of people's plans, including my own,  there is still an abundance of intetesting and challenging things to do close to whatever home base you chose now.

BTW I just returned from the eastern Sierra around Mammoth and its a mad house there. Soooo many people. So apparently the backside of Yosemite is still doable and everything was open for climbing around Mammoth as far as I could see. Impossible to find camping though. I'm currently injured and my hands are trashed so just scrambled about a little bit.

Yosemite always seems to be crowded. I've been there a few years ago and couldn't really enjoy it because of that.

Covid didn't have that much of an impact for me. I live within walking distance to my workplace in a rather rural region. But I don't go as often as before because the company has introduced a home office regulation. On the weekends, I drive to a hilly region close to my home where I do lengthy hikes in beautiful nature, and I rarely meet any other people there. BTW I live in West Germany, and I know beautiful spots where rarely anyone else goes, and I really don't know why. Guess they all go to the beaches these days. Anyway, I haven't been as relaxed and in such a good shape in a long time. So much so that FIRE seems a little less alluring as it used to be - but just a little :-)

CCCA

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #16 on: June 30, 2020, 02:58:08 AM »
Congrats on achieving your goal.  I've climbed a bit in Yosemite (though nothing like El Cap and not for many years) and it's a wonderful place.  Hopefully you continue to find things that motivate you and inspire you after FIRE.


Not being able to get to the climbing gym is tough, but like you, I've done a ton of pull ups and done more biking and hiking than before. Especially helpful to get the kids into stuff you like doing since they aren't going to school or camps or anything.   

spartana

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #17 on: June 30, 2020, 09:01:44 AM »
What a great story @Financial Ascensionist . Glad FIRE has worked so well for you.   IMHO it just gets better over time and while covid is derailing a lot of people's plans, including my own,  there is still an abundance of intetesting and challenging things to do close to whatever home base you chose now.

BTW I just returned from the eastern Sierra around Mammoth and its a mad house there. Soooo many people. So apparently the backside of Yosemite is still doable and everything was open for climbing around Mammoth as far as I could see. Impossible to find camping though. I'm currently injured and my hands are trashed so just scrambled about a little bit.

Yosemite always seems to be crowded. I've been there a few years ago and couldn't really enjoy it because of that.

Covid didn't have that much of an impact for me. I live within walking distance to my workplace in a rather rural region. But I don't go as often as before because the company has introduced a home office regulation. On the weekends, I drive to a hilly region close to my home where I do lengthy hikes in beautiful nature, and I rarely meet any other people there. BTW I live in West Germany, and I know beautiful spots where rarely anyone else goes, and I really don't know why. Guess they all go to the beaches these days. Anyway, I haven't been as relaxed and in such a good shape in a long time. So much so that FIRE seems a little less alluring as it used to be - but just a little :-)
You have to go into the back country on the eastern side of the Sierras and far away from the valley to get away from people. It's pretty remote there and if you're a serious climber probably not the best place. Good hiking and lots of granite though and almost no people outside the few mountain/ski towns.

Financial Ascensionist

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #18 on: July 01, 2020, 10:37:53 AM »
In any iconic place like Yosemite, the crowds are going to be one of the challenges.  Thankfully there are mitigation strategies: go early, go mid-week, go more than two miles from the parking lot, go when the weather is uncertain.  It's annoying to be stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of an otherwise serene national park, but you have to remind yourself that you are traffic too.  Since you are part of the problem, you can't be mad and the other visitors, so sitting back and enjoying the views while moving very slowly is your best bet.  I like to brew a hot drink to sip leasurly while driving.  That helps too. 

spartana

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #19 on: July 05, 2020, 09:24:21 AM »
Yes avoiding Yosemite and similar places in the high season is always the best way I've found. I usually will go afterwards and while there are still crowds they are usually much much fewer. And costs are lower too. Of course services are fewer too but that usually isn't a problem. The weather is usually better too and fewer bugs!

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: 3 Years of FIRE
« Reply #20 on: July 06, 2020, 10:35:14 AM »
As I type this post I'm looking out my window at the mountains that form the southeast border of YOSE.

Unhappily, ~1 hour ago YOSE announced that it is partially closing due to COVID-19.

I understand that only day visitors will be allowed to enter the park.

There is a lot of really good rock outside the park on the East side of the Sierras.  It's all fairly high elevation, which probably translates into more forgiving temperature at this time of the year.  I am yearning to go back to Yosemite and feel the towering granite under my finger tips as well.  That's OK, the walls are still going to be there next year.

I'm not a rock climber or mountain climber.

We like to go up in the woods outside of YOSE near Signal Peak (IIRC elevation 7990 feet).

The trees are enormous .

As I type this post I'm looking at Signal Peak.

As the crow flies I thinks it's ~15 miles from my house.

7990 feet  is incorrect.

"Signal Peak Lookout (Devils Peak), established in 1900 and rebuilt in 1951, is located in Mariposa County east of Jerseydale Station at an elevation of 7,079 feet. It overlooks Yosemite National Park, Wawona Basin, and Mariposa.Jun 22, 2016"
« Last Edit: July 06, 2020, 11:15:17 AM by John Galt incarnate! »