OUR F.I.R.E JOURNEY-YEAR ZERO

This September, It is 4 years since we made the big Move- or so many big moves- Started our journey towards F.I.R.E, got married, became digital nomads. I quit my job and we made Goa our home.

We did so much in the last 4 years, today we both feel like very different people and we can’t stop but share this journey with you as best as our memory allows 🙂 You may be surprised by the fact that till 4 years back  our life plans were totally fluid. Naren had introduced me to MMM but we had not started our FIRE journey yet. We were poles apart in our spending habits and views on personal finances.

These past 4 years were nothing short of a roller-coaster ride that we enjoyed thoroughly, as we learned a lot about ourselves, about each other and these 4 years have been the best teacher to us.

Also we are guilty as charged for writing lengthy blog posts with lots of math, so here is some fun and light reading 🙂 We will share the past 4 years journey in 4 parts. This is a photo-heavy post, please bear if due to a slow internet connection they take a bit more time to load.

TABLE OF CONTENT

2014, YEAR ZERO: Year of Big Changes, Contemplation and Travel

Mid 2014. By this time Naren had returned from US after working there for a decade and had started multiple projects and was working remotely. I was on 3 months sabbatical from work- living in a small village in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, taking part in an intensive yoga course. I have some great memories of that time- those months were filled with beautiful scenery, leisurely walks, great food, 4 hours of yoga every day, reading and enjoying my new-found freedom from work. (Illustration by Sugandha:-))

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Small village we were staying in
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Picturesque walk to the yogashalla
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Learned to do headstands, handstands
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One of our fav spot to sit and read

We would sit for hours in cafes in this small village and talk about the kind of life we both wanted and how to make it possible- at this point we had made a very rudimentary excel sheet with all our assets and our monthly expenses.

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View From one of the cafe’s we use to visit

Big Decision No:1- Sugandha to continue the Job or to Quit?

The next big decision we had to make at this point was whether I would go back to work after sabbatical or quit my job?

Lot of people wonder why I quit my job at such a young age, It was not an easy call since it was the best job I had in my whole working career. The thing is I do not like to do things half-heartedly. So once I felt that a corporate career and hectic life were not what I wanted for myself for the rest of my life, I started thinking of alternatives. While I did not have a straight-forward answer back then, I knew I won’t find one sitting in my office. So I took a leap of faith to explore the unknown. Fortunately I had a financial safety net to fall back on and I thought even if I failed I will again start from scratch. It is easy to be optimistic when you are 29 :-). Looking back I can see the risks involved with taking such a drastic step. Things could have gone either ways.

At 33, I am glad I took that step that early on because I don’t have the courage or energy to take such a drastic, risky step at this stage in my life. Now I want a more settled and predictable life that we are building for ourselves.

I was still only half way through my sabbatical so we decided to tick off one item of our bucket list- A road trip to Leh, Ladakh via Manali.

Road Trip to Leh and Ladhak

The road trip took us two days from Manali to reach Leh Ladhak. We camped by the river the first night. The whole time we were simply in awe of the scenery- you have to see it to believe it. But the roads were not that good and the two day journey was not very comfortable. But what the heck! we were too excited to let that affect us.

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The region is a high altitude cold desert, because of the Himalayan range on one side which does not allow monsoon clouds to enter the region

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We ended this trip in awe of beauty of this region.

Back to Delhi Via Kashmir

On the way back  to Delhi we made a de-tour via’ Kashmir. Leh to kashmir  by road is overnight journey with fantastic roads. I remember we reached Kashmir on 14th August. I had never ever seen so much military personnel walking on the roads. Later we got to know that because of Independence day they were on extra vigil. The Upside was we had Dal Lake to ourselves.

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We flew back from Kashmir to our concrete jungle for couple of days.

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After we came back, I decided to quit my job. I met my boss and colleagues and informed them of my decision- I got a mixed reaction. They had already given me a 3 months sabbatical to think over it (Very generous of them, they are without doubt one of the most talented people I worked with), so we were able to wrap up things pretty quickly.

Big decision 2- Where to live?

Next big decision we had to make was where to live since both of us were now location independent? At this stage both of us were like free birds, ready to fly! we were so excited about the possibilities. We were keen to stay in the hills but decided against it because of geographic isolation and infrastructure. Both of us required high speed internet. After a lot of research and eliminating places we had a winner in Goa. We decided to take a trip to Goa to check it out.

Recci Trip to Goa

I had been to Goa once before and for Naren it was the first time. We had already shortlisted 5-6 villages in Goa via internet research that we wanted to check out Aldona, Parra, Assagao, Benaulim, Moira and one or two in South Goa that I do not remember now. We started with staying in an AirBNB in Aldona- One of the most picturesque, idyllic villages in North Goa.

We explored Goa for a month, stayed in south as well as north Goa to get the vibe of the place. Ultimately we zeroed down to where we began- we decided to stay in Aldona.

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Aldona Village
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Aldona Church
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Our House in Aldona

We finalized the house lease and felt a big burden lift from our head. It was a cute 2 bedroom brand new duplex, semi-furnished. We got a good deal on rent for 14,000/month!!!!

Few days later we joined our friends in Jodhpur for Rajasthan International Folk Festival (RIFF).

Goa to Jodhpur

RIFF is an annual festival organized to promote traditional folk music and arts held at Jodhpur in October. It was my second time attending this music festival. This 5 day event is a total immersion into music and arts. Artists gather from all over india and the world and play from dusk to dawn at multiple music venues in and around Mehrangarh Fort.

In my opinion it is the most well organized music festival that I have ever been to in India. The crowd is great and the facilities are managed well. But for some reason I could not find our pictures of this event, so I am using some from the internet that represent my experience of RIFF.

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Jodhpur RIFF

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Jodhpur Riff
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We enjoyed ourselves a lot and I also used this opportunity to shop for my wedding dress from Jodhpur. After this we went home to do prep for our wedding.

Biggest Event of the Year

November, 2014: The year zero was concluded with a big bang- Our Wedding! We both wanted a very simple wedding but our parents could not contain themselves and went full out. Thank you Mom and Dad 🙂

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We celebrated this new beginning with our family and friends and felt very lucky to be where we were in our lives.

Fun fact: Naren is from Chennai and does fantastic bhangra. He floored the North Indian Side of the family with this one performance.

By the end of year Zero few key things were clear to us

  1. We wanted to live a quiet life outside of metros– We both love quiet, greenery, long walks in nature- which is not possible on a daily basis in a big city.
  2. We both wanted autonomy– We both enjoy work but do not enjoy 10-12 hours work days or stressful work environments. We both felt a need to do something meaningful to us, something more than a job,  and to create a balanced life, where work is important but not over and above our personal and family life.
  3. We were ready to downsize our lifestyle– We lived these 3-4 months with one backpack each (including winter gear) and we did not miss a thing. We got a lot more confidence in experimenting with a more frugal lifestyle as we tried to land back on our feet.
  4. We found our answer in F.I.R.E- We realized that if we want to experiment with our life and keep our freedom, FIRE is a way to go. Both of us were convinced more than ever to make F.I.R.E work for us so that we can have the lifestyle we want forever. So, debt free, with 7 years worth of expenses saved, and a 2 BHK apartment to our name we decided to give it our all to this experiment and see where it takes us.

Our expenses in year zero: year 2014

We both were very aware that we do not have monthly pay-check anymore, so wherever possible we tried to be frugal. But we had fair bit of expenses on travel and setting up house in Goa

Unfortunately we started using Spendee and tracking our expenses from August, 2014 so we only have record of last 5 months. During this period we spent total of 4 lacs .  Below is the snapshot of breakup from our app.

As you can biggest spending was on flight, hotel stay, one-time house set-up, cabs and eating out.

Isn’t it awesome to go back and see where you money goes!

 

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We will share what happened in next three years- our mistakes, learnings and fun things too in 3 separate blog posts over next few months!

If you want to know any more specifics feel free to ask us in comments and feel free to share this blog post with your friends and family.

 

12 COMMENTS

  1. Very pertinent. Please go through it:

    https://factordaily.com/dont-get-fooled-into-thinking-you-have-a-life-long-career-ravi-venkatesan/

    Highlight – “As you turn 40, you start getting into a Yellow zone and after 50, you are really in a Red zone when it comes to jobs because everybody prefers younger people, fresh with new knowledge, more eager to work maybe or ambitious and certainly paid a lot less. I think this is a big crisis which is building and we haven’t yet seen the full magnitude of it.”

    Its SO-SO important that the young generation start working on F.I

    Cheers,
    Mahesh

  2. I think the MOST important checkbox we need to tick before starting the F.I journey is , quite ironically, find a vocation where you can spend time and live a life where “Saving” is not a thought at all.

    For example, right now with the corpus that has been so far accumulated we can keep it aside, let it grow, untouched. However for that to happen you need to find something to do where you can work on “what you want” and not bother in “saving”. The saved corpus will most likely grow into a sizeable chunk in 10 years.

    The challenge with most of the IT folks is exactly this. I dont know the situation with other fields. We have been so “married” with our work and now gotten into the hands-off managerial positions that we will find it very difficult to 1- Find a job where the employer will say, OK, you can do a task 3-4 levels down at say 30-40% lower salary and 2- You should be skilled enough to work in the hands-on mode.

    This is MY clear and present challenge. I have enough corpus which if i leave untouched for 10 years will grow into a sizeable chunk, without any major emergencies. I want to move to my hometown, away from the hustle and bustle of Pune and do something toned down where i can enjoy my work and spend time with family. I am all ready to do it but options are few to none. All i can think of is Bed & Breakfast business and Cafeterias 🙂 All other options are either cost intensive or I just don’t have the technical/engineering skills to start. No, IT is not in my thought process 🙂

    Are any one of you in this situation ? What have you done to mitigate this ?

    Cheers,
    Mahesh

    • Very valid question Mahesh. I completely agree with your thought and dilemma… Once we quit our jobs to explore our interests we realized (a) doing job is easy -as someone is telling you what to do (b) figuring out what you want to do after early retirement may not be a straight forward journey and it may take few trial and error to find out your right fit…(c) it is worth it because you really get to discover yourself. and learn & improve yourself more then in any job (if it is not of your interest).

      we faced these questions and i will soon write about them in a blogpost.

  3. Great post. You’re very lucky to be in a field that allowed you to work freelance and essentially enter into a FI type situation while you still continue to work. And kudos to both of you – you’ve taken full advantage of it while others might have been too scared or nervous to do so.

    While this was a lot of fun, I’d love to see Year 2 or 3. Did you ever get into a situation when you started getting seriously nervous about your decision. Maybe the money wasn’t coming in at the pace you were expecting or maybe there were some unexpected expenses. How did you react and what adjustments did you make? At what point did you get confident that this was working and had turned into a sustainable model. That would be much more interesting.

    Personally I’m looking to be in a situation where I’m 90%+ covered before I make any major changes so I’m really inspired by/envious of you guys for taking such a bold decision.

    • Thanks Anil!
      The year after we moved to Goa, all our financial assumptions got a reality check 🙂 I used to wake up in dread & stress every day thinking how to fix the situation and whether we should go back to a job. Sugandha was always optimistic but I’m a plan-for-the-worst type.

      We’ll write about Year 1 in detail soon 🙂

  4. Hi Prasanth, We are glad you enjoyed reading this post. We ourselves had a lot of fun looking back and writing this post. Stay tuned for more!

  5. Hi ! Can you please tell me where in Himachal you did Yoga course.I also wish to do it & very impressed with serenity of those pics.Thanks

  6. Your articles talk about reaching financial independence. Post getting there, can you also pen as to where to invest to get passive income that will help us to get off the Corporate circuit forever. More importantly, would be interested to know about your investments already done / planned to attain F.I.R.E.

  7. Very nice narrative and goes on to show that every little action you take helps you reach your goal faster. Looking forward to the next post.

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