I am freshly home from the best vacation of my life. My Instagram and Twitter followers will know that I spent Wednesday-Sunday in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I joined a friends family vacation, and had a blast.
Jackson Hole was no ordinary trip. Frugal was not in the vocabulary of the weekend. I paid for my flight and part of a car rental, but my friends and I were very generously treated to meals out, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and hiking by the parents. We didn’t even have to drive ourselves anywhere! It was pure luxury and I soaked up every bit of it.
The hill we went tubing down
Sitting on the flight home last night, I found myself staring out the window, thinking about returning to my every day life. I was headed back to a world of catering leftovers, Goodwill clothes and adding more layers of clothing to my outfit rather than turning up the heat. (Not that we’ve needed heat in Austin recently, but you get my point.)
At first I was a bit sad. This had been a great vacation and I had been indulged in a lot of ways. Indulgence is great! I’d eaten at fine restaurants, been driven around in a car that definitely costs more than I make in a year, and hadn’t had to pay for my skiing adventures. Not to mention, I hadn’t had to work since Wednesday night! Vacation is beloved by everyone for a reason. This was a fucking GREAT vacation.
Giving it up felt like it was going to be hard. The more I reflected on the trip though, and thought about my ‘real’ life, I realized that I wasn’t sad at all.
Jackson Hole was definitely amazing. I was in a stunningly beautiful place, being treated to the very best it had to offer. While Jackson Hole was the creme de la creme, my every day life in Austin is the slingshot that will propel me to that kind of lifestyle. I don’t mean the creme de la creme; I mean the freedom.
I was with two friends who are planning a round the world trip for next year. They’ll country hop and chase summer around the globe. Another friend there is starting an Ivy League grad school in a few weeks.
I don’t crave running from place to place. I don’t need status, glamour or shine to enjoy things. I’m not saying that I don’t like those things when they come my way, and I’m not criticizing my friends choices. They are just not the choices I make for myself.
I simply want ownership. Of my time, my energy and my life. I want my life to be truly my own. I want to be able to wake up and chart the course of my own day, every day.
Financial independence is that. It allows me a flexibility that I have never known. This trip was a bit of that. I didn’t have to worry about money, work or any sort of achievement. I knew that no one cared what I did- I could join in activities or opt out. I knew that I was going to be treated, so I wasn’t stressed about money. I knew I was on leave from work, so I had no tasks demanding my attention. I got a taste of what life in financial independence tastes like.
And I want more.
I enjoyed every second of Jackson Hole, but I certainly don’t need to live that way in Austin to enjoy myself. If the trip had been more like how I live at home: eating meals in, walking instead of driving, I would have loved the trip just as much. It wasn’t the luxury of the trip that made me hunger for more. It was the freedom.
Hiking in Grand Teton National Park
I love simplicity. Take food for example. I prefer most of my vegetables raw and unseasoned. I never use salad dressing. I rarely use sauces or spices. I just genuinely like most foods the way they already taste.
I had truly fabulous food in Jackson Hole. And it was great! But I can say for a fact that I would have been just as happy with veggie stir fry’s, and oatmeal at home. I don’t need grilled salmon in a mango sauce over a bed of black lentils and kale to define good food. I love me some sautéed veggies over quinoa with chicken sausage just as much. Perhaps even more, because I’m a picky eater who likes preparing her own food.
Financial independence is the only way I can see to getting that complete freedom. Either that, or marrying someone rich who doesn’t mind if our schedules don’t sync up all the time. As I am currently in a great relationship with a budding public servant, I don’t see that one happening. 🙂
So FIRE it is. And the road to FIRE is currently paved with catering leftovers, and date nights that revolve around free activities. Ownership of my time is more important to me than a ticket to Spain, or eating at the five star restaurants in town. Living a dressed down lifestyle suits me very well. Moreover, it’s leading me towards my biggest dream.
If anyone wants to treat me to the finer things in life, I will for sure take them. That salmon was a treat! This weekend was a gift, and one that I am very grateful for. (You can be sure those parents are getting a hand made thank you card!)
This weekend wasn’t my life though. My life is headed towards FIRE through frugality, and that feels better than that salmon could ever taste.
Kara Perez is the original founder of From Frugal To Free. She is a money expert, speaker and founder of Bravely Go, a feminist financial education company. Her work has been featured on NPR, Business Insider, Forbes, and Elite Daily.