Ever wanted to quit your job so you can travel with your dog? Yep, me too!
And honestly, while I was fitting in smaller trips whenever I could, I thought some of the bigger adventures might have to wait for retirement. I’m 34 years old, and I missed my opportunity to travel the world when I didn’t have student loan debt or a dog to take care of.
On the other hand, some of my favorite adventures involve hiking and backpacking, and there are no guarantees when it comes to health and physical ability. And I don’t know if the trips I was daydreaming about would be as much fun when I was 65 to 70.
So I started to try and problem-solve how to make some of these adventures happen sooner rather than later.
Last week, I let my bosses know that I will be resigning from my current position and am leaving to travel starting in June 2023. I’m building a truck camper to live out of when I’m not at a relative’s house or traveling with my mom in her travel trailer. And I have several road trips planned, including a 60+ day solo road trip to Alaska, driving through Canada to visit Acadia National Park, finishing up my national parks journey in Florida, and spending some time in Utah. All dog-friendly as always!
And today, I want to share my journey in case some of this information can help you plan your own adventures before you reach traditional retirement age. But if you’re not interested in the details of how this year of adventure came to be and just want to follow along on the adventure, stop reading here and sign up for our email list. This list will send out weekly email updates as I prepare for and begin a year of road trips, hiking, and exploring. Emails will also include links to dog-friendly travel guides and tips.
Financing the Trip
Shortly after I graduated veterinary school with $150,000 in student loan debt, I started working as a veterinarian treating mostly dogs and cats in a small animal practice. While I worked for a great clinic with wonderful people, it didn’t take long for me to get a little restless.
I was working long hours (pretty standard to have 10-11+ hour days in veterinary medicine) for an okay salary. The average starting salary for new graduate veterinarians in 2014 was $67,000 and I was making a little less than this as I was working in a pretty affordable city in Wisconsin. Money was tight, as I was paying $1100 in student loans each month, living without a roommate, and trying to save for retirement and get an emergency fund financed.
And in addition to the financial stress, I was a little stressed in general. I found it hard to meet new people without the social structure of school. Plus I was working until close to 6:30 to 7 pm most nights, and later some nights that I was on call. Most social activities start by 6 pm. Added to that, I’m an introvert. So after spending all day talking to coworkers and clients, I found it hard to motivate myself to leave the house for anything social.
I managed to do a little dating and did meet one of my current best friends during that time period, but it was a struggle to maintain a healthy social life.
Add to that another obstacle I was unprepared for – the loss of clear goals now that I had graduated school and obtained the job I had been preparing for since I was a child. I was left feeling a little adrift and in search of a new goal.
To help replace my academic goals, I started focusing on some financial goals. During this time, I learned about FIRE, which stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. I tried to start saving more aggressively and bringing in more income.
Now, if you are going to truly achieve FIRE, you likely need to be saving/investing 50-75% of your income. I couldn’t achieve that on my salary at the time. Not while making student loan payments. So I did my best to save as much as I could while I looked for ways to boost my income.
Since I used so much extroverted energy at my day job, I was looking for a less people-interactive way to make more money. I had my slowly growing investments. And I was fortunate to own my own home which was an appreciating asset. In 2015, I was able to purchase a small single-family home for around $140,000. (*I feel for those of you trying to purchase your first house now. That house was worth $162,000 when I sold it in 2018. And with a few updates that same house sold for $230,000 in 2021!)
But I wanted another stream of income, so after a lot of reading online articles about how to make “passive” income, I started this blog! I published my first blog post in May of 2017, about 3 years after graduating from veterinary school.
I’m not making big bucks here, but the blog does currently bring in almost $2000 per year. Enough to cover my dog-gear addiction. And more importantly, it gave me a goal. I was running my own little business and working on learning new skills.
Over time, I’ve been continuing to save what I can. In 2018, I moved from Wisconsin to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota which resulted in a new job and an increase in income. Things were still tight, as it is more expensive to live in the Twin Cities compared to my home in Wisconsin and home prices were starting to increase around that time period. Plus I lost about $10,000 dollars when my old RV broke down during my 2018 road trip.
So in 2018, when I started my new job and bought my next house, I started really tracking my spending. Yes, I’m a little old-fashioned and really like tracking my finances in a Google sheet.
My savings have been building up. And I finally made it to a positive net worth! Yay! But I was nowhere near the 2.5 million I had originally pegged for a FIRE goal. That amount of money would allow me to withdraw 4% a year and live on $100,000/year. That’s more than I need now, but I figure with inflation I will want at least that by the time I retire.
Even calculating it on my current expenses of around $54,000 a year (this equals about $4500/month and with student loans, a mortgage, a home to maintain, etc it is hard for me to come in under that while living in the Twin Cities) I would need $1,350,000 in retirement savings. And I’m not close to that either.
So with the stress of the pandemic and the inspiration of the great resignation pushing me to make a change sooner than official retirement, I started looking a something more short-term. Like a mini-retirement. And despite my student loans, I decided that I could come up with the money to make a year-long mini-retirement a reality. I just need to sell my home so I don’t have to make mortgage payments or pay for home repairs during my year of mini-retirement.
My budget for the year is $40,000. (That Google Sheet came in really handy when calculating this number.) And I do intend to pick up some work during the year. This could include vaccine clinics, paid writing, veterinary relief shifts, telemedicine opportunities, and of course – focusing hard on Pawsitively Intrepid’s blog and YouTube channel.
What About a Career Gap?
Do I worry about a gap in my resume? Honestly, I do a little bit. But gaps in a resume are not insurmountable. I had no trouble finding a job with my 4-month gap between jobs in 2018. And gaps are becoming even more common as millennials and the gen-z generation navigate the workforce.
Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s) have been more likely to embrace the concept of gap years as a way to explore personal interests, gain life experiences, and enhance their skills.
This shift in attitude can be attributed to various factors. Firstly, there has been an increasing emphasis on personal growth, self-discovery, and experiential learning. Younger generations often value diverse experiences and see a gap year as an opportunity to explore different cultures, travel, volunteer, or engage in internships or apprenticeships.
Now many gap years are taken before entering the workforce, not in the middle of a career. But it’s worth noting that employers typically focus on a candidate’s overall experience and qualifications rather than solely on employment gaps. To address a one-year gap on a resume, it will likely be necessary to emphasize any relevant activities or experiences during that time, such as volunteering, freelance work, independent projects, or professional development courses.
And while gap years or mini-retirements may be a newer concept, the concept of a sabbatical has been around for centuries.
The concept of a sabbatical year originated in ancient Jewish tradition as a year of rest, reflection, and rejuvenation. Every seventh year, known as the “Sabbatical Year” or “Shemitah,” agricultural activities were suspended, debts were forgiven, and slaves were freed. The land was left fallow to allow it to regenerate.
Over time, the concept of a sabbatical expanded beyond its religious roots and was adopted by academic institutions and eventually by some employers in various industries. In the corporate world, some companies have adopted sabbatical programs as part of employee benefits, providing opportunities for extended leaves to pursue personal or professional growth, travel, or engage in volunteer work. Sabbaticals are seen as valuable opportunities for individuals to recharge, explore new interests, gain new experiences, and return to their work or academic pursuits with increased motivation and productivity.
Some common pursuits during a sabbatical include:
- Traveling: Many people choose to use their sabbatical for extensive travel, exploring new cultures, visiting different countries, and gaining new perspectives.
- Research or Study: Academics often use their sabbatical to conduct research, work on publications, or pursue further education, such as taking courses or attending conferences.
- Professional Development: Professionals may use the time to enhance their skills, attend workshops or training programs, or gain new qualifications to boost their career prospects.
- Personal Projects: Some individuals undertake personal projects, such as writing a book, starting a business, or engaging in creative endeavors like painting, photography, or music.
- Volunteering: Many people choose to dedicate their sabbatical to giving back to their community or engaging in meaningful volunteer work, either locally or internationally.
And while I am not being given a sabbatical by my employer, I am planning on traveling, continuing to develop professionally, working on some personal projects, and volunteering. And I hope to maintain professional relationships to make my future hiring process easier. And hopefully, I will return to veterinary medicine with renewed purpose and productivity.
Join Me During My Year of Adventure
If you’re interested in your own gap year/sabbatical/mini-retirement/year of adventure, leave your thoughts and comments below. And if you want to follow along on my year, you can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and/or YouTube.