No, that was not my last summer of vacation!

Hi RIP friends,

good friends are always a source of inspiration. I was chatting with my bloggers friends Emma & Robert White (whatlifecouldbe) and Oli (frugalisten), discussing issues like the next FIWE and few personal updates.

…And then I’ve been enlightened by a clear memory of when I had first glance of what I would call FI epiphany…

I previously said I don’t remember when it was my FI Epiphany and I still don’t consider a single point in time when I realized “I want to be FI”. But now I remember when I put the first brick on this wall and I want to share it with you dear readers 🙂

It was June 1994, end of school year. I was attending the 4th year at my High School in Rome and we were all discussing what we’d do in the following summer! I was 17 and I was eager to enjoy my usual 3 months school vacation, from mid June to mid September. Yes, in Italy it works this way until High Schools. 9 months of “going to school” and 3 months of summer vacation. At that time we were all 16-18 years old and summer vacation meant everything for us! First kisses, beers, sun, the sea… 3 very long months all for us!

image credits: clipartfox.com

It was one of the last day of school, beginning of June. I remember clearly when our Math prof said “guys, enjoy this summer! It will be your last one you can spend this way!

She was sincere and happy for us, but her words sent us down. The electricity you could breathe in the air five minutes before was gone. She was still smiling.

Someone in our class took courage and asked: “Prof… what do you mean by ‘the last one’?

With a bit of bitterness on her voice she said: “Well, next year you’ll have Maturity exam so you won’t have 3 months for you. Maybe one, but then you want to prepare for University entry exams or you’ll go looking for a job or you depart for your Military service. Next summer won’t be the same. And from then it’s every year worse. You’ll work, i.e. 4 to 5 weeks of vacation spread across the entire year, or you’ll study, which means you have exam in June-July and in September-October and you have to study for them. You may not have realized yet, but this one, the 4th high school year summer, is your last light-hearted summer. Enjoy it as such!

She was sincere, she didn’t mean to be mean. Energy level of the room dropped but I was still on the fence. I remember scanning everyone’s eyes to see how they were taking this truth.

Despair, disbelief, a bit of anger… but soon, too soon, acceptance.

A random friend relaxed the atmosphere saying something like: “Yeah, it’s true. I never thought about it… so then if that’s the last one we should partyyyyyyy

Everyone switched to an inferior level of happiness. I was still waiting for something. My brain scanning all the other options finding none. Well, I didn’t know that life at University wasn’t that different from continuous vacation, but the point is: I didn’t know that I didn’t know enough to judge this prison sentence.

Ok, next year maturity exam, then uni, then job, family… pension at age 65-70… holy sheet what the hell is happening??

And then I mentally said NO. This is not true, this can’t be true. I will have a lot of similar summers! I don’t know how, but the rule is: “if I don’t have other options, I only have other options“.

I was not thinking about FI at that time, obviously. I still dreamed about “going to America” to work in Microsoft or somewhere else. Or founding my own software company or whatever. But I couldn’t accept I won’t have had the freedom of taking a summer off whenever I wanted.

The Freedom seed was planted.

Fast forward 23 years.

What happened? Did I took some summers off? Let’s see:

1999Third year at Uni, perfect curriculum so far. Took a lightweight year to recover from a sentimental failure. Mid July – Mid September free to enjoy the sea and the sun.

2004 – Before starting my PhD and after 2 years of Robotic Research I’ve thrown everything away and went skiing in April. Took the full month off and some spare days in March before rejoining.

2007 – After quitting academic career and before joining Videogame Company, why not take a couple of months off? May – June.

2009 – Negotiated a raise and a sabbatical at Videogame Company, took ~50 days off Mid July – Beginning of September. Bike traveled on south of France and spent time in Rome.

2010 – Almost burnout at Videogame Company, quit end of December 2009 and rejected an offer from a very famous company in UK. Finally free! 2 months off trying to figure out what to do next. January and February.

2010-2011 – Well, jobs started to hunt me during my Freelance days. I tried to only take enough to make me a decent salary and reject the others. These whole 2 years have been a big well paid part time job, I’d say 50%, but earning double compared to Videogame Company.

2011 – Freelance, but I still wanted more time for me, with no restrictions. Mid June – End of September. 4 months, more than school vacation! I took these 4 months to stay in contact with people. Friends in Rome and Tuscany, family, theater playing, tango dancing. I met future Mrs. RIP at the end of this extended time off. I still remember that one as the best summer of my life!

2012 – After having received the life changing offer from Hooli in June and before actually joining the company in November, why not take Mid July – End of October off? 100 days off seems the best way to celebrate! Bike traveled The Donau, Brenta, Mincio, Adige and Adda rivers and why not visit Croatia and Spain?

2016 – 4 years in the same place, never happened so far in my career. Time to take a break and take Mid April – End of May off and go hiking Italy Coast2Coast.

2017 – Started working 80%. It’s not a sabbatical, but it feels good. It’s not a school summer, but it’s 52 more days of vacation spread across the whole year. It feels good 🙂

202X – FI date is coming, how many summers are there?

Dear teacher, I’d love to tell you that you were wrong.

There’s always another option!

Early to bed and early to rise…

Hi RIP friends,

Let’s steal half of the famous Benjamin Franklin’s quote for today’s post.

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
(Benjamin Franklin)

The second half is reserved for for Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans book review, which will take some time.

Tim, seriously, 700 pages??

Ok, straight to the point. After so many signals on books (like the above mentioned ToT), videos, blog posts – check out this amazing post by ESIMoney – I decided to give it a try: I’m waking up earlier than usual since Tuesday January 10th, weekends included.

 

Why?

No, it’s not a procrastinated “new year resolution that won’t make it to February“. I’ve always told myself the following story: “I’m not a morning person, I like to stay up till 12am, 1am, 2am“. I was convinced by that. But that’s just a story that you can and should change. I was not fully satisfied with going to bed so late, spending too much time in front of a computer after 10pm and always feeling I was missing quality time with just myself.

So I tried it. I challenged the status quo and started experimenting something new. Let’s see what happens, I started without a plan. The goal is to install a new good habit.

 

How earlier?

I used to wake up at 8.30am. I know, it sounds ridiculous. Shame on me! I moved the alarm clock at 7 and after few days moved again to 6.30. Next goal is to reach at least 6am, planned to happen on Monday January 23rd, but I’m secretly aiming to 5am. 5am gives me roughly 3 hours of morning time. Plenty of time!

Wait… what? They say the magic hour is 4am? Ok, one step at a time…

 

How did I do?

One of the biggest challenge of every time I try to install a new habit is the beginning. The first step. Not the biggest challenge though, that one is consistency, i.e. not giving up after a while. But still the first step is a major blocker.

To help making the first small step a giant leap for myself (in your face, Neil Armstrong!) there are two ingredients that I discovered they work well for me:

  • Strong Motivation, backed by concrete goals (desire to reach something) and some form of discomfort in current settings (desire to leave something).
  • A Brain Blocker, a way to stop thinking and put myself in autopilot. I discovered that my mind is my worst enemy in such situations. Should I go to the swimming pool? Mmh… why? It’s cold outside… I don’t know… maybe I can do something else instead. No. Stop thinking. Just do it. Yeah, I know these words look cliché (and a company logo) but it’s how it works for me! Wanna jump from a 10 meters high springboard? Let’s see… ouch, it’s so high… let me think… I may get hurt… and so I spent five minutes staring at the pool’s water, among preteens laughing at me… Then I blocked my brain, assessed that there were no risks, and then I just jumped.

My bed is the springboard. When I tried this in the past, the brain blocked me from actually leaving the bed. Snooze the alarm, just stay another 5 minutes in the warmth of my blankets, silence the alarm, goodbye! I had to silence my brain instead and just go out of my bed as soon as the alarm rings.

Then I discovered that this is an actual technique, known as the Heroic Minute:

The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and… up!
(Saint Josemaria Escriva )

Well, I transformed it into the Heroic Five Seconds. A minute would be too long 🙂

I discovered there’s a whole community behind this idea, both on Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t, but feel free to join the #HeroicMinuteChallenge if it helps you staying committed.

I never risked going back to bed once awaken but it seems to be an issue with someone. To avoid this you can get dressed soon (you’re less likely to undress to go back to bed), light all the lights in the room (your brain will adapt to the new normal), move to another room (get far from the bed), drink a big glass of cold water, do some stretching exercise, wash your face with cold water, do some awakening meditation or quickly go for a walk.

Going for a walk excites me enough, but given my current balcony view and the fact that current forecast’s maximum temperature for the upcoming week is -5 I’d rather skip it for now.

Waking up early is amazing, but every rose has its thorn: I have to go to bed early too. That’s the hardest challenge now. I used to go to bed late, very late. I don’t remember when it was last time I went to sleep before midnight. Usually spending a lot of time in front of a computer or my smartphone, rarely reading a book. It’s still time with myself since Miss RIP goes to bed earlier than me, but it’s not quality time. I’m tired, I’m low in energy level and most of the activities I’d like to do in the morning simply can’t be done at night.

In previous attempts to move my wake up window a couple of hours earlier I tried (and failed) to work on my bedtime. Intentionally trying to go to sleep earlier. Failed. Even if I tried to turn off lights and pretend to be ready to sleep I’d stay awake forever.

This time I forced myself to not care about bedtime and just force wake up time and see what happens. It happened that the first night I slept something like 5 hours instead of my usual 7. I was not very fresh that Tuesday at work!

Coincidentally we – the RIPs – had a very intense social second week of January: Wednesday to Sunday evening all booked with my Theater rehearsals on Wed, dinners at friends’ houses on Thu and Fri, a surprise party on Sat and a boardgame evening on Sun. Going to bed early is going to be a tough challenge. I may need to give up something I’m not sure I’m actually ok with.

Anyway, so far it’s working fine. I left earlier than usual evening events and set a hard rule of no digital after 10pm. Wasting my attention on videogames, mails, facebook and whatever else late in the evening makes sleeping harder. I can tolerate watching a movie though. Let’s rephrase the rule in “no digital device closer than a meter to my eyes after 10pm“.

On Monday January 16th, after a week of experiment and with less social events in sight, I moved my alarm to 6.30am and conquered the last (for now) 30 minutes of territory.

 

What does it feel like?

So far so good: I’ve finally found the time I was missing in my life. Time for my projects, time for myself!

Not enough, though (yet). Waking up at 6.30 gives me roughly 90 minutes of peace before the world (Miss Rip) wakes up and destroys the atmosphere. I guess there would be even less time available with kids around. I’m joking, though. Before this experiment I used to keep sleeping for another 30 minutes after Miss RIP’s alarm clock rang. Never been there to kiss her or hug her when she awakens. Now I hear her alarm from the other room, acknowledge my time is over, and run to her to wake her up with hugs and kisses. It’s amazing how this simple small practice boosts her happiness (and mine too).

Anyway, 90 minutes of myself every morning is an amazing gift. I actually crave for it when going to sleep! This, combined with The Fridays, gives me plenty of time to enjoy life in my way.

After the mentioned long social weekend was gone I was finally able to go to bed very early for my standards. On Monday I fell asleep at 9.30pm! I hope I won’t feel guilty with Miss RIP and friends for trading my evening social time with my egoistic morning time.

 

What do I do with this extra time?

These first 10 days have been very experimental. I focused on enjoying whatever I wanted to do, without much structure. I’ve been reading (Tools of Titans), planning the day, writing, blogging, meditating, stretching, playing videogames, washing dishes, stared at the outside snow, completing a jigsaw puzzle, watching youtube videos and reading other blogs. Unstructured time just to see how it feels, to try to destress, to simply enjoy life.

Free lunch is over though. I want to follow some kind of structured routine that involves:

  • Physical (10-60 minutes): walking, biking, do some workout routine at home, go to the swimming pool. The goal here is getting my body challenged.
  • Curiosity (10-30 minutes): read nonfiction (or mind challenging fiction, like The Silo Trilogy or Hyperion), study, watch youtube videos and TED talks. In general: getting my mind challenged.
  • Creativity (30-90 minutes): write a blog post, code for a pet project or a new software idea, write down 10 ideas, enjoying thoughts experiments (like the dinner table series on waitbutwhy) and/or create new ones. The goal here is to put myself at work on something I’m passionate about.
  • Spirituality (5-20 minutes): daily meditation, weekly reflection about where I am in life, where I’m going and what makes me happy. This is to find my purpose in life and remind myself to not forget that there’s more than living in survival mode and chasing pleasures.
  • Planning (5-20 minutes): planning the day, scheduling the duties (errands, bills, social events), play with the Eisenhower Matrix and set morning time for the “important but not urgent” items. This is to try to keep some sort of control over natural life chaos.
  • Leisure (0-30 minutes): whatever I want that makes me pure short-term pleasure like watching an episode of a tv series, playing a videogame, solo play a boardgame, waste time on facebook…

I don’t want to be too broad though. I’d like to focus on few projects, ideally just one at a time for each category.

 

Yeah but this blog is about Personal Finance and FIRE. Is waking up early related to money?

Personal finance is a journey. You may jump in after a tough awakening from your financial nightmares, then you start tracking pennies to get your head above water. You become financially awake/aware. You install good habits and reach integrity, right direction, wealth.

Then at one point money start fading into the background. You have enough of it. You can finally focus solely on how to improve your life. I don’t care about money, I care about building a happier and better life. Follow your passions, find your purpose, seek happiness, improve well being, connect with others. Money is just a means to these ends.

So yes, waking up early perfectly fit my Personal Finance framework: it’s a way to improve my life using my resources (time here, not money).

Plus, as an amazing positive feedback loop, waking up early makes you a more organized and productive person. A person with excess of quality time available to work on side projects, learn a new skills, plan and prioritize things in your life, remove some physical and mental clutter and explore your inner self. All of these will somehow find their way to improve your wealth.

Not convinced? Let’s ask Kobe Bryant:

Kobe Bryant‘s words!

Thanks Kobe 🙂

 

Bottom Line

Wake up, don’t be lazy! The world is awesome when the others are sleeping! That silence, the hidden sunlight, the frosty winter… I can’t imagine what will it look like to go for a long walk before dawn in spring or summer! Coming back at home after hours of walking in the woods… and it’s still 8am!

And it all started with setting an alarm clock and waking up within a minute!

You still not convinced? There are plenty of resources out there, like The Miracle Morning book and the associated Facebook community.

Btw, if you need some help, you can always purchase a money shredder alarm clock, they say it helps 😀

So guys, go to bed and see you tomorrow at 6am!

Yaown… what time is it? What’s up?

Nothing, nothing, go back to sleep my friend 😉

Mexico, before the Wall

Hi dear RIP friends,

If you followed me so far you know I’ve recently been to Mexico for 2 weeks.

I wanted to write about my experience and share some thoughts about money, freedom and society.

Be prepared, this is a very long post (the longest I’ve published so far).

I’ve split it in several pages so your browser won’t crash and your patience can be slowly probed 🙂

I’ve even added a table of contents, here it comes:

Ok, you’re ready to start now, see you on next page!

80%

Quick update!

Hi RIP,

I’m your manager and as you know we have this funny end-of-year routine where I raise your salary for no reason and give you a ridiculously high yearly bonus, planned as 15% of your gross yearly salary but usually more than that.

Well, today is your day! Base salary raised by ~2% and 2016 yearly bonus of slightly less than 20%, which prorated (because you worked 90% this year… yes, 10.78 months out of 12… yes, you took unpaid sabbatical for slightly more than 5 weeks) becomes 17.5% which means more than planned anyway, and way more than you accounted for on your NW spreadsheet, I guess!

Wow… thanks. I’m so positively surprised. But wait, dear friendly manager, how do you know about my NW spreadsheet??

Hey RIP, how is it going?

Hey, hi, ciao, sorry not now. It’s not the right moment my dear imaginary friend. I’m having an imaginary conversation that makes fun of my actual conversation with my manager.

…what if I and he/she were the same imaginary person?

😐

Ok, jokes apart, what an amazing news! 2% increase and a super bonus way higher than expected! Anything else dear manager?

Of course! Here’s an extra stock grant for you. A small one. It’s roughly 22K (gross) worth of stocks, vesting in 4 years. It’s an extra 5.5K CHF per year (assuming our stock price stays constant over time)

Btw, the yearly bonus, in “naked numbers”, is 26K (gross) CHF. Enjoy!

Holy (spread)sheet! It’s dramatically awesome. It’s terrific. Btw, what about the other news, the one I’m waiting for…

Check your inbox 🙂

Ok, cool, thanks.

Inbox:

Dear RIP,

Good news, your request to change your work week has been approved. You’re all set to go.

We’re happy to confirm that, effective 01-01-2017, your total working hours will change from a 100% full time basis to a part-time basis at 80% of the full time hours set out in your employment contract.

Thank you so much Hooli, you’re really the best place where to work.

Thank you!

So, guys, it’s official now. I’m left with 3 more Fridays to work and then, probably, I’ll never work again on Friday.

Never.

Well, it’s not actually true, since thanks to Hooli’s awesomeness I can trade my Friday with another day of the week, each week if I want (assuming it doesn’t negatively impact my team). Plus I’m not aiming to “not work” when I’ll be FI. It’s just that I’m left with 3 more Fridays of mandatory work.

That feels just great.

In theory.

Because right now I’m scared. I saw the pay cut. Ouch. It’s around 30K gross on base salary (+6K on expected bonus). I’m scared I’m paying so much to… to do what? To just fuck around?? Oh my god I’m going to become poor and lazy, watching television all day!

Relax.

Breathe.

Let’s take a look at the actual situation:

  • I’ve worked 90% in 2016 and my NW increased a lot even with the 27 business days of unpaid leave.
  • I’m going to work 80% in 2017 and salary doesn’t scale that way: 80% of the gross is not 80% of the net. Thanks to progressive taxation I’m going to earn more than 80% of my current net salary. Say 85%.
  • Some benefits don’t get reduced. I’ll keep getting health supplement for me and Miss RIP in full. It’s ~700 CHF gross per month, not prorated.
  • Stocks will keep vesting as before. They make ~30% of my salary and this is not prorated too!
  • I got a 2% base salary increase for 2017.
  • My performance for 2016 were just “ok”. I may focus on exceeding in 2017. I have colleagues that have been promoted after switching to 80%. Expectations scale accordingly. Tons of studies show how working 30-35 hours improves your productivity density.

Given all the above I’m pretty sure I’m not going to perceive it. I’ll earn roughly 95% of what I earned in 2016 (which is a 90% year).

image from: nolingo.se

There’s nothing to fear.

Time to enjoy these 52 extra vacation days 🙂

Next: how to use this extra time I purchased back?

 

… A story for another post 😉

A Taste of FI: asked to slow down to a 80% position at Hooli

Hi RIP friends,

At Hooli I have this weekly 1:1 conversation with my manager to discuss ongoing issues and career plans – as I guess it is pretty normal in every workplace. These conversations are not technical at all but more oriented toward helping your manager to help you grow. It’s one of the best things we do at Hooli. Thanks to a sequence of amazing managers I’ve learned how to be more happy and productive in these 4 years at Hooli. Btw, I’m celebrating my 4th year at Hooli, I started in November 2012. Never worked for any other employer 4 years straight!

wlbalanceAnyway, at Hooli I’ve recently changed team. It’s been 5 months now. The conversation we had a couple of weeks ago was about my struggle in the new team and work-life balance issues. We discussed about me having hard time in this new position and my manager eventually found another – more interesting – role for me within my team. I’m working on this new role since a couple of weeks and it’s going way better!

Then we switched to the work-life balance topic. Yes, I know that W-L balance is mostly bullshit, but that’s as much as I can get for now. Real W-L balance is only possible when you’re FI, since it will only be up to YOU to define the balance.

wldilbert

Anyway, I told my manager that I feel a little bit burnt out and I’d like to take more time for myself. The solution I proposed is to slow down to 80%, i.e. working 4 days per week, starting “as soon as possible”, ideally from January 2017. He understood and said that there are no personal or team-related problems on his side and that next step is to check with HR.

So, despite it’s not guaranteed HR will approve (I don’t know in which circumstances the request would not be approved), there’s a high chance that starting in January next year I’ll work 4 days out of 5.

How was I able to achieve it? Why do I want to do it? Why am I happy for it?

I’m already at 50% on FIRE street.
I negotiate with less fear. Having a lot of money helps. Having rejected overconsumption and debts brought me here, where I have choices.

80% of time means ~90% of take home pay.
For few reasons:

  • 20% less base salary would be at the highest tax bracket. If GrossAfter = GrossBefore* 80%, NetAfter ~= NetBefore*85%.
  • Stocks already granted would keep vesting normally. Stocks make 25% of my salary. That portion is unchanged. New grants would be prorated though. I heard there may be a new compensation round in December/January, so… maybe I can wait an extra month before switching to 80% 🙂
  • Other benefits are not prorated. For example, Hooli contribution to health insurance for me and Miss RIP will remain unchanged.

I wouldn’t experience much of a difference compared to 2016.
I took a 40 days unpaid mini sabbatical in April-May, which have been accounted as 1.22 months. This year, my bonus, base salary and thirteen salary are all prorated 10.78 / 12. Which is 10.15% less than the whole jackpot. And I expect to receive a small salary adjustment by end of year that would almost cover the difference.

4 days workweek and 3 days weekend is a big, BIG step toward FI life.
I’d be able to devote a full day per week completely to myself and my passions. I won’t fill it with chores or other “urgent but not important” stuff. I could ask for flexibility on which day of the week I’d take off every week. I could take a Friday and the following Monday to experience 4 days weekends every other weekend.

I’m currently saving 65-70% of my salary, I will still save more than 50% (probably 55-60%).
I won’t reach my FU Number in 40 months (as current forecasts say) but maybe in 50 or 60. But I’ll enjoy the trip way more.

I could actually go for “60% workweek” for a while.
I dream about 3 days of work and 4 days of not-work each week. I think that would be a perfect equilibrium. I plan to work roughly 20-25 hours per week on average when I’ll be FIREd. Probably alternating full immersions hackathon-like deep dives with weeks or months of work-stay-away-from-me time. I could actually afford a 60% workweek. I’d still be earning ~70-75% of my current salary and the saving rate would still be in the 40-45% range! I didn’t ask for it though. Too gross and they would not accept it.

Anyway, let’s stop dreaming for a while.

At least until this becomes real.

Happy Halloween folks!

Appian Way and a taste of FI Life: Freedom doesn’t imply Happiness

Hi RIP friends,

I’ve spent a week with one of my best friends on a small and humble trip along the Appian Way, from Formia to Rome and I tasted once more what life could be when FI is reached.

The trip has been intense, like any hiking trip is, both positively and negatively. I’ve been making FI metaphors all along the trip and I’d like to share these thoughts here with you, my friends.

Alone or with someone else

intwoA metaphor of life. I’ve done 3 multiday hiking trips so far. The first one with a group of strangers (that soon became friends), the second one alone and this last one with a very good friend of mine. Never done one with a girlfriend even though Miss RIP is getting curious!

Walking alone has several benefits: you choose your time, your path, your pace, your destination. You go deep inside yourself and get to know better who you are. You have time to follow your curiosity. In my last trip (Italy Coast 2 Coast) I’ve read an entire 550 pages book (Wool, first one of The Silo trilogy, it was awesome) on evenings. I’ve skipped meals whenever I wanted and if I wanted to sleep under the stars I could (and I did).

Walking with someone else means sacrificing some of these aspects for the team. It means less privacy, less time for yourself, less introspection, less passions. You need to accept other’s defects, desires, routines… It’s not all roses.

In exchange you get some sort of “good feelings” (I don’t dare naming them differently) when you share experiences. You get a sense of belonging to a community.

Is it better to walk alone or with someone? There’s no general answer, each one is wired their own way. Did this hiking trip taught me something on this topic? I don’t know, I think I already knew these stuff but every time I re-do the same mistake of idealizing the quality of time spent with someone I care about.

I need to admit I value so much time spent alone. I kind of miss it.

Preparation is half the adventure

expectations
Expectation

I and my friend started planning this “20 years of friendship” trip three months ago and since then we exchanged enthusiastic audio messages on Whatsapp at a rate of dozens per day. The whole September has been a gigantic countdown “Minus seventeen!! We’re getting close!“. We live 1000 kilometers away from each other but I was able to feel the warmth of my friend like he was living in a close neighborhood here in Switzerland.

This connection strengthened our friendship. The planning of our “incredible adventure” weakened barriers and made room for confessions about how hard life is and what are our current personal struggles, even though we live two very different lives. Getting close to the departure date we were kind of feeling sorry that all this was going to end soon after the trip.

reality
Reality

Then the trip came and it was fun, sure, but not as “amazing” as we fantasized for almost three months. There have been physical problems, unpleasant moments (mostly due to a path hard to follow and a region, Lazio, which is built for cars and not for pilgrims) and decisions that had to me made quicker than our mutual agreement time.

The same apply to FI, I guess. I’m in the planning phase and I envision my FI life as perfect, full of things I like and people I love. With no problems and happiness all around myself! It won’t be like that. Stop idealizing your future. This is probably the most useful piece of awareness I came in contact with during this trip.

Things won’t go as planned

I had experiences with multiday hiking trips. This one was going to be the simplest of all of them. Just 6 days, no mountains to climb, 5 out of 6 stages of ~20km and only one above 25. Easy.

It has been the hardest.

blistersMy hiking shoes were lasting since 2003. I’ve hiked thousands of kilometers with them. I’ve hiked for 10 days this year, in May, with minimal problems. I don’t know what happened but at the end of day 1 I had blisters everywhere and in day 2, while crossing rough terrains, water came inside my shoes. The rest of the trip was so painful I’m not sure it was the right choice to keep going.

Today, the day after the end of our trip, I have hard time walking. Yesterday, the final stage of the trip, I limped the whole day. Last hiking trip I did I had to stop for a couple of physical problems I prevented this time. Who knew the feet were going to kill me this time.

Entering in Rome along the Appian Way is one of the most magnificent experience you can do. I strongly recommend you all to at least walk the final 15 kilometers, from Frattocchie to Circo Massimo in Rome.

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Sadly, I had to do that with all my mental energies focused on making just one step at a time, thanks to my blisters, instead of enjoying the history all around me. I was angry with the bad luck, with my stupidity and with the feet themselves. It doesn’t make sense.

Did I say the stages were all of around 20km? False. They turn out being no less than 30. Each one! Once due to getting lost, once due to alternative routes because of too many cars on the main path and once due to “this one is short, let’s save 5-6 tomorrow kms!” – that ended up being 8km more and not in the right direction, but 2km out of track because there were no lodging solutions there.

50kmstraightDid I mention that the two central stages (from Terracina to Cisterna di Latina) were not well designed? The “official” path were very dangerous, sharing the street with cars and trucks. Many of them. 50km on a straight line.

Instead of praying, like good pilgrims should do, we spent time cursing the author of the book that led us in that situation. We tried to find alternatives whenever we were able to, but it turned out to be longer than expected and not as fun as planned. In general, I can safely say that I’ve been walking more enjoyable paths in the past.

Bottom line is: it doesn’t matter how much you plan and which family of problems you’re going to anticipate, there will always be external factors that will set you back. Wisdom (and I lack it so much) and happiness lie on being able to face them – not solving them – at your best.

It’s hard to share your passions

walkingthoreaueMy passion for hiking and biking trips is not easy to explain. I sometimes get depressed when I try to show my enthusiasm to friends, family or random people. Those who never considered the possibility of using their body to go from A to B usually react like this: “uh… you going from A to B by foot? Why? Can’t you take a train? What? You actually like it?? Why?

My first reaction is chaos. I think something like: “What? How can you not understand why I love it? And how can you survive without having ever done a trip like that??” but luckily enough I don’t speak out loud my thoughts. Then I think: “ok, well, maybe this person never tried or never thought about it. Maybe this person doesn’t have time or is simply scared. Or worse, they may get bored by not having to do something, because walking leaves you a lot of time with yourself… let’s see… how can I start making this person more curious and interested in trying?“. So my mind flies for a while backward in time in search of the root cause that makes me so happy when dreaming about a slow trip, powered by my muscles. I think at self reliance, I think at Thoreau, I think about the inner beauty of physical work, I think about the art of Vagabonding, I think at minimalism and frugality… and time passes, while my friend is staring at me waiting for an answer. So I shrug and frown and say something stupid like “I just like it 🙂“.

I’m not good at transferring passions, I must admit it.

Same happened while walking, on a different topic, within my inner circle: I tried to explain to my dear friend what this blogging thing is. My friend and I have opposite working conditions: I have a well paying job while he struggles finding a stable one. Both of us value money very much. We have different goals though: I aim to FI while he is a black belt in extreme frugality. He claims that he and his girlfriend can live with as little as 500 Euro per month (the two of them, not 500 each), but still they struggle every month with their bills, since she’s not working and he works when he finds a temporary job with minimum wage.

At one point during our walk he said “If only I could make 1000 Euro per month, I’d be the richest on earth!

Holy sheet” – I thought – “I already have more than 1300 Euro per month, forever, without having to work!

So I started the discussion with him along this topic, trying to show him how little wealth he would need to become FI, what’s the importance of the saving rate, how to explore ways to increase their income… but still I couldn’t dig into his defensive wall of generic useless complains. I think I made him curious about it, but it simply can’t happen that you’ll stop working one day.

Maybe I’m not a good storyteller nor a good leader. Maybe I need to show people a success story instead of cold formulas. Anyway, it’s hard to share your passions.

Freedom doesn’t imply Happiness

We were so excited about this trip! We were both overwhelmed by our individual lives and we both desired so much to take a breath and feel free as in freedom. I thought we would be laughing and feeling happy all the time. It simply doesn’t work this way.

Was the trip a failure? Absolutely not!

Was it fun? Yes, we had good time.

Was I happy during the trip? Well, I wouldn’t say that. But I felt free.

helmtoon
image: www.clipartkid.com

I tend to think that with (financial) freedom happiness will follow. It’s not true. It’s not guaranteed. With freedom comes responsibility. You’re in full charge of your happiness. You’re the sailor at the helm of your life. This alone can send people to asylum. If you don’t know how to drive it, don’t aim to freedom. Stay where you are, succumb to your Stockholm Syndrome, don’t leave Plato’s caves.

I, myself, love freedom more than anything else. Will I enjoy it? Who knows.

But sure as hell I want it! I want to be on charge of the helm!

Traveling

Hi RIP followers,

This month is being a real mess at House RIP. After a relatively cheap and tranquil August, with just a big trip to Hooliland and few guests hosted (like RIP Sr), we’re planning trips like crazy this month.

Planning and actually traveling too. I’ve been spending 3 days in an amazing European capital with my large team for a Hooli Offsite event at the beginning of the month, then two weekends in Italy to kick-off a big family project – more on this will follow – and last but not least I’m going to Rome before the end of September, till October 9th for a 6 days hiking trip with one of my best friends along the old Appian Way, from Formia to Rome.

appia
source: www.repubblica.it – If you’re interested, and you speak Italian, here‘s the link to the amazing book by Paolo Rumiz, an Italian writer, who rediscovered the path a couple of years ago. You can find there GPS tracks and itinerary description too.

I do love traveling and I do love hike and bike travels. In general I love slow and physically intense trips, where the destination doesn’t matter and you take your time to feel in contact with the territory you’re crossing. I’m looking forward to starting this short (6 days only) but intense trip!

As I said, we (the RIPs) are also planning like crazy:

  • Another two trips to Italy mid October and beginning of November for same reason explained before (family project)
  • A definitely non-frugal two weeks trip to Mexico by mid November with a couple of friends
  • Some Christmas vacation in Italy again by end of year.

I won’t be at home for more than 2 weeks (and never spending 2 consecutive weekends in Switzerland) till mid January, at least according to our current travel plans, which don’t extend beyond end of 2016. And this is happening since beginning of September.

If you asked me 10 years ago what my ideal life would be in 10 years I’d probably say “work for Hooli and travel around the world”. Holy sheet how priorities change… I’m kind of burning out due to so many activities. Maybe these are first signals of becoming old, I don’t know.

Travel is obviously fun, and most FI seekers put it on top of “what to do after” list. I’ve read a post by AmberTreeLeaves where traveling experiences are compared with “tastes of FI“. Such a strong comparison makes me both agree and complain. Let me explain why I’ve controversial feelings on this:

1) As I just said, I’m traveling a lot these days, both for work and for personal life.

Cool RIP, you’re going to Mexico! You can’t complain! That’s gonna be awesooooome!!

You know what? I’m not as enthusiast for the Mexico trip with our spoiled couple of friends, visiting everything in 2 weeks with a guide driving our rented car. Distances between destinations will be perceived as enemies in Mexico. Risks will be faced with money instead of creativity. Comfort will be a priority along with “intensity”, whatever that mean. It must be an unforgettable trip, because we all will return to the hell of our workplaces.

The exact opposite of what I’m going to do on the Appian Way. I’m looking forward to going with my friend along the Appian Way, it will taste like FI, a super cheap trip, where we’ll try to couchsurf and eat street food, spending almost zero for the entire trip (there will be a post about it).

In general though, I don’t like to travel at this very high frequency. I like to have spaces between experiences to give them the right weight. These days while I’m on trip X I think: “oh, I should buy tickets for trip X+1 before they become too expensive“. No, it’s not fun.

2) I hate to travel with a return ticket in hands.

Yes, I love to go on open ended vacations. I did it in the past and it’s amazing. Well, not truly open ended… let’s say when I changed jobs (take a look at my professional story) I usually took few months of sabbatical and went exploring the world.

Having something like 2 month upper bound on my vacation time is awesome and yes, it tastes like FI. Then, most of the time after 2-3 weeks I feel the urge to go back home and enjoy freedom at home, with Miss RIP, my books, boardgames, videogames, computers, friends… I also love to cook and do my chores, if I have time (not these days, ahem, we’ve actually hired a cleaning lady). But if I go for a two weeks vacation I feel forced and I can’t enjoy the trip in the same way.

Anyway. I know it’s hard to do when flights are involved. That’s why I don’t see the necessity to go so far so frequently.

3) I hate to travel to a specific destination and be a tourist.

volkswagenhippieI don’t like taking a plane to the other part of the world and just stay there and behave like a tourist, watching things that are there to be watched just by tourists. Like I used to mock asian tourists in Rome when they were lining up for hours to visit the Colosseum. Come on, that’s not Rome! I hate to feel like a weird looking foreigners lined up with an umbrella who spends tons of money to visit “La Sagrada Familia“.

I do love the process of going from A to B, it tastes like FI. If not a physical intense experience like hike or bike, I’m also ok with a road trip with a car. Better if an RV or a Volkswagen Hippie van though!

4) I hate traveling as a form of “escaping from a life that I hate”.

When you need to take a vacation to “escape” reality, to “take a break” or to “recharge” you start dreaming about your trip a month (or several) before, counting the days, the hours. You use your vacations to help time flows, else the burden of an uninterrupted series of days at work would be unbearable. You need to go to the most exotic locations of the world, flying on weekends when tickets cost double than usual, to impress coworker and friends and to feel like you have an exciting life (because when you are sitting in your cubicle you don’t) and that the heavy work you do during the rest of the year matters, because it enabled this amazing five digits dollars vacation! You need to go veeery far. What a sheetty life would it be if you had to go on vacation close to home? You also need to never touch the same country twice or you’re a loser. Shame on you. I don’t even want to think you’re thinking to visit the same actual location twice. Shame on you! Better if you touch every continent as soon as possible. You’ve not been yet in New Zealand? Shame on you!

I do love staycations though, exploring my neighborhood, biking, hiking, do daily trips. That’s several times a far better alternative! They taste like FI.

5) I hate to visit a place like I visit animals in the zoo.

machupicchuIf you go to Machu Picchu you’re visiting a zoo. If you go checking out the Colosseum in Rome, you’re doing a Safari. Boxed experiences. You’re better off watching a documentary video of the same place. No stress, on your couch, no flights, no mosquitoes, zero costs.

I like to think that after a visit to a place I could discover I like it so much I want to live there, at least for a while. I like to talk to people, especially old people. I need to feel connected. It requires time and genuine curiosity. I like to go exploring places where people usually don’t go. If someone lives there, there will necessary be something fun to do and interesting to experience.

6) I like to be able to keep up with my habits while visiting a place.

If you go for two weeks to the other part of the world it’s hard to do sports or meditate. You’ve to handle jet lag and the checklist. And you have to have fun! I’d like to be able to go running, read my books, play my games. Traveling shouldn’t necessary be “special time“. It could just be “normal time” but on a different place (I’ve discussed this in a previous post about cycles).

For example, I like the concept of digital nomadism, even though I never tried. I may one day join the hacker paradise for a quarter or less.

Conclusions

Travel is awesome. Too much travel interleaved with workdays is not.

My ideal trip is open ended, with at least a month or two of free space. It doesn’t start on Saturday or just after a day in the office, but it demands a couple of days of preparation at home before and at least equivalent time when back home to revive the feelings and contemplate. It’s cheap, as cheap as possible. Hiking, biking, hitchhiking, couchsurfing. It’s filled with interaction with people, nature and history. It’s physically intense, but it allows space for relax and introspection. It doesn’t put pressure on you to complete checklists. It allows you to feel at home and productive if you wish.

Most important of all, it doesn’t have to be an escape from reality.