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Who We Were in Our Previous Lives
We’re Julie and Jason Buckley, both 48 and based near Nottingham in the English Midlands. Before we left work we were both employed by a multi-national energy company, Julie as a Marketing Manager and Jason as an IT Project Manager. Outwardly we had great lives, well paid and secure jobs, a large house, two cars, a campervan, a hot tub and holidays abroad, everything we wanted.
What Prompted a Change
For many years we had a nagging doubt that something was missing. We’d climbed the corporate ladder and felt successful, but we were unfulfilled. Our day-to-day lives were packed with bureaucracy, much of it seemingly pointless, a drain on our energy. When we weren’t running an endless series of meetings, we were wrestling with ever-more complicated forms. Life started to feel pointless and eventually one of us started to sink into depression.
Quite what we should do at this point was a mystery to us, but we knew our options would be widened if we could pay off our debts. Thankfully we didn’t have any consumer debt and student loans were off in the past by this point, but we had a good-sized mortgage on our home. The credit crunch had lowered interest rates, and when our bank wrote to us saying we could lower our payments, we opted to increase them instead. We studied our costs and cut away the waste: money spent on monthly magazine subscriptions, TV channels we didn’t watch, electricity for the hot tub we hardly ever used.
Next, we attacked our rooms and garage which were overflowing with stuff. Bikes, tools, books, clothes, gadgets, anything we rarely touched was sold or given away. As we did this, we realised just how little our possessions were worth. Embarrassed at how much money we’d wasted over the years, we silently vowed to be more careful in future. Bonuses and pay rises were directed to the mortgage, and after a few years a moment of magic took place: the final statement from the bank appeared: Mortgage Balance: £0.00.
The Final Barrier
With the mortgage gone, we were better able to see our escape. We’d sell our campervan and buy a slightly larger motorhome better suited to long-term travel. By saving up for a year or so and then renting out the house, we could afford to go motorhome touring in Europe for a year. While we were away, we’d work out how we wanted the next stage of our lives to look.
The final barrier had to be overcome first though. Letting go of beliefs built up over a lifetime was hard. How would our families and friends react to us leaving work? Would we ever be able to get similar jobs again? Were we being naïve expecting to find a better life than the one we already had? Could we really accept the idea of strangers living in our home? We had a thousand reasons not to make the change.
The Day the Barrier Broke
It was over a decade ago now, that the fateful day, so exactly what took place is a little hazy. We remember it was a weekday and we were sitting in our garden, a good a place as any to make a life-changing decision. Something had happened that day, the final straw broke and we knew deep in our cores we had to take that step into the unknown sooner rather than later. The following day one of us handed in our notice, full of guilt and uncertainty, tinged with a sense of relief and a glint of excitement. A few months later the other followed suit, and things started to gather pace as we bought a 20-year-old motorhome, emptied the house and eventually hit the road.
Free from Work, For Ever
Two years of commutes, meetings and PowerPoint slides later, and we’d gotten together enough money to buy and renovate an old Victorian town house. Forever known to us as ‘The Butchers’, it has a shop embedded in the front which we’ve been able to rent out and a small building at the back which we have converted into an apartment for us when we’re in the UK. Our old home was still rented out, along with a small bungalow we used to live in when we first met. When we found tenants for the rooms in ‘The Butchers’ house that we didn’t need, we reached another tipping point. We had enough ‘passive income’ from rent and other sources to pay for all our expenses. We’d freed ourselves from the need to work for a living, quite possibly for ever.
Back on the Road
We’d sold our trusty old motorhome to help fund the renovation work, but we quickly found a slightly newer version of the same van, a Hymer B544 A Class, and off we went again. Another 18 months of full-time motorhome touring in Europe and North Africa followed, this time taking us to the far north into the Arctic and south to the edge of the Sahara.
The Status Quo
Given a choice between full-time nomadic motorhome life and static bricks-n-mortar life, we couldn’t decide, so didn’t. We enjoy aspects of both. The closeness to nature and sense of freedom draws us to the van. The safety and community of life in a house draws us to the Butchers. We now mix up a few months at a time in both.
Since quitting work we have headspace and time to focus on ourselves, and we’re now physically much fitter, finding ourselves eating better diets, drinking less and exercising daily. Our mental health has improved dramatically too, although we still have challenges in this area, particularly around the lack of externally enforced structure in our lives. No-one tells us where to be, what to work on or how we should spend our time, we must work this out for ourselves. With such an enormous expanse of time available to us, deciding what to do each day is an endless challenge, but one we’re happy to face.
Should You Take the Leap?
Only you can know what’s right for you, but we’d strongly encourage anyone drawn to making a big life change. Your time is precious. While many people can and will challenge your decision to change, none of them can give you back your time if you don’t act and later regret it. We’ve met a few people out on the road who sadly no longer breathe the air of this Earth. If you have an opportunity, grab it now, hang onto it, and never let it go.
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