When we last left off we were somewhere around month 9 of traveling and trying to decide what was next for the Roaming Robos. Here we are just a few weeks shy of 12 months on the road and we’ve arrived at a decision. We were, and perhaps still are, totally torn about returning to our house in Boulder (our renters lease is up June 1) or continuing to live in the van. We decided that, in order to help us decide, we had to roll the proverbial dice. So we did. In summary:
- We offered our current tenants to renew their lease at an increase of $350/month (a number that we arbitrarily made up but felt right to finance some of our lofty ideas and the trending market value). We were in agreement that if they declined our offer, we would put the house back on the market and hopefully find someone to rent it.
- We were also waiting to hear back from our financial advisor about our big picture finances. We wanted know the long-term financial impact it had on us (i.e. retirement) if we had another year where we were not in a position of “normal” earning.
- We also knew that we did not want to do another “hot lap” around the country and would prefer, if anything, short-term rentals in various places.
So, that’s where we stood at the end of our post about our decision making process. Keep in mind that the point of writing in detail about this process is both to help others and us who might find themselves in some sort of decision making vortex/tailspin. As a result, we are revealing and noting as many details as seem relevant.
Now, we are 11.5 months in and we know where we stand. But first, here’s a little back-story and update on data collection. We heard from the financial advisor. He gave us helpful and concrete numbers and we have a better understanding of how much longer we could do this (i.e. breaking even), so to speak. Bottom line, we can do this a bit longer but not indefinitely. The results were as expected and good info to know. This also gave us earning goals for the next handful of years and that concrete data is extremely helpful. Furthermore, the tenants countered our increase but below our desired ask. So we told our property manager that we wanted to stick to our ask and to put the house on the market, knowing we’d be rolling the dice and loosing an existing tenant.
About 5 days ago we went on a hike and dove deep in to conversation about the two scenarios that stood before us. At the conclusion of the hike, including a very satisfying mid-trail drone flying session, we had clear options:
Option 1: No one accepts our offer to rent the house at the new price and we move back in. We make some changes, agree not to live in the entire space (2500 sq ft) and vow to get a renter to help offset some prices and support a flexible lifestyle for us.
Option 2: The renters accept and we continue to live on the road. We both admitted that we don’t feel quite “done” yet and, in a perfect world, we would be mobile through the fall. Therefore, if we had a renter in the house, we would do a short-term rental of our own come late fall and 90% sure it would be in Boulder. Yes there are other places to live that have a cheaper rental market perhaps, but we are feeling the pull towards Boulder. We can’t make any claims, if such claims exist, about not wanting to be in Boulder until we go back and see how it feels.
So there we have it. A re-cap of our decision-making process and the two options that we had narrowed down, both of which we felt happy about, at the conclusion of our hike.
About 30 min after our hike we get an email from the property management company that the renters have changed their mind and have accepted our offer to renew the lease at a $350 per month increase. WHAT?! We can say this now, although it took a couple of days for us each to admit it to each other, we were surprised and shocked even. We truly didn’t think the house was going to rent to anyone at the new price. At the time we just looked at each other and said, ok, we keep going. End of story.
And then the night came and sleepless hours occurred and the truth came out in the morning. Does this make any sense? Emotionally? Financially? The emotions and gut feelings were all over the map, so it was time for more math and soul searching. The increase in revenue from rent works very much in our favor if we live in the van, exclusively. It doesn’t work if we want to do a rental, even short-term in various cities. It’s hard to explain, but it’s that simple. Damn…or maybe not.
So now were faced with a strong desire to travel through the fall, a pull to make some changes to the house and an inkling that we would like to be settled, likely in Boulder, for a bit sometime within the next 6 months. One more factor to consider, we have a couple of dear friends who are going through their own personal transitions. An option to live with us could just be the safety net that they need to take a leap of faith. We want the best for them and want to be part of their story. That only works if they live with us.
Drum roll please, if you haven’t already guessed: We are, surprisingly, rejecting the tenants offer to stay at an increased rate. It’s surprising because we don’t feel “done” with living in the van at all, but isn’t that a good thing. We figured that it might be good to come “off” the road while we still have a desire to see and do more as it will motivate us to truly consider our options in the future. We’d rather be left wanting more rather than being harried and tired of van life. Put it this way, the timing is deliberate. We will take possession of our house on June 1 BUT there are a few guidelines:
1). We need renters, either the friends we mentioned or Air B n B for short-term rentals. Somehow we will use our house make money in order to off set the cost of our home in an effort to keep us mobile at least through the fall.
2). We are NOT moving in to the entire house. We did not purge all that stuff just to fill it up again, besides we need space to offer renters. This means more purging as we move from the storage unit back in to the house and a true appreciation for what we need. We want to continue to have a flexible lifestyle and be open to opportunities and, for us, that doesn’t work with a house full of stuff that needs sorting and putting in storage, etc. We also wish we could be in a 1,000-1,200 sq ft home, but the market for that in the areas we desire is simply not realistic at the moment. So by moving in to less of our physical house we can try to pretend we live in a smaller place.
3). Our list of travel is long and ever growing, but in the near future we have a few hot spots we want to hit this summer and we will. Per usual, we will head to New England late summer/early fall. As a result, we will be 25% in our house with renters and 75% still in the van through the fall as we wished.
Come fall, who knows. There is still talk of Jon going to massage school. Pamela wants to start using her PT license and skills again. And then there is her dream of working in wellness and with Pure Barre. Lots of ideas swirling. And, truthfully, we are still nursing a bit of doubt in the form of wakeful hours at 3 am about our decision, but we won’t know until we try.
The Roaming Robos are not hanging up the keys by any stretch. Rather we see this shift as a way for longer term exploring, a shot at making this semi-nomadic lifestyle a longer play, so to speak. Basically, let’s be smart about money, use the house as a tool to live a flexible lifestyle (and the 50 different things that can mean) and get creative. Be open.
When we started on this journey we never said it was going to mean living in the van indefinitely. We knew we had the house rented for 14 months and said we were open to whatever the road taught us or wherever it brought us. It has showed us that flexibility with employment, creative income earning and being open to changing living locations are important to us. It has taught us that we value living an unconventional life and making our own rules, truly embracing the freedom that a couple of childless almost-40 year olds have. It revealed to us that less is more, something we knew but it feels good to live it. It reminds us every day to keep brainstorming ideas of what we want to do with our time. It tells us that it’s ok to change our minds. Maybe best of all it reminded us that everything is just a drive away. However, knowing all that, we will not know what it’s like to have a physical dwelling as home base unless we “try it on for size”. Perhaps we will get back in the house and feel stuck and unhappy, in which case, we can leave. Perhaps we will get back in the house and realize it feels far more comfortable and welcoming that we could have imagined. Perhaps we will get back in the house and realize that it makes sense for us to sell it an only do short-term rentals. We can’t answer those questions from the van and we own a home that we are forced to take in to consideration and that’s ok. When we went on the road we were open to what it revealed to us and we are approaching our next move with the same optimism. So we will ease back in to living in the house, all the while keeping our van keys tightly in our grasp asking ourselves, per usual, “What’s The Best That Can Happen?”
Keep following along! We still have about ~3 months left until June 1 and then another ~4 months until the fall so really, we are still deeply in roaming mode with lots of time to cook up some interesting and inspiring ways to spend our days. And, like we said, the next phase of life, without a doubt, includes plenty of space and time for #VanLife and visiting friends and family. We want more!