Traveling Vines turns Two
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As with the first year, year two has been unremarkable in terms of blog metrics. For all of the reasons we talked about last year, we are fine with that. We enjoy the anonymity of our journey thus far. Each year offers the chance to reevaluate our continued desire to write here. Again we decided that the regular chronicling of our progress towards financial independence keeps us accountable and focused on that big goal.

This second year of blogging encompassed what looks to be the first bear market in more than a decade. It also included a global pandemic that the world continues to experience as I write this. When we celebrated the first year of Traveling Vines, I never expected the uncertainty we’d feel today. In the abstract and from our previous experiences, we knew that we would inevitably live through recessions again. Knowing that is different from feeling it.

How often does a person get to take the advice she would have given herself a decade ago? We don’t have a time machine and we can’t get back those years, but 2020 feels eerily similar to 2008. Because that prior recession reshaped our financial lives, our situation today is so much better than it was then. The advice I most want to take, though, is about staying calm and feeling confident that we will make it through these crazy times.

During 2019 we adjusted our early retirement date and looked to be on track for a 2023 Financial Independence Day. This year’s markets might have changed that, although it is too soon to be sure. I took a new job this month that has some potentially big incentives to stay on until 2024. It looks like that’s meant to be our year. We may try staggering retirement dates where Mr. Vine would exit his career in 2023. You’ll have to stay tuned to see what we decide.

It now seems like we have been hovering around four-ish years from early retirement for what feels like a long time. That seems far enough in the future that financial independence does not seem quite real yet. Market volatility increases the feeling of unreality by making it difficult to project when financial independence will come. Eventually we will have to start making a concrete plan for things like how much cash to have on hand at retirement and how we want to live. I continue to put those details off as problems for Future Me. 

In this second year of blogging, we crossed the halfway point (and then reverted back below that point). I still consider us to be approximately midway to financial independence in terms of dollars. All of those investments are still there, waiting for another bull run in the markets. We felt different but also the same this year. Being fully within five years of achieving financial independence is a major milestone.

Like the first year of Traveling Vines, this second year was full of growth and change. We significantly scaled back our travel spending and it paid off. The trips we did take were meaningful, deliberate and relaxing. The pandemic has us grounded and we’ve canceled one trip because of it. It will be interesting to see what happens to our travel budget this year.

In a way that I did not last year, I wonder how we will feel next year. I wonder how the pandemic will have reshaped the world. I am curious about how the FIRE community emerges. I believe it will still exist, but there’s no denying that economic and market conditions are unfavorable at the moment. As I write this, Mr. Vine is laid off which will curtail our investments and savings rate. We are fortunate that a single income can pay our bills and then some, but that does not change the fact that a layoff affects our balance sheet.

This second birthday for Traveling Vines feels more subdued than the first. That is a sign of the times for sure. I spent much, if not all, of year two posting diligently once per week. It is great to have a more consistent record.  

The first quarter of 2020 brought many changes, some of which were welcomed and planned for, some of which were not. Despite the unwelcome changes, we feel like we’re in better financial shape than ever before. We are optimistic about what the years to come will bring. Now, if only we could board a plane and see a new place; or meet up with some good friends over dinner at our favorite local restaurant.

If you care to share, I’d love to hear what you’d like to read about in the third year of this blog. More travel? More finances? Some recipes? What we did that accidentally prepared us for quarantine? Let us know!

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