I have never been more grateful to have a powerful community behind me than when things go sideways.
I wrote previously that I was very honored and excited to get to speak at this year’s Chautauqua in Ecuador. I was honored and excited right up until it got cancelled roughly 36 hours before I was going to leave for the event. The indigenous peoples of Ecuador felt the government was treating them poorly and not listening to their side of things, so they agreed the only way they could be heard was to make their presence felt and block all the major roads until the government agreed to talk to them. Quite justifiably so, in my opinion. The reasoning behind the event getting cancelled was beyond our control, so there wasn’t much use in getting mad or upset about the sudden change in plans.
Nonetheless, that left me with two weeks vacation from work and my mom on the way down to stay at my place to take care of the cat for me while I was away. The Galapagos part of the trip wasn’t cancelled, but it didn’t make sense for me to take one week off and then hopscotch my way across North and South America on 5 different flights for a week before I had to do it all over again and come home. So… what to do on little notice and even less money?
It had been a long time since I’d seen my friend Stephen (the founder of the awesome Camp FI events) so I thought I’d go see him, hang out for a few days, and check out the neighborhood his cohousing project is working on acquiring in case I want to move there in the future when it gets going. My best friend from college was super excited I’d be so close to her, but I couldn’t see her if I flew and her schedule didn’t line up with Stephen’s. But then I realized not only could I see her if I drove, but I could see other friends along the way and BOOM! The Great American Road Trip of 2022 was born.
A few Instagram messages, text messages, and phone calls later, my trip was all set. I spent 14 days on the road driving about 3,700 miles to see friends all over the East Coast. I would not have been able to make this happen without the connections and the network I’ve formed over the years of being in the FI community. I’m grateful to know so many people who were flexible, willing and wanting to see me last minute when my original plans didn’t work out.
Likewise, to those I know in this community, if you ever pass through St Louis on a drive of your own, know that you are more than welcome to crash with me and Bartholomew. This is a very reciprocal kinda thing lest anyone think I take advantage of the people I know and not give back. I’m excited to see friends on their road trips for two different days in July and a third visit in August. I’m right downtown in St Louis with easy interstate access and a spare parking spot in my parking garage! 🙂
I stayed one night at every stop with one exception. That meant a lot of driving, but I have a new-to-me car that is super fun to drive, and I find driving very meditative so I didn’t really mind. (As long as I was moving and not stuck in a traffic jam that added an hour onto my drive to go ten miles like happened the last day in Indiana.)
In order, I went to:
Warner Robins, GA
Kokomo, IN (Not the Beach Boys Kokomo!)
Some of the people I visited I know through my own life experiences, like former coworkers or family. Most people I visited were friends through this online PF community, so I’d never been to their houses before. (And most have never been to my place, either.) I found it was really great to be able to sit down with my friends and have really great, mostly uninterrupted conversations. We usually meet up at events where there are far too many awesome people to talk to in far too little time, so conversations are usually sporadic and interrupted as other people arrive or one of us leaves for some breakout talk. I really enjoyed the opportunity to have deep conversations with everyone. Plus, this was also their comfort zone, so I feel like I got to know my friends better. Plus, anytime you see your friends in PJ’s before coffee is getting to see the real them. I got to meet spouses, see how they decorated their living spaces, meet kids and pets and see a snippet of every day life for friends. Since most of my stops were to people in the FI community, there was a lot more flexibility in availability than normal which meant we had a chance to go out and do an activity or explore their local community.
I stayed with someone I knew at every stop except for one. I didn’t know anyone in upstate NY at the last minute, so I booked a camping site on Hipcamp and had a great time relaxing in nature in my tent for an evening. Seeing friends is super amazing and energizing, but it’s also really nice to just sit in an Adirondack chair in front of a campfire as well.
Thoughts and Highlights of the Trip
At each stop, I did something with a friend that was reflective of me and my relationship to that person. I went to a barcade, had delicious gourmet food from talented friends, walked around more than a few downtown areas, went bowling, went to a minor league baseball game (where I happened to run into someone I’d known since I was 7 years old!), toured a house for sale, went to a farmer’s market, took a long stroll down the Hudson River, went mini-golfing, played video games, went to Top Golf and just generally enjoyed myself for two weeks.
Food consumed covered local food like Nashville Hot Chicken, Thai, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Mexican and the usual American fare like burgers. I was also able to visit tasty gluten-free restaurants and enjoy treats friends made for me like gf peach cobbler, gf blueberry muffins and gf clementine cupcakes. Surprisingly, I didn’t gain any weight because I was also doing active things at most places. (I even set a personal step record in NYC at 22k steps!)
Some memorable quotes from friends included gems such as “Car don’t care” and “Life is Uncertain — Eat Dessert First”. I had a system set up for my stuff in the car. I probably brought more than I needed, but as my friend said, the car don’t care what you put in it. I had a big suitcase in the back of the car with all my clothes in it. At each stop, I would get out what I needed for the night and the next day and put it in my much smaller overnight bag. I had a cooler in the backseat that had an insulated bag in it where I kept things like the aforementioned tasty treats people made me and the food I brought along to eat on the road. I didn’t stop at one fast food restaurant while on the road. Instead, I would pull over for gas or a restroom break and get out food from the cooler like fruit, cheese, meat, and some sort of chip or snack mix. Much cheaper, much better for you, and way faster than idling in a fast food drive thru. At each stop I’d bring in my overnight bag, my food bag, and my bookbag. This made it way easier to keep track of my stuff and as far as I know, I didn’t leave anything behind (which is something I was notorious for doing in the past). A little space in the fridge and freezer for my food stuffs to stay cold was also helpful.
Is This a Money Blog or Not!?
Obviously I kept track of the money spent while on the trip. I reasoned if I was willing to spend $1k on a plane ticket to somewhere, I could afford a few tanks of gas and other miscellaneous expenses to see friends. Expenses were:
I ended up spending more than I thought I would, but just a shade over $1k for 14 days away from home is really, really good. It averaged out to about $75 a day. The average price of a gallon on the trip was roughly $4.65. The lowest I paid for gas was $4.09 in Macon, GA and the highest was $4.89 in upstate NY. I did see gas for $3.99, but I also saw gas at $5.40. Be sure to use apps like GasBuddy and iExit to make sure you can locate where the cheaper gas stations are. Also keep an eye on state borders. Taxes vary wildly from state to state. It was worth it to push my tank to E to get gas for $4.33 in Paducah, KY versus paying $5.40 in Illinois. At each stop, I attempted to pay for our activities or meals. Sometimes I was able to, sometimes I wasn’t. But I definitely didn’t want to come off as a freeloader and wanted to thank my friends for letting me crash in their spare room, on the couch in the living room, or in the basement.
All in all, I had a wonderful time visiting friends and seeing the varying beautiful landscapes of the East Coast. Since I’m from the Midwest, I tend to get excited when I see anything even remotely resembling a mountain. I drove through at least 4 separate mountain ranges so that was super exciting. Less exciting for me was driving through the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan, but I survived!
I wish I had been able to give my talk about The Power of Flexibility and Adaptability on the Path to Financial Independence, but honestly I feel like we all lived it by having the entire trip cancelled. Ironic, eh? Fortunately, I had no plans for Labor Day this year, so I will instead be giving my talk at Camp FI: Midwest in Minnesota! Come hang out with me and dozens of other cool people at a camp in Minnesota if you’re available!
As always, thanks for reading! Have you taken any cool trips this year? Sound off in the comments below!
Kinda sad I was on my own road trip at the time, so I missed you on yours. Buy super glad I got to hang out earlier in June at the wedding:)
If you ever end up in SWFL before I eventually sell my place, we’ll “island hop!”
Sounds like a great trip Gwen! I’m jealous you are in St. Louis! I’m born and raised there, and most of my family is still there. I actually graduated from Maryville University, which most people have NEVER heard of (unless you are from St. Louis). Great post!
Gwen [Fiery Millennials] says
I do love St Louis so much! It’s a great place to live. I used to drive past Maryville all the time when I lived out in West County beyond 270.
What a great turn of events. Great job figuring something out.
I have family in Ecuador so I have heard of the happening. Great pictures.
So I have a question: I know you took time away from Corporate America do you have any advice or resources for how to put your gap year experience on a resume? I am headed back in but struggling for how to make it relevant. I know you did work- personal projects- work so I wanted to hear from someone whose actually been there done that and navigated the process. Or do you have any resources I should look at?
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