This guest post is from a good friend of mine, Rick Henriksen. Rick works as a physician and medical school instructor at the University of Utah. He was also one of the first doctors to check in on me during my life threatening kidney episode.
Rick and his family recently took a once in a lifetime opportunity to fulfill their dream of living a year in Ecuador. Rick's story is certainly unique, but he's convinced (and I am as well) that most of the effort in achieving such a goal is in making the decision to do it in the first place.
Rick explains the tough decisions that had to be made--even to the point of selling his family’s home and using the equity to cover their living expenses! Many of these decisions were financial, but they surely had an emotional side as well.
Simply put, making the decision to go on an adventure like the Henriksens did is not for the faint of heart, but it's possible with diligent, careful financial planning and some luck.
If you want to learn more or get in touch with Rick, visit his website http://rickhenriksen.com
“You are so lucky!” is the common refrain when others hear about the adventure my family is on. But was it actually luck?
We are currently eight months into our one-year family adventure in Ecuador, connecting as a family through adventure and the unknown.
My girls have been attending school taught completely in Spanish. Michelle and I have also been learning Spanish as well as working on personal side projects. Our family has traveled to fascinating places including high mountains, desert beaches and deep Amazonian jungles. We are truly having the experience of a lifetime.
There is no doubt that we have lived lucky lives. We grew up in a place of opportunity. My wife and I both grew up in middle to upper-middle class families. I am blessed with an amazing job and the ability to earn enough to have many extras and even a few luxuries.
A combination of luck, hard work, and good old fashioned persistence certainly put us in the position to make the year possible. However, actually making the choice was our key.
Luck did not get me to ask for a partial leave of absence. Luck did not sell our cars or our house. Those were all hard but essential choices in order to have our amazing experience.
So, how did we make this happen?
Plan Ahead--Emotionally and Financially
We started about a year in advance, planning together as a family. This first step is crucial. Did we really want to do this? How committed were we as a family to making our Ecuador experience a reality?
Moving abroad certainly forced us to give up many other opportunities like a greater connectedness to my career (and future promotions) and our children spending time with their extended family. These were tough choices for all of us.
Before the decision was made we also had to make sure it could be done financially, so we started budgeting and saving. We looked at improving our passive income opportunities as well. For us that meant making sure our real estate investments were being properly managed in order to provide a steady income while we were away. This certainly did not cover all of our expenses, but it really helped us feel secure in our decision.
Like most American families, two cars and a house were tying us down, so we sold them and put the equity toward our living expenses for the year.
For us, selling our house was a fairly unemotional process. We had only lived in it for two years and we honestly did not really love it. We loved the neighborhood and our friends, but the house did not bring us the same level of joy.
Another great option was renting out our home. When we investigated this, we found that we could rent our house to cover the mortgage, but not much else. This may be a great option depending on your home and rental market for your area.
Don’t burn bridges
It was important for us to leave without making enemies, so I made sure to let my workplace know with plenty of time for them to prepare. I knew that I may have to quit my job for the experience, but we were able to work out a way for me to return for a month to complete one project. I’ll be away from my family for that month, but it brought in extra income and I was able to still pitch in at work.
My manager and I knew there was a possibility of no work for me when I returned or that I would change my mind about returning to work. In fact, I recently decided to not return to the same job as before. Because we had set up the possible expectation well in advance, my manager was very supportive and did not harbor ill will toward me for my decision.
Rely on family and friends
We were incredibly blessed (lucky) with family and friends willing to help us. They provided help and support along the way. From selling our car and gathering our mail, to storing our furniture and staffing our yard sale.
Here is the secret. People want to see you succeed. They want to see you have adventure, because they to wish they could make that choice themselves.
Create passive income opportunities
I just want to reiterate the importance of this. The more passive income you have available the less you will cut into your long-term savings. There are so many opportunities open for people willing to put in the effort. Just search “passive income” and you will be showered with creative ideas.
I hope you enjoyed this quick look into the life of a young family who have taken time out of their lives for an adventure--rather than waiting until the "end" of life. Their path wasn’t easy, but the Henriksens understand a vital lesson about financial planning--it’s purpose is not merely to design a plan for when you’re old and tired. Money can be used to do big, meaningful things NOW.
Has your family ever considered this type of “family sabbatical” and if so what financial roadblocks are in the way of making it happen? Would you be willing to take the drastic measures the Henriksens did in order to give your spouse and children the experience of a lifetime? Please share your thoughts below!