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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Interview with Brent and Michael

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

 We at Retire Early Lifestyle like to share with you the stories of Captivating Characters. Below you will find another success story of a journey to financial independence and personal satisfaction. Enjoy our interview with World Travelers, Brent and Michael.

Michael and Brent

Michael and Brent

Retire Early Lifestyle: Could you tell our Readers a little about yourselves? What type of work you did, what your life consisted of before FIRE?

Brent and Michael: We’re both writers! I write screenplays and novels, and Michael writes novels too. Together, we also do some travel writing at Brent and Michael Are Going Places, our newsletter.

And I guess you could say we’re “retired-ish”? We’ve only sort of set ourselves on FIRE.

We’re digital nomads who sold our house in Seattle five years ago to travel the world. Because our cost-of-living is so much cheaper now, we have the very great luxury of now only working on projects we enjoy.

REL: When did you start your journey to Financial Independence? What was your motivation? Were you both always on the same page with this goal? How did you know you were ready to interact with the world differently? 

Brent and Michael: Honestly, we decided to become digital nomads before we’d ever heard the term “digital nomad,” and we’ve also been practicing FIRE since long before we’d ever heard the term “FIRE.”

I think it’s because we’ve always been writers of fiction. Needless to say, our income has always varied a lot. Like, a lot a lot. Like, one year, we’d make $15,000, and the next year, we’d make $120,000. (Sadly, we had way more years closer to $15,000 than $120,000).

Anyway, we started living frugally, and when we did have a good year, we’d put as much money away for the leaner times.

We happened to have a couple of big career successes, and we were also extremely fortunate to be buying real estate in the Seattle area from 1995 through 2016. To make big bucks in real estate in that period of time, you pretty much just needed to show up.

Michael eating bugs in Mexico City

Michael eating bugs in Mexico City

REL: Did you ever think it was possible to live a different lifestyle other than the conventional one? What turned the light on for you to think outside of the box?

Brent and Michael: We’ve always been unconventional thinkers. Is it because we’re artists? Or gay? Who knows? We’ve just never ever seen ourselves as living a conventional life.

And we never ever have.

Honestly, we’re kind of proud of the fact that we keep making personal choices that seem right for us, only to discover others are making that choice too, and it becomes a full-fledged movement all around us, and even gets a catchy name, like “digital nomad” or FIRE.

 

 

 

 

REL: Could you tell us how things have changed for you since you left your jobs and began to live the Early Retirement Lifestyle?

Brent and Michael:  Our lives are actually more different because we’re nomads, not because we’re semi-retired. Since we left America at the end of 2017, we’ve lived in sixteen different countries. We typically stay in a country anywhere from one to three months before moving on.

Since we left America, we’ve lived in Malta, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, Turkey, Hungary, Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam, Czechia, Croatia, Greece, and now Bosnia and Herzegovina. And I think I’m forgetting a few.

Meanwhile, we’ve stopped in dozens of other countries along the way.

Nomad friends in Bansko, Bulgaria

Nomad friends in Bansko, Bulgaria

REL: Can you mention a few of your favorite places where you traveled in the years since your FIRE?

Brent and Michael: My favorite countries have been Mexico, Georgia, and Italy. I think Michael’s favorites are Switzerland, Czechia, and Italy. Which may be why if Italy starts offering a year-long “nomad” visa, we may spend all of 2024 in just Italy.

Next year, we’ll be in Japan, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Australia.

Truthfully? Everywhere we go, there’s usually something we love, and something we’re not all that crazy about.

The other thing that’s true is that everywhere we go, people are incredibly friendly and hospitable and generous, at least outside of tourist areas.

REL: Since housing is a big expense, how do you manage lodging on the road? Do you house sit? Rent apartments? Stay in hotels? AirBnB?

Brent and Michael:  We’ve done it all! We’ve done housesitting, been invited to stay in cabins, guesthouses, and on sailboats, done hotels and Airbnb (but Booking.com is better), and also dealt with local brokers to get apartments.

Pre-Covid, we used to spend at least two months a year living on cruise ships. But I think the cruise industry has changed, or maybe we’ve outgrown the cruise ship lifestyle. We just did a two-week cruise in the Mediterranean, and I think it’s the last one we’ll ever do.

Before we started traveling, I said to Michael, “Bring a pair of nice shoes because eventually we’re going to be whisked off to stay a month in some fabulous villa or palace!” That still hasn’t happened, and we long ago left our nice shoes behind.

But I’m still convinced it’ll happen eventually! In which case, we’ll both just have to go out and buy a new pair of nice shoes.

Nomad friends in Bansko, Bulgaria

Michael and Brent eating churros in Mexico City

REL: In your retirement lifestyle, did you choose to keep a home? Relocate? Travel? Do you have a home base now? Where do you keep all your “stuff”?

Brent and Michael: We have a storage locker near Seattle. When we first left, we got a 10X10 unit, keeping a lot of our furniture, including our fabulous bed. After the first year, we realized we wouldn’t be returning to the United States any time soon, or probably ever, so we got rid of our furniture, including that bed, and downsized to 10X5.

Honestly, we’d love a 5X5 unit, just a place to store essential documents and such. But it’s not that much cheaper.

Incidentally, we highly recommend that nomads pay for a storage locker. You think, “Oh, I’ll just ask a friend to store my stuff in their garage.” But people move, kids explore, and you’ll find that you need to get into your locker multiple times in one week, sometimes late at night. Do you really want to bother your friend?

Brent and Michael on the grass

Brent and Michael on the grass

REL: What did your family and friends think of your choice to leave your jobs and previous life behind?

Brent and Michael:  We chose to leave America and become nomads the night Donald Trump was elected, and most of our friends thought we weren’t serious, that we were just blowing off steam. But within six weeks, we’d sold our house.

Then they realized we really weren’t kidding.

I think lots of our friends are envious now. We have a standing offer to meet old friends in any city in the world for any length of time. We just had one set of friends take up on it (in Como, Italy), and it was lovely.

REL: In your retirement life, what do you do about access to health care? Are you open to Medical Tourism?

We keep a subsidized ObamaCare policy back in the U.S. as sort of a “catastrophic” option, and we also buy travel insurance through Safety Wing. But yes, we also do medical tourism (and dental and optical work too!).

I think this is a really important topic that many nomads (and maybe FIRE folks too) don’t take nearly seriously enough. I wrote a long post about it on our site.

REL: What do you average in spending annually? Does this include health insurance? Do you track your spending?

Brent and Michael:  We’re spending between $45,000 and $55,000 a year, including health insurance. We’ve found that life is much less expensive outside of America, especially outside of Seattle which has just gone absolutely bonkers. $50,000 is about half what we’d need in Seattle, I think.

We also live much better, honestly. We’ll frequently eat out three or four nights a week, which is something we could never do in Seattle.

I track spending but not religiously.

Here are the specific numbers.

Brent on Korcula Island, Croatia

Brent on Korcula Island, Croatia

REL: Can you share with us anything about how your portfolio is structured? Did your retirement affect your allocation at all?

Brent and Michael:  Since we’re only semi-retired, we still have a mix of growth and more stable index funds (with a big safety net).

REL: How do you manage your finances while on the road?

Brent and Michael:  It took a while to get everything in the cloud, but I’m really glad I did. It’s very convenient now, and better for the environment too.

Honestly, the only real problem has been with the IRS, which keeps sending correspondence through snail mail-only, and they’re completely unresponsive to my own letters. I once had a fine, because some payment was two dollars off or something, and I sent the check in March through US mail, and my check still hadn’t been cashed by December, and I was getting all these threatening letters, but only through snail mail, natch.

Every year, something like this happens, and it’s been an absolute nightmare.

We also have financial advisors, which I think is a good idea, at least if they’re fiduciary. We do regular conferences via Zoom.

Oh, and speaking of something being better for the environment? I was a member of the Sierra Club ten years ago, but I eventually cancelled. I’ve told them again and again: I don’t want to be a member any more.

But every time I return back to the United States? Even after five years away, and dozens of new cancellations, I find – no joke – at least a hundred letters asking for money from – guess who?! – the Sierra Club.

Supposedly, an environmental organization, right? Oy.

Pyramid of the Sun, Teohihuacan near Mexico City

Pyramid of the Sun, Teohihuacan near Mexico City

REL: Do you own a vehicle?

Brent and Michael:  Nope! We do mass transportation almost exclusively, but occasionally we’ll hire a driver. And it’s wonderful. So much more freedom. Seriously!

REL: What’s the worst thing you deal with in this new chosen lifestyle? Your biggest challenge?

Brent and Michael:  Honestly, there are very few cons, but I will say that Michael and I are fairly “go with the flow” kind of guys. I guess the benefits are so great, getting to live in so many fascinating places, that we overlook the few minor annoyances.

That said, we’re not crazy about sleeping in different beds, which are sometimes bad and never truly great. We really do miss that fantastic bed we used to own! And Airbnbs often have terrible pillows. What the hell is that about? so we almost always immediately buy new ones.

And we often buy a new knife and a blender too, at least if we plan on staying somewhere more than a month.

REL: What inspires you about your new life?

Brent and Michael:  Oh, it’s all about the people we meet. We’ve met a lovely assortment of expat and nomad friends who we now frequently rendezvous with in new cities. And we’ve also made local friends all over the world.

When something bad happens, some international tragedy or human rights abuse, I take it much more seriously now because the people suffering are often my friends.

 

 

 

 

REL: What has surprised you the most about your Early Retirement Lifestyle?

Brent and Michael:  We’ve been stunned by how quickly new cities and countries feel like “home.” We’ve found it takes about a week.

We’ve also been pleasantly surprised by how quickly we make new friends, but that’s definitely a question of exposure. Back in Seattle, getting together with friends was fairly rare. Even with very good friends, you saw them once a month.

But as expats, it’s not unusual to see the same friends for dinner three or four nights a week. And, of course, dinners outside of America are usually at least two-hour affairs!

REL: What would you say to someone who is considering tossing the conventional lifestyle and living one of travel? What advice would you give?

Brent and Michael:  Truthfully, it’s not for everyone. Know thyself. What do you value? Is it stability? A sense of security? Or is it adventure and new experiences?

There is no “right” answer, of course. But I will say that I’m not a naturally adventurous person, and I’ve been shocked by how easily I’ve taken to the nomadic lifestyle. My life seems waaaaaaaaay less stressful than owning a house back in Seattle. I love the flexibility, and also the financial freedom: if we feel like we’re spending too much, we can instantly downsize by moving to a cheaper country.

But it’s also about America. I’m not entirely anti-America, but I still say, life is completely different in much of the rest of the world. The values are different. It’s not all about making money and owning things, and about horrible fast food.

Life in America seems to encourage people to be lonely, anxious, angry, and miserable. I didn’t see it when I living in America, but I see it now.

Michael and Brent in Mexico City

Michael and Brent in Mexico City

REL: What would you say are your most unique talents?

Brent and Michael:  I’m a storyteller! I’ve been writing books and movies my whole life, and it feels like only in the last few years, I finally learned how to do it really well.

I have a number of movies in development right now, some with some exciting people, but it remains to be seen if they’ll ever get made. Fortunately, I like my life as a nomad so much that I can still be happy no matter what happens.

That’s been the other wonderful thing about nomading: it’s put the rest of my life into much-needed perspective.

REL: How do you contribute to the world?

Brent and Michael:  Michael and I make financial contributions to charities in the places where we live, and we try to call attention to issues we care about in our newsletter and other writing outlets.

We also do a fair bit of public speaking and other volunteer work.

And, of course, I try to work issues I care about into the movie and book projects I take on.

REL: What is a secret fact about you?

Brent and Michael:  I never misplace anything. I have a weird ability to recall exactly where almost everything is.

Michael and I have been together for thirty years, and even after thirty years, he’s still not nearly as impressed by this as I think he should be.

REL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

Brent and Michael:  Honestly? Exactly where I am now – or at least still doing what I’m doing, which is a combination of travel and doing the work I love.

This is the first time in my life I’ve ever been able to say that, and it’s really nice.

REL: Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you've found to be very helpful?

Brent and Michael:  Oh, it’s soooooo important not to compare yourself to other people. Working in the arts, I’ve found that sort of resentment and envy is a total happiness and creativity destroyer.

We’re all on our own timeline, on our own individual journeys.

That said, we’re all capable of great things. Don’t let yourself be limited by the expectations of other people, and the expectations you place on yourself.

For creative types, the world has been absolutely crazy my whole life: just one massive disruptive innovation after another. You can respond to all this by saying, “The rules have changed, this isn’t fair!”

Or you can accept that this is the way the world is, and lean into it. Soon you’ll see that disruptive innovations have bad aspects, but they also create massive opportunities.

For creative types, right now is the best of times and the worst of times. If you’re committed to your art, find a way to make those “best of times” work for you.

REL: What do you do for fun or entertainment?

Brent and Michael:  Oh, I’m still a movie geek at heart. Although even I admit that we’re still in the middle of a crazy television renaissance, aren’t we?

The other thing I love is hiking and biking. Michael and I love to just wander whatever new place we’re living in. It’s my favorite way to spend a day, never knowing exactly where we’re going to end up.

REL: Where are you going next?

Brent and Michael: We’re currently in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. We’re here for another month, then we’re heading to Belgrade, Serbia, and then, possibly, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, for the fall.

After that, we head back to America for a week-long meet-up to play Dungeons & Dragons with the same group of guys I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons with for forty-five years.

REL: I understand that you keep a blog with your stories about financial independence and travel. Where can people find your blog?

Brent and Michael:  Check out Brent and Michael Are Going Places here: https://brentandmichaelaregoingplaces.substack.com/

And, of course, feel free to follow us on social media:

https://twitter.com/BrentAndMichael

https://www.facebook.com/brentandmichaelaregoingplaces

We at RetireEarlyLifestyle would like to thank Brent and Michael for taking the time to share their lives and viewpoints with our Readers.

Thank you!

For more stories and interviews of Captivating Characters and Early Retirees, Click Here

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About the Authors

 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

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