Guest Post by Amber S. Hoffman
After 10 years as an attorney, Amber left her job at the largest law firm in the world and decided to start living her life. She is now a recovering tax lawyer, traveling the world With Husband In Tow. This is her second RTW trip. Her first RTW ended with a return to the tax world. This trip hopes to explore Europe, Latin America, and ultimately end in a happy existence somewhere in Asia, where her passion really lies, outside the law.
Over five years ago, I was a tax attorney at the largest law firm in the world. I was 32 years old and making good money, on track for partnership. My husband and I had a well-decorated condo in a great Chicago neighborhood, a sporty Mini Cooper S, and enough wine in storage to host a week long Italian wedding celebration.
Then, I came down with tendonitis in my right wrist, caused by the repetitive nature of my not-so-glamorous work. I was miserable, in pain, crying. I hated my job and my life. One night my husband, who admittedly made less than I did in his advertising gig, told me to just quit. He would support me no matter what I did, and I knew that.
Living the Predictable Life
But, I knew I could not quit. We had a mortgage, student loans, and expenses. We had been paying down our mortgage and maxing out our 401ks, but our extra savings was not where it should have been for someone with our income. My husband’s income alone could not cover our mortgage, let alone our lifestyle.
Our lifestyle was not excessive for our income – we were certainly living within our means, even with our 3-bedroom condo loaded with stuff from Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel. But, we were not planning for a future outside of the law. I assumed I would make partner and that my income would continue to rise every year until I was in my 60s.
Then, it hit me. I didn’t want to have a heart attack at my desk. I didn’t want to spend a large chunk of my life behind a computer monitor, on conference calls, and talking about tax law. I did not want to work 70 hours a week, weekends, holidays, and vacations. I did not want to be so stressed I was always fighting with my husband, a marriage destined to end in divorce, according to the statistics.
But, what did I want to do? At some point I realized – I will figure it out later. For now, let’s change our lifestyle.
We tested the travel road, by taking a year-long RTW. We loved it; we figured out how to travel on a budget. We were hooked – let’s travel the world and live overseas. Cheaply. We returned to the US and settled back in Washington, DC, where we put our plan into action.
We rented out our Chicago condo for a 2-year lease before we left on the RTW. We moved into a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Arlington, VA, a few Metro stops from my office. We automated everything. We continued to max out our 401ks. We had automated savings from each of our paychecks, and a regularly scheduled transfer from our checking account into our savings. We watched our savings grow. I tracked in all in an Excel file.It became addictive.
Most importantly, we stopped spending extravagantly. We still enjoyed meals out once in awhile, but splurged on Thai or Indian instead of fancy steak dinners. We used Groupon and Living Social as guides to our eating habits, offering great discounts. I stopped buying work clothes, shoes, and bags. And, wore the same old suits for all my meetings and speeches. When we had to buy new clothes, we agonized over the expense and had to ensure ourselves it was worth it.
Less than three years later, at 36, I retired from the law. Our savings hit our magic number. We took the risk, sold everything, including our beloved Mini Cooper, and left the US.
Location Independent Lifestyle
Since that time, we have traveled through Eastern Europe and Central America. We know we cannot continue to travel at this pace forever – its too expensive to keep on the move like this. But, we will slow down some, and eventually stop, most likely in Southeast Asia, to live cheaply and well.
Now, I have two blogs, I freelance write, and hope to write a book someday. I plan to teach yoga or English overseas. My husband continues to sell advertising on a contract basis. But, for a good period of time, I am okay not earning any money at all. We saved enough. We can work when we want to, and where we want to. All we need is a decent internet connection. We have become both financially independent and location independent. And, I am happier than I have ever been.