Office to Ocean: First Year Slow Traveling Instead of Saving

One year ago, at the age of 45, my partner and I quit our jobs and ventured off for a year of slow travel. Here’s a little about where we went, what it cost, how it went, and what I learned.

The Plan

Secretly squirreling away money, acquiring rental properties, downsizing and side hustling – finally the day came.

Time to activate plan “Go Try Crazy Things!”

That’s literally the name of the enormous spreadsheet where my geeky partner and dorky self tracked financial progress, built budgets, projected income – kept lists of dreams and fears.

The plan for the year was to spend about 8 months traveling around Mexico, spending 1 to 3 months in different locations. The rest of the year, we planned to be traveling the US, visiting family and friends, hiking and backpacking.

Mexico or Bust!

A month after giving notice, we were rolling out of town with only what would fit in a sedan. Which included our geriatric dog and old, fat cat. Mexico or bust!

Escaping the cold winter of our Mountain West home, we headed to Mazatlan, planning to be there in time for Carnival. Heading for a big party seemed like a fitting way to celebrate taking time off after 25+ years of work.

Mazatlan boasts the 3rd largest Carnival celebration in the world, but it will always be first in my heart.

After some brief stops in Chihuahua and Durango, we arrived in beautiful, sunny Mazatlan where festivity prep was in full swing.

The boardwalk was lined with whimsical statues they call “manigotes” and other colorful decorations.

Around town you could catch glimpses of finishing touches being put on floats. Every day there were more stages being erected, vendor stands going up and people arriving.

Besides the grand parade, there were street parties every night that filled the town with music and dancing for a solid week.

It was an amazing experience and, so far, we were feeling pretty happy with ourselves!

Party is Over

Once Carnival week was over, we had to get busy with real life again. We needed longer-term housing, to get our temporary residency completed, and generally figure out what our new life was going to be like.

It took us a couple tries, but we were able to successfully jump through the bureaucratic hurdles and got our temporary residency cards. Why and how we got residency deserves its whole own article, so I will move on.

Housing was more difficult. It was not as easy to find as the internet had made it seem. We searched high and low, did every trick that the YouTubers suggested, with no luck.

Finally, we settled for something that was not only out of our budget, but wouldn’t be ready for a month after the time we needed it.

Guadalajara Surprise

So, we decided to utilize the flexibility of our new nomadic lifestyle. Change of plans, we quickly researched what was around and decided to take the opportunity to live in Guadalajara for that month. We loaded up the car and made the 6 hour drive to another AirBnb!

Again, we were spending more on housing than we had in our budget. But, we were patting ourselves on the back for being resilient and had fun exploring a new town.

Guadalajara is the second biggest city in Mexico, filled with food, music, culture, sports – there was always something to do! We met friendly people excited to talk to us. I discovered my love for “drowned sandwiches” or tortas ahogadas, a specialty of the region. We got around easily by bus, and explored all the different neighborhoods.

In addition to big city stuff, there was also lots of nature accessible. The Huentitan canyon that borders town provided some challenging hiking, especially the famed abandoned railroad tracks. In the canyon, we even found some natural pools, popular with the locals, perfect for cooling off in the hot weather.

To top if off, Guadalajara was, overall, a budget friendly city, as well! Reasonably priced food and beverage was plentiful, many museums had free days you could take advantage of, on top of the many other free activities we enjoy, such as just walking around!

Expat Life in Mazatlan

Returning to Mazatlan for our planned 3 month stay, we were excited to start living like a true expat instead of a tourist. However, living like a non-tourist often meant struggling to accomplish day to day tasks like get groceries, do laundry and use the bus system.

Often we were exhausted from decision fatigue. Of course, we struggled with language and cultural differences. And at times, we were a bit lonely. People were friendly, but we had difficulty finding a community.

A lot of the expat community there was much older. We didn’t find any active meet-up groups, like we had in other Mexican towns we’d visited. We could have basic conversations, but our lack of Spanish proficiency kept us from deeper interactions with locals, for the most part.

There were definitely days that I would have killed for a beer with our friends at home and a quick trip to Trader Joe’s.

We had amazing experiences, as well.

We took Spanish lessons from a talented woman, who we now consider a friend. We volunteered with an incredible animal rescue organization that added so much meaning to our days.

We ate tons of delicious seafood, washed it down with Mexican Pacifico – which is different, and IMHO, better than what is available in the US. We had many fun beach days, and watched countless beautiful sunsets over the ocean.

Home for the Summer

One of our true passions is backpacking, and the United States has some of the best in the world. So, when summer came, we headed back to the Mountain West, picked up our truck and gear and wandered from the Mexican to the Canadian border over the next several months.

We were free to spend weeks at a time on the road, boondocking, camping, backpacking, canoeing, and hunting hot springs. It was a truly magical time. The years of savings and the stresses of up-ending our lives all seemed worth it!

We hit New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, totaling about a 5000 mile round trip.

So many great places, but highlights for us were camping on the beach in Olympic National Park, the Sawtooth mountains of Idaho, and Orvis Hot Springs in Ridgway, CO.

Same and Different

When we weren’t traveling, visiting family or friends, we were in our short-term rental in our home town.

Having this property was a key part of our plan. It makes being in the US somewhat easy and economical. We lose out on the income from the rental, but it doesn’t cost us anything out of pocket.

Being back, it was nice to have familiar foods, stores, and comforts. But I did find myself missing little things about Mexico, too.

We experienced some “reverse-culture shock” with American prices and customs. While we enjoyed the positives of being back in the US, we were reminded of some of the downsides of it, as well.

Our friend’s lives were largely the same as before, whereas ours were very different. We were free from the daily grind of going to work. We no longer had bad bosses or terrible work projects to commiserate over.

Not that we didn’t have problems, but the struggles we faced were unrelatable to our friends. If we delved into the actual complexities of our unconventional life, we were often met with blank stares.

So, when asked “how’re things going?” we learned to just say something like, “Mexico was great!” and move on quickly to what was happening in the moment.

Also, we didn’t want to miss out on spending time with people but we worried we would not have the budget to keep up with our employed friends.

We had never been big spenders, but it seemed more stressful now. We coped by suggesting budget friendly meetups for hikes or trips to the dog park. We steered things towards the “cheap” whenever we could.

But we were able to participate in some pricier activities, too. We went on a big friends trip to a rather expensive city, and were still able to keep it economical.

We used airline miles, split a hotel room. There was enough people that you could split off if the restaurant or activity was beyond our financial comfort level.

Overall, with some careful maneuvering, we were able to maintain our friendships, enjoy time with people at home without them really noticing how “different” we had actually become.

Midyear Check-In

Some corporate habits are hard to break, I guess? For some reason, I felt the need for a formal mid-year review!

How was life going? What was working, what wasn’t?

Traveling was awesome! For the most part, we were successfully navigating the daily challenges of our new life.

Endless work emails, painful meetings, and dysfunctional work culture were not missed. And I felt like I was just starting to recover from the burnout I’d been experiencing.

However, I wasn’t feeling completely fulfilled. Researching “early retirement,” I was prepared for this inevitability. I had things I wanted to focus on and plans for how I would fill my days – wrote a whole story about that already!

But part of the “Go Try Crazy Things” plan was to create a vacuum and see what came!

Once I had some space, I started to notice what I did miss from my previous life. I missed working with talented people to solve problems. I missed sharing my knowledge and experience to help people to accomplish their goals.

And thus, Get Lost Blue was born….a way to share my knowledge and work with people to see positive changes. I started writing about my adventures and doing financial coaching, which you can check out at

Run for the Border

The nights started to get chilly and the leaves were turning colors. Warm weather and the ocean was calling us. We headed back to Mexico, this time destination – Baja!

This time one passenger short, as our dear dog had passed. Besides missing our dog, something else felt different this time.

There was not as much excitement or trepidation as when we had first set off for Mexico. We knew more of what to expect and had more confidence that we could navigate life there.

Basically, it felt less adventurous!

Beautiful Baja California

But the Baja didn’t let us down, and we were soon gobsmacked by it’s beauty! From the cactus forests to the beautiful clear blue bays, we were in love.

Being back in a foreign country, we were reminded quickly that we still have much to learn. And there are many challenges to help us continue building those resilience muscles.

There’s still plenty of adventure to be found!

We are spending the bulk of our time in La Paz. We have found it much easier to meet people here than in Mazatlan. There is a vibrant community of younger expats, nomads, curious locals, who are happy to share a meal, go for a hike or play some pickleball.

There is a lot of natural beauty to take advantage of all around the Baja, but generally requires a car to get there. I would say having a vehicle is essential here, preferably a high-clearance or 4 wheel drive one.

It is also pretty expensive, by Mexico standards. Of course, compared to the cost of living in say, San Diego, it is very reasonable!

We look forward to spending a few months here, getting to really know the area. We will work on our Spanish, and we found another wonderful animal rescue to volunteer time.

The Numbers

Early retirees and financial independence seekers always want to know the numbers. So here they are:

We budgeted to spend $43,500. We actually spent $52,000, or about 20% more.

Part of that was the US dollar decreased by about 15% against the Mexican peso this year. Currency risk is real when considering living in a foreign country!

Inflation was definitely a factor, as well, in both the US and Mexico. For example the Mexican minimum wage has tripled in the past four years. Which I celebrate for the average Mexican citizen, but it did make things more expensive than when we were originally researching and planning our travel.

Some parts of our lifestyle just changed, as well. For example, we spent 3 times as much on eating out this year than we have in the past.

Not having friends in Mexico, we would compensate for our lack of social life by going out to eat. We also went out to places more, in hopes of meeting people and making friends.

There was also just lots of new and exciting food to try!

There were things that came in under budget, though, that helped compensate. We were lucky to not have to use all of our medical or car emergency money, for example.

Income and Assets

After expenses and setting aside a hefty amount for future repairs and improvements, the rentals netted $11,000. This is despite the loss of income from staying in one unit for several months. As even when we were off camping, the cat was there with a pet sitter.

We had about $2,000 in interest income from money markets. I don’t count any other dividend income, as that was reinvested.

That left us actually dipping into our nest egg for about $39,000. That amount is well within our conservative “safe withdrawal” range.

Despite moving from saver to spender, our overall net worth increased over the year. That is generally due to the rising US stock market. We are not 100% in US equities, and won’t bore people with our “portfolio allocation” right now, but the total US market was up about 25% for the year.

We don’t consider equity in our rental properties in our net worth calculations. Personal finance people can debate things like this endlessly! For us, it’s just a personal preference and way in which we are conservative.

But I couldn’t help myself and checked the Zillow estimates for our properties. And despite the slow down in the housing market, our values were actually up at year-end.

Worthy Splurges Still Allowed

With our new time freedom we discovered that we could use some new things in order to get the most out of it. So, we invested a little in some camping gear to help us be off grid for longer. We bought a power bank and fridge that revolutionized our boondocking.

And when we decided we were heading to the Baja, we knew some inflatable paddle boards would be well-used. I can’t tell you how many times since we’ve gotten here that I’ve said, “I’m so happy we have the paddle boards!”

Since we highly value being outdoors, it was a no-brainer to invest in items that get us out and enjoying nature! It would have been stupid to prioritize staying on budget over getting these items. And there was no way for us to foresee what things we might need or want until we were actually out experiencing our changed lifestyle.

Going from Saver to Spender

The first few months when the corporate checks quit coming in were scary. Not seeing deposits into savings was actually emotionally difficult for me, at first. Being a “saver” was deeply ingrained in my identity, and was soothing to my anxious soul.

Also, in the beginning of 2023, the markets were down. So, it would have been a good time to be able to put money into the market. Stocks were finally on sale – and I was missing it! At least that’s how I felt.

On the contrary, there I was, actually spending my nest-egg rather than adding to it! This went against all the financial instincts I had developed and honed over years and years.

And, to top it all off, things were costing more than we expected. Our budget was being blown quite consistently.

I very nervously tracked all our spending, dutifully entering the numbers in the “Go Try Crazy Things!” spreadsheet. Moving money from savings to checking, and seeing the budget bottom line in the red was nerve wracking.

On the bad days, when I was a bit homesick or stressed, the dreaded early retirement question would pop into my head – perhaps I should have just worked one more year?

Trust the Plan!

But THIS is what we had planned for! We had prepared for bad markets, and built wiggle room into the budget. We had done our homework and it was time to go. The whole point of the accumulating was to some day withdrawal.

I leaned into the discomfort, and tried to trust the plan.

After all, numbers in your bank account don’t really mean anything. Its the actual trading of them for time, experiences, and adventure that gives dollars actual value.

I remind myself of this often to help me fret less over every dollar spent. And now in hindsight, I can very confidently say that the relative comfort of working “one more year” would not have been worth delaying getting out and experimenting.

More Numbers to Consider

Some more numbers to consider: 2 countries, 12 states, 207 nights abroad, 21 nights camping, 11 nights backpacking.

Most important number to me – 1 life.


This past year has felt like a successful “proof of concept” that convinced us that maybe this really can work for 50+ years! At least, we don’t feel the need to run right back into the working world, and feel like the experiment deserves another year.

We didn’t make any huge mistakes that seem to indicate financial ruin. We didn’t fall into a deep, dark depression at the loss of our work identities or paychecks.

We were successful in using our time well. We traveled, focused on, learned and did things that would not have been possible if we were still employed full-time.

Its easy to read the adventure stories of others, run retirement calculator simulations – talk about and plan for a drastic change. But you never really know how something is going to go until you’re doing it!

I wasn’t sure if I could be comfortable being a spender instead of a saver. I wasn’t sure that I would be okay without a “permanent” home. I didn’t know I would want to become a financial coach and writer.

But you have to go “try crazy things” or you will never know!

Like Mary Oliver Asked….

What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Tell me below! What are you contemplating, scheming, planning. What’s holding you back?

Master Your Money, Live a Truly Prosperous Life!

Want to live a truly prosperous life? Don’t waste time. I can help!

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