The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
———
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
———
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
———
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
———
 – Robert Frost (text borrowed from the Poetry Foundation)

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but we’ve apparently all been reading Frost’s poem wrong.  See here and here, as well.  To sum up the opposing interpretation, Frost states that the two paths are worn essentially the same and that, when he one day looks back and reflects on his chosen path over the other, he will deceptively convince himself that the chosen path made all the difference in his life, while never truly knowing what the other path may have provided, having no way of going back and choosing differently.


When I stumbled into this world of personal finance, I was heading down the well-worn path of a “normal” working career, fresh out of undergrad and delving into my role as a registered nurse.  From the beginning, I had every intention of continuing on to grad school (which I still want to do…at some point) and climbing the proverbial ladder, making my way to the top of the food chain as CEO or Chief Nursing Officer of a major hospital somewhere in the country.  Honestly, I still love the idea of doing that and, who knows, maybe I will “(keep it) for another day.”  In my younger days, while I didn’t know the specifics would include being a registered nurse, this was the general path that I had been looking down my entire life, never knowing of the possibilities of early retirement or the concept of financial independence.  If I were to choose to follow this path and continue on as a federal employee, I would eventually (assuming nothing changes) qualify for a nice pension and continued health insurance benefits into retirement, both of which are, quite understandably, incredibly appealing.  Also, in the meantime, we could continue investing at the oft-touted 10-15%, make the minimum payments on our debt, continue financing new cars, settle down with a 30 year mortgage, take frequent vacations, and do all the other “normal” things that the majority of people do.

However, thanks to the birth of our son (our proverbial fork in the road,) many of you fine people, and the likes of Dave Ramsey and Mr. Money Mustache, I have been given the opportunity to stare down the other path, the one with “perhaps the better claim.”  Does it really have the “better claim” though?  Reading about the lives of those who have done it and about those of us who are fighting and ever-inching closer to that goal, certainly makes it seem that way; however, the true answer is…

I DON’T KNOW

“Somewhere ages and ages hence,” I shall find myself reflecting on the decisions I have made throughout my life (including with regards to reaching FIRE) and, regardless of the path I/we ultimately choose to follow, we’ll convince ourselves that it was the right decision, having no way of knowing whether or not it’s actually true.

In fact, we’ve already experienced this phenomenon just a couple short years ago, which I wrote about recently in my post titled Don’t Be Afraid to Run.  Reflecting on our decision to move to South Dakota, as opposed to Houston, TX, we’ve told ourselves many times how much better off we are.  On the surface, there is sound logic in our reasoning and I don’t second guess or regret our decision in the slightest; however, who truly knows what our lives would be like down there?  Maybe we would have crossed paths with some stranger, formed a great business idea, and be sitting pretty as multi-millionaires right now.  FYI…not likely…lol.  However, that would have certainly made us think back and say that choice had “made all the difference.”  When we changed course, we even told ourselves that we could always move to Houston later on down the road, i.e. “(keeping) the first for another day!”  Now though, as “way leads on to way,” we’ve grown to love our rural surroundings and actually hate the idea of fighting traffic to drudge back and forth between work and home.  It’s quite unlikely that we’ll ever revisit that fork in the road, as we now have our sights set on new and exciting adventures to come.


Our Next Life recently issued a challenge to discuss our own “road less traveled” and the unique steps we are taking to reach FIRE.  Honestly, I wouldn’t say that we are doing anything unique at this point in time.  We are throwing all the money we can at our debt and are currently on pace to be completely debt free in about two years.  Within the next two to three years, our current plan is to move into an RV full-time while traveling the country as I work as a travel nurse.  This should (at least, in theory) allow for our savings rate to continue increasing, while also allowing me to get paid as we travel this wonderful country and explore all it has to offer, all the while giving our son the greatest hands-on, in-the-dirt education that no school system could ever dream of.  *For more on that topic, check out this article from Steve over at Think $ave Retire*

The only “downside” to this plan is that it would involve us going back into debt with the financing of the RV, as there is no way we could have the cash to cover it in that time period.  However, the beauty is that the housing stipend I would get from whatever travel agency I work with would almost, if not completely, cover the monthly payment of the RV.  I actually called one agency a couple months ago and was informed that, depending on the cost of living in the area I work, the housing allowance is $300-$1000 per week 😐 plus up to $800 in mileage to drive to the destination, all of which is in addition to my hourly wage and any other stipends that may be included/available for the assignment.

Otherwise, if we choose to not go back into debt right away, maybe we’ll just stick around here.  I make damn good money, have incredible health insurance benefits, and we love our home and the beautiful area.  Total debt freedom right here will allow for our savings rate to skyrocket, as well as the ability and freedom to travel wherever we choose.


So…fast forward three years from now.  There we’ll stand, at yet another set of roads diverged in the proverbial yellow wood.  Two paths and choices will lie before us.  We’ll be sorry that we cannot travel both, hoping to choose the one with the better claim, all the while knowing that, one day, we will look back and tell ourselves that, whichever path we ultimately choose, it will have made all the difference.


So what path are you choosing?  Do you find yourself heading down the “normal” path or forging your way toward FIRE?  Presumably, if you’re reading this and other similar blogs, you’re heading toward FIRE.  Or, do you say fuck it, bust out an axe, and clear your own path?  What is your “road not taken” and, unique or not, what are you doing to get there?

– Nurse on Fire

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18 thoughts on “The Road Not Taken

  1. “I don’t know.” Now there’s a phrase we don’t hear much in the personal finance community! It’s refreshing to hear because it’s so true – none of us really know if the paths we choose are going to work out. I’ve experienced this so many times in the last 6 years. It’s definitely wise to make plans and pursue goals, but holding them loosely will save a lot of frustration and worry.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, man! It’s so true; we really don’t know what our best path in life will entail. We can certainly make highly educated guesses and prep for things as much as possible. However, beyond that, we sorta have to just hope for the best and that it will all work out.

      I really like your phrase about holding your goals loosely! Resilience, adaptability, and a generally optimistic outlook, in my honest opinion, are incredible traits to possess as we navigate the many paths we choose to travel throughout life.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. To be honest, we have no idea what the correct path for us even is. We just know that it has nothing to do with being stuck in a cubicle until there is nothing left of us to give. We won’t know until we get there whether or not we have chosen the right path for us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! That’s the whole point…we won’t truly know until we get to the end of the road.

      As I’ve mentioned before, I’m very fortunate that I honestly love what I do and really don’t see myself ever completely retiring. That being said, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to be in a financial position that would allow me to walk away at the drop of a hat, whether that be due to having a shitty supervisor, work environment, etcetera or, God forbid, some family illness or any other unforeseen scenario.

      Thanks for the input; I hope you bust down the walls of your cubicles post-haste! 🙂

      Like

    • Very good point. I just replied to the comment by Our Frugal Escapades, pointing out that being in a financial position to walk away from my career at a moment’s notice is, more or less, my true goal. Options = Freedom 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had to laugh at the “doing it wrong” comment on the poem. As a lit major, I was thoroughly schooled that there’s never a right or wrong interpretation as long as you can find an internal logic that’s roughly consistent. And I see this proven in my posts all the time — people clearly read them with different meaning than I intend, but then their comments make sense with a different interpretation. 🙂

    Thanks for taking the challenge! It’s true that we’re choosing paths every single day, often without realizing it, and skipping others. Sure, we all have some confirmation bias going on, but I don’t see that as a bad thing, so long as we keep moving toward greater happiness. If you’re happy on your current path, who cares where the other one would have led? Focusing too much on that is a recipe for dissatisfaction with any outcome. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent comment; thank you! Also, thanks for the pingback! 🙂

      I definitely agree that the confirmation bias isn’t a bad thing. Replying to Ernie’s comment, I was just saying that being adaptable and having a generally optimistic outlook on life are really important. I’ve made an insane amount of poor decisions in my life, some of which I will continue to regret until my dying breath.

      However, you’re right; we can (and maybe should?) only focus on the path we are currently on and make the best of our situations, while looking to the next fork in the road requiring a decision and prepare ourselves to make the best decision at that time.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The Road Less Traveled Challenge – Our Next Life

  5. I’m very intrigued by your RV plan! I like the “hands-on, in-the-dirt education” point… but what *is* your plan for schooling for your son? Would your wife home-school your son in this plan? I could go on a whole rant about how our school system *should* work (but that would require a government that worked as a prerequisite), but given how it *does* work, I can’t imagine any way for this to work without home-school (perhaps that is your plan regardless of if you stay in SD or Go Mobile?).

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for the comment; you’re absolutely right that homeschooling is the route we intend to go…whether we hit the road or stay put for longer. Honestly, we find ourselves increasingly and constantly frustrated with how public schools are functioning these days. Funding for schools revolves around standardized tests, which, in my honest opinion, serve little to ZERO purpose, as the “standards” continue to be lowered so that “no child is left behind!” This, again in my honest opinion, is resulting in a general dumbing down of our society that is going to continue plaguing us as we move on into future generations. Just Google how America ranks worldwide in education and it’s easy to see that we clearly have a broken system, a system which I fear won’t get any better until, among other things, the federal government gets their meddling hands off of it.

      It should go without saying that I wholeheartedly believe there are INCREDIBLE teachers out there who want nothing more that the best interests for all children under their guidance. Oftentimes, though, I believe their greatness is stifled by that same broken system I mention above.

      With regards to home-schooling, my wife and I both hold bachelor’s degrees and compliment each other quite well on our areas of expertise, with most areas overlapping. We feel this will allow for our son to get a very well-rounded education that we can tailor to his level of learning and intelligence as he progresses, while also minimizing the amount of down-time that is so often experienced in the typical school setting, down-time which can be spent getting that “in-the-dirt” part of the education, learning true life skills that meld the classroom and real-world together.

      Confucius summed it up well: “I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.”

      Also, we feel that the combination of home-schooling, in conjunction with traveling and meeting many people from all walks of life will allow him to flourish in ways that we could never have dreamed while growing up.

      That’s not to say, though, that our son will never enter public school. We want him to have options (which there are for home-schooled kids) with sports and such, as well. Ultimately, we will do whatever, and I literally mean whatever, is in his best interest and aligns with his desires.

      P.S. – I especially like your remark about requiring “a government that worked as a prerequisite;” I feel as though we might just become great friends! lol

      Like

      • Well thought out plan POF. I was going to ask about your thoughts on social skills while homeschooling, but you covered that as well. You don’t miss a thing!

        Liked by 1 person

        • lol! We’re generally pretty detail oriented; my wife has often said that she’ll make a list of lists she needs to make! 🙂

          BTW…I’m technically NoF (nurse…not a physician.) I’d certainly appreciate the bump in pay though! 😉

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  6. It looks like you have really taken the time to think of what your future may be like. I think goals are meant to be tweaked and played around with to suit the changes in our lives like having children. As long as there is no regrets, then there is no better road. It seems like you have done your analysis and are content with your decision.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I couldn’t agree more with your idea of tweaking goals as necessary, which is exactly what we’re doing as we progress along. While I have things planned out in generalities, the beautiful part is that we are extremely adaptable to our situation and will always evaluate and choose our path based on what comes down to being the best options for our family and, even more importantly, our son. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I just have to say I’m excited to see another nurse pursuing FIRE :).

    I have only worked agency locally, but my friend Michell worked as a traveler in California for several years, exploring different cities until she fell in love with Santa Barbara. I almost worked as a traveler locally, which would have involved commuting 60+ minutes to a different hospital, and would still have given me a housing stipend of a couple hundred per week. I turned it down because I decided to stay home with our son, but a couple people I know did it themselves. I worked with another nurse back when I worked trauma ICU and she took travel positions all over the world. She was in boring Ohio visiting family when she worked our unit, but was getting ready to spend 3 months in Aruba. She liked traveling to facilities, but warned against taking a cruise ship position, because she was on call constantly and never really had time to have fun during her 6 month cruise contract.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely agree! I haven’t stumbled upon too many of us fumbling around the world of personal finance blogging. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing the travel tip of not going for cruise ships. The idea has crossed my mind before but I’ll definitely keep that in mind…I suppose we’ll see if the money is worthwhile 😉

      I’m curious, if you don’t mind sharing…I just read your “About Us” page and I was wondering what it is you do for telecommuting as a nurse from home. What does that really entail? And what type of company do you work for? I love direct patient care but the idea of working from home someday is very appealing, especially if we move into an Airstream and live on the road for an unknown period of time.

      Thanks a bunch for stopping by and saying hello; pleasure to “meet” you! 🙂

      Like

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