The Five Year Plan, Revisited

Way back in September of 2015, while in Panama, I wrote a post called “The Fallacies of the Five Year Plan” based on an article my brother had sent me.

The concept of a Five Year Plan is not new nor is it limited to any one aspect of life. Countries do five year plans. Companies do five year plans. Some people have a five year plan to get a project done around the house that, if they would ever start, would probably only take a day to complete!

And that was the gist of the original article and post: that while a Five Year Plan is a great start, it’s too long and too easy to just keep putting it off and pushing it out, further delaying your goal, until you get distracted enough that it is no longer a goal.

The Five Year Plan concept in the business and government world seems to have died out. Perhaps they all realized after eight or ten years that they were simply planning to procrastinate by giving themselves five years.

In my original article, my intent was to motivate people to set goals, and in particular, to set goals towards a life of travel, if that’s what you want to do.

During my first year riding around the world, I received many comments from people who said “I wish I could do what you’re doing”. My response then, as now, is that you CAN! It takes a major adjustment in your mindset, a plan, and some really serious commitment, but it is definitely do-able.

So, five years later, I’m here to tell you that I continue to practice what I preach.

My views in that original post five years ago haven’t changed. When I returned from that ride, I took what I had learned, and I built a much smaller house, in a much simpler style, using less expensive materials and doing much of the construction myself, with the help of friends and family, to save even more money. I stopped buying “stuff” just because I thought I “needed” it, or wanted it. I stopped going out to eat multiple times a week. I stopped buying five dollar lattes. Well, okay, I still buy one occasionally on a Sunday morning to treat myself. I upped my 401k contribution at work in order to save even more, and then I put everything left into savings for the next trip. Like I said, it took some serious commitment, but if you keep focused on the goal, you can get there.

I don’t believe in debt. I don’t believe in buying anything that I can’t pay off that same month. If I don’t have the money for it, I can’t afford it, period. For years, I only paid cash for nearly everything. Every day when I came home, I emptied my change into a bucket. Once every few months, I emptied the bucket and deposited it. These little things add up.

While setting a goal five years out runs a definite risk of losing focus and direction, for me there was never a question: I was going to get back on the road. It’s an addiction that once you’ve tasted it, you can’t ignore it. I had already proven to myself that the world doesn’t end when you leave your job and everything behind and ride away. In fact, it actually gets better!

I actually didn’t think it would take five years; I was hoping for more like three, but one of the things I learned from the first year on the road was that having a place that was “mine”, where I could return for a month or so every now and then and be comfortable on my own couch and surrounded by my “things”, was important to me. So finishing up the house, simply so I would have a place to take breaks from traveling, took priority. Everyone is different, and not everyone will feel this way. Some people are fine crashing on a friend’s couch, or in their parents’ basement for short intervals. That’s definitely a good option if you are on a tight budget and want to hit the road sooner. For me personally, I wanted to have a “recharging station”. This is without doubt a double-edged sword, as when I left the US in 2015, I had virtually nothing of importance to return to, and likewise had nothing tying me down. No property tax bill. No utility bills. No worries about broken pipes, maintenance issues, etc. My mind was free to focus solely on the road ahead and the people and scenery around me. Having a house is both a privilege, and will present obstacles of my own creation next time.

Ironically, and coincidentally, it is five years later. In the middle of this crazy pandemic, I got married, and started seriously planning the next Round-The-World ride. This time, 2-up on a slightly larger motorcycle.

And now, here we are. Still in the throes of a lockdown, restricted from international travel, but with the sun rising on the horizon, and hopefully moving, if ever so slowly, toward the ability to safely travel again.

So, as I have said from the beginning…If Not Now, When?

Here we go!

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