On a hike recently, lost in my thoughts, I began to ponder that the journey to financial independence is a lot like hiking. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense; a lot of the emotions/stages you go through on a lengthy hike are applicable to the motions of striving for financial freedom.
I’ve probably had more time than usual to mull this over at the moment, as we’re doing a lot of hiking on our four month trip, which is glorious! We definitely didn’t get enough time when we lived in New York to hike as much as we’d like to.
So, how do I liken the journey to FI to a pretty challenging hike?
It Can Be Hard
We recently did a wonderful hike in the French Riviera; we hiked the Neitzsche Path from Eze Sur Mer to the village of Eze set upon the clifftop. It was a solid hour of steep uphill walking on rocky terrain. In 30 degree heat. It was honestly one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done, even though it was one of the shortest.
At numerous times I just wanted to quit. My brain started to tell me that whatever was at the top probably wasn’t that impressive and I should probably just turn around and go sit on the beach. I’m not the fittest person but I can handle difficult hikes of varying heights and lengths. However, this one was a killer. I was having a hard time catching my breath and I was sweating like I’ve never sweated before (sorry for the visual!).
But something in me just wouldn’t quit. I stubbornly refused to let that hill beat me. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and giving myself little targets to reach, like reaching the end of the path before the bend or making it to the top of some stairs where I’d give myself a little rest.
And that whole hike is a lot like reaching financial independence. Just perhaps without so much perspiring. The village of Eze can be likened to our goal of reach financial freedom – it can seem unattainable and you’re not even sure if you can pull it off. But just like I gave myself targets to reach on the way to Eze, we give ourselves targets to reach on the way to FI, so you’re inching ever closer and feel like you’re getting somewhere even though the finishing line is still a little speck on the horizon.
And the hike was 100% worth it. The medieval village of Eze and the views from the top were just sublime. As was the lemon sorbet I had as a well done to myself.
It Can Be Long
Hiking isn’t something I’ve grown up being a fan of. It wasn’t until about 2010 that I began doing it seriously. We started going to the Lake District a lot on holiday from 2008 and after a few trips where we visited some country houses and did some lovely lake walks, it became apparent that if we wanted to continue coming to the Lakes, I’d have to start climbing up the fells instead of just admiring from afar if we wanted to spend meaningful time there.
So, up I started walking. And I did not love it to begin with. Actually, let me qualify that by saying I loved long hikes on the flat but fell walking is a different beast. You need a good amount of stamina to conquer those hills. One time, we decided to tackle Scafell Pike, the tallest peak in England. It’s part of the 3 Peaks Challenge and there’s a pretty easy (but still challenging) route to the top that walkers doing the 3 Peaks ascend as it’s the quickest. We obviously decided not to go that route but to tackle it from the other side, taking in another fell summit first.
Not even 20 minutes into the hike, I was repeatedly muttering ‘fuck it’ under my breath and cursing Mr. LLC for suggesting the day’s activity. But again, as I often do on challenging hikes, I bucked up and kept giving myself little targets to reach. After feeling like we’d been walking an eternity, I asked how we were doing and promptly wished I hadn’t. We still had about 6 hours of walking ahead of us. I felt crushed, like I couldn’t even comprehend how I’d even manage to keep going for another 6 minutes let alone 6 hours. The goal felt unattainable.
But complete it I did and the sense of achievement when we’d come down the other side and were gazing up at what we’d just conquered was a pretty awesome feeling. And to this day, that hike is actually one of my favourites we’ve ever done.
Yes, I’d love to be financially independent right now and not have to fill my time with work to live but to choose how to spend my time. But the truth is, we’re only 18 months into our hike to FI, we’ve got a long way to go. And whilst I’m not constantly muttering expletives under my breath, we’re still giving ourselves mini targets to reach to help keep our spirits high and focused on the main goal.
Sometimes You Feel Like Quitting
Once I’d got the feel of fell walking, we decided to challenge ourselves to bag all the Wainwrights. Alfred Wainwright published a series of pictorial guides to the fells of the Lake District – 214 fells in total. And there’s a well known challenge to try and bag all the fells in his guides.
It felt insurmountable at the beginning as we could only snatch a week in the Lakes here or there. But we soon started thinking of devising hikes that took in multiple summits, to tick them off a bit faster. One such multi-summit walk is the Fairfield Horseshoe. It takes in 7 fells, starting in one village and walking in horseshoe shape (hence the name) to the neighbouring village.
This was my first multi-summit hike and thinking back 7 summits was probably a bit too many for my first try but I was pretty gung-ho about it so off we set. As we bagged the second one I was feeling great, this was fantastic! But then the weather closed in on us and we were pelted by hail and wind. We had to huddle behind a wall at the third fell summit to eat our sandwiches. I was ready to quit – I was freezing, my hands were like blocks of ice, I was getting wet through and we still had 4 summits to go and then descend into the village, only to have to get the bus back to our car. I could feel the tears welling as I was getting overwhelmed.
I reasoned I’d still done well, 3 out of 7 is still an achievement. But, again, I had a little pep talk with myself and mentally broke the walk down into chunks to give myself targets to achieve. The sun broke through the clouds as we reached the penultimate fell and the views as we descended into the village were just beautiful. I’d have missed that beauty had I quit and I would’ve felt a sense of failure at having not achieved what I set out to.
The feeling I had on that hike is a lot like trying to reach financial independence. One of the problems is you think it’s the right thing to do and you believe you’ll have a better life for yourself once you’re there but human nature can make us second guess ourselves or wobble when roadblocks are put in front of us. We’ll get there – we just need to believe that the sacrifices we’re making along the way are right for our future and to be comfortable with our decision. We have to do the best we can with what we have and have a little belief along the way.
Yes, we could quit our journey right now and still be proud of the decent savings pot we have right now. But if we just keep plodding on, that savings pot will grow and turn into something that can completely sustain us for the rest of our lives.
It’s The Journey
I love hiking for many reasons. It’s a great way to keep fit, it brings me closer to nature, it challenges me and it fulfills me. I love climbing to the top of things, it brings a great sense of achievement. But it’s not always about reaching the top or getting a certain amount of miles under your belt. It’s the whole hike that’s important, the journey you go through to reach your destination.
And that’s a lot like how I feel now we’re on the journey to FI. It’s long, it can feel challenging at times and sometimes you question is it worth it but ultimately I think it is as I truly believe we’re on our way to creating a better life for ourselves. And although it’s no doubt about the destination – we want to achieve FI – the journey has become just as important as it’s allowed me to understand what I value in life and allowed me to live with greater clarity and purpose.