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The Ordinary Escape is back!

The Ordinary Escape is back!

We’re back up. A lot has happened over the last two years. Our family has grown, we’ve had some successes and set backs on our business, and life has marched on. Ultimately, however, C.C. and I are still not where we wanted to be when we started this site back in 2009. That’s a lot of the reason why I find myself drawn back to this site once again.

What Has Happened Over the Last Few Years?

Back in 2009, we were bright-eyed and full of motivation. The idea of working for ourselves and making money from the internet was an exciting prospect. We jumped in with a loose plan, but no experience. Well, we had some experience, but not anything yet that was actually making money. I went part-time at my job and we made a go of it.

The thing was, we really didn’t have much figured out yet. We had ideas, lots of ideas, but no real concrete direction. This meant that we bounced around a lot; trying out copy writing, blogs, affiliate marketing, etc. We didn’t have much success, motivation faded, and about two years into the experiment we weren’t really doing much of anything on the business front.

Around that time, we got the wonderful news that C.C. was pregnant with our first child. After the excitement wound down, it became obvious that the part-time job wasn’t going to cut it anymore and I had to return to my day job full-time. While necessary, this move was particularly crushing because it represented a move back to the world I was trying to avoid and was putting my dream of working for myself on life support.

Things started to turn around, however. We got into eBook publishing and started to have some success. Fortunately, that success has continued, even after a little bit of a lull after the baby was born, when it was difficult to get much of anything done. We’re not at a point yet where we could do it full-time, but I hope we are on our way.

What about the Ordinary Escape?

I finally feel like we are on the right track now that we have some actual direction. I’ve found myself drawn to this site again to chronicle our journey and hopefully offer some insight. I’ve always wanted this site to be more about the journey, our successes and failures, and our lessons learned. I never wanted to try to play the role of a guru or to pretend I had all of the answers when I didn’t know anything yet.

Maybe one day if things keep progressing, I can play more of that role of expert and have some detailed guides to try and help others make the same leap, but for now I am going to keep it simple. My plan for this site going forward will be to just try and detail the ride. I hope you will join us.

The Great Tent Event

I think I’ve been annoying C.C. the last two days by going around saying “tent event” (try saying it out loud, it’s fun). Anyway, we purchased a tent recently with the idea of adding camping to our excursions. With being as money conscious as we need to be lately, we figured it is not a bad way to get out there and take some trips in a new way, but also save a little bit of money as well.

I have been camping before many times when I was younger, but C.C. has never done it. I’ve been naming off all of the cool things we can do, and she has been considering what protection to bring to ward off the inevitable psycho axe-murder that will be lurking the woods. But fortunately she is pretty excited overall about trying camping and we should be heading out on our first trip soon.

We’re going to start someplace local to get a feel for camping and exactly what we will need. Since it has been so long since I have been, I am sure that I will forget to bring along some vital piece of gear that we’ll need. But we’ll get by and have some fun too.

We’re looking forward to adding camping to our travels because it will be a (mostly) new experience for us. It seems like it will save us some money (camp sites are often a fraction of the cost of hotels), especially during the summer months now where prices on lodging really go up. Mixing in some camping with our travels will hopefully allow us get out more for less.

We realize that we will lose some of the comforts of hotels and aren’t writing them off completely (especially when the weather gets cold). Camping will hopefully just give us some more versatility and some new fun experiences.

Do any of you go camping? What kinds of experiences have you had?

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Pure Enjoyment

I find that a lot of times, whenever I try something new, I always jump forward and plan on it being a huge success.  I can’t simply do something just because I enjoy it. It always has to be the next big thing—the idea that’s going to be the making of me.  I guess a little optimism doesn’t hurt, but it kind of takes away some of the enjoyment when I’m always looking at things from the perspective of how successful will it be.  There’s so much pressure to be successful that I get overwhelmed even before I start.  I find once this happens, my drive and inspiration go out the window and I don’t even feel like trying anymore.

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An Update on How Things are Going

I figured I would provide a small update on how our escape from the ordinary is going. Things are going pretty well right now, certainly much better then a few months ago. We’ve made a lot of changes to how we are approaching things and have been making steady progress.

So what have we changed?

Weekly Schedule

It may sound simple, but I think one of the best things we ended up doing was creating a weekly schedule.

I won’t get into the details now because I think we’ll make a post about it in the near future. But basically we have a white board hanging between our computer desks that has a day by day breakdown of goals we each want to accomplish each day. C.C. and I have a “meeting” every Monday morning to A) Review last week’s schedule to see how we did, and B) Come up with the current week’s schedule for ourselves.

We find that the schedule is really helping us. It keeps us focused on the goals and more time is spent actually doing because we know exactly what we want to accomplish each day.

Shifting Focus

Another thing we’ve done is shift our focus a bit. Through our weekly reviews of our schedule, we noticed that while we were getting more done, we still had been avoiding one area- alternative ways of making money.

I think we had been avoiding it because it seemed to be the most difficult. We are both currently employed in regular jobs and while we are working towards striking out on our own, right now those jobs are a comfort zone for us. It is a lot more fun to work on things like getting out more, exploring hobbies, writing, and all that. Looking for work just isn’t much fun, especially if you already have a job and the need for a new one is not imminent.

As I said, we came to realize that we were ignoring the whole job thing. In fact, we came to the conclusion that finding alternative ways to make money is actually our top goal right now. Our plan has always been to do the whole digital nomad thing, working for ourselves and travel around. But you can’t really do that without actually making some money at something.

So we’ve shifted our focus to finding different ways to make money for ourselves and we’ve had good results so far. C.C. has even come across some opportunities were she could possibly make more money then she is making at her current job.

Overall, we’ve made some changes that have us moving in the right direction, but there are some things we still need to work on.

What’s Not Going So Well

We felt it was important to shift our focus currently to making money, but that also means less time to focus elsewhere. Some of our goals, like finding something new to do each weekend, have been on the back burner a bit.

I think that we can do a better job of balancing things. I think it is good for us to have a main focus at all times, but we also can’t let the other goals languish in the meantime. We need to also make time to work on the other stuff.

The other thing not going so well right now are our travel plans. We really wanted to start traveling a lot more, even if just at first we had to go cheap and stay close to home. Unfortunately, we haven’t even really been able to do that. Money is really tight right now. We’re getting by, but it gets hard justifying any travel expense when we really don’t have much extra to spend. We’ve cut back on a lot of expenses but it is still hard to get that travel fund together.

I think that at some point in the near future, C.C. and I will sit and have a discussion on this. I’ve done enough reading on other travel blogs to know that travel is possible for almost anyone if you make enough sacrifices in what you chose to spend your money on (i.e. selling your home to get rid of mortgage payments, selling a car cutting out all extra expenses that aren’t absolutely necessary).

I think we need to determine if we are truly willing to do whatever it takes to have the lifestyle we want right now- basically the “jump in with both feet and throw caution to the wind” approach. Or do we want to keep building things slowly until we feel we have enough money or security to take the full leap.

All told, I think we are doing pretty well right now. We’ve made a lot of progress since we decided to get more serious about this. We’ve still got a lot to work through, but that’s half the fun.

Helping a Neighbor in Need

I’ve been on vacation from work this week.  The weather has been absolutely perfect so far, which just makes me want to go out and be more productive.  In fact, on Monday, Jay had the day off and we went to the park to throw the football around.  It was a lot of fun, but I realized how out of shape I am, because as I was running after the ball, I got out of breath pretty quickly.   We were only there for about half an hour, but it was nice to be out in the sunshine nonetheless.

As we were driving home from the park, we saw our elderly neighbor lying on the side of the road.  At first we thought he was sleeping, but who takes a nap on the side of the road?  Besides that, there was a ladder lying next to him, so we stopped the car and got out.  Our neighbor, who I later found out is named Juan, looked like he was unconscious, and when we tried to call out to him, he was unresponsive at first.  Then he opened his eyes and looked like he was trying to speak, and his eyes looked crazy.  He kept moving his mouth like he was trying to say something, but nothing came out.  Luckily our other neighbor, who just happens to be a doctor, drove by at this point and stopped to help.  She quickly took charge of the situation, and we were left just waiting around for the ambulance.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the ambulance came.   As the EMT was questioning him, I found out a lot about Juan, like the fact that he lives alone, and he has a brother and two daughters, and he takes high blood pressure medication.  His house is on the market, and he was trimming the bushes by his house to add to his curb appeal.  They ended up taking him to the hospital just to make sure that he had no serious injuries.

I wonder if we did not go out that day as we normally do how long he would have lay there because the street where we found Juan is not travelled too often.  The doctor might have found him, but he was on the opposite side of the road, and kind of hidden from view to anyone passing by.  I also wonder if he would have just woken up by himself, if he would have back to his house alone and tried to sleep it off.  I kept thinking about that actress Natasha Richardson, who hit her head skiing and seemed fine immediate afterwards, but later died because of her injuries.  Luckily, that didn’t happen.   I’m glad that we got out that day, not only for the exercise, but because we were able to actually help someone, which is something we don’t normally get to do.

Saving Money as a way to Escape the Ordinary

Part of our plan for escaping our ordinary lives has been to reprioritize the way we spend money (spending less on unnecessary expenses and more on travel/new experiences). This has been especially important right now because of our new job situations. This has meant cutting expenses because we’re not bringing in as much in as we once did.

Cutting expenses can actually be very rewarding and I’d like to write future posts about just that, but I’m going to discuss something that has been an unintended consequence; namely that it ties in perfectly with getting out more and experiencing new things.

Because we are looking to spend less, we really have to dig around to find free or cheap new things to do. We can’t just fall back on going out for drinks, seeing latest movie, or a pricey vacation. This has really led us to finding some cool things to do in our area that we wouldn’t have normally discovered.

Community theater, nature preserves, local museums, hiking trails, festivals, and local landmarks are all around and can be experienced for free or fairly cheap. For example, this weekend we are going to a free show offered at the planetarium located in a local college. We’re finding that an area we spent most of our lives thinking had very little interesting things to do actually has some stuff to offer.

Sure, the usual activities that cost some money are still fun to do and can be done once in a while even if you are trying to save cash. But a limited budget can really give you a new perspective on what’s out there to do. You can find some hidden gems that you otherwise would have overlooked, especially things that may be brand new to you and offer up new experiences.

Baby Steps

So I haven’t posted much after I made that really optimistic and grand sounding post a few months ago.  Part of the problem for me, like it is for Jay, is that I feel tremendous pressure to write something great, or at least interesting.  Well, my life hasn’t really been interesting as of late, and so I can’t really draw inspiration from that.  In fact, I’m pretty much in a rut.  I haven’t done much to advance my goals, and have just settled back into a routine.  I’m not very happy with this, and need to find a way to get myself back on the grind.  So in response to Jay’s challenge, I’m going to start by doing two things that will help me get back in the swing of things, and start working towards my goals.

The first thing I’m going to do is to start going to bed and waking up earlier.  Now this may not seem like a big deal, but I feel that is very important for me.  Currently, I work at evenings and nights, and when I get home, I eat dinner, watch some TV or read, and go to bed at around 3-4am, sometimes later.  The next day, I’ll wake up around noon and the day is practically over already.  I feel like there’s not enough time to write or work on anything important, so I just don’t do anything, and sit at the computer or go out for a little bit, until it is time to go back to work.  So my challenge is to start waking up during morning hours!  I’m setting the goal at going to bed at 1am the latest, and waking up no later than 9pm.  Baby steps.  I’ve been trying this schedule the past few days, and it’s not as easy as I thought. The snooze button is not my friend!  But, I have been getting up earlier, and generally feel more productive, so once I get into the habit of it, I should be an early bird in no time!

The second thing I’m going to do is to start eating healthier. This is something that Jay challenged himself to do as well.   I know a lot of times, I’ll feel lazy or just don’t know what to cook for dinner, so I’ll take the easy way out and just order out.  This is not a good thing.  We discussed that eating healthier and going out to eat less is not only good for our health, it’s also good for our wallet.  Plus, it’s always easier to eat healthier when you’ve got someone in the same boat as you, and who you know won’t be munching down on chips and cookies while you’re stuck with a carrot stick. We spend so much money eating out, and on unhealthy snacks, when instead we could be saving that money for more important things like travelling.  So I’m going to start looking up healthier recipes to cook and planning my meals in advance, so that I know what ingredients to buy and exactly what to make for dinner. I’m also cutting out the junk food and buying healthier snacks and more fruits and vegetables.  It’s a lot easier to eat healthy when you only have healthy food in your house.

So those are the two things I’m going to start doing to get out of this rut.  I think it’s going to boost my energy level, and in turn, increase my productivity.  Later on, I hope to be able to add more things to do that are a bit more ambitious, but for now, I’m just going to focus on these things one step at a time.  Baby steps.

The Challenge to Get Out of this Rut

I recently had a short correspondence with Robyn over on her blog Nomad Needles. On her site, she details her journey to live a more free, unconventional, and creative life. She writes some very motivating entries, especially the ones dealing with her goal to live a cleaner, minimalist lifestyle.

I was seeking some advice and she issued me a challenge- Come up with five ideas stuck in my head and pick two to focus on right now.

Well, I am going to accept the challenge. Especially because it reminded me of some advice I once heard in the past about getting out of a rut- focus on one or two things you can do right now, no matter how small. I think that lately C.C. and I have scared ourselves into non-action by focusing to much on the end result and how much we are going to have to do to get there.

So I created a list and picked two things that I think are the best goals to start with because I think they are natural places to start. These two things are writing and getting back into shape. I know these some generic so let me explain further.

Just Write

I need to start writing everyday, no matter what it is or what quality it is. For someone who has always enjoyed writing, I sure don’t write a whole lot. It is more of a perfectionist thing then a desire thing. I put a lot of pressure on what I write needing to be very good to the point that I end up scaring myself out of even trying. So I need to get back into the swing of just writing no matter what.

I am going to keep up with writing something, anything, every day. It doesn’t have to be great and it doesn’t ever have to ever see the light of day. It is just important to write, write, write. I will be using the site Don’t Break the Chain as a bit of visual positive reinforcement. If you are unfamiliar with it, the basic ideas is that you just check off a calendar each day after you completed your task so that you get a chain of days in a row going and to motivate you to not break that chain by not doing your task.

Get Back Into Shape

Since I have been stuck in a rut here I have fallen off my exercise and healthy eating. I really feel there is a strong mind/body connection and when I am not taking care of my body I can’t expect my mind to be the best that it can be.

I am going to get back into my exercise routine starting here at home, and eventually moving back to running again once the weather gets warmer here. I actually really enjoy the exercising and running and look forward to getting back into it.

Of course, these will just be the first steps in my journey, but I’ve realized that when you are in a rut you have to start somewhere. Yes, considering all the confidence and grand plans that we had to start with, it seems like I am starting way at the beginning. But, I guess I really am. When things aren’t working you really do have to get back to square one– and doing that and admitting it here is a big step for me.

I’m going to issue the same challenge to C.C. because she is stuck in much the same place. I look forward to seeing what her two ideas/goals will be.

Escaping the Ordinary is Actually Pretty Hard

It’s not easy. As some say, nothing that is worth it ever is easy. But I have to admit, this journey so far has been a bit of a struggle. The goal of the Ordinary Escape has been to get out there more and experience life. However, one thing is very clear– old habits die hard.

This is a tough post to write and maybe that is why we haven’t updated the site in a bit. There really hasn’t been much progress to report on. I think that moving to part time at work was a huge step, but unfortunately things seemed to have died there.

There was some effort at first , but slowly things just devolved into doing nothing. Productive time on my days outside of the “real job” quickly turned into “days off”. I saw that would be a possibility and wanted to strive hard to not let it happen, but it has. I realize that I am the type of person right now that this can happen to and even though I saw it coming I still let it happen.

But at the same time that is really the point of all of this. It is all part of trying to change. It takes time and you can’t really break old deep-seeded patterns overnight. If I were a super-motivated person who wasn’t stuck in a rut then I wouldn’t have started this journey and website in the first place. My wife and I noticed that we weren’t doing what we wanted, weren’t challenging ourselves, and weren’t living life as fully as we wanted. We had a lot of initial motivation that quickly wore away again after we sunk back into our comfort zones.

But I think that the important thing here is to recognize that it doesn’t have to be an instant change. I am beating myself up a bit right now that I have let the last few months squander without doing much, but it is still not too late to get started. Losing a few months is not the end of the world, but never getting started would be. We’ve put the wheels in motion, but we still need to steer this thing down the road.

I’m in a bit of a difficult spot right now, because I think still working for my old job but at part time hours has kept me stuck a bit. In theory it is great because I am earning money and still get to keep my benefits (most importantly health insurance). But I am still stuck in the same mindset/pattern, just for only half the time. I still have all of the stress; perhaps even more so now because I am trying to fit in 40 hours of work into 20.

I think there are a lot of contributing factors, and a lot of things that make this all difficult. If it were easy, then everyone would be trying to do something outside of the ordinary. But at the same time, I can’t let that stop me. I can’t keep talking a big game, but when push comes to shove doing nothing. At this step I think that we need to realize that if we are ever going to escape the ordinary it is going to take some real effort. You can have all the desire in the world, but if you don’t ever actually do anything then you are never going to get anywhere.

I Quit my Job, the Journey Begins

After years of agonizing I finally did it.  I quit my job without anything else lined up.  Well, kind of.  You see, I did not leave my job to move on to another 9-to-5 career.  Some may think I’m crazy, but I’m trying to create my own path.  There are just too many opportunities out there today for someone with determination and an internet connection.

Upon handing in my resignation, my company offered me the opportunity to move to part-time hours to help keep things running and also transition in a new person when they hire them. As tempting as it was to make a clean break, it does help to have a definite job for bit. I will be working there for 20 hours a week until the transition is completed, but with the speed business moves (especially hiring someone new), I think this will last at least through the end of the year and probably into next.

I won’t be doing this alone.  I will be joined by my wife, C.C., who also finds herself at a crossroads.  We’re both 28, a few years removed from college, and not buying into the conventional life.  We’ve determined that now is the time to take a shot at creating a less ordinary life for ourselves.

What are we doing?

We will be taking on work that will allow us the flexibility get out and experience life more. At first this will entail part time and temp jobs to fill in the gaps. We will continue to also build upon our freelance and marketing work online with the idea of moving over to them full-time eventually. We will also be cutting back on unnecessary expenses and material items. Having less (getting rid of distractions and unnecessary material items) and getting out more is a large part of our goal here.

We want to experience all life has to offer right now and not delay really living until some far off retirement date that may never come.

That’s why we’ve decided to take this drastic step.  However, for us it doesn’t feel that drastic at all.  Many will have trouble understanding it, but there are a growing number of people who do get it.

We will be joining a trend of mostly young, internet savvy folks who are shunning the corporate lifestyle in favor of working for themselves with the help of the internet.  But more than that, they are living a mobile lifestyle that allows them to work from literally anywhere in the world and on their own schedule.

Risky Business?

It is a risk, but one worth taking.  I am giving up a decent paying, secure job with good benefits.  I’ll admit that I am nervous.  However, I am more excited than anything.  I’ve wanted to strike out on my own for years now, and the internet of today is going to allow me to do so.  I’m one that really feels you need to listen to your instincts, and that in your heart you know what you have to do and what is right for you.  This is what I feel like I have to do.

The Ordinary Escape

So in conjunction with the life change we are embarking on, we have also started this website as a way to chronicle our journey and hopefully provide some inspiration to anyone else considering doing something similar.

This is more then a just career change; this is a lifestyle/philosophy change. We’ve lived in our comfort zones for too long and are making a commitment to escaping the ordinary life. Our goal is to get out more, have new experiences, and travel- anything we do will be a means to those ends. That will mean working for ourselves to be fulfilled and to allow us the flexibility to take off when we want. That will mean spending money on travel and experiences rather then just piling up more unneeded material things.

We are prepared to do what it takes to have the life we want.

I don’t know what lies ahead for us as we start down this path.  But, I do know that this is just something we have to try.  We’ve gotten tired of being part of those who always talk about what they want to do but never do it.  We’re going to do it.