I peddled uphill on the shoulder of a busy highway, my legs burning, my butt raised off the seat struggling to get to the crest without stopping. Motorists passed me on their morning commute. Although exhausted, I was glad I wasn't one of them.
I’ve worked less than 12 of the last 43 months, but I haven’t forgotten how I felt on those drives to work: the tedium, the apprehension, the feeling that it was pointless while simultaneously feeling that it was just a necessary part of life, something everybody did, and therefore something I shouldn't be complaining about. If only I knew then what I know now.
Recently someone asked me, “How can you just walk away from your financial responsibilities?” It confused me for a moment, partly because it seemed judgmental, but mostly because I didn't know what financial responsibilities he referred to. Food and toothpaste? Is it so unthinkable that someone could have no financial responsibilities? I would have been equally confused if he asked, "how could you just walk away from your lawn mowing responsibilities?"
Before doing this, however, I never would have guessed how inexpensive living could be, so I thought I'd give a quick summary of what I have spent in the last 8 days:
2 Kilos of Muesli with dried fruit... €3.18
1 Box of Cereal… €1.15
4 Liters of UHT Milk... €2.48
1 Package of Chocolate Donuts… €2.00
1 Large loaf of Bread... €1.00
4 Fresh Baked Bread Rolls… €1.00
1 Package of Hot Dogs... €1.38
1 Package of Ham… €2.00
1 Package of Cheese... €1.80
1 Package of Butter…€1.00
2 Packages of Pasta... €1.79
2 Containers of Spaghetti Sauce... €2.00
2 Cans of Soup... €1.78
Two Bunches of Bananas... €1.20
8 or 9 Oranges... €1.53
Dozen Eggs (hard-boiled or scrambled for breakfast)... €1.35
2 Bags of Peanuts... €1.18
10 Packets of Instant Coffee… €0.75
1 Tube of Toothpaste… €2.99
1 Bottle of Stove Fuel… €1.59
Food and Supplies Total… €33.15
Converted into U.S. dollars, that is about $38.34 or $4.79 per day for 8 days of food and supplies. Now extrapolate that out to a month. My other typical monthly expenses include my cell phone, at $17.35, and about one night per week in a room to do laundry, charge batteries, and get a proper shower. This varies, but the total cost of my last four nights indoors, two in an apartment and two in a nearly empty hostel, cost $71.72.
So, the grand total for one month of cycling around Spain, staring at rugged mountains, camping on empty beaches, having time to watch the sunrise and set, experiencing the culture of a place I've never seen before, and not ever having to commute to work… $232.77.
Round it up to $300 for other little expenses or if you want to eat a little better than that or stop at the occasional restaurant.
I don't regret spending those mornings driving to work, for what has always been a meager salary. Without it, the last 43 months wouldn't have been possible. Had I known how simple and inexpensive a great life could be, however, none of it would have felt so pointless. Financial freedom isn't about making more money. It's about having more money than you need. I could have spent the last 43 months making more money, but it has been a lot more fun figuring out how to just need less.
One more thing, here are some photos of how I spent those eight days and a few days before:
My bed for the night of the Quadrantid meteor shower. The full moon was too bright, but I still saw three.
Love locks can be found on bridges and lookouts all over Spain.
Southern Spain became more mountainous and remote
A wetlands nature preserve
A monument for the victims of a terrorism
Remote camping spots are very easy to find in Southern Spain
A long exhilarating 10% grade. Totally worth the cycle up.
Fishermen in Isla Plana, Spain
The mountainous and remote Southern Spain, a perfect wintering spot for a vagabond.
This was a difficult ride up, but the view and the ride coming down the other side was fantastic.
The view from the top before a long fast ride downhill.