We are so excited to introduce you to Sarah. Sarah grew up, married, and loved life in Kansas. At the same time, she craved a more adventurous life and wanted to take a risk. What did her and husband Marc decide to do? Sarah shares her backstory, how they came to the decision to move, their new life in Florida, and what’s next in living out their adventurous life.
What was your life like before you pursued your dream?
My husband, Marc, and I were both born and raised in Kansas. He grew up on a farm, and I grew up in the country. Much of our family still lives there, so Kansas has always been a safe, comfortable place for us to live - and Kansas has a low cost of living. It’s a great place to raise a family (ample suburbs, good employers, safe.) But Kansas is also pretty cold - for about 4-5 months out of the year, you can’t spend much time outdoors, and there are very few attractions.
We found ourselves traveling often - even for short weekend getaways. We were always looking forward to the next trip, the next getaway. Staying in town for a weekend, especially during the winter months, just wasn’t very exciting.
What was your freedom dream and what was the inspiration behind it?
We were familiar with Florida since my mom has a vacation home in Clearwater (a suburb of Tampa). Clearwater is a huge vacation destination, and the entire Tampa area has some of the world’s most beautiful, white-sand beaches. After Marc and I made the decision not to have kids, we took a good, hard look around us (in Kansas) and asked, “why stay here?”
Now, let’s be real for a second: we had two killer jobs (where we’d worked for a decade) and we owned a lovely, 1920s home in a great neighborhood (see our house below). So our decision to move wasn’t a financial decision - it was an adventure decision. I think we almost wanted to feel a little scared - we wanted to take a risk, and we had the financial and logistical freedom to do it. We wanted a more active community, warmer weather, and we wanted to enjoy our actual home state more, instead of always looking forward to the next trip out of town.
What was the catalyst to pursuing this dream?
Often, when people travel to cool, new places, they joke with each other: “what if we moved here?” It’s laughed about and quickly forgotten. During a visit to my mom’s vacation home in 2016, we asked ourselves this same question, then laughed over it….but the question came up again that night, and then it came up again the next morning. Within 24 hours, the question had evolved into, “why not move here?” We returned home and started actively talking about steps needed to move across the country.
It’s one thing to have a dream. It’s another to make it a reality. How did you plan to turn your dream into a reality?
We had three main things holding us back in Kansas: two jobs, and one house. We loved all three. (To be clear: we knew we would miss our family, too, but such is the beauty of travel…you can visit anytime!)
As a financial advisor, Marc was able to sell off many of his clients and bring several others with him to a new broker in Florida. And having worked in finance & compliance myself, I was also able to easily find a job with a big 4 accounting firm (and a side gig in freelance writing, which is my passion.)
The house was an easy sell, too (literally.) A couple friends of ours loved it, and we sold it to them FSBO (saving quite a bit in realtor commissions.) The emotional part of the house sale wasn’t so easy: I literally sobbed my way through the closing meeting. As a sucker for old homes, I adored that house…
After that, we rented a big a$$ U-haul, loaded ‘er up, and drove three days to Florida with our dog Zoe, a 2-year old mini dachshund. The best part of the trip? Getting BBQ in Tennessee.
We decided to rent initially, since Tampa is a big area and we wanted to research neighborhoods. We’re now ready to settle down in St. Pete. We’re actually under contract for a house, and one of the biggest appeals to us about this house is that it’s a 2-bedroom, with an extra room that can be easily turned into a 3rd bedroom. After we do this, the home value will jump significantly, and we consider it an easy investment decision. We may also use the home as a future income property.
What challenges did you face along the way and how did you push through?
We both had a few pangs of homesickness, but I suppose that’s to be expected. Also, the home-sicknesses never lasted more than a day or so. If it stuck around, I think then we may have considered whether we made the right decision.
It’s important that you listen to your feelings, and set aside your pride to ask yourselves the hard question. In our situation, every time we asked each other, “would you move back to Kansas?” the answer was a vehement, “No!!”
We were lucky to make a good group of friends almost instantly. The neat thing about Florida? No one is from here. So we’ve met countless people our age who are also transplants, looking for friends. In fact, our closest friends down here are from Kansas, too. What are the chances!
Florida also has a higher cost of living than Kansas, but we knew that when moving here. This reiterates my earlier point: we didn’t move here to save money or reach financial freedom sooner. We moved here because tomorrow isn’t promised to us, and we wanted to live in an area we loved.
How did your dream evolve or change as you worked towards your goal?
We’ve only been here 9 months, so we’re still settling in! Our dream hasn’t changed drastically since we arrived in Florida - we’re still just learning the area and loving it! We even attended my first NFL game - go Tampa Bay Buccaneers!
What is your life like now? What have you learned since reaching this dream?
Some weeknights, we go for beachside dinners or we walk along the water. This weekend (in December!) we’re going kayaking with friends. We’re outside every single day (literally.) I don’t even know where my jackets are. I think they’re still in a box somewhere, hah!
I drive across Tampa Bay many mornings for work, and being near the water is so incredibly inspiring. They call Florida the “Sunshine State” for a reason. Just walking to your car in 80-degree sunshine in the middle of winter is so rejuvenating. We underestimated how much we’d love that.
I think that our move also challenged our marriage, in the best possible way. During the first early, lonely days, we had only each other. Moving across the country requires a couple to talk through a lot of challenging situations, and we made it through with flying colors.
Do you have any regrets or things you would do differently?
No regrets at this time. Obviously we don’t love apartment living, but we’ll be in a house very soon!
What would you say to someone who wants to do what you did?
Don’t be intimidated by the steps required in making a cross-country move. Make a list of the big ones and start taking baby steps: schedule a meeting with a realtor or two to get a feel for the value of your home; check out the job market in your destination city; and review carefully the logistics of leaving your current employer (e.g. health insurance coverage, vacation payout.)
Set a schedule & corresponding steps - for example, on February 1 we’ll list our house, which means we need to make small repairs and clean in January. On March 1 we’ll submit job resignations, which means we need to secure temporary health insurance by March 15.
I would also suggest setting aside a fair amount of cash for unexpected expenses or time off of work.
Also: as soon as you arrive in your new community, it’s imperative that you find your “regular spots” like grocery store, bank, etc. Returning to these places week after week creates a sense of normalcy.
Another Dream Begins
We never stop dreaming and growing. What’s your next freedom dream?
We’re on a 5-year plan to leave Corporate America. But when we do “retire,” we won’t be sitting on the beach all day! Marc is an avid day trader, and I enjoy writing. Our primary income sources, once we quit our “real jobs,” will be dividend income from our closed-end investment funds; trading profits; and side gigs. We both need some kind of occupation, both for our sanity and our schedule. We’re pretty structured people, so our “dream day” consists of working in the morning and taking afternoons off.
We also don’t believe in the concept of a “forever home” and we dream of living in various places! We’d love to live in London for a year someday.
How are you planning on achieving this new dream?
We’re being diligent about our investments, remaining debt-free, and maxing out all retirement accounts. We also ask ourselves often, “will this decision today help or hinder our goals?” For example, when pursuing my freelance content writing gig with a local company, even though I didn’t need the cash, I knew it would look great on my resume when I someday aim to get more involved with editing and writing.
Another example: when Marc recently bought a truck, there was zero justification in paying $15k more for a brand new one when a used one would function just as well. So we paid cash for a used one, knowing that the money we saved would be better put to use in our investment accounts, earning us money.
In short, there’s a balance between making solid decisions that serve long-term goals, and also realizing that tomorrow isn’t promised to us. We’re sometimes spontaneous, too. For example, we recently saw some good flight deals to London, so we booked a trip on a whim. It’s our most favorite city, and we prioritize travel. We definitely value experiences over things!
Thank you to Sarah for sharing her story. We understand the struggle between loving where you are and wanting to experience more! We love the baby step recommendations and that the leap you took strengthened your marriage. We wish Sarah and Marc the best and an amazing trip to London! We are looking forward to continuing to follow your story as you work towards your new freedom dream.