Hiking and The Journey To Financial Independence

Over the long Memorial Day weekend, Becky and I found ourselves climbing Mount Si with a few dozen others who shared our goal of financial independence.  The hike itself is a fairly steep ~4,000 ft elevation gain over 4 miles each way and the rain certainly didn’t make it easier, but what made this particular hike amazing were the people who joined us.  The third annual Camp Mustache brought together over 50 individuals that share a common interest in financial independence, early retirement, and more generally just stepping outside the norm of what society might expect in all aspects of life.  The group included people like ourselves that were relatively early on the journey, many that have considered themselves retired for years, everything in between, and of course a few big bloggers that have carved out their space in the financial independence world.

Below I plan to share my experience at the event and the many parallels I discovered between hiking and financial independence on that long hike up the mountain.

Thoughts on Camp Mustache 2016

Leading up to the event, Becky and I really had no idea what to expect.  I happened to see a tweet about it at the right time, realized it was practically taking place in our backyard, checked our schedule for the holiday weekend, and booked our tickets without too much thought.  It was a good thing I did, because I understand it sold out not too long after.  It wasn’t until months later, as the date drew closer, that we really started to wonder what exactly we signed up for.  There’s nothing quite like mentally preparing yourself to go meet up with 50+ strangers you loosely met through the internet in the middle of the forest with spotty cell reception.  Beginning of a horror movie might spring to mind before financial retreat in that kind of scenario.

Fortunately, the event itself was fantastic and we felt at home the minute we walked through the door and met the first batch of people we would be spending the weekend with.  It’s rather interesting when everyone coming in is already kind of on the same page when it comes to finances.  To find yourself at one of these events, I would imagine you’ve been through most of the big ideas in the space already.  Large savings rates, simple index investing, and maxing out retirement accounts were the norm, instead of being the outlier you might expect in a random sampling of the population.  This meant that a lot of the conversations over the weekend were less about specific financials and more about the ideas and emotions on the path to financial independence which I really enjoyed.

Once you’ve cut out the wasteful spending in your life and bumped up your 401k contribution, there’s not always something exciting to focus on in the path to financial independence, and part of it becomes more of a waiting game.  I think for this reason, focusing on maximizing happiness and fulfillment in life, along with “the meaning of life” itself, seems to naturally become the focus of many conversations with everyone being able to share the exciting ways they are finding fulfillment in their own lives.  Now don’t take this to mean specific finances weren’t discussed at all, because I witnessed several people getting help with their asset allocation and retirement withdrawal plans with no shortage of people willing to share their knowledge on the subjects.

What never ceased to amaze me throughout the weekend was how many unique journeys were represented across the relatively small group of people.  Throughout the weekend, I learned about numerous side hustle ideas that Becky and I will probably try our hands at over the coming year to boost our income, but I’m certain that I learned even more about surfing, traveling, farming, and homebrewing at the same time.  One of my favorite quotes would have been the understatement of the century among the group of people present:

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”

–Bill Nye

To my surprise, I even picked up a few new credit card churning/MS tips! (that certainly won’t be making it to a blog post anytime soon)

Unfortunately, if you came here to get the inside scoop on the big name bloggers who were in attendance like Mr. Money Mustache, the Mad Fientist, and Paula from Afford Anything (among several others), you’ll probably leave disappointed.  I certainly got to meet each of them and have both fun and informative conversations while hanging out, but I don’t think this public forum is the proper place to share my opinion on any of them and it would take away from the event itself to focus on a few attendees.  For every little tidbit of information I learned from fellow bloggers, I probably learned five times as much from people you’ve never heard of, and that was the part that made Camp Mustache such a great experience.  (If you really want me to “spill the beans” on the people behind the blogs, buy me a beer sometime and ask away (spoiler alert: they’re all pretty cool people)).

Needless to say, Becky and I really enjoyed the event and plan to sign up again next year.  Not only that, but we decided to buy tickets to FinCon this year in order to see a few people again and hopefully repeat our success meeting awesome people and having a great time (although FinCon and Camp Mustache probably have very little in common overall).  Now if only this blog would start making a few bucks so I could write everything off as a business deduction…


Parallels Between Hiking and FI

While on that hike to the top of Mount Si, myself and another attendee of the event began to discuss a few commonalities between the journey to the top of the mountain and the journey to financial independence.  I think it started with a comment about whether to take a short rest or just power through to the top and expanded from there:

  • The journey is a whole lot more fun if you can share it with others, both during and after.
  • Don’t focus on anyone passing you or ahead of you in the journey, focus on yourself and what you can control.
  • It’s okay to take breaks or slow down along the way, it’s not a race.
  • In fact, you’ll probably feel a lot better at the end and afterwards if you take breaks and maintain a reasonable pace throughout.
  • If you’re unhappy at the beginning or during the journey, you won’t magically become happy when you reach the destination.
  • Stop and look around every once in a while, you don’t want to miss the beauty along the way because you’re too focused on the finish.
  • Once you reach the goal and find a comfortable spot, it’s okay to take a break and relax a while, but it’s never the end of your overall journey.  The same motivation that helped you reach this goal will lead you to the next challenge to grow as a person.

Can you think of any others?


Thanks for reading and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about the event (or anything else) in the comments below, but keep in mind I will respect the privacy of the other attendees and some parts of the event itself while doing so.

For anyone else who attended this past weekend, I can’t wait until we meet again!  Cheers!

11 thoughts to “Hiking and The Journey To Financial Independence”

  1. Thanks for the summary. Sounds like a great event. This took place about 4 miles from my home. Where you jumped on the tickets quickly, I hesitated and missed out. Bummer!

    Another analogy: hiking with someone that doesn’t want to be there will have a serious impact on the journey. Not only will it be more difficult to reach the summit, but it probably won’t be very enjoyable.

    1. Maybe next year! We plan to jump on tickets again, but I’m sure some returning members won’t be able to make it so act quick(ish?)!

      And good analogy, luckily one that I haven’t had to deal with personally.

  2. I love this:

    “If you’re unhappy at the beginning or during the journey, you won’t magically become happy when you reach the destination.”

    Reminds me of the phrase, “wherever you go, there you are” which I keep in mind all the time. Happiness comes form the inside.

    1. Good one! The early rain that day definitely made for a slightly trickier hike than average.

  3. Hey Noah! This sounds like a great group. Are they having any more events soon? I’d like to get Sarah more on board with these ideas.


    1. Hey Keenan, there is a “Washington Mustachians” group on facebook for local FI meetups, but it doesn’t appear to be very active. I’ll try to let you know if I find out about any upcoming ones.

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