Gap Year Week 52: Back to Reality

One year ago, my wife and I set out on an amazing adventure across the country. After a handful of years working full time and saving money towards our goal of financial independence (FI), we decided to leverage some of that financial freedom ahead of our ultimate goal.

Therefore, we quit our jobs to take a gap year and spent the past year road tripping all over the country!

It’s hard to believe a year has already passed, but we did our best to pack decades of experiences into that short time.

Now is time to start the next chapter of our lives and that’s what I’ll be covering below. A few decisions have been made, but there are many unknowns in the coming months.

Denver – Our Home For Now

One of the biggest decisions to make after living as nomads is where to lay our heads for a while.

Seattle was our home before the gap year, but the gloomy winters started to wear on us after 5 years and we want to try something new.

One thing we paid attention to as we visited hundreds of places was whether or not we could see ourselves living there. Colorado is the place that stuck with us ever since we left the state back in May.

While passing through the first time, we visited a handful of different cities, visited with friends and family, and stayed active on the many outdoor (mostly mountain-y) activities. And other than the Manitou Incline kicking my ass the first time, we adapted to the altitude rather quickly.

The Manitou Incline – 2,000 ft straight up – not for the faint of heart

The other big consideration for where we end up is job availability. As we haven’t yet reached financial independence, there is still some more work in our immediate future.

Luckily, Denver is a fast-growing hub for technology and that means there are plenty of software development jobs to go around (or so I’ve been told). Becky is in the versatile field of nursing, specifically labor and delivery, so we’re confident she can find a job just about anywhere.

It turns out people are having babies everywhere!

Add all of those factors together and you can understand why we chose to book a rental in Denver at the end of this road trip.

A furnished place on Airbnb near downtown is where we’ll be spending the next 60 days. Around $66/day seemed like a fair price for a furnished one bedroom that includes parking, internet, and utilities.

Having an “all-inclusive” place to stay during this transition period saves us a lot of hassle and lets us focus on the next steps, like finding a job.

Time to Study Up

Speaking of work, it’s something neither of us has done formally for over a year now. Becky kept her nursing license active with continuing education, but there is no such certification in my field.

I’ve kept my coding skills somewhat active by reading articles, playing around in python, and tweaking things here on the blog, but that only gets me so far.

If you aren’t familiar, many interviews for software development jobs (especially at the big companies) care more about what kind of knowledge and ability you can showcase in a short interview than your education and prior experience.

This will vary depending on the company and position of course, but I want to be as prepared as possible. My resume and prior experience can get me in the door, but I fully expect to have to prove that I deserve to be there in order to land a (hopefully lucrative) offer.

For that reason, I’m dedicating the next several weeks to the following activities, before I start applying to jobs:

  • Clean up resume
  • Update LinkedIn
  • Research potential companies/jobs to apply for
  • Reach out to my network for referrals/contact info
  • Work through Cracking the Coding Interview
  • Practice coding problems online (probably leetcode or hackerrank)

Once that list is sufficiently complete, I plan to apply to several companies at once and hopefully get invited to interviews.

One thing to note is that while we do want to stay in Colorado for the foreseeable future, I will most likely apply to jobs in Seattle and the Bay Area as well.

It never hurts to make sure I’m being paid what I’m worth. Plus, a large enough salary difference could persuade us to relocate.

How Are You Funding This Time Off?

Going into this gap year, we had no idea how much full time travel around the US would cost. For that reason, we saved up about a years worth of Seattle expenses outside of our investments (we don’t want to touch those) and figured we would adjust as we go.

Lucky for us (and thanks to travel hacking), the full year cost much less than we budgeted for!

Therefore, we have several months of runway to work with before the urgency to have money coming in picks up.

In those several months, we hope to solve the “Where are we going to work?” question, find a more permanent housing arrangement, and start saving money again instead of just spending it.

Everything Else

Aside from our big two open questions, location and work, there are several other items I’ll briefly touch on.

Our Seattle property – We never planned to move back into this place even if we returned to Seattle, so we will continue renting it out. Rent is covering our mortgage after property management fees, and we have ~2 more years to decide if we want to sell it and avoid capital gains on the appreciation.

Our Dog, Bogey – Becky’s amazing sister has agreed to continue watching our goofy corgi while we figure our lives out, but we’ll be excited to go pick him up once we find more permanent housing.

Our Stuff – We placed some keepsakes and other essential items (like board games) in a storage unit in Seattle and we’ll leave it there for the time being. Once we know where and how we’ll be living, a plan will be made to transport it to our new location.

That looks…. comfortable?

While I wouldn’t say we’re quite “back to reality” yet, it does appear to be looming just around the corner.

For now, we’ll settle into our short term accommodations in Denver, study up for interviews, and get started on the next chapter of our lives.

Stay tuned for more info, but feel free to ask any questions below! I’m sure there’s some pressing detail I forgot to address above.

20 thoughts to “Gap Year Week 52: Back to Reality”

    1. Thanks J!

      We’re going to miss our deep dish pizza hangouts, but hopefully we’ll see you at FinCon this year!

  1. Wow, crazy to think the year is up! That’s awesome the spending came in lower than planned to give you some of this runway to focus on getting back into the job market. Denver seems like a great spot to be in, I loved the time I’ve spent there. Wishing you two the best!

    1. The year was a weird combination of slow and fast for us, but we’re sad to see it come to an end. Our cash runway will certainly make our lives easier for the next couple of months. Denver has been great so far despite the cold, but we can’t wait to hike the mountains in the summer.


    1. Thanks for following along Alien.

      As for TopCoder, how many coding practice websites do I really need? Won’t they all have fairly similar problem sets?

    1. I’m sure we’ll be making trips to Seattle in the future, so we should try to meet up then! Or if you visit Colorado anytime soon, be sure to let us know.

      We can’t wait to play with our puppy again, but I think we made the right choice of not bringing him along for the adventure. Only 2 more months without him if everything goes to plan!

  2. Glad to get an update on the gap year experiment. I’m also considering taking a gap for at least several months this year to focus on my personal life and re-assess my career trajectory. Might look to move into programming as my current field, while somewhat stable in the short term, is in long-term decline. Programming will also give me much more flexibility as demand for those skills are astronomical whereas my current industry is very niche. Still figuring out the logistical details of how I’ll go about it, so I’ll likely read through your gap year posts a few more times to glean any additional tips.

    Good luck on your steps ahead!

    1. Sounds great Mitch, even a few months off can make a huge difference in mindset.

      As for getting into programming, it’s certainly an in-demand field. If you like logic and solving complex problems, it’s a great (and lucrative) field to be in. I would start out with learning some of the basics yourself online with something like hackerrank’s Learn to Code in 30 days:

      If you like it, you can continue learning online or look into something like a coding bootcamp that can take you from knowing very little to landing your first job offer in 3-6 months.

      Best of luck!

  3. We met the lady in Nashville that does the walking tour. For the life of me I cannot remember her name but she was awesome and spoke so highly of you two. I have loved reading your blogs on your trip. My wife and I on the other end of the work spectrum might try to do the same for a year. You might see a blog by old farts.

    1. Christine! She’s an awesome person and runs an amazing food tour.

      Thanks for following along on our journey! There are not too many FI blogs on the older end of the spectrum, so you might be able to carve out a niche if you decide to give it a shot.

  4. Tech Center, Broomfield, Castle Rock and downtown are all great tech hubs and will be cheaper than downtown for sure. If you plan to own a car shoot for something outside downtown due to hellacious traffic, and they’re also ripping up I-70 just east of downtown and that area will be a disaster. 270 was awful before but routing all traffic plus I-70 traffic isn’t something I’d wish on my enemies. We’d move back to Denver if we could afford it.

    1. Thanks for the tips, we’re just starting to learn the different areas and neighborhoods. In an ideal world, we’d buy a place close enough to work that I could walk every day, but we’ll see what happens.

      We made a 1-car household work in Seattle and are hoping to do the same wherever we end up.

      1. Single car can be doable, but you’ll have to both work near each other or be close to public transit which is terrible compared to Seattle. Two years after opening the new airport light rail line they still couldn’t get it working right. Trains would just stop for an hour or the street gates wouldn’t work for months. We’ve been gone for over a year now so they probably have it working now. The airport is in the boonies (out where we lived) but it’s a wonderful airport, one of the newest and nicest in the country. And probably the best mountain activities in the country too.

    1. Thanks Grant! I’ll have to check them out once I have an income coming in again. I’ve been slacking in the credit card department this past year

  5. Curious. How did you decide on taking a gap year within the US vs outside the US?

    I also enjoyed taking a gap year but toured the EU.

    1. We considered both but ended up realizing that there were huge portions of the US we’ve never visited before (and wanted to see), so we decided to stay domestic. It also made some of the logistics a little easier (we never got on a plane), but that wasn’t a big factor in the decision

      Future trips might be more focused overseas (possibly EU), but we’ll have to wait and see

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