Let the nerdery resume…

Earlier this year, I made an abortive attempt to resurrect Folded Space (or jdroth.com, if you prefer). For the six weeks I was writing here, I really enjoyed it. But there were a couple of problems.

  • First, my webhost could not handle the site, for whatever reason. It makes no sense to me. It’s a basic WordPress blog with almost no traffic. Yet, the site crashed constantly, both for me and for others.
  • Second, as a result of the hosting issues, readers could not leave comments on the stuff I wrote. I enjoy engaging with an audience, however small. And the small audience that reads this site seems to enjoy engaging with me. It was frustrating to not be able to have a conversation.
  • Third, the entire site was bogged down by nearly thirty years of cruft. Since starting my first website in 1993 (or 1994?), I’d created a whole lot of chaos with scores of directories containing words and photos and files and mp3s and so on. Behind the scenes, things were a mess.

In mid-February, my business partner offered to move this site to a new webhost. I agreed. Tom moved the install. But then I got distracted with a trip to Mexico, an ice storm that knocked out power for ten days, and — most significantly — selling our house.

It wasn’t until today that I actually found time to sit down and update (nearly) everything.

The bottom line? Folded Space is back online! Let the nerdery resume…

Switching servers

I’ve had a couple of folks write to tell me that they’re trying to comment here at Folded Space but can’t. When they try, they get an internal server error. And you know what? When I try to post new pieces, I sometimes get that same internal server error. I don’t know precisely what is causing it, but I do know this. For too long now, I’ve stuck with my same host despite mounting frustrations. (The host is actually one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to re-launch this site.)

So, over the next few days — today or tomorrow, I hope — I’m going to try to move to a new host. That means things may down for a while. But when it’s over, everyone should be able to use the site properly once more. I know this probably only affects like five people right now, but I still thought I’d let you know.

Let’s do this thing!

On July 29th of last year (2019), I proudly proclaimed that this site, Folded Space, would soon return, rising like a phoenix from the flames.

Ha ha ha ha.

I was wrong, obviously. Although I was well-intentioned, life got in the way. Soon after I made that announcement, Kim and I took a long vacation in Europe. Then we spent a week in Washington, D.C. for the annual financial blogging conference. Then I returned to Europe to present at the annual F.I. chautauqua. Then I flew to Joshua Tree to present at Camp FI. Then I returned home, where I sunk into a pit of despair. (My depression really sucked last year.)

This year, things were more or less the same.

From January through May, I was hard at work writing and recording an audio course on financial independence and early retirement. That project, a joint venture between Audible and The Great Courses, hasn’t been published yet (tentative release date is February). When that work was done, I turned my attention to Get Rich Slowly.

Get Rich Slowly, you see, is a mess. When I re-purchased it in 2017, there were over 5000 articles at the site. Everything was in disarray. I spent three years floundering, trying to figure out what to fix first. It was all so overwhelming! But at long last, Tom and I began to tackle things during the second half of 2020. We’ve made good progress and have a plan for how to implement things in the years to come.

And one thing we need to do in order to make things work at Get Rich Slowly? Well, we need Folded Space to be functional once more.

There are a lot of great stories at Get Rich Slowly that don’t belong at Get Rich Slowly. That’s a blog about personal finance. It oughtn’t be a place where I rant about, say, how much I hate to use the telephone. Folded Space, however, is a great place for rants like this.

Our recent content audit at GRS revealed approximately 150 articles (out of 2500) that ought to be moved over here. But in order to begin moving things, I had to do some work on Folded Space!

So, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past week.

  • I’ve moved from my outdated (and broken) layout to a modern (but simple) design.
  • I’ve updated some of the static admin pages.
  • I’ve activated a security certificate.
  • I’ve re-activated the mailing list and changed it to weekly (instead of “post by post”).
  • I’ve revamped the blogroll to include only other folks who are still writing personal blogs (if only irregularly) after all of these years.
  • I’ve incorporated links from my Pinboard feed. This is a popular feature at Get Rich Slowly, and I think it’s a fun thing to include here.

There’s still plenty to do, but as of this moment I feel like Folded Space is finally ready to actually rise from the ashes. I can resume posting regular updates on all things nerdy. The other maintenance tasks can be finished as time allows.

So, there you have it. Exactly 17 months after promising that I was going to start write here again, I’m really ready to start writing here again.

I realize that, for a little while at least, I’ll probably only be writing to myself. I’m fine with that. I’ve sorely missed having Folded Space as an outlet. I process my thoughts and feelings through writing, and I haven’t really been doing that while this site has been on hiatus.

Plus, I’m fed up with Facebook. Facebook (and other platforms) killed the personal blog. Most of the things that I used to write here, I’ve been writing at Facebook. But that simply feeds the Facebook empire. Fuck that. I don’t want my writing to support any empire (unless it’s my own).

Let’s do this thing!

A phoenix from the flames

“You should bring back your personal blog,” my friend Tom told me last week. Tom is also the business half of Get Rich Slowly. He works on marketing and monetization.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You have a need to express yourself,” he said. “You’ve been writing more personal stuff at Get Rich Slowly, but it’s not a great fit for the site. Plus, I think you’d enjoy having an outlet for non-financial writing again.”

Tom is right. (He often is.) I would enjoy having this outlet again. And recently, a lot of things seem to be pulling me in this direction.

  • My friend Philip recently told me how much he enjoys my Facebook posts. “You tell stories,” he said. It’s true. I do use Facebook to tell stories about my life — silly things and big things alike. But Facebook isn’t great for longer content. Plus, I filter myself there because I don’t think casual acquaintances need (or want) to know everything about me.
  • David Cain at Raptitude recently published a post called “Let’s Talk Like We Used To” in which he described how his approach to blogging has changed over the past ten years. He’s gone from being more open and spontaneous to careful and calculated. “Somewhere along the line, at least for me, something got in the way of that straightforward sharing,” he says. I can relate. The same thing has happened to me. I miss the days of writing what I want when I want.
  • Over the years, I’ve created maybe a dozen sites on various topics. They’re all an outgrowth of this main blog, Folded Space, but they’re niched down to specific subjects such as animal intelligence or comic books. From a purely practical standpoint, it makes sense to have separate sites devoted to specific topics. Google likes that. Audiences like that. But it’s a hassle. I’d rather just have one site where I can write about all of these things — even if I’m only writing for myself alone.

And so, I’m going to resurrect Folded Space. It is going to rise, like a phoenix from the flames, to be an actual blog once more.

I won’t have a publishing schedule. I won’t filter myself. (Not much, anyhow.) I won’t adhere to any specific subject or subjects. I’m going to write about what interests me in the moment. This may or may not interest you.

If you’re one of the 1726 people still signed up to receive updates by email, you won’t offend me if you unsubscribe. It’s best for everyone if only folks who want these emails get these emails.

But it’ll be fun if you stick around. Please join the conversation! I’ll be writing about a lot of different stuff. Most of what I write will be new. Some of it will be old stuff from this site (and other sites) that I want to polish and/or share with a new audience. I hope that all of it — or nearly all of it — is interesting in some way.

First step? Since we’re getting close to debuting a new look for Get Rich Slowly, I’m going to move that site’s current theme over here. Folded Space is going to get a fresh coat of paint for the first time in a decade!

Did I Mention I Re-Purchased Get Rich Slowly?

I was browsing through the archives here at Foldedspace today and I realized that I never shared my biggest news from 2017: I bought back Get Rich Slowly!

Eight after I sold the site, the company that bought it from me dropped me a line. “Would you like to buy it back?” they asked. I told them that if the price was right, I would. The price was right.

We started discussions on the deal in late March, but for a variety of reasons, we didn’t actually close the deal until October. I published a few articles in October, and have been writing full time at Get Rich Slowly for two months now. I love it! It feels great to be back.

So far, reader response has been fantastic. People love the site almost as much as I do, which is edifying. In the two months since taking control again, I’ve managed to double traffic (although it remains a fraction of what it was at its peak). About 1000 people have subscribed by email (joining nearly 5000 Money Boss subscribers — I’ll merge the two lists soon). And during the month of December, I’ll make about $1500 from the site.

Now, $1500 isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things. But when you consider I’m putting minimal effort into monetization, that’s actually a terrific number. It makes me believe that Get Rich Slowly can absolutely provide a sustainable income going forward. That’s yet another margin of safety so that I don’t have to rely solely upon my investments.

Now we can add some more data points to my timeline of twenty years of blogging. Let’s expand things to 25 years and hit the bullet points:

What does the future hold? For now, my sole focus is on re-building Get Rich Slowly. That’s where all of my attention is being directed. Assuming I can build it into an actual business again — and I think that’s doable — then I’ll be smart this time and hire people to help me do the things I want to do. That’ll then give me time to build other websites. But for now? For now, I’m all about GRS.

Anyhow, I suspect many of you brave souls who still hang around here at Foldedspace — despite the lack up updates — are actually former Get Rich Slowly readers. If that’s you, you may want to check out GRS 3.0. I love it — and I hope you will too.

Twenty Years of Blogging

Twenty years ago today, I started blogging.

I didn’t know I had started blogging, of course. Back then, “blog” wasn’t even a word. The other folks who were writing for the web — and there were plenty — called what they did “web journaling”. So did I.

At first, my web journal was solely about my weight-loss journey. I documented my daily exercise routine and wrote about what I was eating. I didn’t really have an audience in mind other than myself. And that was fine. Though it might be hard for younger folks to believe, in the olden days there weren’t that many people reading the web!

Although I didn’t start my first blog (or web journal) until 16 August 1997, I’d actually been creating websites for several years before that. My first page went up sometime in 1994. I was constantly posting new stuff but none of it would be what we would now consider a blog.

After tracking my fitness for a little more than a year, I decided to start a proper web journal, which I called Great Expectations. That lasted for about a month before I gave up. You see, writing and publishing entries to my web journal was just too tedious. I had to code everything by hand. This wasn’t difficult but it was time consuming. I didn’t like it. So, I let Great Expectations lapse.

Time passed.

Foldedspace

Sometime in the spring of 2001, I discovered a service called Blogger. This cool tool — although very buggy — automated a lot of the process behind creating and maintaining a web journal. (The downside? If you composed in the Blogger software itself, you were liable to lose your work because it’d crash. I soon started writing my material in a text editor, after which I’d cut and paste to Blogger. That remains my method to this day!)

I launched my first official Blogger blog in June 2001. Foldedspace was a place for me to write about cats, computers, and comic books — and anything else that crossed my mind. Again, my audience was mostly myself. I was okay with that.

Something strage happened though. In time, more and more of my family and friends began reading Foldedspace. We had some great discussions in the comments section, debating things like politics and religion and how awful the new Star Wars movies were.

Then, on 26 April 2005, something very very important happened. I published a post about personal finance. The article summarized several money books I’d recently read and it came to this conclusion: There’s no reliable way to get rich quickly; however, there’s a proven method to get rich slowly.

For whatever reason, my article about the basics of smart money management garnered a lot of attention around the web. It went viral — or what passed for viral twelve years ago. “Neat,” I thought — and I moved on.

Starting Over

On 11 October 2005, another important event occurred.

I had long ago moved from the clumsy Blogger software to a program called Movable Type, which I loved. But unbeknownst to me, Movable Type had a fatal flaw: it was buggy. So buggy, in fact, that after years of use it decided to corrupt the database that contained my entire blog. Without any warning, hundreds of articles suddenly became inaccessible.

To be fair, the articles didn’t become completely inaccessible. While I could no longer log into my Movable Type account to manage Foldedspace, my old articles were still there. Unlike modern WordPress, which creates pages dynamically, Movable Type created static pages. Once you published an article, it was there on the web. All of my old articles are still there, twelve years after losing them. But I just can’t access them via an automated method.

One of my long-term plans (and I’ve had these plans for a decade) is to write a script that converts these static pages to a format that can be imported to WordPress. Then I can republish all of my old posts!

Meanwhile, I was starting to turn my financial life around. I was on a quest to conquer my debt. As part of that, I wanted to make more money. I was already doing some computer consulting on the side, but I wanted to make even more money. To that end, I decided to start a blog with advertising. (I was steadfastly against advertising at Foldedspace.)

At first, I tried to write a blog about comic books. It seemed like a natural fit. I liked comics, and there were folks willing to advertise on comic blogs. The problem? I didn’t like modern comics, and nobody wanted to read about the old stuff.

On a whim, I decided to start a blog about personal finance. “People really liked my article about getting rich slowly,” I thought. “Maybe I could start a blog about money.” And so I did. On 15 April 2006, I launched Get Rich Slowly. I had no clue what I’d unleashed…

Get Rich Slowly

Get Rich Slowly grew quickly. Within days, I had a thousand regular readers. Within six months, I had over 10,000 subscribers. By the end of its first year, Get Rich Slowly was receiving over 250,000 visitors each month. It was crazy!

As the site grew, so did its revenue. Get Rich Slowly only made $8.29 in April 2006. But in May, it earned $85.03. In June, it earned $473.22. In October, it earned over $1000. By July of 2007, I was earning more from Get Rich Slowly than I was from my day job! Thanks in part to this new stream of income, I was able to pay off the last of my debt in December 2007.

In March 2008, I quit my job at the family box factory in order to blog full time.

A funny thing happened about this time: Whereas blogging had been a fun hobby, once it became my job, that job seemed onerous. It was just the same as any other job. Plus, as the site’s revenue grew, so did the pressure. I didn’t increase my spending, so there wasn’t any added stress there; nonetheless, I felt a drive to boost readership and revenue from month to month.

Before long, I wanted out.

At the start of 2009, a company approached me about buying Get Rich Slowly. I thought they were joking at first. After they submitted a formal offer, I realized this wasn’t a laughing matter. I recruited an investment bank to shop the site around and got an even better offer. On 01 April 2009, I sold Get Rich Slowly — but I didn’t leave the site.

For the next three years, I stuck around as the site’s editor-in-chief and primary writer. Eventually, in the spring of 2012, I decided I’d had enough. I retired. Sort of.

Money Boss

After leaving Get Rich Slowly, I continued to contribute the occasional article. Meanwhile, I wrote a monthly column for Entrepreneur magazine. I wrote articles for Time magazine’s money blog. Most importantly (to me), I started writing again here at this site.

In March 2015, my girlfriend began a 15-month RV trip across the United States. We documented our adventures at a blog called Far Away Places.

On that trip, while stuck for ten days in rural South Dakota, I realized I wasn’t done writing about money. I missed blogging. I missed interacting with an audience. Plus, I’d spent the intervening years developing a clear financial philosophy (as opposed to the piecemeal ideas I’d shared at Get Rich Slowly). In October 2015, I launched Money Boss. Today, that’s my primary focus.

What’s Next?

You might think that after twenty years of blogging, I’d be burned out on it. Truthfully, I do get burned out from time to time. My most loyal readers (and there are a few hundred that seem to follow me no matter where I go) have noticed that I go on hiatus from time to time. (Heck, I haven’t published an article here in nearly a year!) But make no mistake: I love to write — and I love blogging.

Even when things are quiet on my various websites, I’m often working behind the scenes in preparation for bigger, better things to come in the future.

Writing is in my blood. I can’t stop. It’s how I express myself. Plus, I love the spontaneous nature of blogging. I sat down at my computer an hour ago to write about my twenty years as a blogger; in a few minutes I’ll press “publish” and share this article with a couple thousand people. That’s amazing! Better yet are the discussions that arise in the comments section of this blog (and others). While many bloggers are killing their comments, I doubt I ever will.

So, what’s next for me?

I’m reluctant to commit publicly to anything because as you all know by now, my plans are subject to change. That said, I’ve been working this summer on developing a WordPress theme that mimics some of what Jason Kottke does at his site. You can see this new theme in operation at Animal Intelligence, one of my older blogs that I’m in the process of reviving.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll gradually roll out this template to a few of my blogs over the next twelve months. I want to be careful, though, not to take on too much at once. I have a tendency to way overcommit, then not follow through on anything. I want to take this slow and steady.

Meanwhile, after a slow summer at Money Boss, I’m ready to dive into that site full-time. And, believe it or not, I want to publish more often around here. (That should be easy. It’s not tough to publish more often than once a year!)

If all goes well, I hope to still be blogging twenty years from now. Who knows? Maybe on 16 August 2037, I’ll publish an article here entitled “Forty Year of Blogging”! A fellow can dream, can’t he?

Learning to Live in the Here and Now

Guardians of BeingSince arriving home from our cross-country RV trip at the end of June, Kim and I have both been overwhelmed by modern life. We’re overwhelmed by the busy-ness of it all: the pace, the scheduling, all of the requests for time and attention.

“Why is this so tough for us?” I asked the other day. “We didn’t have problems before we left.”

“I don’t know,” Kim said. “But it sucks.” She’s right — it does suck.

This morning, I was reading Guardians of Being, a short book that mixes the philosophy of Eckhart Tolle with the animal art of Patrick McDonnell (from Mutts). Tolle, of course, is best known for his massive bestseller, The Power of Now, which encourages readers to get out of their heads and be more “present in the moment”. I was struck by this quote from Guardians:

Most of us live in a world of mental abstraction, conceptualization, and image making — a world of thought. We are immersed in a continuous stream of mental noise…We get lost in doing, thinking, remembering, anticipating — lost in a maze of complexity and a world of problems.

While we were on the road, Kim and I lived in the Now. We were always present in the moment. We might have vague plans for where we wanted to be in a few days or a few weeks, but mostly we made things up as we went along.

“Where do you want to go next?” Kim might ask, and then we’d pick a spot.

“Where should we camp tonight?” I might ask as we drove to the new town, and Kim would find a campground. “What should we do for dinner? Should we visit that park? This site is awesome — let’s stay a few more nights.” Nearly everything we did was spontaneous. We had no plans or commitments and it was wonderful.

But back home, even without jobs to go to (yet) and few plans, the pace of modern life is staggering. We’re always doing something with somebody. We schedule appointments and anticipate commitments. We have to-do lists. We go to the gym three mornings a week, take the puppy to puppy classes, agree to help colleagues, and so on. There’s so much going on that there’s never a chance to simply be present in the Here and Now.

And the stuff! There’s so much stuff! We had few possessions in the motorhome; we didn’t miss what we did not have. Here at home, even though we own less than many folks, we have tons of stuff. Tons of stuff! So many books! So many clothes! So many dishes! So much in every closet and cupboard.

Kim and I are overwhelmed because we’ve made a sudden transition from doing and having very little to doing and having a lot. All of the stuff and commitments comes with mental baggage. It takes brainwidth.

Be present

Last week, I met with my friend Michael. He’s a career and marriage counselor. I told him how overwhelmed we are. “We feel like we need to move to a small house in the country,” I said.

Michael nodded. “I can see how that might help,” he said. “But you know what? I’ve found that many of my clients who crave change can find happiness closer to home. They think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, that they’ll fix things by making big moves.”

“What do you suggest instead?” I asked.

“Something less drastic,” Michael said. “I try to get folks to find ways to shape their current situation to meet their needs. If they want a new job because they think it’ll allow them to be more fulfilled, I ask if there’s a way they can restructure their current position so that it gives them that fulfillment. In your case, I’d suggest you don’t need to buy two acres in the country to get what you want. You can probably find ways to stay where you are — because you have a great home in a great location! — while simultaneously reducing the stress and the stuff.”

I’ve been thinking about Michael’s advice for the past week. He’s right. We do live in a great spot. We both love it. It’s not the spot that’s the problem. It’s being surrounded by so much stuff in the house, and by the sudden need to schedule our time. We can’t remove all of the stuff and we can’t live completely free of schedules, but we can certainly be more judicious with both. We can guard our time assiduously, which would allow us to be more spontaneous (like we were on the road). We can purge some of our possessions, then be cautious about what we allow to come into the condo.

Here’s another quote I liked from Guardians of Being:

We have forgotten what rocks, plants, and animals still know. We have forgotten how to be — to be still, to be ourselves, to be where life is: Here and Now.

While traveling the country for fifteen months, Kim and I learned how to be Here and Now. It was awesome. Now the challenge is discovering how to be Here and Now while living a modern life in a modern city. We need to ignore (or reject) the hustle and bustle, to embrace the stillness.

Michael is right: We don’t need to move the country to reduce complexity. We can do it here. And now.

Just bee

My 2015 Year in Review

This has been quite a year for me. In 2015, I did a couple of Big Things that pushed me outside of my comfort zone. They were scary — but fun. And while my life was mostly awesome, it wasn’t perfect. (It never is, right?) I’ve struggled with my fitness, especially.

By far the biggest event in my life this year was our RV trip across the United States. Kim hatched this plan in early 2014, and after we realized we really wanted to do this adventure, we spent the rest of that year preparing for it. By early 2015, we’d begun shopping for a motorhome and planning for six months of travel. In the middle of January, we bought a used 29-foot Bigfoot for $38,000.

Bigfoot
Bigfoot, before the adventure began…

I don’t think I can convey just how nervous it made me to buy this vehicle. Motorhomes combine the worst aspects of owning both houses and cars. To me, making this move felt — and still feels — like a a huge risk. But calculated risks, life lacks zest. (Plus, we have high hopes that we can recoup much of that $38,000 when it comes time to resell the rig.)

Kim and I spent most of February and March preparing for our trip. We arranged for our friends Tyler and Jess to housesit our condo in Portland. We packed away all of our stuff (except our furniture). We outfitted the RV. Kim quit her job — a big leap of faith on her part. We took a couple of weekend test trips to nearby campgrounds.

Then, on my 46th birthday, we drove off for what we expected to be six months on the road.

Things got off to a rocky start. Kim and I don’t fight often, but there was some definite negative energy the morning we left. That bad vibe lingered as we drove south through Oregon and into northern California. But by the time we reached the Redwoods, we were back in sync. With a couple of exceptions, we remained in a good groove for the next nine months — despite being in constant close quarters and having nobody else to hang out with.

Bigfoot, at home in the Redwoods

After a week in Wine Country, we moved on to California’s Sierra Nevadas to explore Kim’s childhood stomping grounds. We visited her friends and family. We explored Yosemite.

Kim plays with her nephew, Porter, as a thunderstorm approaches

Yosemite Falls in the Yosemite Valley

By the middle of April, we’d reached southern California. We parked the RV in Palm Springs for a week, which gave us time to explore the surrounding area. We visited Joshua Tree. We drove around the Salton Sea and through Anza-Borrego. We spent time with more of Kim’s family in southern California.

J.D. stopped to take MANY photos
We were lucky to tour the park when it was cloudy and rainy.
The weather added texture to everything.

From there, we moved on to Arizona. Arizona! Wow, what a lovely surprise. The state is absolutely gorgeous.

When she was younger, Kim lived for a year in Flagstaff, Arizona. But at the time, she and her husband hadn’t had the time or money to really explore the region. This time, we spent nineteen days sampling the state from south to north — and still didn’t see half what we wanted to.

We loved the funky charm of Bisbee, the mining town built into the side of a mountain. We enjoyed the hospitality of her aunt and uncle in Tucson. We made a quick pitstop for Chinese Mexican food (yes, really) at Chino Bandido in Phoenix. We spent a week exploring the area around Sedona. We camped for free in the national forest just outside the Grand Canyon.

Devil's Bridge behind Sedona
Devil’s Bridge behind Sedona (click for larger version)

Greetings from Forest Road 688F
Forest Road 688F, just south of Grand Canyon!

Grand Canyon is Arizona's most-famous (and most-visited) landmark
Grand Canyon is Arizona’s most-famous (and most-visited) landmark.

The canyon is vast almost beyond imagining -- 277 miles of fantastic formations
The canyon is vast almost beyond imagining — 277 miles of fantastic formations.

It's the Colorado River far below that has carved this region's landscape
It’s the Colorado River far below that has carved this region’s landscape.

The views are so vast that you can watch the approaching weather
The views are so vast that you can watch the approaching weather.

But the biggest surprise of all was probably Page, on the Arizona-Utah border. This town came into existence during the construction of the much-maligned Glen Canyon Dam. It’s surrounded by astounding geologic formations, including the jaw-dropping Horseshoe Bend and the famously photographed Antelope Canyon, both of which are well worth the time and effort to visit.

We're happy to have seen Arizona. Now it's on to other states!
Overlooking Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona.

Antelope Canyon is a crazy kaleidoscope of shapes and colors.
Antelope Canyon is a crazy kaleidoscope of shapes and colors.
Between the two of us, we took over six hundred photos!

After a quick stop at the relatively disappointing Monument Valley, we spent a week in southwest Colorado. Again, more amazing scenery. From the ancient cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde to old mining towns like Silverton and Rico to the fantastic Rocky Mountain peaks around Telluride and Ouray, we loved soaking up the history and the views. Top highlight? Probably the afternoon we spent at the “clothing-optional” hot springs outside Ouray. We spent several hours reading in the mineral pools, getting massages, and experiencing a fantastic thunderstorm.

The train followed the bank of the Animas River
Riding the Durango narrow-gauge railroad next to the Animas River

Ouray, Colorado is tucked into the Rocky Mountains
Ouray, Colorado is tucked into the Rocky Mountains

Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

From there, we moved on to the Fort Collins area, where we enjoyed ten days with Kim’s mom and stepdad. We biked around the town, ate and drank too much (a theme for this trip), and got to visit with friends like the Mr. Money Mustache family. A great break after the first stage of our trip.

Atop Rocky Mountain National Park
Atop Rocky Mountain National Park

Financial friends in Longmont
Financial friends in Longmont: Derek and Carrie and the Mustache family.

By early June, we had a feel for how this whole motorhome thing worked. We left Colorado and drove northwest into Wyoming, where we explored Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons for a week. Again, so much beauty! The western United States has some world-class destinations for nature lovers.

Old Faithful in action
Old Faithful is neat, but Yellowstone offers much more

Grand Prismatic Spring is gorgeous!
Grand Prismatic Spring is beautiful…

The magnificent Tetons
Morning in Grand Teton National Park (photo from top of Signal Mountain)

After a minor mishap on our way to Sun Valley, Idaho — we managed to run out of gas while driving the back way into the resort town — we settled in for a quiet week in a small town.

A long way down...
The drop down into Sun Valley on Trail Creek Summit Road

From there, it was north to Montana. The end of June found us camped on the shores of Swan Lake, a great base for exploring Glacier National Park and the surrounding area. We spent a lot of time on the water, basking in the sun — and dodging mosquitoes. (From the time we reached Fort Collins at the end of May until we settled in Savannah in early October, both of us constantly sported bug bites.)

Boondocking at the base of the Bitterroot Mountains.
Boondocking at the base of the Bitterroot Mountains.

The cold, cold water of Swan Lake in northern Montana
The cold, cold water of Swan Lake in northern Montana

Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park, as seen from Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The first three months of our road trip had been spent exploring The West, a region we already knew fairly well. (In fact, we had never left a place that Kim did not know.) Now it was time to head into the unknown. Our first stop? The Dakotas. We passed Independence Day in the Black Hills of South Dakota, a wonderful vacation spot.

Mount Rushmore!
Mount Rushmore would have been neater at the start of our trip. By July we were jaded.

We darted down to Nebraska to visit Kim’s close friends and spent a night parked on the edge of bluff overlooking Badlands National Park (just a few miles from the infamous Wall Drug, perhaps the country’s top tourist trap). Here we reached Peak Mosquito. The nasty bloodsucking menaces were so thick that we could not walk from the car to the RV without getting new bites. Crazy!

Sitting on the edge of the Badlands
Sitting on the edge of the Badlands…

Parked on the edge of the badlands!
Our best camping spot on the trip if not for the bloodthirsty flies and mosquitoes.

It was here that our troubles began. Driving east toward Minnesota, the motorhome’s engine blew. We found ourselves stranded for ten days in the small town of Plankinton, South Dakota. While the fine folks at Overweg Auto installed a new engine for us, we took the time to visit the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, see the Corn Palace in Mitchell (meh), and watch a lot of movies on our laptops.

Stranded!
Prepping to tow an injured RV back to town…

The Ingalls homestead
The real-life Ingalls homestead. Laura first met Almonzo in the slough behind this white building.

It was in Plankinton that the seed was planted for my new financial blog, Money Boss. While hosting a financial webinar for my friend Leo Babauta, I realized that I really do love reading and writing about money, and helping others improve their finances. So, after years of saying I was retired, I put the wheels in motion to get back in the game.

With our newly-repaired RV, we got back on the road and tried to make up for lost time. I visited my friends Joel and Aimee who live smack dab in Garrison Keillor country. (Seriously, they live just a few miles from the fictional location of Lake Wobegon.) We parked for a few days near Duluth, Minnesota, where we got out first introduction to what passes for scenery in the East. (Sorry, folks, but it’s not nearly as scenic as the West!)

The sea caves at Devils Island
The sea caves of the Apostle Islands. Like a submerged Sedona. [click for larger version]

In the Land O’ Lakes, we started dropping in on friends. We spent a few days with Jim Collins on the shore of Lake Michigan; we saw Shannyn in Chicago (our first real city since Denver two months earlier); we camped for a week near the Amish enclave of Shipshewana, Indiana where we enjoyed the hospitality of Phil and Kathy; we visited Adam Baker’s family in Indianapolis. It was all great fun, but Kim and I were both interested to see that once we had crossed the Great Plains, it was as if we’d entered another country. Again, the eastern U.S. is very different from the west.

J.D. and Jim, walking the beach...
J.D. and Jim, walking the shores of Lake Michigan…

The river tour of Chicago's architecture may be the best such trip I've ever taken
The river tour of Chicago’s architecture is an excellent way to learn about the city.

An Amish farmer works his field

Adam and J.D. and three Baker girls
Adam and J.D. and three Baker girls

Next, we moved on to Ohio. We stopped near Cincinnati for four days, where we had three great social experiences. First, we met Chris and Jim (a.k.a. Geeks on Tour). Then we enjoyed a home-cooked meal from Amy Finke. Then we enjoyed another home-cooked meal from Andrea Deckard.

J.D. and Andrea are very tired...
Can you tell how hot and tired Andrea and I are in this photo?

In fact, the 24 hours with Andrea had a profund impact on both Kim and me. Over dinner, she told us about Steve Chou’s course on how to open an online store. Kim has been searching for some way to make money online, and this sparked something inside her. The very next day, she had begun researching how to make this happen. (Unlike me, Kim is not a natural internet denizen. She doesn’t enjoy computer work. This is a whole new world to her.) The next morning over breakfast, Andrea gave me some not-so-gentle prodding to start my new website.

These 24 hours with Andrea completely changed our plans. We’d already realized that this six-month trip across the United States was going to take at least a year, but we’d had no plans to stop. Now, however, both Kim and I became distracted. Instead of being in the moment, enjoying where we were and what we were doing, we were thinking about other things. She was thinking about what to sell online and how to do it. I was drawing up plans for Money Boss.

Thanks to Andrea, everything changed on August 14th.

We left Cincinnati and drove deep into West Virginia, a state of mountains and trees. Although this was probably the most beautiful place we’d seen since Arizona, neither of us was fully engaged anymore. Instead of exploring the world around us, we were spending time in the motorhome, working on our projects.

West Virginia is beautiful
The lovely misty mountains of West Virginia…

The New River Gorge Bridge

For the next two weeks, we tried to explore the places we visited. We took a tour of the West Virginia State Penitentiary. In Cleveland, we took a day to ride the roller coasters at Cedar Point. We also visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame (very disappointing) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (better than expected — great, in fact). We parked the RV at a winery in northwestern New York (dangerous!) and biked around Niagara Falls. (So far, Niagara Falls has been the most impressive geological feature we’ve seen in the East. It’s pretty neat. If it were in the West, it’d be a National Park.)

The West Virginia State Penitentiary
The penitentiary building, as seen from the mound across the road…

Harvest Host parking in New York
Our RV spot (and fire) at Freedom Run Vineyard

Niagara Falls from the Canadian side
The incredibly beautiful Niagara Falls (click to enlarge)

As a sign of how much we’d lost our enthusiasm for the trip, we skipped New York’s Finger Lakes, a region we’d been looking forward to visiting. We did stop in Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame (again, underwhelming). This area was far more beautiful than we’d expected. We both thought we could live here.

While the next two weeks weren’t miserable, they were certainly the least enjoyable two weeks of the trip. We spent four days in Pennsylvania’s Poconos, a place I’d always thought was some sort of resort get-away. Turns out it’s a dirty over-commercialized tourist trap. Then we spent ten days in an RV park near Atlantic City, New Jersey. We ventured outside the motorhome only rarely. Instead, we cooped ourselves up inside and worked on our projects. By this time, my plans for Money Boss were in full swing. Meanwhile, Kim was receiving a crash course in internet marketing.

We did take time for two visits, however. Our friend Harlan drove out to see us one afternoon. And my little brother Tony happened to be in town for a business convention (which was why we’d picked Atlantic City as a stop in the first place), so we spent a day with him. It was awesome to see both guys.

Tony and J.D.
Brothers with beer.

Harlan and J.D.
Business buddies.

After Atlantic City, we parked the RV at Jim Wang’s house outside Washington, D.C. We drove the Mini Cooper to Charlotte, North Carolina to attend two conferences: Digital CoLab and Fincon. This week with friends and colleagues energized both of us, and reinforced the idea that it was time for us to take a break from our travels.

But where should we stop? Where would we live? What would we do with the RV? How long would we stay put? What would we do for money? Is it possible to simply set down roots all of a sudden with no plan, no preparation?

Turns out, it’s surprisingly easy to do so.

After exploring Charleston, Savannah, and Orlando, we decided to settle in Georgia for six months. We rented a fully-finished condo in Savannah for six months and settled into a routine.

During October, Kim and I were both good about exercise. We’d gained weight from too much food and drink (and not enough exercise) during our six months across the U.S., and we aimed to fix that. At the same time, we both dove deep into our businesses. Kim ordered lots of different products from China to test their marketability online. I worked on content and design for Money Boss.

In early November, Kim’s brother flew out to visit us for a long weekend. We played tourist in Savannah and had a great time trying restaurants and touring the historic sites.

Doug and J.D.
Doing the tourist thing with Kim’s brother, Doug.

After Doug’s visit, I reverted to bad habits. You see, if I’m not careful I can become a workaholic. And that’s what I did. I spent the entire month with my head down in front of my computer. I stopped going for walks. I stopped lifting weights. All I did was work. In some ways, this was productive. I created an excellent (IMHO) ten-part series that summarizes my financial philosophy. And just before Thanksgiving, the Money Boss website went live!

Money Boss screenshot
Money Boss is live! So excited for this new site…

On the other hand, all work and no play makes J.D. a very dull boy. I lost my fitness gains from the month before. And after getting into a good groove with my writing, I fell into a mental funk. The first couple weeks of December weren’t good.

Kim, on the other hand, was a machine. She was exercising. She was working on her online business. And most impressive (to me) was the fact that she had hustled to get her Georgia state dental hygiene license, distributed her résumé to offices around town, and now was picking up all sorts of fill-in work. Her hustle is amazing.

While we’d settled in Savannah, we continued to explore our surroundings. For Thanksgiving, we drove to Orlando to spend the holiday with our friend Toni and her family. We also spent a night in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest European settlement in the U.S. (We’re heading back to St. Augustine in a few days to help celebrate Toni’s birthday.) In early December, we drove two hours north for a weekend in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina.

The Angel Oak
The massive Angel Oak is a Charleston landmark.

The Old Sheldon Church
The ruins of the Old Sheldon Church between Charleston and Savannah.

To end the year, we booked a week in New York City. Kim had found a Groupon for a cheap hotel near Times Square. (The place? The very European Row NYC, where rooms are small and functional because you should be out enjoying the city.) We flew up for Christmas week and had a blast. The highlight was an evening with blogging buddies Harlan, Miranda, and Athena. (Trivia: We’ve now seen Harlan and Miranda each three times on this trip, the most we’ve seen anyone.)

The Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty.

NYC Street Scene
On the street, somewhere near Harlem.

As I say, it’s been quite a year. When we think about it, Kim and I are blown away by how much we’ve done in the past twelve months. Seriously. With zero experience, we bought a motorhome and launched on the adventure of a lifetime. We explored half the United States. We settled in a new city (if only for a few more months) and both started big new projects. Through it all, our relationship has only gotten stronger, which is something that wasn’t a given. (Many folks find that RV living harms their bond rather than helping it.)

That said, our health has suffered. We’ve enjoyed trying the food (and beer) from around the country. Our bellies are good barometers of just how much that’s true. We’re not worried, though. We know we have the drive and ability to shed the weight once we establish some sort of routine. Unfortunately, that might mean when we return home — next October.

2015 Travels
Where we’ve been in 2015. So many places!

What next? Well, Kim will continue doing fill-in dental hygiene work in Savannah. She’s shocked by how well this has gone. People love her, both patients and dental offices. She has more offers of work than she has days in the week, and she’s getting more all the time. (She’s even getting calls from offices she never applied to; folks are referring her to each other!) Meanwhile, she’s about to place her first order for product from China. She’ll be selling teething necklaces (!?!?!) on Amazon.

Kim's eCommerce Stuff
Our kitchen table is filled with Kim’s ecommerce stuff.

My work is focused solely on Money Boss. Now that the site is live, and now that I’ve finished writing my ten-part “crash course” to my financial philosophy, it’s time to settle into a writing routine. The challenge? I not only need to produce articles for now, but also articles for when we’re on the road. Once we resume our RV trip, I want to devote my efforts to that. I don’t want my attention to be divided. It takes the fun out of things. That means I have to create twice as many articles (or three times as many articles) as I need for the immediate future.

Fortunately, I have tons of ideas. Plus, during my years of “retirement”, I saved up lots of notes and half-completed stories. I shouldn’t have any trouble coming up with new stuff to write. (First up? Tomorrow — on New Year’s Day — I’ll write my article for April first. It’ll be an update of a GRS classic: Lifestyles of the Rich and Stupid. Very eager to write this one.)

We plan to take a two-week trip through Florida at the end of February and beginning of March, but other than that we’ll be camped here in Savannah until it’s time to hit the road again. After the huge St. Patrick’s Day celebration — the biggest such event in the U.S., bigger than New York or Chicago! — we’ll start packing up the motorhome. Our plan is to hit the road by the time the lease on the condo expires on March 31st.

We’re not sure what route we’ll take. We skipped some places we wanted to see when we got burned out at the end of the summer. But we don’t want to drive all the way up to New England. (I’ve promised Kim that I’ll fly us out to see the fall colors in 2017.) We’ll probably start in Washington, D.C. (Maybe we can park the RV in Jim’s driveway again? Or maybe we’ll drive the Mini Cooper up and rent a cheap hotel? AirBNB?) From there, we want to explore the South.

We know we want to hit Kentucky in late April or early May. Kim wants to see horse races! We want to see Nashville and Memphis. I have a college roommate in Huntsville, Alabama and I’d love to reconnect with him. Kim has never seen New Orleans, and she really ought to do so. Our friend Bret will kill us if we don’t spend a week in St. Louis. I have a cousin in northern Oklahoma. The state of Texas is h-u-g-e and might take an entire month to explore. Kim wants to see New Mexico, and we’d both like to visit her mom again in Colorado on the return trip. Plus, there’s Arizona. Arizona! We want to see more of what that state has to offer.

Our only real timeline is that we have to be in San Diego for a conference in the middle of September. (I’ll fly home to Portland for World Domination Summit in August, but that shouldn’t affect our travel schedule.) After that, we’ll drive north to Portland. We should be home in early October. We can’t wait! The U.S is amazing, but Portland is home and we miss it. And we miss our friends. Our only other plan for 2016 is a trip to Ecuador for the fourth annual chautauqua on money and happiness.

So, there you have it. A busy and blessed 2015 with more to come in 2016. If I could get my eating and drinking under control, my life would be pretty much ideal. I hope your life is similarly wonderful, and that you and I will continue to become better people together as time goes on.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Long-time readers know that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

Despite attempts by retailers to turn the weekend into some sort of extended consumer orgy, I’m grateful that we set aside a day each year to remember the good things we have.

Make no mistake — if you’re reading this, you’re among the world’s wealthy.

Here’s an over-the-top appreciation of the Thanksgiving Day from 1951:

Maybe a bit sappy but certainly sincere.

This year, as in years past, I want to share an 88-year-old poem that I read to myself every Thanksgiving. It does a fine job of encapsulating my philosophy of life. I’ve de-versified it and converted it to prose paragraphs. I like the way it reads this way.

Desiderata

(Max Ehrmann, 1927)

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others — even to the dull and the ignorant — they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

I am thankful for all that I have.

I’m thankful for my health, for my family, for Kim, for our extended safe passage across the U.S. this past year. I’m thankful for good friends and great colleagues. I’m thankful to have found my calling in life, and to be able to do truly meaningful work. And I’m thankful for you, the folks who read what I write.

It’s been a true pleasure getting to know so many of you, and I look forward to making more connections in the future.

Happy Thanksgiving!

An Update after Two Months on the Road in an RV

So far, so good.

Kim and I are now 52 days, 2500 miles, and $4000 into our planned year-long RV trip. We’ve made it to Page, Arizona, which sits just south of the Utah border. (Technically, our RV is currently parked a few feet into Utah, but we’re counting this as time in Arizona. Because it is.)

In many ways, this trip has gone better than expected. We both enjoy the nomadic lifestyle, spending a few days in one place before moving on to the next. We are learning so much about this country’s culture and geography. Already, books and movies are gaining “texture” that might otherwise have been missing. (Example: While listening to The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency yesterday, the description of the mine made more sense because we’d taken a mine tour in Bisbee, Arizona two week ago.)

Entering the Copper Queen mine
Entering the Copper Queen mine in Bisbee

The combination of our motorhome and Mini Cooper has worked well, and we’re making constant small improvements. We picked up a seven-dollar crockpot at a thrift store in Oceanside, California, for instance, so that we can bulk-prepare meals. And yesterday we bought a cast-iron skillet to replace the cheap piece of junk we’ve put up with for the past two months.

Through it all, our relationship seems to be getting stronger rather than weaker. We truly enjoy spending time together, especially when we’re exploring.

Having fun in gorgeous Antelope Canyon
Having fun in gorgeous Antelope Canyon

Not everything about the trip is awesome, of course. There are downsides of differing degrees. For instance:

  • For both of us, the scariest moments on the road have involved driving — especially in southern California. (I loathe SoCal traffic, from Sacramento on south. Drivers are often rude and reckless, which is not fun to be around in an RV.) We had a frightening few hours on narrow L.A. freeways as we made our way from Santa Barbara to Palm Springs, but the worst moment was when we inadvertently ended up on a narrow dike road outside Sacramento, with no shoulder, no turn-offs, and a gusting wind.
  • It sucks to be away from friends for so long. We miss our people in Portland, and wish there were some way to see them. We had a chance to meet up with our good friend Bret in Phoenix, but the timing didn’t work. Fortunately, we’ve spent much of the first seven weeks hanging out with Kim’s family. But now we’ve run out of Stevenses and Edwardses to socialize with.
Kim plays with her nephew, Porter, as a thunderstorm approaches
Kim plays with her nephew as a thunderstorm approaches the Sierra Nevadas

  • There’s so much to see! That’s a good thing, of course, but it also creates this artificial pressure to get out of the RV and explore our surroundings. It seems wrong to take a down day. That pressure goes so far as to make it tough to write — whether for here, for our travel blog, or four our families. Writing this particular is a luxury, and one I’m enjoying only because I woke early and left Kim to sleep a while longer.
  • Costs are higher than we’d hoped. Going into this trip, we didn’t have a true idea of what we’d be spending. We had budgeted $2000 per month (which is about $500 per week or $67 per day). Our actual spending has been about 25% higher than that, and that doesn’t include non-trip expenses such as novels, souvenirs (I’m buying lapel pins at major stops), or “date nights”. Those come out of a non-trip account. Fortunately, our spending has decreased over the past few weeks. We’ve learned how to dry camp on Forest Service land (free!), and we’re putting the afore-mentioned crockpot to good use. Plus, early RV and Mini expenses were one-time only. We hope…
  • Lastly, we’ve had occasional lapses in communication. When these occur, we get cranky with each other. Fortunately, we’re quick to resolve them and have come to recognize that we simply need to make our expectations and desires clear to each other.

Although we don’t have as much “work time” as we had expected — as you can tell by the fact that I haven’t had time to write here at Foldedspace! — we’re still taking steps to document the trip as it happens. Kim and I are both keeping journals. (Mine is very basic: where we were, what we did, what we spent.) We’re also taking tons of photographs — and a handful of videos. We post the best of these on Facebook and Instagram, and I’m trying to share highlights now and then at Far Away Places.

J.D. stopped to take MANY photos
We were lucky to tour Joshua Tree when it was cloudy and rainy.
The weather added texture to everything.

Lastly, I’ve been logging a variety of statistics in a spreadsheet. That’s how I know we’ve spent $3987.09 on this trip so far (again, not counting personal expenses); when we drive the motorhome, we’re getting an average of 7.7 miles per gallon and an average speed of 41.21 miles per hour; we’ve spent 64% of our nights in RV parks, 26% with family, 8% boondocking, and 2% (one night) in a hotel; and so on. Yes, I am a nerd.

In some ways, this trip is lasting longer than expected. We’ve been on the road for almost two months, and we’ve only been to California and Arizona! At this rate, it’ll take us four years to criss-cross the United States. On the other hand, the time also seems to be rushing by. There are so many places to see and so many people to meet.

Kim shows her grandfather photos of our trip.
Kim shows her grandfather photos of our trip.

Yesterday we took the short walk into Horseshoe Bend. While taking dozens of photos with the other tourists, I chatted with a man from Arkansas who’s out here with his family. “I’ve never been out of the U.S.,” he told me. “I always wanted to visit other countries, but this vacation has made me realize there’s so much to see here. I could spend a lifetime exploring my own country, let alone the world.”

Exactly. That’s probably the biggest realization Kim and I have had on this trip too. We knew the U.S. was vast — it’s something we always tell folks from other countries who talk about coming to New York and simply popping over to L.A. — but we never appreciated how vast.

Devil's Bridge behind Sedona
Devil’s Bridge behind Sedona (click for larger version)

We’re okay with the vastness. That means there’s more beauty for us to see, more people to meet, more places to sit and meditate and feel lucky to be alive. Now, however, it’s time to leave Page, Arizona and move on to Monument Valley. From there, we think we’ll swing north before crossing into Colorado. But who knows? Mostly, we’re making this up as we go along. And that’s half of the fun…

We're happy to have seen Arizona. Now it's on to other states!