Almost four years ago, my wife Amy and I were in a hotel room in Taipei, settling in for the night. We were visiting Taiwan for the week, taking the opportunity to meet Amy’s extended family while celebrating our marriage with loved ones on the other side of the globe who weren’t able to make our official wedding in Michigan. I hadn’t expected that so much would change overnight.
In fact, that’s where the above photo was taken, in the hotel in Taipei. Around 11 PM the evening before, I had logged into Skype with my cellphone through questionable wifi, wearing a dress shirt, tie, and no pants. For about an hour, I interviewed for Nice Ride‘s Marketing Director position. Amy hid in the hotel’s bathroom so that she wouldn’t potentially interrupt the interview (she’s a champ).
Amy took the photo the very next morning, when I received my job offer email. It was one of the most exciting days of my life. I had just landed my dream job while vacationing in Taiwan, with a flight due for a week in Hawaii in the days that followed.
It was pretty surreal.
Now, I’ve spent the last three years spreading the word about Nice Ride, the Twin Cities bike sharing system. I’ve sent thousands of tweets and Facebook updates and been a part of three record-breaking seasons. During hundreds of events and project collaborations I’ve made some amazing friends and worked on really fun stuff.
For three years, it has been my job to get more people riding bicycles for the benefit of their own health and quality of life, and for the improvement of my city. It’s hard to describe how cool I’ve always thought it was to be able to change someone’s life by providing access to convenient, active transporation. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve such an incredible nonprofit with a dedicated team in the capacity that I have. But, as with any story, there are many chapters within.
Last week, after providing one-month notice, I left my dream job to make my own.
Today, I find myself at a coffee shop, writing this post all morning and early afternoon—something that would have not been possible last week. I’m feeling an amount of freedom that is both terrifying and incredibly exciting. Is Break the Twitch making enough money to cover our living costs?
The answer: absolutely not—at least, not yet. After over 400,000 visits from readers, my desire to avoid any display advertising on the site and minimize distractions from my posts has netted me approximately zero dollars. Amy and I have been intentionally designing our lives over the last two years to be able to take this leap. Not necessarily by creating a large cash “cushion”, but by creating a lifestyle with less clutter and more space—both time-wise and money-wise.
While this announcement may come as a bit of a surprise, big changes like these don’t simply happen overnight. Each decision that we’ve made over the last several years was an intentional step we took by following our decision filters. Every new direction we took, especially large steps like purchasing a home, have been opportunities for us to take one step closer to our vision.
To me, intentional living means having a vision, even if it’s a vague one, and designing your life in a way that aligns with that vision every day. That means making decisions that move you closer, instead of further away for that goal.
Key Factors from the Last Few Years:
Buying our home was one of the biggest decisions, and also a key lifestyle design opportunity. At the time, we were eligible for a mortgage more than twice as large as the one we ended up getting. Had we chosen to take a mortgage that large, there’s no way Amy could have quit her corporate finance job back in 2014 to freelance, and definitely no way I could have left my full-time job without anything else lined up.
Finding a balance between monthly mortgage expense and a small but highly usable living space was one of the most important decisions we made to make it all possible. Our monthly payments ended up being around two-thirds of what we had previously paid in rent living in an apartment downtown. Many people tend to increase expenses when they make an investment in a home, but we chose to decrease them.
It took about one year for us to recover from the costs of purchasing the house and expenses of first-time home ownership, but once things settled down our expenses reduced significantly. When we bought, we picked a location that was two miles away from my work. This allowed us to continue as a one-car household, keeping auto insurance and commuting expenses low. We’re right on a bus line, and within the service areas of ride sharing options like car2go and Lyft. On top of that, Minneapolis is one of the most bikeable cities in the nation.
Financially, we are far from rich, but we also have no debt other than our mortgage and a used car loan. I completely recognize the privilege of not having any student loans at this point and believe it deserves mention. Our decision to pursue a minimalist lifestyle and live more simply has also helped. It has helped us kick our consumerism habit and to this day requires much less money to simply exist. Life gets much less expensive when you stop chasing happiness through acquisition of things. I largely credit my friends Joshua Becker and Joel Zaslofsky for inspiring Amy and I to make these changes.
While we do plan on having children at some point, we don’t have any yet. While doing what we’re doing is still possible with children, we do recognize they come with additional layers of considerations. If we completely fail in this adventure, it is only ourselves we are responsible for. We’ve decided that we’re willing to risk some potential future discomfort in exchange for the opportunity to see out the vision for our lives at a quicker pace. Having children in tow would certainly be a lot tougher so I view our current situation as a great opportunity.
Lastly, having a flexible schedule generally costs less money and time. After driving to a 10 AM coffee meeting this morning, I noticed how unusually light the traffic was. With the freedom to schedule around traditionally busy times, things take less time, and generally, cost less. I can take more time to find cheaper or free parking spots, or I can bike instead of rushing to meet someone during a lunch break. While these reductions in cost will not come anywhere close to replacing what income I used to make, it’s helpful during this time of transition.
That all being said, are we taking a bit of a risk by making this transition? Yes, I’d say so. Might I have to go back and find a job at some point? Possibly, and I’m okay with that. But it’s calculated risk, and one that has been a few years in the making: one small decision after the other, slowly aligning our daily actions to look increasingly like our vision.
It’s a move to see what opportunities arise while pushing me to create the best writing, videos, and content that I possibly can for you. I’m excited to share this journey with you as Amy and I continue to break our twitches to live more intentionally every day.
If you’re interested in specifically following my entrepreneurship journey, you can do so at AnthonyOngaro.com.