Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gone... In 40,826 Seconds Flat

Craigslist never fails to amaze me.  Early this morning, at 1:11:34 AM to be precise, I posted a listing for my Toyota Tacoma for sale.  By 7:47 AM I had my first email indicating interest in the truck.  I wasn't awake at that time, but when I checked my email in the morning, I already had three responses.  Normally, I take the first person in line, but in this case, a gentlemen by the name of Fred (who had already sent me three emails on his own) was offering $200 more than the price that I had listed.  This is the second time that I have ever listed a vehicle on CL and this is the second time that I have received an offer over the list price.  Maybe I need to price my trucks a bit higher...

I called Fred at 9:01 AM to arrange a meeting time.  We decided that he could have a look at the truck at noon, during my lunchtime.  I drove home from work and Fred was waiting for me.  After a quick look at the vehicle, a drive around the block and a few questions, we had a deal.  Sold for the original list price.

Fred carried cash.  $10,000 worth of cash.  A bank certified check or a money order would have done the trick but...  whatever works.  I was relieved that we were both headed directly to the bank in order to get a notary to certify the title transfer.  The bank could verify that we were dealing with real money, and they could immediately take it off my hands so that I wouldn't need to look over my shoulder every ten seconds.

The timestamp on my deposit receipt was 12:32 PM.  Had I ordered a pizza at the same time I met with Fred, it might have just been arriving at my home, if I were lucky.  This was by far the fastest vehicle sale that I've ever been a party to.

Thanks, Fred!  Hope you enjoy the Tacoma as much as I did!

UPDATE:  If I had taken a longer lunch, I could have entered all 192 of the $50 bills at  But, since I have the picture, I at least recorded the first one.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Doctor Is In - We Hope!

Health Insurance.

That is the last, big, semi-stressful question mark looming over our heads. What do we do about health insurance? We are tentatively planning to get monthly US carrier coverage for our trans-American road trip and then getting "travel insurance" or overseas insurance or something right before we leave the continent.

But which insurance carrier? And which plan? And which travel insurance?

Help us!

Have you ever bought insurance on the open market (rather than through your employer)? If so, what carrier did you use? How did you find them? Was your experience positive or negative (or neutral)?

If you have traveled overseas for any extended period of time, what insurance did you use? Did you use insurance at all? Did you need to see a doctor or go to a hospital while you were there? If so, did your insurance (or lack of insurance) come into play?

There's a lot of confusing information out there. Your input is valuable to us!

Photo by Jared Rodriguez/

Thursday, January 21, 2010

First Look at our New Ride!

I know everyone has been dying to know how we are planning on traveling across the country. Well, we officially purchased our new conversion van today!

Check this baby out:

Your eyes are not deceiving you. That is leather. And woodgrain. I know. You're totally jealous.

Customization and associated photos to come!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Potentially Damaging Content

At work yesterday, I tried to stop in to this blog to make a few changes.  However, I was met with the warning posted below.  Great job, Websense.  You nailed it.  This is, indeed, potentially damaging content!

What if people realized that a mortgage contract was a financial and not a moral obligation?

What if people started working for themselves instead of selling themselves slightly short for the profit of a corporation?

What if people started visiting parts of the world that have been demonized by our news media and started realizing that there are fellow human beings living there?

What if people realized that unending material consumption is not a sustainable answer?

What if people realized that they can sometimes rely on each other instead of one-size-fits-all safety nets?

And most importantly, what if employers treated their employees as reasonably intelligent people and gave them the freedom to occasionally take a break at work to visit the website of their choosing while trusting them to still be able to manage their own workload?

Thanks for protecting me from myself, Websense.

Do you know what the real problem is with Websense? Because I just spoke negatively about the impact of their product, some executive at their company could arbitrarily choose to put me on their "black list" forever. Think about the social, political and moral implications about that level of control residing within one company.

Learn more:

Monday, January 18, 2010

So Much Stuff

One of the major tasks we need to complete before we begin our journey is jettisoning most of the stuff that has been weighing us down. We have packed up some of our must-keep stuff to bring to Colorado to leave with Ellen's parents. We have already taken several truckloads of stuff to Goodwill. We are giving away some stuff to friends. And we are selling even more stuff on Craigslist. The amount of stuff we have collected over three-plus decades of life is quite astounding. In honor of all that stuff, here is a bit from George Carlin that never fails to amuse me. (Earmuffs, impressionable children.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Details of Short Sale Financial Analysis

After our recent post about our experience short selling our house, Rich and Simone asked about the specifics of our home value "best case scenario". Something that has helped us while planning for our trip has been other blogs that practice full transparency, especially with finances. Jonathan and I decided awhile ago that we would provide the same openness to our friends and readers.

So, without further ado, we are now debuting our first Helpful Detailed Financial Picture PostTM.

Home Value Best Case Scenario

1. Our home value will not drop below the current value.
2. Our home value will start to appreciate immediately at 4% per year.
3. Closing costs will be 10% of the sales price.

Projected Home Value Over Time

Click to embiggen

Amortization Schedule

Click to embiggen

Conclusion: We will break even in 2016.

Home Value Worst Case Scenario1

1. Our home value will stay flat for the indefinite future.
2. Closing costs will be 10% of the sales price.

Amortization Schedule

Click to embiggen

Conclusion: We will break even in 2024.

1 Actually, the worst case scenario is that our home value will continue to drop.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wise Words from Paulo Coelho

Declaration of Principles by Paulo Coelho

1] All men are different. And should do everything possible to continue to be so.

2] Each human being has been granted two courses of action: that of deed and that of contemplation. Both lead to the same place.

3] Each human being has been granted two qualities: power and gift. Power drives man to meet his destiny, his gift obliges him to share with others that which is good in him. A man must know when to use his power, and when to use his gift.

4] Each human being has been granted a virtue: the capacity to choose. For he who does not use this virtue, it becomes a curse – and others will always choose for him.

5] Each human being has the right to two blessings, which are: the blessing to do right, and the blessing to err. In the latter case, there is always a path of learning leading to the right way.

6] Each human being has his own sexual profile, and should exercise it without guilt – provided he does not oblige others to exercise it with him.

7] Each human being has his own Personal Legend to be fulfilled, and this is the reason he is in the world. The Personal Legend is manifest in his enthusiasm for what he does.

  • Single paragraph – the Personal Legend may be abandoned for a certain time, provided one does not forget it and returns as soon as possible.

8] Each man has a feminine side, and each woman has a masculine side. It is necessary to use discipline with intuition, and to use intuition objectively.

9] Each human being must know two languages: the language of society and the language of the omens. The first serves for communication with others. The second serves to interpret messages from God.

10] Each human being has the right to seek out joy, joy being understood as something which makes one content – not necessarily that which makes others content.

11] Each human being must keep alight within him the sacred flame of madness. And must behave like a normal person.

12] The only faults considered grave are the following: not respecting the rights of one’s neighbor, letting oneself be paralyzed by fear, feeling guilty, thinking one does not deserve the good and bad which occurs in life, and being a coward.

  • Paragraph 1 – we shall love our adversaries, but not make alliances with them. They are placed in our way to test our sword, and deserve the respect of our fight.
  • Paragraph 2 – we shall choose our adversaries, not the other way around.

12A] We hereby declare the end to the wall dividing the sacred from the profane: from now on, all is sacred.

14] Everything which is done in the present, affects the future by consequence, and the past by redemption.

15] Dispensations to the contrary are herewith revoked.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fear and Loathing in Mortgageville

I caught part of Talk of the Nation yesterday where the topic was Walking Away From Your Mortgage. One of the guests was Brent White, a law professor from the University of Arizona whose recent paper, Underwater and Not Walking Away, has the financial world in a tizzy.

The response to his article, which encourages homeowners to look at their situation as a business decision and walk away from underwater mortgages, has been fascinating. The intensity and content of the reaction indicates that a taboo has been breached. The main counter-argument is that a mortgage contract is indeed a moral contract. Where does this idea come from? Why doesn't it apply to lenders? Besides, I thought that the collateral for a mortgage loan was the house, not your quality of life or the respect of your friends and neighbors.

White's assertions are gratifying to us considering that we used the same logic back in September when we decided to short sell our house instead of delaying our dreams by six years (best case scenario)1. He also nailed the emotions that we went through in making that decision: guilt, shame and fear2.

Anyway, for those of you considering going through the short sale process, here's what we learned:

1. The process takes four to six months.
2. Talk to a real estate attorney and a tax accountant FIRST, before you meet with your realtor and list your house. Knowing your legal and tax rights will save you time and will assist when negotiating with the bank.
3. Get the details of the law in writing from both professionals (attorney and tax accountant) for use in negotiation with the bank.
4. The bank is not your friend. Ours asked for a $5000 promissory note from us to approve the short sale. They only backed down when we presented them with the above mentioned letters from our attorney and accountant showing that we knew the law3.
5. The bank did not consider our short sale offer until we were at least 30 days delinquent on our mortgage payment. Knowing that this was their policy would have saved us thousands of dollars. We would have stopped paying our mortgage as soon as we received an offer on our house and submitted it to the bank. It took them two months to even look at the offer.

I hope I didn't offend anyone with this. I've found that in talking to other people about our situation, that there are a lot of people out there in the same situation as us. I think it's important to talk about it and to let people know that they aren't alone.


1 We calculated our best case scenario by graphing our amortization table against a 4% yearly appreciation of our current value and seeing where those intersected (taking into account the 10% that we would have to take off the top for realtor's fees and closing costs).
2 For example, we feared the "end of the world as we know it" credit hit, the bank ignoring the law and suing us for the deficiency, social stigma from friends, neighbors and family and "hurting" the value of the neighborhood we love. These fears are all irrational.
3 Arizona is a non-recourse/anti-deficiency state which means that the lender cannot pursue the borrower for the deficiency of a purchase money loan on a primary residence (as of this writing, January 15th, 2010).

Photo by respres

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why Are We Here?

There are three ways to answer this question:

Why are we here? (What are you two up to?)

For the past few years we have been watching our budget closely, paying off our debt, and saving as much as we can. This has given us the freedom to pursue a dream. What dream, you ask? A random one! While we do not have a definite goal or specific plan, we have developed some guiding principles:

  • Let life rule instead of work.
  • Explore the country and the world.
  • Trade "stuff" for genuine experiences.
  • Create rather than consume.
  • Develop a spirit of volunteerism.
  • Take odd jobs in unfamiliar disciplines to see if there is something we love, but don't yet know we love.
  • Live in the moment.
  • Work for ourselves as much as possible.
  • Dance outside our comfort zones in order to grow.
  • Find a way to stretch the money we have saved for as long as possible.
  • Identify properties of cities that we like should we choose to "settle down" again. ("You kids back there better settle down right now!")
  • Develop maintenance-free streams of income.
  • Move at a pace determined by our interest, rather than by a clock or calendar.
All that said, we do have a rough sketch of what the next few months will look like. We need to be out of the house by February 15. After this date, we may or may not be in Phoenix for an extra week or two. After that, we will pack up the conversion van and a U-Haul and head to the Denver, CO area to drop a few items and our puppy, Asher, with Mom and Dad J. Then we begin the US North American portion of our journey.  See the top of the sidebar for our current route, subject to lots of change.

After the US portion, we plan to to wait around until we find a really cheap flight to Europe. We have a couple offers from some friends to stay once we get over there, but the plan after that remains fluid. Again, there are some places we have in mind to visit, but we're going to let fate or leg wrestling determine our path.

Why are we here? (Why did you start this blog?)

As we begin this next chapter of our lives, we want to share both our experiences and what we have learned. So far we've learned about budgeting, downsizing, the short sale process, and conversion vans. More on all that later. I don't doubt that through the next year we'll have some stories, life lessons and maybe a picture or video to keep this blog full.

And it's not just all give, either. We'll be seeking advice, too!  Does anyone have any must see locations for the US portion of the journey that are near our travel route? Any good advice on travel insurance? Those are both real questions, not just examples. Answer them if you can help!

Why are we here? (What is the meaning of life?)

"There is no right answer." is what I once told Ellen when we were trying to decide whether or not to bring children into this world. She was afraid of making the wrong decision, but I believe that "to bear or not to bear" are just different paths. We all find meaning in different places. Part of the purpose for our journey is to find out what in the world brings us meaning, passion and joy. We look forward to sharing that journey with you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Ever, the undiscouraged, resolute struggling
      soul of man;
Have former armies failed? Then we send fresh
      armies—and fresh again
Ever the grappled mystery of all earth's ages
      old or new;
Ever the eager eyes, hurrahs, the welcome-clap-
      ping hands, the loud applause;
Ever the soul dissatisfied, curious, unconvinced
      at last;
Struggling to-day the same—battling the same.