Why Fire & Wide?

When playing around with the idea of setting up my own blog, I spent a fair bit of time wondering (read, dithering..) as to what kind it should be.  I had two things I really cared about sharing – my journey to Financial Freedom and my love of exploring anything and anywhere new

So should it be a FIRE blog with a bit of travel? Or was it more about designing your own balanced lifestyle? Having the confidence to break out of your comfort zone and live differently to the herd? Or simply lots of glossy smiling pictures of how perfect everything can be? (Note – you will hopefully have worked out for yourselves already this last one was always unlikely….)

Eventually I realised my real passion was at its heart simply freedom – the freedom to live our lives as we want to, prioritising what matters most to us. And since when did I care about fitting neatly into one box or another anyways – after all, “should do” is not a phrase I often use 🙂

With that I also realised what I really wanted the blog for was to have a small way to try to help empower others by sharing my own experience. For those knowing they wanted their lives to be different, better balanced, with more time for the things they cared about. Those searching for their own way through but unsure of how or where to start. Looking to know it was possible, that there really is another way and it can work for them too

Thus ‘Fire & Wide’ was born – a bit of everything – for those wanting a way to their own freedom

Who Are Fire & Wide?

M - The Curious One

Growing up, like most people,  it took me a while to figure out who I was or what I wanted from life 

A quiet rebel, fanatical explorer, house-builder, lover of food & beer, will have a go at most things with a smile on my face – but no creepy crawlies please

Following FIRE before I knew about it, after ~10 years of more serious planning I retired early at 43, leaving my 20+ years career in energy trading, London

And yes, my favorite colour is orange – can you tell?!

Granada Churros Happy Breakfast
Churros in Granada - Also Good For Eating

S - The Hungry One

Seville Hungry Living Life Happy
Honestly, it was dead before he ate it

S & I met in April 2000, literally randomly bumping into each other on an empty, sticky dance floor. Who says romance is dead. From that point on we’ve always been a team, taking on the world together, good and bad

As well as being incredibly handy at reaching things from tall shelves, he’s my fellow house-builder & world explorer, spreadsheet king, ex-property landlord, a (practising) brewer and yes, he is almost permanently hungry. Good job he’s also a great cook

Ready to FIRE, he’s still running his online company whilst the digital nomad thing is working for us

Our Journey To Financial Freedom

How It All Started - Getting A New Perspective On Life

What is it they say (whoever ‘they’ are?) – something about all journeys starting with a single step? Ours started with a spreadsheet. Perhaps not too surprising for two people who have spent large parts of their working lives mastering Excel – but what might disturb you is that it wasn’t a financial spreadsheet

That’s right – no net worth to date, average monthly savings rate or anything like a financial plan. Shocking eh. Instead, our journey all started when we were huddled together on our sofa, putting together our list of places we wanted to travel to, long hikes we wanted to do, natural wonders and creatures we wanted to see first-hand, not through a TV screen

All was going well as we added various scoring metrics, in the way only true spreadsheet nerds can –  such as physical and mental difficulty, likely cost level and probable length of time needed to do it justice.  This last one was where it suddenly got interesting. Or more accurately, alarming

Whilst I was fortunate in having a well-paid permanent job with a generous holiday allowance of 25 days/year – it was quickly obvious that all the things we wanted to do would not fit into the free time we would have. There was simply not enough years, especially for the more physically demanding things, even bearing in mind we were still only in our early thirties at this point

Something was going to have to give. Most people at this point would probably have just accepted that they needed to shorten the list. Instead, we figured it was time to work out what it would take to have more time for the things that mattered to us. And so yes, another spreadsheet – but this time you’ll be relieved to hear it had real numbers in it…

Why am I sharing all this you may wonder? Because I think before starting any journey of your own, it’s so important to understand what’s driving your own desire for more time, for a better balance in your life. If you don’t know why you are doing something and if you aren’t clear on why your goals are what they are – you will find it much harder to stay the course doing the tougher times

It doesn’t have to be as extreme as quitting it all, it can be as simple as just wanting to have more time to spend with family & friends. Less stress. The approach stays the same regardless of the aim. It’s still just playing the FIRE triangle to balance up your time, money and life in a way that works for you

Small choices will add up fast when they consistently support your goals. Our goal was freedom – what’s yours?

From Small Steps To Large Leaps - It All Adds Up

Mortgage Free With Blood & Sweat

Self Build House Build Bulldozer
Ah - the innocence of youth. Starting our self-build blissfully unaware

It all started so innocently. Waiting for a taxi to take us to the airport from our B&B, flicking idly through a copy of ‘Build It’ someone had left behind. Drawn in by the smiling couples proudly standing in front of their new homes

How hard could it be? As it turned out, perhaps unsurprisingly, much harder than the glossy photos in those diy magazines ever gave any hint of. As the quotes continued to  roll in higher than expected, we took on more and more of the physical work ourselves, wisely leaving the specialist stuff well alone. Know your limits and all that

 

Building a house in your “spare” time between working your day job is not easy. Was it all worth it – absolutely – blood, sweat, tears and all. We now live in a home we love, made special by knowing it inside and out, literally. And without a mortgage

 

This one was a whole adventure by itself – read more about it here

Jones' Who?

Unlike a lot of FIRE blogs, we weren’t super frugal by any stretch. I won’t be sharing tips on making your own vegetable soup or whatever. We spent money – just not so much as others. As our peers moved on to bigger, better houses, cars, holidays, clothes and all the other trappings of modern life, we just didn’t. We bought and did what made sense for us – for the balance we wanted. Avoiding unintentional life-style creep

This one was probably easier for us than a lot of people, since we both have a bit of a natural contrarian streak in us.  As such, it’s never made much sense to either of us why you would buy or do something, just because that’s what your friends, family or society expects or values

I’d say being happy with who you are without needing to compare yourself to others is priceless – but that wouldn’t be the whole truth. The reality is it does have a price and it can have a huge impact on the speed of your journey to financial freedom

Read about some of the ways we lived below our means whilst never feeling like we were going without here

cheap car astra wales
Ah, my old friend, faithful 'Dougs'. Worth every one of his £800 pounds

Maximising Our Earnings

Work Money Earnings
20 years & no photos of me at work. Strange that.

The journey to financial independence is all about maximising the difference between spending and saving, which gets much easier when you start with a bigger number. If you are going to exchange your time & efforts on something you wouldn’t otherwise do for money, you may as well do so for the highest bidder

S & I were both working at the same company in the early days, which was a bit of a problem when it suddenly went under and we were both unexpectedly redundant. Talk about not diversifying properly 😉

As it so often happens, those tough times end up being the ones that make you. I went on to a ‘temporary’ career in London – exchanging a horrific commute for a wage at least 3 times that I would have been able to get locally. Geographical arbitrage on a local scale. S started on a path that would eventually lead him to our unexpected digital nomad bonus

You never know how things will turn out but you can always do something to try and make the most of what you have

Making Every Pound Add Up

Saving Investing
Going To Need a Bigger Piggy

Whilst earning the money in the first place was the hardest part, figuring out how best to make it work for us took a surprising amount of effort too. There’s a lot of people happy to take your money out there for sure

Since I worked in trading and cut my teeth on risk management, terms like diversification & portfolio management were well-known to me. Yes, I can price a BS Asian option for you if you want. It’s still different doing it with your own money though

Finding the right home for your hard-earned cash is another individual choice about how much risk you are willing to take vs how fast you want your money to grow. It sounds obvious – and it is – until you start to look for solutions. It’s not a great time for savers right now but it can be done

It gets even more interesting once you pull the trigger and switch from saver to spender. It’s a much bigger test of how much you believe in your own plan when you leave the safety net of a monthly wage.

This topic seems to get the most debate, unsurprisingly, as there are so many options & approaches ‘out there’. We’ve done it this way – it’s working so far

Rentals Are Easy Money - Right?

So yes, without a doubt, renovating & renting out property earned us a good return for our financial investments and was another big step towards our financial freedom

Easy money though? Far from it, especially if you really want to max the return. We took on everything ourselves, finding the right properties, renovating them up to scratch, finding and keeping tenants alongside all the continuous maintenance. Oh so much maintenance

At our peak we were running four flats and two houses let as rooms. Fourteen tenants, all fully occupied. All while both holding down full-time jobs. Financially it worked but passive income it wasn’t. A property management agent came later, as well as our exit strategy

Find out more about our reality of being a rental property owner here

Selling House Celebration
Celebrating flat sale going through whilst house-sitting in El Hierro

Off-Peak Living

Different Off-peak living save money
Not following the crowd usually pays - or at least you don't queue

One of the more ‘controversial’ decisions we made as part of our journey to financial independence was that I’d work part-time. Shock, horror. How does that fit with maximising your earnings and all that other good stuff?

There’s a lot more behind that decision here but one of the drivers was having a bunch of time free when others didn’t. Being able to take advantage of not paying for things at peak prices

The same principle applied to our travels – we don’t have kids so why would we go in the middle of summer holidays? Shoulder-months were our best friends. Quieter, cheaper, better – for us

The same logic applies to stuff. We are not trend-setters – clearly 😉 We are defn not followers. I don’t get paying for branding just for the name. Eh, why would I want to wear something with somebody else’s name on it?

We don’t buy cheap –  we buy value. If it’s worth it to us – we’ll pay for it

Enjoying Our Journey - Living A Balanced Life

"It's Not The Destination But The Glory Of The Ride"

One of my favourite sayings (cheers Mr Monkton), probably helped by the Zen Dog pic that goes along with it on our fridge magnet, this quote pretty much sums up our approach to our journey to financial independence.  There seems little point in making yourself utterly miserable for a significant portion of your life in the hopes of having a great second half that somehow makes it all worth it

Delayed gratification, absolutely – but to us, everything is about balance. Understanding and accepting the impact of our choices. Purposely spending money on what adds value to our lives. And how else are you supposed to figure out what you’ll enjoy doing with all that freedom if you don’t experiment before you get there?

If we’d followed the extreme FIRE way, saving every penny we could, working every hour available, we could probably have easily shaved a couple of years off our time line, easy. But we’d have missed out on so much along the way. And to be honest, I’m not convinced we would have lasted the course. Life needs to be lived – not endured

Balance works both ways though – yes, we took holiday and travelled – but with smart choices we often surprised people how much we managed to do on a budget. It doesn’t have to be expensive to have a good time

Getting the balance right makes all the difference to staying the course –  set your own pace

Living Life While Buying Time

Expanding Our Horizons

Safari South Africa Rhino Cocktail Game Drive
Game Drive On Safari. We Sipped Faster The Closer The Rhinos Got

Travel was always going to be a big part of my life. Fortunately S seems more than happy to explore the world with me. A lot of FIRE blogs can see holidays as wasted money, not earning and spending – disastrous. We never agreed with that. What was the point of planing and saving for a decent retirement travel budget if we didn’t know we would actually enjoy it? 

And so we did – as much as you can on an annual leave allowance. Travel does not have to be expensive – but you don’t need to go budget hostel all the way either. It helps I am a total nerd about researching travel and will happily spend hours to find the right combinations for a good value trip

RV’ing round Alaska, trekking across Ecuador, all-inclusive in Mexico, hiking rural Spain, 3000 miles drive across South Africa – these are just a few of the trips we pulled off whilst working & saving. 

Everyone of them was worth every single penny to us. A life well lived has lots of good memories – read about more of ours here

Food, Glorious Food

So we’ve established S has a healthy appetite. Really healthy. Funny story. When S & I first started dating, he was concerned I never ate when we were out. How would he cope with someone who didn’t enjoy food?

Ha, how little he knew. In an effort to appear vaguely awesome (read, not get light-headed on a pint) I’d fill myself up before each date. It wasn’t until one late night out with friends, I asked to share his kebab. I’ve never seen a man so happy to oblige

From that point on, love of good food (and dodgy kebabs) has always been something we’ve shared, one of the simple joys of life for us

Bunny Chow Food Cape Town
Bunny Chow In South Africa - We Thought We Were Sharing One

These Legs Were Made For...

Denali Alaska Hiking Free
Hiking Denali National Park, Alaska. Beyond Words. Avoid The Bears.

When you love food & beer so much – it’s really (really) handy to also love nothing better than a long hike in the middle of nowhere

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a well-earned beer and snack at the end of a stupidly scenic hike 

I’m not a natural athlete by any stretch, unlike S with his irritatingly long legs that let him bound up the trails we’ve tackled. But the effort is always worth it

And when I’m really stuck, he’s always there to give me a helping hand up – or shove from behind 😉

Read more about our epic hikes here

Beer, Wine & Others Things Fine

South Africa Franschhoek Glenwood wine tasting happy
Sipping Chardonnay at Glenwood. Yes, it tasted as good as it looks

As you may have gathered by now, we are not your typical FIRE blog. There are way too many pictures of us having a good time, spending money and not hustling enough. 

Trust us, we hustled enough. You just don’t exactly have a lot of time to stop and take a picture when you’re up to your elbows in grime. But we also took out time for the better things in life

A chilled beer here, visiting a brewery there – from savouring wine at a swanky vineyard to perching on a bar stool in the midst of nowhere – we love exploring the huge variety of tastes available. It’s also a great way to get to know the locals when you’re out & about

Discover some of our favourite tipples and experiences so far here

Doing The Nomad Thing, Our Way

In a classic ‘Steve Jobs – Didn’t See How Those Dots Would Ever Connect’ style, after our double redundancy S headed down a vastly different path to what he’d expected work-wise. The result – an ability to now work from anywhere with an internet connection

Whilst we did start what is apparently now called being a digital nomad before I quit my job – this one really took once I’d left

Slow travel is our new game in town – ten weeks exploring SE Asia, sure thing. Couple months eating our way round South Africa, why not. Escaping the British winters is a definite bonus too

Would we do it permanently & without a home base. I don’t think so. Does it work amazingly well for really getting to know the places we get to go to – absolutely. More here for those who want it!

Digital Nomad Remote Working Ecuador Mindo
Middle Of Nowhere In Ecuador. Still Better WiFi Than Norfolk

Brew, Chew And....Nail It??

Brewing Home Brew Beer Craft
Who Wants To Keep Their Car In Their Garage Anyway

S has always been good at being hands on, able to transform a few pieces of wood and plastic into whatever’s needed. Build this, fix that, no worries, consider it done. Blood and swearing are just part of the fun

Me, I’m apparently just lethal with a hammer. Otherwise I think you’d say, determined, if not a natural. At least my brick-work on our house is still standing. If you can google it, we’ll have a go

So when you are into your beer & food the way we are – it’s perhaps not surprising we’ve also dived into brewing and cooking alongside our various diy creations.

It’s fun to experiment – even if it doesn’t always work out. See more of our successes & failures here

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