Escaping the Rat Race in Search of the Next Big Thing

The following feature article I wrote resulted in a coverage in the October 2007 edition of RV Life Magazine. Subsequent press efforts of mine also resulted in this RV Life follow up story from May 2008.

Married couple sells business and house to travel the U.S. with their three legged dog. Working from the road, they provide resources for fulltime RVers at their LiveWorkDream.com blog.

For many people, taking a year long sabbatical during the height of their working days seems like an impossible thing to do. There’s bills to pay, mouths to feed, homes to pay for. The American work ethic teaches us that extended time off is something that’s supposed to be done after retiring. But one young couple wants to prove to others that no time is better than the present to take a long break and evaluate one’s career and life.

Deciding to Hit the Road

For the past 10 years, most people would think that Jim Nelson and Rene Agredano were living a dream life. They lived and worked out of their 1906 historic home in coastal Eureka, California, running a successful internet-based marketing communications and graphics solutions business with clients based all over the U.S. They lived in a stunningly beautiful region of the country, were contributing members of their community, and along with their 3-legged dog Jerry as CFO (Chief Fun Officer), life was good for many years.

But little signs started appearing in their lives, signals from the universe that told them they were just a bit too comfortable, and maybe it was time to shake things up a little. In between 12 hour work days and weekend excursions that were too brief, they began encountering certain people who had gone against the status quo and taken the risk to get more adventure out of life. And while the pair thought what these people did was extraordinary, they kept on working grueling hours, with the goal of getting their business ready to put on the market, “eventually.” By the time Jim turned 40 and Rene 37 they were burnt out on their industry and yearning for a change. The couple talked about doing something different with their lives, but running a business left little time for pondering the colors of their parachutes.

Then, in November 2006, Jerry was diagnosed with bone cancer, and had to have a leg amputated. As with many people who encounter serious illness in their lives, the couple’s priorities shifted. “Eventually” became now, and time with Jerry became precious. With a bleak outlook for their furry child, the time was now to find out what they wanted to do with their lives, and where they wanted to do it.

“Neither one of us have really seen much of the country, or taken any real time off. We started working while in college, and never stopped. Even though we are nowhere near retirement age, both of us felt like if we didn’t take some time to really find our calling, life would just pass us by,” Jim says.

Beating the Odds: Small Business and Home Both Sell in 6 Months

Jim Nelson Rene Agredano Jerry G. Dawg Road Trip

Betting against the vet’s prognosis that Jerry wouldn’t live past 3 months, Rene and Jim shifted into overdrive, prepping the business for sale, and marketing it, all while still trying to keep it profitable. Against all odds that their small enterprise would even sell, the couple closed escrow on both the business and their house, just 6 months after they began their campaign.

To lighten the load and storage bill, they got rid of most of their possessions and put the sentimental essentials in storage. With the sales proceeds, the couple was able to budget for a year long sabbatical and purchase a Dodge Ram 2500 diesel pickup along with a new 24′ Arctic Fox 5th wheel trailer.

“I never saw myself as the type of person to drive a gas guzzling monster truck,” says Rene. “But when we decided to get a diesel, I felt much better about owning one, knowing that we could run biodiesel or in it if we wanted to.”

“And as for getting an RV,” added Jim,”we didn’t know the first thing about rigs, or the lifestyle. We really put ourselves up for the challenge of not only figuring out how to sell our own business and closing it, but also getting up to speed on our new home on wheels.”

Always the entrepreneurs, they knew the trip wasn’t going to be just about “finding themselves,” says Rene. “After all, if we wanted to do this and be smart about it, the time off had to be structured a combination business venture as well as a personal journey.”

LiveWorkDream.com: Preparing and Sharing Information

The began their blog “LiveWorkDream.com” not just as a way to document their journey, but as a road trip tool for other RVers to learn from and share ideas, and find their own ideal live / work scenario. He also launched a second advertising sponsored website, www.tripawds.com, to help other dog guardians learn about canine cancer and treatment options.

In preparation for their sabbatical, Rene drafted a comprehensive road trip budget based on 3 years worth of their financial data, as well as that from other RVer’s experiences while fulltiming. They bought a Motosat Internet Satellite system to provide high speed internet while on the road. And now, as of August, the couple reached a milestone … two months on the road as full time RVers.

An “Open Source” Adventure

The couple is staying connected to busines and family with mobile internet technology, and filling up their truck with biodiesel, whenever possible. They like to refer to this trip as an “Open Source Trip,” meaning that they are publishing everything about the trip to assist others in decisionmaking and planning for their own sabbatatical. Thanks to their Motosat Internet connection, they are able to keep the content fresh and interesting.

Their blog entertains readers with stories about their trip’s adventures and misadventures, and what life is like while on the road.

In addition, LiveWorkDream.com contains downloadable resources such as budget templates, RVing checklists, and links to RV lifestyle and life path planning resources. New information, videos and tips can be found on the site almost every day. They even have a “Soundtrack” page, complete with lyrics to classic road trip names and links to radio stations that have stuck on the couple’s dial during their travels across the country.

“I can’t imagine doing this trip without being connected to the world through our satellite internet and our blog,” says Agredano. “I’m not a big geek or anything, but having internet access at all times is such a part of my life, and now that we are on this trip, it’s critical for finding the best towns for us to research and places to stay, as well as paying our bills, of course,” she said.

Time Off: Not Limited to Slackers or Seniors

The sabbatical is also a good way for this young couple to get a feel for money management during their retirement years. Because there is no money coming in, but money constantly going out, managing their “spending plan” budget is critical.

Some people think this couple is crazy for taking time off when they could be working and socking money away for retirement many years from now. But nobody has a guarantee that they’ll even reach retirement age-you never know what can happen to your health, Jim says.

“We really want to get out there and show others that they don’t have to wait until they’re 65 to get out and live this kind of adventure,” says Jim. “Things like this should be done when people are young enough to really get out and enjoy things. We hope we can take the fear out of doing something like this, so that more people will allow themselves to take time off to recharge their batteries.

“If more people did this,” Rene adds, “we’d have happier adults, and this country might be a better place for it.”

Answering Life’s Big Questions

The couple has budgeted for one year on the road, and by the end of that time, they will need to make some big decisions. Will they continue Rving and work camp? Will they have found a great new town they want to live in? What kind of business will they buy? They hope that these answers can be found as they travel across America in their RV with their three-legged dog.

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Rene Agredano and Jim Nelson are owners of Agreda Communications, publishers of www.LiveWorkDream.com; where they work to find the dream life, and www.Tripawds.com; because it’s better to hop on three legs than limp on four.

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