The good life. It’s a phrase that gets tossed around a lot. We all want to have a “good life”, but have you ever really thought about what it takes to live “the good life”?
Is “the good life” about traveling to sun soaked locations in private jets, eating lobster, and sipping drinks by the beach?
If your tastes tend toward the simpler, perhaps “the good life” is a simple homestead in Alaska… miles from the nearest town. On that homestead you might raise all your own food, powered only by solar panels. A completely low-impact “green” life.
Maybe “the good life” is a mansion in that upper class neighborhood, a country club membership, and a shiny car to go along with the rest of your status symbols.
If you follow the advice of mainstream media, the formula for a good life means incorporating as much luxury as possible into your life.
Luxury Doesn’t Last
Many people envision “the good life” like this — a luxury filled life. Frankly I don’t blame people for thinking that. It’s an easy trap to fall into.
It sounds pretty awesome — Restaurants to cook for you, maids to clean for you, nannies to care for the kids, gardeners to do the gardening, and so on. It sounds like a easy life. All that’s left for you to do … is shop.
Luxury can lead to some happiness — at least in the short term. But eventually hedonic adaptation works its dark magic. All that caviar and champagne eventually gets boring. Shopping gets boring. Even your shiny car starts to get old.
Then, it’s time to find new luxuries to spend on! And the cycle repeats itself.
Modern lives are already filled with incredible amounts of luxury — Running water, indoor toilets, pizza delivery, central heating, dishwashers and washing machines, online shopping with 2-day delivery, the internet, and the ability to travel to anywhere on the planet in a mere 24 hours.
All of this is now considered completely “normal”. Do we really need more luxury to be happy?
Frankly, I believe happiness by way of luxury isn’t something that lasts very long.
An Alternative View
Financial Independence really changed how I look at “the good life”. Fancy restaurants, expensive cars, and luxury accommodations no longer have the same draw that they used to.
Sure, those things are still nice, but I’ve learned to find happiness without them.
A whole new life emerges after Financial Independence — One about learning, creating, spending time with family and friends, contributing to our local community, good food, good health, stable finances, and the freedom to fill our remaining time with desirable pursuits not dictated by money.
That’s a pretty good life to me. All those things have become far more important than another fancy meal in another fancy restaurant, that I’ll eventually forget.
Of course, anybody can get bored if life lacks enough variety. For me, living “the good life” also means having enough variety to keep life interesting.
Travel and access to that “variety” is definitely something I’m looking for. The problem is, I’m not sure where to find it…
Where Should We Move?
Most humans end-up living in big cities with expensive housing costs, and high taxes — mainly because that’s where the jobs are.
However, once you reach financial independence you can literally move anywhere. Life finally becomes uncoupled from its income source! So why would you stay in a high cost of living area?
I’m certainly not planning on it.
Mrs. Tako and I have been discussing moving to give our family a better life, and we’re serious about it.
Our long-term plan is to eventually sell our expensive home, and find a smaller/cheaper town. That will mean a smaller mortgage, which leaves more dividend income available for things like travel.
The biggest issue with small towns is they lack that variety I was talking about. Cities constantly have different events, cultural diversity, restaurant choices, easy access to major airports, and a constant sense of “busy” that makes cities exciting places to live.
Big cities also have big problems — crime, traffic congestion, “bad” schools, high-prices, drugs, expensive paid parking, vandalism, homelessness, and overcrowding to name just a few. I wouldn’t consider these problems part of “the good life” by any stretch of the imagination.
I suppose we could avoid those problems by living in a nice gated community, sending the kids to private school, and only attending to the fanciest cultural events (the opera, the ballet, or perhaps the symphony).
Basically living in an expensive bubble… which really isn’t our style.
Instead, Mrs. Tako and I believe a “Three Bears” approach to designing our life could be the right solution. We’d like to find a sleepy little town with just enough variety. It has to be just far enough away, and just small enough to avoid most of the big city problems. Not too small, and not too big.
Got any suggestions?
Many of the towns that fit this bill seem to be college towns, which are frequently recommended for retirees. Maybe those towns actually work for early retirees too!
We intent to find out.
This summer, our family road trip plans include visiting several of these small towns. Maybe we can find the “good life” in one of them.
So tell me, what does “the good life” look like for you? Is it big city living, or small town life?
[Image credit: Flickr]