I have always been a frugal person, but it was actually my husband, Peter, who discovered personal finance blogs and introduced me to them. While he has long moved on and stopped reading them religiously, I picked up the habit and follow a few blogs, most notably Mr Money Mustache. I have since followed a few Facebook Groups, and found myself with a group of fellow Mustachians who are living in the Southeast of the United States. The admin, Stephen, posted something that was interesting: since there was a Camp Mustache in Seattle, would anybody be interested in having one in the Southeast? Well, yes, of course! Everything came into fruition when they opened up tickets, I booked immediately and led me to travel to Hawthorne, Florida for:
A Weekend at Camp Mustache Southeast
The timing was perfect: the camp started on a Friday afternoon (Jan 13th) and will end on Monday (Jan 16th) after lunch. What made the deal even sweeter was that Monday was a holiday, which meant that I don’t really need to go to work physically. I signed up not knowing who the speakers were except for Mr JD Roth but it was a great chance to meet other like-minded people like me so why not right?
Since Peter had to go to work on Friday, I went to the camp alone. Since we only had one car, I had to find a creative way to get to Hawthorne, Florida from Jacksonville. Thank goodness two other people are flying in to our JAX airport, Eli from Fort Lauderdale and Lauren from Chicago, and we all agreed to hitch a ride together. Great for the environment and a great way to pool resources too.
Luther Springs was an easy hour and 45 minute drive from Jacksonville’s Airport, and before we know it, we arrived in camp. We were greeted by Stephen, and were told our room assignments, and Lauren happened to be my roommate too. The rooms reminded me a bit of a real camp, but fancier. We had our own bathroom, and the food was just so good I kept getting two servings. The Luther Springs facility was quite huge as well, from what I heard it was 400 acres, and has lake access, hiking trails, and other hidden gems along the way. It was beautiful, quiet, serene. Perfect for those moments that you just want to be alone and shy away from the world.
We went pedal boating once and hiking multiple times throughout our stay. Since this is Florida, all the hikes were on a flat surface, and you get to see the lake and nature all around you. While I wasn’t able to see any animals during my hikes, just being in and around nature is great. I don’t normally get a chance to stay in an accommodation that’s within a few steps away from nature.
Day One, Friday:
Friday didn’t have a formal session, so we just spent some time trying to talk to the other people and chatting about life. There was a quick game, and also had to tell our stories to the group. At the end of the evening, we pretty much knew everybody’s stories, and how we’re all trying (or have already reached) Financial Independence.
We had a campfire in the evening, which is something I’ve never done before, truth! It was cold but I didn’t feel it, and standing in front of the warm fire in nature is definitely a great experience.
Day Two, Saturday:
Saturday was interesting – The first speaker was JD Roth, and he walked us through how to make a personal mission statement. All the questions he asked were very intriguing and after thinking long and hard of my personal mission statement, well, I’m not done doing it yet but I’m still working on it!
You don’t have to be at camp to read what he was trying to preach – his post is a behemoth but is definitely worth reading so I would suggest that you guys find the time to read it.
There was also a session about Gainesville Co-Housing after. I have never heard of the term co-housing but it’s like owning a home within a community of people who share with each other. While the idea is good, at the moment, it won’t fit our lifestyle – as we still prefer to do short term rentals for our own place to earn a bit of extra cash on the side and not waste space.
After lunch, there were team building sessions – which requires, brains, brawns, and everything in between. One challenge was particularly crazy hard to do that even our facilitator had to tweak the rules a bit to show us how to do it!
The evening was good: our presenter was Joshua Sheats of Radical Personal Finance, and he recorded a live podcast, which you can listen to here. The topic of the talk was Why Wait until to live like you’re FI until you’re FI. He does drive some important points, such as:
- If you knew you could never retire, would you still do what you’re doing now?
- If you had a choice between retiring early now and shaving off 10 years of your life doing so, would you do it?
- The beauty of living is now: you should not let your goal of being FI become a depriver of you enjoying what you like doing.
Another evening of chatting with friends new and old, and another bedtime! We had a great discussion about emergency funds (or the apocalypse fund), Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA), why stock index funds are so much better than bond index funds, and a peace tax, for those who are married. I definitely made mental notes and will put those insights from various other people into action.
Day Three, Sunday
Went on an early morning hike and saw a few other people hanging out at the dock. Looking over the water and with a group of like minded people talking about healthcare and organ donations is definitely not what most people do before breakfast, but we did! The hike wasn’t that long anyway and you’ll see cute little moss balls along the way, and many, many palmettos. A few of the others went on a run before breakfast but being a useless person that I am that can’t do much before breakfast, I decided to walk back.
The first session of the morning was from Keith (aka the Wealthy Accountant) entitled Organizing Your Life to Maximize Net Worth and Minimize Taxes. Now this talk is quite interesting – he discussed the current president’s potential tax changes, and basically being a W-2 earner is not going to cut it: you’ve got to start your own business. Thankfully, we have a business that’s at least a year or so old, and we’re going to continue and expand the real estate side, as well as maybe growing this little blog of ours. We’ll see. His insights are great, and he provided apps for those who need to log mileage in the car (ie for rental properties), and also how to be more organized so our tax accountants won’t kill us come tax season. We help them and they help us back!
The next talk was about Real Estate from Zeona & Emma. Zeona’s approach was a bit different where she buys houses and concentrates on short term rentals (AirBnBs), which was how we got started in the first place. We rent out our room in our current house, and with the extra money we saved, eventually helped to make way for a second rental (a longer term one). Emma’s is more the traditional route where she buys property out of state for longer term tenants and hires companies to do the management.
After the talk and before lunch, we all went to the dock to get a group photo and it was fun! Here it is:
There was a bit of free time after lunch as well, so we went to the archery station and learned how to well, hold and fire an arrow. It was my second time to do such a thing, and it’s more challenging than I thought!
We also went pedal boating in the late afternoon. We had a choice of a canoe or a kayak but decided to be against the norm and actually see if it worked despite the reeds and it was fun! We had photo sessions in the middle of the lake, and before we knew it, it was time to go back to the shore!
In the evening, we had another lovely dinner before the travel hacking session, the final session in Camp Mustache. It was mostly catered for beginners, but we employ the techniques (and more) when we travel. My husband and I travel at least once a month to new (and old) destinations because we love to discover what’s out there and definitely love living our life 🙂
Since it was the last night, most people opted to stay and talk until the wee hours of the morning. I, unfortunately, had to bow down early! I had a bit of a FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) moment, but not the end of the world. Can’t do everything, right?
Day Four, Monday
There are no formal sessions planned for the day, but I had to go online and work remotely (boo) – so while most people were actually chatting and enjoying their morning hikes, I was busy with my 9-6 job, not that I’m complaining. It’s just a small sacrifice to make until the FI date is finally here!
I finally managed to go on a hike around early lunch and before you know it, it was time to say goodbye to everyone! We had another hour+ drive back home, and it was back to reality.
Lessons Learned/Final Thoughts:
Going back home after an incredible event like this can be a bummer, but we all must go back to our real lives, right? So far, I’ve learned that:
- We should enjoy our lives as it is right now and not wait for Financial Independence to start living and doing!
- Invest in more stock funds (Vanguard, of course), and lower my emergency funds. I’m too conservative!
- We can now crash in a few other people’s basements/spare rooms if we are traveling.
- Side hustles are the way to go with this new administration. Can’t just be a W-2 employee anymore!
When the camp opens up slots the next time, I’m definitely going – schedule permitting, of course.