Thursday, April 15, 2010

Introductions...(Adam) Baker from Man vs. Debt

In this new series of interviews, my plan is to introduce you to bloggers whose stories and/or advice I have enjoyed or found most helpful.

Man vs. Debt is an inspirational blog of a family who stared their debt in the face and decided that they wanted more out of life than the slavery that debt brought them. Baker and his wife Courtney sold off all of their excess belongings to pay off consumer debt and stockpile cash. They used this money so that they and their toddler daughter, Milligan, could travel abroad for one year. Their story is certainly out of the norm and proof that you can do anything you set your mind to when you are not tied down by materialism!

I recently spoke with Baker via email about his blog and life. This is how it went:

Me: You have an outstanding personal life. Please tell my readers a little about your interesting livings/travels.
Ha ha, well...thank you! My wife and I recently sold all of our possessions, paid down a bunch of debt, and spent a year traveling through Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand with our 1-year-old daughter.

It was a blast (lots of ups AND downs) and we learned a lot about ourselves and what we wanted in the future!

Me: How incredibly liberating was it to be free of the consumer debt? Did it weigh more heavily or less than student loans?
Yes, it weighed much more heavily. We ended up paying down $18,000 in consumer debt. Even though we still have $50,000 in student loans, it still felt like a HUGE accomplishment. Our consumer debt represented a lot of bad decisions and a lot of "stuff" that limited our freedom.

It's extremely liberating to have it gone. We never want another car payment, jewelry payment, or credit card. We aren't done with the battle yet and our student loans are next. The consumer debt was a big first step and very motivating!

Me: I've never thought about debt representing bad decisions, but that must be why it is so liberating to be free from it! Do you ever feel "guilty" about traveling before being free of the student loans and having no retirement plans at the moment?
At first we struggled with it. Lately, though, I've very proud of how we handled it. We set-up a goal to explore overseas, but we did so responsibly. We set out to eliminate our consumer debt and ended up saving over $17,000 in cash, too. Sure we could have fought for another 2 years to eliminate ALL our student loans, but I think we found a great balance.

We are ready for the next chapter of the fight now, having spent the last year abroad. I'm looking forward to knocking out our student loans and then having the full power of our income to save/invest in the best way we can!

Me: I love seeing how responsible you did travel--how you stuck with a severe budget just like you had to when paying off your debts. Quite responsible! Do you find you have more supporters or more nay-sayers that comment on your family's plans?
99.9% far, far, far more supporters. I've worked very hard and been very lucky to build a community that generally loves to see people become empowered. They love to support people, including our own journey.

Anytime you share as much details as we have, you'll always have negative people come out of the woodwork. It's part of life. But these people can't even come close to the power of all the supporters and fellow people on their own journey towards freedom.

Me: That's awesome. Do you plan to travel abroad again once retirement comes around or is this your "once in a lifetime"?
We plan for travel to be a sustained part of our life, forever. That being said, it will most likely be much slower now. We would ideally prefer a 6 months home, 6-month traveling type of schedule. Maybe even 6 months in one location. We love the lifestyle, but still want the eventual security of a place called "home".

We certainly won't be waiting for retirement, though. We aren't huge fans of the traditional outlook on "retiring". :-)

Me": It doesn't look like you guys have a traditional view of pre-retirement either. =) When you were getting out of (consumer) debt and saving for your travels, what is the most extreme move you made to accomplish your goal?
Some people consider cutting up and canceling all of our credit cards to be extreme. It really wasn't for us, but I understand why it may appear that way to some. There were a few months during our "intense" period, where we spent very, very little money. We didn't eat out, we didn't go out (elected for board games with friends), and we were selling our possessions like maniacs!

It's not a pace we'd want to keep for any sustained period, but these brief moments of intensity helped us reach our goal ahead of schedule!

Me: What did you do to keep yourself motivated when attacking your finances so fiercely?
We kept framing our journey as giving us the freedom to travel abroad. By framing it in this way, it was much easier to stay motivated. We weren't just getting out of debt to get out of debt. We wanted to empower ourselves to live a certain lifestyle. By setting and keeping clear goals it helped us out!

Me: Do you ever find yourself wanting more of the "stuff" that you rid yourself of previously?
Absolutely. It's easy to head back to crutches that we've always lived with.

On the road it was hard to accumulate a lot more, because we had to carry it. If it didn't fit in the backpack, we didn't take it. Fairly simple!

Since being back home in Indiana for a couple months, we can feel the old urge creeping back in. It's so easy to starting filling back up closets and rooms with random "stuff". We are doing are best to fight it off!

Me: Who are your favorite bloggers to read?
Baker: Chris Guillebeau is by far my favorite blogger to read and my biggest role model when it comes to blogging/business.More of my current favorites include, J.D. Roth, Gary Vaynerchuk, Leo Babauta, Jonathan Fields, Brett McKay, Glen Allsop, Corbett Barr, Dave Navarro, and Steve Kamb.

Thanks again for participating and letting my readers get more acquainted with you.

If you are more interested in learning about Baker's travels and methods, please visit him over at Man vs. Debt and browse around--you can even see where they have documented all of their belongings and how they are both eliminating and adding those as needed--how awesome is that?! You can also purchase Unautomate Your Finances, his ebook that has received rave receives across the personal finance blogosphere. At his site, you can now purchase it for a reduced price!

If you want to follow Baker and his family down the road of the rest of their journey, join his MvD Militia, follow him on Twitter, and/or fan Man vs Debt on Facebook (and add Baker as a friend too!). Or you could just get his feed through your favorite reader or email like I do. I can't wait to see where life takes them next!

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