Has my quest to live a family travel lifestyle turned me into a workaholic?

Do Americans work too much?  We take less vacation time than any other country in the world.  That’s in part because Americans get less paid time off than about any other first world country and also because there’s such tremendous pressure in the American workplace to not take the time we are granted.  Add onto that the pressure we put on ourselves to always make and achieve more — or simply to keep with the the Jones’ — and you can see why we take so little holiday time.

WorkaholicEarlier this week I asked whether that whole Protestant work ethic thing was an ethic at all.  Rather than doing the corporate grind, my wife and I have adopted a patchwork income approach that allows us to spend a lot of time together as a couple and with our kids.  We have a lot of flexibility, and that’s what gives us the margin to ski a good powder day or take as many trips as our budget will allow.

We have flexibility.  We can almost always bend.  But don’t interpret the fact that I’m questioning whether I think the whole Protestant, American work ethic thing is a good thing or not as me being able to work the 4-Hour Work Week of Timothy Ferriss.  In fact wife and I were talking recently about just how busy our lives have become.

In January of last year, a few months into the process of reinventing our lives, we moved to Lake Tahoe.  Our entire life consisted of me calling on prospective merchant clients in the Tahoe area to add accounts to my credit card processing portfolio.  While I did that, Monica hung out with the kids and made new friends.  When I wasn’t calling on accounts we hung out as a family or were on the slopes skiing.  That was our life.  In the evening we would have dinner as a family.  Around 7 o’clock we would put the kids to bed.  And then for the next 3 hours Monica and I would sit next to the fire and talk.  We’d go to bed around 10 and we got a great night of sleep almost every night.

In some of those fireside chats the idea for this blog was hatched. That was the beginning. Then I started doing more consulting with non-profits again.  Monica began doing marketing for a small non profit organization and managing an online marketing campaign for a bicycle attorney.  I added another blogging postion with the Sprint Snow Squad.  Then I started writing a book.

Lately we’ve wondered what happened to that life we once had that was full of time margin.

In the morning I plop down at the computer to check my email and interact with friends and strategic relationships on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest…  I comment on a few photos on Instagram.  I check my Klout score while my phone pings me to let me know that my friend Noah has just checked in at Starbucks on FourSquare.

It all makes me want to invest in this company.  (C’mon!  Watch the video!  It’s only 27 seconds…)

Monica and I juggle work and the kids throughout the day.  She gets some screen time to work.  I’m on the phone working with one of the non-profits I help raise money for or emailing a merchant who has a question about their credit card processing statement.  I try to steal a chunk of time to work on my book.  Late afternoon to bedtime for the kids has become family time.  But then as soon as the kids are in bed it’s back to work.  At night it’s back to the social networks, we’re blogging, and we’re dealing with issues on the blog.  (If I ever meet the person who named it Real Simple Syndication you may have to hold me back…)  Wrapping up our work at 1 or 2 in the morning has not been uncommon.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not complaining.  We have a great life.  We do have a lot of margin time.  We do have a lot of flexibility.  I see my wife and kids more than any husband or father I know.  I don’t have a boss that I have to ask if I want to take a day a week or a month off from work.

What Monica and I were reminded of recently, though, is how quickly life can get out of control.  Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living.  Every now and then, it’s important to take a step back and do some examining.

blogging-late-at-night

I feel like in many ways this blog is about asking whether our lives accurately reflect what we say we value most.  Monica and I have made major life-changes to try to ensure that our life does reflect what we say we value most.  We’ve been focused on our life as a big picture and I am really, really excited about the path we are on.  But did my day today accurately reflect what I value most?  Do I really want to consistently be looking into a computer screen at midnight?  Wouldn’t I rather be sitting by the fire and talking with my wife?

It’s good to know where we’re going.  This blog and all the writing that Monica and I are doing is important to us.  So are my merchant accounts and consulting clients.  So are Monica’s marketing gigs.  Each is an important piece to our patchwork that’s helping us achieve the life of our dreams.

But I don’t want to miss the here and now.  I don’t want to forget to examine today.

Are you trying to figure out what you want life to look like?  Join us as we continue the journey of figuring that out.  Like us on Facebook.  Follow us on Twitter.  Subscribe to our RSS.

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12 Comments

Justin 01-03-2012, 17:40

I guess I would ask,

Why are you working?

If you feel it is to get to a point where you can work less, than it’s good. Does the snow blog help your quest? The book? (curious) Klout?

It’s hard, but we all have to work at keeping the portions on our plate small, and not going back to the buffet line for more work.

Clark Vandeventer 01-03-2012, 20:52

Justin, great questions to ask!

I know a lot of the work I am doing now wil mean I am able to do less work in the future — and not in a far off, distant future, but in a future that I can already taste.

At the same time, I don’t want to work so hard now that I miss the moment that I’m in.

Bryan Rosner 01-03-2012, 22:44

I think you said it well at lunch today, Clark: beware the unleashed type A personality! Gotta keep a leash on it. I do too. If I allowed it to, my type A tendencies would mean 70 hour work weeks.

Amy 02-03-2012, 19:46

I think it’s the problem with trying to earn an independent income – there is always more and more and more to do. It’s hard to see a distincton between work and life when we work from home!

Clark Vandeventer 05-03-2012, 13:13

It really is hard to see a distinction, Amy. My life is seamless. I’m playing with my kids one minute, responding to a client’s email another minute, and chopping wood the next minute. I feel less and less like there is “Work Clark” and “Family Clark” and “Ski Clark” and “Blogger Clark” and more like there’s just Clark.

Lisa 05-03-2012, 06:55

This is exactly what I worry about! I quit my day job almost a year ago, and while I do have more time with my family, I spend a lot of time trying to lay the foundation for a more flexible income source. I’ve been encouraging my husband to quit his job this year, so we could both be spending more time with family, traveling, and creating a new life. But at the current moment, his job pays a LOT better than anything on the plate. And I could easily see us scrambling all the time to try to make ends meat, or get our own businesses started. It’s scary to think that we might work MORE if we are working for ourselves!

Bryan Rosner 05-03-2012, 09:30

I can speak a little to this. I’ve been self employed for 10 years. I work more hours than a regular, 9-5 job. HOWEVER, I much prefer this lifestyle because I can take time off when I want to. Although I probably work 50 or 55 hours per week, I can easily come out of my home office on a Wed morning for an hour to wrestle with my son, and then go back to work. Or, I can sneak away on a Friday and go snow shoeing with my family if it works out for my wife’s schedule. Or, I can take advantage of cheap midweek hotel rates and take the family on a little trip avoiding the crowds and tourists. Also, my son often hangs out with me in my office while I’m working, and I can chat with him in moderation (he knows when dad is working we can’t be having long conversations). So while I work more hours, the flexibility and quality of those hours and time off is much better than a regular job. This is also due to working from home. Also, I make 2 to 4 x more money than a regular job, which I feel is a much better use of my time. The idea of getting up the same time every morning, having to be at “work” (usually involving some type of commute) and reporting to a “boss” who pays me “by the hour” and can fire me any time, makes me want to barf. I’d gladly work even more hours for less money to avoid that! Just my 02 cents.

Clark Vandeventer 05-03-2012, 13:11

Well said, Bryan. Freedom is priceless. I value my freedom above and dollar amount. I got a call this past week. Great job. Great salary. Great perks. I jokingly asked if I could take a month off without asking anyone for permission. I asked if I could come in whenever I wanted and work with no restraints. I knew the answers to those questions were “no” which is why I knew I could never take the job.

Clark Vandeventer 05-03-2012, 13:06

Lisa, check out Bryan’s comment on this same post. Even if you are working as much or more now than you were before you quit your job, you now have 2 things you never had before. The first is flexibility. The second, as you said, is the fact that you’re now laying a foundation for future income.

Regarding your husband’s work situation — it’s really a question of what that money gets you. Does the money help you live the life of your dreams? Or does the money actually keep you from living the life of your dreams?

Tracey - Life Changing Year 21-03-2012, 21:37

Hey “just Clark”. Been meaning to comment on this for over a week now and the comments seem to sum it all up! You and Monica can CHOOSE to sit up 1/2 the night and write, you can CHOOSE to have that chunk of family time and when you are ready you can CHOOSE to set off on a life of travel. All things you can’t do when you are tethered to someone else’s desk!!! If you are loving what you are doing as well, then it can hardly seem like work!!

Clark Vandeventer 22-03-2012, 08:49

Thanks, Tracey. You make a great point. Monica and I have been talking more about this post over the past few weeks. I enjoy ALL of my life. I enjoy the fun with my family, the quiet times with Monica, AND the blogging and relationships that have developed with people like you because of the blog!

We also have realized how different our standards are than the typical working family. I’ve set an alarma half a dozen times so far this year. One of those times was to catch an early flight. The other times were to get up early to go SKIING! LOL.

Christina @Interest-Led Learning 30-03-2012, 17:30

I’ve struggled lately, too, with what is really important to me. I love that I started my site about a year ago, and I really like what I’m writing about, but I have to remember that my kids and husband always come before that. I’ve gotten a little caught up in trying to bring more people to my site that I’ve spent less time with my kids than I’d like. Now, instead of caring about whether I’ve always consistently read all the blogs I follow or whether I update and check my social media sites twice a day, I’ve put much more energy into planning trips and fun activities with the kids and just hanging with my family. I’m very, very blessed that we don’t need me to make money, but it still is easy to get sucked into wanting to have a big following or a sucessful blog (especially when I’m trying a little at a time to put up my first e-book for sale). So, I guess I’m trying to say that I hear where you’re coming from.

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