Monday, April 22, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA
The blog posting today is more pointed and opinionated than usual. It probably belongs in my Certified Skeptic blog, where I've given myself more freedom to be open about my opinions on politics, religion, and other "sensitive" topics. But there are people out there who wonder how a worsening economy, poor (or negative) investment returns, and rising costs effect people like us, fulltimers, who have seemingly built their lifestyle around the availability of cheap energy and positive investment yields.
Increasing costs for food, fuel, air travel, and almost everything we buy is affecting all of us -- and it's really beginning to bite. Gas is approaching $4/gallon, diesel is well over $4. The price of cereal grains is at near record levels. The common denominator in this problem is the price of oil in particular, and all energy in general. Coupled with the problems in the credit markets and the resulting slow-down in housing activity, it's hard to see how we'll escape a tough, long-lasting recession with the potential of significant changes to the way we live and work in this society.
How does all this affect us? Here are my thoughts:
First off, we went into this lifestyle fully expecting energy costs to rise. I've made a study of the topic of "peak oil" and the rapidly growing demand for energy in China, India, and other, less populated, countries who've belatedly found that capitalism works and are giving the USA a run for it's money. It should be clear to anyone that the easy-to-get oil is already out of the ground. What's left, regardless of the volume, is going to be harder to get out and more expensive. A large part of our decision to fulltime at this time were the beliefs that 1) it may become cost-prohibitive to travel around and explore the USA in this way at some point in the future, and 2) we'd need to find a less-expensive, lower cost, and more climate-friendly place to settle down after the sabbatical in order to weather the changes to our society that will probably occur as a result of tightening and more costly energy supplies. In other words, if we didn't do it now, we may never have done it. We wanted to do it while we still had the chance.
Second, I've stopped listening to investment analysts and financial advisors. With a little homework the average intelligent person can manage their investments just fine, thank you. I don't think the normal investor has any business being in the manipulated, rumor-driven equity markets at this time. When the interpretation, on the part of certain "experts", of the nuances of certain words in a statement from the FRB can move the markets by 2, 3, or more percent in one day, you or I should not be in that market. Unless you've got so much money that the loss of half of it or more doesn't affect your lifestyle, be more conservative and focus on capital preservation.
Yes, the bus-house is a depreciating asset. But then, so are most of the homes in America these days. As someone told me a few months ago, "If you have a home that's depreciating, it might just as well have wheels." The difference is that we expected the bus-house to depreciate -- and worked that into our plan.
Yes, our travel depends on a lot of diesel fuel. As fuel rises from $4 to $5 to $8 per gallon, we can choose to use less of it by lingering longer in places we find interesting. Instead of driving 10,000 miles per year, we can reduce to 8,000 or 6,000 or even less if necessary. We have choices. We're willing to travel less, if necessary, but we're not willing to give up our exploration of America and our search for our next home town -- at least for a while.
I've already documented [citation link] that we're using at least 25% less energy in this lifestyle than the one we left. I have no apologies for our use of energy as we travel and believe we're far more "green" than we ever were, or most "greenies" purport to be.
When the time comes to stop fulltiming, buy or build a house, and get back to a more traditional lifestyle, we'll transfer many of our habits and some of the technology from our RV fulltiming life to our new home. It'd be great to live a net-0 energy lifestyle, and not be dependent on the grid for our existence.
We chose this lifestyle, didn't come into it blindly, and don't regret for one minute doing so.
Right or wrong, these are our ideas and goals.