The Bigger Picture

While I’m on the road, I’m featuring guest posts! Today’s comes from my friend Mrs. WoW  from Waffles on Wednesday. I love this post because it reminds us that money is never the end goal. However, figuring out exactly what that big goal isn’t always easy…

The other day I sat on top of the world.

I had seen it numerous times before: pictures, websites, social media, but nothing beat seeing Machu Picchu in person.

As I sat there in utter amazement, I took a moment to reflect:

  • How did I get here?
  • What does this mean?
  • What is next?

The Background

Let’s back up.  Although I can argue that all my life events led me here, I’ll jump to 8 years ago, where this story starts to come to life.

So, how did I get here?

The Work Part

While most people in the FIRE world are in software, I surprisingly am not.  In 2009, I became an occupational therapist. My specialty is working with at-risk children, birth to three years of age, helping them learn necessary skills to meet their developmental milestones. My usual bag o’ tricks include balls, tunnels, play dough, pool noodles, piggy banks, you know, super technical medical equipment (computers not required).  It’s really rewarding (and fun) minus getting bit, kicked, hit, sneezed/puked/pooped on and my hair pulled, but from what I hear from Mr. Wow, that part isn’t much different from an office job.

After some rotations on the traditional employee hamster wheel, I started my own private practice.  This decision opened up a world of new opportunities and allowed me to shape my career how I wanted.  Unlike many in the FIRE community, I genuinely love my profession.

Yep, I totally threw a Maury meme into my post

The Travel Part

But there’s more to life than work, right?  When timing allowed us to take six weeks for our honeymoon, Mr. Wow and I found ourselves all over Europe.  I quickly discovered that travel and I were BFFs. What was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, actually became the catalyst for my life plan.

What does this mean?

The Passion Part

I began thinking…

I love my job and travel, what if I combine them?

Not long after, I met an OT student who was headed to Ecuador to do some volunteer work and needed a mentor. I jumped at the chance!  Before I knew it, I was on my way to Ibarra, Ecuador.

Ibarra from the hill above the city

The city was stunning and the experience was unreal!  I spent 2 weeks working with children with special needs, helping at a community center for young adults with moderate-severe physical disabilities, and coordinating an Olympic day for a Senior Center.  Everything about this opportunity was life changing! (Side note: The first week of Chautauqua is in the same town where I volunteered so I will be back this year!  Insert big smiley face here!)

My favorite church that I would pass every day on my way to work

From there, the OTraveling continued.  Next, I found myself in the beautiful country of Iceland.  While there, I met up with some local occupational therapists and visited some outpatient clinics, a primary school, and the only university that teaches occupational therapy in Iceland.  I had the best time! It definitely beat having my dry suit leak while SCUBA diving in Silfra, BRRRRRRR!!!

Hanging at the university in Iceland


While at one of the clinics in Iceland, one experience really stood out to me.  I noticed maps throughout the facility. In one room, there was a big world map covering the entire wall.

What’s with all the maps?

I like maps!

One staff member replied, “It’s to remind us of the bigger picture.  It’s not just one person or one family.  It’s about helping entire communities. We’re all in this together!”

The bigger picture? I like that!

I hesitated.

Wait, what is my bigger picture?

I had some thinking to do.

Mission ImPossible

This past June, I headed back to South America.  This time landing in Perú for a medical mission.  I worked alongside doctors, surgeons, nurses, speech therapists, pharmacy students, social workers, chiropractors, acupuncturists, as well as some awesome translators and general volunteers.  The days were long and tiresome, but the work was extremely rewarding (and Maracuya Sours definitely kept me going!!). All in all, our team saw over 1,000 patients during our week long mission.  It was incredible!

Our welcome banner

What’s Next?

Now, since joining the FIRE community, I’ve learned the importance of having a plan.  A plan for how to achieve FIRE but also, and more importantly, a plan for what do to beyond, once it is achieved.  Mr. Wow has been on my case for months and was constantly frustrated for my lack of a plan. Trust me, it’s not fun having your husband bombard you with questions weekly about what I wanted to do when we reached FI.

Sitting on the top of Machu Picchu and reminiscing about my amazing week with the mission in Perú, I finally discovered my bigger picture! I wasted no time, promptly turning to Mr.Wow to let him in on my new revelation.

I also discovered that llamitas are my new favorite animals

Because of my experiences in Europe, Ecuador, Iceland and now Perú, my plan has solidified.  For all the crazy things we have done in pursuit of FIRE, like cutting our phone bill and cable, cooking at home, driving old cars, continuing to rent instead of buying a house, maxing out our 401ks & IRAs, and putting every last cent into savings and investments, I now have a reason for it.

It feels good to finally have a plan and one that I am extremely excited about.  Working towards and achieving financial independence will afford me the opportunity to combine my passion for travel and occupational therapy.  I actually already have a few more medical missions lined up for 2018.  Who knows, maybe I can talk Mr.Wow into doing a mission with me one of these days.

What’s your plan once you cross the finish line? What’s your bigger picture?

Join the 10s who have signed up already!

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*Only if your life is pretty bad to begin with.

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37 Responses to The Bigger Picture

  1. I feel like I want to help as many people with their finances as possible. The quicker I can quit doing the cubicle farm job the faster I can do that. So I’m running toward FIRE as quickly as possible with the hope that I can achieve that in the next couple of years!!!
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…What is a Federal Government Pension Worth?My Profile

  2. That picture of Ibarra is so beautiful. I can’t wait to hang out with you and Mr. Wow there for a whole week!

    My why for FI (hey that rhymes!) is freedom. Freedom to pursue various personal interests, to make a lasting impression on younger kids, and to finally break the chains of traditional employment that are keeping me tied down.
    Gwen @ Fiery Millennials recently posted…Blocks and BarriersMy Profile

  3. What an incredible way to combine your passion for helping others through your job and your desire to travel in a FIRE plan that satisfies both. To me, this is a perfect example of an FI plan at its finest. Good luck as you continue to work to help so many around you… where ever you are in the world 🙂
    Mrs. Adventure Rich recently posted…Five Lessons from the Uber Frugal Month ChallengeMy Profile

  4. Kyle says:

    FIRE people seem to be engineers in general, but i think software developers do seem to make up the majority. Probably people with that natural logical and inquisitive mind with a thirst for knowledge and improving themselves.
    As a single guy, that bigger picture question has been bugging me. Traveling alone doesn’t have much Appeal for me. I think I would start some kind of business, but my instinct is to keep it small and simple. For now I just want the freedom to choose what I do with my life, rather than depending on a pay check.

    • Mrs.Wow says:

      It took me quite some time to really nail down my “why”, but once I figured it out, everything else seemed to fall into place. Give it time and I am sure that you will find yours as well.

      I say if you want to start a business, go for it! Starting my company was the best decision I could have made. To be honest though, it is a LOT of work, I work harder now than I ever did in the past. However, now I have the flexibility and the freedom so it is 100% worth it. Small and simple, sounds like you already have the right mindset. Good luck!
      Mrs.Wow recently posted…Not all Debt is BadMy Profile

  5. I think you found a really great balance of blending your passion with work. Not everyone can say that! That’s so great you can travel as much as you do! Wow guest post on 1500! Am I still allowed to look you in the eyes when I see you in person? 🙂

    • Mrs.Wow says:

      I’m really grateful for being able to combine my 2 passions. I have definitely added Eastern Europe to my list after reading about your recent travels there.

  6. Wonderful that you’ve been able to combine your passion for travel with medical volunteerism. We’re currently looking for a similar opportunity that will allow me to do some anesthesia, while my wife and kids help out in other ways.


    • Mrs.Wow says:

      I highly recommend doing a medical mission PoF. To put it simply, it was life changing. The one I did in Perú was amazing and would be a great one for your skills, as well as for your family to join you on. Next year, I have Cambodia and possibly Honduras lined up, with leads to one in Nepal and one in India. And I hope to return to Perú too. Let me know if you want any more information and feel free to pass along any you know of.
      Mrs.Wow recently posted…Not all Debt is BadMy Profile

  7. Wow, Mrs. WoW! I had no idea that you’ve done so much around the world. That’s so wonderful that you’re able to share your talents while traveling. That’s the dream. 🙂
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend! July 30My Profile

  8. Joe says:

    Very cool. I think it’s great that you’re helping to make the world a better place. Combining work and travel is tough. Most of us can’t do that.
    We want to travel more too and we’re planning to take a year off to travel around the world in a few years.

    • Mrs.Wow says:

      The best part about combining work and travel is that I get to spend time in non-touristy areas, thus enhancing my experience even more. I feel like a local and really get a good taste of what it is like to live in that area.

      Your RTW trip sounds amazing! Can’t wait to hear all about it!

  9. Mrs. BITA says:

    How wonderful that your two big passions mix together so well. Once I cross the finish line I plan to sit atop my mountain of wealth (and if needs to be in pennies to more closely resemble a mountain, so be it) and do my best grumpy dragon impersonation. When that gets old I plan to travel and create. The where and the what are still TBD, and that is part of the fun.
    Mrs. BITA recently posted…Why I’m Not In The Poor HouseMy Profile

  10. Such a cool story.

    Our post FIRE plan is still a work in progress, but it’s beginning to take form. It involves writing, summers traveling with the future kids, and volunteering my services at (hopefully) newspapers that are cash-strapped.

  11. Mr. Tako says:

    Great story! Having a reason for FIRE is super important! You definitely don’t want to be sitting around watching TV. Volunteering is a fantastic reason!

    Now that we’re FIREd, we plan to travel a bunch, engaging in our passions, and spend a lot of time with our kids!

  12. John Massie says:

    Your passion for helping others is something that is very admirable. Great Job. I have just begun to lay out my FIRE strategy and it cant happen fast enough.

  13. Abel Travis says:

    I often take the time to reflect on the bigger picture when I find myself. It reminds me that there is so much more than the day to day. When I travel, I am also reminded that the experiences make me a much better leader. Glad to see you have mixed your passions.

  14. Mrs.Wow says:

    One can learn an awful lot from traveling: seeing new places, being exposed to different cultures and ultimately getting pushed beyond your comfort zone. It definitely helps give some perspective and helps you reflect on your life. Thanks for stopping by Abel!

  15. Great post Mrs WoW.

    Sorry to be dumb but can I clarify exactly what the plan is? Was it to ramp up the amount of OT /travel missions you do?

    It seems like you are doing a lot of that already so are there any other aspects of your life you see changing once FI just out of interest – and sorry if I’m starting to sound like your husband here 🙂

    I’m a good 10 years away from FI but in the meantime it still pays to focus on the big picture. Otherwise I find that all the little annoyances in life start to get you down.

    • Mrs.Wow says:

      Thanks for stopping by FIREstarter and I am totally used to all the questions, so no worries. This post covers about 3 years of volunteering, which currently is only 1-2 weeks per year. I hope to be able to do more of this while slow traveling and spend longer periods of time once hitting FI, say a few months at a place if not more. So while I am already doing some of it, it is definitely not the capacity that I hope to be able to do in the future.

  16. LOVE this! We would love to quit and do a combination of longer through hikes (Appalachian, en Camino, etc) and my dream of hopefully doing a couple of projects at the Peacecorps or something similar, then just live like nomads and spontaneously do what we feel like doing to get involved with local community.

    • Mrs.Wow says:

      This sounds like an awesome plan TT&R! I have had a few friends who have done the Appalachian and El Camino treks and they said it was amazing!

  17. Dear Mrs. Wow,

    I am so excited for you and all those whose life you will touch. You are making the world a better place. Thank you.

    Like you, in FIRE, I “want to be a quarter to someone*”. I haven’t defined exactly HOW I’m going to do that, just that I want to give back.

    * I wrote a blog post about what this actually means to me. In a nutshell, the day after my son died, a person gave me a quarter for a cup of hot water. Changed my life forever.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Besos Sarah.
    Sarah De Diego recently posted…10 Things to Consider When Buying a Car Booster for Your Child @DionoUSAMy Profile

    • Mrs.Wow says:

      I LOVE the whole “quarter to someone”. Thank you for sharing Sarah De Diego. I’m sure whatever you figure out to do in FIRE, will make a big impact.

  18. Miss Mazuma says:

    THIS!! I’m so excited to read this today since I will be able to pick your brain further when I see you in a few hours…perfect timing!! 🙂

    I love that you have found away to marry your two passions. I too have been working on a plan to do the same by teaching financial literacy to the new hire flight attendants within my company. I already have the travel part but I want to educate as well. We just got a tuition reimbursement program in place last year and I was told that finance classes would fit the criteria based on future employment within the company. Who knows where it will take me but I know that I love seeing on my coworkers faces light up when I tell them the possibilities of what they can accomplish if they just save a bit more. Cheers to you and all the work you do. If you ever need an assistant on your travels let me know! Have bag, will travel. 😉

    • Mrs.Wow says:

      I absolutely love your idea of teaching financial literacy to new hires. It is so important to get people started on the right financial path, especially when they are just starting out. Do keep me posted on how this pans out.

      So nice meeting you yesterday and anytime you want to join me on the road, just say the word.

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