2023 – Visiting Brother in KY

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Amidst the sea of hiking destinations I have in my queue (though more like an unsorted array that I need to continually sort from most feels to least feels at the slow rate of O(n)), this particular visit to Red River Gorge holds significance in the sense that I am primarily visiting my brother, Jack.

This destination is renowned for its abundance of natural bridges (arches), however due to weather and exhaustion from our longish hike the previous day to Dog Slaughter Falls among other activities, we decided to limit the trip to just a waterfall I’ve had on my radar. Additionally, since my brother is nearby, I imagine a future exploring the rest of the area another time.

Although the elevation view of of the map was relatively flat, the terrain made this trail a bit challenging. In fact, if you would like a better experience on the way to the falls, I would recommend getting wet with some comfortable water shoes because it’s mostly tactical creek crossings and mud.

Aside from the tactical creek crossings and mud, the trail emanated a rain forest ambiance with an abundance of rhododendron along the way.

Copperas Falls

NameCopperas Falls
LocationRed River Gorge Geological Area
Trailhead/ParkingCopperas Creek Unofficial Trailhead
Hike Length3.1 Miles (Out & Back)
AllTrails LinkCopperas Falls
Side Notes:
  • Visiting my brother was absolutely amazing! I was genuinely impressed by his habits, diet, and the supportive friends he surrounded himself with.
  • I still don’t know when to use the words sympathize and empathize.
    • Brother was trying to convince me that most people use these words incorrectly.
      • In actuality, I was convinced, however I have already forgot which is which.
        • Feel free to comment below which is which. ๐Ÿ˜…
  • There is an amazing ice cream called “The Brick” place right outside of Red River Gorge, that was really sleek looking. It was so sleek looking I asked one of the employees there if we were in the middle of nowhere and she confirmed that we were in the middle of nowhere, so it’s a mystery to me how a seasonal place like that stays in business throughout the year. Nevertheless, I recommend their coffee lovers shake! ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿ˜

Personal Update

Free Time

Now that I’m no longer prioritizing on dating and friends who are starting to become unavailable as they pursue other areas in their life, I find myself experiencing long periods of boredom. Whenever I even think about being bored, I think back to the advice that Kierra gave me back in 2016, which was that if you are bored, it is because you are boring. This without a doubt struck a cord then than it does now, though I am self aware enough to know that my right here, right now is a blessing in itself, which is presently as an able bodied individual, so I’ll take this as a sign to keep looking to spend my time with something meaningful while I’m “in-between things” as Ben, another friend induced.

Social

I’ve been signing up for a few MeetUps for hiking and writing, but largely I have not been consistently social. Way back when I had been imagining my life, I thought I would belong to a few regular social groups, but I haven’t been apart of anything yet locally where I have felt these are my people, aside from maybe co-workers, but since we are all working together remotely, that social work environment no longer exists. I do organize my own with the hiking and backpacking trips to stay in touch with my non-local friends to maintain those bonds, but those are on the consistency of once a month with more participation in the warmer months of the year.

Dating


While I am still interested in getting to know someone, actively seeking exclusivity hasn’t become a priority for me yet. Interestingly, I’ve come to realize that the desire to have a partner no longer resonates with me. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I experienced a crush. This shift in perspective can be attributed to various factors, including personal growth, extensive dating experience, enhanced self-awareness, a deeper clarity of my life goals, and notably, my lifestyle choices. Upon reflection, I’ve recognized that it is primarily my chosen lifestyle that influences my decision to abstain from engaging in romantic relationships.

I am aware my direction is divergent from the social construct norm especially in modern relationships, but I truly believe if you know what you want, you’ve got to chase it, otherwise you’ll grow resentful later in life for not consciously taking that leap. Also, while it may not be immediately obvious, when you get over that next mountain on your journey, you can see opportunities and choices you could not see from the previous mountain. Paradoxically, this sage advice was given to me (without the mountain analogy) for not taking that leap to not move into my car back in 2020. With the guidance of a friend, who gave me the advice at the time, I decided to change my environment as a first step, moving away from my parent’s house. Their advice was clear: if I found myself experiencing the same feelings in an apartment, where I would be free from the responsibilities of caring for my parent’s house and dogs, then I could consider making a commitment, which is exactly what I did. Despite the post-pone of living in an apartment for the time period of a 13-month lease, I to this day have no regrets.

Although things ended with one of the most incomparable (beautiful | frugal | empathetic) woman I had ever had the privilege of knowing, it was ultimately for the best. In making the choice to committing fully to Jeep Life in a LAT (Living Apart Together) lifestyle, I learned quickly that she did not want the same. It is hard to root it down to one cause since it is multifaceted like most breakups, but once we realized neither of us were willing to compromise on direction, we mutually split. I’m just happy she initiated it. It was clear I was just spinning my wheels for months looking and thinking of solutions. Plus, in those close to desperate attempts to get back on a joint direction, I uncovered F.I.R.E. (Financial Independence Retire Early), which if you haven’t been following my previous blogs is now one of my long term goals considering how attractive it is to attain. In the early stages of learning about F.I.R.E., I’m thinking I did not make the argument convincing enough because it quite literally would have solved most of our problems. To elaborate a little, both of us were not on solid ground yet with our careers. I for instance knew nothing is guaranteed and she knew she would need to subsidize her art work to grow it. Simply, F.I.R.E. in my mind solved the uncertainty problem, as well provided an end point of the when we could stop working for other people. All this said, now that I’ve had the time (as a single guy) to think about my own direction, separate from compromise, on this new mountain, I’ve come to realize how thankful I am for those changes. While I can’t speak for Hope, I did get the vibe she felt the same way from our most recent catchup call.

Energy

This winter’s end was rough on my energy levels. Due to an urgent fix in the field with work, I ended up working nearly 14-days straight, and as a result, depleted my reserves, running on empty for quite some time, which caused me to fall back into my old habits, such as neglecting exercise, late night snacking, and watching TV to turn off my brain, so now I actively think of my actions before I commit to something that will negatively affect my energy levels. I still drink coffee on the regular, but cut myself off at noon, though I do allow myself to have tea until 3 PM. In reality, working 14-days straight isn’t too bad, but I was already low energy, it being the end of Winter. In fact, I had a trip planned to visit my brother in Kentucky during this time, but had to cancel due to the work. Thankfully, as you can see in the above post, the trip to visit my brother was rescheduled.

Travel

I am going to start increasing my frequency of travel as a means to regulate my energy. Traveling is the one thing that truly revitalizes me. Moreover, it is one of the very few things I know of for combating burnout. Previously, I relied on a friend’s series of organized backpacking trips to maintain my energy, specifically targeting the completion of the Virginia section of the Appalachian Trail this year. However, due to weather-related rescheduling and the unpredictable nature of life, I now realize that I cannot depend on anyone else to replenish this energy. As a solution, I have decided to plan solo trips once a month for a weekend, which I believe will address the energy depletion. Back up plans can work to an extent, but cheap plane travel (< $100/round trip domestically as of 2023) isn’t as flexible as you would hope, so it is better to preplane these types of things.

To dampen the financial impact of monthly travel, I have been leveraging travel credit cards and creative ways to car camp in rentals with only a personal item size of space. In fact, I’ve already taken advantage of what is called a Car Hammock on my most recent trip to Northern Michigan allowing me to rent the most budget friendly of vehicles. It is worth mentioning that I still needed to use my sleeping pad to keep insulated throughout the night.

The above photo is me waking up in a garage in Traverse City, MI leveraging the mentioned Car Hammock. Typically, I would opt to stay at a trailhead, campground, beach, or church, but I wanted to go out to a particular brewery that night.

In terms of showers, as it often becomes a common follow-up question, I have had luck using showers at truck stops and airport lounges, but I normally don’t shower until I am back home. Though, I have started carrying cologne with me in case I have plans to go out, as I did in Traverse City, to consider the comfort of others. ๐Ÿ˜… I would like to empathize that my perspective on showering has evolved over time. While I used to have the strong desire to shower daily, especially after exercise, I now understand after my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail it as a learned behavior that can be unlearned or, more accurately, refocused as a non-priority.

A budget alternative for those who are older and/or care a bit more about public appearance, there is a credit card called the Choice Privileges Select Mastercard that recently dropped that is currently offering 90k points for $3k spend in the first three months, waiving the first year of the annual fee of $95. This roughly equates to approximately 11 stays. In addition to some really great multipliers like 5x back on gas and grocery (assuming you want more of these stays), there is also a 30k point anniversary bonus. Considering the exceptional value of this deal, I decided to commit. It’s also nice to have the option, especially during times when I don’t look forward to sleeping in the rental, like airport garages before an early morning flight back home.

Do I have to sleep in the rentals? Absolutely not, but I do not see the value on a consistent basis to get a hotel or Airbnb. I prefer saving or investing that money and time in activities or experiences that bring greater value to my life.

In addition to travel news, I have made the decision to embark with solo international travel. While there is a slight uneasiness associated with it, I recognize the importance of taking steps sooner rather than later to become comfortable visiting the destinations I desire, even if I have to do so alone. I am first going to start with something small and expand from there. It’s worth mentioning that my first trip is already booked, although I prefer not to disclose the specific details just yet.

Writing

In my most recent previous blog post, I had mentioned my intention to use chat-GPT as a means of writing more frequently. However, after receiving praise for recent writing getting better over the past few years, I have decided to rely on chat-GPT minimally instead. While the blog will likely stay at a one blog per quarter pace, I do see the importance of continuing to grow in this area. Despite my growth in my blog, I attribute the majority of my growth to communication at work to make sure my meaning was getting correctly conveyed. While my blog is an attempt to put my best foot forward, I would say the urgency and high stakes of getting my words perfect at work have been the biggest motivators for said improvement. Of course, school was also a high-pressured environment, but it has been almost a decade since then.

Investing

I don’t really talk on the how of investing too much since I am not qualified to be giving out advice in this space as an individual investor, however I’m going to vaguely speak on a recent obsession. I uncovered a way to shield oneself from down markets. I don’t quite remember the steps I took to go down this rabbit hole, but I was looking for ways to take an extended sabbatical way later without depending on a good market to do so. Previously, my strategy was solely what I would call a down market fund, which is basically a pool of ETFs with companies that generally do well at all times like materials, healthcare, infrastructure, consumer defense, energy, industrial, and communication services. In addition to investing companies that do well all times, I now also blindly buy after what is called a “Golden Cross” and sell after what is called at the “Death Cross.” During my research, this terminology is used inter changeably with more than one strategy, but it is most commonly used to explain when to buy and sell in a given market at the cross of the 50-day moving average and the 200-day moving average. The Golden Cross occurs when the 50-day moving average crosses up over the 200-day moving average and the Death Cross occurs when the 50-day moving average crosses below the 200-day moving average. Anyway, while I think there is a future where I go more in-depth of how I invest, I still think it is too early to take advice from me for anything investing related. On that note, if you are interested in this space, reddit is a good way to dig deeper.

On the topic of investing, the market is now considered bullish (post Golden Cross) and I am doing better than I thought I would. I have already had moments where I have to control my ego and not make stupid decisions. For example, I have had urges to take a part of my earnings and pay off the rest of my car loan, but know I will reach my destination number faster if I keep with it. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve started to make deals with myself to use any additional money after that destination number, to treat myself. There might be a future where I treat myself with the luxury of rent. ๐Ÿ˜… But no for real, I have this next on my radar:

Jeep Life

Dan recently brought up a question he had asked me a while ago, inquiring whether I continue with the Jeep Life because I genuinely enjoy it or if it’s primarily due to the significant investment I have already made. I vividly recall pausing and staring at the floor for a prolonged moment before responding, although I cannot recall the exact words I used. The mere act of hesitating before answering reveals a great deal about my response. The reason behind my hesitation was the need to reflect on whether my ego plays a role in my commitment. After careful consideration, I have come to the realization that, while my ego may indeed contribute to my dedication, it ultimately does not matter. Yes, my ego likely plays a part in keeping my commitment, which can serve as a valuable message to those contemplating a similar lifestyle. However, I still firmly believe that the decision to commit was and continues to be the best choice I could have made for the future lifestyle I desire. Even if my journey ends prematurely, at least I can say that I made the attempt. It may sound clichรฉ, but the worthwhile pursuits in life have always required sacrifice, and I am simply choosing my sacrifice.

Credit Cards

I have recently realized three things that has changed my future credit card strategy:

  1. You can be denied for more credit if you have too much allotted to you.
    • Too much is relative, but based on my observation, I was starting to get denied when all of the credit allocated to me total crossed into a range over my annual income.

  2. Closing a card does not mean it will poof off your credit history.
    • If you close a credit card, the account will remain on your credit report for 10-years if closed in good standing and 7-years if closed in a bad standing.

  3. Once you’ve chosen a credit card direction, it is hard to readjust into a different direction.
    • My first mission was to maximize cash back, but now see the value of the travel cards, so I’ll likely have to wait a few years to pivot due to the many rules some credit card companies have to get their cards, such as the Chase 5/24 rule, which is a rule where you cannot have opened five or more personal cards across all banks in the last 24 months to get approved.

  4. The Fidelity 2% cashback credit card out-earns all of my other cashback cards with time and less strain on businesses.
    • Less strain on the business because most of the cashback rewards come indirectly from the business where you used your card, so by using a 2% card, instead of say a 4% card, you are hurting the business less from those credit card expenses.
    • Since the 2% cashback is set to automatically get deposited into your brokerage account, the 2% cashback can grow into higher return based on your investments. For instance if one were to automatically throw their 2% cashback into the QQQs every month, which is approximately a 20% annualized return over a 10-year period of time based on historical returns, the potential gain would be the following as you can see in the table below.
ReturnYear
2%0
2.4%1
2.88%2
3.46%3
4.15%4
4.98%5
5.98%6
7.18%7
8.62%8
10.34%9
12.41%10
  • To go even deeper, let’s say you spend $1000 monthly on this card. Assuming you pay off your statement balance every time, that 2% is $20/month and if you were to automatically invest that money into the same fund such as the QQQs, the Compound Interest Calculator image below could be the result of your cashback after a 30 year period of time, which as you can see would be like saving for retirement.

Action Items:

  1. To cancel the cards that no longer offer value to me even if they don’t have an annual fee.
    • Due to my minimalistic lifestyle, the Amex Blue Cash Everyday has a 3% online shopping category that I hardly used. Moreover, this card gave me an allocation of credit that was more than a third of my salary; credit that could be allocated to apply to new cards, so I cancelled it.
    • I canceled the US Bank Altitude Connect travel cashback card. I thought there was an ability to pool my points with my US Bank Altitude Go card and transfer them out. I was mistaken, so I cancelled the card. This is a very good travel cashback card covering everything you can think of travel related, but I could not justify the $95 annual fee with the limited credits they offer with the card. I am though thinking of opening an Amex Green card. They recently added Clear as one of their credits, which would more than pay for the annual fee. TSA Pre-check is in fact better in comparison, but combined will give you more options to choose from in a busy airport. Plus, this travel card actually has multipliers in everything travel similar to the US Bank Altitude Connect card with niche categories like Airbnb. If you’d like to avoid annual fees all together, the Wells Fargo Autograph is a good option.
    • I might cancel Venmo’s card. Their website, customer service, and rewards are meh, but allow me to make Venmo transfers to friends fee free, so on the fence with that one.

  2. Keep the card I have had open the longest:
    • I understand this may sound like a contradiction, but even if I were to cancel my credit line, 10-years later if will look like I started my credit 3-years ago today instead of the 11-years I have had my credit open. This is because there is a large gap in time between my first and my third line of credit. Thanks to my Mom for picking it out, the card still offers me a ton of value.

  3. Only recommend the Fidelity 2% card to those who don’t want to complicate their life.
    • It requires a person to not only start thinking about their future self, but it’s also a great everything card to start building credit, while building a nest egg of investments.
    • Less cards, less things to keep track of.

  4. Stop chasing core category cards if the percentage is less than 4%.
    • Fidelity 2% cash back out competes all my cards with time.
    • There are a lot of 3% cards in really niche categories like car insurance, that could help you lower your card utilization, but also lower your ability of getting new credit and on top of that, it is a lot to keep track of.

  5. Be intentional with your credit card direction.
    • I’m content with my previous choices, but it could be much worse. I could have applied for a bunch of high intro bonus cards that offered no overlapping life category to my life.

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