After work hillwalking ramblings or Climbing Mount FI

Or the closer you get to something the more uncertain the path gets. It’s a bit like the Heisenberg Uncertainy Principle or the Dougal optical paradox. Things get bigger the closer to get to them. Or in other words “Near… far away”

This Thursday we finished work early and headed out in the car for a hillwalk. This is one of the joys of being able to just finish work and get away from it all. Working from home has its benefits and losing the commute is one of them and being free at 4pm

We live in a beautiful part of Scotland and can easily chose from a dozen hillwalks within 30 minutes drive of home – and you get some great exercise, amazing views and few other people to bother you – or within an hour or two your pick of Munros in the Cairngorms and Trossachs.

This is what Financial Independence could mean for us – the freedom to cast off the shackles of the 9-5 and decide to just go to the beach or hills or just go to the park. You can see why some people hold onto the idea of what life could be. And all of these things are free by the way. Of course, buying your freedom is a different story.

The easy part

The hill we climbed on Wednesday is the famous Dunsinane Hill as featured in Macbeth “Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill Shall come against him.” There’s a lot of history around the hill and the fort at the top. MacBeth wasn’t made up it seems!

It’s a short walk with the path going straight up the hill. It was not the easiest of hills but it was quick to get to the top. But as you get with some hills, you have false tops along the way and the Master (who’s a big boy at 3 ½ years) got a bit despondent when approaching the brow of a hillock on the way found out that there was more hill to climb!

The Little Lady was sitting in the carrier on my back. It’s a great way to carry the kids around – prams are ok inn some places but you can’t walk a pram up a hill. It also gives me a bit of a work-out going up with any extra 10kg on my back. The day was beautiful. 23oC with a nice cool breeze. You can see from the photos how clear the sky is (and trust me – it’s not that common in Scotland!) Too good a day to waste staying at home or indoors.

The path gets rougher

After that we had to pass through a narrow path surrounded by gorse buhes. They’d lost their yellow flowers and were now just a spikey inconvenience. Following that a bit of boggy ground and then the steep climb to the top. It was so steep in parts that you end up zigzagging your way – trying to make progress with each step but sometimes you don’t.

Eventually we reached the summit and could finally enjoy the view. And what a view it was. Out comes the snacks and we have a family picnic of veg+houmous and fruit before climbing back down.

View from the top

What’s this got to do with Financial Independence?

Whilst I greatly enjoy reading about people’s early steps on the way to Mt. FI, people like (fellow engineer and soon to be parents) a way to less, Hustle Escape, Fire Lifesyle, Plan on FIRE and Dr Fire. There’s loads of great blogs but I have to say that saving/investing is one thing and it all seems so much easier when the summit is far away. The initial enthusiasm is great and a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step but you don’t get blisters until later on. At base camp of Mt. FI, the path is clear in front of you and you have the energy to just bound up the hill. You’ll get loads of help and advice on which way to go. But as you start to climb things change – it gets harder. As you go along you get distracted by things along the way. You stop here and there. Maybe even go the wrong way or quit if the weather turns.

And when you are close to the summit, things can get even worse. The path you took may lead to a dead-end – are you even climbing the same mountain you started out climbing? Who knows? Reminds you of that scene from Trainspotting – It’s shite being a saver! And remember that you’ll hear more from people on their way up than from those who’ve reached the top.

This is what our retirement accounts month on month change look like over the last few years. It starts off quite smooth with occasional ups and downs. More recently, the movements have been tectonic or seismsic. One month you are up and the next you are down. These swings can give you a glimpse of a false top or make you feel like you’ve just slipped down a ravine. And when you are so close to the top, it’s hard to remember that you were ever at the bottom.

As banker on FIRE says, your money can make more than you and when things go in reverse you can lose years worth of work in a few weeks!When you are close to your goals it can be sometimes hard to know where you actually are, when you still need to dig in and keep going and when you’re actually already where you wanted to me.

For us, I think we’re maybe not at the top but we’re enjoying the walk-up. We’ll keep going no matter what happens and remember – the trend is your friend and as the Escape Artist says, victory is inevitable

Thanks, GFF


  1. Thanks for the shoutout, GFF.

    I can definitely relate to the idea that, when you first become aware of FI, you’re full of passion and energy. That was definitely me a few years ago. Time will tell if I end up feeling the same way you describe as I approach the summit!

    That is a fantastic view from the top. Times like this I wish I had a car to visit some more places that are “off the beaten path,” so to speak.


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