I started getting free early. During a solo trip to Belize, I met an amazing person who changed my life with a conversation. He was living in a duplex and renting out half of it. The rent covered all his housing expenses. He was traveling the world and doing woodworking in his spare time. He was so happy. I wanted that.

I was working hard back then as a software consultant and then as a programmer for a government agency. It was hard to fit in a vacation when I was consulting, so I switched to government work. My government employer offered to spoil me and give me all the leave without pay that either of us could reasonably handle, and Belize was my first time reveling in a three week solo, unpaid trip…just because I could.

Tom and I sat on the porch of the jungle lodge where we were both staying. Under a green, leafy canopy full of screeching birds, Tom explained the financial benefits of living in a duplex:

1. You lower your housing costs. Living in half of a duplex is typically cheaper than paying all the expenses for an entire house.
2. Over time the balance of the duplex is paid down by your renters, and you gain wealth simply by waiting.
3. Rental properties are an excellent tax shelter, which I didn’t understand back then.

I returned from Belize full of inspiration and started looking at duplexes. A lot of them were junky and run down properties. The income was also discouraging. The only places where I could live free like Tom was going were apartment buildings, and I wasn’t ready for that.

There was no duplex in Boise, Idaho at the time where the rental income would cover all the expenses for the building. I would still have to pay to live in these ugly places.

Enter the pleasure-vestment.

I found a duplex with hiking trails behind it and a view of downtown. This was a place I could live. It was cheaper per month than buying a home, but not by much. It seemed like a step in the right direction anyway.

The 1965 duplex perched on the Boise, Idaho hillside became mine.

And it’s been a fantastic thing for me.

After about 8 years of paying the $200,000 mortgage with the assistance of my renter, the balance was paid down to about $160,000.

Then I refinanced at the lower balance of $160,000. Rates were low.

My new monthly payment was several hundred dollars less.

At the same time, rent had increased slowly and steadily.

Rent usually rises slowly over time, and follows inflation. When does rent ever go down? Not often.

I had reached the tipping point where I lived for free in one unit of the duplex.

Now the rent from one unit was covering all expenses for the building. I was living like Tom, the person I met in Belize.

I loved the freedom of having my entire paycheck to myself each month, without that huge chunk going to housing. I worked part time but felt richer than ever. I started to blow a lot of money on traveling.

You can do this, too, and maybe you’ll reach the tipping point a lot sooner. Anyway, might as well start now because it will take years to reach your own tipping point.

Successful real estate investing takes planning, patience, and simply waiting while the years go by. Those things don’t sound appealing or sexy.

But living for free in this beautiful duplex on the hillside? That feels pretty appealing and sexy. And getting rid of housing expenses changed my financial picture significantly.

I wrote this for a friend I love who is interested in buying a duplex. And I hope it reaches other people who want to get free, like I have. Enjoy! Subscribe to my newsletter for more news and tips about how to be your best nomadic self.


Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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