In 2017, at age 33, Lisa started asking the questions, “Do I want marriage and kids?” “If not, what else is there?” This led her to quit her job to live and travel in her campervan for four and a half years around New Zealand. Eventually she decided kids aren’t for her & she’s a happy soloist. Now she works as a consultant and writer while continuing to travel & live a life valuing freedom, adventure, and financial security.
Connect with Lisa Jansen at www.lifedonedifferently.com or on Instagram (@lifedonedifferentlynz) & Facebook (Life Done Differently). Order her book, Life Done Differently, on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
+ We Are Childfree Community
+ Childfree Wealth Podcast Ep. 16: Unlearning the Standard Life Plan with Katy Seppi
+ Childfree Wealth Podcast Ep. 30: Book Club - Die With Zero
+ A Family of One: The Ascendance of Solo Households White Paper by Fidelity
+ The Sabbatical - A tool to find and recenter yourself.
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Welcome back, Childfree Wealth listeners, we have in studio today Lisa Janzen, who wrote a book called Life Done Differently, and she talks about something that we call the Standard Life Plan. Now, she doesn't use those words, but that's effectively where it goes, kind of this nomad life and kind of how do I pick my own path? How do I pick being childfree, childfree by choice, by not whatever it may be? We’ll dig in, get to know Lisa. Morning. Afternoon, Lisa. I don't know. You're in New Zealand, so you're like in a weird, different time zone. So how are you?
Hi, Jay. I'm good. Thanks so much for having me. It's 8 a.m. my time right now on the other side of the world.
Yeah, I think you're on a different day. It's like 3:00 here in the afternoon.
That we had thing where you guys are kind of ahead. But yesterday, you know, that's how we always work it out with the US. Yeah.
No clue. But at least make out or figure it out. So tell us about you and kind of who you are and why you wrote a book.
Yeah, sure. I'll try to give you the short story and then people can read the book for the long story. I think my story is the one that might resonate with a lot of childfree people. And it kind of starts when I was 33, a lot of my… all my friends were getting married and having kids and doing that sort of fairly traditional life and nothing wrong with it.
It was awesome to see them all on that path and so happy. But at 34, it sort of triggered the, “Hey, what am I doing with my life” question. And at the time I wasn't really sort of, you know, confirmed childfree yet, to be honest. I had never really thought about it that much. One of those things that always seemed so far in the future and and it was always how I, you know, deal with it one day.
But then, you know, being in that situation where you just look around and everyone is doing that and having kids kind of forced me to think about it as, okay, is that something I want to do? And I couldn't answer that question I was leaning towards no, but I wasn't a definite no. And so I started to ask myself, okay, what else is there, you know, what do you do with your life if you're not going to commit to family and raising kids?
And obviously, you know, work is sort of, I guess, common alternative. Now, a lot of people then really commit to a career. And while I was enjoying my work, I sort of wasn't really sure that that's what I want to do for the next 30, 40 years and make that sort of my one top priority. And I couldn't really see a lot of role models or other alternatives.
And so I kind of a little bit of a spur of the moment decision. I decided to find out. And what I decided to do is I bought a camper van. I quit the job that I had at the time, and I decided I'm going to go and travel around New Zealand. So I was already living in New Zealand at the time and going to spend a summer traveling around New Zealand and I'm going to figure out who I am when I'm not working, you know, 50 hours a week.
I'm going to figure out, you know what I actually want to spend my time on and how I want to live my life. That summer, living and traveling in my camper van then turned into four and a half years, living and traveling in my camper van because I just, you know, love that so much and and love the freedom.
And along the way, it was just awesome, you know, met some really amazing people who taught me a lot of really valuable lessons, learned a lot about myself and just my, you know, values and priorities. And, you know, one of the things that sort of ties in quite well with what you're doing is sort of balancing that, you know, want for freedom and adventure with a desire for financial security and stability.
And, you know, how to make that work long term. And, and, yeah, just had this really amazing journey of, you know, exploring New Zealand, which is a beautiful country. You, anyone who's ever been here. And it's a really amazing place to travel and exploring myself and life. If you don't want to follow that traditional path. Yeah, that's basically the story that my book tells in a lot more depth.
That's fair. I don't know if you know or at all or have any thoughts. How is it different talking about this like Standard Life Plan and says, you know, you go to school, you get married, you have kids twice the age of time, blah, blah. Do you think there's much, you know, difference in the U.S. versus New Zealand?
I mean, they call it the American dream, the, you know, married and have kids, a white picket fence. But I'm like, maybe it's not an American thing. I don't know. What do you think?
Yeah, look, I think it's a bit of a Western world thing, or maybe it's not even just limited to the Western world. But I grew up in Germany, moved to New Zealand when I was 22. So been living in New Zealand for coming up 17 years now and obviously kind of know American movies and media. And honestly, what I see across all three of those countries is not that different.
And you know, my sister lives in the UK and what she's saying is quite similar to. So I think it's quite a and maybe even a global dream or at least the Western will dream an ideal. And, and it's certainly, you know, what is portrayed in the media as the way to go and the path. And I think, you know, this day and age, we all consume the same media.
It's also connected. We all watched the same movies and TV shows and there may be some slight differences, but yet on the whole, we all kind of, you know, are bombarded with the same messages and so many of them are around. The success in life is to be married, have two and a half kids, a golden retriever, and that successful career and good income. Right. So I think that's very similar across all countries. Yeah.
So you just laid out all the standard, including the Golden retriever. Do you have any of those? Like, are we doing like the dog at least? Are we all single kids? No kids house. What are you in?
So I'd love to have the golden retriever and but unfortunately, my lifestyle is still even though, you know, I'm not currently living in a in a camper van anymore and my lifestyle is still very nomadic and I'm moving around a lot, so I can't really commit to getting a dog right now. I'm doing a lot of house and pet sitting for other people, so that's how I get my dose of pet.
But now so the plan is very much and I'm very rarely someone who says I'm definite sure, but I would say at this point, I'm sort of 99.9% sure that there won't be any kids in my future. I'm also at that age now where the time is pretty much up pretty soon and simply, you know, now I'm the kids, marriage for me is one of those things where I could see myself do it, but I'm definitely not the kind of person who has that as one of her major life goals or major steps. I'm one of those people who's, you know, very happy and very good on her own. I don't need a lot of external stimulation in that regard. So, yes, I don't know if I ever tick that box off.
I do still care about my career. So that's definitely something. Even though it's not my top priority, you have career ambitions, so maybe that's one box, but I would take that as kind of more than the norm. But then the way I work is quite different. That's the book's got life done differently for a reason.
That's fair. Let's be real. Within the childfree population, you're very much in the norm. The numbers I use, at least in the U.S., are about 20% of us are childfree by choice. Another 5% of childless not by choice. And the U.S. Census found in adults over 55 that were childless and since start term, they used 32, 21% were never married.
So we call them soloists, no kids, no spouse, and just kind of living their best life as a soloist. And it's interesting because if you choose the soloist life, you're going to get almost everything on the planet, you know, and that's that's hard. The financial side of it, a study from Fidelity found that living the solo life costs you about between 400,000 and $1,000,000 in extra money because you can't split an apartment with anyone or whatever else.
But it sounds like you. You're definitely doing the different in many ways. Is that fair?
Yeah, definitely. And that term solo has really resonates with me. I actually, interestingly enough, only discovered it a couple of months ago, but it's just one of those times that really resonated strongly with me right away and like, you know, single, which sort of always seems to imply that you're looking for that partner and it's like this negative sort of, whereas solo seems to be a lot more positive.
Feels more positive to me. So yeah, but look, I definitely agree with what you say about needing to really look out for myself and get really good plans in place. To be fair, though, I think I'm the kind of person who would do that anyway. I'm not someone who would like easily just depend or rely on someone else.
I think even if I, you know, would get married, I'd still be someone who'd want to know that I, you know, have my own plans in place and have secured my own future because you never know what happens in a partnership these days.
And that's where I think when I see this, that 32.1% being never married, but as opposed to parents, 2.5% were never married. I don't know if that that means they're single or not, you know, like that's a different question. Whatever the structure is that works for them. In the U.S., it seems like people get married because of health care more than anything else. They are just so they get benefits. But probably I'd say so. Alright, you you run through the book in different stories and some of your friends' responses and family. Kind of… anybody surprise you as you are going through this journey?
Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, in hindsight, what kind of surprises me is how supportive everyone was because through the journey I've been on and kind of really embracing this whole childfree terminology, embrace that community that comes with it and follow different accounts and podcasts. The part of a community called We Are Childfree that's really become part of it.
And through that, heard a lot of stories from other people who've been on that journey, who had a lot of pushback, a lot of criticism, a lot of negativity around them. And so now I look back and it's like, wow, you know, how lucky was I that just about everyone in my life was really supportive, and I'm sure they sort of sometimes were kind of, you know, what the hell is she doing? You know? But never in any sort of, you know, openly negative or unsupportive way. So I've been really lucky that in that regard.
And in the book you talk about, you know, tell us about it. We call it figuring your life first. Then your finances. But you're talking about figuring out what kind of life you want to live and different things and making space for that. And I have a lot of people I talk to that are just struggling with, okay, know, I call it the childfree midlife crisis. You hit your personal, professional financial goals. And then what? And it sounds like you almost hit that a little early, even though it wasn't childfree at first. But talk to me about that journey and how you were able to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. I mean, that's a classic question. Like, what do you want your life to look like?
Yeah, look. And to be honest, some days I still ask myself what I want to be when I grow up. So I don't know if that's ever a question you’re fully set on for good. It's actually very interesting because I used to think that you do that. There will come this moment in my life where I know exactly how I want to live my life and what I want to do.
And then from there on, that's it. I have that knowledge and that clarity and what I've learned since is that you kind of like for me anyway, it kind of goes through phases for a few years. I might, you know, be really clear on, on what I want and how I want to live my life. And then that's followed by another phase where I maybe ask myself those questions again more or have more about it.
So just looking for a new direction and actually I'm kind of going through that a little bit right now where I've sold the camper van and I'm sort of trying to figure out what's next in that regards. But the one thing that hasn't changed and that's really sort of come out of this whole journey for me is the underlying values.
What I do in my day to day might change, how exactly I live might change, but the values haven't. And I think that's a really sort of what it's been for me, like a really important, almost like an anchor point in my life and how I approach everything, including my financial planning.
I value time and freedom adventure to a degree. I'm not the life or death adventure kind of person, but I really value those things. But I also value stability and financial security. And so just knowing that really allows me to then at different times build a life around that in different ways. And that is something that yeah, I think this journey has really helped me realize and I think hindsight is great, right?
Because in hindsight I can look back and I realize just said doing that, making that step to really, you know, quit my job and move out of my apartment. I sold pretty much everything I couldn't take with me. Just a few things in storage and really have this completely like clean slate stepped away from that normal life, that traditional life.
And that first summer I was traveling a lot and like remote regions and you know, and New Zealand is basically like we've got three big cities and the rest is like remote, which and small towns. So I just really stepped away from that traditional life in the city with all the society's expectations and pressures and for me was yeah, really sort of a trigger to really look at, okay, what do I want?
What matters to me? How do I want to live my life without constantly you know, being bombarded with these messages around what I should want and what everyone else is doing? So, yeah, so that's worked really well for me.
All right. Let's dig a little deeper. So you said values and what matters to you. What are the three things that matter most to you?
Time and freedom. I group those together, security especially sort of that financial security, like knowing I can pay my bill next month's the month after and what I call adventure, which isn't sort of the adventure sport thing, but sort of the, you know, change in my life, new things, exploring new places, being out of nature that parts of those are what I would say my top three. Yeah.
That's fair. I mean, the research I've done in the way we say it is living a life of childfree wealth means you have the time, money and freedom to do what you enjoy, which is effectively what you just said in a slightly different words. We actually have podcasts on the book Die With Zero. That's got to be on your reading list.
It actually talks about it as time, money and health, which is an interesting combo. It's Zen concepts, but I think the reality that being childfree means it doesn't make you rich, but it does give you more time, money and freedom.
Yeah. And it gives you, at least in my case, like it gives me more options and more flexibility. Or at least it's what it feels like. A lot of the stuff I do you could do with kids, like no doubt about it, you know, I know lots of people who travel around like this as a family, but knowing me, knowing who I am, I feel like that, you know, I couldn't enjoy that with the extra pressure of having to look after kids gives me those options to do different things in my life.
This may be related, but kind of what's the top two or three reasons why you chose to be childfree that are the same/different?
Yeah, it's definitely related. So kind of what it came down to in the end, the way I feel about it is I don't actually feel like I made a choice against children. I made a choice for a certain way of life. And so that is that way of life around having this flexibility and freedom and time. And I can't see myself have that while also having children.
I like children. I love my friends' kids. I love, you know, hanging out with them for a little bit. I just can't see how I could have the life that I want most while also having children. So that was kind of the decision in the end.
So at least in the U.S. and it may be different there, people would then respond to go, Yeah, well, that's selfish.
I think that's a really interesting comment, right? Because selfish to me means you're doing something that has a negative impact on someone else. Right. And I don't see how me not having children has a negative impact on anyone else. And I would also say that someone else who really wants to have children and has children, so they're doing with their life what they want to do.
And I'm over here, I don't want to have children. And so I'm doing with my life what I want to do. Like, how am I more selfish than they are? We're both just doing exactly what we want to do with our lives, right? And especially given, if you look at it at global, big scale, the world doesn't need more kids.
So it's not like, you know, we have to bring more humans into the world to ensure the survival of the human race. Right. That you can't really argue that. So that's how I look at that. I don't think I'm any more selfish than someone who wants to have children or who has children.
Yeah, I'm with you. And we did a whole podcast on are we selfish? My answer was I don't care call me selfish if you want. Like seriously that's just a reflection on them more than a reflection on us.
Yeah, I would agree though.
I argue being childfree is not a better or worse way of life. It's just different. It's better for some people and for others not. And that's okay. I think what you outlined, though, is you made a choice for you, which somehow the world itself is, you know, that's someone who knows what they want with their life.
Okay. So but let's be real. You were, what, mid-thirties on this when you started this travel?
I think we call that early thirties when you're a woman. Anyway.
Well, you started at 33, but the travel was more than just, you know.
I'm 45 now. I'm feeling old, so it's okay. But there's a lot of people in their mid-thirties that don't even have a clue what they want to do with their life. What's your advice to that? Those people going, Hey, I got nowhere I've gone, it's been fine, but I want to find it. So does everybody have to get in a van and travel the world or I mean, what's your advice to somebody?
Are they 33? Won't say mid-thirties, you know, setting out to find themselves.
Yeah. Look, good question. Like, does everyone need to move into a van? No, absolutely not. But I do think there's something about stepping outside of your comfort zone and stepping away from what you used to at least like. Look, I think, first of all, the question you got to ask yourself is, are you happy with where you're at?
Because if you are, I sometimes feel like there is a lot of pressure these days, especially right now, for people that, you know, if you're not having kids, you need to do something other amazing or a friend is special with your life. And I think that's bullshit. You know, I think you can just live your life however you want.
And if you're, if you're really happy, like living your life and having your job, having your friends and your hobbies and your activities, then do that. Don't feel like you need to change anything just because you're childfree. Someone tells you you need to do more with your life. But if you're like me and you're, you know, maybe not really happy with that or at least sort of wondering what else there is, and you sort of feel a bit restless then.
Then I do think there is something about, you know, stepping out of the life you have doesn't need to be, you know, living and traveling in a van for four and a half years is like you could just take a long weekend and do something you usually wouldn't do. Like maybe go, you know, to a really remote place, the wild or a big city, if you're usually a remote in the wild kind of person.
But I think there's really something about stepping out of what, you know, into something else and getting to know yourself in a different environment. Think that can start with, you know, small steps and then, you know, you build from there and yeah, and one thing I often tell myself is patience and just kind of one step at a time and figuring out because I am a bit of an all or nothing, you know, I want it all, I want it now kind of person.
So I remind myself as like, you don't actually have to, you know, have it all sorted out right now. It's just one, one step at a time, like try something. If you enjoy it, keep doing it. If not, try something out and just sort of approach it kind of step by step like that.
Yeah. And I recommend for a lot of people, if accounting for it, take a sabbatical, a six month, find yourself and the method I use doesn't include a van. I apologize is you spend two months watching Netflix and I'm not kidding, like literally doing mindless stuff. I don't care what it is mindless for two months because you've been working forever and you just never stop to ask a question.
Then two months you kind of go, okay, and what I want to be when I grow up and has nothing to do with age is just like what all my future look like. And then the next two months are like, try things kind of like this is fit, does it not? And it sounds like kind of your you did the four years of about it.
You were still working at the same time, but you just have to do it in much more beautiful lands than, you know where we are in the cities or whatever.
Yeah, but look, it started out as a six month sabbatical. The plan was to do it for a summer. And then basically what happened is that I realized I if this is what I loved and I just love the lifestyle and I loved who I was at a person as a person in that context. But then very importantly, what happened is that I realized I can do my work remotely and I was able to find work digital nomad.
And if that hadn't happened, then I would have been forced to come back into a more stable environment and think that it's not kind of I just got lucky in that regard.
That's fair. I mean, I'm hoping to one day be a digital nomad, but I'm able to do on a boat instead of it. So that same type of thing. I just want the water, you know?
Yeah. Yeah. I’ve heard you talk about that on the show? And my dad's a big sailor and I grew up sailing. I love sailing, too, every now and then I think about, oh, maybe I get a boat one day and I go sailing.
I just I love the water for me. But that's just, you know, the balancing act. Alright, so let me ask you this couple more questions, the standard questions which you got to go through. What and you mentioned this in your book, but what about the regret question? You know, are you going to regret it in the future?
I mean, you got to ask it because everyone seems to want to absolutely.
And I did actually think about this. There's a whole chapter on it in the book because it was sort of on my mind for a while and not just regret around being childfree, but also even though I was able to work remotely, I was definitely sacrificing for lack of a better term career progression if I had stayed in.
So I was living in Auckland, which is New Zealand's biggest city before, and I was very much on track to very successful in the traditional sense career. I was head of marketing at a software company and if I had stayed on that path I would be earning really good money by now and I'd probably, you know, be in a really high up position.
And so making the decisions I made was, yes, the kids question and if I regret that. But also would I regret stepping away from that career progression and those opportunities and I so that's yeah ponder that for a while. And actually I was a fellow traveler. I met someone a bit older here in New Zealand. I think it's actually similar in the States as well.
A lot of older people travel in their RVs. So I met a lot of people, you know, twice my age that I probably wouldn't have met in a normal life. And I learned a lot of really great things from them, just as I was sort of pondering the whole regret question. I met a women and she had a really colorful life, had been married and had kids and all that stuff.
We kind of ended up talking about regrets and what she kind of set to me and it always sticks with me is that regrets is kind of pointless because you make your decisions in life and then you just have to make the most of it because the reality is like no matter what happens, you never know what would have happened if you'd gone the other way.
You might end up in a situation where you you feel maybe some level of regret for not having kids, but you just don't know what would have happened if you had had kids. You might have regretted that choice even more, right? So I think that was really impactful to me and just changed the way I think about regrets and things happen and live.
And I think the best you can do is just make the best decision at the time and then make the most out of whatever that leads to. And don't, you know, don't get caught up on regretting things you can't change anymore.
I'm with you. I mean, I talk a lot about. Yeah, you got to look through the windshield, not the rearview mirror. It's just hard, though, but we get that question and the other question and I think it ties into this debate. You were talking about childfree. Do you have to have a big career or something else?
Is legacy your impact? So I was having a discussion with someone the other day and it was a financial guy and he says, well, he's saying well childfree people won’t have a legacy. I'm like, hold on, we don't have a genetic legacy. We have one in other ways. And sometimes I think that's why people push themselves into careers and other things or, you know, whatever their legacy may be.
But what about you? What's the legacy or impact do you want to make on the world or do you not do? It's like, hey, I just want to live my best life.
A really good question, to be honest, I haven't thought about that much up until now. I felt lately that it's sort of a question that kind of pops up a bit more. And my thoughts, and especially of as I think about what I want to do next in life and be I don't it's not so much legacy. I'm more sort of thinking about the impact I'm having while I'm alive.
To be honest, I'm not too worried about legacy in terms of what do I leave the world with? I'm a writer. Some kind of helping that that my writing, my books, I survived may and maybe I still read after I'm gone, but then not like, yeah, I'm honestly not a topic I'm too worried about, but I am thinking more about and you know, what's the impact I'm having while I'm still here?
Like, how can I impact the world on people in a positive way when I'm still breathing?
Yeah. And by the way, I don't think you have to make an impact. It's just that's the classic question of kind of like purpose in life or whatever you want to look at it. And with authors, it's always kind of what message are you trying to give or what are you trying to say or where you're trying to?
So alright, boil it down to the book. What message are you trying to give them, what impact you try to make on their lives?
Who is the book for? Honestly, I think actually a wide range of people, definitely, you know, the childfree community. I think it's I'm already getting some really good feedback. It just resonates really well with a lot of people. There aren't a lot of books in that space. I think a lot of people just really enjoy. Yeah, reading a story that seems familiar, that resonates, that they relate to also, you know, people who are maybe unsure still about the question just, you know, maybe following my journey and my thought process through that decision, well, will help, you know, one way or the other.
But I think beyond that, it's that the underlying message in the book, right, for me is really about living what doesn't matter what you do with your life, but do it with intent. Like don't just follow blindly. Don't just, you know, go with the flow your whole life. I mean, there's times where you just go with the flow and that's right at the time.
But on the whole I think it's about yeah, living with intent, making decisions on, on purpose or making decisions rather than just being sort of bounced around by whatever decisions. Abbas I'm making for you, it's, I think it's really a book for anyone who just, you know, wants to anyone who enjoys of a story of adventure and travel and exploration and everyone who is maybe sort of challenging some of their traditional norms and society's expectations, not just around being childfree, but also around the meaning of success, how we spend our time that our values, our priorities as as people and as a society.
Yeah, it is very I mean, there's definitely the obvious, you know, hey, for the nomads, it's a great book to, you know, of course. But then it's more to me I to a lot of the soloists and there's not enough out there about what happens if you live in that solo is like four year time or whatever it is for you and the choices you make and how you live your life and good, bad and ugly that comes with it.
And that's what you're laying out in the book. I think the challenge for the soloists is you're going to get just about every norm like you pick them all. Buying a house is a choice for childfree people, but that's weird. And you're saying, hey, I'm just going throw all the norms and do my own thing and all more power to you.
I mean, that's it with my clients. It's been a lot of time to figure out the life I want to live. Then your finances and that seems to be where you're at. So where do they find the book? Where do they find you?
And so the book just about anywhere you buy your books Amazon, Barnes Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, just everywhere. Where do you find me? I'm on Facebook and Instagram at Life Done Differently. NZ So NZ from New Zealand at the end and my website is www.lifedonedifferently.com.
Well thanks for joining me. Thanks for sharing your story. I have a feeling there's going to be like a follow up book. I don't know, maybe it's the sailing book or whatever else that comes with it, but I look forward it.
Awesome. Thanks so much for having me today. Really enjoyed having a chat.