This is a repost.  I wrote this in January of 2017.  It still applies.  Especially since we are back to Greece.


My family and I are very likely moving back to Greece in March.  If I can figure out visas, we will be there for five months, or so.

Several people have commented lately that I am lucky.

Maybe, I am.  Who’s to say?

My son is a photographer.  He travels quite a bit.  Several days ago, a friend of his commented on my son’s “luck”.  “I could never travel as much as you do,” he said.  “I couldn’t afford it.”

My son pointed to the Apple watch his friend was wearing.  “How much was that?”

“$300,” responded his friend.

“And the jacket you are wearing… How much was that?”

“Also $300,” responded his friend.

My son smiled.  “That’s enough to get you to most of the places I visit.”

I don’t consider myself that lucky.  I did grow up in Europe, and I suppose I was very lucky to be born in England and raised overseas.  However, I returned to the U.S. when I was 18.  I realized quickly that I did not want to stay here very long, and began working hard to return to Europe.

It took 26 years.  I left Europe after the Berlin Wall fell, and after Germany reunited in 1990.  I vowed to return as soon as I could.  26 years later, in 2016, I finally returned.

Now, I understand the Illiad and the Odyssey a bit more.  Twenty years away from home?  That’s absurd, Homer.

Now, get it.

In order to achieve my dream of moving my family to Europe, I knew that I would need a significant amount of money.  Living in Europe is fairly cheap.  For example, rent in Athens, Greece is 74% less than rent in Nashville, Tennessee.

Living in Europe is much cheaper that living in America.  Getting to Europe is expensive.

Unfortunately, early on in my life, I made a major financial mistake.

I became a teacher.

It wasn’t long before I realized my mistake.  By the time I realized what I had done, there were children on the way.  I couldn’t afford to leave education in order to hunt for another job.  Education is a little like the Hotel California.  You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave.

To fulfill my dream of returning to Europe, and to fulfill my dream of taking my wife and children to the land of my youth, I would have to make deep sacrifices here in America.  Given my teacher’s salary, I had to take a completely different approach.

For 20 years, as a teacher, I earned about $25,000 a year.  That would be just fine in parts of Europe.  In America, $25,000 ensures that you barely make it.

For the last 10 to 15 years, I have been getting out of bed at 3:30, or 4 in the morning.  Originally, I did it in order to study Latin.  These days I do it to study Italian and Greek.  I built a business on these languages.

Does that sound like luck, or does that sound like sacrifice?

(By the way, I am not recommending that you do the same.   I wrecked a car once because I fell asleep.  If you don’t listen to me, perhaps you will listen to Mark Twain.  Rise early. It is the early bird that catches the worm. Don’t be fooled by this absurd law; I once knew a man who tried it. He got up at sunrise and a horse bit him.”)

For seven years, my family of seven lived in a two-bedroom 950 square foot apartment/condo.  We put the kids in the only two rooms.  My wife and I pulled a mattress out every night so that we could sleep on the living room floor.

Does that sound like luck, or does that sound like sacrifice?

For years, I delivered pizzas at night to bring in extra cash.  While driving around Franklin, I would listen to language training cassettes or business building cassettes.  I still listen.  I refuse to listen to the radio, the news, or pop music.

Does that sound like luck, or does that sound like sacrifice?

For years, I drove very old cars.  In fact, I still drive very old cars.  Not long ago, one of my daughters spotted our van quickly in a crowded parking lot.  I asked her how she did it.  “It was easy, dad,” she said.  “I just looked for the rough among the diamonds.”  Heh.  When I threaten my kids, it is almost always the same threat.  “If you keep that up, I am going to leave my truck to you when I die”  Their response is always the same.  “No, dad!  Anything but that!”

Does that sound like luck, or does that sound like sacrifice?

I could go on, but here is the point.  We are constantly bombarded by materialism in America.  “Buy this!  Buy that!”  Here’s the dirty little secret no one tells you.  You don’t need it.  If fact, if you buy it, you are making a choice.  You are choosing between your dream and the dream of advertisers.

Mother Teresa once said, “The more you have, the more occupied you are.  The less you have, the more free you are.”

My family is frugal.  Extremely frugal.  Sacrificially frugal.  This is the secret to our “luck”.

The average cost of a house in Franklin, Tennessee is $269,000.   According to, the average cost may be a bit lower.  Actually, I live here.  I am not sure where those houses are.  Seems to me the average cost is higher.  These days, I don’t see houses listed for less than $350,000.  Instead of a house, we bought a condo for $90,000.

These days, the average cost of a new car is around $32,000.  For cars, my family usually pays about $4000.  We buy ten-year-old cars and drive them into the dirt.  I buy a “new” car every 6, or 7 years when one of my clunkers finally falls apart.

In general, our clothes come from the Goodwill, the Thrift store, or Yard Sales.

My son had a photo-shoot not long ago.  A model paid him to take pictures of his shoes.  Upon inquiry, he discovered that the model had paid $15,000 for shoes over the course of several years.   Did you catch that?  $15,000 for shoes!  My son currently wears a brand new pair of designer shoes.   He found them at the Goodwill for $3.00.  I am currently wearing a brand new pair of shoes that my wife found at the Thrift Store.  They cost $12.00.

We still live in a condo.  It’s bigger, but it is still very small compared to the houses of our friends.

The point of all of this is simple.  We are not lucky.  We are frugal.  It turns out when you don’t buy a new car every 4, or 5 years, and when you don’t spend $300,000 on a house, there may actually be enough money left over to fund your dreams.

If frugal is lucky, then, it’s true.  I am very lucky.


Update: I wrote this some time ago.  A few things have changed.

We actually have bought a house.  We worked and saved and lived in tiny condos for 20 years and we finally bought a house.

But, just months after buying a house, we are back in Greece.  What’s that about?

Last year when my son almost died in a car accident, we abruptly ended our trip to Greece.  We spent the rest of the summer in hospitals and rehab centers in Aurora, Colorado.  Jackson is doing well these days.  We are thankful.  It is really a miracle that he even lived.  Here is a picture of the vehicle he was driving:

It turns out, my mom and sister had bought tickets to join us in Greece.  As soon as the accident happened, I called my mom to tell her to cancel the tickets.  They should not come to Greece, as we were coming back to the States instead.  She tried to cancel, but the airlines refused to return her money.  They told her they would give her a year to use the tickets.  So, she postponed the tickets and will be joining my family in a week or so.

She is the main reason I am back this year.  I really did not want to return.

The accident changed everything for us.  Personally, it sent me into a major tailspin.  I lost most of my motivation.  I went through a period of deep depression, the deepest depression I have ever experienced.  I had no interest in returning to Greece this year.  Honestly, I am still questioning it, even though I am here.

Really, my mom brought me back.

Of course, I really do love studying languages, so my mom’s tickets work in my favor.  While I am here, I might as well hit the ground running.  I have a renewed motivation to study and a renewed interest in the Greek language.  I am grateful for that.

Although, I have to say, no language has ever given me as much trouble as Greek.

This is just not easy.  If this were a televised fight between Greek and I, you would be disappointed.  The fight wouldn’t last very long.  I would be out in the first round.  Greek is kicking my behind.

The only thing I have going for me right now… and I really mean the only thing, is that I simply refuse to give up.  Greek is smiling down at me.  But, I keep using the ropes to pull myself back up.  Here’s to hoping that I can last one more round.

I really do want to master Greek.  If it weren’t for my mom, I wouldn’t be here fighting for that goal.  So… Thanks, mom.  Or, perhaps I should say, ευχαριστώ!