JOE MATHEWS: The best way to leave California | Opinion

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Californians obsess about the sheer number of people leaving our state. But maybe we should worry more about the quality of these departures.

Californians are supposed to dream big. So why do their ambitions get so small when they head for the exits?

So, enough with vamoosing to vapid Vegas subdivisions. Cool down before you sign a lease in hot Phoenix. Think twice before making a down payment on a hurricane-damaged house in Houston. If you’re going to depart a state as fabulous as ours, why not make your leaving a fantastic triumph?

Amon and Christina Browning can show you how.

Two years ago, entering their 40s, the Brownings retired and left the state with their two teenage daughters. Their destination: Portugal, one of the few places on earth that offers a lifestyle to rival California’s, and at a much lower price.

The Brownings documented their move on their YouTube channel, Our Rich Journey, fueling fantasies of flight among Californians, including this columnist. So I reached out to the couple, who remain proud Californians. To repurpose Shakespeare, nothing was ever so Californian as their leaving it.

Amon, an urban planner, and Christina, a lawyer, met at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Christina, who moved here from Iowa at 7, grew up in Stockton. Amon grew up in Oakland and the East Bay; for one stretch of his childhood, his family was homeless.

Growing up without wealth made the Brownings take finances seriously. And when—after stints in San Diego, Spain and Japan —t hey returned to the Bay Area a decade ago, they embraced the FIRE movement (“Financial Independence Retire Early”) and made a plan to retire in 10 years.

To achieve it, they saved relentlessly (socking away 70 percent of their income), added income through side hustles (like driving for Uber and Lyft), and bought rundown homes in the Bay Area, fixing them up as…