This is a hard one, Pierre, and I don't have an answer. In fact I'm in the middle of a variant of the same choice right now. I'm not at the point where I am an instructor (yet) and certainly not one of your calibre for years if ever. But I'm looking at giving up the (relatively) high-paying job, in fact a fair amount earlier than I planned, become a downwardly-mobile-by-choice mountain person.
In our case, as most regulars here know, Lisa is the one who made the move out west first, and logic says it needs to be at least another year or so before the finances of her new (and thus money-losing) business stabilize enough for me to bail out on BigFinancialCo back in Boston. Yet they are increasingly bailing out on me with offshoring, annual morale-decreasing measures (how small can you make a cube? how much bureaucracy can you add? How much can you increase witch-hunting?). As I approach year-end bonus time, I have some very serious thinking to do about whether I'm waiting for next year's year-end bonus and options payout.
I don't think xdog's comment was out of line - it was just him "bein' a dog" but his underlying concern about stability and keeping the fire going (with each other!) in a long-distance relationship is a valid concern.
And then there's the years. 7-8 years is shorter than 15. But who knows how many we have? And how many of them are good years? In a month or so I hit 52. My brother, 9 years older than me to the day, dropped dead in the shower at age 56 of a massive aneuyrism, brain-dead by the time he hit the tub floor. That doesn't mean I'll go that way or that time, but it was a lesson to me that we just don't know what we have left. I'm beginning to think that even trying to stretch the "real" job out to the lowered-payout early retirement at 55 is just way too long.
I used to work in retail. I used to work in food service. I used to work in a plexiglass and sign-supply warehouse, and still have the scars from jagged plexi and lexan to prove it. Maybe it's time. Work the odd jobs, support a few small businesses' computers and websites, tote the paint in the home improvement store, teach some never-evers while getting more on-snow time, and buy the cheaper dog food (can't cheapen on the cat food, they'd never let me get away with it) - and live the life.
How long do you defer the dream, once you've woken and realized what the dream was?
Don't have the answer, but I'm right there with you on the question, bro!