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This is what my next mini-retirement looks like
Over the next week, I’ll be moving out of my Bangkok apartment, saying farewell to my colleagues and friends, and setting off across East and South Asia, living out of a tiny backpack. Thus marks the beginning of my next mini-retirement.
As I described in my previous post, a mini-retirement is a planned break from your career and usual routine, with the assumption you’ll go back to work at some point.
It’s a concept I first came across in Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week, in which he describes the benefit of taking breaks from your regular life to learn something new, reflect, and just be.
Why am I taking a mini-retirement?
I’ve been taking mini-retirements without really knowing they were a thing. The last ten years have been punctuated by short breaks in between jobs, most of which have been consciously planned periods during which I travel, research my next move, and of course have a ton of fun.
I’m taking a mini-retirement because I can (more on that below). But also because I know I’ll gain a great deal from taking a mental and physical breather from the rat race. Although I’m not exactly slaving away in some giant corporation (I’m working in a small non-profit from a leafy Bangkok university), the day-to-day still wears me down.
Despite being based in a beautiful country, in a diverse and fascinating region, being tied to a regular job means that I don’t have enough time to explore on my own terms and my own schedule.
By leaving my job now and making time to travel around the region, I am finally executing items from my mental bucket list. It’s amazing how many plans I discuss with friends (for example visiting a friend in another province), that never happen because the day job takes precedence.
Also, since my partner and I are finally moving back to the UK/Europe after 8 years, we can leave the Asia region knowing that we’ve explored all the places we’ve wanted to explore further since we’ve been here.
The mini-retirement also offers an opportunity for me to think about what kind of job I want to do next.
It’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that a regular 9-5 is just not for me, even though I’ve followed my passion in my career.
Taking some time to figure out how to create a life that involves flexible, interesting work will be much better than jumping straight into another job.
What’s the difference between a mini-retirement and unemployment?
Good question. So many people who know I’m leaving my job are asking me if I have another job lined up. I answer with a big fat NO, with a big fat smile on my face, which confuses people. To them, I will be unemployed, i.e. not earning a salary, and not furthering my career.
This much is true. I will be eschewing a guaranteed paycheck and opportunities to further scale the non-profit career ladder. But I’m exchanging all that for freedom, fun, and time to reflect and learn.
If/once I decide to go back to regular paid work, I don’t think the time off will have hurt my career progression – as long as I keep active in my network and continue to build new connections.
How long will it last?
I initially thought the mini retirement would last for about 3 months. I’d leave my job at the end of September, and find my way back to the UK before Christmas. In the New Year, my partner and I would find a place to settle, and earnestly look for jobs.
But in the past few months, I realized that I can afford to take a longer break. I looked at my finances and realized that with some careful budgeting, I can give myself up to a year to decide what the next phase of my life and work will look like.
I’ll admit that there is an element of risk to all this, which might exceed most people’s comfort levels. I don’t have a million pounds in the bank to fall back on should I fail to find adequately paid work after the year is up. But over the years, I’ve developed a mindset that assures me I will be able to figure it out if that happens.
How have I prepared?
We already knew early by around February this year that we wanted to move back to Europe and take some time beforehand to travel the region. But actually I’ve been preparing for this break for several years.
Each month I’ve been squirreling away money. I put some of it towards my student loans, some of it towards savings and investments, and some of it towards a mini-retirement fund.
By not buying expensive clothes, gadgets, or hitting up the trendiest clubs, I’ve managed to save at least half of my income each month. And these savings will go a long way in buying me some time away from conventional living.
How I will fill the time?
Travel, travel, travel
The first 3-6 months will involve a lot of travel. We’ve been itching to go back to places further afield from Southeast Asia: China, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. We’re taking just over a month to explore these countries before heading back into Southeast Asia via the Philippines.
We’ll go to new places in Indonesia, before heading back to old favorites in Singapore and Malaysia. We’ll be back in Thailand for a bit before getting our flights to London just before Christmas.
In 2019, it’s likely the travel will continue. Possibly back to Asia for a little bit, and some travel in Europe in between spending lots of time catching up with friends and family back home.
If you’ve ever travelled for an extended period of time, you’ll know it can start to feel a bit… empty. All you do is consume. I knew earlier in the year that I wanted a project to help fill in the gaps between endless eating, drinking, and sightseeing.
I’ve been following Kristy and Bryce from Millennial Revolution for a few years, and I love their approach. They travel the world, yet manage to keep up on their passion projects: teaching people through their blog, and writing books. They do this by splitting their day between sightseeing and working on their projects.
I have identified three main projects to fill my time:
1) Blogging. I started this blog earlier a few months ago with the travel/project time split in mind. I’ll hopefully be able to post consistently, with a mix of personal finance and travel posts.
2) Learning German. My goal by the end of the year is to watch a German TV show without subtitles and have an idea of what’s actually going on.
3) Side hustling. When I’m on the road this might be limited to research, but from 2019 when I find myself in the UK for a while, I’ll be pursuing a few ways to make some extra cash. I’m not sure this is really side hustling per se, since I won’t have a day-job around which to hustle, but I’ll call it that anyway.
My partner has his own architecture practice, and he’ll continue working on projects remotely while we travel.
How will I manage my finances?
I have budgeted £4,000 for the rest of the year. I aim to spend about £1,000 month on basic costs while we’re traveling Asia, and £1,000 for flights ((£1,000 x 3) + £1,000).
£1,000 a month is roughly £33 pp/day for food, accommodation, and local travel. Right now I’m booking all of our accommodation in Japan, which is already £30 pp/day! But I hope we’ll make some savings once we head back into Southeast Asia and stay in cheaper places.
For 2019, I’ve budgeted roughly the same: £1,000/month, even though I will mostly be back the high cost of living area in London, or in Germany. How will I manage this? Not quite sure, but I’ll figure it out. Luckily we have relatives we can stay with in these places, which means we’ll have time to figure our shit out before being forced to pay ridiculous rent.
Hopefully I’ll also have some other side hustling money coming in, which means that I would not eat too much into my savings.
But what about FIRE?
There’s no getting around that taking time out of work will affect any chances of FIRE. This is a situation where I could draw enough funds from investments to cover my living expenses without having to work.
But my investments are currently so far away from making that happen any time soon.
My choices in life, from working in low-paid non-profit jobs, to taking multiple mini-retirements all mean that I haven’t been able to make significant progress towards FIRE.
But that’s ok. As far as I’m concerned, I’m FIRE’ing right now. I have enough money (kinda) to be financially independent and retired for a year. It’s not forever, but I’d rather live my life now than slave away in a higher paid job while waiting for my investments to reach some perfect number.
In any case, continued contributions to my pension, ISA, and student loan payments are factored into my financial projections. So on top of the £1,000/month for basic expenses, I plan to make (modest) monthly contributions that will hopefully mitigate some of the damage to my net worth.
Ultimately, there is a lot of uncertainty involved in the next year of the mini retirement, but I look forward to seeing where I’ll be and what I’ll be up to in a year’s time.
Have any comments or questions? Leave them below!