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The mini-retirement is coming to a close
About 11 months ago, I said farewell to my life in Bangkok and embarked on a period of experimentation, travel, and personal development. It’s hard to believe that it’s finally coming to an end and that I’ll be re-entering the workforce as a regular employee.
Did it go as expected?
I just read back on my initial mini-retirement post and realised that things mostly happened as planned. For around 6 months I travelled on and off around Asia and Europe, while working on multiple side hustles. I started an Etsy store, got multiple freelancing gigs, and even started matched betting.
I thought I would blog more, but I dialled this back when I started freelance writing and also realised that maybe I should just relax and enjoy my time off. It took me a few months before I learned to stop worrying about how best to optimise my time and not force myself to wake up super early for no good reason.
The German learning didn’t go as well as hoped because I just didn’t give it priority. I’m better at listening than a year ago, but my speaking is still sehr schlecht. My takeaway from this is that I need a structured learning environment and ample opportunity to practice when it comes to languages.
What I didn’t expect was the hankering to go back to a regular job. I thought I’d be happy to step away from a career and fill my life with travel and freelancing, but as I realised, the digital nomad type lifestyle ultimately didn’t give me much satisfaction.
I was also hoping some kind of amazing business idea would come to fruition during this time which would free me from the shackles of 9-5 serfdom, but after some experimentation, nothing really stuck. Nonetheless, I will continue to keep my eyes open for an opportunity.
Overall, I appreciated having plenty of unstructured time and freedom to do what I wanted, but have also learned that I am more productive (and perhaps even happier) with some external pressure on my time, whether it be a deadline, a travel itinerary, or a university schedule.
Travelling to new places and old favourites
I cut down on the travelling in the last few months once my stratospheric carbon footprint started weighing heavily on my conscience.
Time with friends and family
Having the ability to be generous with your time when it comes to friends and family cannot be overstated. I find it quite shocking that half of Brits socialise with friends and family at most once a month.
Going to Financial Independence Week Europe (FIWE)
This FIRE conference wasn’t on my radar when I started my mini retirement, but is definitely a top highlight from the past year. I credit FIWE with giving me clarity on how I want to spend my time and what’s important to me. Months on from the conference in Budapest, I’m still in touch with many of my fellow attendees, and we’re helping each other reach our goals.
It was here that I also heard about the Science of Wellbeing Course, which I now highly recommend to everybody looking to improve their happiness levels. As a result of doing the course, I’m better at incorporating meditation, exercise, and gratitude into my daily routine.
I knew that once I was back in the UK I’d want to get involved in politics and activism again, since this is where I have a voice. I joined the Green Party, and went to multiple protests and demonstrations, including Extinction Rebellion events.
Diving deep into sustainable finance
Using money and the finance sector as a force for good has been a preoccupation of mine for a while, but I found it so difficult to figure out how best to go about this. So since I had time on my hands, I enrolled in a summer school on sustainable finance and climate change. I wanted to understand what needs to be done from an activist perspective, but also what I could do as a concerned retail investor.
Three intensive weeks later, I’m much more informed about the risks and opportunities of ESG investing, what the banks are doing, and the potential of private finance to facilitate a transition to a low carbon economy. My belief that ethical investing is important still stands, although there are caveats. I’ll share more from the course and my thoughts on this subject later.
Is it surprising that coming back to the UK I’ve picked up one of our nation’s favourite pastimes? I’ve wanted to grow my own food for years, but my attempts at starting a vegetable garden in Bangkok – let alone grow modest pots of herbs – completely failed.
So in March this year I went to Poundland, bought a random selection of seeds and started planting without much of an idea of what I was doing. The results are surprising. With a few pots, some soil and these Poundland seeds, I’ve harvested loads of tomatoes, beans, rocket, lettuce, beetroot and radish.
After this summer of experimentation, I have a better sense of how to go about things next year.
I was able to take these 11 months off work because I’d been saving at least 50% of my salary when I was working, not to mention being able to crash with family for free while on this mini-retirement.
Not everyone would choose to move back in with their parents (or indeed have the option), but it’s given me the freedom to take this time off work without decimating my savings.
Over the past 11 months, I’ve spent approximately £10,500 which is ridiculously low considering the experiences I’ve had during that time.
I could do a deep analysis of my expenses and give a breakdown by category, but I’m lazy so I’ll assume most of the expenses relate to travel and the summer school.
I made around £4,000 from my side hustles during this period. It’s not a whole lot of money, but not bad considering how little work I actually put in, and that I mostly viewed my side hustles as opportunities to learn new skills rather than money-making opportunities.
Most of that money came from active work (freelancing and matched betting). The Etsy store has only brought in about £100, but I haven’t touched it for months and sales are still coming in, which is just enough to buy me a cheap coffee every week 🙂
For now, I will go back to a 9-5 job with a better understanding of myself, what I’m good at, and where I can add value. I wouldn’t have that level of clarity had I not taken the time to try out other things, let my mind explore, and generally take some time out from the rat race.
With the job I chose, I hope I have enough time and headspace to continue the good habits I developed during my time off, and maintain my current hobbies and interests. Fingers crossed!