How to Take a Mini-Retirement: Tips and Tricks


I was recently interviewed by J.D. Roth on planning and financing mini-retirements. Here is an excerpt:

It occurs to me that one way to approach the mini-retirements, at least financially, is to save for them, just as I might save for a new car. It’s not necessarily money I’m pulling from retirement then. It’s money I’m pulling away from a Mini Cooper and setting aside for a mini-retirement. I think the mini-retirement would actually provide more value to me at this point.

Well, sure. And I think one assumption that [you’re making] is that you spend and not save money on a mini-retirement. Let me offer a personal example. The personal stories in the book are mostly from experiences I had between 2004 and early 2006, traveling around the world for about 18 months. During the first twelve month period of time, I actually saved $32,000 when compared to sitting on my couch watching The Simpsons in my apartment in the Bay Area.

That’s amazing.

When you recognize that the costs of travel are mostly transportation and housing costs, and that you can rent a posh apartment for three to four weeks for the same price as staying in a mediocre hotel for four days, things start to get very, very interesting. You need to amortize the transportation and housing costs over the period of time that you’re in this specific location. So I saved $32,000.

There are some very interesting instances and quite simple approaches for actually making money — and let’s just look at making and saving as essentially the same thing, improving the balance. You can actually improve your financial balance by taking mini-retirements…

Read the whole interview here

Posted on: June 4, 2008.

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46 comments on “How to Take a Mini-Retirement: Tips and Tricks

  1. I love this principle of the mini-retirement.
    For me, I take short breaks to inspire a project or an idea. So they are not so much retirements, but more my ‘oxygen’ for fuelling my next idea (if that’s not mixing metaphors). For instance, I always find journeys SO productive for ideas generation, not in a formalised way but in a chilling out with a drink and my moleskine sort of way. That first beer on take off on a flight or the first coffee on a train trip gets me fired up. So here I am about to start writing my second book. And i don’t happen to have any journeys in the next few weeks to help stimualte me; i don’t have a break scheduled until July. So what i’m doing is creating a mini-trip to the South Of France. Just two nights, but the journey, the isolation, the buzz, the different environment, away from emails and distractions will really fire me up! I might be sitting with my feet up, but it’s an investment in my intellectual capital, in my next big idea.
    A bientot…


  2. Just got home from a uneventful evening at a bar. Tim, you are so right. I just planned my trip back to Nicaragua and noticed how it was cheaper to go on that trip than it was to stay here in my apt. Great inside info, I am off to sleep but look forward to hearing more. How is your trip treating you? Enjoy and the best!


    Jose Castro-Frenzel


  3. Great interview, to the point! Does anyone have tips on finding and dealing with storage, and transporting/renting options for various gear (I’m a musician/producer, need at least SOME)?


  4. Tim, it seems the money issue is relatively easy to fix. The only barrier I’ve run into is health insurance on the road. Having a significant “pre-existing condition” locks many people into working for an employer indefinately for fear of losing coverage if they have a lapse in insurance. Have you run into anyone who has figured this out?


  5. As I’m currently on one, let me add that mini retirements simply rock.

    Not only for the actual travel bits, for but for the opportunity to recharge your brain. I’ve found that my creativity has never been higher.

    You also hit on an amazing travel concept – booking apartments and private homes as opposed to costly hotel rooms. Especially for Americans traveling to euro-expensive Europe it’s the way to go. There are several good sites out there, my current pick is a Brit site called holiday lettings (you can look up the url).

    Tim, can you share your sources for finding these short term apartments? I’d be most curious and will add them to my travel lists.


  6. It’s amazing that in the full article, JD puts a paragraph at the beginning that says basically:

    “Important Note: Tim’s techniques might not work for you. For example, I can’t sell my house and head off to London.”

    Why not, JD?

    It’s unbelievable that he starts off the interview by softening the impact your message can have. The truth his, yes he can sell his house and head off to London. Yes, anyone can follow your principles without selectively substituting pieces of them for excuses.

    All in all… a great interview. Interesting brief stories, Tim. I think we’d all like to hear more stories of your travels.


  7. Hey Tim,

    Great Info! => My little girl and I are really enjoying the MoGo Mouse from your technology video contest as a matter of fact her answer had to change cause this thing is sooo cool and it doesn’t have WIRES.

    I followed the link and read the first post by J.D. and I because of some close family tragedy your “assumption” that long life is not guaranteed struck a cord. I really think the majority of us drawn to your message is drawn for their own reasons – whether because of our lives of quiet desperation or because of life changing events that cause us to re-examine what we want to do with our time here.

    Anyway, could you share with us some of your other assumptions you operate on – learning what others view as important is very interesting and in some cases very actionable.




  8. Pingback: Mini-Retirements
  9. Awesome insights here. I regularly took mini-retirements before I had children.

    1) Any thoughts or ideas about making this work with kids?

    2) Also, any ideas about connecting with others in a city (e.g., London)–is there a web portal of those on mini-retirement? I know Tim mentioned getting to know the manager of hotels–any other suggestions here for making real connections?


  10. I’m on my mini-retirement right now. I’ve been retired since April of this year. (I’m 29 on Thursday and have worked full-time for the past 7 years). It’s funny, a lot of the new friends I’m making right now are of the traditional retirement age, and we get along great.

    I got rid of the little that I owned in NYC ( + craigslist) sent my personal effects home (in approx. six boxes) and have three bags with me. I didn’t realize this until I read an article about it in the NY Times the other day, but I could probably classify myself as part of the “Voluntary Simplicity” movement.

    My next stop? India. I must stay that my travels and accommodations have been assisted by air miles (my job took me far and wide) and the friendships that I’ve developed across the globe over the past 29-? years. Plus, by virtue of the fact that I’m Australian, I’m pretty accustomed to travel and have a family that very much supports and accepts it.

    I think the majority of my friends think I’m nuts/just don’t get it. But they’re all at their desk right now, in some corporate office somewhere, probably questioning the value of what they’re doing yet rationalizing it to themselves…Each to their own, I say.


  11. tim,

    mini-retirements are a great concept and in about a month i will be testing it for the first time. here’s the thing though…how do you deal with family and firends not approving your move? for people who care about what friends and family say it’s tough to go against them….

    enjoy Greece!



  12. I have had the opportunity in the past years to take several weeks at a time vacations and it is amazing how it recharged me. I would always come back with new ideas, focus and drive.

    They were always affordable trips staying with family and borrowing cars. The longest was 5 weeks and it was under $1000 all together.


  13. Jeff Nabers wrote: It’s unbelievable that he starts off the interview by softening the impact your message can have.

    Ah, but my audience is not Tim’s audience. I know my readers well, and by including such a disclaimer, I nipped tons of “this isn’t practical for everyone” comments in the bud. I think Tim’s ideas are great, and I wanted my readers to focus on the Big Picture instead of getting caught up in the details. If you want to see an example of people getting caught up in the details, read the discussion on this article at The Consumerist. That’s precisely what I was trying to avoid.

    Also, I can’t just pack up and move to London — not without leaving my wife. I love my wife. I love our life here in Oregon. She’s not interested in the mini-retirement thing, and until she is, it’s just not practical.

    Finally, even Tim himself has said repeatedly that his ideas are like a menu of options for people to pick and choose from. Tim himself admits that he’s often an extreme example, showing just how far people can take his ideas. “Selective substitution”, as you put it, is not offering excuses. It’s taking Tim’s ideas and making them work for me. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.


  14. Hey Tim,
    I’m a 28 year old teacher so I can take a mini-retirement every summer a little easier than most. As a matter of fact, I’m leaving for Thailand for six weeks in mid June.

    You were right on in your interview that you just have to make the decision to go and buy the ticket. A lot of other teachers I work with said they could never afford it (we do get paid very little) but I’m figuring my six weeks will be cheaper than most people taking an opulent (and boringly touristy) two week vacation.

    Libby, trust me, I understand the confusion friends have when you tell them you’re traveling for a few weeks rather than trying to save up for the new furniture set.


  15. Hi Tim,
    Just a quick comment. I love your book, am well on my way to my perfect lifestyle and cant wait to hit the road. However I would like to take your book with me as a continuing source of inspiration and advice.

    But its heavy… and in the spirit of keeping things portable I would love to be able to buy a paperback version of your book. I would even pay more for the option of a paperback than a hardback… just for the convenience of being able to slip it into my carry-on/backpack.

    Any chance of publishing the current edition, or even the new edition in a more portable rucksack friendly format? Please!!