How to Take a Mini-Retirement: Tips and Tricks

46 Comments

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

J.D.
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.

Tim
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.

J.D.
That’s amazing.

Tim
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…
    Ian

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  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!

    Siempre

    Jose Castro-Frenzel

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  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)?

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  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?

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

    Regards,

    Doug

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  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?
    cheers
    Daniel

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  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 (freecycle.org + 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.

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  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!

    carlo

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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!!

    Cheers

    Max

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  16. If you’re interested in more detailed math in support of Tim’s calculations, check out Location Independent Living. Lea did a 12-month breakdown of their costs living in four cities around the world, and found it cheaper than being at home, even when airfare was included:

    http://locationindependent.com/blog/2008/03/10/is-a-location-independent-life-cheaper-than-living-in-one-place-just-how-much-money-do-you-need/

    @Daniel: It works great with kids, too. Trust, and go!

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  17. J.D.,

    Thanks for the clarification. I’m not married, so I sometimes forget to consider how it changes decisions.

    As for knowing your audience; i guess that’s one of the great things about blogging (I’m new to it). I think your priming gives an open door to some readers to make excuses, but I can see how it also helps people keep an open mind.

    All in all, it’s terrific to see 4HWW ideas getting exposure and syndication.

    Jeff

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  18. JD did a good interview! A word of caution though, in some countries you could actually end up spending more if you don’t do your research first. People in some countries, especially Southeast Asia, tend to jack up prices once they know that you’re a foreigner. Tim has a distinct advantage of having vast networks around the globe, so networking pays.

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  19. Hi Tim,

    Wie gehts dir?

    I know this might not be th right place to send you this but I couldn’t find a personal email or so.

    Simply I am an Egyptian Architect, born in Germany, and I am a huge fan of your book and ideas … I can’t explain how much it has affected my life positively up until now … My question is I am proposing to translate your book in arabic since I am enthusiastic to pass your experimenting with the life design to the middle east. Also I am a middle eastern and have benefited from your ideas a great deal with such little changes due to the different culture.

    I hope to hear from you

    and thanks for such a cool book!

    Akmal

    Like

  20. Thanks for the post, Tim! Some great insights. I’d like to share something I found recently, with you, too. I just finished reading James Arthur Ray’s newest book, Harmonic Wealth, and I had to share this concept he has that I think makes so much sense: LIVING FROM THE OUTCOME (Page 322). James says that most people live toward the outcome, meaning you are living like you don’t have it yet. He says you should shift your thinking so that you are LIVING FROM THE OUTCOME and thus sending out the energy to the world that you already have it. Think, feel, and act like you’ve already made it and the universe will say “Your wish is my command.”

    For me, that meant acting like I was more valuable as an individual – acting like a $500 a day earner instead of a $150 a day earner (no more reality TV marathons!) and acting like a thin and fit woman instead of a slightly overweight and sometimes lazy woman (goodbye Ranch Doritos!). Honestly, in the two weeks since I put down the book, things have started changing. And I think it really comes down to that one concept.

    Check out the Harmonic Wealth site and link to the book: harmonicwealth.com/read
    a James Ray Enthusiast

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  21. Wow, this is great. Tim “saved” $32,000 by taking a mini-retirement and living in a Third World nation.

    Believe me, this is great, but I wonder what happens for shlubs like me who haven’t worked 80 hours a week for five years, got disgusted and quit, and lived off my savings until my Muse became magically profitable?

    I mean no disrespect, but this doesn’t seem to work for the “little guy.” Can Tim shed some light on how we almost-Middle-Class folks can make this work, before even our pathetic jobs are all sent overseas, leaving us scraping by on nothing?

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  22. For those considering mini-retirement(s) or international travel, check out U.S. Servas (click my name for a link). I have no affiliation or experience with them, but it seems like an interesting (and inexpensive) way to travel and foster good will.

    @Max
    I’m pretty sure that Tim is working on a 2nd edition of 4HWW that will be in paperback.

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  23. As usual, you are so right Tim!

    We’re traveling the globe as a family on an open ended world tour and live large on little. We spend sooo much less than what we lived on at home….and we have been mostly in Europe our first 2 years! Our total expenses have been 25K a year for a family of 3.

    @Daniel We have lots of information about extended travel as a family on our website. My daughter was 5 when we started and will be 8 this fall and it has been an amazingly enriching experience for her and the whole family. I love how much time she gets with her father now….one of our motivating factors. Family bonding, shared experiences & unsurpassed education are some of the great joys of mini- retirement ( or early retirement like we are doing).

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  24. Hi Tim,

    Love your work, I’ve just finished the book and I’m about to dive back in for a second, more detailed reading.
    In response to your Twitter question: Ouzo turns milky because the essential oil of aniseed, anethole, is soluble in alcohol but not in water.

    The Ouzo effect:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouzo_effect

    I notice you haven’t made any reference to Paris, France in your travels. Thinking of coming by anytime soon?

    Enjoy Greece!

    Efharisto!

    John

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  25. Hi Tim,

    Your book is of tremendous value to us as we are planning our first mini-retirement for this summer.

    To our surprise we found out this morning from twitter, that you were actually sipping Turkish coffe in our country 10 hours ago!
    How can we get in touch with you to meet up?? Are you in Istanbul?
    I hope this reaches you before you leave Turkey!

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  26. The concept of mini-retirements is totally cool. It reminds me of how the brain requires novelty in order to learn and grow. Just doing something different and new will help bring more energy and creativity. Same thing, different way of saying it. Most of us don’t get novelty day to day and mini-retirements is probably the answer for most of us. For me, I do different things outside of work which helps me increase my energy, my positive outlook on life, and helps me learn more about the world in general. Thanks for an awesome interview!

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  27. Hi Tim – Thought you may be interested in this research.

    http://hbswk.hbs.edu/
    “Indulgence vs. Regret: Investing in Future Memories
    September 2, 2008

    Good news for makers of $20,000 watches and other luxury goods and services. Recent research from Harvard Business School professor Anat Keinan and a colleague suggest that we often regret not indulging ourselves earlier in life.”

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  28. Hi Tim!

    Just sold my appartment and moving to Quepos – Costa Rica for 5 months for a mini-retirement/internship. Going to help set up a nature conservation project there. Check out the webpage if you’re interested in what we’re up to!!
    http://www.cecona.org

    Thanks for the inspiration, keep it up!!
    Kind regards,

    Sjoerd

    Like

  29. Ok, what is the difference between a “vacation” and a “mini-retirement”? I get plenty of inspiration from going on vacation with my family and I see no difference. Just a fancy term.

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  30. Hi Tim,

    This concept really resonates with me at this phase of my life. In November of last year I gave up a very good paying career to rethink life.

    I decided to go out on my own, consultancy and also more than that pursue my creative side and this has been an amazing journey. I have just started my own business, had success with creating amazing works and better still they are now out there in the world in exhibitions and clients homes. I also continue with my consultancy side of things.

    One of the most exciting things has been the new people I have met!

    So then the thought of taking a mini retirement with my two children and exploring the world occurred to me. I had longed for this but never allowed myself as I had allow the control of others to dominate. But this was not in my repertoire of life anymore. So in January 2011 we set out for a three week adventure across several states in Australia which was amazing a “mini retirement” as you say. I didn’t entertain anything remotely apart from the moments we were in!

    But this was in preparation for something bigger and as a single parent was told it was not possible or what a waste of money all other peoples excuses (I hear so much negativity about being a single parent which I could rant on and on as I am no stereotype) but my life is all about going out there and experimenting with life see what happens its an exciting way to live, to really live! so that is what we did, we traveled to the USA to LA and down to San Diego in September/October this year it was incredible!

    I am now putting plans into place to do this all again with the children to Fiji and many other exciting destinations. The aim is to demonstrate more than just the boundaries that are placed on us, or we are conditioned to by society. To inspire the next generation (well 2 of them one boy 8 and one girl 15) that life is so many things and that possibilities should always be entertained but most of all impossibilities what impossibilities!

    It has been one of the most valuable exercises not only for myself but for my two amazing children.

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  31. Hey Tim,

    I was wondering how you can plan a mini-retirement every six years or so where one of those years would be your retirement year to relax and unwind from working so hard.

    Also where did the idea of a mini-retirement come from in the first place. Thanks for your help and suggestions, it is definitely inspiring me of my own future.

    Matt

    Like

  32. I love this principle. When I was working in London last year my rent was over £1000/month. When I wanted to find a new flat, instead of doing it straight away I left my luggage in my friend’s place. Subsequently, I took a 3-week holiday and spent the 4th week in my friend’s place looking for a new apartment. It saved me over £1000 on rent, which paid for my holidays!!!
    Smart travelling in action:) Of course, it was the 4HWW that made me realize what was possible.

    Tim – will you be posting any new content to the mini retirements section?

    Best,
    Jimmy

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