How to Take a Mini-Retirement: Tips and Tricks

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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. Read More

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Low-Cost, High-Reward Mini-Retirements: Explore the World with International Volunteering

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One great method for taking an expenses-paid “mini-retirement”–or adding more time to your travels without adding costs–is to work with an international volunteer organization.

Some volunteer groups charge a participation fee, but there are some that will cover your food, housing–and provide you with good meaningful work–at no cost. I would like to share with you a few stories from friends who have all taken mini-retirements with Hands On Disaster Response, one such group.

Marc Young, Volunteer

A Little Back Story

Breakdowns of any sort can be great experiences: nervous, communication, etc. They allow us to return to center and to refocus on what it is that truly matters. For Tim, it was a one-way ticket to London in June 2004.

My breakdown came just a few months later and took me to Thailand to find anyone or any place I could help recover from the Tsunami that had just destroyed tens of thousands of homes and lives. I had been living in L.A. working as a freelance designer, treading water and occasionally getting mouthfuls of it, and my adventure to Thailand was a conscious decision to give up treading and to dive down deeper to explore just what was around me… Read More

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The Endless Summer: How to “Winter” Like Old Money

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The best meat on the planet in Buenos Aires — $14 per person for all you can eat, including fresh vegetables, dozens of plates, hand-made pastas, and waiters in tuxes. La Bistecca in Puerto Madero. Noah Kagan at my right.

E-mail 1 (friend):

“You should come!”

E-mail 2 (me):

“Uh…. sure. It’s too damn cold here. I guess I’ll see you in 24-48 hours.”

That was on last Friday afternoon. I bought my ticket an hour later and arrived in Buenos Aires Sunday morning, greeted by 90-degree weather and a pleasant breeze through the stunning greenery now surrounding me.

Screw freezing rain in NYC.

“Where do you winter?” used to be a question asked only by blue bloods with old money.

The ultra-rich would leave their fancy digs in Nantucket or Central Park West once a year to go to the Caymans or somewhere equally inaccessible to most people who can’t live off the interest of their trust funds.

Not anymore. In a flat world, work and life and things you do and not necessarily places. Living the good life in an endless summer costs much less than you think. It also takes less work and prep than you think. Here are both for my latest escape:

-I bought a ticket from NY –> Buenos Aires –> Los Angeles fewer than 24 hours before departure. Total cost was $1,200
, and I used nothing fancy, just the “multi-city” flight search on Orbitz. Just a few days earlier, those flights had been near $2,500. I almost never purchase airfare far in advance any more, as prices are better when the airlines get desperate to fill seats and panic. I’ve never missed travel because of this habit.

-I emailed BA4U Apartments and got a kick-ass apartment secured in less than three hours. Cost? $250 per week, the equivalent of one night at a comparable hotel in the posh area of Recoleta, which is where my apartment is located. Front and center. Check out the video below. Nothing third world about it. Tell Ralf I sent you — he is awesome.

-I arranged with my post office in CA to use Priority Mail to forward all of my mail to a friend in NY, who then sends me a weekly email describing anything I might need to respond my return on Jan. 15. Cost: $10 per week of forwarding with USPS, and I’ll buy my friend a bunch of drinks and gifts when I get back. If you have an assistant do this, it wouldn’t be more than an hour of work per week (thus, $10-15/week).

-For luggage and necessities, I practice the old Zen art of BIT travel. It ended up costing me less than $10 upon arrival.

Total for two weeks:
$1,200 for airfare
$500 for excellent apartment in the best central location
$50 maximum for mail handling

$1,750

Let’s do a few more calculations to make this sexier.

You might be inclined say “$1,750! I don’t have that kind of money.” Don’t forget to subtract what you would have spent in the US or wherever you happen to be. This goes for exercise, too: before you exclaim “I burned 215 calories on the Stairmaster!”, be sure to subtract what you would have burned sitting on the couch watching Family Guy.

Back to our example…

If you go out to a good club for New Year’s Eve in NYC and buy a bottle of vodka for a table, you can count on $200-400 per bottle. I can get a table for six and unlimited champagne all night for $100 USD here in Argentina. If we assume two bottles for the evening, I just saved $300-700, which I can subtract from my airfare, etc.

Long story short: I will actually save money by wintering in Buenos Aires for two weeks instead of NYC or San Francisco. How cool is that?

Alrighty then, ladies and gents, I’m off to party like it’s 1999. Be safe, be grateful, and may 2008 be the best for all of us.

Here is a quote (and a hope for all of you) from the father of my friend and world-class Russian strength trainer, Pavel Tsatsaouline:

“May you have the two things that are so hard to have at once–time and money.”

Pura vida!

Other good spots for wintering:
Coiba, Panama
Phuket, Thailand
Bali, Indonesia
Queenstown, New Zealand
Sydney, Australia
Florianopolis, Brazil

Related links:
How to Live Like a Rock Star (or Tango Star) in Buenos Aires
How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less
“Chapter 14: Mini-Retirements: Embracing the Mobile Lifestyle” in The 4-Hour Workweek
Get George Bush to Help You Skip Airport Lines

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The Art of Letting Bad Things Happen (and Weapons of Mass Distraction)

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The menu in the Slovak Republic: full-contact video below.

Long time no see! I just landed back in CA from a long overdue mini-retirement through London, Scotland, Sardinia, Slovak Republic, Austria, Amsterdam, and Japan.

Some unpleasant surprises awaited me when I checked in on the evil e-mail inbox. Why? I let them happen.

I always do.

Here are just a few of the goodies that awaited me this time:

-One of our fulfillment companies has been shut-down due to the president’s death, causing a 20%+ loss in monthly orders and requiring an emergency shift of all web design and order processing.

-Missed radio and magazine appearances and upset would-be interviewers.

-More than a dozen lost joint-venture partnership opportunities.

It’s not that I go out of my way to irritate people — not at all — but I recognize one critical fact: oftentimes, in order to do the big things, you have to let the small bad things happen. This is a skill we want to cultivate.

What did I get in exchange for temporarily putting on blinders and taking a few glancing blows?

-I followed the Rugby World Cup in Europe and was able to watch the New Zealand All Blacks live, a dream I’ve had for the last 5 years.

-I was able to shoot every gun I’ve ever dreamed of firing since brainwashing myself with Commando. Bless the Slovak Republic and their paramilitaries (video at the end of this post).

-I was able to film a television series pilot in Japan, a lifelong dream and the most fun I’ve had in months, if not years.

-I met with my Japanese publisher, Seishisha (Tel: 03-5574-8511) and had media interviews in Tokyo, where the 4HWW is now #1 in several of the largest chains.
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-I took a complete 10-day media fast and felt like I’d had a two-year vacation from computers.

-I attended the Tokyo International Film Festival and hung out with one of my heroes, the producer of the Planet Earth television series.

Once you realize that you can turn off the noise without the world ending, you’re liberated in a way that few people ever know.

Just remember: if you don’t have attention, you don’t have time. Did I have time to check e-mail and voicemail? Sure. It might take 10 minutes. Did I have the attention to risk fishing for crises in those 10 minutes? Not at all.

As tempting as it is to “just check e-mail for one minute,” I didn’t do it. I know from experience that any problem found in the inbox will linger on the brain for hours or days after you shut-down the computer, rendering “free time” useless with preoccupation. It’s the worst of states, where you experience neither relaxation nor productivity. Be focused on work or focused on something else, never in-between.

Time without attention is worthless, so value attention over time.

Here are a few questions that can help you put on the productivity blinders and put things in perspective. Even when you’re not traveling the world, develop the habit of letting small bad things happen. If you don’t, you’ll never find time for the life-changing big things, whether important tasks or true peak experiences. If you do force the time but puncture it with distractions, you won’t have the attention to appreciate it.

-What is the one goal, if completed, that could change everything?

-What is the most urgent thing right now that you feel you “must” or “should” do?

-Can you let the urgent “fail” — even for a day — to get to the next milestone with your potential lifechanging tasks?

-What’s been on your “to-do” list the longest? Start it first thing in the morning and don’t allow interruptions or lunch until you finish.

Will “bad” things happen? Small problems will crop up, yes. A few people will complain and quickly get over it. BUT, the bigger picture items you complete will let you see these for what they are–minutiae and repairable hiccups.

Make this trade a habit. Let the small bad things happen and make the big good things happen.

[This post kicked up some strong comments! If you’d like to see my responses, just search for “###” in the comments.]

Most Popular and Related Posts:

How to Lose 20 lbs. of Fat in 30 Days… Without Doing Any Exercise
From Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 lbs. of Muscle in 4 Weeks
Relax Like A Pro: 5 Steps to Hacking Your Sleep
How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less (Plus: How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses)
How to Outsource the Inbox and Never Check Email Again
How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in 1 Hour

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Odds and Ends:

-Here is another signed original 4HWW manuscript with the bonus stories that didn’t make it into the published version! Perhaps you saw recently that a 1st-printing Harry Potter fetches more than $40K. 4HWW is no Harry Potter yet, but unedited manuscripts are a rarer item. The Ebay auction is here, and you have 72 hours. The last one sold for $1,525 and there were 8 copies available. Now there are only 6 left. The total winning bid will be donated to this school in Nepal, where your name will appear on a plaque on the door. If you would like to skip the auction, just PayPal $2,000 for however many copies you want (max of 5) to timothy-at-brainquicken.com. The total will also be donated to education. If someone beats you to the punch, I’ll refund you.

-For those interested, I’m featured on pg. 67 of this month’s Men’s Fitness. Nothing fitness-related, just 4HWW stuff.

-I did a fun interview on .SAP INFO, where I talk about all things quantifiable.


Weapons of Mass Distraction: boys love guns. I’m sorry, but that’s how we are wired, especially at $80 for a full Soviet arsenal, complete with anti-tank machine gun. Don’t worry, I’m just a target shooter. No strapping guns to my bed just yet.

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What Happens When an Agnostic Follows the Bible Literally for One Year?

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The prophetic AJ Jacobs, who wrote the inspiring “My Outsourced Life” for Esquire back in 2005, has gone prophetic.

A huge fan of radical lifestyle experiments, he has already read all 33,000 pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica, experimented with Radical Honesty for an article called “I Think You’re Fat”… even pretended to be his nanny online to try to find her a boyfriend.

Now he’s done the ultimate.

As an agnostic New Yorker, he attempted to follow every rule of the Bible literally for an entire year.

I read an advanced copy of his new book, The Year of Living Biblically, this past July, and it blew my mind. It is AMAZING. Now it’s finally out, and I’m allowed to talk about it. I learned more about religion in this book than in all previous books combined, and I laughed so hard I almost got kicked out of two airports. Here’s a Q&A with my friend AJ on his incredible experience:

You call yourself an “agnostic Jew” in the book. Why did you even decide to do this? What could the possible benefit be?

This was my most radical experiment yet. It affected everything I did: the way I ate, talked, dressed, thought, and touched my wife.

I did it because I wanted to see if I was missing anything. And I have to say, the benefits were huge. I’ve carried over a lot of thinking and behavior from my Year of Living Biblically. Even if you aren’t particularly religious (in fact, even if you’re a diehard atheist), I believe there are lessons to be learned from the Bible and a biblical lifestyle.

What was hardest for you?

Two types of rules were hardest for me. First, there was avoiding the sins we commit every day: no lying, no gossiping, no coveting. I’m a journalist in New York. That’s like 70 percent of my day.

The second type of difficult rules were those that will get you into trouble if you follow them in modern-day America. For instance, the Old Testament rule that you should stone adulterers. Luckily, I was able to stone one adulterer. I was in the park dressed in my biblical garb (white clothes, a beard, sandals, walking stick) and a man came up to me and asked why I was dressed so strangely. He seemed hostile right from the start. I explained to him my project. And he said “I’m an adulterer. Are you going to stone me?” I said, “That would be great.”

I took out a handful of pebbles, because the Bible never specifies the size of the stones. This man actually grabbed the stones from my hand and chucked them at my face. I felt I had the right to retaliate, so I tossed a pebble at him. And in that way I stoned.

Do you think many people are misguided in their “creed over deed” mentality?

[Note from Tim: “Creed over deed” refers to people who value religious belief more than moral behavior. “Deed over creed” would be the opposite.]

I wouldn’t say misguided. But I’d say most of us do underestimate the power that behavior has to shape thought.

It’s astounding. I watched it happen to myself. For instance, I forced myself to stop gossiping, and eventually I started to have fewer petty thoughts to gossip about. I forced myself to help the needy, and found myself becoming less self-absorbed. I never became Ghandi or Angelina Jolie, but I made some strides.

I even watched it happen with prayer. After a year of praying, I started to believe there’s something to the idea of sacredness. It was remarkable. So if you want to become someone different, just start acting like the person you want to be. It’s like that business motto “fake it till you make it,” but it works on a spiritual and ethical level as well.

Even with my wardrobe, I saw how the outer affects the inner. There’s a line in the Bible that says “your garments should always be white.” I decided to take that literally, and walked around in white clothes. It affected my mood. I felt happier, lighter. Clothes make the man. I felt I couldn’t be in a bad mood if I looked like I was about to play the semi-finals at Wimbledon.


What were some of the greatest benefits of following rules to the letter, and what are the things that have stuck with you since ending the experiment?

It was fascinating. I’d always loved freedom of choice. It’s why I went to a loosey-goosey liberal arts college with no core requirements. But this experiment was all about freedom FROM choice. Or at least a minimal-choice lifestyle. I had a set structure: Should I read the gossip magazine about Cameron Diaz’s latest sex romp? No. Should I give 10 percent of my money to the needy? Yes. Should I turn off my email on the Sabbath (as both the Bible and Tim Ferriss recommend)? Yes.

In fact, there was something Ferriss-esque about the entire way of living. It reminded me of your low-information diet, for instance. In some ways, it was a huge time-saver.


What would you call yourself now?

I’d call myself a “reverent agnostic.” Whether or not there is a God, I believe there’s something to the idea of sacredness. Rituals can be sacred. The Sabbath can be sacred. And there’s an importance to that.

I’d also say that I’m a fan of cafeteria spirituality. During my experiment, I learned that you cannot follow the entire Bible. It’s impossible. You must pick and choose. Everyone does it, whether they admit it or not. Otherwise, we’d end up stoning adulterers on the street.

Some call this “cafeteria religion,” and it’s meant as a disparaging phrase. But I say: There is nothing wrong with cafeterias! I’ve had some great meals at cafeterias. I’ve also had some turkey tetrazzini that made me dry heave. The key is to chose the right dishes, the ones about compassion and tolerance, and leave the ones about hatred and intolerance on the side. So in my year, there was this amazing balance between choosing your religion, which then leads to fewer decisions on a daily basis.

And finally, I’d call myself a reformed individualist. I still see the value of individualism, but I’ve taken it down a few notches. As one of my spiritual advisers told me, you can look at life in one of two ways: As a series of rights and entitlements, or as a series of responsibilities. The biblical way is to look at it as a series of responsibilities, to your family and to your society. It’s like the JFK quote, ask not what your country (or world) can do for you, ask what you can do for your country (or world).

What was the hardest for your wife to put up with?

Well, my wife’s a saint. At one point, I built a biblical hut in our living room, and she didn’t appreciate the construction project in our apartment. Also, the Bible says not to touch women during that time of the month. Even more strictly, though, it says you shouldn’t sit in a seat where an “impure” woman has sat. My wife didn’t like that, so in retaliation, she sat on every seat in our apartment. I was forced to do a lot of standing that year.

Do yourself a favor, whether you’re a bible beater or a beret-wearing atheist, and go get AJ’s book. I put more notes in this book than any book in recent memory.

IMPORTANT:

And remember, you don’t need to be religious to “tithe” like AJ. In fact, you can change the world from your keyboard right now and help me build this school in Nepal for hundreds of children. The top 10 donors (you can donate more than once) get the school dedicated to them on a plaque at the door, and we can all go visit it within a year. Everest base camp, anyone? Here is a glimpse of the wonder that is Nepal if you need a few reasons or want to start planning.

For those of you keeping track, this blog has already successfully funded a school in Vietnam this month, and I’m planning on visiting it in 2008. Life is short and you are fortunate — give hard!

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ODDS AND ENDS:

-Exclusive 90-Minute Marketing and PR Teleconference with Tim Ferriss:

I will be offering an exclusive 90-minute teleconference (date to be mid- or end of November) to discuss marketing and PR in the web 2.0 and social media era. This will be a one-time event and the cost is $125, with all registration money going to LitLiberation and helping US public school students. Line space is very limited, as we will be taking questions at the end, so I encourage you to sign up now before we cut off registration. To sign up for this one-time event, please go to PayPal.com (you can use your credit cards to pay) and send $125 to timothy-at-brainquicken.com. We might increase the price as space gets limited. Call-in info will come via e-mail in the first week of November, and we’ll post a “FULL” notice on this post when we cut off registration. I cannot tell you the exact date of the call, but if you pay and then cannot attend, I will simply refund you in full — no worries.

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LitLiberation: How to Travel the World–and Get a Personal Assistant–for Free

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First, a few questions from Eastern Europe for you all. Take a minute to seriously consider each:

Envision the 5 books that have most impacted your life. How would your life be different if you’d never read them?

Where might you be today if you’d never met the most influential teachers in your life, past and present?

How would your options be affected if you could never again read a book, menu, or sign?

Here is the huge competition I’ve been promising. It’s the biggest I’ve ever done, and there are some incredible world-famous people involved. You won’t be disappointed:

If you’d like to support this idea, please take a second to vote for it here. Be sure to see the “prizes” sectionhow could you get into the 10K Club if you had to?

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How to Resurrect Your High School Spanish… or Any Language (Plus: Be on the CBS Early Show!)

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Oktoberfest is good for reactivating German but bad for livers. ((c) Dave77459)

How can you possibly maintain fluency in two foreign languages — let alone five or six — if the opportunities to use them are months or years apart?

In 20 minutes, I leave from JFK for Iceland, then Scotland, and then a circle in Europe that will include Oktoberfest in Munich. Germany is strategic, as I want to “reactivate” my German before the media tour there.

Few topics provoke more anxiety and depression in language lovers than the prospect of forgetting a hard-earned language. After you return to your English-dominated homeland, how do you maintain your newfound skills, which seem to have yogurt-like expiration dates? Having juggled close to a dozen languages — keeping some and losing others — and having suffered the interference that goes it all, my answer now is simple: you don’t.

It is easier, and much more time-efficient, to catch up versus keep up.

Why struggle to maintain a foreign tongue in the US, for example, when you most often gain nothing more than bad habits? If you acquire the language in a native environment and attain an intermediate or advanced level of fluency, you can reactivate your language skills in four weeks or less when approached methodically. Would you rather spend four hours per week on your new language, only to see it get sick and bloated with a distinctly foreign-sounding twang, or spend two hours per day for 1-3 weeks and be right back at your fluency level from years prior?

I began reactivation of irretrievable German just over a week ago and can already hold a decent conversation. This is not a testament to my ability, but to the efficacy of a process that begins with massive passive exposure and avoids time-consuming review from square one:

1. Days 1-7: German films with English subtitles for at least two hours each evening for one week.

2. Days 3+: 10-20 pages of dialogue-rich manga (Japanese comics, here translated into German, that can be ordered in most languages from comic stores in your target country) for 30 minutes each morning and prior to bed. I’m a big fan of One Piece.

3. On the plane:
Read a phrasebook in its entirety for active recall practice of common phrases (45 minutes of study alternated with 15 minutes of rest — this takes advantage of what is called the “primacy and recency” effect).

4. Upon arrival: Continue with manga and grammar reference checks as needed, using an electronic dictionary to reactivate vocabulary from conversation that is familiar but not understood.

5. Weeks 2-3: Thirty to sixty Vis-Ed flashcards daily. This seems like a lot, but most will have been covered in steps 1-3 using active recall (English to German). Vis-Ed compiles its sets of flashcards from word frequency lists and includes sample phrases for usage. I begin flashcards after three or four days in-country.

The sooner you decide to reactivate languages when needed, instead of maintaining them for an unspecified time in the future, the more leisure time you will have and the less diluted your language abilities will be when you need them.

Don’t fear losing languages if you’ve attained real fluency. They’re just in temporary storage with the covers pulled over them.

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Odds and Ends: Please vote for me, and be on the CBS Early Show!

There are only 24 hours left… if you haven’t, please vote for my panel at the SXSW conference! It takes about 30 seconds and will allow me to pull together some of the best entrepreneurial minds in the world. Check out all of the panels and vote here.

ASAP: Would you like to be on the CBS Early Show? They are doing a segment on personal outsourcing and are looking for fun case studies in New York City (or people willing to travel there). If you are in/near NYC and have a good success story of using personal outsourcing, please share them in the comments here and I’ll pass your e-mail address to the producers!

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