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14.Mini-Retirements

EMBRACING THE MOBILE LIFESTYLE

Before the development of tourism, travel was conceived to be like study, and its fruits were considered to be the adornment of the mind and the formation of the judgment.

—PAUL FUSSELL, Abroad

The simple willingness to improvise is more vital, in the long run, than research.

—ROLF POTTS, Vagabonding

Upon Sherwood’s return from Oktoberfest, dazed from killing neurons but the happiest he’s been in four years, the remote trial is made policy and Sherwood is inducted into the world of the New Rich. All he needs now is an idea of how to exploit this freedom and the tools to give his finite cash near-infinite lifestyle output.

If you’ve gone through the previous steps, eliminating, automating, and severing the leashes that bind you to one location, it’s time to indulge in some fantasies and explore the world.

Even if you have no ache for extended travel or think it’s impossible—whether due to marriage or mortgage or those little things known as children—this chapter is still the next step. There are fundamental changes I and most others put off until absence (or preparation for it) forces them. This chapter is your final exam in muse design.

The transformation begins in a small Mexican village, in a parable that’s been shared in various forms around the world.

Fables and Fortune Hunters

An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.

“But … What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.” The American laughed and stood tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.” He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, of course, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management.” The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, señor, how long will all this take?”

To which the American replied, “15–20 years. 25 tops.”

“But what then, señor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.” “Millions, señor? Then what?”

“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos …” I RECENTLY HAD lunch in San Francisco with a good friend and former college roommate. He will soon graduate from a top business school and return to investment banking. He hates coming home from the office at midnight but explained to me that, if he works 80-hour weeks for nine years, he could become a managing director and make a cool $3–10 million per year. Then he would be successful.

“Dude, what on earth would you do with $3–10 million per year?” I asked.

His answer? “I would take a long trip to Thailand.”

That just about sums up one of the biggest self-deceptions of our modern age: extended world travel as the domain of the ultrarich. I’ve also heard the following: “I’ll just work in the firm for 15 years. Then I’ll be partner and I can cut back on hours. Once I have a million or two in the bank, I’ll put it in something safe like bonds, take $80,000 a year in interest, and retire to sail in the Caribbean.” “I’ll only work in consulting until I’m 35, then retire and ride a motorcycle across China.”

If your dream, the pot of gold at the end of the career rainbow, is to live large in Thailand, sail around the Caribbean, or ride a motorcycle across China, guess what? All of them can be done for less than $3,000. I’ve done all three. Here are just two examples of how far a little can go.68 $250 U.S. Five days on a private Smithsonian tropical research island with three local fishermen who caught and cooked all my food and also took me on tours of the best hidden dive spots in Panamá.

$150 U.S. Three days of chartering a private plane in Mendoza wine country in Argentina and flying over the most beautiful vineyards around the snowcapped Andes with a personal guide.

Question: What did you spend your last $400 on? It’s two or three weekends of nonsense and throwaway forget-the-workweek behavior in most U.S. cities. $400 is nothing for a full eight days of life-changing experiences. But eight days isn’t what I’m recommending at all. Those were just interludes in a much larger production. I’m proposing much, much more.

The Birth of Mini-Retirements and

the Death of Vacations

There is more to life than increasing its speed.

—MOHANDAS GANDHI

In February of 2004, I was miserable and overworked.

My travel fantasy began as a plan to visit Costa Rica in March 2004 for four weeks of Spanish and relaxation. I needed a recharge and four weeks seemed “reasonable” by whatever made-up benchmark you can use for such a thing.

A friend familiar with Central America dutifully pointed out that it would never work, as Costa Rica was about to enter its rainy season. Torrential downpours weren’t the uplifting jolt I needed, so I shifted my focus to four weeks in Spain. It’s a long trip over the Atlantic, though, and Spain was close to other countries I’d always wanted to visit. I lost “reasonable” somewhere shortly thereafter and decided that I deserved a full three months to explore my roots in Scandinavia after four weeks in Spain.

If there were any real-time bombs or pending disasters, they would certainly crop up in the first four weeks, so there really wasn’t any additional risk in extending my trip to three months. Three months would be great.

Those three months turned into 15, and I started to ask myself, “Why not take the usual 20–30-year retirement and redistribute it throughout life instead of saving it all for the end?” The Alternative to Binge Traveling

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.

—CHARLES KURALT, CBS news reporter

If you are accustomed to working 50 weeks per year, the tendency, even after creating the mobility to take extended trips, will be to go nuts and see 10 countries in 14 days and end up a wreck. It’s like taking a starving dog to an all-you-can-eat buffet. It will eat itself to death.

I did this three months into my 15-month vision quest, visiting seven countries and going through at least 20 check-ins and checkouts with a friend who had negotiated three weeks off. The trip was an adrenaline-packed blast but like watching life on fast-forward. It was hard for us to remember what had happened in which countries (except Amsterdam),69 we were both sick most of the time, and we were upset to have to leave some places simply because our pre-purchased flights made it so.

I recommend doing the exact opposite.

The alternative to binge travel—the mini-retirement—entails relocating to one place for one to six months before going home or moving to another locale. It is the anti-vacation in the most positive sense. Though it can be relaxing, the mini-retirement is not an escape from your life but a reexamination of it—the creation of a blank slate. Following elimination and automation, what would you be escaping from? Rather than seeking to see the world through photo ops between foreign-but-familiar hotels, we aim to experience it at a speed that lets it change us.

This is also different from a sabbatical. Sabbaticals are often viewed much like retirement: as a one-time event. Savor it now while you can. The mini-retirement is defined as recurring—it is a lifestyle. I currently take three or four mini-retirements per year and know dozens who do the same. Sometimes these sojourns take me around the world; oftentimes they take me around the corner—Yosemite, Tahoe, Carmel—but to a different world psychologically, where meetings, e-mail, and phone calls don’t exist for a set period of time.

Purging the Demons: Emotional Freedom

This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own im perfection.

—SAINT AUGUSTINE (354 A.D.–430 A.D.)

True freedom is much more than having enough income and time to do what you want. It is quite possible—actually the rule rather than the exception—to have financial and time freedom but still be caught in the throes of the rat race. One cannot be free from the stresses of a speed- and size-obsessed culture until you are free from the materialistic addictions, time-famine mind-set, and comparative impulses that created it in the first place.

This takes time. The effect is not cumulative, and no number of two-week (also called “too weak”)70 sightseeing trips can replace one good walkabout.71

In the experience of those I’ve interviewed, it takes two to three months just to unplug from obsolete routines and become aware of just how much we distract ourselves with constant motion. Can you have a two-hour dinner with Spanish friends without getting anxious? Can you get accustomed to a small town where all businesses take a siesta for two hours in the afternoon and then close at 4:00 P.M.? If not, you need to ask, Why?

Learn to slow down. Get lost intentionally. Observe how you judge both yourself and those around you. Chances are that it’s been a while. Take at least two months to disincorporate old habits and rediscover yourself without the reminder of a looming return flight.

The Financial Realities: It Just Gets Better

The economic argument for mini-retirements is the icing on the cake. Four days in a decent hotel or a week for two at a nice hostel costs the same as a month in a nice posh apartment. If you relocate, the expenses abroad also begin to replace—often at much lower cost—bills you can then cancel stateside.

Here are some actual monthly figures from recent travels.

Highlights from both South America and Europe are shown side by side to prove that luxury is limited by your creativity and familiarity with the locale, not gross currency devaluation in third-world countries. It will be obvious that I did not survive on bread and begging—I lived like a rock star—and both experiences could be done for less than 50% of what I spent. My goal was enjoyment and not austere survival.

Airfare

Free, courtesy of AMEX gold card and Chase Continental Airlines Mastercard72

Housing

Penthouse apartment on the equivalent of New York’s Fifth Avenue in Buenos Aires, including house cleaners, personal security guards, phone, energy, and high-speed Internet: $550 U.S. per month Enormous apartment in the trendy SoHo-like Prenzlauerberg district of Berlin, including phone and energy: $300 U.S. per month

Meals

Four- or five-star restaurant meals twice daily in Buenos Aires: $10 U.S. ($300 U.S. per month)

Berlin: $18 U.S. ($540 U.S. per month)

Entertainment

VIP table and unlimited champagne for eight people at the hottest club, Opera Bay, in Buenos Aires: $150 U.S. ($18.75 U.S. per person x four visits per month = $75 U.S. per month per person) Cover, drinks, and dancing at the hottest clubs in West Berlin: $20 U.S. per person per night x 4 = $80 U.S. per month

Education

Two hours daily of private Spanish lessons in Buenos Aires, fives times per week: $5 U.S. per hour x 40 hours per month = $200 U.S. per month

Two hours daily of private tango lessons with two world-class professional dancers: $8.33 U.S. per hour x 40 hours per month = $333.20 U.S. per month

Four hours daily of top-tier German-language instruction in Nollendorfplatz, Berlin: $175 U.S. per month, which would have paid for itself even if I had not attended classes, as the student ID card entitled me to over 40% discounts on all transportation Six hours per week of mixed martial arts (MMA) training at the top Berlin academy: free in exchange for tutoring in English two hours per week

Transportation

Monthly subway pass and daily cab rides to and from tango lessons in Buenos Aires: $75 U.S. per month

Monthly subway, tram, and bus pass in Berlin with student discount: $85 U.S. per month

Four-Week Total for Luxury Living

Buenos Aires: $1533.20, including round-trip airfare from JFK, with a one-month stopover in Panamá. Nearly one-third of this total is from the daily one-on-one instruction from world-class teachers in Spanish and Tango.

Berlin: $1180, including round-trip airfare from JFK and a one-week stopover in London.

How do these numbers compare to your current domestic monthly expenses, including rent, car insurance, utilities, weekend expenditures, partying, public transportation, gas, memberships, subscriptions, food, and all the rest? Add it all up and you may well realize, like I did, that traveling around the world and having the time of your life can save you serious money.

Fear Factors: Overcoming Excuses

Not to Travel

Travelling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building here after seeing Italy.

—FANNY BURNEY (1752–1840), English novelist

But I have a house and kids. I can’t travel!

What about health insurance? What if something happens?

Isn’t travel dangerous? What if I get kidnapped or mugged?

But I’m a woman—traveling alone would be dangerous.

Most excuses not to travel are exactly that—excuses. I’ve been there, so this isn’t a holier-than-thou sermon. I know too well that it’s easier to live with ourselves if we cite an external reason for inaction.

I’ve since met paraplegics and the deaf, senior citizens and single mothers, home owners and the poor, all of whom have sought and found excellent life-changing reasons for extended travel instead of dwelling on the million small reasons against it.

Most of the concerns above are addressed in the Q&A, but one in particular requires a bit of preemptive nerve calming.

It’s 10:00 P.M. Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

The prime fear of all parents prior to their first international trip is somehow losing a child in the shuffle.

The good news is that if you are comfortable taking your kids to New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., or London, you will have even less to worry about in the starting cities I recommend in the Q&A. There are fewer guns and violent crimes in all of them compared to most large U.S. cities. The likelihood of problems is decreased further when travel is less airport and hotel-hopping among strangers and more relocation to a second home: a mini-retirement.

But still, what if?

Jen Errico, a single mother who took her two children on a five-month world tour, had a more acute fear than most, one that often woke her at 2:00 A.M. in a cold sweat: What if something happens to me?

She wanted to prime her kids for worst-case scenario but didn’t want to scare them to death, so—like all good mothers—she made it a game: Who can best memorize the itineraries, hotel addresses, and Mom’s phone number? She had emergency contacts in each country whose numbers were loaded into the speed dial of her cell phone, which had global roaming. In the end, nothing happened. Now she’s planning to move to a ski chalet in Europe and send her kids to school in multilingual France. Success begets success.

She was most afraid in Singapore, and in retrospect, it was where she had the least reason to be worried (she took her kids to South Africa, among other places). She was scared because it was the first stop and she was unaccustomed to traveling with her kids. It was perception, not reality.

Robin Malinsky-Rummell, who spent a year traveling through South America with her husband and seven-year-old son, was warned by friends and family not to visit Argentina after their devaluation riots in 2001. She did her homework, decided that the fear was unfounded, and proceeded to have the time of her life in Patagonia. When she told locals that she was originally from New York, their eyes widened and jaws dropped: “I saw those buildings blow up on TV! I would never go to such a dangerous place!” Don’t assume that places abroad are more dangerous than your hometown. Most aren’t.

Robin is convinced, as are other NR parents, that people use children as an excuse to stay in their comfort zones. It’s an easy excuse not to do something adventurous. How to overcome the fear? Robin recommends two things: Before embarking on a long international trip with your children for the first time, take a trial run for a few weeks.

For each stop, arrange a week of language classes that begin upon arrival and take advantage of transportation from the airport if available. The school staff will often handle apartment rentals for you, and you will be able to make friends and learn the area before setting off on your own.

But what if your concern isn’t so much losing your children but losing your mind because of your children?

Several families interviewed for this book recommended the oldest persuasive tool known to man: bribery. Each child is given some amount of virtual cash, 25–50 cents, for each hour of good behavior. The same amount is subtracted from their accounts for breaking the rules. All purchases for fun—whether souvenirs, ice cream, or otherwise—come out of their own individual accounts. No balance, no goodies. This often requires more self-control on the part of the parents than the children.

How to Get Airfare at 50–80% Off

This is not a book on budget travel. Most of the cost-cutting recommendations found in such guides are designed with the binge traveler in mind. For someone embarking on a mini-retirement, an extra $150 for hassle-free airfare amortized over two months is a better deal than 20 hours of manipulating frequent-flier points on an unknown airline or chasing questionable deals.

Following two weeks of research, I once bought a one-way standby ticket to Europe for $120. I arrived at JFK brimming with enthusiasm and confidence—look at all these schmucks paying retail!—and 90% of the “participating” airlines refused my ticket. Those that didn’t were booked for weeks solid. I ended up staying in a hotel for two nights for a $300 tab, filing a complaint with AMEX, and eventually calling 1–800-FLY-EUROPE from the JFK terminal in frustration. I bought a round-trip ticket to London on Virgin Atlantic for $300 and left an hour later. The same ticket cost more than $700 a week earlier.

After 25 countries, I’ve found a few simple strategies that get you 90% of the possible savings without wasting time or producing migraines.

Use credit cards with reward points for large muse-related advertising and manufacturing expenses.

I am not spending more money to get pennies on the dollar—these costs are inevitable, so I capitalize on them. This alone gets me a free round-trip international ticket each three months.

Purchase tickets far in advance (three months or more) or last minute, and aim for both departure and return between Tues day and Thursday.

Long-term travel planning turns me off and can be expensive if plans change, so I opt for purchasing all tickets in the last four or five days prior to target departure. The value of empty seats is $0 as soon as the flight takes off, so true last-minute seats are cheap.

Use Orbitz (www.orbitz.com) and www.kayak.com first. Fix the departure and return dates between Tuesday and Thursday. Then look at prices for alternative departure dates each of three days into the past and each of three days into the future. Using the cheapest departure date, do the same with the return dates to find the cheapest combination. Check this price against the fares on the website of the airline itself. Then begin bidding on www.priceline.com at 50% of the better of the two, working up in $50 increments until you get a better price or realize it’s not possible.

Consider buying one ticket to an international hub and then an ongoing ticket with a cheap local airline.

If going to Europe on a tight budget, you could get three tickets. One free Southwest ticket (from transferring AMEX points) from CA to JFK, the cheapest ticket to Heathrow in London, and then an übercheap ticket on either Ryanair or EasyJet to a final destination. I have paid as little as $10 to go from London to Berlin or London to Spain. That is not a typo. Local airlines will often offer seats on flights for just the cost of taxes and gasoline. To Central or South American destinations, I’ll often look at local flights from Panama or international flights from Miami.

When More Is Less: Cutting the Clutter

Human beings have the capacity to learn to want almost any conceivable material object. Given, then, the emergence of a modern industrial culture capable of producing almost anything, the time is ripe for opening the storehouse of infinite need! … It is the modern Pandora’s box, and its plagues are loose upon the world.

—JULES HENRY

To be free, to be happy and fruitful, can only be attained through sacrifice of many common but overestimated things

—ROBERT HENRI

I know the son of one deca-millionaire, a personal friend of Bill Gates, who now manages private investments and ranches. He has accumulated an assortment of beautiful homes over the last decade, each with full-time cooks, servants, cleaners, and support staff. How does he feel about having a home in each time zone? It’s a pain in the ass! He feels like he’s working for his staff, who spend more time in his homes than he does.

Extended travel is the perfect excuse to reverse the damage of years of consuming as much as you can afford. It’s time to get rid of clutter disguised as necessities before you drag a five-piece Samsonite set around the world. That is hell on earth.

I’m not going to tell you to walk around in a robe and sandals scowling at people who have televisions. I hate that kashi-crunching holier-than-thou stuff. Turning you into a possession-less scribe is not my intention. Let’s face it, though: There are tons of things in your home and life that you don’t use, need, or even particularly want. They just came into your life as impulsive flotsam and jetsam and never found a good exit. Whether you’re aware of it or not, this clutter creates indecision and distractions, consuming attention and making unfettered happiness a real chore. It is impossible to realize how distracting all the crap is—whether porcelain dolls, sports cars, or ragged T-shirts—until you get rid of it.

Prior to my 15-month trip, I was stressed about how to fit all of my belongings into a 14 x 10-foot rental storage space. Then I realized a few things: I would never reread the business magazines I’d saved, I wore the same five shirts and four pairs of pants 90% of the time, it was about time for new furniture, and I never used the outdoor grill or lawn furniture.

Even getting rid of things I never used proved to be like a capitalist short-circuit. It was hard to toss things I had once thought were valuable enough to spend money on. The first ten minutes of sorting through clothing was like choosing which child of mine should live or die. I hadn’t exercised my throwing-out muscles in some time. It was a struggle to put nice Christmas clothing I’d never worn into the “go” pile and just as hard to separate myself from worn and ragged clothing I had for sentimental reasons. Once I’d passed through the first few tough decisions, though, the momentum had been built and it was a breeze. I donated all of the seldom-worn clothing to Goodwill. The furniture took less than 10 hours to offload using Craigslist, and though I was paid less than 50% of the retail prices for some and nothing for others, who cared? I’d used and abused them for five years and would get a new set when I landed back in the U.S. I gave the grill and lawn furniture to my friend, who lit up like a kid at Christmas. I had made his month. It felt wonderful and I had an extra $300 in pocket change to cover at least a few weeks of rent abroad.

I created 40% more space in my apartment and hadn’t even grazed the surface. It wasn’t the extra physical space that I felt most. It was the extra mental space. It was as if I had 20 mental applications running simultaneously before, and now I had just one or two. My thinking was clearer and I was much, much happier.

I asked every vagabond interviewee in this book what their one recommendation would be for first-time extended travelers. The answer was unanimous: Take less with you.

The overpacking impulse is hard to resist. The solution is to set what I call a “settling fund.” Rather than pack for all contingencies, I bring the absolute minimum and allocate $100–300 for purchasing things after I arrive and as I travel. I no longer take toiletries or more than a week’s worth of clothing. It’s a blast. Finding shaving cream or a dress shirt overseas can produce an adventure in and of itself.

Pack as if you were coming back in one week. Here are the bare essentials, listed in order of importance:

One week of clothing appropriate to the season, including one semiformal shirt and pair of pants or skirt for customs. Think T-shirts, one pair of shorts, and a multipurpose pair of jeans.

Backup photocopies or scanned copies of all important documents: health insurance, passport/visa, credit cards, debit cards, etc.

Debit cards, credit cards, and $200 worth of small bills in local currency (traveler’s checks are not accepted in most places and are a hassle)

Small cable bike lock for securing luggage while in transit or in hostels; a small padlock for lockers if needed

Electronic dictionaries for target languages (book versions are too slow to be of use in conversation) and small grammar guides or texts

One broad-strokes travel guide

That’s it.73 To laptop or not to laptop? Unless you are a writer, I vote no. It’s far too cumbersome and distracting. Using GoToMyPC to access your home computer from Internet cafés encourages the habit we want to develop: making the best use of time instead of killing it.

The Bora-Bora Dealmaker

BAFFIN ISLAND, NUNAVUT

Josh Steinitz74 stood at the edge of the world and stared in amazement. He dug his boots into the six feet of sea ice and the unicorns danced.

Ten narwhals—rare cousins of the beluga—came to the surface and pointed their six-foot-plus spiral tusks toward the heavens. The pod of 3,000-pound whales then fell into the depths once again. The narwhals are deep divers—more than 3,000 feet in some cases—so Josh had at least 20 minutes until their reappearance.

It seemed appropriate that he was with the narwhals. Their name came from Old Norse and referred to their mottled white and blue skin.

Náhvalr—corpse man.

He smiled as he had done often in the last few years. Josh himself was a dead man walking.

One year after graduating from college, Josh found out that he had oral squamous carcinoma—cancer. He had plans to be a management consultant. He had plans to be lots of things. Suddenly none of it mattered. Less than half of those who suffered from this particular type of cancer survived.75 The reaper didn’t discriminate and came without warning.

It became clear that the biggest risk in life wasn’t making mistakes but regret: missing out on things. He could never go back and recapture years spent doing something he disliked.

Two years later and cancer-free, Josh set off on an indefinite global walkabout, covering expenses as a freelance writer. He later became the cofounder of a website that provides customized itineraries to would-be vagabonds. His executive status didn’t lessen his mobile addiction. He was as comfortable cutting deals from the over-water bungalows of Bora-Bora as he was in the log cabins of the Swiss Alps.

He once took a call from a client while at Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier. The client needed to confirm some sales numbers and asked Josh about all the wind in the background. Josh’s answer: “I’m standing at 10,000 feet on a glacier and this afternoon the wind is whipping us down the mountain.” The client said he’d let Josh get back to what he was doing.

Another client called Josh while he was leaving a Balinese temple and heard the gongs in the background. The client asked Josh if he was in church. Josh wasn’t quite sure what to say. All that came out was, “Yes?” Back among the narwhals, Josh had a few minutes before heading to base camp to avoid polar bears. Twenty-four-hour daylight meant that he had much to share with his friends back in the land of cubicles. He sat down on the ice and produced his satellite phone and laptop from a waterproof bag. He began his e-mail in the usual way: “I know you’re all sick of seeing me have so much fun, but guess where I am?”

Q&A: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS

It is fatal to know too much at the outcome: boredom comes as quickly to the traveler who knows his route as to the novelist who is overcertain of his plot.

—PAUL THEROUX, To the Ends of the Earth

If this is your first time considering a commitment to the mobile lifestyle and long-term adventuring, I envy you! Making the jump and entering the new worlds that await is like upgrading your role in life from passenger to pilot.

The bulk of this Q&A will focus on the precise steps that you should take—and the countdown timeline you can use—when preparing for your first mini-retirement. Most steps can be eliminated or condensed once you get one trip under your belt. Some of the steps are one-time events, after which subsequent mini-retirements will require a maximum of two to three weeks of preparation. It now takes me three afternoons.

Grab a pencil and paper—this will be fun.

  1. Take an asset and cash-flow snapshot.

Set two sheets of paper on a table. Use one to record all assets and corresponding values, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, home, and so forth. On the second, draw a line down the middle and write down all incoming cash flow (salary, muse income, investment income, etc.) and outgoing expenses (mortgage, rent, car payments, etc.). What can you eliminate that is either seldom used or that creates stress or distraction without adding a lot of value?

  1. Fear-set a one-year mini-retirement in a dream location in Europe.

Use the questions from chapter 3 to evaluate your worst-case-scenario fears and evaluate the real potential consequences. Except in rare cases, most will be avoidable and the rest will be reversible.

  1. Choose a location for your actual mini-retirement. Where to start?

This is the big question. There are two options that I advocate:

Choose a starting point and then wander until you find your second home. This is what I did with a one-way ticket to London, vagabonding throughout Europe until I fell in love with Berlin, where I remained for three months.

Scout a region and then settle in your favorite spot. This is what I did with a tour of Central and South America, where I spent one to four weeks in each of several cities, after which I returned to my favorite—Buenos Aires—for six months.

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