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How to escape your soul-sucking job with a mini-retirement

Guide to taking a mini-retirement

Want to know if you should take a mini-retirement? See if any of these sound familiar:

  • You find it hard to wake up in the morning.
  • You hate wasting your precious time commuting to and from work.
  • You’re not motivated to work anymore, or work has become an empty routine.
  • You’re starting to make careless mistakes at work.
  • You find it hard to stay focused.
  • Your health is starting to deteriorate.
  • You’re too busy with work that you’re missing out on personal events.
  • You feel like you’re having a quarter-life or a mid-life crisis.

You may or may not find that familiar, but I did. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job. The pay was great, my boss was even better, and I loved working with my team. But after working at the same company for 8 years, it didn’t feel the same as it did when I first started. I needed a break. Sure, I took several vacations here and there, but there’s still this nagging feeling that I should be doing something else. Then I stumbled upon the idea of taking a mini-retirement.

What is a mini-retirement?

The term mini-retirement was coined by author Tim Ferriss in his book The 4-Hour Workweek. The concept is quite simple. Instead of waiting until you’re 60 to take your retirement, you spread that retirement throughout your life. Basically, you take an intentional break from your career or your industry to do what you plan to do when you retire.

Why take a mini-retirement?

Before I even read The 4-hour Workweek, I’ve already been questioning the idea of having a “retirement age”. Why do you have to wait until you’re 60 to do what you’ve always wanted to do? Why not do it now? You lack the money or time? Fair concern but let’s address that later. First, think about the people you know who have reached the retirement age. Are they actually retired or are they still working in one form or another? If they’re not working, are they really spending their time on what they’re passionate about? Or are they mostly in front of the tv watching their favorite shows? More importantly, is that how you want to spend your retirement?

Now there are retirees who do spend their time on things like traveling, but it’s not that common. And if you’ve done any kind of traveling, you know how tiring that could be. Sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation. Now imagine doing that at 60! Would you still be able to enjoy it? And can you imagine bungee jumping when you’re 80? I’m fairly certain that such activity would kill you at that age. Again, why not do the things you want to do now when you can actually enjoy it?

Another very important reason why you should consider taking a mini-retirement is time. Time is the most important non-renewable resource that you have. Instead of trading away your time for money, how about spending it with people you truly care about. I know this first hand.

It’s quite common in the Philippines to have a parent, or both, working abroad; spending only a few weeks to a few months with family. Some parents would work outside of the country without seeing their children for years. In my case, my dad worked away from us and wasn’t even there when I was born. My mom did a great job taking care of us, but it would’ve been wonderful to have grown up with a father figure. I’m not blaming my dad of course because I know that it’s twice as hard for him to go have to go through that. If you’re a parent, know that time if more important for your children than money.

Travel. Money returns. Time doesn't.
Travel. Money returns. Time doesn’t.

What should I do with my mini-retirement?

Anything. Absolutely anything. And that’s the beauty of it. One important thing though, a mini-retirement doesn’t mean you should stay at home and binge-watch your favorite tv series on Netflix. You can definitely do that, yes, but that’s something you can do on any given weekend.

You’d want to spend your mini-retirement doing what you’re passionate about. Think about what excites you. What keeps you awake at night (aside from your neighbors doing videoke at 1am)? If you haven’t closely thought about that, try the exercise from the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Begin with the end in mind. What you need to do is to think forward in the future when you’re already successful, however you may define success. But imagine that you’re attending your own funeral. Listen in on the conversations of your friends and family. What contributions and achievements do you want them to remember? Thinking about this will help you understand what you’re truly passionate about.

If you’re still not sure of what you want to do, here are a few suggestions:

  • Travel. This one’s a no-brainer and is probably the most popular way of spending your mini-retirement.
  • Learn something new. Have you always wanted to learn a new language? Maybe try out archery? How about painting? Or even calligraphy. The options are endless. Who knows, you might fall in love with the activity so much that you might even start a new career.
  • Spend time with family. When was the last time you had quality time with your family? Maybe you haven’t even seen them for a while. Did you have any cousins that you were close with when you were young? Reconnect with them.
  • Volunteer. Give back to the community. Use your skills to help others. If you haven’t experienced volunteering, you should. It’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.
  • Grow spiritually. Join a Bible group or take meditation retreats. Use this new-found freedom to grow a more intimate relationship with God.

I’m not ready!

What if I run out of money? Then go back to work. Remember, this is a mini-retirement. You can always go back to work whenever you want to. You are in control. You choose when you take a break and when you go back to work.

But I have a gap in my resume now. This is the amazing part. If you tell the interviewer that you took, say, a year off, he’d likely be impressed. Most people only dream of taking mini-retirements. Showing people that you have done what they could only dream of is quite impressive.

I already have a good job, what if I can’t find a similar job? But what if you find an even better job? If you’re worried about not finding a job, you can always retool. Study new things and explore new avenues in making money.

If you wait until you're ready, you'll be waiting for the rest of your life.
If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll be waiting for the rest of your life.

But I’m not single. What am I going to do with my family? Bring them along, of course! There are a lot of people who have successfully taken mini-retirements even when they have 5 kids. FIVE KIDS!!! If they can do it, so can you. All you need is a little planning. Speaking of planning…

I think I’m ready. Where do I start?

Good young padawan, you’re ready to begin your journey. But before you do, there’s one very important thing you have to do.

Plan

This is not a decision that you should take lightly. You need to know exactly what you want to do. What you want to achieve from it and how you want to finance it.

You don’t need to resign immediately. Consider arranging a remote work agreement with your company. Not all companies allow this, but you wouldn’t know unless you try.

Where do I get the money?

Once you know what want to do, know how much you’re going to spend on it. Research on how it would cost you. Airfare, accommodation, food, etc. Once you’ve mapped that out, add at least 20% to it. It’s not uncommon for people to spend more than their budget so be prepared.

Once you know how much it would cost, start saving. Do not leave your work if you don’t have the finances to support it. If you don’t have any savings, then start saving.

You can also augment your finances with freelance work. Think about what skills you could leverage. Do you do photography? Video editing? Copywriting? Social media management? These are all work you can do at home outside of your day job. This would make it faster for you to save and even fund your travels while you’re on your mini-retirement. Now be careful when you take this path. Remember that you’re taking a mini-retirement not switching careers. Make sure you still do the things that you enjoy. Unless of course you enjoy doing your freelance gig a lot then you might end up switching careers which is more common than you think.

Another important thing to consider. Pay off debts. The sooner you take care of your financial debts, the sooner you’d be financially free.

Anything else I need to know?

  1. Surround yourself with supportive people. Taking a mini-retirement is an uncommon notion, specially in the Philippines. Most of the people around you would likely convince you to do otherwise. That’s normal but very frustrating. Before taking a mini-retirement, make sure you’re surrounded by people who believe in you and will support your decision. Lucky for us, our family completely supported our decision. Come to think about it, they weren’t surprised at all. They were more excited for us than us even. The value of this is immense and I can’t stress that enough.
  2. Don’t procrastinate. It’s very easy to put this off to another date. Maybe next year. But time flies so fast that 10 years has past and you still haven’t taken the leap. And even if you do take a mini-retirement, it would be very tempting to sit at home and spend time binge watching your favorite tv shows on Netflix but don’t succumb to it. Stick to your plan.
  3. Don’t look back. It would be very tempting to turn back to your former job as soon as you leave but don’t. If you’ve committed to taking a mini-retirement for 6 months, then do it.

Tips for the travelers

Let’s talk a little bit more about travel, this is a travel blog after all.

Where should I go? For your first mini-retirement, go to a place that’s accessible. A place that’s easy to reach and that you don’t need a VISA for. Also consider a country where you speak the language. Remember, you want this to be as smooth of an experience as possible.

Also, consider going to a country where you have family and friends. You’re not only experiencing a new culture but you’re also spending time with people who are important to you. When I was in the US for 4 months, I was bouncing between houses of friends and family. Just make sure you don’t go unannounced. If they’re cool with you staying at their place, then that’s great. And don’t leech off them entirely. Make yourself useful. Help with the chores. Buy them groceries. Mow the lawn. And if you’re an American reading this and you have Filipino friends, have them mow the lawn and pump gas. We enjoy those stupid things.

Travel is never a matter of money buy of courage - Paulo Coelho
Travel is never a matter of money buy of courage – Paulo Coelho

Deciding to take a mini-retirement can be hard. There’re so many choices and sacrifices you must make. But I want you to think about what’s really important. Time. Do you want to sacrifice your time for a company who would readily replace you? Or do you want to give your time to the person who deserves it most? You.

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