My passion for ice cream is no secret. There’s a local place I adore. Often I get a single scoop in a waffle cone. But sometimes I feel like there has been a large shortage of ice cream in my life and I will order a double. And it’s delicious. While I enjoy every second of eating it, when it’s over, I’m not sad. I’ve had my fill for the day. I’ve never ordered a double scoop waffle cone then gone back for another. Partly because I know there will be more double scoops to come. This isn’t the last time I’ll ever eat ice cream.
This is why I love mini-retirements so much. Those breaks filled with family time, hobbies, travel, growth, or adventure filled me up. When we started our 5th mini-retirement, I knew it would be at least a year. I define a mini-retirement as stepping away from the 9-5 for a month or a few years to focus on things that matter to you. A year would be our single scoop of ice cream. But it turns out I really wanted a double. Part way through the first year that became apparent.
Double scoop, please!
So we extended the mini-retirement one more year. Partly because we wanted more travel and adventure. Partly we still weren’t caught up on house projects or decluttering. And partly because I had started writing during that first year and wanted to give it a bit of time and see where that might land.
As we rounded year two, I had one more big trip on the books. Our 10 week trip to 10 National Parks. That was six months out and I knew that wasn’t getting crossed off the list.
Part way through our trip I had that feeling of finishing a large double scoop waffle cone. It was delicious and perfect but I didn’t need more just yet. Maybe tomorrow or next week. But not right at this moment.
Now we are working at finding the perfect mix. The life we would never want to quit because it contains everything we love in the right proportions. Each season will look different because it can bend and flex as life changes. Honestly, the lines between recreating, hobbies, work, family time, and rest are really blurred. Often my hobbies, recreating or family time could be called work. But to me, it just feels like stuff I love. Different flavors of ice cream mingled in the same cone.
Phase One for us was getting to where Work was Optional. Phase Two was figuring out how to design the life we really love.
The perfect mix will probably have a month or two of travel and adventures each year. It will probably have a few focused months where I create or do something I’m really excited about or proud of. A bit of structure and a bit of flexibility. We are testing and building our ideal Day-Week-Year.
Mini-Retirements vs Traditional Retirement
Have you ever loved your job, but still enjoyed the weekend? Or were so excited to start gardening in the Spring but happy to wrap things up in the Fall?
We are wired to love variety. We can enjoy our favorite meal, but look to eating something else for dinner the next night.
Variety is the spice of life. It allows us to enjoy each thing more.
Traditional Retirement functions on the idea: Do this one thing for 30 years straight, then do this other thing for 30 years.
That system worked OK. Jobs were really stable and safe and would take care of you for the first 30 years then they would keep taking care of you with a pension for the next 30.
But times they are a changing.
Companies changed the contract. They broke their end of the deal first. They said, “We’ll take care of you when it works out for us. As soon as it doesn’t, best of luck on your own.”
What do we do when the “safe” option is no longer safe?
We look for new options.
We use to sacrifice variety for safety. Safety was taken off the table.
Why are the ideas of financial independence, mini-retirement or lifestyle entrepreneurs becoming more popular? We are building our own safety. And figuring out how to combine variety with safety.
When I work with people we find the variety of life that is a perfect mix of everything they love. It’s like pulling 20 ingredients into a great feast. Each thing finds it’s proper place on the table, in the right proportion.
Then we figure out how to make it safe. One job, one income, one boss isn’t as safe as it used to be.
Earn $2000 a month from a 9-5 job and spend $1900 a month on bills and essentials isn’t a safe plan.
Life doesn’t just have to be one thing for 30 years.
You can mix together some investments, some passive income, a bit of adventure, low expenses or occasional high expenses, a hobby, passion income and interesting work into your own perfect dinner feast. You create a plan for 5-10 options. Each year can bend and flex to meet the whims of the economy and life.
Maybe you love your work right now. Is there a way we could mix in a bit more variety? Or could you find a job that offers work that’s a better fit for your skill set or lifestyle?
Or maybe you are just pushing through.
I’m good at pushing through. I’m good at dealing with nonsense. I’m good at pushing rocks up hills. I’m good at keeping my head down and getting stuff done. It’s how I got from point A to point B. But that mindset won’t take me where I’m going next.
Maybe that’s your season right now. But maybe you have some other options. Maybe you have pushed the rock uphill long enough and now you can look for an easier path.
I think “Jump and the net will catch you!” is ill-advised and a bit lazy. You can learn how to weave nets. You can build a few nets. And you can slowly make changes in your life. Ones that actually add safety and variety.
If you have created a bit of financial freedom: paid off some debt, created a gap between your income and your expenses, started to invest, built some passive income or some passion income, maybe it’s the right time to start using that freedom to slowly start building the lifestyle you don’t ever want quit.