If I’ve been conspicuously quiet on this blog lately, there’s a solid reason: I’ve been traveling nearly nonstop.
One of the benefits of no longer Working for the Man is the ability to do whatever the heck I want, and “what I want” usually involves airfare.
Life hasn’t always been this way. There are three phases in a person’s quest for financial freedom: Start, Accelerate, and Escape.
Four years ago, when I first moved to Atlanta, I focused on building both my online business and my investment portfolio. I traveled very little. Those were the “Acceleration Years,” when I sacrificed all else for the sake of hitting Escape Velocity.
(“Escape Velocity:” The speed needed to break free from the gravitational pull of a massive body. In the context of the Afford Anything Rebellion, it’s the point at which your businesses and investments fuel your entire life, allowing you to break free from the workforce.)
Gradually, my systems locked into “Cruise Control.” (Yes, I realize I’m mixing metaphors.) My online business started running itself with less day-to-day micromanaging from me. My real estate portfolio blossomed into a completely passive enterprise (with the exception of the AirBnb unit, which I undertook as a fun experiment). Now I get to enjoy those fruits.
So this year, my life is starting to resemble the Travel Channel. Here’s a rough sketch of this year’s travel itinerary:
While some future dates are approximate (another benefit is flexibility, after all), I’m still looking at about 120 days of travel this year — almost 1/3rd of the year. I’m exhausted (but happy) just looking at it.
(BTW, I’ll be posting photos of these epic adventures on Instagram.)
Since the obvious follow-up question is “How can you afford this?,” I’ll touch on a few highlights:
– Travel slowly. This is the single most critical, game-changing piece of advice that I can give. The longer you stay in one spot, the lower the price-per-day.
Why? Two reasons: First, “transit” (airplanes, cars, etc.) is the most expensive piece of the equation, and second, the more time you spend in one place, the more you can act like a local.
Notice, for example, that I’ll be spending a full two weeks in Ireland, rather than frantically trying to country-hop over to Scotland or Wales or England. I’ll save those for a future trip. (Even that feels short; I prefer 1-2 months or more.)
The biggest bonus to “slow travel” is that you absorb the culture. You stay long enough to make friends, find your favorite grocery stalls, and take long walks to nowhere in particular.
Last year, I spent three weeks in Paris. I didn’t “do” the city in 2 days, followed by an insane train ride to Barcelona or Marseille or anywhere else. I planted myself in one spot for nearly a month, which simultaneously saved money while also allowing me to “experience” rather than just “view.” By the end, I knew my favorite bakeries, favorite public gardens, and favorite little reading nooks. I’d also met a handful of interesting people.
Which leads to my next point …
– Make friends. Stay with them when you visit. Return the favor when they come to visit you.
Don’t have any friends in a particular destination yet? Try couchsurfing.org, a website that connects travelers to hosts (for free), or rent a spot on AirBnb. Failing that, stay in a hostel or a guesthouse. Friends don’t let friends pay high-end hotel markups.
– Act like a local. Eat, drink, and recreate in the same way as the locals. In Paris, for example, I’d often see tourists at the pricey restaurants, while locals would grab bread, cheese, meat, and a bottle of wine, and picnic near the Seine.
– Run your own business. This is a double-edged sword: You’ll want to work enough that you’re on a legitimate business trip, but not so much that you’re spending all of your time in meetings or in front of a computer screen.
Travel for meetings or conferences, but keep your schedule light and build abundant free days. One good rule of thumb: Schedule one “free day” for each “full day” of work.
Of course, there’s the classic advice that forms the backbone of this blog:
– Afford anything, but not everything. Ruthlessly slash the costs that don’t matter, so you can spend lavishly on things you love.
It’s no secret that I’m passionate about travel, which is why I’ve been diligent about saving between 50 to 77 percent of my income over the past few years. I invest most of this into index funds and rental properties, which turns into passive income, which fuels more investments … and more travel.
I realize many of you will have a HUGE objection to most of the advice above: “But Paula, I only get 10 vacation days per year!”
I feel your pain. I used to have that problem, too. It drove me nuts.
Once upon a time, I accepted those shackles as part of “the adult world.” “Enjoy your childhood, kids — it’s all downhill from here!”
But life doesn’t need to be this way.
Almost a decade ago, I read a magazine article that changed my ideas about career and life.
I know, I know. That sounds dramatic. But just hear me out:
This article, which ran in Ski Magazine, explored the difference between recreational American vs. European skiers. The U.S. skiers wake up early, catch the first lift, spend the entire day on the slopes, eat a quick lunch, and go to bed early so that they can repeat their feat the following day.
In short: They’re hell-bent on maximizing their time on the mountain.
European skiers, by contrast, ate leisurely dinners, stayed up too late, slept in. They’d enjoy a few good runs down the mountain in the late morning and afternoon, followed by happy hour.
Yes, these are broad generalizations — but stick with me for a second.
The author of this article concluded that the reason these differences exist is largely due to vacation time. Americans tend to have far fewer vacation days than Europeans; 10 days per year is normal. If an American loses a single day on the mountain — say, due to a hangover — they’ve lost 10 percent of their possible ski time for the year. Efficiency, therefore, is essential.
Europeans, by contrast, often enjoy 20 to 35 vacation days per year. Losing a day on the mountain is no big deal. They can afford to relax; take it slow.
Now, I’m not an expert in the Sociology of Skiing, so I’m not going to debate the specific merits of this article. Instead, I’d like to focus on the broader premise: When you’re rich in time, you can embrace a laid-back approach to life.
This laid-back approach creates bigger savings, less stress, and an all-around more awesome experience.
And if your boss won’t grant you that time, you have two options: accept it … or fire your boss.
Fire Your Boss
“Firing your boss” can take many forms:
- Work for a different company.
- Career-shift into a field that gives you more freedom.
- Work for yourself, from your laptop, anywhere on earth.
- Create enough passive income that you reach Escape Velocity.
Here’s the irony:
You need freedom just to pursue these options.
If you’re struggling with debt, living paycheck-to-paycheck, or locked in an endless cycle of graduate-school-diploma-after-useless-graduate-school-diploma in a futile attempt to delay adulthood (you know who you are), your options are limited.
If you want the freedom to fire your boss, try this:
Quit Buying Crap. You don’t need J. Crew; you need thrift stores. You don’t need Chipotle; you need rice-and-beans at home. You don’t need the nice apartment; you can live with 4 roommates in a hovel. (If you own your home, rent your spare rooms.)
This lifestyle doesn’t need to last forever, but persist until you’re out-of-debt and saving at least 20 percent of your income. Split these savings between retirement accounts and creating a cash cushion. (Save 50+ percent if you want to hit Escape Velocity.)
Build a Cash Cushion. Nothing will lower your stress levels like a nice pile of cash in the bank. If you really want to fire your boss, you’ll need to stockpile at least 6 to 9 months of cash. (I had enough to support myself for 2+ years when I handed my boss a resignation letter, but that’s an extreme. You don’t need to go that far.)
Hustle. You can find an extra 10 hours per week. (That’s just one hour per day, Monday through Friday, plus 5 hours each weekend.) At $25/hr, this creates an extra $13,000 per year for your Fire Your Boss fund.
I’ve heard people say that they don’t want to hustle. They want to work only at their day jobs, without even temporarily pressing the accelerator. That’s a choice, but accept that this choice has consequences. You can either take it easy or create self-sustained freedom, but not both. You can afford anything, but not everything.
Step on the accelerator today; enjoy “cruise control” tomorrow.