Earlier this year, after my last job as a Product Manager at a small drone startup, I decided it was time for a mini retirement. I had been reading Timothy Ferris’ book, the 4-hour workweek, where he talks about taking mini retirements throughout one’s lifetime. A common misconception about these short retirements is that you would need to save up money for these trips, similar to how you would save up money for a house, a car, or anything else.
That’s not always the reality, especially when you’re coming from living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, San Francisco. For 2 years prior I’d already hacked my rent and expenses in San Francisco, but even that wasn’t enough. My rent was over $1700, I would be paying more than $300 a month in Ubers/Lyfts, and let’s not even get started on the exorbitant cost of going out to eat or drink in the city. It adds up pretty quickly.
My goal for this mini retirement was to save more money than I would usually spend in the same period of time in San Francisco. South East Asia was a fairly easy choice. I’d never been to the region before, and with it’s low cost of living it would be an ideal location. In order to get to that objective, I’d set a budget of $2000 a month for my trip, including the cost of my flights, hostels, food, and other activities. I know this is far more than most people I know, but that’s my average monthly cost in San Francisco, usually more on certain weekends. If I could break even on my costs, I would consider that a success.
Within 3 days, I found a sublessee to take over my lease for 2 months, and I booked a one way ticket to Bangkok with a mixture of points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve and united airlines points. I was $200 out of pocket for that ticket. The hostel I found for the night was $8/night, not a bad start to the trip. I ended up staying in Bangkok for about a week at a hostel near Khao San road. I’d eat street food to save money, but even with the occasional eating out, I was within budget. When it came time to head up north to Chiang Mai, I found a cheap flight ticket for $67 from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Leaving Bangkok, I was at about $360 out of pocket.
I spent about 2 weeks travelling Chiang Mai, visiting an elephant sanctuary, the sticky waterfalls, and the “Grand Canyon” waterpark. I was able to rent a motorbike to travel around the city for $4 a day plus gas. The hostels were around $8 a night as well. And I was able to get street food for less than $1 a meal. Following Chiang Mai, I booked a bus to a small town in the mountains of Thailand, Pai. I ended up staying at the Circus hostel which was a little pricier at $20 a night, but food was around the same. Leaving Chiang Mai and Pai after 3 weeks, I had only spent $730.
After 4 weeks in Thailand, I had spent a total of $1090, almost half the cost of my monthly expenses in San Francisco, leaving me plenty of leftover budget for a trip to Vietnam and Halong Bay.
While I know these exact circumstances don’t apply for everyone, it’s very easy to see the cost savings of taking a mini retirement. You don’t necessarily need to save up money, and it doesn’t need to be expensive.
What’s important is committing to the idea that you need a little break. Not just a weekend or week long vacation with family and friends. But a mini retirement that allows you to relax, recuperate, and hit the ground running!