Thousands of miles away from home and work, have given us the privilege to think about our life choices. Are we risking our chance at early retirement with the amount of travel we are doing? Are we losing the opportunity to save up and invest to be financially independent? Is it worth the trade?
Can we travel full-time?
We are enjoying our stay in Costa Rica so much, that my wife, as a joke, told me, “I don’t want to go home!” I laughed as I gently reminded her of our responsibilities back home and most importantly our financial independence goals.
If we do not go back home to work, we will be choosing to spend our dollars traveling over investing to achieve financial independence. To me, this will be no different from spending thousands of dollars on shopping sprees over financial freedom.
But is it the same though? If financial independence is at stake, is doing our trial retirements the same as purchasing tons of clothing, gadgets and trinkets?
The parable of the monk and the minister
Two best friends lived in a small village in a poor country. These two boys spent most of their childhood together, but they were set to walk two different paths.
One went to the palace to serve the king as a minister and the other in a monastery to become a monk. They will not see each other for many years.
One day, as the minister was walking in the village for duties requested by the king, he recognized his old friend sitting under a tree eating rice and beans out of an old wooden bowl.
They talked to each other to catch-up on the years that flew by while they were apart. The monk recounted that since they parted ways, he had been living in the monastery and going to the village to aid the poor. He wore the same robe every day and ate whatever people gave them, like rice and beans.
The minister took pity of what had become of his friend, wanted to suggest that he came back with him to the palace. He said: “You know, if you could learn to cater to the king you wouldn’t have to live on rice and beans.”
The monk contented to had seen his friend after all these years, replied. “My old friend, I am happy where I am and the freedom I enjoy. Perhaps, if you learn to live on rice and beans you wouldn’t have to cater to the king.”JLCollins – The Simple Path to Wealth
Two ends of the spectrum
This story to me is a reminder that people desire different things in life. That one life choice is not better than the other. Happiness to you might mean a suburban rich life filled with designer clothes, cars and fancy meals, but to another, contentment is a laid-back life with family in a small cottage having everything you need surrounded by nature.
The monk in this parable chose a life of simplicity and struggle, but it gave him a sense of fulfillment. He found his purpose in helping others and to devoting his time in silent contemplation. Purpose that he could have not found if he spent his hours catering to the king. His advice to his old friend stands on the truth that seeking riches and pleasures in life comes at a price, his freedom, and this is something that he is not willing to trade.
This is not, in any way, a judgement on the choices of the king’s minister. I get it. We ourselves desire the finest things that we could get our hands on, a beautiful home and the latest toys. But what if the price to get more stuff is to work more hours to get more money? If financial independence is the price? Will it still be worth it?
We came up with a better trade. It is worth more than the fanciest of things. Something that we want to keep on doing. A more valuable redemption of our time…
Traveling and trial retirements.
When we go away for weeks, we understand that we lose the opportunity to earn and save. This lengthens our timeline towards financial independence, there is a possibility that we may not retire as early as we thought.
It does not mean that we do not want to achieve financial independence anymore. We just felt that this is where we want to devote the time that we have now. We will never be at this point in our lives again (my wife 29, me 34 years old), and so we asked these questions.
What more do we wish to learn?
Where do we want to go?
What do we hope to experience?
The sweet spot to FI
Sad to say, but at this point in our life, we are not yet ready to travel full time. Unlike the monk in the parable, we cannot abandon working just yet, but maybe there is a sweet spot between leaving our jobs and working 40-hour weeks for the next 30 years. That sweet spot to us is where we have our necessities covered while enjoying the freedom to do trial retirements for weeks at a time.
How will that look like? Sacrifices will have to be made, budgets strictly followed, our wants gently trimmed. Saving for trial retirements must reflect on the budget. To do this we first select a couple of cities where we want to do our trial retirement. Next, we perform extensive research on the cost of living in the areas where we want to stay for a month. We decide where and how much, then we start saving aggressively towards it. Off we fly to the next destination, then we pay ourselves with the savings when we come back home.
Where is your sweet spot? That, I could not tell you because it is unique only to you. Do you and your family have the necessities to live comfortably? If you do, then you are very close. Now, it is just a matter of deciding which side of the spectrum you want your sweet spot to be.
Do you and your family want to enjoy the luxuries that this life has to offer? Then you may have to give work more of your time. Bills have to get paid first. Put off things that you want to do for a later time and make plans to spend time with the people you care for much later.
Do you want to spend more time doing things you want with the people you love? You may have to prioritize working less, that’s alright, you already got the necessities. Devote your time and energy enriching yourself and strengthening your bonds with others.
Take time to find it. When you do, please tell us about it in the comments below!
Is it worth it?
This is same line of thought we use to make our financial decisions. If we cannot have everything, then we understand that we must trade one for another. We make sure we experience life the way our future selves would thank us.
In our golden years, we want to bask in the memories that we made together when we were younger, still able to endure red-eye flights and hike the steepest of trails. We want to be able to tell strangers in the supermarket, our friends, or future grandkids, “Yes, we have been there!, Here are the things you shouldn’t miss.” That’s our sweet spot for now…
Yeah, our journey towards financial independence would take more time, maybe a couple of years more, but with confidence we can say that the trade will be worth it.