Traveling After Financial Independence
Have you ever wondered where this whole idea of a “vacation” or “holiday” came from?
Just as we have the aristocracy to thank for our lawns, it turns-out we also have to blame those rich hoity-toity types for our modern “vacation” culture.
It all started back in the 19th century. Very few people had the extra funds and job flexibility to travel. Typically only the elites could afford such pleasures.
When the heat (and stench) of summer hit London (or the other great cities of Western Europe), all the elites would pack their bags and leave their home in the city. Where did they go? They headed for the family estate in the country. All for a little rest and relaxation.
In those days it was considered healthy to ‘vacate’ the city and spend the summer months in the country. Too bad only the richest people could afford to do so.
At first, travel was slow and difficult. Horses and carriages were the normal modes of transportation. Then came the invention of the railroads, which opened the doors of travel to people from all walks of life.
The railroad companies caught-on to this phenomenon, and decided they could further profit from travelers — they opened hotels and inns at key rail destinations. This made travel far more accessible to the common man (who didn’t own estates around the countryside).
Thereafter, each successive wave of technological revolution made travel more accessible to the lower classes: The automobile, luxury cruise liners, airplanes, and eventually jet aircraft lowered the barriers to entry for travel.
Traveling is now affordable and accessible to the masses. Historical monuments and National parks are now swarmed with people every year… and the lines at Disneyland are just stupid long.
Vacations Before FI
Vacations used to mean a lot to me. After months of the stressful work environment, a vacation was the chance to get away from it all. Mrs. Tako and I could take time to relax and ‘live a little’. We’d typically stay in a nice hotel and eat at some fine restaurants.
We’d travel about once a year and visit places like Mexico, Australia, Alaska, Japan, Florida, Canada and the UK.
Typically these vacations were short — perhaps only one or two weeks for the entire year. (That’s all the time-off our jobs allowed.) Even so, some of my best memories were made on those vacations… probably because I wasn’t stuck in an office all day.
Of course, trying to jam everything a destination has to offer into just one week is extremely tiring. We would typically pack every day with a full schedule of activities. By the time our vacations were over, I was so tired that going back to work didn’t seem like a bad idea.
Here’s what I learned from these early trips: Spending thousands of dollars trying to squeeze a year’s worth of life experiences into one or two weeks is no way to travel. Frankly, everything is a rush and it’s exhausting.
After reaching financial independence, we found our travel habits changing. First and foremost, we travel a lot more frequently, but these days it’s usually a “mini-trip”.
What’s a mini-trip you ask?
Mini trips are short trips that last only a few days. We typically visit a couple destinations within a day’s drive. These kinds of trips take very little planning, and are extremely low stress (perfect for families with young kids).
A recent example, is a two-day mini-trip we took to visit our local beaches. The weather was extremely comfortable on the coast, and it was a perfect opportunity for the boys to learn about our lakes and oceans.
The first day, we went to a nearby lake to play in the water and cool-off from the unbearable heat of the Pacific Northwest (80F). The kids had a ton of fun trying to throw buckets full of water at me.
Even the local police boat had fun spraying down wayward beach goers with a water cannon.
The second day of our mini-trip we spent at the ocean. There was an extremely low-tide that morning, which made for some great tide pool hunting (and a good learning experience for the boys).
It was a ton of fun to walk along the beach, and hunt for sea creatures trapped in the tide pools — even the adults had a great time.
After picking up one starfish to show the boys, I was then required to pick up every single starfish on the beach.
“Daaad. Pick up that starfish!”
“I just picked up a starfish, can’t you pick it up this time?”
“Nooo. It might bite me!”
So, I was the starfish-picker-upper guy all day. With a little effort, we were even able to captured a number of very lively crab and shrimp species.
Mini trips like this are fantastic because they’re extremely low cost (we pack our own food), low stress, and we often don’t even need a hotel room. On shorter trips, we simply drive home that night to sleep in our own beds.
Traveling on the weekdays is also great for avoiding crowds, and getting to our destination quickly.
Mini-trips are easy… so easy in-fact we end-up doing trips like this all the time; perhaps a few times a month.
Yes, We Slow Travel Too!
While mini-trips are great, we occasionally find ourselves wanting to travel a little further to more exotic locations.
Slow travel is the name of the game here. Instead of trying to squeeze everything into just a week, we now travel for an entire month!
There’s no need to rush back to work, and Mrs. Tako’s employer is perfectly fine with her taking the entire month off. (She has a very flexible job)
Last year we went to Hawaii, and this year our “slow travel” vacation will be a month in Japan.
While we’ve visited both of these destinations before, slow traveling to them is a little different:
- We don’t create an agenda for everyday of the trip. We simply plan-out a rough idea the night before.
- We don’t stay at luxury resorts or hotels anymore. That doesn’t mean stay we in dumps either. Usually we rent a house with a decent kitchen and laundry facilities. Sometimes they even have a pool!
- We eat out at restaurants rarely. Because our temporary home usually has kitchen facilities, we save ourselves a huge amount of time and money by cooking our own food.
- We avoid high-cost organized tourist attractions, and opt for free or low-cost activities. These usually involve the outdoors, museums, and “sampling” the local culture.
While some people might call this kind of vacation “hard work” because we’re cooking our own meals, I actually find it to be far less exhausting than a rushed trip.
The Irony of Freedom
The irony of this whole travel-after-FI game, is that I find myself actually wanting to travel less now that I have more freedom.
Life has changed. My work life used to be really stressful — late nights, long hours, and working on weekends. One reason I traveled was just to get a mental break from all the stress. If I was traveling to some distant location, it was far less likely that my boss was going to be sending me emails in the middle of the night expecting replies.
Now that we’re financially independent, life is very relaxed. My stress level is almost zero. I simply don’t need to travel in order to relax anymore!
The whole idea of hitting up popular tourist destinations to stay in crowded all-inclusive resorts now seems extremely unappealing. Those kinds of vacations are just expensive “cookie-cutter” experiences — the same experiences millions of other tourists have experienced. I’d rather make my travels a unique experience, instead of a carbon-copy of the exact same trip my old work buddies are posting on facebook.
So why do we travel now?
Mainly to learn new things, to visit family & friends, and to enjoy warmer climates when the winter weather hits.
Now, if you’ll excuse me — I need to get packing for our road trip next week!!
[Image Credit: Flickr1]
36 thoughts on “Traveling After Financial Independence”
I like slow-travel a lot. Our problem for the past few years is we have young children and their grandparents always want to see them, so our vacations end up being visits to South Korea to visit them. Not a vacation for us. This year, we’re planning a week-long getaway around Washington state. I realized last weekend that I haven’t even seen much of the state I’ve settled down in after retiring from the Army 3 yrs ago. Just went up the Space Needle for the first time!
I agree. Vacations packed with an agenda are not relaxing. Maybe it’s a good thing because you want to go back to work if even for a few days (if you’re not FI).
I like how financial freedom can give you a lot more options whether it’s working, traveling, or spending time with family. I totally agree that people want to go on vacation to relax and let off steam after months of hard work. A great time to relax and be with our family is important. I think the key is not to go overboard with all the expectations and expenses.
Very true! Set your expectations low and you’ll constantly be amazed and surprised by what life has to offer!
Great post Mr Tako. I am interested in hearing about your experience of cooking your own meals in Japan. I found it quite challenging to do meal preparation on a 3 week trip to Mexico. I was unfamiliar with many of the usual ingredients in the grocery store, and we were busy most days visiting sites of interest. It was just enough of a challenge that we ended up having more mac&cheese than I would prefer. Eventually we started eating the street food that was everywhere – both amazingly tasty and super affordable. Best wishes.
I wonder how Costco Japan prices compare to regular cheaper grocery stores? When we were in Kobe, we couldn’t get to Costco b/c we didn’t have a car but it would have been interesting to see what they had for sale.
If I somehow manage to stop at a Costco in Japan, I’ll be sure to let you know!
I’m pretty well-versed in Japanese cooking, so I don’t foresee a problem. 🙂
Street food is great too though! I’ll probably eat plenty of that also!
Oh my gosh, that is so funny about the police water cannon. Good to see the boys in blue having fun, hahaha. I love the idea of taking mini vacations. Granted, it’s a little easier to do once you’re further down the road to FIRE than we are right now. I think it’s better in many ways to take smaller, more affordable vacations on a higher frequency than an annual big shebang. I like the mini vacays because I actually get to relax instead of keeping our travel itinerary!
We enjoy the smaller ones too! They’re way less stressful, and quite affordable!
The only problem is, if you flying overseas it just doesn’t make sense to go for only a couple days. Hence our month in Japan.
Sounds wonderful and we did something similar when we lived in Argentina for 10 months. A lot of mini 3-4 day trips and some slow travel. My ideal would be to spend 6 months at a time living in a city and renting an apartment. I could rotate through by local. 6 months in Singapore. 6 months in Tokyo. 6 months in Hong Kong…then move to Europe, then Africa, then South America, ect.. I could easily see myself doing this for 4-5 years with visits back to the states for a month every year.
For now it is a dream, but a man can dream can’t he? I am not sure when it will be a reality but hopefully soon.
That sir, is a wonderful dream! 😉
Enjoy Japan! Sounds like you’re old hands there (and I suspect you may have roots, Tako-san), but if you’d like any recommendations let me know.
Mini-trips are certainly a great way to go – they can be as memorable and fun as longer trips but are much less expensive and much more flexible.
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How was Mrs Tako able to swing a whole month off from work? Or is she just joining you all for part of the trip?
I’m somewhere in the middle on trips- more than a few weeks becomes too routine for me and I start to take it for granted. We just did 9-10 days in Austria in April and that was really fun- we went to Vienna, Salzburg and Halstatt staying at AirBNB’s at the first two and a hotel at the latter. With a 4 year old, we pretty much limit the number of activities we do each day and ended up cooking the majority of our meals at home, which was affordable and delicious. Then when we did go out, even to a simple place- it was just great. I also got the chance to do some solo hikes and bike rides up some local mountains in the early morning of the day.
Life is good.
Mrs. Tako’s work is very flexible. She’ll be with us the entire trip.
Mini vacation and slow travel are great. Those trips are just my pace. We never liked visiting somewhere for a week and try to cram everything in. It always feel rushed and you don’t have a chance to get to know a place. Last year, we went to Thailand for 3 weeks and it was still feel rushed. Next time, we’ll stay much longer.
Have fun on your trip! Too bad you’ll miss the eclipse. We’re going camping at the beach for that. 🙂
Camping on the beach should be great viewing of the eclipse! (Perhaps a little windy though)
Slow travel is great. I used to be all about seeing as many places as quickly I can (I told Mrs. T that I saw Copenhagen in a weekend when I first met her and she just rolled her eyes). I have changed this mindset. A month in Japan sounds totally awesome, we plan to go back there once the kids are a little bit older. I’d love to go to Hokkaido in the winter time and be a ski bum. 😀
I haven’t been to Hokkaido yet, but I’ve heard great things about it! Hope you get there one day!
I am a huge fan of mini-trips. Sometimes all you need is a day or two of changed scenery to lighten the mood and create some excitement in life! Mr. Adventure Rich and I both work full time, but we live 40 minutes from extended-family owned cabins on a nearby lake. We are able to schedule several mini-vacations there each summer and the affect is amazing! We fee like we are thousands of miles from home and have the luxury of relaxation, but are basically in our backyard!
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I have taken one trip in almost 5 years of FIRE. It just isn’t my thing. I did Hawaii shortly after FIRE because I had always wanted to go. This coming September, Dad and I are doing a Mountain West trip to Yellowstone, the Tetons, and Glacier National Park. Probably about 9 days of road trip. It will probably be some time before I take another vacation after that.
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Five years!?! That sir, is amazing!
japan is my favorite country to visit.
make sure you stop by ohara japan. that little town is full of history and nature.
A quick google search turned-up 5 different Ohara’s. Could you be more specific?
this is the ohara i am talking about. 1 hour by bus from kyoto. the 5 temples alone will take at least a day. rural ohara will take another day although you need to speak japanese if you really want to explore this part of japan.
If you end up north of Tokyo let me know! I’d love to buy you lunch if you make it to Sendai 😀
Good luck with the trip. The weather here is suspiciously pleasant today -not too hot, not too humid. It can’t last…
I think we’re mostly going to be around the Osaka area, but if we’re up that way I’ll shoot you an email!
Slow travel is what my FI dreams are made of. I am so sick of only getting 1-2 weeks here and there.
Just say no to the cookie cutters and hell yes to the unique experiences!
Yeah, 1-2 weeks really doesn’t cut it, does it?
It’s a darn shame people don’t have more time to see the world…. the world might turn into a better place if we had more time to experience different places and cultures.
I am looking forward to the option of slow travel in FI. Part of my interest in setting my own schedule is also to see more of friends and family. I get Christmas week off and last year I did a museum with a friend on a Tuesday. Plus it seems like some weekends I wish I could be 3 places at once. If I could see people during the week, I could go to the event on the weekend.
The trip to Hawaii in the fall, we had something booked every day. Wednesday morning was free and not planning it I woke up early and sat on the covered porch and read my book. At the same time we saw and did so much and created these great memories!
We’ve taken a couple of mini-trips this year/weekend getaways. We rented a big beach house with family and everyone split the cost. It ended up being fun and cheap and luxurious! I look forward to the day when I can do some slow travel as well 🙂
Very nice pics by the way.
I love the thought of travel in retirement or semi retirement. I’m particularly interested in slow travel. I did two weeks in Costa Rica backpacking through it and it was an amazing experience. Japan would be awesome. Right now I’m lucky because I have a ton of hot points that I can use and comp the trip, but in the future I plan on being more active and travel a lot slower.
Wow, a month in Japan, that’s great! I just made Chicken Tonkatsu for lunch so I can imagine all the great ingredients (and fresh!) that you can get in Japan to cook with! Where about in Japan is your family planning to travel to? I love slow travel, sometimes the mini-trips are great too because even a one night camping trip away from the city gives you a different perspective and helps you feel refreshed!
So true. Travelling used to be about fitting in as much as possible because it’s a “get-away”, now it’s just our lives all the time and we LOVE it!
Glad you guys are enjoying travel (it really is travel, not vacations) after retirement without feeling like you NEED it.
I’m actually traveling right now! But I should be in bed sleeping instead of commenting on blog posts!
Good tips for anyone visits Japan. Hope it will be useful to me in my travel to there 😀
Thanks for sharing!