We were in the land of traffic jams and strip malls this summer, visiting family and friends who work for those big tech companies.
Over a glass of wine (or was it a bottle?) a friend popped the question… “So, you think you would be interested in working again? Our team is hiring… you could easily get a big salary and a juicy stock package.”
“Hmm, that sounds interesting“, I replied. “But I just don’t think I could find the time.”
This wasn’t a sufficient answer, I soon learned. (An aggressive type-A personality is a common trait amongst my Bay Area techie friends.)
“Can’t find the time!? But, what do you do all day?!”
What do you do all day?
I’ve been asked this question literally hundreds of times by now. And really, it is the wrong question.
A day is much too short of a time span to do anything. Take it easy; relax, man. I didn’t enjoy the structure while working, why would I impose it now?
But I suppose we do have a theme: we travel when we feel restless, relax when we need to recharge, and create when we feel inspired. Intertwined with everything we do, we are nurturing an energetic little (now almost 2 year old) adventurer.
We’ve been ambitious travelers as of late. Over 12 months we visited 16 countries across Europe, North America, and SE Asia. A healthy chunk of that was free or heavily discounted. In a few weeks we will return to Europe, where we will visit France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Greece, to start. This will bring the total in 5 years to 30, plus or minus.
This is our version of slow travel. We will settle in one location for weeks or months, and then go forth once again.
While we were working, Winnie used to make elaborate spreadsheets for our vacations. Time was precious. Now, our pace of travel ebbs and flows; there is really no need to rush. Some days we walk 10+ km exploring a city, others we don’t make it much further than the nearest playground adjacent coffee shop. Our commute is the occasional flight or train, but seldom enough that moving from point A to B is still enjoyable.
Based on 5 years of experience, the *right* amount of travel is in the range of 6 – 8 months per year. Let’s call it 1/2 (50%) versus the 1/12 (8%) we had before. More than that might be too much, because sometimes you need to…
Listening to your body is something I’ve only recently experienced.
“Get out of bed, you’ll be late for school!”
“Listen, are you gonna have those TPS reports for us this afternoon?”
“Some jerkface manager can’t make a schedule, so now Saturday is mandatory to make up lost time.”
“You go to bed, Winnie, I have to finish this presentation for the exec review tomorrow.”
From an early age it seems that we are shaped to the world, rather the other way around. Those who fit the mold are a “good boy”, a “model student”, and a real “go getter.” Those who don’t will “never amount to anything.”
But… maybe I would be more interested in school if I slept for another couple hours.
Maybe instead of writing TPS reports, I would rather play guitar, read true stories of modern life, or… just do nothing.
Maybe I would be more productive if I didn’t come to work on Saturday. Or Friday. Or Thursday.
After a few years of experimentation, I think the right amount of annual laziness is 3 to 4 months. Isn’t that about the amount of time we had off of school as children?
Recharging goes remarkably well with travel. I can literally do nothing, anywhere.
And the lazier I get, the more inspired I become to…
Raised in the Protestant work ethic, practicing the Art of Laziness felt weird at first. But I rather enjoy letting my hands be the devil’s workshop.
Winnie is much better at it than I am. She recently published her first book, a collection of travel stories and photos with a bit of financial voodoo mixed in. She has another in the works. (Both are in Chinese only, sorry.) She managed to do this while keeping me in line and even creating a whole other human being!
I’ve embraced my natural curiosity for how things work and applied it to getting free flights and hotels and hacking our taxes. Since I was figuring this stuff out anyway, I wrote a bunch of it down on the Internet; blogging has got to be one of the coolest creative releases ever invented. I’ve also occasionally lifted heavy things and recently started playing the ukulele, a nice little travel instrument.
If I had to do any of this stuff to get a grade or earn a living, or even on a fixed schedule, I would probably hate it. That adage of find what you love and you’ll never work a day never seemed accurate to me.
But engaging in productive activities is fun from time to time… maybe 2 to 3 months out of the year, but not consecutively.
Jr has been our constant companion these past 2 years (and really, a few months longer than that.) Everything we do is through the lens of doing right by him.
He and I are good buds. I was there for his first breath, saw his first steps, and heard his first words. We play cars, read books, play the ukulele and sing songs, go swimming, and go on long bike rides under the airport flight path (our current bicycle is known as the “daddy car.”) Sometimes we get so exhausted that I’m forced to take a nap with him.
In many ways, parenting is a full time job. In other ways, it is not a job at all. But if I pause and look at the outside world for guidance, it appears that we could outsource this role so we could once again become respectable members of society.
I rather enjoy the current approach, however. It’s nice having the little guy underfoot.
Total time: 24/7/365, and then some
So I have to wonder…
How did I ever have time for a job?
Between traveling, recharging, and creating, it looks like I’m already trying to cram 15 months into each year.
Add parenting to that, and I’m severely over booked.
What do you do all day?
Like to travel? By far the best travel is free travel (imho.) See how we use credit card rewards programs to fly and stay for free.