In pursuit of financial independence and personal fulfillment

What it’s like when people find out you’re going ‘nowhere’

Reactions have been interesting since I announced my intention to take a mini-retirement.

I’ve heard from so many people who have done just what I plan to do. Most of them describe it as a pivotal experience of their lives — a time when their vision of what they wanted out of life crystallized in ways they hadn’t anticipated when it began.

I want to soak up as many lessons as I can from everyone who tells me about these experiences.

What did they learn that they wished they knew when they started? How long did it take to get used to the change in how they managed time? What would they do more of? Less of? How is that experience still affecting their lives today? What was it like to return to what they were doing or start something new?

I have also spoken with many co-workers since word started getting around that I was leaving. The news has gotten around slowly, and every day or two someone comes up to say they heard I was leaving. Someone else overhears and asks where I’m going. When I say, “Nowhere. I’m taking three months to a year off to work on some things, travel, spend time with my family and figure out how I want to spend the next few years,” there’s a pause. It takes a second.

“That sounds amazing! I wish I could do that,” several said. They get it. At least, they get the concept. Not many understand the execution.

Thanks be to the FIRE people

Without putting in all the time to implement the things I’ve learned from the many personal finance blogs and podcasts and books and videos and conversations I’ve been privy to, I wouldn’t have understood it either. When you put that knowledge to action, you increase your resources and reduce or contain your expenses. With that, you greatly increase your options.

I’ve gotten a small taste of what if feels like to have F-you money.

My boss has offered me every option available to him to keep me on and give me more freedom. Part-time, half-time, semi-work-from-home, take three months off and come back. Honestly, these are never options I would have brought up to him because he’s made it clear in the past that he doesn’t like them. I’m shocked how willing he is to offer alternative arrangements. I feel like those are being offered largely because I’m in the unusual position of being able to call my own shot.

If I thought I could take any of those and give him what he needs while giving me what I need, I would jump on it in a second. I like my boss. He’s a good guy doing good work. But I don’t think even going half-time would truly give me what I feel like I need, which is a clear head and the space to dream.

The blog is called I Dream of FIRE, and I’m not yet close to financial independence, but this mini-retirement will give me the opportunity to see whether my dreams really are an early retirement lifestyle or if I just need to get in a new scene.

I’m buying a sturdy Southern rocking chair and a whittling knife

People ask what I’m going to do with my time. I’m definitely planning to structure it to some degree to make sure it’s useful. I have no intention of spending day after day in front of the TV or playing games or “wasting time.” That doesn’t mean I intend to fill every minute with “personal development,” either.

The other day I caught up on a School of Greatness podcast with Manoush Zomorodi, author of “Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self.” She talked about a lot of interesting studies and science that shows the value of what we call boredom.

So much of our time is spent filling in the gaps between activities with social media, web surfing and games that we don’t our minds to enter the “default state,” which is the sort of auto-pilot mode you enter when you’re folding laundry or taking a shower and you don’t have to actively think about the task at hand. That allows your mind to creatively wander and make important connections that lead to great discoveries.

By intentionally putting yourself in situations where your mind can enter this default state, you enable creativity and find meaning. This is something I’ll definitely explore during my break.

I am also going to read — a lot.

I used to read for fun all the time. Then I became a copy editor and got paid to read every day, and that took a lot of the joy out of it. That certainly isn’t everyone’s experience, but it was mine. After spending all day reading critically, the last thing I felt like doing was reading more.

Since then, I’ve had spurts of reading here and there. I’m hoping to rekindle some of that joy of reading that I had back when.

In addition to Bored and Brilliant, some of the other books I’ll be reading (and probably reviewing here) are:

I’m also going to figure out a system that works for me to take note of all the great things I read and hear and pick up along the way that I want to implement. I tend to hear these great ideas and then only remember 30 percent of them, and I implement even fewer.

I need a system to catalog these ideas, implement them and track the results. A brilliant idea unimplemented isn’t much good.

I would be interested if anyone has a system they use to do this.

I know my colleagues will be interested to see what happens next for me. They know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Many of them want to do the same thing. Maybe my experience will be the catalyst for others to take their own pause to re-evaluate life. Whatever form that takes.


  1. Susan @ FI Ideas

    I took an “accidental” mini-retirement in 2006 when my consulting gig with my former employer ended. Eight glorious months off and then I was back to tons of hours in engineering. We were actually FI then, but my husband freaked at the idea of my quitting then. Four years later, he was more convinced and since has joined me.

    I really learned a lot in those eight months that prepared me better for real retirement. The biggest lesson was that many people see your free time as theirs to fill. Requests for other people’s ToDo lists are easy to say yes to. It is hard to say no when your excuse is that you plan to spend the day whittling in a Southern rocking chair. I hope you learn how to explain that in a “thanks, but” way. Good luck!

    • I Dream of FIRE

      That’s great advice, thanks! I definitely want to be helping others, but I need time to help myself as well.

    • Mike Christensen

      Thank you for your thoughts and perspective. My wife and I have similar thoughts and feelings and are discussing how to identify and work through our options…will keep you posted.

  2. Mrs.Wow

    Great post IDOF! It is so great to hear about your mini-retirement and laughable at how quickly your boss was to offer accommodations to keep you on. I commend you on staying true to your plan and not giving in to the offers. I’m sure that by having more time into your day to just be, something truly awesome will become of it. Can’t wait to celebrate with you in a few weeks!

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