The 9 Then 3 Lifestyle

The 9 Then 3 Lifestyle post image

One of the most intriguing ideas in The Four Hour Work Week is the concept of ‘mini-retirements.’ The possibility that, if you effectively automate your business, you can take off to different parts of the world for 3 months at a time and have a travel adventure.

It’s funny, because so many of us, myself included, read that idea and implemented it in a completely different way. We sold our stuff, cut our leases, said ‘peace out’ to friends and family (or recruited them to join), and took off.

It turns out that automating a source of income can take years, but disconnecting your paycheck from your location is fairly easy stuff, particularly if you are willing to take a pay cut.

In the mid-2000’s, all of a sudden, reasonable quality global phone calls were cheap. Having just a few clients, customers, or a remote job meant a license to travel the world.

For many of us, however, that income wasn’t enough to sustain a permanent base in our home country and travel.

Enter slow traveling. Going from country to country, lease to lease, and visa to visa in timeframes ranging from 3 to 12 months.

For the first few years living this way, I didn’t visit home often. “Going home” could easily cost me 15-20% of my annual income, a risk to the sustainability of my business.

Those early years on the road were fragile financially for me. My sister had a wedding party, but I wasn’t willing to fly home to celebrate with her. I spent at least one New Year’s Eve without getting together with my best friends (a tradition we’d been maintaining since we were 16).

But as the years went on, and the time I spent (with Ian) growing our business, started to pay off an opportunity arose: I could keep my lease back home and travel at the same time.

And now that I’m in my 30’s, and hang with many at that age, I’m hearing the numbers nine and three over and over again.

Nine months at a home base, three months traveling to favorite locations. (It’s not so different from the traditional “summer home” archetype that many successfully retired people adopt. This is also the lifestyle of lots of teachers and professors, who select those jobs specifically for the 9 and 3 benefit).

On paper, the nine months seems like an ideal amount of time to focus on work, health, local community, hobbies, and building friendships.

The three months offers plenty of time to learn new skills, meet new people, attend conferences, visit family, and chase the sunshine.

There’s an even a more granular formulation I’m hearing repeated– ‘nine, two, and one’. Nine months at a personal home base, two months travel, and one month spent at a ‘home’ location close to family (many in my generation do not live in the metro area that they were raised in).

I only write about it to say that, I’ve heard it so many times, it seems that something clearly resonates about the idea of splitting one’s year into nine and three. As more of my location independent peers seek to build their own home bases, I notice that they continue to carve out three months of the year to enjoy the lifestyle they’ve sacrificed so much to achieve.

What do you think of the 9 to 3 lifestyle?



Published on 08.30.16
  • Doppler

    Though still not a lifestyler, I’d love to take a month every 3 of work, or something in between. I think 3 months off in a row disconnects you too much from your projects

  • ” ‘Going home’ could easily cost me 15-20% of my annual income” –> been there, and definitely glad to be past that phase!

    I’m totally on board with the 9 and 3 lifestyle. The reason I’ve never wanted to be “permanently nomadic” is because I DO want to develop friendships and invest in community in a home base location.

    I also want to have a place that’s permanently mine. With a comfortable desk chair (I didn’t used to care about such things, but after working sitting on a wooden floor for 6 months in London and having back pain issues… I now care a lot!) and other favorite things that I don’t want to transport constantly – bikes, musical instruments, etc.

    I too would probably spread the 3 months out over the year instead of taking them all in a row. My month in Germany/Spain this year was long enough to do awesome things, and then by the end of it I was getting antsy to jump back into work (especially after all the sweet business ideas sparked by DCBCN).

  • yeah that’s a good point, my sense is that most of the people talking about 9 and 3 intended to work the whole way through and only take when necessary

  • makes sense to me. aside from local community, one thing i missed was a personal gravity that comes with having a permanent home, i found myself always making plans on other people’s terms because mine were uncertain. now that mine have a bit more concrete in them, those close to me can ‘sorta’ plan or make expectations based on my commitment.

    perked up my interest to see some in the DC actually taking full monitors in their luggage.

    yeah I think that first phase of either/or is fascinating and not really well understood. both home and adventure (tend to be) expensive ongoing costs.

  • Good point about the concreteness/fluidity of plans. When my plans are too fluid, I find that I spend too much mental energy deciding and weighing up options/possibilities and coordinating with others… that’s time and mental space I could be spending on my business, or on being fully present in what I HAVE committed to instead of being like “oh hey wait there’s this other trip I could go on…”

  • there’s a lot to say about that! at some point, it (slow travel) stops being fun, and then you can just make one giant and expensive decision (provided you can afford and / or stomach it). HOME :)

  • I think a VERY workable model once you have your business out of the “Danger Zone” (the first 2-3 years) would be 3+1.

    3 months at home where your business best works, 1 month on the road. It’s 9+3 without so much time away.

  • Now that I have been back in the USA (from Japan) for a few years, I can now say that my basecamp® (I am claiming that….sorry DHH…lol) is officially set up in Austin. With a kiddo in elementary school now I can’t be as mobile as I was in the past. That said, we have been following the ‘9 and 3’ pretty closely with extended stays in Japan (inlaws and lots of friends) and _________ (insert location here) other places that tickle our fancy. I think the biggest problem I can see is trying to stay away from getting into that consumer mindset with loans, bills, etc. As long as you keep the mobile lifestyle mindset as close to heart as possible, and have your business/work as location independent as possible…it’s a win win in my book.

  • Makes sense, also like extended ‘hub and spoke’ model, just heading out when you need to and extending every ‘productive’ trip for a little adventure. It’s nice to have that default set-up for when the “i’m done” feeling strikes

  • word, congrats you have officially joined the cool kids club. seems like Austin has seen the biggest uptick in blog readers in the past year. my FOMO is assuaged by massive amounts of tapas.

  • Jake Schuster

    I think that’s most sensible, and it exists in a good handful of industries. In elite sport, the season is often ~10months including preseason, with enforced ~2 months of downtime on top of a Christmastime break. Going “home” to family for the holidays plus a different 2 month sabbatical-esque trip every year seems a decent way to do it. Many in my industry do one of those months doing professional development visits on a different continent + 1 month “holiday”. Pretty neat, though of course the tradeoff is essentially only one half-day off per week for ten months!

  • interesting about the athletics, certainly 9-3 holds for pro cycling :P

  • Crazy how the internet/technology has allowed us to be more free yeah? I used to want to travel 3 months a year from my home base in San Francisco. But it’s more like 1 month a year of international travel nowadays.

    I’m usually between San Francisco, Honolulu, and Lake Tahoe for 3 – 6 months b/c of family and vacation property.

    But if I go back to Asia (was there in 2014) again, I’d love to stay for at least 1 month if not 3 months next time. It would be a blast!


  • planning on another 3 month go in a few weeks, can’t wait! :)

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