The 9 Then 3 Lifestyle

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?