(Updated Labor Day Weekend 2021 from Malay, Aklan, Philippines.)
Most middle-class Americans take Labor Day to decompress, relax, and enjoy a long weekend near the end of summer. If they are lucky, they won’t think about work (too much).
I worked in TV news for years. My ego took a big blow when I was laid off, even though I had expected the cost-saving, strategic business move. I debated bailing out of the ‘rat race’ to retire early. It was a always the plan to retire as soon as possible and travel – but we didn’t try to retire as early as we did. And yet, we thank our lucky starts it worked out this way.
It took a year for me to say “early retirement” or to tell people I was “early retired” without feeling really strange. I was middle class – not independently wealthy.
This blog is the only “job” I have now. I have a ton of free time. I wrote a book during the pandemic in the Philippines. We have volunteered here, and in Greece and in Mexico. We have lived in affordable and exotic locations from Montenegro to Malaysia. We are seeing the world. We are living as we had dreamed. (The current pandemic travel pause won’t last forever.)
It’s amazing to sample food in the countries we visit, instead of eating in the work cafeteria. It’s a pleasure to listen to people who live in the places we visit, instead of hearing about numbers in another meeting.
I no longer win any awards, or celebrate promotions. But my life today pays me so much more: shared and valued time with people from other countries; new knowledge about other cultures; a better, deeper understanding of humanity – including of my own benevolence, which has grown in these last four years of our travels. (Wow! I can hardly believe it — it’s been more than four years since I took off for Tulum!)
I no longer have deadlines, meetings, endless unopened email, litigation threats. No more electronic time cards and strict evaluations. Some of things are necessary evils to a degree, but I’m not interested in business as usual.
It took intentional effort and hard work to have the option of an early retirement. I made frugal decisions throughout my life once my student loans were settled up. I never bought a house, I decided not to have children, I lived well below my means, and I saved money. Tedly lived below his means, decided not to have children, saved his money, invested his money, and helped me invest.
On Labor Day now…
We can enjoy Rojak or Ais Kacang in Penang Island, Malaysia. We can swim in Adriatic Sea with stunning cliffs in Kotor, Montenegro. We can explore caves and bays in Vietnam, beaches in Thailand or the Philippines. We can get a culture fix at the Vatican Museums. We can do whatever we like. And it’s like that every day.
Even on this travel pause, I can chose what I want to do: swim? Read a book? Write a book? Share a blog post? There also are choices of friends to visit and volunteer projects to work on, with the Ati indigenous tribe, for example.
I wonder why more people don’t take our route. Plenty of people tell me all the time: you’ve got the life, don’t you? Well, yea, thanks, I do… but it took work to get here.
And yes, there are definite risks. My income stopped in the prime of my life. Health care can be a challenge. Also, I miss my family.
But there also are huge payoffs. Just check out the pictures below to see what I mean.
After the long Labor Day weekend, some Americans will go back to their jobs with a plan for early retirement and/or a budget travel lifestyle.
If you are one of them, the pictures below are for you: Adriatic views, Moroccan mountains and deserts, sunsets and clear seas in Belize, jungles and volcanoes in Guatemala, fine art in Europe, Maya ruins and siestas in Mexico, famous beaches in the Philippines.
In the crush of the daily grind, try to remember the relaxed and peaceful, long Labor Day weekend can be the reality of all your days.
If we can do it, you can, too.
I’ll end with five points to keep you on track to your realization of a budget travel lifestyle in early retirement.
5 checkpoints toward making every day like Labor Day
- Embrace experiences over things
- Control spending: live below your means
- Consistently save money – the earlier the better
- Make wise investment choices
- Be courageous and relentless
Stick to your plan, and we’ll see you out here one day.
More inspiration for retired budget travel:
- Pep talk: Travel the world in retirement
- Do you have 2k? You can live here a month, comfortably
- How we retired early to travel the world
- Life is now: I got breast cancer at 46 years old