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Last but Not Least PRAISE FOR The 4-Hour Workweek “It’s about time this book was written. It is a long-overdue manifesto for the mobile lifestyle, and Tim Ferriss is the ideal ambassador. This will be huge.” —JACK CANFIELD, cocreator of Chicken Soup for the Soul®, 100+ million copies sold “Stunning and amazing. From mini-retirements to outsourcing your life, it’s all here. Whether you’re a wage slave or a Fortune 500 CEO, this book will change your life!” —PHIL TOWN, New York Times bestselling author of Rule #1 “The 4-Hour Workweek is a new way of solving a very old problem: just how can we work to live and prevent our lives from being all about work? A world of infinite options awaits those who would read this book and be inspired by it!” —MICHAEL E. GERBER, founder and chairman of E-Myth Worldwide and the world’s #1 small business guru “This is a whole new ball game. Highly recommended.” —DR. STEWART D. FRIEDMAN, adviser to Jack Welch and former Vice President Al Gore on work/family issues and director of the Work/Life Integration Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania “Timothy has packed more lives into his 29 years than Steve Jobs has in his 51.” —TOM FOREMSKI, journalist and publisher of SiliconValleyWatcher.com “If you want to live life on your own terms, this is your blueprint.” —MIKE MAPLES, cofounder of Motive Communications (IPO to $260M market cap) and founding executive of Tivoli (sold to IBM for $750M) “Thanks to Tim Ferriss, I have more time in my life to travel, spend time with family, and write book blurbs. This is a dazzling and highly useful work.” —A. J. JACOBS, editor-at-large of Esquire magazine and author of The Know-It-All “Tim is Indiana Jones for the digital age. I’ve already used his advice to go spearfishing on remote islands and ski the best hidden slopes of Argentina. Simply put, do what he says and you can live like a millionaire.” —ALBERT POPE, derivatives specialist at UBS World Headquarters “Reading this boo; k is like putting a few zeros on your income. Tim brings lifestyle to a new level—listen to him!” —MICHAEL D. KERLIN, McKinsey & Company consultant to Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund and a J. William Fulbright Scholar “Part scientist and part adventure hunter, Tim Ferriss has created a road map for an entirely new world. I devoured this book in one sitting—I have seen nothing like it.” —CHARLES L. BROCK, chairman and CEO of Brock Capital Group; former CFO, COO, and general counsel of Scholastic, Inc.; and former president of the Harvard Law School Association “Outsourcing is no longer just for Fortune 500 companies. Small and mid-sized firms, as well as busy professionals, can outsource their work to increase their productivity and free time for more important commitments. It’s time for the world to take advantage of this revolution.” —VIVEK KULKARNI, CEO of Brickwork India and former IT secretary of Bangalore; credited as the “techno-bureaucrat” who helped make Bangalore an IT destination in India “Tim is the master! I should know. I followed his rags to riches path and watched him transform himself from competitive fighter to entrepreneur. He tears apart conventional assumptions until he finds a better way.” —DAN PARTLAND, Emmy Award–winning producer of American High and Welcome to the Dollhouse “The 4-Hour Workweek is an absolute necessity for those adventurous souls who want to live life to its fullest. Buy it and read it before you sacrifice any more!” —JOHN LUSK, group product manager at Microsoft World Headquarters “If you want to live your dreams now, and not in 20 or 30 years, buy this book!” —LAURA RODEN, chairman of the Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs and a lecturer in Corporate Finance at San Jose State University “With this kind of time management and focus on the important things in life, people should be able to get 15 times as much done in a normal workweek.” —TIM DRAPER, founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, financiers to innovators including Hotmail, Skype, and Overture.com “Tim has done what most people only dream of doing. I can’t believe he is going to let his secrets out of the bag. This book is a must read!” —STEPHEN KEY, top inventor and team designer of Teddy Ruxpin and Lazer Tag and a consultant to the television show American Inventor [image: ] CHRONOLOGY OF A PATHOLOGY An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field. —NIELS BOHR, Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid. —HEINRICH HEINE, German critic and poet This book will teach you the precise principles I have used to become the following: [image: ] Princeton University guest lecturer in high-tech entrepreneurship [image: ] First American in history to hold a Guinness World Record in tango [image: ] Advisor to more than 30 world-record holders in professional and Olympic sports [image: ] Wired magazine’s “Greatest Self-Promoter of 2008” [image: ] National Chinese kickboxing champion [image: ] Horseback archer (yabusame) in Nikko, Japan [image: ] Political asylum researcher and activist [image: ] MTV breakdancer in Taiwan [image: ] Hurling competitor in Ireland [image: ] Actor on hit TV series in mainland China and Hong Kong (Human Cargo) How I got to this point is a tad less glamorous: 1977 Born 6 weeks premature and given a 10% chance of living. I survive instead and grow so fat that I can’t roll onto my stomach. A muscular imbalance of the eyes makes me look in opposite directions, and my mother refers to me affectionately as “tuna fish.” So far so good. 1983 Nearly fail kindergarten because I refuse to learn the alphabet. My teacher refuses to explain why I should learn it, opting instead for “I’m the teacher—that’s why.” I tell her that’s stupid and ask her to leave me alone so I can focus on drawing sharks. She sends me to the “bad table” instead and makes me eat a bar of soap. Disdain for authority begins. 1991 My first job. Ah, the memories. I’m hired for minimum wage as the cleaner at an ice cream parlor and quickly realize that the big boss’s methods duplicate effort. I do it my way, finish in one hour instead of eight, and spend the rest of the time reading kung-fu magazines and practicing karate kicks outside. I am fired in a record three days, left with the parting comment, “Maybe someday you’ll understand the value of hard work.” It seems I still don’t. 1993 I volunteer for a one-year exchange program in Japan, where people work themselves to death—a phenomenon called karooshi—and are said to want to be Shinto when born, Christian when married, and Buddhist when they die. I conclude that most people are really confused about life. One evening, intending to ask my host mother to wake me the next morning (okosu), I ask her to violently rape me (okasu). She is very confused. 1996 I manage to slip undetected into Princeton, despite SAT scores 40% lower than the average and my high school admissions counselor telling me to be more “realistic.” I conclude I’m just not good at reality. I major in neuroscience and then switch to East Asian studies to avoid putting printer jacks on cat heads. 1997 Millionaire time! I create an audiobook called How I Beat the Ivy League, use all my money from three summer jobs to manufacture 500 tapes, and proceed to sell exactly none. I will allow my mother to throw them out only in 2006, just nine years of denial later. Such is the joy of baseless overconfidence. 1998 After four shot-putters kick a friend’s head in, I quit bouncing, the highest-paying job on campus, and develop a speed-reading seminar. I plaster campus with hundreds of god-awful neon green flyers that read, “triple your reading speed in 3 hours!” and prototypical Princeton students proceed to write “bullsh*t” on every single one. I sell 32 spots at $50 each for the 3-hour event, and $533 per hour convinces me that finding a market before designing a product is smarter than the reverse. Two months later, I’m bored to tears of speed-reading and close up shop. I hate services and need a product to ship. Fall 1998 A huge thesis dispute and the acute fear of becoming an investment banker drive me to commit academic suicide and inform the registrar that I am quitting school until further notice. My dad is convinced that I’ll never go back, and I’m convinced that my life is over. My mom thinks it’s no big deal and that there is no need to be a drama queen. Spring 1999 In three months, I accept and quit jobs as a curriculum designer at Berlitz, the world’s largest publisher of foreign-language materials, and as an analyst at a three-person political asylum research firm. Naturally, I then fly to Taiwan to create a gym chain out of thin air and get shut down by Triads, Chinese mafia. I return to the U.S. defeated and decide to learn kickboxing, winning the national championship four weeks later with the ugliest and most unorthodox style ever witnessed. Fall 2000 Confidence restored and thesis completely undone, I return to Princeton. My life does not end, and it seems the yearlong delay has worked out in my favor. Twenty-somethings now have David Koresh–like abilities. My friend sells a company for $450 million, and I decide to head west to sunny California to make my billions. Despite the hottest job market in the history of the world, I manage to go jobless until three months after graduation, when I pull out my trump card and send one start-up CEO 32 consecutive e-mails. He finally gives in and puts me in sales. Spring 2001 TrueSAN Networks has gone from a 15-person nobody to the “number one privately held data storage company” (how is that measured?) with 150 employees (what are they all doing?). I am ordered by a newly appointed sales director to “start with A” in the phone book and dial for dollars. I ask him in the most tactful way possible why we are doing it like retards. He says, “Because I say so.” Not a good start. Fall 2001 After a year of 12-hour days, I find out that I’m the second-lowest-paid person in the company aside from the receptionist. I resort to aggressively surfing the web full-time. One afternoon, having run out of obscene video clips to forward, I investigate how hard it would be to start a sports nutrition company. Turns out that you can outsource everything from manufacturing to ad design. Two weeks and $5,000 of credit card debt later, I have my first batch in production and a live website. Good thing, too, as I’m fired exactly one week later. 2002–2003 BrainQUICKEN LLC has taken off, and I’m now making more than $40K per month instead of $40K per year. The only problem is that I hate life and now work 12-hour-plus days 7 days a week. Kinda painted myself into a corner. I take a one-week “vacation” to Florence, Italy, with my family and spend 10 hours a day in an Internet café freaking out. Sh*t balls. I begin teaching Princeton students how to build “successful” (i.e., profitable) companies. Winter 2004 The impossible happens and I’m approached by an infomercial production company and an Israeli conglomerate (huh?) interested in buying my baby BrainQUICKEN. I simplify, eliminate, and otherwise clean house to make myself expendable. Miraculously, BQ doesn’t fall apart, but both deals do. Back to Groundhog Day. Soon thereafter, both companies attempt to replicate my product and lose millions of dollars. June 2004 I decide that, even if my company implodes, I need to escape before I go Howard Hughes. I turn everything upside down and—backpack in hand—go to JFK Airport in New York City, buying the first one-way ticket to Europe I can find. I land in London and intend to continue on to Spain for four weeks of recharging my batteries before returning to the salt mines. I start my relaxation by promptly having a nervous breakdown the first morning. July 2004–2005 Four weeks turn into eight, and I decide to stay overseas indefinitely for a final exam in automation and experimental living, limiting e-mail to one hour each Monday morning. As soon as I remove myself as a bottleneck, profits increase 40%. What on earth do you do when you no longer have work as an excuse to be hyperactive and avoid the big questions? Be terrified and hold on to your ass with both hands, apparently. September 2006 I return to the U.S. in an odd, Zen-like state after methodically destroying all of my assumptions about what can and cannot be done. “Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit” has evolved into a class on ideal lifestyle design. The new message is simple: I’ve seen the promised land, and there is good news. You can have it all. Step IV: L is for Liberation It is far better for a man to go wrong in freedom than to go right in chains. —THOMAS H. HUXLEY, English biologist; known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” For my parents, DONALD AND FRANCES FERRISS, who taught a little hellion that marching to a different drummer was a good thing. I love you both and owe you everything. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL TEACHER— 10% of all author royalties are donated to educational not-for-profits, including Donorschoose.org. [image: ] Dodging Bullets [image: ] FEAR-SETTING AND ESCAPING PARALYSIS Many a false step was made by standing still. —FORTUNE COOKIE Named must your fear be before banish it you can. —YODA, from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL Twenty feet and closing. “Run! Ruuuuuuuuuun!” Hans didn’t speak Portuguese, but the meaning was clear enough—haul ass. His sneakers gripped firmly on the jagged rock, and he drove his chest forward toward 3,000 feet of nothing. He held his breath on the final step, and the panic drove him to near unconsciousness. His vision blurred at the edges, closing to a single pinpoint of light, and then … he floated. The all-consuming celestial blue of the horizon hit his visual field an instant after he realized that the thermal updraft had caught him and the wings of the paraglider. Fear was behind him on the mountaintop, and thousands of feet above the resplendent green rain forest and pristine white beaches of Copacabana, Hans Keeling had seen the light. That was Sunday. On Monday, Hans returned to his law office in Century City, Los Angeles’s posh corporate haven, and promptly handed in his three-week notice. For nearly five years, he had faced his alarm clock with the same dread: I have to do this for another 40–45 years? He had once slept under his desk at the office after a punishing half-done project, only to wake up and continue on it the next morning. That same morning, he had made himself a promise: two more times and I’m out of here. Strike number three came the day before he left for his Brazilian vacation. We all make these promises to ourselves, and Hans had done it before as well, but things were now somehow different. He was different. He had realized something while arcing in slow circles toward the earth—risks weren’t that scary once you took them. His colleagues told him what he expected to hear: He was throwing it all away. He was an attorney on his way to the top—what the hell did he want? Hans didn’t know exactly what he wanted, but he had tasted it. On the other hand, he did know what bored him to tears, and he was done with it. No more passing days as the living dead, no more dinners where his colleagues compared cars, riding on the sugar high of a new BMW purchase until someone bought a more expensive Mercedes. It was over. Immediately, a strange shift began—Hans felt, for the first time in a long time, at peace with himself and what he was doing. He had always been terrified of plane turbulence, as if he might die with the best inside of him, but now he could fly through a violent storm sleeping like a baby. Strange indeed. More than a year later, he was still getting unsolicited job offers from law firms, but by then had started Nexus Surf,5 a premier surf-adventure company based in the tropical paradise of Florianopolis, Brazil. He had met his dream girl, a Carioca with caramel-colored skin named Tatiana, and spent most of his time relaxing under palm trees or treating clients to the best times of their lives. Is this what he had been so afraid of? These days, he often sees his former self in the underjoyed and overworked professionals he takes out on the waves. Waiting for the swell, the true emotions come out: “God, I wish I could do what you do.” His reply is always the same: “You can.” The setting sun reflects off the surface of the water, providing a Zen-like setting for a message he knows is true: It’s not giving up to put your current path on indefinite pause. He could pick up his law career exactly where he left off if he wanted to, but that is the furthest thing from his mind. As they paddle back to shore after an awesome session, his clients get ahold of themselves and regain their composure. They set foot on shore, and reality sinks its fangs in: “I would, but I can’t really throw it all away.” He has to laugh. The Power of Pessimism: Defining the Nightmare Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. —BENJAMIN DISRAELI, former British Prime Minister To door not to do? To try or not to try? Most people will vote no, whether they consider themselves brave or not. Uncertainty and the prospect of failure can be very scary noises in the shadows. Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty. For years, I set goals, made resolutions to change direction, and nothing came of either. I was just as insecure and scared as the rest of the world. The simple solution came to me accidentally four years ago. At that time, I had more money than I knew what to do with—I was making $70K or so per month—and I was completely miserable, worse than ever. I had no time and was working myself to death. I had started my own company, only to realize it would be nearly impossible to sell.6Oops. I felt trapped and stupid at the same time. I should be able to figure this out, I thought. Why am I such an idiot? Why can’t I make this work?! Buckle up and stop being such a (insert expletive)! What’s wrong with me? The truth was, nothing was wrong with me. I hadn’t reached my limit; I’d reached the limit of my business model at the time. It wasn’t the driver, it was the vehicle. Critical mistakes in its infancy would never let me sell it. I could hire magic elves and connect my brain to a supercomputer—it didn’t matter. My little baby had some serious birth defects. The question then became, How do I free myself from this Frankenstein while making it self-sustaining? How do I pry myself from the tentacles of workaholism and the fear that it would fall to pieces without my 15-hour days? How do I escape this self-made prison? A trip, I decided. A sabbatical year around the world. So I took the trip, right? Well, I’ll get to that. First, I felt it prudent to dance around with my shame, embarrassment, and anger for six months, all the while playing an endless loop of reasons why my cop-out fantasy trip could never work. One of my more productive periods, for sure. Then, one day, in my bliss of envisioning how bad my future suffering would be, I hit upon a gem of an idea. It was surely a highlight of my “don’t happy, be worry” phase: Why don’t I decide exactly what my nightmare would be—the worst thing that could possibly happen as a result of my trip? Well, my business could fail while I’m overseas, for sure. Probably would. A legal warning letter would accidentally not get forwarded and I would get sued. My business would be shut down, and inventory would spoil on the shelves while I’m picking my toes in solitary misery on some cold shore in Ireland. Crying in the rain, I imagine. My bank account would crater by 80% and certainly my car and motorcycle in storage would be stolen. I suppose someone would probably spit on my head from a high-rise balcony while I’m feeding food scraps to a stray dog, which would then spook and bite me squarely on the face. God, life is a cruel, hard bitch. Conquering Fear = Defining Fear Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with course and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?” —SENECA Then a funny thing happened. In my undying quest to make myself miserable, I accidentally began to backpedal. As soon as I cut through the vague unease and ambiguous anxiety by defining my nightmare, the worst-case scenario, I wasn’t as worried about taking a trip. Suddenly, I started thinking of simple steps I could take to salvage my remaining resources and get back on track if all hell struck at once. I could always take a temporary bartending job to pay the rent if I had to. I could sell some furniture and cut back on eating out. I could steal lunch money from the kindergarteners who passed by my apartment every morning. The options were many. I realized it wouldn’t be that hard to get back to where I was, let alone survive. None of these things would be fatal—not even close. Mere panty pinches on the journey of life. I realized that on a scale of 1–10, 1 being nothing and 10 being permanently life-changing, my so-called worst-case scenario might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4. I believe this is true of most people and most would-be “holy sh*t, my life is over” disasters. Keep in mind that this is the one-in-a-million disaster nightmare. On the other hand, if I realized my best-case scenario, or even a probable-case scenario, it would easily have a permanent 9 or 10 positive life-changing effect. In other words, I was risking an unlikely and temporary 3 or 4 for a probable and permanent 9 or 10, and I could easily recover my baseline workaholic prison with a bit of extra work if I wanted to. This all equated to a significant realization: There was practically no risk, only huge life-changing upside potential, and I could resume my previous course without any more effort than I was already putting forth. That is when I made the decision to take the trip and bought a one-way ticket to Europe. I started planning my adventures and eliminating my physical and psychological baggage. None of my disasters came to pass, and my life has been a near fairy tale since. The business did better than ever, and I practically forgot about it as it financed my travels around the world in style for 15 months. Uncovering Fear Disguised as Optimism There’s no difference between a pessimist who says, “Oh, it’s hopeless, so don’t bother doing anything,” and an optimist who says, “Don’t bother doing anything, it’s going to turn out fine anyway.” Either way, nothing happens. —YVON CHOUINARD,7 founder of Patagonia Fear comes in many forms, and we usually don’t call it by its four-letter name. Fear itself is quite fear-inducing. Most intelligent people in the world dress it up as something else: optimistic denial. Most who avoid quitting their jobs entertain the thought that their course will improve with time or increases in income. This seems valid and is a tempting hallucination when a job is boring or uninspiring instead of pure hell. Pure hell forces action, but anything less can be endured with enough clever rationalization. Do you really think it will improve or is it wishful thinking and an excuse for inaction? If you were confident in improvement, would you really be questioning things so? Generally not. This is fear of the unknown disguised as optimism. Are you better off than you were one year ago, one month ago, or one week ago? If not, things will not improve by themselves. If you are kidding yourself, it is time to stop and plan for a jump. Barring any James Dean ending, your life is going to be LONG. Nine to five for your working lifetime of 40–50 years is a long-ass time if the rescue doesn’t come. About 500 months of solid work. How many do you have to go? It’s probably time to cut your losses. Someone Call the Maître D’ You have comfort. You don’t have luxury. And don’t tell me that money plays a part. The luxury I advocate has nothing to do with money. It cannot be bought. It is the reward of those who have no fear of discomfort. —JEAN COCTEAU, French poet, novelist, boxing manager, and filmmaker, whose collaborations were the inspiration for the term “surrealism” Sometimes timing is perfect. There are hundreds of cars circling a parking lot, and someone pulls out of a spot 10 feet from the entrance just as you reach his or her bumper. Another Christmas miracle! Other times, the timing could be better. The phone rings during sex and seems to ring for a half hour. The UPS guy shows up 10 minutes later. Bad timing can spoil the fun. Jean-Marc Hachey landed in West Africa as a volunteer, with high hopes of lending a helping hand. In that sense, his timing was great. He arrived in Ghana in the early 1980s, in the middle of a coup d’état, at the peak of hyperinflation, and just in time for the worst drought in a decade. For these same reasons, some people would consider his timing quite poor from a more selfish survival standpoint. He had also missed the memo. The national menu had changed, and they were out of luxuries like bread and clean water. He would be surviving for four months on a slushlike concoction of corn meal and spinach. Not what most of us would order at the movie theater. “WOW, I CAN SURVIVE.” Jean-Marc had passed the point of no return, but it didn’t matter. After two weeks of adjusting to the breakfast, lunch, and dinner (Mush à la Ghana), he had no desire to escape. The most basic of foods and good friends proved to be the only real necessities, and what would seem like a disaster from the outside was the most life-affirming epiphany he’d ever experienced: The worst really wasn’t that bad. To enjoy life, you don’t need fancy nonsense, but you do need to control your time and realize that most things just aren’t as serious as you make them out to be. Now 48, Jean-Marc lives in a nice home in Ontario, but could live without it. He has cash, but could fall into poverty tomorrow and it wouldn’t matter. Some of his fondest memories still include nothing but friends and gruel. He is dedicated to creating special moments for himself and his family and is utterly unconcerned with retirement. He’s already lived 20 years of partial retirement in perfect health. Don’t save it all for the end. There is every reason not to. [image: ] Q&A: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. —MARK TWAIN If you are nervous about making the jump or simply putting it off out of fear of the unknown, here is your antidote. Write down your answers, and keep in mind that thinking a lot will not prove as fruitful or as prolific as simply brain vomiting on the page. Write and do not edit—aim for volume. Spend a few minutes on each answer. Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering. What doubt, fears, and “what-ifs” pop up as you consider the big changes you can—or need—to make? Envision them in painstaking detail. Would it be the end of your life? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1–10? Are these things really permanent? How likely do you think it is that they would actually happen? What steps could you take to repair the damage or get things back on the upswing, even if temporarily? Chances are, it’s easier than you imagine. How could you get things back under control? What are the outcomes or benefits, both temporary and permanent, of more probable scenarios? Now that you’ve defined the nightmare, what are the more probable or definite positive outcomes, whether internal (confidence, self-esteem, etc.) or external? What would the impact of these more-likely outcomes be on a scale of 1–10? How likely is it that you could produce at least a moderately good outcome? Have less intelligent people done this before and pulled it off? If you were fired from your job today, what would you do to get things under financial control? Imagine this scenario and run through questions 1–3 above. If you quit your job to test other options, how could you later get back on the same career track if you absolutely had to? What are you putting off out of fear? Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. That phone call, that conversation, whatever the action might be—it is fear of unknown outcomes that prevents us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it, and do it. I’ll repeat something you might consider tattooing on your forehead: What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. As I have heard said, a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have. Resolve to do one thing every day that you fear. I got into this habit by attempting to contact celebrities and famous businesspeople for advice. What is it costing you—financially, emotionally, and physically—to postpone action? Don’t only evaluate the potential downside of action. It is equally important to measure the atrocious cost of inaction. If you don’t pursue those things that excite you, where will you be in one year, five years, and ten years? How will you feel having allowed circumstance to impose itself upon you and having allowed ten more years of your finite life to pass doing what you know will not fulfill you? If you telescope out 10 years and know with 100% certainty that it is a path of disappointment and regret, and if we define risk as “the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome,” inaction is the greatest risk of all. What are you waiting for? If you cannot answer this without resorting to the previously rejected concept of good timing, the answer is simple: You’re afraid, just like the rest of the world. Measure the cost of inaction, realize the unlikelihood and re-pairability of most missteps, and develop the most important habit of those who excel and enjoy doing so: action. 5. www.nexussurf.com 6. This turned out to be yet another self-imposed limitation and false construct. BrainQUICKEN was acquired by a private equity firm in 2009. The process is described on www.fourhourblog.com. 7. http://www.tpl.org/tier3_cd.cfm?content_item_id=5307&folder_id=1545. [image: ] Beyond Repair [image: ] KILLING YOUR JOB All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer. —NICCOLÒ MACHIAVELLI, The Prince Existential Pleas and Resignations Mad Libs BY ED MURRAY [image: ] [image: ] Some jobs are simply beyond repair. Improvements would be like adding a set of designer curtains to a jail cell: better but far from good. In the context of this chapter, “job” will refer to both a company if you run one and a normal job if you have one. Some recommendations are limited to one of the two but most are relevant to both. So we begin. I have quit three jobs and been fired from most of the rest. Getting fired, despite sometimes coming as a surprise and leaving you scrambling to recover, is often a godsend: Someone else makes the decision for you, and it’s impossible to sit in the wrong job for the rest of your life. Most people aren’t lucky enough to get fired and die a slow spiritual death over 30–40 years of tolerating the mediocre. Pride and Punishment If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time. —CHINESE PROVERB Just because something has been a lot of work or consumed a lot of time doesn’t make it productive or worthwhile. Just because you are embarrassed to admit that you’re still living the consequences of bad decisions made 5, 10, or 20 years ago shouldn’t stop you from making good decisions now. If you let pride stop you, you will hate life 5, 10, and 20 years from now for the same reasons. I hate to be wrong and sat in a dead-end trajectory with my own company until I was forced to change directions or face total breakdown—I know how hard it is. Now that we’re all on a level playing field: Pride is stupid. Being able to quit things that don’t work is integral to being a winner. Going into a project or job without defining when worthwhile becomes wasteful is like going into a casino without a cap on what you will gamble: dangerous and foolish. “But, you don’t understand my situation. It’s complicated!” But is it really? Don’t confuse the complex with the difficult. Most situations are simple—many are just emotionally difficult to act upon. The problem and the solution are usually obvious and simple. It’s not that you don’t know what to do. Of course you do. You are just terrified that you might end up worse off than you are now. I’ll tell you right now: If you’re at this point, you won’t be worse off. Revisit fear-setting and cut the cord. Like Pulling Off a Band-Aid: It’s Easier and Less Painful Than You Think The average man is a conformist, accepting miseries and disasters with the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain. —COLIN WILSON, British author of The Outsider; New Existentialist There are several principal phobias that keep people on sinking ships, and there are simple rebuttals for all of them. 1. Quitting is permanent. Far from it. Use the Q&A questions in this chapter and chapter 3 (Fear-setting) to examine how you could pick up your chosen career track or start another company at a later point. I have never seen an example where a change of direction wasn’t somehow reversible. 2. I won’t be able to pay the bills. Sure you will. First of all, the objective will be to have a new job or source of cash flow before quitting your current job. Problem solved. If you jump ship or get fired, it isn’t hard to eliminate most expenses temporarily and live on savings for a brief period. From renting out your home to refinancing or selling it, there are options. There are always options. It might be emotionally difficult, but you won’t starve. Park your car in the garage and cancel insurance for a few months. Carpool or take the bus until you find the next gig. Rack up some more credit card debt and cook instead of eating out. Sell all the crap that you spent hundreds or thousands on and never use. Take a full inventory of your assets, cash reserves, debts, and monthly expenses. How long could you survive with your current resources or if you sold some assets? Go through all expenses and ask yourself, If I had to eliminate this because I needed an extra kidney, how would I do it? Don’t be melodramatic when there is no need—few things are fatal, particularly for smart people. If you’ve made it this far in life, losing or dropping a job will often be little more than a few weeks of vacation (unless you want more) prior to something better. 3. Health insurance and retirement accounts disappear if I quit. Untrue. I was scared of both when I was eliminated from TrueSAN. I had visions of rotting teeth and working at Wal-Mart to survive. Upon looking at the facts and exploring options, I realized that I could have identical medical and dental coverage—the same provider and network—for $300–500 per month. To transfer my 401(k) to another company (I chose Fidelity Investments) was even easier: It took less than 30 minutes via phone and cost nothing. Covering both of these bases takes less time than getting a customer service rep on the phone to fix your electric bill. 4. It will ruin my resume. I love creative nonfiction. It is not at all difficult to sweep gaps under the rug and make uncommon items the very things that get job interviews. How? Do something interesting and make them jealous. If you quit and then sit on your ass, I wouldn’t hire you either. On the other hand, if you have a one-to-two-year world circumnavigation on your resume or training with professional soccer teams in Europe to your credit, two interesting things happen upon returning to the working world. First, you will get more interviews because you will stand out. Second, interviewers bored in their own jobs will spend the entire meeting asking how you did it! If there is any question of why you took a break or left your previous job, there is one answer that cannot be countered: “I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do [exotic and envy-producing experience] and couldn’t turn it down. I figured that, with [20–40] years of work to go, what’s the rush?” The Cheesecake Factor Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. —THOMAS J. WATSON, founder of IBM SUMMER 1999 Even before I tasted it, I knew something wasn’t quite right. After eight hours in the refrigerator, this cheesecake still hadn’t set at all. It swished in the gallon bowl like a viscous soup, chunks shifting and bobbing as I tilted it under close inspection. Somewhere a mistake had been made. It could have been any number of things: Three 1 lb. sticks of Philly Cream Cheese Eggs Stevia Unflavored gelatin Vanilla Sour cream In this case, it was probably a combination of things and the lack of a few simple ingredients that generally make cheesecake a form of cake. I was on a no-carbohydrate diet, and I had used this recipe before. It had been so delicious that my roommates wanted their fair share and insisted on an attempt at bulk production. Hence began the mathematical shenanigans and problems. Before Splenda® and other miracles of sugar imitation came on the scene, the hard core used stevia, an herb 300 times sweeter than sugar. One drop was like 300 packets of sugar. It was a delicate tool and I wasn’t a delicate cook. I had once made a small handful of cookies using baking soda instead of baking powder, and that was bad enough to drive my roommates to puke on the lawn. This new masterpiece made the cookies look like fine dining: It tasted like liquid cream cheese mixed with cold water and about 600 packets of sugar. I then did what any normal and rational person would do: I grabbed the largest soup ladle with a sigh and sat down in front of the TV to face my punishment. I had wasted an entire Sunday and a boatload of ingredients—it was time to reap what I had sown. One hour and 20 large spoonfuls later, I hadn’t made a dent in the enormous batch of soup, but I was down for the count. Not only could I not eat anything but soup for two days, I couldn’t bring myself to even look at cheesecake, previously my favorite dessert, for more than four years. Stupid? Of course. It’s about as stupid as one can get. This is a ridiculous and micro example of what people do on a larger scale with jobs all the time: self-imposed suffering that can be avoided. Sure, I learned a lesson and paid for the mistake. The real question is—for what? There are two types of mistakes: mistakes of ambition and mistakes of sloth. The first is the result of a decision to act—to do something. This type of mistake is made with incomplete information, as it’s impossible to have all the facts beforehand. This is to be encouraged. Fortune favors the bold. The second is the result of a decision of sloth—to not do something—wherein we refuse to change a bad situation out of fear despite having all the facts. This is how learning experiences become terminal punishments, bad relationships become bad marriages, and poor job choices become lifelong prison sentences. “Yeah, but what if I’m in an industry where jumping around is looked down upon? I’ve been here barely a year, and prospective employers would think…” Would they? Test assumptions before condemning yourself to more misery. I’ve seen one determinant of sex appeal to good employers: performance. If you are a rock star when it comes to results, it doesn’t matter if you jump ship from a bad company after three weeks. On the other hand, if tolerating a punishing work environment for years at a time is a prerequisite for promotion in your field, could it be that you’re in a game not worth winning? The consequences of bad decisions do not get better with age. What cheesecake are you eating? [image: ] Q&A: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS Only those who are asleep make no mistakes. —INGVAR KAMPRAD, founder of IKEA, world’s largest furniture brand Tens of thousands of people, most of them less capable than you, leave their jobs every day. It’s neither uncommon nor fatal. Here are a few exercises to help you realize just how natural job changes are and how simple the transition can be. First, a familiar reality check: Are you more likely to find what you want in your current job or somewhere else? If you were fired from your job today, what would you do to get things under financial control? Take a sick day and post your resume on the major job sites. Even if you have no immediate plans to leave your job, post your resume on sites such as www.monster.com and www.career-builder.com, using a pseudonym if you prefer. This will show you that there are options besides your current place of work. Call headhunters if your level makes such a step appropriate, and send a brief e-mail such as the one below to friends and non-work contacts. Dear All, I am considering making a career move and am interested in all opportunities that might come to mind. Nothing is too outrageous or out of left field. [If you know what you want or don’t want on some level, feel free to add, “I am particularly interested in …” or “I would like to avoid …”] Please let me know if anything comes to mind! Tim Call in sick or take a vacation day to complete all of these exercises during a normal 9–5 workday. This will simulate unemployment and lessen the fear factor of non-office limbo. In the world of action and negotiation, there is one principle that governs all others: The person who has more options has more power. Don’t wait until you need options to search for them. Take a sneak peek at the future now and it will make both action and being assertive easier. If you run or own a company, imagine that you have just been sued and must declare bankruptcy. The company is now insolvent and you must close up shop. This is something you must legally do, and there are no finances to entertain other options. How would you survive? [image: ] TOOLS AND TRICKS Considering Options and Pulling the Trigger [image: ] I-Resign (www.i-resign.com) This site provides everything from non-quitting options (work-leave, vacations) to sample resignation letters and second-life job-hunting advice. Don’t miss the helpful discussion forums and hysterical “web consultant from London” letter. Opening Retirement Accounts If you want an adviser and don’t mind some fees: [image: ] Franklin-Templeton (www.franklintempleton.com) (800–527–2020) [image: ] American Funds (www.americanfunds.com) (800–421–0180) If you will do your own investing and want no-load funds: [image: ] Fidelity Investments (www.fidelity.com) (800–343–3548) [image: ] Vanguard (www.vanguard.com) (800–414–1321) Health Insurance for Self-employed or Unemployed (in descending order of reader endorsement) [image: ] Ehealthinsurance (www.ehealthinsurance.com) (800–977–8860) [image: ] AETNA (www.aetna.com) (800-MY-HEALTH) [image: ] Kaiser Permanente (www.kaiserpermanente.com) (866–352–0290) [image: ] American Community Mutual (www.american-community.com) (800–991–2642) [image: ] FAQ—DOUBTERS READ THIS Is lifestyle design for you? Chances are good that it is. Here are some of the most common doubts and fears that people have before taking the leap and joining the New Rich: Do I have to quit or hate my job? Do I have to be a risk-taker? No on all three counts. From using Jedi mind tricks to disappear from the office to designing businesses that finance your lifestyle, there are paths for every comfort level. How does a Fortune 500 employee explore the hidden jewels of China for a month and use technology to cover his tracks? How do you create a hands-off business that generates $80K per month with no management? It’s all here. Do I have to be a single twenty-something? Not at all. This book is for anyone who is sick of the deferred-life plan and wants to live life large instead of postpone it. Case studies range from a Lamborghini-driving 21-year-old to a single mother who traveled the world for five months with her two children. If you’re sick of the standard menu of options and prepared to enter a world of infinite options, this book is for you. Do I have to travel? I just want more time. No. It’s just one option. The objective is to create freedom of time and place and use both however you want. Do I need to be born rich? No. My parents have never made more than $50,000 per year combined, and I’ve worked since age 14. I’m no Rockefeller and you needn’t be either. Do I need to be an Ivy League graduate? Nope. Most of the role models in this book didn’t go to the Harvards of the world, and some are dropouts. Top academic institutions are wonderful, but there are unrecognized benefits to not coming out of one. Grads from top schools are funneled into high-income 80-hour-per-week jobs, and 15–30 years of soul-crushing work has been accepted as the default path. How do I know? I’ve been there and seen the destruction. This book reverses it. [image: ] Mini-Retirements [image: ] EMBRACING THE MOBILE LIFESTYLE Before the development of tourism, travel was conceived to be like study, and its fruits were considered to be the adornment of the mind and the formation of the judgment. —PAUL FUSSELL, Abroad The simple willingness to improvise is more vital, in the long run, than research. —ROLF POTTS, Vagabonding Upon Sherwood’s return from Oktoberfest, dazed from killing neurons but the happiest he’s been in four years, the remote trial is made policy and Sherwood is inducted into the world of the New Rich. All he needs now is an idea of how to exploit this freedom and the tools to give his finite cash near-infinite lifestyle output. If you’ve gone through the previous steps, eliminating, automating, and severing the leashes that bind you to one location, it’s time to indulge in some fantasies and explore the world. Even if you have no ache for extended travel or think it’s impossible—whether due to marriage or mortgage or those little things known as children—this chapter is still the next step. There are fundamental changes I and most others put off until absence (or preparation for it) forces them. This chapter is your final exam in muse design. The transformation begins in a small Mexican village, in a parable that’s been shared in various forms around the world. Fables and Fortune Hunters An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish. “How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked. “Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English. “Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked. “I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket. “But … What do you do with the rest of your time?” The Mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.” The American laughed and stood tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.” He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, of course, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management.” The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, señor, how long will all this take?” To which the American replied, “15–20 years. 25 tops.” “But what then, señor?” The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.” “Millions, señor? Then what?” “Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos …” I RECENTLY HAD lunch in San Francisco with a good friend and former college roommate. He will soon graduate from a top business school and return to investment banking. He hates coming home from the office at midnight but explained to me that, if he works 80-hour weeks for nine years, he could become a managing director and make a cool $3–10 million per year. Then he would be successful. “Dude, what on earth would you do with $3–10 million per year?” I asked. His answer? “I would take a long trip to Thailand.” That just about sums up one of the biggest self-deceptions of our modern age: extended world travel as the domain of the ultrarich. I’ve also heard the following: “I’ll just work in the firm for 15 years. Then I’ll be partner and I can cut back on hours. Once I have a million or two in the bank, I’ll put it in something safe like bonds, take $80,000 a year in interest, and retire to sail in the Caribbean.” “I’ll only work in consulting until I’m 35, then retire and ride a motorcycle across China.” If your dream, the pot of gold at the end of the career rainbow, is to live large in Thailand, sail around the Caribbean, or ride a motorcycle across China, guess what? All of them can be done for less than $3,000. I’ve done all three. Here are just two examples of how far a little can go.68 $250 U.S. Five days on a private Smithsonian tropical research island with three local fishermen who caught and cooked all my food and also took me on tours of the best hidden dive spots in Panamá. $150 U.S. Three days of chartering a private plane in Mendoza wine country in Argentina and flying over the most beautiful vineyards around the snowcapped Andes with a personal guide. Question: What did you spend your last $400 on? It’s two or three weekends of nonsense and throwaway forget-the-workweek behavior in most U.S. cities. $400 is nothing for a full eight days of life-changing experiences. But eight days isn’t what I’m recommending at all. Those were just interludes in a much larger production. I’m proposing much, much more. The Birth of Mini-Retirements and the Death of Vacations There is more to life than increasing its speed. —MOHANDAS GANDHI In February of 2004, I was miserable and overworked. My travel fantasy began as a plan to visit Costa Rica in March 2004 for four weeks of Spanish and relaxation. I needed a recharge and four weeks seemed “reasonable” by whatever made-up benchmark you can use for such a thing. A friend familiar with Central America dutifully pointed out that it would never work, as Costa Rica was about to enter its rainy season. Torrential downpours weren’t the uplifting jolt I needed, so I shifted my focus to four weeks in Spain. It’s a long trip over the Atlantic, though, and Spain was close to other countries I’d always wanted to visit. I lost “reasonable” somewhere shortly thereafter and decided that I deserved a full three months to explore my roots in Scandinavia after four weeks in Spain. If there were any real-time bombs or pending disasters, they would certainly crop up in the first four weeks, so there really wasn’t any additional risk in extending my trip to three months. Three months would be great. Those three months turned into 15, and I started to ask myself, “Why not take the usual 20–30-year retirement and redistribute it throughout life instead of saving it all for the end?” The Alternative to Binge Traveling Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything. —CHARLES KURALT, CBS news reporter If you are accustomed to working 50 weeks per year, the tendency, even after creating the mobility to take extended trips, will be to go nuts and see 10 countries in 14 days and end up a wreck. It’s like taking a starving dog to an all-you-can-eat buffet. It will eat itself to death. I did this three months into my 15-month vision quest, visiting seven countries and going through at least 20 check-ins and checkouts with a friend who had negotiated three weeks off. The trip was an adrenaline-packed blast but like watching life on fast-forward. It was hard for us to remember what had happened in which countries (except Amsterdam),69 we were both sick most of the time, and we were upset to have to leave some places simply because our pre-purchased flights made it so. I recommend doing the exact opposite. The alternative to binge travel—the mini-retirement—entails relocating to one place for one to six months before going home or moving to another locale. It is the anti-vacation in the most positive sense. Though it can be relaxing, the mini-retirement is not an escape from your life but a reexamination of it—the creation of a blank slate. Following elimination and automation, what would you be escaping from? Rather than seeking to see the world through photo ops between foreign-but-familiar hotels, we aim to experience it at a speed that lets it change us. This is also different from a sabbatical. Sabbaticals are often viewed much like retirement: as a one-time event. Savor it now while you can. The mini-retirement is defined as recurring—it is a lifestyle. I currently take three or four mini-retirements per year and know dozens who do the same. Sometimes these sojourns take me around the world; oftentimes they take me around the corner—Yosemite, Tahoe, Carmel—but to a different world psychologically, where meetings, e-mail, and phone calls don’t exist for a set period of time. Purging the Demons: Emotional Freedom This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own im perfection. —SAINT AUGUSTINE (354 A.D.–430 A.D.) True freedom is much more than having enough income and time to do what you want. It is quite possible—actually the rule rather than the exception—to have financial and time freedom but still be caught in the throes of the rat race. One cannot be free from the stresses of a speed- and size-obsessed culture until you are free from the materialistic addictions, time-famine mind-set, and comparative impulses that created it in the first place. This takes time. The effect is not cumulative, and no number of two-week (also called “too weak”)70 sightseeing trips can replace one good walkabout.71 In the experience of those I’ve interviewed, it takes two to three months just to unplug from obsolete routines and become aware of just how much we distract ourselves with constant motion. Can you have a two-hour dinner with Spanish friends without getting anxious? Can you get accustomed to a small town where all businesses take a siesta for two hours in the afternoon and then close at 4:00 P.M.? If not, you need to ask, Why? Learn to slow down. Get lost intentionally. Observe how you judge both yourself and those around you. Chances are that it’s been a while. Take at least two months to disincorporate old habits and rediscover yourself without the reminder of a looming return flight. The Financial Realities: It Just Gets Better The economic argument for mini-retirements is the icing on the cake. Four days in a decent hotel or a week for two at a nice hostel costs the same as a month in a nice posh apartment. If you relocate, the expenses abroad also begin to replace—often at much lower cost—bills you can then cancel stateside. Here are some actual monthly figures from recent travels. Highlights from both South America and Europe are shown side by side to prove that luxury is limited by your creativity and familiarity with the locale, not gross currency devaluation in third-world countries. It will be obvious that I did not survive on bread and begging—I lived like a rock star—and both experiences could be done for less than 50% of what I spent. My goal was enjoyment and not austere survival. Airfare [image: ] Free, courtesy of AMEX gold card and Chase Continental Airlines Mastercard72 Housing [image: ] Penthouse apartment on the equivalent of New York’s Fifth Avenue in Buenos Aires, including house cleaners, personal security guards, phone, energy, and high-speed Internet: $550 U.S. per month [image: ] Enormous apartment in the trendy SoHo-like Prenzlauerberg district of Berlin, including phone and energy: $300 U.S. per month Meals [image: ] Four- or five-star restaurant meals twice daily in Buenos Aires: $10 U.S. ($300 U.S. per month) [image: ] Berlin: $18 U.S. ($540 U.S. per month) Entertainment [image: ] VIP table and unlimited champagne for eight people at the hottest club, Opera Bay, in Buenos Aires: $150 U.S. ($18.75 U.S. per person x four visits per month = $75 U.S. per month per person) [image: ] Cover, drinks, and dancing at the hottest clubs in West Berlin: $20 U.S. per person per night x 4 = $80 U.S. per month Education [image: ] Two hours daily of private Spanish lessons in Buenos Aires, fives times per week: $5 U.S. per hour x 40 hours per month = $200 U.S. per month [image: ] Two hours daily of private tango lessons with two world-class professional dancers: $8.33 U.S. per hour x 40 hours per month = $333.20 U.S. per month [image: ] Four hours daily of top-tier German-language instruction in Nollendorfplatz, Berlin: $175 U.S. per month, which would have paid for itself even if I had not attended classes, as the student ID card entitled me to over 40% discounts on all transportation [image: ] Six hours per week of mixed martial arts (MMA) training at the top Berlin academy: free in exchange for tutoring in English two hours per week Transportation [image: ] Monthly subway pass and daily cab rides to and from tango lessons in Buenos Aires: $75 U.S. per month [image: ] Monthly subway, tram, and bus pass in Berlin with student discount: $85 U.S. per month Four-Week Total for Luxury Living [image: ] Buenos Aires: $1533.20, including round-trip airfare from JFK, with a one-month stopover in Panamá. Nearly one-third of this total is from the daily one-on-one instruction from world-class teachers in Spanish and Tango. [image: ] Berlin: $1180, including round-trip airfare from JFK and a one-week stopover in London. How do these numbers compare to your current domestic monthly expenses, including rent, car insurance, utilities, weekend expenditures, partying, public transportation, gas, memberships, subscriptions, food, and all the rest? Add it all up and you may well realize, like I did, that traveling around the world and having the time of your life can save you serious money. Fear Factors: Overcoming Excuses Not to Travel Travelling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building here after seeing Italy. —FANNY BURNEY (1752–1840), English novelist But I have a house and kids. I can’t travel! What about health insurance? What if something happens? Isn’t travel dangerous? What if I get kidnapped or mugged? But I’m a woman—traveling alone would be dangerous. Most excuses not to travel are exactly that—excuses. I’ve been there, so this isn’t a holier-than-thou sermon. I know too well that it’s easier to live with ourselves if we cite an external reason for inaction. I’ve since met paraplegics and the deaf, senior citizens and single mothers, home owners and the poor, all of whom have sought and found excellent life-changing reasons for extended travel instead of dwelling on the million small reasons against it. Most of the concerns above are addressed in the Q&A, but one in particular requires a bit of preemptive nerve calming. It’s 10:00 P.M. Do You Know Where Your Children Are? The prime fear of all parents prior to their first international trip is somehow losing a child in the shuffle. The good news is that if you are comfortable taking your kids to New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., or London, you will have even less to worry about in the starting cities I recommend in the Q&A. There are fewer guns and violent crimes in all of them compared to most large U.S. cities. The likelihood of problems is decreased further when travel is less airport and hotel-hopping among strangers and more relocation to a second home: a mini-retirement. But still, what if? Jen Errico, a single mother who took her two children on a five-month world tour, had a more acute fear than most, one that often woke her at 2:00 A.M. in a cold sweat: What if something happens to me? She wanted to prime her kids for worst-case scenario but didn’t want to scare them to death, so—like all good mothers—she made it a game: Who can best memorize the itineraries, hotel addresses, and Mom’s phone number? She had emergency contacts in each country whose numbers were loaded into the speed dial of her cell phone, which had global roaming. In the end, nothing happened. Now she’s planning to move to a ski chalet in Europe and send her kids to school in multilingual France. Success begets success. She was most afraid in Singapore, and in retrospect, it was where she had the least reason to be worried (she took her kids to South Africa, among other places). She was scared because it was the first stop and she was unaccustomed to traveling with her kids. It was perception, not reality. Robin Malinsky-Rummell, who spent a year traveling through South America with her husband and seven-year-old son, was warned by friends and family not to visit Argentina after their devaluation riots in 2001. She did her homework, decided that the fear was unfounded, and proceeded to have the time of her life in Patagonia. When she told locals that she was originally from New York, their eyes widened and jaws dropped: “I saw those buildings blow up on TV! I would never go to such a dangerous place!” Don’t assume that places abroad are more dangerous than your hometown. Most aren’t. Robin is convinced, as are other NR parents, that people use children as an excuse to stay in their comfort zones. It’s an easy excuse not to do something adventurous. How to overcome the fear? Robin recommends two things: Before embarking on a long international trip with your children for the first time, take a trial run for a few weeks. For each stop, arrange a week of language classes that begin upon arrival and take advantage of transportation from the airport if available. The school staff will often handle apartment rentals for you, and you will be able to make friends and learn the area before setting off on your own. But what if your concern isn’t so much losing your children but losing your mind because of your children? Several families interviewed for this book recommended the oldest persuasive tool known to man: bribery. Each child is given some amount of virtual cash, 25–50 cents, for each hour of good behavior. The same amount is subtracted from their accounts for breaking the rules. All purchases for fun—whether souvenirs, ice cream, or otherwise—come out of their own individual accounts. No balance, no goodies. This often requires more self-control on the part of the parents than the children. How to Get Airfare at 50–80% Off This is not a book on budget travel. Most of the cost-cutting recommendations found in such guides are designed with the binge traveler in mind. For someone embarking on a mini-retirement, an extra $150 for hassle-free airfare amortized over two months is a better deal than 20 hours of manipulating frequent-flier points on an unknown airline or chasing questionable deals. Following two weeks of research, I once bought a one-way standby ticket to Europe for $120. I arrived at JFK brimming with enthusiasm and confidence—look at all these schmucks paying retail!—and 90% of the “participating” airlines refused my ticket. Those that didn’t were booked for weeks solid. I ended up staying in a hotel for two nights for a $300 tab, filing a complaint with AMEX, and eventually calling 1–800-FLY-EUROPE from the JFK terminal in frustration. I bought a round-trip ticket to London on Virgin Atlantic for $300 and left an hour later. The same ticket cost more than $700 a week earlier. After 25 countries, I’ve found a few simple strategies that get you 90% of the possible savings without wasting time or producing migraines. Use credit cards with reward points for large muse-related advertising and manufacturing expenses. I am not spending more money to get pennies on the dollar—these costs are inevitable, so I capitalize on them. This alone gets me a free round-trip international ticket each three months. Purchase tickets far in advance (three months or more) or last minute, and aim for both departure and return between Tues day and Thursday. Long-term travel planning turns me off and can be expensive if plans change, so I opt for purchasing all tickets in the last four or five days prior to target departure. The value of empty seats is $0 as soon as the flight takes off, so true last-minute seats are cheap. Use Orbitz (www.orbitz.com) and www.kayak.com first. Fix the departure and return dates between Tuesday and Thursday. Then look at prices for alternative departure dates each of three days into the past and each of three days into the future. Using the cheapest departure date, do the same with the return dates to find the cheapest combination. Check this price against the fares on the website of the airline itself. Then begin bidding on www.priceline.com at 50% of the better of the two, working up in $50 increments until you get a better price or realize it’s not possible. Consider buying one ticket to an international hub and then an ongoing ticket with a cheap local airline. If going to Europe on a tight budget, you could get three tickets. One free Southwest ticket (from transferring AMEX points) from CA to JFK, the cheapest ticket to Heathrow in London, and then an übercheap ticket on either Ryanair or EasyJet to a final destination. I have paid as little as $10 to go from London to Berlin or London to Spain. That is not a typo. Local airlines will often offer seats on flights for just the cost of taxes and gasoline. To Central or South American destinations, I’ll often look at local flights from Panama or international flights from Miami. When More Is Less: Cutting the Clutter Human beings have the capacity to learn to want almost any conceivable material object. Given, then, the emergence of a modern industrial culture capable of producing almost anything, the time is ripe for opening the storehouse of infinite need! … It is the modern Pandora’s box, and its plagues are loose upon the world. —JULES HENRY To be free, to be happy and fruitful, can only be attained through sacrifice of many common but overestimated things —ROBERT HENRI I know the son of one deca-millionaire, a personal friend of Bill Gates, who now manages private investments and ranches. He has accumulated an assortment of beautiful homes over the last decade, each with full-time cooks, servants, cleaners, and support staff. How does he feel about having a home in each time zone? It’s a pain in the ass! He feels like he’s working for his staff, who spend more time in his homes than he does. Extended travel is the perfect excuse to reverse the damage of years of consuming as much as you can afford. It’s time to get rid of clutter disguised as necessities before you drag a five-piece Samsonite set around the world. That is hell on earth. I’m not going to tell you to walk around in a robe and sandals scowling at people who have televisions. I hate that kashi-crunching holier-than-thou stuff. Turning you into a possession-less scribe is not my intention. Let’s face it, though: There are tons of things in your home and life that you don’t use, need, or even particularly want. They just came into your life as impulsive flotsam and jetsam and never found a good exit. Whether you’re aware of it or not, this clutter creates indecision and distractions, consuming attention and making unfettered happiness a real chore. It is impossible to realize how distracting all the crap is—whether porcelain dolls, sports cars, or ragged T-shirts—until you get rid of it. Prior to my 15-month trip, I was stressed about how to fit all of my belongings into a 14 x 10-foot rental storage space. Then I realized a few things: I would never reread the business magazines I’d saved, I wore the same five shirts and four pairs of pants 90% of the time, it was about time for new furniture, and I never used the outdoor grill or lawn furniture. Even getting rid of things I never used proved to be like a capitalist short-circuit. It was hard to toss things I had once thought were valuable enough to spend money on. The first ten minutes of sorting through clothing was like choosing which child of mine should live or die. I hadn’t exercised my throwing-out muscles in some time. It was a struggle to put nice Christmas clothing I’d never worn into the “go” pile and just as hard to separate myself from worn and ragged clothing I had for sentimental reasons. Once I’d passed through the first few tough decisions, though, the momentum had been built and it was a breeze. I donated all of the seldom-worn clothing to Goodwill. The furniture took less than 10 hours to offload using Craigslist, and though I was paid less than 50% of the retail prices for some and nothing for others, who cared? I’d used and abused them for five years and would get a new set when I landed back in the U.S. I gave the grill and lawn furniture to my friend, who lit up like a kid at Christmas. I had made his month. It felt wonderful and I had an extra $300 in pocket change to cover at least a few weeks of rent abroad. I created 40% more space in my apartment and hadn’t even grazed the surface. It wasn’t the extra physical space that I felt most. It was the extra mental space. It was as if I had 20 mental applications running simultaneously before, and now I had just one or two. My thinking was clearer and I was much, much happier. I asked every vagabond interviewee in this book what their one recommendation would be for first-time extended travelers. The answer was unanimous: Take less with you. The overpacking impulse is hard to resist. The solution is to set what I call a “settling fund.” Rather than pack for all contingencies, I bring the absolute minimum and allocate $100–300 for purchasing things after I arrive and as I travel. I no longer take toiletries or more than a week’s worth of clothing. It’s a blast. Finding shaving cream or a dress shirt overseas can produce an adventure in and of itself. Pack as if you were coming back in one week. Here are the bare essentials, listed in order of importance: One week of clothing appropriate to the season, including one semiformal shirt and pair of pants or skirt for customs. Think T-shirts, one pair of shorts, and a multipurpose pair of jeans. Backup photocopies or scanned copies of all important documents: health insurance, passport/visa, credit cards, debit cards, etc. Debit cards, credit cards, and $200 worth of small bills in local currency (traveler’s checks are not accepted in most places and are a hassle) Small cable bike lock for securing luggage while in transit or in hostels; a small padlock for lockers if needed Electronic dictionaries for target languages (book versions are too slow to be of use in conversation) and small grammar guides or texts One broad-strokes travel guide That’s it.73 To laptop or not to laptop? Unless you are a writer, I vote no. It’s far too cumbersome and distracting. Using GoToMyPC to access your home computer from Internet cafés encourages the habit we want to develop: making the best use of time instead of killing it. The Bora-Bora Dealmaker BAFFIN ISLAND, NUNAVUT Josh Steinitz74 stood at the edge of the world and stared in amazement. He dug his boots into the six feet of sea ice and the unicorns danced. Ten narwhals—rare cousins of the beluga—came to the surface and pointed their six-foot-plus spiral tusks toward the heavens. The pod of 3,000-pound whales then fell into the depths once again. The narwhals are deep divers—more than 3,000 feet in some cases—so Josh had at least 20 minutes until their reappearance. It seemed appropriate that he was with the narwhals. Their name came from Old Norse and referred to their mottled white and blue skin. Náhvalr—corpse man. He smiled as he had done often in the last few years. Josh himself was a dead man walking. One year after graduating from college, Josh found out that he had oral squamous carcinoma—cancer. He had plans to be a management consultant. He had plans to be lots of things. Suddenly none of it mattered. Less than half of those who suffered from this particular type of cancer survived.75 The reaper didn’t discriminate and came without warning. It became clear that the biggest risk in life wasn’t making mistakes but regret: missing out on things. He could never go back and recapture years spent doing something he disliked. Two years later and cancer-free, Josh set off on an indefinite global walkabout, covering expenses as a freelance writer. He later became the cofounder of a website that provides customized itineraries to would-be vagabonds. His executive status didn’t lessen his mobile addiction. He was as comfortable cutting deals from the over-water bungalows of Bora-Bora as he was in the log cabins of the Swiss Alps. He once took a call from a client while at Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier. The client needed to confirm some sales numbers and asked Josh about all the wind in the background. Josh’s answer: “I’m standing at 10,000 feet on a glacier and this afternoon the wind is whipping us down the mountain.” The client said he’d let Josh get back to what he was doing. Another client called Josh while he was leaving a Balinese temple and heard the gongs in the background. The client asked Josh if he was in church. Josh wasn’t quite sure what to say. All that came out was, “Yes?” Back among the narwhals, Josh had a few minutes before heading to base camp to avoid polar bears. Twenty-four-hour daylight meant that he had much to share with his friends back in the land of cubicles. He sat down on the ice and produced his satellite phone and laptop from a waterproof bag. He began his e-mail in the usual way: “I know you’re all sick of seeing me have so much fun, but guess where I am?” [image: ] Q&A: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS It is fatal to know too much at the outcome: boredom comes as quickly to the traveler who knows his route as to the novelist who is overcertain of his plot. —PAUL THEROUX, To the Ends of the Earth If this is your first time considering a commitment to the mobile lifestyle and long-term adventuring, I envy you! Making the jump and entering the new worlds that await is like upgrading your role in life from passenger to pilot. The bulk of this Q&A will focus on the precise steps that you should take—and the countdown timeline you can use—when preparing for your first mini-retirement. Most steps can be eliminated or condensed once you get one trip under your belt. Some of the steps are one-time events, after which subsequent mini-retirements will require a maximum of two to three weeks of preparation. It now takes me three afternoons. Grab a pencil and paper—this will be fun. 1. Take an asset and cash-flow snapshot. Set two sheets of paper on a table. Use one to record all assets and corresponding values, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, home, and so forth. On the second, draw a line down the middle and write down all incoming cash flow (salary, muse income, investment income, etc.) and outgoing expenses (mortgage, rent, car payments, etc.). What can you eliminate that is either seldom used or that creates stress or distraction without adding a lot of value? 2. Fear-set a one-year mini-retirement in a dream location in Europe. Use the questions from chapter 3 to evaluate your worst-case-scenario fears and evaluate the real potential consequences. Except in rare cases, most will be avoidable and the rest will be reversible. 3. Choose a location for your actual mini-retirement. Where to start? This is the big question. There are two options that I advocate: Choose a starting point and then wander until you find your second home. This is what I did with a one-way ticket to London, vagabonding throughout Europe until I fell in love with Berlin, where I remained for three months. Scout a region and then settle in your favorite spot. This is what I did with a tour of Central and South America, where I spent one to four weeks in each of several cities, after which I returned to my favorite—Buenos Aires—for six months. It is possible to take a mini-retirement in your own country, but the transformative effect is hampered if you are surrounded by people who carry the same socially reinforced baggage. I recommend choosing an overseas location that will seem foreign but that isn’t dangerous. I box, race motorcycles, and do all sorts of macho things, but I draw the line at favelas,76 civilians with machine guns, pedestrians with machetes, and social strife. Cheap is good, but bullet holes are bad. Check the U.S. Department of State for travel warnings before booking tickets (http:// travel.state.gov). Here are just a few of my favorite starting points. Feel free to choose other locations. The most lifestyle for the dollar is underlined: Argentina (Buenos Aires, Córdoba), China (Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei), Japan (Tokyo, Osaka), England (London), Ireland (Galway), Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai), Germany (Berlin, Munich), Norway (Oslo), Australia (Sydney), New Zealand (Queenstown), Italy (Rome, Milan, Florence), Spain (Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla), and Holland (Amsterdam). In all of these places, it is possible to live well while spending little. I spend less in Tokyo than in California because I know it well. Hip, recently gentrified artist areas, not unlike the Brooklyn of 10 years ago, can be found in almost all cities. The one place I can’t seem to find a decent lunch for less than $20 U.S.? London. Here are a few exotic places I don’t recommend for vagabonding virgins, though veterans can make them all work: all countries in Africa, the Middle East, or Central and South America (excepting Costa Rica and Argentina). Mexico City and Mexican border areas are also a bit too kidnap-happy to make it onto my favorites list. 4. Prepare for your trip. Here’s the countdown. [image: ] Three months out—Eliminate Get used to minimalism before the departure. Here are the questions to ask and act upon, even if you never plan to leave: What is the 20% of my belongings that I use 80% of the time? Eliminate the other 80% in clothing, magazines, books, and all else. Be ruthless—you can always repurchase things you can’t live without. Which belongings create stress in my life? This could relate to maintenance costs (money and energy), insurance, monthly expenses, time consumption, or simple distraction. Eliminate, eliminate, eliminate. If you sell even a few expensive items, it could finance a good portion of your mini-retirement. Don’t rule out the car and home. It’s always possible to purchase either upon your return, often losing no money in the process. Check current health insurance coverage for extended overseas travel. Get the wheels in motion to rent, swap, or sell your home—renting out is most recommended by serial vagabonds—or end your apartment lease and move all belongings into storage. In all cases where doubts crop up, ask yourself, “If I had a gun to my head and had to do it, how would I do it?” It’s not as hard as you think. [image: ] Two months out—Automate After eliminating the excess, contact companies (including suppliers) that bill you regularly and set up autopayment with credit cards that have reward points. Telling them that you will be traveling the world for a year often persuades them to accept credit cards rather than chase you around the planet like Carmen Sandiego. For the credit card companies themselves and others that refuse, arrange automatic debit from your checking account. Set up online banking and bill payment. Set up all companies that won’t take credit cards or automatic debit as online payees. Set these scheduled checks for $15–20 more than expected when dealing with utilities and other variable expenses. This will cover miscellaneous fees, prevent time-consuming billing problems, and accrue as a credit. Cancel paper bank and credit card statement delivery. Get bank-issued credit cards for all checking accounts—generally one for business and one for personal—and set the cash advances to $0 to minimize abuse potential. Leave these cards at home, as they are just for emergency overdraft protection. Give a trusted member of your family and/or your accountant power of attorney,77 which gives that person authority to sign documents (tax filings and checks, for example) in your name. Nothing screws up foreign fun faster than having to sign original documents when faxes are unacceptable. [image: ] One month out— Speak to the manager of your local post office and have all mail forwarded to a friend, family member, or personal assistant,78who will be paid $100–200 per month to e-mail you brief descriptions of all nonjunk mail each Monday. Get all required and recommended immunizations and vaccinations for your target region. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/travel/). Note that proof of immunizations is sometimes required to pass through foreign customs. Set up a trial account with GoToMyPC or similar remote-access software and take a dry run to ensure that there are no technological glitches.79 If resellers (or distributors) still send you checks—the fulfillment house should handle customer checks at this point—do one of three things: give the resellers direct bank deposit information (ideal), have the fulfillment house handle these checks (second choice), or have the resellers pay via PayPal or mail checks to one of the people you are trusting with power of attorney (far third). In the last case, give the person with power of attorney deposit slips so he or she can sign or stamp and mail in the checks. It is convenient to become a member of a large bank (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Washington Mutual, Citibank, etc.) with branches near the person assisting you so that they can drop off the deposits while running other errands. No need to move all accounts to this bank if you don’t want to; just open a single new account that is used solely for these deposits. [image: ] Two weeks out— Scan all identification, health insurance, and credit/debit cards into a computer from which you can print multiple copies, several to be left with family members and several to be taken with you in separate bags. E-mail the scanned file to yourself so that you can access it while abroad if you lose the paper copies. If you are an entrepreneur, downgrade your cell phone to the cheapest plan and set up a voicemail greeting that states, “I am currently overseas on business. Please do not leave a voicemail, as I will not be checking it while gone. Please send me an e-mail at __@__.com if the matter is important. Thank you for your understanding.” Then set up e-mail autoresponders that indicate responses could take up to seven days (or whatever you decide for frequency) due to international business travel. If you are an employee, consider getting a quad-band or GSM-compatible cell phone so that the boss can contact you. Get a BlackBerry only if your boss will be checking to see if you are working via e-mail. Be sure to disable the dead giveaway “Sent from a BlackBerry” signature on outgoing e-mail! Other options include using a SkypeIn account that forwards to your foreign cell phone (my preference) or a Vonage IP box that allows you to receive landline calls anywhere in the world via a phone number that begins with your home area code. Find an apartment for your ultimate mini-retirement destination or reserve a hostel or hotel at your starting point for three to four days. Reserving an apartment before you arrive is riskier and will be much more expensive than using the latter three to four days to find an apartment. I recommend hostels for the starting point if possible—not for cost considerations but because the staff and fellow travelers are more knowledgeable and helpful with relocations. Get foreign medical evacuation insurance if needed for peace of mind. This tends to be redundant if you are in a first-world country and can buy local insurance to augment your own, which I do, and it is useless if you are a 10-hour flight from civilization. I had evacuation insurance in Panama, as it’s a 2-hour flight from Miami, but I didn’t bother elsewhere. Don’t freak out about this; it’s just as true if you’re in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the U.S. [image: ] One week out— Decide on a schedule for routine batched tasks such as e-mail, online banking, etc. to eliminate excuses for senseless pseudo-work procrasterbating. I suggest Monday mornings for checking e-mail and online banking. The first and third Mondays of the month can be used for checking credit cards and making other online payments such as affiliates. These promises to yourself will be the hardest to keep, so make a commitment now and expect serious withdrawal cravings. Save important documents—including the scan of your identification, insurance, and credit/debit cards—to a small handheld storage device that plugs into a computer USB port. Move all things out of your home or apartment into storage, pack a single small backpack and carry-on bag for the adventure, and move in briefly with a family member or friend. [image: ] Two days out— Put remaining automobiles into storage or a friend’s garage. Put fuel stabilizer like Sta-Bil® in the gas tanks, disconnect the negative leads from batteries to prevent drain, and put the vehicles on jack stands to prevent tire and shock damage. Cancel all auto insurance except for theft coverage. [image: ] Upon arrival (assuming you have not booked an apartment in advance)— First morning and afternoon after check-in Take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city followed by a bike tour of potential apartment neighborhoods. First late afternoon or evening Purchase an unlocked80cell phone with a SIM card that can be recharged with simple prepaid cards. E-mail apartment owners or brokers on Craigslist.com and online versions of local newspapers for viewings over the next two days. Second and third days Find and book an apartment for one month. Don’t commit to more than one month until you’ve slept there. I once prepaid two months only to find that the busiest bus stop downtown was on the other side of my bedroom wall. Move-in day Get settled and purchase local health insurance. Ask hostel owners and other locals what insurance they use. Resolve not to buy souvenirs or other take-home items until two weeks prior to departure. One week later Eliminate all the extra crap you brought but won’t use often. Either give it to someone who needs it more, mail it back to the U.S., or throw it out. [image: ] TOOLS AND TRICKS Brainstorming Mini-Retirement Locations [image: ] Virtual Tourist (www.virtualtourist.com) The single largest source of unbiased, user-generated travel content in the world. More than 1,000,000 members contribute tips and warnings for more than 25,000 locations. Each location is covered in 13 separate categories, including Things to Do, Local Customs, Shopping, and Tourist Traps. This is one-stop shopping for most mini-retirements. [image: ] Escape Artist (www.escapeartist.com) Interested in second passports, starting your own country, Swiss banking, and all the other things I wouldn’t dare put in this book? This site is a fantastic resource. Drop me a note from the Caymans or jail, whichever comes first. Also search “How to Be Jason Bourne” at www.fourhourblog.com. [image: ] Outside Magazine Online Free Archives (http://outside.away.com) The entire archive of Outside magazine available online for free. From meditation camps to worldwide adrenaline hotspots, dream jobs to Patagonia winter highlights, there are hundreds of articles with beautiful photos to give you the walkabout itch. [image: ] GridSkipper: The Urban Travel Guide (www.gridskipper.com) For those who love Blade Runner-like settings and exploring the cool nooks and crannies of cities worldwide, this is the site. It is one of Forbes’s Top 13 Travel sites and is “high-falootin’ and low-brow all in the same breath” (Frommer’s). Translation: Much of the content is not G-rated. If four-letter words or a “world’s sluttiest city” poll bother you, don’t bother visiting this site (or Rio de Janeiro, for that matter). Otherwise, check out the hysterical writing and “$100 a day” info for cities worldwide. [image: ] Lonely Planet: The Thorn Tree (http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com) Discussion forum for global travelers with threads separated by region. [image: ] Family Travel Forum (www.familytravelforum.com) A comprehensive forum on, you guessed it, family travel. Want to sell your kids for top dollar in the Eastern Bloc? Or save a few dollars and cremate Grannie in Thailand? Then this isn’t the site. But if you have kids and are planning a big trip, this is the place. [image: ] U.S. Department of State Country Profiles (www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/) [image: ] World Travel Watch (www.worldtravelwatch.com) Larry Habegger and James O’Reilly’s weekly online report of global events and odd happenings relevant to travel safety, sorted by topic and geographic region. Concise and a must-see prior to finalizing plans. [image: ] U.S. Department of State Worldwide Travel Warnings (http://travel.state.gov) Mini-Retirement Planning and Preparation—Fundamentals [image: ] Round-the-World FAQ (includes travel insurance) (www.perpetualtravel.com/rtw) This FAQ is a lifesaver. Originally written by Marc Brosius, it has been added to by newsgroup participants for years and now covers nuts and bolts from financial planning to return culture shock and all in between. How long can you afford to be away? Do you need travel insurance? Leave of absence or resignation? This is an around-the-world almanac. [image: ] Removing Clutter: 1–800-GOT-JUNK (www.1800gotjunk.com), Freecycle (www.freecycle.org), and Craigslist (www.craigslist.org) I used Craigslist’s “Free” category to get rid of four years of accumulated possessions in less than three hours on a Saturday evening. There were some for-sale items that I also cleared out at 30–40% of original retail. I then hauled off the last remaining items using the überfast 1–800-GOT-JUNK paid service. Freecycle is comparable to Craigslist for giving away, and getting, things for free when you’re short on time. Get unattached and you’ll make it a habit. I purge every 6–9 months, often including donations to Goodwill (www.goodwill.org), which can do pickups for free with advanced notice. [image: ] One-Bag: The Art and Science of Packing Light (www.onebag.com) One of PC magazine’s “Top 100 [Can’t Live Without] Sites.” Pack light and experience lightness of being. [image: ] U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/travel) Recommended vaccinations and health planning for every nation in the world. Certain countries require proof of inoculations to pass through customs. Get the shots well ahead of time, as some take weeks to order. [image: ] Tax Planning (www.irs.gov/publications/p54/index.html) More good news. Even if you permanently relocate to another country, you will have to pay U.S. taxes as long as you have a U.S. passport! Not to fret—there are some creative legal sidesteps, such as form 2555-EZ, which can provide up to an $85,700 income exemption if you spend at least 330 days of a consecutive 365 days off U.S. soil. This means you have 35 days in a given 12-month period to spend in the U.S. as you like, but no more. That’s part of the reason my 2004 trip extended to 15 months. Get a good accountant and let them do the detail work to keep yourself out of trouble. [image: ] U.S.-Sponsored Overseas Schools (www.state.gov/m/a/os) If the idea of pulling your children out of school for a year or two isn’t appealing, stick them in one of more than 190 elementary and secondary schools sponsored by the U.S. Department of State in 135 countries. Kids love home work. [image: ] Homeschooling 101 and Quickstart Guide (http://bit.ly/homeschooling101) This subsection of http://homeschooling.about.com/provides a step-by-step process for considering homeschooling options that can be applied to education during extended travel. Children can often return to traditional public or private schools ahead of their classmates. [image: ] Home Education Magazine (www.homeedmag.com) Rich collection of resources for homeschoolers, traveling families, and unschoolers. Links include curriculum, virtual support groups, legal resources, and archives. Good reasons to learn the law: Some U.S. states offer up to $1,600 of funding per year for qualified homeschooling expenditures, as it saves the state money to not educate your child in the public school system. [image: ] Universal Currency Converter (www.xe.com) Before you get caught up in the excitement and forget that five British pounds does not equal five U.S. dollars, use this to translate local costs into numbers you understand. Try not to have too many “Those coins are each worth four dollars?” moments. [image: ] Universal Plug Adapter (www.franzus.com) Carrying bulky cables and connectors is irritating—get a Travel Smart all-in-one adapter with surge protection. The size of a pack of cards folded in half, it is the only adapter that I’ve used everywhere without problems. Note that it is an adapter (helps you plug things in), but it is not a transformer. If the foreign wall outlet has twice as much voltage as in the U.S., your gadgets will self-destruct. Yet another reason to purchase necessities abroad instead of taking them all with you. [image: ] World Electric Guide (www.kropla.com) Figure out outlets, voltage, mobile phones, international dialing codes, and all sorts of things related to electric mismatching worldwide. Cheap and Round-the-World Airfare [image: ] Orbitz (www.orbitz.com), Kayak (www.kayak.com), and Sidestep (www.sidestep.com) Search 400+ airlines worldwide for each service. Orbitz is my starting point for pricing comparisons, after which I check both Kayak and Sidestep. Sidestep has proven most effective when searching for flights that start and end outside of the U.S. [image: ] TravelZoo Top 20 (http://top20.travelzoo.com/) Moscow for $129 one-way? These last-minute weekly travel specials might be the push you need to pull the trigger. [image: ] Priceline (www.priceline.com) Start bidding at 50% of the lowest Orbitz fare and move up in $50 increments. [image: ] CFares (www.cfares.com) Consolidator fares with free and low-cost memberships. I found a round-trip ticket from California to Japan for $500. [image: ] 1–800-FLY-EUROPE (www.1800flyeurope.com) I used this to get the $300 roundtrip from JFK to London that left two hours later. [image: ] Discount Airlines for Flights within Europe (www.ryanair.com, www.easyjet.com) Free Worldwide Housing—Short Term [image: ] Global Freeloaders (www.globalfreeloaders.com) This online community brings people together to offer you free accommodation all over the world. Save money and make new friends while seeing the world from a local’s perspective. [image: ] The Couchsurfing Project (www.couchsurfing.com) Similar to the above but tends to attract a younger, more party-hearty crowd. [image: ] Hospitality Club (www.hospitalityclub.org) Meet locals worldwide who can provide free tours or housing through this well-run network of more than 200,000 members in 200+ countries. Free Worldwide Housing—Long Term [image: ] Home Exchange International (www.homeexchange.com) This is a home exchange listing and search service with more than 12,000 listings in more than 85 countries. E-mail directly owners of potential homes, put your own home/apartment on the site, and have unlimited access to view listings for one year for a small membership fee. Paid Housing—from Arrival to the Long Haul [image: ] Otalo (www.otalo.com) Otalo is a search engine for vacation rentals that searches across the Internet’s many different vacation rentals sites and 200,000+ homes. Otalo is like a Kayak.com for vacation rentals. The site scours a variety of other rental search sites and aggregates the results in one easy-to-use search tool. [image: ] Hostels.com (www.hostels.com) This site isn’t just for youth hostels. I found a nice hotel in downtown Tokyo for $20 per night and have used this site for similar housing in eight countries. Think location and reviews (see HotelChatter next) instead of amenities. Four-star hotels are for binge travelers; this site can offer a real local flavor before you find an apartment or other longer-term housing. [image: ] HotelChatter (www.hotelchatter.com) Get the real scoop on this daily web journal with detailed and honest reviews of housing worldwide. Updated several times daily, this site offers the stories of frustrated guests and those who have found hidden gems. Online booking is available. [image: ] Craigslist (www.craigslist.org) Besides local weekly magazines with housing listings, such as Bild or Zitty (no joke) in Berlin, I have found Craigslist to be the single best starting point for long-term overseas furnished apartments. As of this writing, there are more than 50 countries represented. That said, prices will be 30–70% less in the local magazines—if you have a tight budget, get a hostel employee or other local to help you make a few calls and strike a deal. Ask the local helper not to mention you’re a foreigner until pricing is agreed upon. [image: ] Interhome International (www.interhome.com) Based in Zurich, more than 20,000 homes for rent in Europe. [image: ] Rentvillas.com (www.rentvillas.com) Provides unique renting experiences—from cottages and farmhouses to castles—throughout Europe, including France, Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal. Computer Remote Access and Backup Tools [image: ] GoToMyPC (www.gotomypc.com) This software facilitates quick and easy remote access to your computer’s files, programs, e-mail, and network. It can be used from any web browser or wireless device and works in real time. I have used GoToMyPC religiously for more than five years to access my U.S.-based computers from countries and islands worldwide. This gives me the freedom to leave all computers at home. [image: ] WebExPCNow (http://pcnow.webex.com) WebEx, the leader in corporate remote access, now offers software that does most of what GoToMyPC offers, including cut and paste between remote computers, local printing from remote computers, file transfers, and more. [image: ] DropBox (www.getdropbox.com) and SugarSync (www.sugarsync.com); then JungleDisk (www.jungledisk.com) and Mozy (www.mozy.com) Both DropBox and SugarSync perform backups and synching of files between multiple computers (home and travel computers, for example). JungleDisk and Mozy—I use the latter—have fewer features and are more specifically designed for automatic backups to their online storage. Free and Low-Cost Internet (IP) Telephones [image: ] Skype (www.skype.com) Skype is my default for all phone calls. It allows you to call landlines and mobile phones across the globe for an average of 2–5 cents per minute, or connect with other Skype users worldwide for free. For about 40 euros per year, you can get a U.S. number with your home area code and receive calls that forward to a foreign cell phone. This makes your travel invisible. Lounge on the beach in Rio and answer calls to your “office” in California. Nice. Skype Chat, which comes with the service, is also perfect for sharing sensitive log-in and password information with others, as it’s encrypted. [image: ] Vonage (www.vonage.com) and Ooma (www.ooma.com) Vonage offers a small adapter for a monthly fee that connects your broadband modem to a normal phone. Take it on your travels and set it up in your apartment to receive calls to a U.S. number. Ooma has no monthly fees and doesn’t require a landline, but it offers similar hardware you can connect to broadband for a local U.S. number anywhere in the world. [image: ] VoIPBuster (www.voipbuster.com) and RebTel (www.rebtel.com) Both VoIPBuster and RebTel can provide “alias” numbers. Enter a friend’s overseas number on their sites, and both will give you a local number in your area code that will forward to your friend. VoIPBuster also acts as a cheaper Skype with free cal