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Mini-lives: how to see the world without taking a day of vacation

March 12 2014 – 02:34pm

Seeing the world is simple: just get on a plane and go somewhere. If you really want to get the full experience in a place, it’s even better to live a mini-life, which is just like living your normal life, but in a different city. It shakes the cobwebs off of your old routines, introduces you to new things, and you return to your home base with a more sublime sense of your self.

My view from ESPACIO, a coworking station in Medellin (It was -7? F in my home base of Chicago on this day)

My view from ESPACIO, a coworking station in Medellin (It was -7° F in my home base of Chicago on this day)

So, just drop everything, fly off to a foreign land, and live a mini-life. Easier said than done, right? Most people can’t just take off to another place for a couple of months at a time. We have to earn money, pay rent, or take care of our kids.

So, how can one possibly pull off a mini-life? Once we’ve figured out the basics, how can we make sure we’ve lived a good one?

I’ve lived mini-lives in Rome, Buenos Aires, Medellin (twice), and Brooklyn. Even though I’ve traveled all over the world promoting my book, my mini-lives have been far more enjoyable and impactful.

Here’s how to make a mini-life happen, and how to make sure it’s a good one.

Don’t make excuses

If you’re totally on board, go ahead and skip this section. If you have your doubts about whether you can pull off a mini-life, read on.

Pulling off a mini-life is not for the faint of heart, and the more tied down you are, the harder it is. But be careful when you start making excuses to stop yourself. The trouble with excuses is that they usually can’t be proven correct – but they can be proven incorrect.

For example, if I say “I can’t live a mini-life because I don’t have the money,” yes, it’s true that you apparently don’t have the money that you think you need to live a mini-life; but, there’s a number of things that could prove you wrong. You could realize that mini-lives can often cost less than your normal life, or, you could start taking steps today that would ensure that you met the financial goals that would make you comfortable. Finally, you could work to change your perception of what is an adequate amount of money.

I made hard decisions for years to finally set up my life so I could easily live mini-lives. I didn’t magically arrive at this point. I had to give myself permission to suck from time to time. If you start today, eventually you’ll get there.

Where there is a will, there is a way. If a couple of details are going to prevent you from doing something, then it’s probably better to just admit that you don’t want it that badly, or aren’t willing to put up with the trade-offs. It’s okay. It’s not for everyone.

So, before you say “I can’t because…” try reading the following with an open mind.

How to make money during your mini-life

The most obvious impediment to living a mini-life for most people is their job. Many people have to be at a certain place during certain times in order to collect their paycheck. Here’s a few approaches for such people:

Living a mini-life is a bigger challenge for some professions than it is for others, but if you’re resourceful, and you are willing to make changes – and sometimes be very patient – you can achieve the flexibility you need.

Where to stay during your mini-life

Aside from having money to pay rent, you’ve gotta have a place to pay that rent to. To make matters more complicated, you’re often committed to paying rent somewhere else.

If you have a mortgage that allows you to rent your place out, then there’s not much left to do but tidy up and post your place on AirBNB. (get $40 off your first stay with my AirBNB coupon) If you have concerns, remember that they have a $1,000,000 host guarantee.

If you have a lease, you’re most likely not allowed to sublet under the terms of your lease. Some people are lucky enough to have a landlord that doesn’t mind, and others are willing to simply take the (unlikely) risk that there will be consequences beyond a couple of dirty dishes and some missing Q-tips. (I am not a lawyer, and take such risks at your own…risk).

Finding a place to stay during your mini-life is a little more flexible. Most major cities have a decent market of furnished apartments that can be found with a quick Google search, and HomeAway have places to stay almost anywhere.

One strategy I have used is to spend my first week at a hostel, roam around the city and talk to other expats to get an idea of the best ways to find housing, and then find a place. This is a notably more time-consuming and stressful strategy, but I wouldn’t recommend against it.

If you’re willing to be less selective in your housing search, you can swap homes for free with someone on HomeExchange, but you’re of course limited to the location the people who are swapping with you are in.

Where to go during your mini-life

It all depends upon what you want to achieve during your mini-life (more on that later), but picking the right place to take it can be critical. Here are things to consider:

Have a plan for your mini-life

One of the things people like about traveling is flying by the seat of their pants. That has its time and place, but I like to approach my mini-lives more deliberately. If you have a plan, you can execute it, and finish your trip feeling satisfied and refreshed. Keep these things in mind:

Kids, dogs, and relationships

Mini-lives may sound like some fantasy only for unattached people with no responsibilities at home; but if you want it badly enough, almost anything is possible.

First of all, if living mini-lives is important to you, and you don’t yet have these things in your life, take this desire into consideration before making those commitments.

But if it’s “too late” then be creative and work to bust down those excuses.

Take David and Carrie McKeegan of Greenback Tax Services as inspiration. They started their firm in 2008, and have since lived all over the world.

Not only did they manage to turn a usually-location-dependent profession into a unique business by providing tax services for other expats, but they’ve done this – along with all of that travel – while having two kids. Listen to the What is the Best Place for Location Independent Families? episode of the Tropical Talk Radio Podcast to hear more of their story.

Start small and dream big

Some people are already living mini-lives, while others are just a few small changes from being able to take off next week.

Even if a mini-life seems like a longshot to you, you don’t have to do a full-blown one right away. Open up a new note in Evernote, and start brainstorming. What would you need to set up? Where would you like to go?

If there are barriers in your way, practice small ways to break them down. It may be just convincing your boss that you can even be productive working from your own home, landing that first freelance client, or seeing if you can find a friend to take care of your dog while you leave for just a week.

Whatever it is, chances are, a mini-life is possible for you. It will be an experience that pays off if you take the right steps to make it happen.

(My latest) Mini-lives: how to see the world without taking a day of vacation

— ? David Kadavy (@kadavy) March 12, 2014

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