Despite that horrible first day back, I would not change a thing regarding my two week vacation. Every vacation I take motivates me to work harder in order to achieve financial independence at an earlier age. Here are the four reasons why vacations motivate me.
1. Preview of Financial Independence
Although I have no idea what I will do in terms of work, hobbies, or or other pursuits after I reach financial independence, I love experimenting how I will spend my time while on vacations. For the first time ever, my wife and I decided to try a "staycation" during our first week off. Even though we kept very busy doing projects around the house, visiting a couple museums with our son, playing some extra ultimate frisbee, and throwing my son a birthday party with my family, neither one of us particularly enjoyed our first staycation. Yes, we definitely saved a lot of money by not travelling, but we both felt overwhelmed completing numerous projects around the house.
However, with just a slight change of location, to my brother in-law's cottage in St. Alphonse Quebec, our second week of vacation was heavenly. The country air and spending time with my wife's family was very enjoyable and even led to my son sleeping in until 9am one morning (vs his usual 6:30am wake-ups during week days)! The most stressful decisions revolved around what to eat for meals (pro-tip: you can never go wrong with barbecue) and how to stop the bugs from biting us around the campfire. We took great pleasure in swimming, kayaking, going for walks, and reading books, all very low cost, but high enjoyment activities. Although my wife mentioned feeling a bit isolated in the countryside, we both agreed that spending time at a cottage was much more enjoyable than our staycation.
2. Time for Reflection
While listening to a Tim Ferriss's podcast while painting during the staycation portion of my vacation, and noting that he starts his day with meditation, I was quickly sold on setting aside some time for reflection. Ever since the birth of my son, I feel in a constant state of movement, rarely able to stop and recharge. My focus tends to be on the moment, which impairs my ability to reflect on accomplishments. With an increased amount of free time during the two weeks away from work, I set aside sometime to reflect.
The result of taking some time to reflect on my accomplishments was realizing how lucky I have been over the past couple years. Having a healthy son, beautiful wife, job I enjoy, and leading a very comfortable life is no small feat. Realizing how many blessings I have in my life made me feel grateful, and has prompted me to think of more ways to help others. In that spirit, I wanted to share one of my "financial experiments" I have been most proud of this year with you, in the hopes that some of you might try it yourselves: trying to make someone's day better by spending a nominal amount of money. So far in 2016, every time that I feel particularly down, I make a conscious effort to think of someone who is having a worse day than me, and brainstorm a way to improve it. Although far from scientific, I have been able to lift my spirits each time I conduct this experiment, along with the mood of the individual I choose to focus on. Given most of the recipients have been chosen for pretty personal reasons, I am not comfortable sharing the specifics of this experiment, but will say that for the cost of a cup of coffee, a gift card, flowers, or a meal, I have brightened some days in 2016, including my own.
3. Determining The Cost of Independence
Since one of my main goals this year is to get a better idea of how I spend my money, keeping track of my vacation expenses served the dual purpose of contributing to my total accounting of expenses, while also allowing me to see how much it costs to enjoy myself away from work for a couple of weeks. As mentioned in my first point above, our staycation week was pretty inexpensive, as we mainly focused on doing things around the house, and taking in a couple of museums. Both of the museums were free (except for parking costs) as we simply borrowed passes from our local library. The only expense that rose significantly during our staycation was ice cream...as we tried a place near where we lived, and made a couple of extra trips to Chocolat Favoris (the best dipped cones I have ever tasted).
Although the second week of vacation was slightly more expensive, it was still very much affordable. We were lucky to borrow my brother-in-law's cottage for the week, and we left him a cash gift to thank him for his generosity. I took advantage of an offer of free-babysitting by my wife's parents to take her our for dinner and a movie, which was easily the most expensive day of our vacation. That said, I found the quality time alone with my wife to be well worth the cost. In fact, spending time together was priceless from my perspective. To summarize, the two weeks of vacation were very low cost, and I am looking forward to comparing them to how much we spend on vacation for another two weeks in September.
4. Testing My S.W.A.N. Portfolio
Last year, as I prepared to go on vacation, I came to realize that my portfolio did not allow me to sleep well at night (S.W.A.N.). Therefore, last year I kept my portfolio notification emails on, I invested some cash before leaving on vacation, and then I even conducted a couple trades while on vacation. A year later, and ever so slightly wiser, I am happy to report that my portfolio is almost ready to be considered a SWAN. As I will write about next week, the only transaction I undertook before going on vacation was selling half of my stake in Corus Entertainment, as its the sole company I own that I do not have total confidence in. That done, I was able to completely disconnect for two weeks, and not worry about which way the market was moving, or what was happening with my holdings. The only changes to my holdings that were notable upon returning was that Omega Heathcare Investors raised their dividend by twice as much as I expected, and Corus reported weaker earnings than anticipated. All in all, my slightly more boring portfolio continues to do well and generate an ever increasing stream of dividends.
In summary, my two weeks of vacation were fantastic as they allowed me to preview how I might spend my time when I am financially independent and how much those activities would cost. Additionally, the vacation allowed me some time to reflect on my progress and test my portfolio to ensure it did not stress me out too much.
What are your summer vacation plans???