A road trip to financial freedom

Why I (sometimes) fake financial freedom

By Lizelle Steyn

19 July 2019

It can no longer be postponed. After more than seven years since my last one, and five years with Big Investments Group (B.I.G.), air punching and silently screaming behind closed doors, I’ve lined up a sabbatical. Two months out of the office. Out of reach. Released from duty. Free to do-be-do.

Sabbatical, mini-retirement or simply a break?

If you’re focused on financial freedom, you’ve probably already read Tim Ferriss’s The 4-hour workweek. If you haven’t, he’s the guy who coined the term ‘mini-retirement’. Just another name for a sabbatical or what I used to call a ‘break’. A pause. A rest. So completely underrated.

Nowadays I tend to call it a sabbatical, which sounds like something HR would approve of. More proof that I’ve been spending too much time in corporate; the goobledygook speak of grey meeting rooms has started to chip away at my ‘normal speak’. Technically, within B.I.G. a sabbatical is when they pay you to take some time off; what I’ve arranged is unpaid leave: two months’ leave without pay – like it says on the tin.

Whatever you decide to call it, proper breaks have always been good medicine in my case and a catalyst into a new phase. They've allowed me to simulate early retirement and to test drive a life where I no longer earn an active income. Here's why faking financial freedom every few years can prove really useful.

A sabbatical tests your self-esteem

My upcoming break is different from the previous two in that I have a fixed date that I need to be back at work. With the previous two I had no idea where my income would come from next. Unemployed and facing the void, I realised how much of my identity and self-worth was tied up with having a career. ‘So what do you do for a living?’ started to feel like a personal and quite intrusive question. Enter psychotherapy, which actually dissolved my ego even further, but shone a light on the parts of myself that needed to step out of the shadow – at least once.

Did it make me feel more confident? Truly confident? Looking at all parts of yourself – the strong, the weak and the plain scary – is a good thing, I’d say. But I, and my ability to trust myself and what Life throws me, remain work in progress.

A sabbatical is a good time to immerse yourself in a new field

Some skills are just easier to acquire when you don’t have a day job sapping your energy. And I’m a sucker for learning new things. In fact, I actually enjoy this more than lying on the beach or sailing away into the sunset on a yacht. (Why do marketers keep on using these stock pics to portray retirement?) Learning basic French, setting up a coffee stand, qualifying as a Nia teacher, foster parenting a Labrador puppy and reviewing luxury accommodation for a local tour operator are just some of the new experiences I ventured into while on sabbatical.

Once you know what it feels like, you won’t settle for less

It’s like that hug that makes you feel loved. No matter what happens, you have that living somewhere in your heart. Or maybe you've had that sense of living your destiny while working on something you really care about. Or getting into the flow while practising a sport or hobby. Once you know what if feels like, not only your mind but your whole body remembers it and wants to return to that state of being. Same with a sabbatical. Once you know what it feels like to be dancing to your own beat, your homing device is switched on – heading straight for financial freedom – until one day it’s for the rest of your life.

joyful woman in rain