Can’t Manage the 4-Hour Work Week..? Why Not Try The 4 Year Vacation!!!

by Chris C. Ducker · 45 comments

This is a guest post by Michelle Dale.

Many of you would have heard about the 4 Hour Work Week,” and for many it’s pretty much impossible to keep on top of personal email and general business in 4 hours a week, let alone making that the extent of the working week! So, I’m going to put forth an alternative suggestion for those of you looking to live a virtual business lifestyle, something I’ve been engaging in for the last 4 years.

The 4 Year Vacation!

I am going to reveal a personal true story, happening now in fact, about how I’ve been on holiday with my family for the last 4 years, non-stop, and why we live this way.

First of all, it’s not strictly all holiday, it’s more like a working holiday, because I’m the CEO of an Internet-based virtual assistant company, which originally was started when I was out travelling in Egypt. Back when I was single it was much easier to live a nomadic lifestyle. What I did when my husband and then children came along is adapt that lifestyle, and we now basically follow these simple rules to moving house:

1. Pick a country.
2. Work out roughly how we will get there and the area or areas we want to live.
3. Search for holiday rentals around that area or areas.
4. Contact the owner and negotiate a long term rental – this works best for up to 12 months.
5. Pay the deposit and move.

If you would like a more detailed, in-depth version of this process, it can be found on my blog.

Because it’s a holiday rental you will need to submit a lot of contact forms, or even better — ask your Virtual Assistant to do it for you! To be able to hit the jackpot, usually we end up with about 3 final options to choose from.

You may be wondering how much extra you need to pay to be able to live the holiday lifestyle. We have always found that we end up paying around 300 Euros a month more than we would normally to have everything all inclusive, plus we get many other perks which make up for the additional few hundred quid.

So why do we live in holiday accommodation? Plenty of reasons! Here are my top 7.

1. No Bills, No Hassle.

Have you ever tried dealing with gas, electric, water, Internet etc… In a foreign language? It’s a huge hassle, with holiday accommodation, all bills are included in the price, and you don’t have to worry about them.

2. You Don’t Need Any ‘Stuff’.

You can travel super-light, we’re a family of 4 and all our worldly possessions fit neatly in the car, we don’t need anything, because holiday lets are generally always fully equipped, furniture, kitchen equipment, bedding and towels.

3. Housekeeping!

One of the many perks you can negotiate is a housekeeper, in our next villa we have secured in Greece, we get a housekeeper included to come in once a week, clean, change the towels and the beds… All year, Bliss!

4. Not Your Average Home.

Holiday accommodation is generally very nice indeed, after all who wants to go on holiday to somewhere no different from their own home. Expect panoramic views, swimming pools, local beaches or places of interest and other random ‘holidayish’ things.

5. Important Assistance.

Most folk who own holiday accommodation either live close by or they know someone who does. We generally find that these people are willing to help us with anything we need, and provide assistance settling in and getting to know the area. This is very much appreciated as we are busy folk with a family and virtual business to run. Especially with a language barrier, this help comes in handy. Because utilities are included, if anything happens, say for example to your Internet connection goes down, the owner will usually tend to it fairly promptly.

6. It’s A Vacation!

When you live in temporary holiday accommodation, you get the feeling of living in a home away from home (not that we actually have a home base, apart from our car which is the only consistent part of our moves!) because they tend to be very comfortable, but you also get that brilliant feeling when you switch your computer/work off, that your holiday is starting!

7. Easy To Arrange.

Generally holiday accommodation is very easy to arrange, you can do it entirely online, you don’t need to view the property, because usually plenty of photos are provided, there are detailed descriptions of the accommodation and surrounding areas, what facilities are at the property, and usually, there is a place previous holiday makers leave reviews, so you can see what other people thought of their holiday there.

We are soon going to be entering our 5th year of moving through holiday rentals and it’s a really brilliant way to travel, see the world, and live the virtual business lifestyle with very little hassle which can otherwise often come when travelling in foreign countries with languages you aren’t well versed in.

So if the 4HWW and mini-retirements aren’t for you, then try a 4 year vacation instead!

I’m curious, if you were to take a 4 year vacation, where would you go? What would you bring with you? Lets share a few ideas below in the comment section!

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Ainslie Hunter October 19, 2011 at 18:19

Michelle,

If I was on a 4 year vacation I would base myself in Canada and take smaller trips to South America. And then move to Europe and travel through country Italy and France.

I would just bring my husband and my daughter. I am not sure I would need anything else other than my computer.

But I have to say this is so clever. You are treating your lifestyle as your business as well – making it work to your financial and lifestyle advantage.

Now I off to visit your site.

Ainslie

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Michelle Dale October 20, 2011 at 20:38

Thanks so much for the comment Ainslie! I think your plan sounds awesome. We have decided to use our next stop Crete, as a base to leave what little stuff we have and then pursue our goals of travelling to Thailand/Bali that neck of the woods. It’s a great lifestyle, once which I feel very privileged to have discovered :)

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Adam October 19, 2011 at 20:03

I’d bring my Girlfriend, the clothes on our backs and my Blackberry. That’s it. When you earn a passive income it makes this a reality.

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Chris C. Ducker October 20, 2011 at 00:39

Hehe… I hear ya, Adam.

Its been a while since I’ve seen you on the blog, buddy. I hope all have been good.

C

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Adam October 25, 2011 at 03:19

Hey Chris, I’ve been a little busy developing new income streams lately : since I only spend 12 minutes work per day in my existing business to tick it over, I’ve been itching to try new opportunities.

I only read the odd post from Tim Ferris, Glen Allsopp, Pat Flynn and your good self. Rarely comment, but you just keep delivering great value and I like to pay it back a little by contributing in my small way.

Keep the awesome content rolling Chris :)

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Chris C. Ducker October 25, 2011 at 12:07

Good stuff.

Keep rockin’ n rollin’, buddy!!!

C

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Michelle Dale October 20, 2011 at 20:42

Sounds awesome Adam, I think that’s about the extent of what I would take if I was without the kids! plus all my Apple products, can’t be without those lol ;)

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Adam October 25, 2011 at 03:22

Thanks for the reply Michelle – that’s what I like about VBL , there’s great interaction and proper discussion here all the time.

Love the extensive use of video at your own site. Really compelling !

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Michelle Dale October 25, 2011 at 21:03

You’re right, nice community feel over here, kudos to Chris for that. Thanks so much for the feedback Adam, I have become a YouTubeaholic :)

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Chris C. Ducker October 26, 2011 at 19:23

Don’t need to give me too much kudos, Michelle…

This community is ALL down to the VBL Tribe. They are the ones that keep it growing, and striving. I love it.

C

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Tomek October 20, 2011 at 03:14

Isn’t it boring? The whole year in one tourist place?

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Michelle Dale October 20, 2011 at 20:46

This is a very good question Tomek, and I would have to say it’s much less boring than spending year in year out in the UK :)

Whilst we do spend on average 6 months up to a year in each location, we also integrate into society, make friends, live the life, and go to other places around our base. It’s a ‘home from home’ lifestyle, rather than just visiting the tourist spots.

To fully appreciate a culture and do as the natives do, you tend to need that time to settle into the swing of things :)

I hope that helps!

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stevewyman October 21, 2011 at 07:13

Your right there michelle it gets boring and its damn cold right now :-(

regards

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Michelle Dale October 21, 2011 at 15:17

Ha! That’s how I remember it :)

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Alexandra Popovic October 20, 2011 at 04:31

Great post Michelle!

Having had the opportunity to live in europe before, there are stil so many countries I’d love to spend some quality time in.

First stop would be revisiting Greece, and in particular my dream place Santorini, then Spain, Egypt …etc….! As much as I adore living in Australia and bringing up our 3 children here, the thing that I’m really excited about is since I started my virtual business over 3 years ago, I can actualy see myself being able to do this one day with the laptop and kids in tow. I feel very fortunate to be living in these times where this is possible, and not just some childish impossible daydream!!! :)

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Michelle Dale October 20, 2011 at 20:48

Thanks Alex, Ahhhh you are like my kindred spirit, we’ve done Egypt, and Spain, and next year we’re doing Greece! I would also love to go to Oz, and it’s on my bucket list for sure, I also have family out there to visit!

I hear what you’re saying and thank the internet gods everyday for giving me this opportunity to earn a living without any real restrictions, it’s just amazing.

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Rick Wolff October 20, 2011 at 20:48

Let me address the average working-class visitor to this page. That’s right. You. Would you like to work for a boss who is on permanent vacation, living it up? How much work would you get done on an average day, knowing he’s on a beach somewhere? Can you picture this situation crimping the Protestant work ethic, even just a bit? Think about it, folks. There are too many people on UNWANTED permanent vacations for me to ever, as a patriotic citizen, ever aspire to SIT ON MY FAT ASS FOR A LIVING.

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Michelle Dale October 21, 2011 at 14:36

Hi Rick, gosh whatever gave you the impression that I sat on a beach all day because I choose to live in holiday accommodation? Through the wonders of technology my team and clients are pretty much able to connect with me morning, noon and night if they need to, and I have worked VERY hard to be able to provide this kind of lifestyle for my family, particularly my children, where we can “WORK” and travel at the same time, and it doesn’t come from spending all day at the beach.

Rick you are of course entitled to your own opinion, but my lifestyle has only meant that I have had to work extraordinarily hard over the years to get where I am today, The way I see it, if I am going to work as hard as I do, I may as well do it with a nice view and interesting surroundings.

Thanks so much for your comment Rick :)

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Patsy Maes October 21, 2011 at 02:54

Hello everyone I am new as a Virtual Assistant, it is tough out there I’m been applying for everything in the world, I retired in 2010 and decided I wanted to work from home, so I did alot of research and came across great websites as this. If there is anything you guys can tell me it would be great. I haven’t had a chance to do any work from home yet, but I will keep trying.

I thought I could work for about 4 hours a day, I had my back operated on and was diagnoised with fibroymylagia so the stress at work was too much for me. I love my job and it was a touch decision to make, but I had to leave and take care of me first. Anyway thanks for listening I would love to hear from some of you to help me keep my head up and be strong on wanting to do something that I always really wanted to do, is have my own business and work from home.

Thanks

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Michelle Dale October 21, 2011 at 14:46

Hi Patsy, everyone’s cost of living is different depending on where they are situated but I have certainly never come across anyone other than Tim Ferris who has been able to successfully only work 4 hours a week and bring a very decent sized full time income in, but I am a service provider, I don’t sell products as he did in the 4HWW book.

If you live in a 3rd world sort of climate it may be entirely possible, I have lived on very little money before as a VA, but not in western society.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I takes me about 4 hours a week just to keep on top of all my daily emails and general ‘keep everything turning’ sort of tasks, making money online is not as easy as it sounds, and will require a lot of dedication and patience, and if you have both, and you don’t give up, depending on your skill and experience you can work through to becoming something like an online consultant which will allow you to charge a lot more, and potentially reduce your hours.

I hope this helps!

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stevewyman October 21, 2011 at 07:50

Hi Michelle,

I have a couple of questions for you.

If you decided to spend 6 month in a warm part of France, Spain or northern Morocco?. Where would you start your search?

Do you always get a decent internet connection in the places you stay or do you have to use internet cafes?

Do you tend to have to provide a significant deposit in advanc?

Ive done 3 months block in various parts of thailand but never 6 months out of the UK (family ties :-() When i go I have one bag and my laptop case. In the UK I wil have left my car a TV and Digital video record box :-) thats it.

Typically my entire life (excluding the car ec above :-) weighs in at 15KG SO I always carry around 8-9Kg of paperbacks to sell wheni get to my destination!!!!

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Michelle Dale October 21, 2011 at 15:07

Hi Steve, I am happy to answer your questions, let’s go through them.

Q1: If you decided to spend 6 month in a warm part of France, Spain or northern Morocco?. Where would you start your search?

A1: Generally I start on the holiday rental sites such as villarenters.com and ownersdirect.com – If nothing came from those I would start googling terms such as “holiday rentals in spain” or “holiday let Spain” to find some of the smaller, less commercial sites where owners post there accommodation for rent.

Q2: Do you always get a decent internet connection in the places you stay or do you have to use internet cafes?

QA: I always go for an internet connection active at the property, and I check the speed as well with the owners, if I don’t have a connection at home, then my business would fold. Literally. Also my husband works for my company, so he needs it too, and we have 2 young children at home so it’s kind of essential. If I was YFS (young, free, single) I think I wouldn’t worry so much as I would be happy to go out and about. But having said that I do all my consultations for clients over Skype plus monthly coaching calls for my students on my business programme and monthly live stream TV shows for the members of my membership site and I need a decent internet connection and a quiet space for those, so café’s wouldn’t work out so well for me.

Q3: Do you tend to have to provide a significant deposit in advanc?

A3: Yes, most holiday rentals want 25% up front, but this time around when we move to Greece next year they have only asked for 1 month in advance, which they will take off the final month we stay, so essentially the last month we stay we won’t pay anything – it’s a way of ensuring we go the full length of the stay we have committed to. You have to negotiate and sell the benefits of them renting their property out to you long term, such as no changeovers, and having it occupied during the winter months. Basically state the terms you are happy with and then leave the ball in their court.

I LOVE that you travel light, I am not a fan of ‘stuff’ and tend to stick to what we really need in life, which is not very much at all. People are often amazed that we live out of our car with 2 small kids, especially when the car seats take up most of the space :)

Nice idea selling paperbacks, very entrepreneurial ;)

Thanks for the comment Steve, hope this helped!

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stevewyman October 21, 2011 at 22:57

Hi Michelle,

Thanks for the info much appreciated. I had assumed you would have a good conntection with your busines but just intrested to get your experience.

I fancy 6 month in Asia and 6 months in southern france/ northern spain or Italy :-) warm days cool evenings great food and wine :-) Oh and the internet lol

The paperbook think is funny. Using up my weight allowance i can take enough books such that when i sell them it pays for my food for a ten days :-) foods cheap on street stalls etc in thailand. and so yum :-)

Cheers

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Michelle Dale October 22, 2011 at 03:38

You’re welcome Steve, if there is anything I can help with on the travel front don’t hesitate to send me an email to info@virtualassistant-live.com.

What you are planning sounds amazing, I have done France (and had a baby there!!) and done Spain too, and now I am in Italy :) Great food – Check, Great wine – check, Great weather – check!

I so envy you on the Thailand front! Can’t wait to finally get there myself, as soon as I get to Crete and have somewhere to leave the car, I will be planning to go.

M.

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stevewyman October 22, 2011 at 06:14

Thanks Michelle for the offer very kind Ill make a note.

Well i may well follow in your footstep. But plan to avoid the Baby part!

Thailand is an amazing experience on so many front. Some bad many just superb. Its not quite like the film “the beech” but it can be :-)

Enjoy your journey.

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Justin October 24, 2011 at 15:38

I loved that move “The Beach”! Glad to find someone else that appreciates it too, heh.

I love the idea of long-term vacation rentals. I was wondering, though…when going to a new area and you’ve got it pinned down to 3 locations…do you visit first to check it out? I’d hate to get attached to the pictures only to find I hated the area, it wasn’t as expected, etc.

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stevewyman October 25, 2011 at 03:24

Its a fun film and deep in places :-) the book is better in some ways. I went treking in middle of thailand in a ntional park. Then one day near a carpark the guide showed me the place they all jump off at the waterfalls. must be two mintues from the car park :-) lol

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Michelle Dale October 25, 2011 at 01:44

Hi Justin, No, I just ask the owners a whole bunch of questions relating to things that would be important to me, such as neighbours, distance to shops, bars etc… things in the area, what life is like, and then pick the one closest to my requirements, then it’s a surprise when we get there! It has very rarely not come close to our expectations, but we aren’t really very hard to please people I guess lol!

Just be really thorough when you do your homework on your shortlist.

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Tessa October 21, 2011 at 10:29

I think I am becoming addicted to this site Chris, it just represents everything I want! I love this blog and I love your website Michelle!

Now that my husband and I have made the decision to live overseas for as long as we can doing the normal daily grind (even if it is in my own Company) is torture.9 weeks to go and we are up in the air about Canada or Thailand (we are in Australia), but to be honest I don’t care where we end up. The offloading of our stuff, the way we look at things around us has changed….and for the better….things are just not important anymore! I can not wait til my blog has me listed as away for 4 years! Congrats Michelle.

P.S On a random note, how do you get a profile picture onto your comments Chris?

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Michelle Dale October 21, 2011 at 15:16

Thank you so much Tessa, I very much appreciate the feedback, but most of all congratulations on the ‘get up and go’ you’ll be doing soon, that’s amazing and I wish you every success. I have been on the road 4 years with my family, but 2 years prior to that on my own when I was single and leaving the UK where I was based, was the best decision I ever made. You get your suitcase with everything you own in it, get on the plane and you have no idea what awaits you at the other end – LOVE IT!!

If I were you I would start in Thailand, it’s close to where you were based, cost effective, fairly easy on the VISA front compared to Canada, and could give you the time you need to settle into your new found freedom, then move on from there. I could kick myself that I didn’t do Thailand earlier on, so I am a little biased! But wherever you go and whatever you do, I wish you all the best.

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Chris C. Ducker October 21, 2011 at 19:52

Thanks again for such an enjoyable and fun post, Michelle.

You always get the comment section going, too.

Keep enjoying life…

C

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Michelle Dale October 22, 2011 at 03:32

You’re so welcome Chris, it’s my pleasure. Long live the VBL :)

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David October 24, 2011 at 06:24

Hi Michelle

That sounds like an interesting lifestyle. So, while you tell us some interesting aspects about why to live in a holiday accomodation, you don’t tell us too much about your lifestyle itself :) You write: “it’s not strictly all holiday, it’s more like a working holiday”: can you specify that a little more? Would be interested in this aspect and maybe in how you got started (i.e. first steps and what you were struggling with most). In case you have a blog article about that somewhere, which I suppose you do, please share :)

Thanks and best regards from Greece!
David

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Michelle Dale October 25, 2011 at 02:05

Hi David,

Sure I would be happy to! David you’re in Greece – my next stop! So I’ll say “Gia” :)

If it’s okay with Chris to post links – This is basically where it all began:
http://www.virtualassistant-live.com/how-to-quit-your-job-and-experience-financial-freedom-in-under-3-months/

And then this one may also be of interest, it’s a bit of a follow on:
http://www.virtualassistant-live.com/calling-all-virtual-assistants-and-digital-nomads-this-is-for-you/

Now I am very fortunate to have an excellent balance between my business, my family and my personal projects which I am working on, one of which is helping people recreate how I did it all, it’s awesome! Wouldn’t change it for the world.

If you have any specific questions, I would be happy to answer them.

Thanks so much for your comment David :)

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David October 27, 2011 at 03:31

Hi Michelle

Thanks for sharing the 2 articles which I just read. Inspriing story, for sure. Interesting: you already had your own house at the age of 23? Wow :)

When and where will you be in Greece? Any chance you’ll spend some time in Thessaloniki, the 2nd biggest city, located in the North of Greece?

Regards,
David

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Michelle Dale October 31, 2011 at 21:54

You’re welcome David! I bought my first home at the age of 18, the bank wouldn’t allow me to have a mortgage until my 18th birthday, I then went to work for the mortgage department of the bank – ironic isn’t it :-)

I will be on the island of Crete, but I would love to do a bit of travelling around while I am there once I have got settled!

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David November 1, 2011 at 04:51

Cool Michelle! In case you make it up to the Thessaloniki I’d love to meet! Maybe we could even do a 4HWW (er, I mean: 4 Year Vacation :) ) interview with you, face to face, for our site http://www.4hwwsuccess.com

How long will you stay in Greece, if the worsening crisis doesn’t make you want to leave earlier than planned… :/

Regards from Greece,
David

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Michelle Dale November 1, 2011 at 15:00

Thanks David! Well, if we like it there and our kids settle into life on Crete, and I can get to grips with the language, we intend to make it our base. We have committed to a year and if we are happy at the end we’ll stay longer.

I heard Greece just got bailed out for 50% of their debt, that was certainly a blessing for Greece, plus it’s pretty bad wherever you go these days, it’s just some countries are worse than others, a little crisis never phased me ;)

Oh, I would love to do an interview, that would be so cool, I won’t be in Crete until the end of April next year, about 6 months away, I’ll let you know when I arrive :)

Michelle

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David November 1, 2011 at 15:07

Good morning Michelle :)

Well, since you still have 6 months to go until you come to Greece, a lot can (and I think will) happen until then. Just look at the Greek Prime Minister’s decision yesterday that the Greek people should decide about the new financial support package. And the fact that 50% of the debt is supposed to be gone finds many that aren’t exactly happy about it. But that’s politics and here’s not the right place for such things :) But: if I were you I’d come up with a plan B about where else to go in case in Greece worse come to worst.

We could do an intereview already earlier, in case you’re interested. I leave that totally up to you, no pressure from my side ;) You can contact me at david(at)4hwwsuccess(dot)com to continue plans for that.

Regards from Thessaloniki,
David

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Michelle Dale November 3, 2011 at 07:09

Hey David, thanks so much I have sent you an email just now. Would LOVE to pick your brains on Greece if you’re up for it ;)

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Janet Kay November 3, 2011 at 19:49

Love it Michelle! Great blog. I’ve always lead a nomadic lifestyle changing apartments every 3 months (back when I was 17 and you could GET a 3 month lease!). Then I figured out how easy it was to move interstate (Australia) so enjoyed changing cities every year or so. Travelling and working are in my blood, only now I don’t head to the nearest temp agency, I hold the reins of my income potential and I love it! It’s shaky and intimidating sometimes but that’s life. Sometimes it’s fantastic and exciting so it all balances out. We have twin daughters now and are moving up to Mt Hotham ski area next winter for a year in a holiday house and taking the bare minimum. We’ll teach them how to snowboard and ski as regularly as possible (what awesome parents they have?!) Where we go after that I don’t know. Maybe Hawaii. Wherever it is, I’m looking forward to it and loving the Virtual Assistant lifestyle! I truly hope more people get to experience and enjoy our way of living. When you let go of ‘things’ and focus on family and the beautiful world around you, life takes a turn for the better. For everyone!

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Michelle Dale November 8, 2011 at 01:14

Thanks so much Janet for sharing your experience of being a nomad, I love it, although at times I do feel like staying put, I seem to get the 3 to 6 month itch, where I want to move on… Your life sounds so awesome, I certainly wish my parents could have taught me to snowboard lol.

What you said here is so true “When you let go of ‘things’ and focus on family and the beautiful world around you, life takes a turn for the better.” It does indeed, and I wouldn’t miss seeing the world for anything :)

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Oliver Baumbach January 12, 2012 at 00:13

I like the way this idea works ALOT, just as I adore much of the ideas propounded in the 4HWW and books such as the 80/20 principle, The Game, etc. Even though, why restrict yourself to 4 years of this lifestyle if it works out so well? (rhethorical question)

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Janet Kay January 12, 2012 at 07:22

Maybe a trip to Down Under? It would be amazing to host you, and an event for aspiring VAs in Australia!

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Francis May 8, 2013 at 03:38

What an inspiring blog post Chris,

I would love to just grab my girlfriend, pack my bags and go to a one year vacation.
See I am being modest – Not even ask me for four years.

Actually that is one of my life dreams to be able to retire for few months at a time each year to some lovely islands, drinking cocktails out of coconuts.

The most important part of it is that I can imagine that it would be fun to work on my virtual businesses from some paradise island.

Going to check out your full story now…

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