Starting January 20, I have more than a month of blissful winter vacation. Since I work at a Chinese school, as opposed to international schools here that follow a more Western schedule, we do not get off for Christmas–but now, we get a ton of time off for Chinese New Year & Spring Festival.
In an aggressive step to lessen my debt, I’ve decided not to go anywhere. This is a bit of an anathema in a world where most people view such a stretch of time as an opportunity to jet off ASAP–and, to be honest, I did too, until my debt superseded that desire. Thus, while I understand, I’m making a different choice than my peers. And their reactions have been amusing.
“B-but what are you going to do?” some have asked, flabbergasted, when I tell them I’m staying here. “Won’t you get bored?”
While in the States, teachers might only be expected to travel out of state to see family over the break, here is different. You’re expected to travel; otherwise, why did you uproot your life and choose to live in a place with just two McDonald’s burger joints and absolutely NO tacos for sale?!
Basically, some of my coworkers view our home as a cross between a desert tundra and that icy planet where the Rebel Alliance recouped after the 1977 Star Wars (I’ve been revisiting these films. No shame). And while it’s certainly not the most exciting city, especially if you’re looking for external sources of entertainment, I will have more than enough to keep me occupied.
Even before I stumbled onto The One Thing, I knew of myself that I’m good at precisely one real focus at a time. No matter what I spend my evening hours consuming, though–which, for now, consists mostly of personal finance blogs, podcasts and books–the bulk of my time is spent at work.
In other words, I’m not truly about just one thing, because of work.
In contrast, these 4.5 weeks will be like a true mini-retirement, following a principle I admire from Paula Pant, who says “retire early, and retire often.” I have a list of tasks I can do around town and in nearby Hangzhou, where a bus ride and a short walk costs under $2 round-trip, but much of what I’ll do will be at home.
I have a golden opportunity in these weeks to exert effort to cook more varied dishes, something harder to do on weary weeknights. I’ll help to edit some financial education curriculum, and I hope to get a leg up on monthly columns I write for an online publication about whiskey. I’ll have an incredible opportunity when it comes to this blog, not to mention listening to hours and hours of personal finance podcasts a day. And then, when my head feels like it’s about to explode, I can exercise or read fun novels, which for me equates to dancing around in my apartment to music that reminds me of early days in Vegas, running outside on clearer days, and enjoying Outlander and funny memoirs.
I’ll Facetime with family and put together furniture I bought months ago, which has been sitting in the corner since mid-November. And finally, I hope to write the rest of my lesson plans for the school year–my favorite part of teaching, but a part which is hard to do when a mountain of grades is constantly nipping at your heels.
Since I plan to stay here for at least three years, and we have more control over our assignments than in other contexts, this also means that the reward for a few weeks’ intense work may yield benefits for years. Essentially, if curriculum were mostly nailed down, I’d be free to focus on ONE THING as a teacher for the rest of my time here: grading, which tends to fall to the wayside in lieu of the excitement of writing content.
These few weeks’ work could be the equivalent of paying off my debt so I can cashflow future trips: if lessons are planned, I’ll be freed to be more timely in my scoring, and to adjust the plans to students’ needs in a more efficient manner. Win-win!
Regardless of how I spend the time, I will have plenty of things to do. In fact, while I think “cabin fever” is a real thing (because, nature! Sun!), I think it’s a bit silly for an adult to use the word “bored”–really, ever. Didn’t we learn when leaving childhood that the world does not exist to entertain us? Or, to put it more positively, isn’t there an endless array of entertainment and enriching information now available on-demand, thanks to technology? And I say this as someone who deals daily with China’s Great Firewall, just to reach half the websites readily available in the West!
In short, I won’t find it hard to stay busy. Blame it on my personality type (INFP, if you view such gauges as legit), but I love time alone. And the idea of staying in one place for a month, dreaming about a future in which I am financially independent, and practicing more self-sufficiency? Don’t mind if I do.
Of course, the proof is in the pudding. The last major focus of my time off will be working on Chinese. This will be assisted by the fact that my Western friends will be gone, and I know from past trips to Thailand, Russia and Argentina that time spent almost entirely around people who do not speak your language can be tiring. But I love language in general, and I generally find this kind of discomfort pleasurable in the long-term. So, here’s hoping!
What about you? What would you do if you had a month off work with no obligations, as a single person with no kids? I’m staying in place mostly due to debt, so I understand if you, if debt free, would travel. Regardless of what you’d choose with the time, I’d like to know how you’d spend it.