The Freedom To Chase Storms

Squaw Valley USA, Lake Tahoe Panorama Winter TimeYou can't schedule storms.  If I could, I would schedule all my snowboarding trips around them.  There's nothing better than going up to the mountains after a big dump and floating on fresh powder.  If you've ever watched the movie Point Break, you realize the holiness of perfect conditions.  Instead of getting locked up for the rest of his life given all his bank robberies, Bodhi paddles out into 40 foot swells and rides his last wave.  That's kind of how I feel when mega storms arrive.  I drop everything and make it a point to go out and hit the slopes.

Perhaps part of the reason why I love San Francisco so much is because of the great outdoors.  Where else do you feel happy instead of depressed when it starts raining in the city because you know it means it's snowing in Lake Tahoe, just a 3-4 hour drive away?  Where else can you ride 3 feet of powder and drive back into the city and play golf in 70 degree weather the next day?  Nowhere, which is why it's so hard for me and many residents in the Bay Area to leave.  It's hard to imagine living in freezing cold weather with no mountains close by.  It's like living on the top of the hill with no view.  What's the point?


I decided last week to take the following week off to hit the slopes.  The other option was spending $1,000 on a plane ticket to Maui to see some friends, lay on the beach and ride some waves.  Maui will always be there, but the storm of the decade is only once every 10 years you know.  I'm renting a house that's too big for us (see picture) since that's all they had left on such short notice.  Don't ask me how much it costs a night, because it's kind of scary!  Everything costs a little more thanks to my lack of planning.  But again, you can't schedule storms.

I'm thankful for work's flexibility in allowing me to take off on short notice.  The freedom to be able to just get up and go is due to a proper system put in place that ensures seamless work.  I'm a fan of The Clock Builder, which is what allows organizations to thrive due to a collective force.  It's also one of the reasons why I love my organization so much.


I always wonder whether vacations would be as fun if I didn't have to work.  The more I experience, the more I'm afraid the answer is “no.”  When I'm on vacation for more than 10 days, I start itching to get back to work because there's so much going on in the world!  When I've worked for three consecutive months, I start itching to go away for a week.  Funny how things find a way to naturally balance out.

I've discovered that six weeks off a year is the optimal amount.  It allows me to explore one or two new countries a year on my quest to visit 60 or more before I die.  Six weeks also allows for a couple weeks in the mountains and a couple weeks on the beach.  If I take much more than six weeks off, it starts getting expensive as I'll then need to start dipping into my savings instead of simply using cash flow.

Yes, vacations are fun because of work.  Meanwhile, work is fun because of the freedom to chase storms.


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63 thoughts on “The Freedom To Chase Storms”

  1. I actually started thinking about the concept of work making vacation better when you posted a photo on Twitter of a gourmet breakfast overlooking the ocean. My first thought was that it would be nice to have that every day, but then I realized it would get old if it was the norm. I think it takes things like work to help us enjoy the breaks we do get once in a while to play, relax or be pampered.

    Last year I had to use all of my vacation hours to care for my 2 year old when he got an ear infection every month. I don’t suggest that as a vacation destination.

    1. Hope your 3 year old is better! I remember that pic. It was at a resort off the beach in southern california.

      It was wonderful, and a semi business trip. I hope you can take all your vacate again in 2011, but in Hawaii!

  2. I like the six week plan, too. Not that I would necessarily use it every year, but just knowing it was there would be great – even better if that time could be rolled over. It would be nice if we could take “sabbaticals” every now and then. I did a mid-career fellowship in Nicaragua/El Salvador in my late 20s that was related to my job back then as a reporter – I travelled and wrote articles that were published in the U.S. It was work – but it wasn’t work. I didn’t get tired of the traveling because I had a purpose, and I had the security of a job to come back to.

  3. Love, love vacations on a short notice (unplanned, unscheduled). These type of vacations always turn out to be the best. Enjoy! I always look forward my vacations. Unfortunately, on our small office we have to plan and schedule way in advance.

  4. I love the metaphor! I became financially independent over 25 years ago, the feeling is indescribable! I agree about vacations, they become an opportunity to re-energize to return to work that you love. That is the key, do something you love to do and it won’t feel like work.

      1. It started with a goal and plan. I did it with income property primarily. I added a
        restaurant, and a studio catering company. I since divested everything and
        invested in passive investments. Most of the last 25 years, I did what I liked
        to do such as consulting and now teaching. I started a blog to share my
        expertise. I am enjoying this part of my life and looking forward to the next

  5. I end up with many weeks of vacation. I’d hate to admit it, but it is really too many weeks off! I try to stay productive, but so many weeks of vacation do seem to suck the momentum out of me.

    Nice rental house, BTW. ;)

  6. I totally agree with you Sam. Ive been skiing up at lake tahoe (Heavenly) during a spring storm, and the resort got over a foot of new snow every night. It was a great time, but unfortunately I dont feel like I’ve got time to chase storms like that anymore :( Hopefully I’ll be able to if I can start working for myself.

  7. 6 weeks would be very nice. I get 15 days a year and it’s not enough. Traveling from SE Asia to the US and back kills nearly 3 days so it’s very easy to burn through that meager level of vacation. Plus you are out of sorts for a few days on either side of the trip, because of the 12 hour time difference. Seeing family is the only necessity that justifies the long journey.

    That house you were renting was $500 per night- am I right?


  8. Oh and PS- thanks for the mention!

    I took a look at your 30/30/3 rule to refresh myself again- love the rule. I think I fit the criteria (though it would be 30/30/5…).

  9. That’s a HUGE cottage! Looks like it has 3 hot tubs, at minimum ;)

    How was Tahoe? San Fran does sound awesome to live in. You could play golf here in Vancouver too, but it would be cold. Mind you, our beloved Whistler is only 1.5-2 hour drive away.

    I love vacation too. I have gotten away with 9 weeks off a year (bliss! I split it in two) but that is ending now.. probably will have to staycation it :) 9 weeks off because of the overtime I put in that I get to bank.

    1. Actually, there is a hot tub on the deck, an indoor hot tub, and then two jet tubs!

      If Tahoe was only 1.5-2 hours away, I would literally drive up every single weekend! Is that what you guys do, b/c Whistler rocks.

      Did you actually take 9 weeks off in 2010? If so, I am seriously impressed with all the Canadian benefits I’m hearing. I don’t think even CEO level people in America can get 9 weeks off, unless it was a sabbatical.

      1. If I lived within 1.5-2hrs drive away from the mountains, I’d be there everyday too. I thought Canadians only get 2 weeks of holidays?

        I haven’t been to Tahoe or Utah yet. It’s one of my dream destinations. If you have any pics, I’d love to see you post some up…
        So far, I think Whistler/Blackcombe is still one of my favourite due to the awesome powder and gazillion runs to choose from. Wish I could go back every year… only prob is it took us 30 hours before we were able to step out onto the snow at Whistler Village and that’s a bit too much time in transit…

  10. While I was in the military I had 30 days a year, but they charged us weekends and holidays if you wanted to take multiple days off in a row.

    Now that I am in the corporate sector I am back to getting a whopping 80 hours a year. Because of our work schedule that doesn’t even truly mean 2 weeks, just 80 hours however you decide to take it.

    I can only have a total of 100 hours of vacation time before I start losing it, so I tend to take small bits like 4 hours off on a Friday to get a longer weekend.

      1. According to my boss, one day = 8 hours so in theory 80 hours of vacation time is 14 days offs

        1. I see. I’ve never heard of someone calculation vacation days like that before, probably because I’ve never heard of someone ing working 8 hours a day in this day and age! What industry are you in?

          80 hrs for me would be like 7 days off.

  11. The more vacations I take, the less and less I dread going back to work after the vacations are done! I used to only have 2 weeks of vacation and it just never gave me a long enough escape from the 9-5 to fully rejuvenate myself – and going back to work was SO hard. I’ve slowly gained more days over the years and will be at 5 weeks next year so I’m really looking forward to that. Having more days has really helped me be able to take longer trips to travel abroad & still fit in short trips the rest of the year so I can keep myself well balanced the entire year. I would not be as happy as I am today if I didn’t take vacations!

    1. Congrats on upgrading to 5 weeks next year! 5 weeks is definitely solid, as that’s 35 working days off and therefore 7 full weeks off a year since you’ve got the weekends free. Not bad at all.

  12. If I took six weeks off, I’d be ready to get back to my OWN work, not the job I have now. If I had to come back to my current job, I’d be sick as dog with anxiety.

    And how do people NOT take all their vacation every year? That’s insane to me. It’s the end of the year in government land and all these people are taking vacation so they don’t lose it at the end of the year.

    All I can think is, why the &$%@ are you not taking vacation throughout the year?!

    Like I tell my friends, you’re just another @$$ in a chair. They could replace you in a second, vacation or no vacation. Might as well take it while you got it!

    Sorry for all the language references :-)

    1. I guess I really enjoy my job then. There’s a lot of autonomy and entrepreneurship involved with what I do. That’s the secret… finding a “chair” that you can sit in for a long time. And if you get blown out, ohwell, you saved up a lot, and it was fun while it lasted!

  13. 2 weeks is definitely not enough…. BUT, I’m assuming you’re in your early 20s if you work for Mike, so don’t worry… you’ll accrue an extra week every year or two and be at 6 weeks in no time!

  14. Money Reasons

    6 weeks off sounds like a prefect mix!

    In some ways vacations are just as hard as working a job! Some vacations leave me totally exhausted! So from me 4 weeks is fine…

    I hope to go on vacation somewhere in Europe next year or Hawaii. I haven’t decided yet…

    1. I hear you on an exhausted vacay. I try and leave at least one day of rest at home before going to work. Adventure vacations half way around the world are the tiring ones!

      Go to Hawaii if you’ve never been. It rocks!

  15. Work gives you purpose like vacation cannot. I think we really need both purpose and the lack thereof in order to be healthy.

  16. I’m getting 8 days off this week for the holidays – the longest break I’ve had in years, after working every holiday throughout uni.

    We legally get 4 weeks paid off here, which I think is perfect!

  17. Thanks for the link this week! I am a bit jealous of those closer to the mountains since I’m a ski lover at heart (grew up skiing at least 2 weeks out of the year). Now, since I live at the South end of Florida, any kind of skiing would require a flight, ski rentals, and re-purchasing a cold wardrobe. :) Choices, choices…

      1. True…though I only live here for the weather…hate the beach (sand, salt water, bleh), and never took up surfing. Even the 90+ degrees gets ridiculous sometime.

        Maybe in a few years, we’ll find a happy middle ground in the Carolinas. I think they call those people “half-backs.” lol

  18. 6 weeks sounds like a good number. My husband and I both have 4 and we just had to fill out an employee survey and we were asked whether we would opt in to buy an extra week’s unpaid vacation. He said probably not because he has trouble taking the time he has as is.

    I’ve been on two month long vacations when I was in college. After a month you do start to itch to sleep in your own bed again (especially after staying at hostels with fleas). I love to travel though.

    Thanks for the mention on the article. I was on the fence about posting my article as I don’t usually have a political slant to my writing, but I’m glad a few people thought it was entertaining enough to pass on.

    1. I don’t think your article was political at all. It’s just reality.

      I may consider the vacation purchase…. but probably not. 6 weeks plus the national holidays seem pretty sufficient.

  19. Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

    the concluding question is a good one…

    personally, i find the 6 week threshold a comfortable one myself. in my last corporate job, i only had 2 weeks of vacation, but i took a one month cumulative unpaid leave to travel and enjoy time off (1 month = 4 weeks + the 2 i had). that is another big benefit of side gigging and establishing passive income streams on the side while working. it allows you to negotiate stronger, have more options, and walk away if needed. the one month of unpaid leave doesn’t hurt me, nor do i think of it too much.

    to address the point on vacations – vacations are fun because they are a deviation from the “norm”, whether the norm is work or something else. if your full time job was to travel and vacation all year long, then some time off to r & r at home would be the deviation and therefore valued just as much.

    1. Really good point, and probably spot on that vacations are a deviation from the norm, which is exactly what makes a vacation or anything different so interesting, rejuvenating and exciting!

  20. For me, what means a lot is Professional Autonomy – the ability to do when I want (within reason of course) is what makes me smile everyday. Knowing that if I need/want to take a 90 min or 2 hour lunch to go hang out with my kid or working on the small law practice makes my job so much more enjoyable

  21. I have family in the Bay area, and have been there about once annualy, on average, since childhood. That’s a long time. Though, it looks like this year will pass without a visit there.

    Anyway, I totally get the idea that people there wouldn’t want to leave. Why would you, other than for financial reasons? It’s a parallel universe there, I’m telling you:) Smart people, energetic culture, an abundance of outdoor activities, and a cosmopolitan feel. Hard to beat it.

    Ok, so for vacations, I like to disengage and focus on what I find to be the most fun. Now, as I now have kids, it’s different. Fun is hanging out and being a dad, spending time playing, teaching, etc. Also, however, fun would also be exploring and traveling. Domestically, I’ve been to 47 states, but only 12 countries.

    I wish there 30 hours a day and 500 days in a year, but we kept our same lifespans in terms of years. Too much to experience and accomplish, not enough time to do it:)

  22. No way vacation is fun because of work. Vacation is fun because it’s vacation. I’ve met backpackers who travel for a year, then work for a few months and travel more. Different stroke for different folks. Ideal vacation for me would be 3 months, just like in school. :)
    I love the feeling I get when I’m tearing down the slope by myself. I just want to shout out loud, that’s how you feel right? I sold my board last year though, time to try something else.

    1. I got bored in the third month of summer vacay. Perhaps bc I’ve back packed over 15 countries already and traveled to over 30 that I’m not that interested in traveling all year.

      I want to produce something!

      1. I did 6 weeks in Europe and we were getting really homesick by the end. If I have 3 months off I would travel a bit and then work on projects at home. We’re not nomad anymore.

    2. I should clarify, vacation is MORE fun thanks to work.

      I would be bored out of my mind if I didn’t work for 3 months. I feel tr homesick as well, however I just realized something…. I’m no longer homesick when I go to the beach and snow boarding bc I have homes there. Hence, it’s just like going home! I think I just found the secret!!!

  23. If you think vacation’s fun because of work – imagine how fun it is when you have three kids! My wife and I are going to try to get away for our 10yr anniversary (wo the kids!). Really looking forward to it. (that is of course, with Disney world mixed in this year, but there’s just something about getting away without the madness once in a while).

      1. Oh no, just pointing out that I DO enjoy vaca w the kids too. But when we get away alone, we’re between Vegas and somewhere warm(er). Have a few months to figure it out.

  24. sandy @ yesiamcheap

    Thanks for the inclusion Sam. Remember, I got the property with this tenant in it. There is no way in HELL that I would normally have rented to someone with her background. The next set of tenants have to bring DNA. :)

    I am getting a week off next week and looking forward to vegging out. I plan on sleeping, eating, some ice skating and playing with the dog. My next vacation opportunity occurs in April but I’ll wait until June when a friend has a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic. I only get 2 weeks each year so I’m a miser with my time.

    1. I’m very wary of buying property with tenants in them bc they werent hose. By me and the state is very protective.

      Can you get more than 2 weeks off a yr? Is there progression? That sounds kind of cruel no, only 2 weeks.

  25. I am DYING to get away for a few days. Whether I work or not, I am usually itching for a change of scenery every few months or so. My husband has 5 weeks vacation but usually doesn’t use them all (those are his sick days too.) Once the kids are in college though, I imagine 5 weeks won’t be enough. (We can’t afford to travel 5 weeks a year with the 5 of us right now anyway.)

    My brother has a house near Anaheim and another up in Big Bear. I think he would 100 percent agree with your assessment of having the ability to drive to snow, but not have to live in it. He could not speed away in his Chevette fast enough to get out of Michigan.

    Thanks a lot for the link Sam!

    1. Yeah, I can’t imagine consistently traveling for 5 weeks off for 5 people! Gets pricey! 6 weeks off for two is my limit, then I start wanting to just do staycations and play tennis.

      What about roadtrips with family from your house? Cheaper yeah?

      1. In nice weather, I hop in the car at a moment’s notice all the time. Chicago, Niagara Falls, wherever.

        My youngest has a stress fracture in his back, so we can’t really do anything until that is fully healed. That is part of why I have cabin fever. If not for that, I would have driven to NYC this week.

        1. Driven to NYC this week? Ehhh… thought you lived in the Detroit area??

          Hope your young one gets better. Ouch! Read Healing Back Pain by Dr. Sarno if it becomes chronic. It will change his/your/anybody’s life.

          1. Pllllease read the book! It changed my life FOREVER. In fact, I did a book review of it 1.5 yrs ago on my site if u search for it. It’ll be the best $12 you’ll ever spend!

  26. Agreed. The part that makes vacations so enjoyable is that it is a break from the usual routine. If you were on vacation 52 weeks a year, there is nothing to get a break from. i think regardless of whether you are working or volunteering, as long as you are being productive that a vacation will always be a godsend.

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