Jen Yih1 Comment

Retired at 25

Jen Yih1 Comment
Retired at 25


It was another Wednesday morning. I woke at 6:30AM hit my snooze button three or four times, laid in bed scrolling through my Instagram feed of exotic places and faces, rushed to get dressed and maybe brushed my hair, drove the same street passing the same people who stood at the same bus stops, took the same 3 flights of stairs up to my office, and sat all day at the same desk, drinking the same coffee. 

I was only 24-years-old when I landed what I thought was my dream job, and it was in many ways. But when I turned 25 and a few other “dream job” scenarios started popping up and extending high ticketed offers I started questioning those downward spiral kind of questions: 

What am I doing? 

What is the point? 

What is my purpose? 

I sort of felt like life had played some sort of sick joke on me, telling me from a young age to follow my heart, yet there I sat in a desk staring at a bright blue screen for 8 hours, 5 days a week. I looked around me and everyone else seemed to be just fine with our screen dwelling routine. As the spiral continued straight downward I really began to self-loath, treating myself like a sell-out. I wasn’t practicing what I wanted to be preaching. So, I had no choice. 

I gave the company that I love & respect dearly a two month notice and started to downsize everything I owned & packed. I didn’t know what I was packing for but as I browsed the world wide web and threw a few darts at the map, I booked my first one-way ticket to Portugal, then Morocco, then UK, then Iceland, then Indonesia, and the list goes on. When you start leaking to the world and your community that you’re going to “take off” for a little while to maybe surf or ski or hike or camp or write or paint or whatever, the suggestions, people, and places start to naturally roll in. I didn’t know what I was doing or why I was doing it, but something felt more right about this departure than any of my other calculated options. 

I’m on day 58 since leaving my job, living off of my savings account, completely homeless, and jumping on the next train, plane, or bus to a new place in the world. Every single one of those 58 days has been completely different than the other, whether it is in a new country with new food, a new language, a new culture, or new friends. 

I’ve found myself hilarious as I joked on social media about my opt-in homelessness, sleeping under the stars at my most recent off-the-grid dojo in Baja California, Mexico. But, again, I realized this wasn't “opt-in homelessness” (and that term is pretty insensitive), this was temporary retirement

Retirement the way our grandparents and parents have been doing it has really worked out for them, but when you tell a Millennial that social security won’t even be around by the time we’re ready to retire around 65-years-old, why wait? I came to the agreement with myself that I rather run around the world to ski, surf, and play when I’m young, nimble, and energetic vs. when I’m almost seventy with a fading memory, sexual appetite, and physical ability. At 65-years-old I’ll be much more at ease with resting my old, tired, well-used bones at a desk staring a blue screen with my bifocals on taking care of business. I’ll also be so old, wise, and resilient that the stresses of business and finances will be a thing of the past because we all know, by then, that everything always works out. 


Here’s what temporary retirement looks like at 25-years-old:

  1. You go to bed, whenever you want and wake up without an alarm clock.

  2. You sleep like an angel, stress and anxiety free waking up early with so much zest and vigor, ready to take on the day and make something exciting happen. 

  3. You walk everywhere, knowing that you’re not on a timeline to be somewhere by a certain time, you’re able to look around and take notice of things you never saw before. 

  4. You photograph people, places, and things for your memories and not for your Instagram feed. 

  5. You read. You’re able to walk around a place like London from one regal bookstore to another and pick up books, read them, buy one, sit on a park bench and actually finish reading it without interruption. 

  6. You can spend five days back to back surfing the Portuguese coast because you’re able to sit, chat, eat, and make friends with the people at the surf shop that urge you to try new boards their friends shaped. 

  7. You have real conversations, not just the quick, “hey, hello, how are things?” about politics, values, differences, and how we can be better-kinder, more efficient humans. 

  8. You spend time with your family. Instead of only having 2-weeks vacation, I was able to spend 2 full weeks with my parents who aren’t getting any younger and won’t always be around. 

  9. You help your friends out when they need're not too busy or stressed or tired from this or that. 

  10. You can go almost anywhere alone. 

  11. You eat when you’re hungry, food becomes fuel not fun. 

  12. You’re allowed to be bored. You’ve heard it before, but boredom breeds creativity. Rest your mind. 

  13. You organize your ideas without distraction and interruption. 

  14. You get to watch the sunset and the sunrise. 

  15. You can do more of what you love and chase those childish dreams you once had to be a writer or a surfer or a photographer, and go to bed with a smile on your face as you remember who you are. 

  16. You become a better version of yourself when you give yourself time to remember what's really important. 

Sometimes we need to slow down to catch up. I’m not an advocate of being lazy or not working or checking out, we need to contribute and participate, not only for our own well-being, but for the betterment of our communities, society, and future. But if you’re anything like me, you’ve felt a shift in the way things are today. It has been a go-go-go world and those expectations we had many years ago for where we would be at 25-years-old are shattered because we’re waking up and questioning the status quo. We know that money, the big house, the shiny car aren’t the keys to happiness, we’re smarter than that - but let’s stop getting distracted by what everyone else is doing and focus up. I am an advocate of putting down your phone and putting your money where your “likes” are. Let’s not wait until we’re old to enjoy the world and what it has to offer. Let’s be a generation that takes understanding diversity, connectivity, presence with a serious approach to having a never-before world view.  

Next stop: Indonesia

Read about how I'm affording this self-funded world tour here