Or Living Our Dream in The Low Rent District of the High Life

by Heather C. Thomas of Unexcused Absences.com

Enjoying the slopes at Beaver Creek


On the surface, we look like globe trotters with fat wallets stuffed with trust fund dollars. Each year we enjoy months of cruising the canals of France on our boat, Après Ski. During the winter, we live at one of the most expensive and exclusive ski resorts in the world, Beaver Creek, Colorado (the upscale, sister resort of Vail). It surprises folks when they learn we’re not wealthy trust-funders, dot com millionaires or even spies. We’re just two people, in our 40’s, settled in what we refer to as the low-rent district of the high life.

The choices that enable us to live this ‘vacation lifestyle’ at a relatively young age flow from a few basic principles. We aggressively fund our savings, keep operating expenses small, make targeted capital expenditures, and eschew traditional careers. We focus on enjoying life now – while we can.

In the vacation lifestyle we define our dreams in terms of how we spend our time each day. One day last winter I asked my husband, Kent, to describe his ideal winter day. Catching first tracks on the slopes, he replied, and dinner later with friends. I pointed out that additional money wouldn’t make it snow more or the lifts open earlier or the ski day longer. With more money we could step out of a slope-side mansion instead of packing a lunch and catching the bus. In the evening we could host friends at a fancy restaurant in neighboring Vail rather than using our grill — but our daily routine would be unchanged. If you compare our actual day to our ideal day, we have achieved our dream.


The Vacation Lifestyle Guiding Principles

Here are a few guidelines that help us shape our lives so that we can go now, go with less and live a vacation lifestyle.



Rule 0 – Pay yourself first.

This is the baseline behavior from which all the benefits of the vacation lifestyle flow. No matter how large or small your income, always put aside part of your income into your savings while eschewing debt. It’s unlikely you will be able to retire at a higher standard of living than when you work, so living on less and saving more accelerates you toward retirement.

Rule 1 – You can’t spend like you’re on vacation when you live the vacation lifestyle.

Over the years. we’ve learned that you will pay the same amount for housing in a resort town no matter how long you stay. Stay in a nice hotel for a week, rent short-term for a month, or lease for an entire season and you’ll pay approximately the same price. Therefore, we stay in one place for big chunks of time in order to keep expenses down. We also limit our meals out to once per week, don’t have smartphones or cable TV, and opt to see local bands in dive bars over bigger shows.

Rule 2 – Act like a local – join the community.

A job? Absolutely a necessity! A vacation lifestyle job (which might be a volunteer position) is about much more than earning money, it is about joining the community. I find it necessary for a one’s well-being not just to consume goods and services, but to offer something of value to those around you.

Acting like a local also means cooking like a local — in your home. I’m sure the readers of this blog can attest to how much pleasure one takes from interacting with other cooks, vendors and fellow food-lovers. Entertain friends new and old at your home (or boat!) and rediscover the pleasures of the table.

Rule 3 – Invest in skills and that further your lifestyle.

Instructing others in your favorite sport or hobby or working in an industry which interests you offers good leverage for the vacation lifestyle. Insiders, no matter what industry, often receive hefty discounts or freebies. Generally, the more you dive into any hobby, the less likely it is you’ll pay top dollar for training, supplies, or access to facilities. We work at Beaver Creek as part-time ski instructors and race coaches. This gives us our season ski passes, provides an awesome inside track for gear, makes us true seasonal locals, and covers the bulk of our lodging expense during the season.

Rule 4 – Own things that bring down your operating expenses.

Our 20-year-old, 29-foot canal boat, Après Ski, cost about the same as a mid-sized sedan. The cost of purchase and operation of our boat is significantly less than renting a similar vessel long-term. Assuming we get 60% of our capital back when we sell, we will have paid 20% to 30% of the going rental rate for our vacation once operating expenses are factored into the financials.

Rule 5 – Find your kindred spirits and pool resources.

By pooling resources with friends with different interests, we can each benefit from one another’s vacation lifestyles. We always have room for friends on our couch during ski season, and likewise we can join them at their golf club during the spring. We find it great fun to share resources!

Define your Dream and GO

Après Ski in the port of Sens


We once dreamed of owning a half million dollar sailboat with which to see the world. As it turns out, we actually wanted to travel and to live on a boat not necessarily sail around the world. We’ve found a way to live our dream for a tiny fraction of what we once thought we needed! We ply the waters of France rather than crossing oceans and we love every minute of our adventures.

Examine what it is you really want. Imagine your perfect day or week -what do you see yourself doing? Is there a way to structure your life so that it costs little or nothing to do this? Give up the expensive material trappings decorating your dream, the idea that all work stops when your dream starts and embrace the vacation lifestyle. Be creative, look for the inside track, and don’t be afraid to go for it. Once you leap, you’ll be amazed the opportunities you can find!

Many people work longer than necessary, and wait too long to fulfill a dream only to see the realities of old age thwart it. Try going now, going with less and living your dream sooner by adopting the vacation lifestyle. If you’re willing to reside in the low-rent district, you too can live the high life!


Heather and Kent can be found on the ski slopes, aboard Après Ski, and on the internet at UnexcusedAbsences.com.