A few months ago, we got really addicted to driving out to the beach. There was no rhyme or reason to the days or times we would go. We’d just head out whenever the mood struck us and take a long walk. Consistently, we had the entire coastline to ourselves, and we thought we had somehow discovered a secret location.
One day, we went out and found the beach littered with chairs, umbrellas, and noise. “What’s going on?” I asked. “It’s Saturday,” Lauren said. Without realizing it, we had just never gone on a weekend before.
Our beach experience is one of a million possible examples of the same phenomenon, and it’s not limited to just weekends, either. The vast majority of Americans share the same 9-5 Monday through Friday schedule and the same hive mind, leaving everyone fighting for the same resources at the same times.
The highway is an open road at 3 pm on a Tuesday afternoon, but it’s gridlocked by 5:15. The Taco Bell drive-thru wraps around the building at noon, but it’s empty two hours before or after. The neighborhood park sits unused five days a week, but it’s overfilled with screaming kids fighting for a seat on the swingset the other two.
You might think you dislike the beach, or theme parks, or road trips, or walking around downtown. But you might just hate those things when you have to experience them with so many other people all at the same time.
Over the years, we’ve found three main ways to escape the masses and enjoy the things we love at more optimal times.
1. Craft an Unorthodox Schedule
If you work somewhere that’s open on Saturdays or Sundays, you might be able to offset your work schedule to enjoy the benefits of weekdays off. My mom is an optician, and she’s arranged to work Tuesday through Saturday every week for the past few years, exchanging one of her weekend days for every Monday off work.
Because of that, we were able to go tubing in Rainbow Springs State Park with her on a Monday afternoon a couple months ago without waiting in any lines or competing with other people for space. When we tried the same thing with my dad on a Sunday a few weeks later, we had to wait in a long line and were nearly turned away because the park was approaching its max capacity!
You don’t necessarily have to avoid weekends to benefit from an unusual schedule though. When I was a high school teacher, I had very early mornings (ugh), but I also got off work before 3 pm every day. When I’d hop on my bicycle and head home, the busy suburbs of Orlando, Florida, were a bit quiet — everyone else was still at work.
It was the perfect time to run errands, skipping all the lines at the grocery store, the post office, or the DMV. And I could make it to places that close at 5 pm without having to leave work early.
This “schedule offset” strategy is cool, and it definitely helps you get some peace and quiet, but it can also be a little isolating. If you’re still working full-time, and you build a schedule that’s different from everyone else’s, it makes it pretty hard to plan stuff with your friends who work the typical 9-5. So be aware of that.
2. Live Near What You Like
Like I said before, we really like the beach. And we were driving 1.5 hours each way to get there. That is until last month, when we bought a condo right across the street from the ocean and moved to the beach permanently.
If there’s a place you love to hang out, living as close as possible will give you a much better chance to enjoy it at the times nobody else can. Even on weekends, most visitors are packing up before sunset in order to get home from the beach before dinner and bedtime. But since we live across the street now, that’s usually the time we head out to take a stroll. The journey back home is no longer an ordeal.
Moving close to your favorite things helps you enjoy what you love on weekdays and off-peak times more easily, but unless you quit your job, you’ll still be tied to those 40+ hours a week you spend in the office. And moving to an ideal location isn’t always cheap or close to work (although remote opportunities are becoming more of a thing). So, while this solution isn’t necessarily a silver bullet, it’s something to consider in your long-term plans.
3. Buy Your Freedom Forever
The ultimate way to escape the mania of weekends, holidays, and 5-o’clock traffic is to get to a place in your life where you can stop recognizing them altogether. By saving and investing enough of your income to become financially independent, you can make work completely optional and escape from caring what day of the week it is for the rest of your life. It’s an unbelievable feeling.
You don’t have to wait until you’re 65 years old to retire from full-time work and chase your dreams. We managed to get there by age 29, and our lives haven’t been the same since. Life just feels different when you say goodbye to alarm clocks and look at calendars more sparingly.
If that sounds good to you, but you have no idea how to make it happen, check out our Financial Roadmap. It’s not something you can achieve overnight, but it’s also a lot more doable than you’d probably think — even on a middle-class salary.
Don’t Do It Alone
When you manage to completely escape the constraints of a schedule, the positive effects are limited if you’re the only person you know who’s done it. If you could spend an off-peak day at Disney World without waiting in any lines for rides, would it really be much fun without your family or a friend by your side?
As you master the craft of lifestyle design and flexible hours, share your strategies with the people you care about. While you continue to learn about investing, financial independence, and the idea that work doesn’t have to be mandatory forever, try to convince your friends to set and achieve their own goals. Your life will get even better if you can lift up those around you too. A pretty easy start is to click one of the share buttons at the bottom of this article and see who replies.
You might be surprised to find how receptive people can be to changing their lives for the better.