“Mike, how do you do it?”

“Do what?” I said to my grandpa, half-expecting a setup for another one of his cheesy jokes.

“How is it that you’re 22 and retired, yet I’m 65 and still have to work a full-time job?”

I was sitting oceanfront at a seafood restaurant enjoying fresh ceviche in Lima, Peru, when he called to check in on my backpacking trip across South America.

After a month of trekking around on my first solo trip abroad, I’d learned to speak Spanish, hiked Machu Picchu, and did plant medicine in an 8-hour sweat lodge with Ecuadorian shamans in the middle of the Andes Mountains.

He was right—this was definitely a bucket list experience. Something most people put off until retirement, or otherwise when they have “enough” time or money to make it happen.

But I wasn’t retired. And admittedly, I’ve never been excited about the idea of retirement in the first place. I mean, why live the majority of your life waiting to do the things you really want to do until you reach a point where you can hardly even do them?

I knew this trip would be a story I’d tell for the rest of my life. And from that moment on, I decided that I would never retire, which meant I’d have to live in such a way that my “retirement” was baked into my everyday life.

But how?

Integration > Balance

Having worked as a corporate desk mannequin, a freelancer, consultant, and founder, I’ve taken quite a few cracks at the whole “work-life balance” thing and concluded that it’s a myth.

In college, we had a saying: “There are good grades, good health, and a good social life. Pick two.”

The options might change as you get older, but the opportunity cost doesn’t. As long as you strive for balance, you’ll always be striving.

How many people have you known to work even when they’re supposed to be “off.” The proverbial “boundary” of being off work has become increasingly hollow.

Americans have been taking fewer vacations over the last 15 years despite having overall less vacation time compared to other countries. More than half of American workers don’t take their full vacation time. And even when they do take a vacation, 4 out of 10 people “check in” while they’re away.

We try to set boundaries to protect ourselves from imbalance, but boundaries invite trespassing.

And after many failed attempts to achieve a sustained work-life balance, I discovered work-life integration was a much more effective approach.

If I were going to blur the boundaries between work and life anyway, I’d do it on my own terms. Which meant blending the two together in a way that’s compatible with my lifestyle preferences.

Preferences that DID NOT include working a 9-5 desk job. I wasn’t going to suffer a microcosm of retirement, working Monday through Friday in order to live a fun, enjoyable life for two days on the weekend.

It’s not just disproportionate, it’s inhumane!