If you’re reading this, you’ve decided to travel with us on our Excellent Adventure.
Where to start. . . . .
A career is an interesting part of life. It determines the activities that fill up each day, the people you associate with and the perception that you and others have of your place in society. Building a career takes years of education, training and experience. As a result, a measure of self satisfaction comes from mastering the nuance of a trade and the recognition from peers of a job well done.
And the idea of leaving it all behind can be unsettling.
However, eventually you either get too old, or reach that ‘tipping point’ where you put more into the job than than you get out of it, or just plain get tired of dealing with the same thing day after day.
And you start asking yourself what the remainder of your life will look like and how do you make the transition. The unacceptable alternative is working until you drop.
Jeanne and I watched our friends and family go through this as they neared the end of their career. Some had an easier time than others making the transition. We noted that those who successfully made a transition not only prepared financially, but made an effort to cultivate an interest in activities totally unrelated to work. It was a valuable lesson to learn and early on we chose to prepare for all aspects of retirement.
At first, it was the dream of cruising around the world on our own sailboat. After crewing for local sailboat races, we realized just how much work it was, how dangerous sailing in foreign waters could be and how unforgiving the open ocean is. Not a good idea.
Back on dry land, two ideas slowly began to come together. First, we both enjoyed outdoor activities. As members of a hunting and fishing club, we had a front-row seat to learn from experienced outdoorsmen. Everything from maintaining recreational vehicles to knot tying. You name it. If it had to do with the outdoors, someone in the club could teach you about it. Second, even though we had family in California and friends in Florida, those two states were off the retirement list for reasons to numerous to enumerate here.
It dawned on us that a good way to select a permanent place to settle would be to ‘try on’ a community to see how it fit, and an RV would be perfect for this. Travel to a place, stay there a while, read the paper, look through the yellow pages, talk with the local folks, get a feel for the real estate market and take in the local culture. If we liked it, do some in-depth research. If not, leave. Simple.
The more we thought about it, the more sense it made. Too many of our friends were lured to a place by articles, magazines or family only to find, after relocating, they really didn’t like their new digs.
There were other considerations: good medical care, a relatively close college or university, shopping, access to air travel, etc. But for the most part, we just wanted a pretty place to live a quiet life and enjoy the things we like to do.
We had a strategy and the plan was set in motion.
It took a lot of work to prepare. Research of the type of RV, the full-time travel lifestyle, including insurance, banking, what to do with our mail, where to establish residency, etc. There were a thousand decisions to carefully consider.
Looking back, there were a lot of difficult decisions regarding the house and our belongings. Letting go of ‘stuff’ was a psychological challenge. Standing in front of a shelf of economics textbooks one day, I announced to Jeanne that we would conduct an experiment. I would toss a micro-economics book in the dumpster and wait three days to see if our life changed. Three days passed. Nothing changed. The experiment was a resounding success and we found getting rid of ‘stuff’ was liberating. I’m sure the books are quietly resting in the Los Angeles landfill. A lot of stuff was sold, given to family, donated to charity or tossed. The remainder was put in storage. The image of seeing all our possessions stacked into an area the size of a one car garage is hard to shake.
The closer we got to retirement, the greater the mental break with our old life. It was a leap of faith that everything would be ok in the end. It was the opportunity to do anything else.
We didn’t know how long it would take or where we would settle. There was only uncertainty and a belief that we wouldn’t end up homeless, hungry and lost. It was a gutsy thing to walk away and start over.
And so starts the Excellent Adventure.