My African Adventure

We just took our “honeymoon stage” retirement trip this month – an 18 day African Safari in Kenya and Tanzania.   As it coincided with our 25th wedding anniversary, I did call it our second honeymoon. It was a bucket list item for me, similar to our first honeymoon.   That one was to visit castles in Germany and Austria with the highlight being Neuschwanstein. My homebody hubby truly loves me to take on this second big adventure with me.

Most retirement books will highlight the first 6 months of retirement as the honeymoon where you are “supposed to take” that once-in-lifetime trip, complete your honey-do lists, and live a bit like everyday is a vacation day. Everything is wonderful because the reality of the day-to-day living hasn’t completely registered.

Of course, I’ve been retired for 3 years, but I’ve always been a late bloomer.   So I’m still doing many of the things most people do in year 1 retirement – downsizing & and taking that big trip.

Some retirees take up travel as their primary retirement lifestyle. But we’re homebodies; I had to really acknowledge that fact because I admire the travelers. I admire the adventures they go on, the new sights and foods they experience.   But I hate travel – so many aspects of it stress me out, and hubby even more so.

So how did two homebodies manage on the Big Trip? My Africa Safari highlighted many of the new habits I am trying to instill for retirement.

  • Learning is a life-long commitment – be curious, ask questions. In our group jeep, I became the un-official question-asker of our guide. And yes, the folks in the jeep were happy I did – we learned so much about animal behavior and the local culture.   Our guide even complimented me on “being actively engaged” on the trip – he loved sharing his knowledge as much as we loved hearing it. I didn’t do much research prior to the trip, but am intrigued now to learn more about The Great Rift Valley, Oldupie and The Great Journey, and the Maasai culture.
  • Slow down and breathe. The thing about animals in their natural habitats…they show up when they want to or not at all. Quite often hubby and I would say: “It is what it is… and it’s all good”. That said, we were also extremely fortunate in our sitings – we had wonderful guides who really understood animal behavior and put us in positions to maximize opportunities. Even then, many times it was a waiting game.   I learned to trust our guide when he said we’d hang for a bit to see what might happen, or said he was going to move us and to “hold on”.   And then, in some of those moments, I forgot to breathe.
  • Stop inferiority comparisons. Every person’s safari experience will be different.   It is completely about timing to catch a moment of animal nature. Yes, others from our group in other jeeps saw things we did not. I had to fight the “I missed it” feeling and focus on what I did see. And I did see some amazing things: the “Big Five” in both Kenya (White Rhino) and Tanzania (Black Rhino); lions hunting and chases (no kills); bull elephant fighting; cheetahs, hyenas, and leopards with their recent kills; 21 lions before 9 AM one morning (yes, I counted!); and more zebras, wildebeest, cape buffalo, and antelopes than I could count.
  • Have fun – enjoy the moments. Kenyan roads are an experience unlike any other. They use speed bumps to control traffic, and potholes are common. If you’re not bouncing up, you’re bouncing down.   Unpaved roads, where we spent a lot of time, are even worse – rutted and rocky and dusty.   I just “went with the flow” and viewed it as a very long amusement park ride.   The washboard effect became an “African massage”.   Windows were open to the breeze until “dust coming” was yelled out and then laughingly slammed shut.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. I tried on “spotter skills”.   Yes, I spotted a number of ALT’s (that’s animal-like-things, a true term on safari that refers to rocks, bushes, and tree limbs that look like animals), but I also got thrilling high-fives from our guide for a leopard spotting and a rare, daytime Verrauex owl spotting.

I realized about mid-trip that I was smiling a lot.   Some of the new experiences that brought on those smiles:

  • Nights without electricity. When the generators are turned off, it is truly dark in the tent/room.   I don’t think I’ve ever experienced true darkness – the kind where you can’t see your hand in front of your face. (A flashlight is essential if you need the bathroom in the middle of the night!)
  • A night sky full of stars when there is no ambient light. At one tent-camp, we looked through a telescope at Jupiter’s moons and Saturn’s rings.
  • The scent of dry grass in the morning dew or the fresh smell of the hot trees on the breeze coming in the open safari jeep windows mid afternoon (our guide did not believe in using the AC).
  • Seeing a mirage on the endless plains of the Serengeti; something I had only read about before.
  • Celebrations by the Kenyan and Tanzanian people. They bring such infectious joy to their singing and dancing. Our travel agent knew it was an anniversary trip and passed on the word. During the trip we were celebrated 4 times at various camps.   On other nights, there was a birthday and a “repeat visitor”. Each time the celebration was joyous – I think they were looking for a reason to sing and dance!
  • Sleeping in a mosquito-netted four-poster bed, in a tent in the middle of the Serengeti, guarded from the animals by Maasai warriors.   It doesn’t get much wilder for this girl from Ohio.

Yes, I am happy to be home.   And yes, I am even happier we did it!

What wild adventure will you be taking, either in your honeymoon stage or later?

 

Picture Credit: Family Portrait by Tim Doyle, Serengeti, 2017

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Guilty about Time Wasters?

As a recovering workaholic, I still feel guilty if I spend the afternoon doing the crossword, taking a nap, reading a book, writing a blog, or goodness, just sitting and enjoying the sunshine. Part of me feels like if I’m not working (meaning working for financial compensation), then I should be pursuing life meaning. Certainly not just wasting time.

But what is wasted time and what is pursuing life meaning?   I recently read a description that life meaning can come in many ways:

  • Having people in your life that truly love and care for you.
  • Adding value and contributing to something worthwhile.
  • Connecting to something that takes you outside yourself.
  • Communicating a personal narrative.

My blogging helps me express my life narrative. I share my experiences in the hopes of connecting to others – sharing, mentoring, validating.  I also hope in some small way my blogging is adding value to someone else! Using this description, my blogging (reading and writing) contributes to my pursuit of life meaning, and is not wasting time.

But is there more to understanding the pursuit of life meaning to help me relieve the guilt, because there is the more (or actually less) to this lazy afternoon than just blog writing.

Is pursuit of life meaning simply meaningful pursuits?

What meaningful to me (or you) could be one big thing or many smaller things. It could be continuing to work part-time doing gig consulting. Or, it could be traveling, exploring, or having new experiences. Or being active and healthy, or connected to others, or financially secure.   Or learning how to spend quiet time and just be quiet for an afternoon. Or a blend of many of these into the unique retirement lifestyle I’ve dreamed about!

I often joke that I was raised on guilt.   I am coming to believe retirement is a time for a learning curve to free myself of living on guilt. How can I learn to be OK with days of no pre-planned, structured activity? How can I eliminate my comparative inferiority struggle and feeling no self-worth if I’m not working (when so many friends and cohorts are working)?  How can I find the joy in a lazy afternoon?

I am learning to love this new lifestyle of slower days, time to have coffee and listen to the morning bird chatter, fitting in a regular yoga class, and taking a mid-day walk with a friend.  I need to continually remind myself to not feel guilty and to appreciate even the lazy “time wasting moments” are part of my meaningful pursuits for my 21st century retirement lifestyle.

Do you feel guilty? Have you conquered your guilt?   Or are you one of the lucky ones who never had the guilt trip about wasting time?

Picture Credit: Pixabay

 

Thoughts on “What Do You Do?”

I love the serendipity when different bloggers begin talking about a similar question or life element.   Recently, there’s been a few talking about answering the question for soon-to-be retirees – what do you do everyday in retirement?  Or how do you answer the commonly asked question “What do you do?” if you are no longer working? And another who asked: “Are you living your best retirement possible?” I love that last question used the word ‘your’ versus ‘the’, indicating that the author understands everyone’s ideal retirement is different. Looking at how others are living their retirement should be for inspiration not replication!

So this blog is a snapshot of what I do – how I’m living my retirement days – for inspiration.

One blogger talked about a way to really understanding where you spend your energy – your time and your mind-space – is to log it.  Capture a few days or weeks of reality – What are all the activities you’re doing this week/this month?  List the major commitments, minor commitments, planning, basic life errands/chores, time wasters (social media time suck!), and quiet time. Being a planner and a list maker, I could easily look back over a month to see what I did.

By having a detailed account of where you spend your time, you can also look to see if it is in line with what’s really important to you. Are you making conscious choices, or defaulting into activities because you think you should be doing them? It’s not that you will stop doing something, but you might adjust expectations on outcomes. If you only spend 5 hours a week on a project, when realistically will it get done?  Every “yes” to time spent on one activity is a “no” to time spent on another.

What did my monthly log look like? It’s a blend of activities that actually match my life vision!  But I also noticed that it is not necessarily balanced in the right level of time spent.  I knew this month was going to be high on consulting work, so I was pleasantly surprised I kept up many other things on my life vision, even at reduced levels.

  • New Home Activities – lots of time spent on this huge life changing activity (our rightsizing moment) – home inspection, contractor discussions, packing, donations gathered and dropped off, the closing, picking out paint colors.
  • Consulting Work – a lot this month – besides 5 full day trips, multiple hours on many other days.  Too much and something I need to address going forward.
  • Fun with Friends – multiple dinners out, a couple of coffee dates and walks, attended 2 open houses, Leading Ladies charity event.
  • Time with Tim (hubby) – besides dinners with friends & the house things, also did our favorite specialty store shopping, date night Playhouse, and supported his eye surgery days.
  • Me Time – daily journaling; daily crossword; blog reading & writing (not as much as desired); physical therapy; weekly Zumba & yoga (most weeks)
  • Caretaking – shopping excursions, issue resolutions
  • Planning – planning activities with friends, planning The Move, planning the upcoming Big Trip, planning swim lessons
  • Errands/Chores – gift shopping, finances update, bills, spring yard work, spring cleaning, and car service.

One thing I’ve noticed is life in retirement means no two weeks or months are the same. May was a heavy-work month while June will be a light-work month. That’s the consulting world if you’re part-timing it. But also, the seasonal changes mean doing different things and there are always new things from my possibilities list to plan and execute.   In retirement, I am trying new experiences, building new relationships, exploring new possibilities.   I’m also working on not feeling guilty if I spend the afternoon doing the crossword, taking a nap, reading a book, or writing a blog.

Someone once said the answer to “what do you do everyday in retirement?” is … “whatever I want to!”   And when those activities are linked to what’s important to you (your life vision, your life purpose), retirement life is pretty darn fun.

 

Does the Gig Economy Help with Work/Life Balance?

Work-life balance is an older term that was created to mean you were making sure both elements had an adequate existence in your life. Many would say that it is a pipe dream. Some people have an innate sense of being able to balance the two elements. Others are more challenged to not become workaholics.   The gig economy is recently cited as the way for anyone to get more work-life balance.  Now, being an active participant in the gig economy, I believe that is a myth. The gig economy can be just as brutal as working in a MegaCorp or a small business in trying to balance work and life.

What is the Gig Economy? The corporate workforce profile is radically and rapidly changing from formal long-term employment agreements to a sea of contingent workers and independent contractors. The Wall Street Journal estimates 1 in 3 US workers are now free-lancers. Corporations are paying purchase orders, not salaries. This is beyond Uber and AirBnB.   All types of people are working remotely and temporarily, without the security of employer-sponsored benefits.

In the gig economy it is often assumed you are always available to do work.   When it is all about the gig, there are no set hours of work time/off time, no paid vacation time. Sure, you can not work. But no-work means no-pay.  And sometimes the gig is not even hourly, but based on a project deliverable. Get the work done, no matter how many hours you put in.

The gig economy also means you are always in search of the next gig. No next gig, no-pay. Everything can become about connecting and every connection can become a selling connection.  I recently read a blogger who bragged about getting her next gig at a family wedding reception.

As a recovering workaholic, a gig economy can be a challenge. Saying no and keeping boundaries on work/life balance was always a challenge for me. It is easy to get caught up in the work cycle again. I am finding this the case as I do my consulting projects. Single-fee projects and my perfectionism-work-ethic are not a good combination!

Yes, as an early retiree, I’ve joined this phenomenon that is being driven by Millennials. I am an active participant in the gig economy.  (I feel quite hip saying that!)  And, I’ve heard the claims about this helping with work-life balance and I’m not sure it’s reality.  This past month I worked way too many hours.  If I continue doing consulting gigs, I’ll need to find new techniques for maintaining time for the elements of my retirement life style that I’ve learned to love (like blogging)!

 

Picture Credit: Pixabay

The Balance of Be-ing and Do-ing

Part of my retirement transition has been exploration into happiness. There are many hypotheses about what drive happiness, especially later in life, but one that seems to have conflicting messages are the concepts of be-ing and do-ing.

On one hand there is the idea of finding the joy in being non-productive. Being in the moment. Finding the stillness and mindfulness of quiet time. Of course, for a recovering workaholic, this is a daunting concept.  Just being?!?

Then there is the other hand – the idea that a successful retirement is doing what I want, when I want, with whom I want.  And in the doing, you find your true sense of purpose.

Of course, my workaholic tendency has me creating action plans and experimenting with new activities. I even blogged about my month of trying out yoga! (And yes, still doing it and enjoying it.)  A quote I read from Dale Carnegie captures the importance of do-ing: “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Getting busy and doing the work is a theme in many quotes I seem to gravitate towards:

  • “There is no Fairy Godmother. If you want to change your life for the better, you need to do the work.”
  • “Don’t let fear drive procrastination. Take action; do something – do anything. What are you waiting for?”
  • “You need to work through the complexity to find the simplicity”.

So is it more important to do or to be?

As in most of life, it’s a balance. For me the easier is the “do”.   So the learning is in the “be”.

Learn to just be sometimes.   Be OK with not having constant activity.  Stop to smell the roses, enjoy an afternoon of just watching the surf, and have a chat with a neighbor. This is not wasted time.

And be equally OK with the do. It is OK to have the action plans and the checklists. To try out the new activities, get off the couch everyday, and be active with yoga, walks, SUP, and Zumba. But choose things that truly fit with your life vision – not the ones you think you should be doing.

And maybe, as I spend more time in the “be-ing”, I can better sort the true vision activities from the should. Because some days it feels I am doing things that are should and not necessarily bringing me happiness.

At this stage of your retirement life, are you more caught up in the be-ing or the do-ing?

 

Picture Credit: Pixabay

 

And the Spirits Laughed

Early this year I explored spirituality with a reading by a medium. I’ve been intrigued with the concept of Spirit. So as I tend to do with an area of interest, I started doing research via reading, attending a conference (Victory of Light), and even trying some of the recommended techniques (ex. affirmations). Getting a spiritualist or tarot card reading was also always on my bucket list.   So early this year, thinking it was a new beginning moment for my retirement transition, I scheduled a reading to help with manifesting my new vision.

During the reading, the medium made the comment “when you said you were retired, the spirits laughed”.   Apparently, the spirit world felt that I was not yet fully transitioned into a retirement mindset and this past couple of months I am actually feeling that more and more.

When I first retired at the relatively early age of 53, most people assumed I would continue to work. Anyone “like me” would obviously continue to “give back” to society by working. I was just “too young” to be retired. Most expected me to work part-time, doing consulting. And so, as I tend to do as expected, I did enter into the world of consulting. And for the most part, I like it.  I can choose projects and so only work on things I like to do.

But the world of freelance consulting with big companies is an odd one.   You’ll agree to a project and it can take from a few days to months for the contract to be negotiated and signed. Last month, I hit a “trifecta”. Three projects all hit at once – one was a restart after a 6-month delay in the project, one began after 2-month delay in contract negotiations, and one only a month from contract discussion. So for the past few weeks, I’ve been working almost full time, juggling three different projects in three different companies.

Perhaps I needed this experience to realize that I need more mindset shifting for my retirement life. While I enjoy the mental stimulation of the work, and I go get lost in the “flow” with that thinking, I also loved having the time to do other things. I am missing my yoga classes and the ability to go walking with a girlfriend. Not to mention time to think about writing a blog!

Retired? And the spirits laughed. Perhaps they are teaching me a lesson I need to learn!

If I continue with the part-time consulting work, I need to learn to say no when I’m already at my time commitment for that element of life.  And to be more intentional in fitting in my yoga and walks and blog writing.  It is so easy for me to slip back into work mode and so hard to keep life in the forefront.  This next month will be a challenge for me in doing that.  Blogging will be a great indicator of my success, so hopefully you’ll be hearing from me in May.

 

Picture Credit: Pixabay

 

A Path Not Taken?

It runs a chill down my spine when a series of events seem to ask the same question. Recently, between a few different bloggers and a couple of theater productions, the question around “what one thing would you change” has been raised.

This question can easily drift into regret. Regret for a path not taken, a decision made that is now considered “wrong”, an opportunity lost.   One blogger bounced that notion on its head with the idea that now, in retirement, you have the time to do “it”. The thing you did not do, the path you did not take, the choice you did not make.

As I face another radical (for me) change in our path moving forward, I started to think about things I did not do, paths I did not take. Not that I would go back and change anything, because the path I’ve taken has lead me to where I am today.   And this is NOT a bad place! But this thinking can open up the future – many of those things I could now do.

What path not taken can I now take?

As we move into our downsized house, I want to plan In-Home Friend Dinners. This will be a learning experience for me – I’ve never been an at-home-entertainer. I’ve always wanted to be, and admire those who make it look so effortless. Friend Dinners also combine two elements of my life vision – building closer friendships and cooking more. Since our new down-sized house actually has a larger, more functional kitchen, I am very excited to be able to cook more – both for entertaining and for just the two of us.

Another element I want going forward is more mini-adventures. I’m coming to the realization that I am, contrary to what I might think I should be, more of a homebody.   I have friends who travel almost constantly – off for the weekend to Chicago, a week in Paris for the Easter break, or regular ski or scuba trips. And other friends who every weekend are off on another hike, another historical site/cool town, another bike trip. And friends  who have already been to the latest restaurant opened in town, the top 10 burger joints, and the greatest dining-out patios. I have often felt I need to compete and be the same way.   Yes, my Comparison Inferiority Complex rears its ugly head. I need to acknowledge – I am not that person.   I am not the constantly out-and-about person. I like being at home.   I enjoy sitting on my porch and reading. I enjoy puttering in the yard.   BUT, I do want a few more mini-adventures. Not every weekend, but a few times a year – a long weekend away, maybe tapping into RoadScholar, which I’ve been eager to try. Maybe a cool day trip once a month – plan it and do it. And yes, let’s try that new restaurant, but maybe not the first month it’s open! And most importantly, beyond the need to do the planning, be happy in the moderation.   Not disappointed in the comparison.

This house move is a big one for us. I have not done many physical moves in my life. Given my homebody nature, I tend to dig into a place.   And my pack-rat, hoarding, can’t throw/give anything away husband?   This will be extremely traumatic as we move from 3400 sq. ft. to 2100 sq. ft.   Yes, I hear some laughter at 2100 sq. ft. being downsized!

But I am hopeful that this is the beginning of a wonderful new path in our lives. A path that is full of “can do” activities, new areas to explore, and my life vision to unfold.  And a few of those “paths not taken” elements coming into reality.