Retirement means different things to different people. Relax in the sun with a good book. Explore the world. Finish all those projects you’d started. Learn a new skill. Spend time with the grandchildren. Our hopes and dreams vary, but most of us expect to remain vital and intellectually challenged in this third act of life.
As I explored these options, I recalled famed college football coach Lou Holtz’s stance on the important things in life: something to do, someone to love, something to believe in, and something to look forward to.
How Do You Envision Spending Time In Retirement?
As a busy physician, I envisioned my retirement being filled with family, friends, and fun. Before we’d married, my husband and I discussed the additional traveling we’d do, traveling to any remaining unseen continents, and how we’d live our lives traveling between our children’s homes to stay engaged with our kids and grandkids.
But when COVID hit, and I semi-retired much earlier than expected, I ended up traveling alone. I lost my husband 25 years ago. Our daughter has just finished graduate school and is finding her way into her career. Most of my friends still work and don’t have the time or resources for extended trips.
So, of course, you pivot, right? When your dreams don’t work out as you plan, you find new dreams.
To at least keep up with the “fun” part of my dream retirement, I did what I’ve taught my colleagues to do to prevent burnout. I made a list of what I liked to do when I was 13.
How To Find Your Passion Project
Write down everything you loved to do when you were 13. Things you would do even if you weren’t being paid for it.
When I was 13, I was a star athlete (track, basketball), wrote for the school newspaper, participated in the photography club and school plays, and volunteered with Special Olympics and Bread for the World.
Travel wasn’t as common then, and relatively more expensive. Planes still had smoking sections, and I’d only just taken my first flight the summer before.
But we took road trips. For the day or for the weekend. We’d pile into the car and hit the road. And then regale our friends with stories for more than the week to come. There were a lot of “Remember when…” moments.
What Didn’t Work And What Did…
I was in a wheelchair for 10 years following injuries at work. So, the star athlete wouldn’t be coming back, but I’m better.
Do take into consideration any physical limitations or health considerations and consult with your physician prior to taking up a new passion project.
I still enjoy writing and photography. So, I turned to travel writing. I’d get out of the house and go exploring — the go/see/do that I wanted to be doing early in retirement, rather than thinking about all that I’d lost.
In a way, my passion project with travel writing and photography relates to the same measure taken to preserve my sanity as I navigated a prolonged COVID pandemic professionally. When I couldn’t travel, I worked on my techniques with photography locally, in my house or backyard. And learned more about stock agencies and what images actually sell.
What Surprised Me In A Good Way
I’ve been impressed with how many things I get to see and do and get paid to tell the stories. I don’t take advantage of a lot of press trips but have used the backstage access to ask the “nosy” questions that I’m curious about.
After all, I’ve just spent the last 30 years being paid well to ask the most intimate questions, isn’t travel writing sort of like that, too?
Along the way, I’ve made great friends, other writers and PR people, and locals that have been willing to share stories with me, knowing that, as a travel writer, I’m not here to criticize but to share the best ways for others to get around the area and get to the fun as soon as possible.
What Surprised Me In A Bad Way
The strange thing about traveling alone is that your perspective is yours and yours alone. It’s harder to brainstorm when you don’t have someone else challenging you.
The other thing that surprised me was that it’s still possible to fall into a rut.
There are three publications I enjoy writing for and I’ve become an Expert Contributor with each. It wasn’t until a fellow writer encouraged me to strive for more that I went back to my publication database and started pitching other publications.
It also surprised me how hard it was to learn how much harder it is to use my camera on my own compared to attending photography expeditions with a professional photographer right there to help me out.
And I’m constantly surprised (and negatively impacted) that storage can fill so quickly — my email, iCloud, Dropbox, and Lightroom somehow filled all at once. I’m told that shouldn’t surprise me since I have 60k photos and 3k videos on my phone. I’m deleting, but it still felt like I should be able to remove photos or videos from my devices without losing them from the Cloud.
What Would I Do Differently Next Time?
Ideally, for my next passion project, I’ll choose something with a discrete timeline.
I like the sense of accomplishment that it offers. Like completing a scrapbook album.
I’d like for the technology to be easily navigated.
I’d like to be in the same city as a friend who can do the same things so we can build upon each other’s strengths and make up for any deficits.
I’d like to be surrounded by people like that.
At the same time, I’d like to be able to help others — whether it’s someone that is learning how to pitch publications, or has less experience with photography than I (watch the corners and edges!), I’d like to be able to be of service whether through more volunteer work in medicine, foster care, or feeding the hungry.
Tips for someone looking for a retirement passion project:
- Think of what you liked to do when you were 13.
- Do you still like it?
- How much does it cost to do?
- Are you able to afford the time and money to do it?
- Is there anyone in your life that would object to your doing it?
- Will it interfere with your time with your loved ones?
- Overcome any objections you’ll face early. If you really want to do it for yourself, you can probably convince your loved ones
- Make sure you’ve always got something to look forward to.
It’s great advice, Coach Holtz.
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