Like many people, I looked forward to ending my career and doing something new. I couldn’t bring myself to say, “I am retiring,” because it seemed implausible. I finished up a 30-year career on a very busy note. My calendar was jam packed. My days were filled with meetings, phone calls, and lots of responsibilities. One day I got an idea, nurtured by some good friends, and I acted on it. I prepared to leave my career and do something completely different, radically different, to kickstart the next chapter of my life. I had no idea what I was in for.
Why Retirement Is Appealing
I had done almost everything I wanted to do in my career and I was done. I had no more mental bandwidth to give to my profession and I craved the opportunity to try new things, go to new places, and be free of the responsibilities of the working world. I thought I should be a writer and travel. Sounds terribly romantic, doesn’t it? Retirement, however, is a life I was not prepared for and I struggled until I got my bearings.
I planned to travel full-time and see all the things I had flown over, seen briefly on trips, and had read about or seen in movies. Why not take on the ultimate road trip, see the country, and write while I travel? I researched the videos and blogs of others who had taken up a similar approach to retiring and traveling in an Airstream. It was bittersweet to leave my career but exhilarating to start a new chapter. I figured if I had something new and exciting to do, I could leave behind my career and immediately be a gleaming new retiree. That was a false notion.
A Space Between Career And Retirement
I embarked and enjoyed traveling immensely. Every day was an adventure. I celebrated this new freedom from schedules and demands on my time. As the weeks went by, I realized I traded in old stressors for a new set of stressors. How do I navigate my new normal without the structure of my job or regular routine? I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed because that is what I was used to. After a few months, I wasn’t having as much fun as I thought I would have.
I didn’t have the time to write, which is what I thought I would be doing. I was overstimulated by all the traveling and had nothing left to create anything. I had no routine and every day had to be invented. I missed the autopilot elements of my old life. I was sure I was failing at retirement.
Retirement Can Be Great
I decided to take a good look at what was working and what wasn’t. I consulted a psychologist friend and asked her, “What am I doing wrong?” “Nothing,” she said. “You are in a liminal space.” I had no idea what she was talking about but I learned.
Liminal space is literally an in-between period of discovery. I didn’t know who I was as a retiree. How do I become a writer and what kind of writer should I be? I didn’t know why I should continue to travel and do it in a way that worked for me. But now, I could stand in liminal space. I realized it is okay to not know what to do or how to do it. Discovery is a process and it takes time. It took me another 6 months to get myself on a path. Once I got through that period, I found retirement to be as rewarding as I hoped it would be.
Pro Tip: Give yourself permission to discover and give yourself time to discover fully. Whatever you’re looking for will come to you eventually.
Unexpected Benefits I Discovered In Retirement
I’ve learned that travel and being out in nature gives me inspiration. I processed all that I had seen and done in the first year and I was amazed at the depth of beauty and creativity that the land presents to me. I began to understand that in my retirement I am in search of inspiration. Traveling provides that to me. My writing career took off.
What surprised me most in retirement is that my personal currency changed. My currency for 30 years had been as a Ph.D., a faculty member, and a teacher/mentor. None of that mattered in my new life of retirement. I didn’t have that currency to trade on as I traveled because it wasn’t valuable to the people I met or helpful in the things I had to learn.
Everyone who retires and walks away from whatever they were doing will experience this phenomenon. I created a new currency out of my passion to be inspired. I tried new experiences. I exponentially increased my intention to connect with family and friends. I began to interact with people in new ways. It wasn’t familiar at first, but I kept trying. I didn’t replace an old career with a new one. Instead, I let my spirit shine.
My Purpose In Retirement Motivates Me Every Day
I had a romantic notion that I would be a writer on the road because it sounded adventurous and free-wheeling. It wasn’t until I actually started writing in earnest that I realized what it takes to be a writer and how profoundly gratifying it is. I had to find my way in my purpose of writing. Writing gives me a chance to connect with people I don’t know and may never meet. My intention is that my words will give them a glimpse into their own possibilities and inspire them.
The adage, “it’s a journey, not a destination,” is apt for retirement. Know that you are starting a new journey the day you retire. That first day may seem like a destination where you have finally arrived but it’s not. What journey you take and what milestones you achieve are yours and there is no set time or speed.
Who you know yourself to be will adjust as you leave one set of circumstances in your old job and experience new circumstances of retirement. Let your imagination run. Be inspired! If you travel, consider what you are experiencing — the joy, fear, wonder, or whatever it is. Capture that as well as your souvenirs and photos. Put your inspiration to use in whatever purpose you find in your new life — your grandkids, sewing, golfing, art, or even writing.
Pro Tip: Share yourself as a retiree through your purpose. It will be amazing.
For more retirement information, check out the TravelAwaits’ retirement site. And here are some more inspirational articles to consider: