Being retired, I rarely know the date. Heck, even finding the right day of the week is often a challenge for me.
When my wife asked me one morning if I knew what day it was, my mind began to race.
I sorted my mental Rolodex for important dates. Our wedding day? no The anniversary of our first kiss? no is it someone’s birthday no And then I realized as she said the date out loud, it was the first anniversary of our retirement! I can’t believe it’s been a year already.
We retired on Friday, June 4th, 2021 and left the following Monday for a week long camping trip on the Oregon Coast in our new Teardrop trailer.
Departing on a Monday was intentional and added a tangible exclamation mark to the fact that we didn’t have to get up and go to work.
It was weird being detached from work but we both enjoyed it. When we returned from our trip, the summer turned into a hectic activity as we prepared our home for sale and began selling most of our possessions.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Retiring early meant being creative with our expenses. After countless meetings with our financial planner, we drew up a plan and started to implement it. Our strategy was to essentially liquidate our current life and move into our 21-foot teardrop trailer for two to five years.
We wanted to travel, chase the sun and visit friends and family we hadn’t seen since the pandemic, so living in a trailer felt exciting.
We spent the summer selling furniture and doing our landscaping before we put our house on the market in early August. After our house was sold, we put the things we wanted to keep into storage and settled into our tiny new home on wheels.
That first year passed quickly. The time is so strange. The older we get, the faster it seems to move. While the first few weeks in the trailer proved more difficult than we idealistically anticipated, we’ve navigated our way through them.
More than once we wondered if we had made a big mistake, but in the end we felt empowered by each challenge we overcame and after a month of getting used to it, we were ready to hit the road close.
We’ve covered a lot of distances over the past year, traveling twice from coast to coast and visiting some spectacular places along the way. We loved exploring national parks and visiting places on our bucket list. We thoroughly enjoyed playing tourist during the week while others work hard and we appreciated the diverse beauty that this country has to offer.
We’ve also felt energized by learning new things and solving problems we had never dealt with before. There was a steep learning curve as neither of us had owned an RV before or towed anything behind a truck. My wife enjoyed planning our routes and finding unique camping spots, and we loved meeting people along the way.
Living in such a small space is not without frustration.
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While this is a simpler life, many tasks are logistically more complex. For example, preparing my morning espresso with a manual machine requires several additional steps compared to using my high-end home machine. And everything we need to store either in the trailer or in the back of our truck is like playing a game of Tetris.
Time takes on a unique meaning in retirement.
We are no longer in a hurry and it is rare that I know the day of the week. After working a high-pressure job with lots of meetings and responsibilities, I’m so thankful that I’m living my life at a relaxed pace. But what I value most is the thinking space that retirement offers. Having so little responsibility has unlocked my fun and creative side.
Surprisingly, it took almost a year before I felt fully rested.
I enjoyed my career immensely and thought I might miss it. I wondered if I was going to have an identity crisis because my career was so much a part of who I was, but I’m happy to report that I’ve moved on without feeling like I left a part of me behind to have. I enjoy exploring different aspects of my personality and interests and answering the question “what’s next for me?”.
Financially, this trip was a kind of roller coaster ride.
The market exploded when we decided to take early retirement and we were thrilled to see how well our money was doing.
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Then the current economic turmoil developed and our investments took a nosedive.
It was interesting going through this emotionally and learning to trust our choices and not give in to fear or doomsday thinking. The market is a long game and we are confident that it will recover as it has in the past. And if not, we will create a new plan and continue to thrive as we are doing now.
Retirement has many lessons to learn if we are willing to listen.
Perhaps the greatest lesson is to understand that our worth does not depend on what we do, but on who we are. It’s a lesson best learned earlier in life, and one that will undoubtedly enhance your retirement experience once you’re convinced it’s true.
All in all, I am very pleased that our first year of retirement was a complete success. I’m thrilled that we’ve taken a path less traveled and forged a life that most would consider entirely alternative. I am thankful for our tiny home and the opportunity to travel and live freely. Cheers to the start of the second year. Who knows what’s in store for us down the road?
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Kim Kelly, s/he, calls the Pacific Northwest home when not touring with her wife in their 21-foot teardrop trailer. She is a writer, speaker and espresso enthusiast who writes about authenticity, retirement, relationships and life on the go.
This article was originally published by Medium. Reprinted with permission of the author.