When my husband and I first met, one of the main attractions to one another was that we both wanted to travel the world. Eight months later we found ourselves in a London cycling store where we purchased touring bikes (Dawes Galaxy with Reynolds 531 tubing and a set of gears that would work in all types of terrain from flat land to alpine cycling). These bikes were our only source of transportation for about 6 months and 7 European countries. Our accommodation was an inexpensive 3 man tent which we purchased from a budget surplus store. We had the time of our lives and decided to stick together.
Fast forward 10 years on the treadmill of life – day in and day out… It wasn’t terrible – just consumed with work. We took a few 2 week overseas vacations when possible and as many weekend warrior trips as we could. But, were we living the lifestyle that we had hoped for in our earlier years?
We realized that if we wanted the freedom and a simple carefree lifestyle, that we would have to take control of our finances and make choices (we’re so grateful that we live in a country where this is possible). Decisions like – new car or used car? Top of the line fashion or reasonably priced clothing? A garage full of the latest sports equipment, high priced TV’s and sound systems? – not a chance…. Sure we had to forgo some of the latest in trends while our friends had more, but we never really missed any of it and it didn’t make a bit of difference as to how much fun we had. For us it was a matter of priorities and we stuck to our guns. Retirement 55… here we come!
Fast forward 15 years later… Life threw us a few curves just to remind us of how tenuous it is.
Glens mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This beautiful and intelligent women succumbed to one of the cruelest forms of disease much too early in her life. The body was and still is reasonably healthy but the mind is not there – she lives in a home and has no recollection of her previous life – or her family.
Then the global economy took its recent fall from grace. Like so many people out there, we did not come out of this unscathed. After 20+ years in the same industry, Glen was turfed along with many of his company building colleagues who all fell under the general heading of age and wage or easy pickin’s to make the company’s financial balance sheet look good (but hey, who’s bitter).
At the same time, my mother was having a huge battle with ovarian cancer; a brave battle that she eventually lost after a year of suffering. This was all more than I could take (not that many people haven’t dealt with worse situations in their lives, but this was my personal ordeal).
My mother was always concerned about the amount of hours we worked and the stressful jobs we had, especially from a health point of view. She knew that we were saving for early retirement. Mom advised us to get out there and live life. “What are you waiting for?” she’d say, “you never know when life will be cut short.” – it was for her.
Yikes – stop the income stream? It wasn’t that we didn’t have enough money to retire, in fact we had some very in-depth investment evaluations and reviews done with our financial advisors to make sure that we were being realistic and not impatient with our decision. The “what if” started rearing its head… “I could be putting another income chunk into the kitty!” or “what if we need a new…(fill in the blank).” It never ends – I think you can always find something to worry about. I just had a hard time letting go of that security blanket called a paycheck. It’s a scary thought which comes with a whole whack of psychological baggage as I’ve come to realize.
So, after much deliberation and many sleepless nights; I resigned. As a kind of spiritual healing and pilgrimage in my mothers name, Glen and I did a 2 month walking expedition (about 1200 kms) through northern Europe on the first half of the Grande Randonee 5; a 2500 km footpath through interesting countryside and along some ancient roman roads. We then followed this with a 2 week independent cycle tour along the North Sea coast in The Netherlands.
Upon our return, we cashed in our downtown Vancouver City condo chips and moved to Vancouver Island which allowed us a more financially reasonable way of life along with a great outdoor lifestyle we’ve been craving for years. I have to admit I did cave a couple of times and took two very interesting jobs in between to assist with the lifestyle change. Nothing wrong with that, right?
We’re now in our mid 50’s and having a wonderful time cycling, hiking and kayaking on Vancouver Island and in the beautiful Comox Valley. In addition, we’re taking our outdoor activities on our overseas vacations; just as we had imagined when we first met.
Sure, we have to get a bit creative in our travel choices; I haven’t won the lottery….yet. But until I do, that’ll be the fun in the journey. So now when I get nervous about having enough money in my retirement, I think of Glen’s mothers situation, what my mom said, and what I believe to be a word from the wise…
You can always have more money but…do you have enough life?
I look forward to mutually sharing information about the different lifestyle choices we’ve made, the exciting outdoor activities and the local or overseas travels we’ve taken. Here’s to Life!