Sometimes I just have to laugh when I think back. I remember what I was convinced was true not that long ago, and marvel at how mistaken I was. It’s funny…but not. What if I hadn’t allowed myself to discover I was wrong about these four things all along?
1. I need a partner to retire. I remained in a toxic relationship for many years, in large part because I thought it aligned with my goal of retiring and moving to a waterfront home. I know that sounds terrible, but no worse than couples who stay married because of finances, I told myself. Two income streams are better than one, I reasoned, and splitting expenses two ways is better than not splitting them at all. I wasn’t in a relationship for money. But I am practical and strategic, so shared goals, common resources, and viable joint timelines were important. We discussed various scenarios. We even looked at beachfront homes for retirement in Oregon and Michigan.
And then we were over. It was a long time coming, and I will forever be grateful for the good memories and experiences that relationship brought to my life, but finally being free from the pain that came with that helped lead me to my decision to stop waiting and go ahead and retire at 59 and alone. That was two years ago. I retired solo, and with obsessive research and planning, aggressive saving, and a frugal lifestyle, I am doing fine so far. I’m living a simple life on a tight budget, and have never been happier.
2. I need a travel buddy. I have always traveled with someone. Usually a significant other, or sometimes a friend or family member. The thought of traveling solo didn’t even cross my mind, much less the idea of flying around the world by myself for 70 days as my maiden solo journey at 59. I am afraid of heights, and therefore of flying. I’ve always needed a thigh, arm, or hand to squeeze the life out of during takeoff, landing, and turbulence. Also, my sense of direction sucks. No one will ever mistake me for a cartographer or navigator. Finding my own way around multiple unfamiliar countries where I didn’t speak the language? All alone? Ha!
But an unexpected cash retirement incentive put the travel idea in my head, and I challenged myself to see if I could plan such a round-the-world trip for a total of $50 a day on average, not including airfare. When everything was booked and paid for, I second-guessed my decision. WTF was I thinking?! The night before my departure I had what I can only describe as a panic attack. I started crying, which rarely happens, and couldn’t catch my breath. I needed to use my asthma inhaler as I desperately searched online for how I could cancel my trip without losing too much money. Could I come up with a story my travel insurance carrier would believe? I should have just booked a trip to one country, for two weeks max, I thought. Or booked a solo tour with a women-only travel group. What the hell was I doing? No way I can do this. No way, I told myself hours before I was to leave for the airport. And then I did it, and changed my life. So glad I was wrong!
3. I need to find a “side hustle” after retiring so I can feel “relevant” (and also to make ends meet). Nope. OK, I may need to do just that when the world opens back up to unrestricted, safe travel post-pandemic. The solo trip I want to take to Antarctica ain’t cheap. But I don’t feel any need to look outside myself for a relevancy badge. IMO, nothing is more relevant than working on the essential foundation of self-acceptance, discovery, and self-love. That sh*t is some hard work, but rewarding AF.
4. I need a plan for pursuing my passion, so I have a “purpose” in retirement. Um, no? I guess you could say my overall umbrella passion is lifelong learning so, yeah, I am pursuing that. But my individual passions are changing. Hell, I have passions I haven’t even discovered yet! I’m not feeling any dearth of purpose or identity because I’m retired. Some people do, I know. Some people are bored and feel useless after they retire, or even just leave a job. But so far, I am definitely not one of those people.
One thing I was right about is how important it is to give myself permission to be happy and do what feels right for me. If you are holding back from making any change in your life at any age — not just retirement — because of assumptions you currently think are true, maybe you just need to give yourself permission to find out how wrong you are after all.
Photo: I took this photo of street art in Sesimbra, Portugal, during my solo RTW journey four months before my 60th birthday.