Our Evolving Retirement

We were about five years into retirement when I started writing for a now defunct, on-line publication. My job was to write articles to inspire other retirees to visit the forum. Adjusting to retirement was still new. I had a lot to say and a lot to learn.

The words I wrote then can still be applied to today (although we have slowed our pace a bit) and what separates us from stereotypical retirees still holds true.

What I Wrote About Retirement In 2011

I recall a quote from long ago by a  forgotten author who stated, “don’t let anyone else define your world, they will make it too small.” That is exactly the way I feel about retirement.  The standard formula for retirement in my area of the country is to buy a house in a gated community, surround yourself with other retired people, play golf three times a week, nap the afternoon away and attend social gatherings in the evening.  This is protocol from October through April when everyone will then head up north to escape the hot and humid summer months.  Rinse, repeat.

2011

Not having a blueprint to follow for retirement, we tried the predictable route for a while and finally realized that we were letting someone else define our world.   And, indeed it had become too small. 

After making a “not so graceful” exit from what we considered to be chains by that point, we began to think about who we really are and what makes us happy both separately and as a couple.  We came up with a solid list of things that separate us from the  “one size fits all” retiree.

Curiosity – we are naturally curios about a variety of things and enjoy learning

Passion – when we decide that something matters, we go all-in

Confidence – we are confident with our abilities and what we each bring to the table

When we broke the mold and started living retirement life from our own definition everything changed.  Life “outside the gates” is an interesting place.  Within the first year of our ‘revised retirement plan,’ we made new friends, got involved in several volunteer organizations and added biking, walking, weight lifting and dance classes to our exercise routine.  We started traveling more and found great discount web sites for show tickets, restaurant coupons and hotels.  We found free or almost free community concerts and art shows, made regular visits to our local farmer’s market and spent more time beach-combing.   At home we completed woodworking and other home improvement projects and we rekindled our love of cooking together as we prepared everything from simple meals  to elegant six course dinners.   We began to clear clutter and excess from our living spaces.  We connected with other active retirees via the Blogosphere  and on-line writing groups. We joined a community garden project  to learn to grow organic vegetables and attended cooking classes that promote healthy eating.  On the more adventurous side, I  went skydiving and zip lining with our daughter and I have plans to take scuba diving lessons in the near future in preparation for a cruise to the South Pacific. Rarely have we declined to try anything out of our comfort zone.   

We have lived this somewhat free-form  and very satisfying lifestyle  for the past five years and are now ready for a new adventure.  It will be fun to see where the tide takes us next. 

Our brand of retirement won’t suit everyone, and it shouldn’t.  Just like realizing that restricting our time to playing golf was not right for us long term,  you will sort through options until you find what makes you happiest.  Health issues, finances and changing interests will likely dictate many of your decisions.  The tricky part is in realizing when to make changes.  Not one of us wants to wake up ten years from now and feel that we have not fulfilled our dreams of retirement.  If the time feels right, then it must be. 

Life is good- smile at the future.  

Our Retirement Today

Ten years after this article was published and with a total of fifteen years into retirement, we are still smiling at the future. We are still guided by passion, curiosity and confidence, and we still have a willingness to adapt and evolve. Our current pursuits may not include skydiving and I never did become a certified diver, but we feel comfortable with our routine and emerging interests.

We read, cook healthy meals, play board games, and spend quiet evenings at the beach. I take a lot of photographs, spend hours processing said photographs, and I loosely maintain a posting schedule for this blog and my Instagram account. Malcolm tends our household finances, investments and fixit projects. He also spends time researching and scheduling future travel plans. We both make it a priority to visit with friends and family weekly.

A few months ago we added Pickleball to our weekly fitness routine. It is an age-appropriate game that gets us out of the house almost every day. We joined a group, but quickly retreated because the COVID risk was too great. Now that we have both been vaccinated, we have rejoined the group and are making new connections. It is a very social game which is easily learned. If it hasn’t already become popular in your area, it will soon.

What’s Next

That is a question that we ask ourselves routinely. We are never certain of the answer, since there are a lot of moving parts to this stage of life, but we remain engaged and enthusiastic. Much like retirement, but at an accelerated pace, this past year has been filled with adjustments. We know we will not fully return to the life we had, and that this new chapter will bring challenges. We are surprisingly okay with that.

For over a year, we have devoted ourselves to the Vosbikian B&B and the comfort of our two special guests. Our adult daughter and her partner have been working remotely from our home since March 22, 2020. I used to joke with a good friend that I would love to run a B&B one day. I now have a pretty good idea of what that would be like and am fairly sure it won’t be in our future. In all seriousness, it has been a good experience all around and has given this ‘lost year’ some much needed structure and significance. They have been the very best company and while we will miss them dearly, we wish them much happiness in this new chapter of their lives.

We will have about two weeks of alone time to adjust to being ’empty nesters’ again and then we are off on an adventure. Being fully vaccinated has given us a sense of freedom, but it also comes with a continued obligation to be diligent. This road trip has been carefully planned and although we expect to encounter challenges, we are optimistic that the risk will continue to decrease as more of our population elects to be vaccinated. We expect to do even more of this kind of travel in the coming months and years. It suits us well.

We have recently decided to sell our home of nearly twenty years. All of the things that made it a blessing during the pandemic also make it a curse for just the two of us. At some point a decision has to be made, so why not now. We will be listing with a realtor soon, and have some ideas about ‘what next’, but until a sale is imminent, we will continue floating ideas.

Our advice to couples just entering retirement is to be flexible and adaptable while creating individual paths and finding a balance that makes you both happy. Expect your lives to evolve and need tending. Talk about the future and how you see it playing out. Be proactive and open to change. The point of convergence will always be your commitment to each other.

When you PictureRetirement, what do you see?

Shared with Natalie’s Weekend Coffee Share.

56 Comments on “Our Evolving Retirement

  1. Suzanne, I enjoyed reading your then and now thoughts on retirement. We’ve been retired for a long time and we have slowed down a lot as we have aged – no more RV trips, less travel and more back porch sitting and reading. I picture the rest of my retirement doing more of the same – photography, blogging, water aerobics, being with friends, traveling whenever possible, enjoying the little things, living life!

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    • Hi Beth, cutting back on the more physical aspects of retirement has been the toughest adjustment for me so far. I am used to a high degree of activity, but my body is saying NO a lot more often. I think we still have a lot of good days ahead and will make the best use of them as we possibly can. I like your plan for doing more of the same, especially ‘enjoying the little things.’

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Suzanne – I now know what Pickleball is (I youtubed it and feel like an expert!) We don’t have it here in Australia but when it appears, I’ll be ready. I love your proactive approach to retirement and the way you morph into each stage. I’ll be following along with interest as you sell your house and decide on a new home. We realize we’ll have to downsize one day, but while the kids visit and the grandgirls like to stay, we need those extra bedrooms etc. I have a lovely picture in my head of our one-day smaller home – very cosy and low maintenance!

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  3. Hi Suzanne, Love reading your blog…..please keep it coming. We are Pre-retirement, anticipating retiring in a few years. Have to wait for medicare age and SS. We moved from the large family home with too many bedrooms and baths to a good size ranch. We decided to do so pre-pandemic and now prices have gone up so much, we would have been stuck if we hadn’t done so then in 2019. Love your pictures, they are inspiring. We too love to camp and road trip. And pickle ball is in our plans having played tennis for years, getting outside and active is very important to our well being -living in CO helps. Wondering if we will become “Baby Chasers” if our grands end up at a distance from our home. Look forward to your new home adventure! Thank you!

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    • Hi SC, thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment. I am also a tennis player, which made the transition to Pickleball very easy. ‘Baby chasing’ isn’t likely in our future as our daughter is fairly ambivalent about being a mom, but we do want to stay close to her, so we’ll see how that unfolds should she ever move out of Florida. Good move to down-size pre-pandemic, considering how prices have soared. If we do sell, we won’t be able to replace our home right away, but we do have a few alternatives in mind. Please let me know if you have a blog. I’d love to visit you in return.

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  4. Out of your original qualities I identify most with ‘curious.’ I would go back to college in a heartbeat, though I already have 3 degrees, the last earned when I went back at age 50. Now I think I’ll just audit courses, or look for other ways to satisfy my curiosity about everything.

    And travel, we planned on doing a lot of travel…and we did quite a bit until, of course, March of 2020. And now our Katie-girl, our 14 year old dog, needs us to stay home, so for awhile anyway, we’ll be here. Not to say there aren’t plenty of projects around the house that have been neglected.

    I’m only retired since 2015, coming up on my 6th aniversary of freedom. It hasn’t been as adventurous as I expected, but it’s been wonderful, even this past year with it’s tragedy and tears.

    And as for your sale of the house, it’s a WONDERFUL time to sell, I think you should have a distinct plan about where you’ll go before you list, because in most parts of the country you’ll have an offer in days if not hours.

    Can’t wait to hear about your next chapter!

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    • Hi Dawn, I hope you are right about receiving offers right away – fingers crossed. And, yes, in a pinch we have places to go. Curious is the best way to go through life, at any stage. The internet makes it possible to learn from the comfort of my sofa and at a pace and schedule that I set for myself. It doesn’t get better than that. Enjoy your Katie-girl while you can. There will always be time for travel.

      Like

  5. I think about how we’ll live in retirement, of course. I wish you well selling your house and finding somewhere new to live. For me, giving up the house will be the biggest issue about retirement. Should we stay or should we go?

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    • Ally, it seems funny that I am not emotionally ‘attached’ to this house. It has been our home for 19 years, but I still think of our first house as ‘home.’ We were only there for 11 years, but it was the house we lived in when our daughter was born.

      Not everyone ‘gives up’ their house when they retire. It seems like a lot of folks are opting to age in place. Maybe that’s your path.

      Liked by 1 person

      • At this point, aging in place is the plan, along with some remodeling. Can’t decide if staying and improving will be more or less stressful than moving on. No rush, we have time to decide. 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Your discussion is thought-provoking. I found my loves of backpacking and writing when and where I least expected. My motto is to keep exploring and adventuring with experiences that may make you uncomfortable at first. You don’t know what discovery awaits.

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  7. The pandemic changed things up for a lot of us, didn’t it? I look forward to hearing about what you decide to do next. We traveled full-time for more than seven years, and now we’re living in Florida, as you know. We’re not certain yet about our next step (still want to travel, but probably not full-time, not sure what to do about our home in Oregon…so many questions!).

    What I do know is that I want to enjoy this moment to the fullest. At 67, it seems more important than ever to stay as flexible as possible physically and mentally. And sometimes, that means doing less, which has always been hard for me because I don’t ever want to miss out on anything!

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    • Hi Laurel, we can’t allow our minds to wander too far, just in case things don’t work out, but I know the next chapter will be great regardless. I did not realize you had a home base in Oregon. Maybe you guys will become snowbirds, with intermittent RV travel. I can’t think of anything more perfect! Age is a driving force for us right now also. We are both 65 and feeling every year of it. Flexibility is certainly a necessary quality.

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  8. Suzanne,
    As we travel across the country, we find that the vast majority of people we meet are as cautious and as respectful of health concerns as we try to be. I’m sure you will discover the same on your travels, if you haven’t already. As for moving–we left our big home almost seven years ago. I hated to leave, but am so glad now that we have that experience behind us. It was liberating in many ways, and we’re free to roam. I look forward to reading what the future brings to a very inspiring couple. Joe

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    • Joe, it is inevitable that we will eventually HAVE to leave this big house, so why not now, when we still have the energy to deal with such an undertaking.

      We are making a couple of stops along the Bourbon trail in Kentucky, which is as close to the multitudes as we are likely to get, but even so, we both trust the vaccine to do its job and will not be holding back! Just two more weeks…..

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  9. Suzanne, how fun that you posted your article of ten years ago. I retired the year after you did, and so many things in our lives mirror yours. You look fabulous – great shape. We moved after 20 years, downsized to a condo in beautiful Prescott, AZ, which is a vacation in itself, bought e-bikes, are enrolled in a Pickleball class on May 17-19. Two COVID shots later, we hope to do some traveling again, but until then are still exploring what AZ has to offer, and there’s so much here we’ve never seen. Thanks for sharing both posts. It’s nice to see what other retirees are doing.

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    • Hi Marsha, thanks for the compliment. I do try to stay fit, but I also love to eat!! I found that retirement article in my archives and had to revisit it in the present day for comparison’s sake. It was interesting to see that we have stayed pretty true to our intentions – once we figured out that one size does not fit all. If I didn’t live in Florida, AZ would definitely be high on the list of retirement locations for me. Both states have so much to offer active retirees like us. I’m glad you found Pikleball. It’s addictive!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I love to eat, too, Suzanne. I was so impressed that you can crouch. If I even do that, I’d better be alone or there would have to be an AKWARD alert! LOL. I agree that FL is a very fun place to live. I had a blast there with my neighbor and her daughter and mother-in-law three years ago in March. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. My husband and I have talked about selling our home and moving somewhere else but, so far, we haven’t found anything better… great view, great weather, great friends (it’s just getting too crowded in our city). I am looking forward to learning more as your adventure unfolds.

    I really like how you and your husband discussed your retirement and came up with a list of things you wanted out of life. I think too many people retire without a plan and just “see what happens.” Unfortunately, with that approach, often nothing happens. No need to speed up the aging process… we’ll all get old eventually (if we are lucky, that is 🙂 ).

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    • Hi Janis, whatever we end up doing, we are pretty sure we will not move out of the area. Like you, we love where we live. The message I have always tried to share through my blog is to ‘have a plan.’ But, the bigger lesson is to tend, evolve and adjust the plan constantly to suit your needs. The pandemic set us back a year, but we feel like we are finding our way back and figuring out how to move forward. Living in a ‘crowded’ city no matter how perfect will test your patience. Best wishes.

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  11. Hi Suzanne what a fabulous post and it resonated with me on many levels. My husband is 9 years older than I and has been retired longer, although he did have the responsibility of his parents until last year when his Mum passed away. We are quite different in what we like. He likes a quiet life and I like to live at a faster pace and try new things. Retirement has not been an easy transition for me as I enter my 7th year. I’m still not ready to settle ‘behind the gated community’ but I am feeling that time is not a luxury we have and I would like to spend more time enjoying and exploring with my husband. We are planning an adventure to Tasmania later in the year which I’m looking foward to. Thank you for writing this post and sending hugs from Australia. xx PS I wish you would be a guest on my podcast!! 🙂

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    • Hi Sue, Malcolm and I aren’t always in lock-step with how we want to live retirement either, and sometimes I have to push him out the door. Likewise, he clips my wings from time to time. I know what you mean about settling for the ‘behind the gated community’ kind of retirement. That wasn’t for us either, and I am glad we broke those chains early on and have lived ‘our version’ of retirement. Thanks for the virtual hugs and let’s talk more about the podcast. I’ll shoot you a message with a couple of questions and we’ll see where it goes. Thanks

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  12. Hi Suzanne, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on retirement in 2011 and now. I agree with your points on curiosity, confidence, passion, staying flexible, and making adjustments as we age. Moving homes takes energy so it’s wise to do it when both of you are in good health. All the best with your house sale and moving.
    I chose to retire from work early to pursue living a healthy and enriched life. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it from day one. At this stage, I’m active while I still can. I’ll make adjustments as my interests change or as I age. I chuckle at your B&B idea. I also had a fantasy to open a B&B. It’s not going to happen since my goal is a low-maintenance lifestyle. Thank you for linking to #WeekendCoffeeShare.

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    • Natalie, you are the poster child for early retirement. Your approach to balance mirrors my own in many ways, but somehow you manage to be consistent at all times. Thanks for hosting the coffee share.

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  13. Happy travelling Suzanne, looking forward to seeing your photos soon. That must have been a big decision to sell your house, I am dreading that moment.

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  14. Wonderful. I’m looking forward to retiring in the Bush. Still have a way to go with my 4 children as oldest is only 15.

    You taught me something new too. I’d never heard of pickleball before! Had to google it 😁

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  15. The plans and dreams vs the reality..I loved reading your post about retirement. Our retirement came in fits and spurts and has been nothing like the one my parents enjoyed. That’s a lot to do with how we were employed in our latter years and also that we were not sure if we would stay in the city. Come 2014 and I could no longer drag up the initiative nor energy to keep teaching at Uni, and I had actually had the gloss go from my role as Grandma on some days of each week…so we readied the house for sale and did that. Then …well, far too long a tale but in the ensuing 7 years we have not been able to buy another house (real estate is through the proverbial roof on the east coast of Australia….and I got a rare cancer diagnosis so maybe we have been meant to rent and find out what we basically want from life most of all. Denyse #weekendcoffeeshare.

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    • Denyse, you know better than most that life changes in an instant, in spite of the best-laid plans. Who knows what’s on the other side of selling our home? Hopefully, many more years of enjoying retirement. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I appreciate the words you opened this post with – calling 5 years into retirement “early” in the process. I have been retired for almost 4 years and my hubby 2 years. We are both so happy in retirement. Now with both of us vaccinated, and maybe a little bit of traveling allowed, we are excited to resume our explorations. You definitely can do a road trip safely. We just finished a 3-week 3800-mile trip to visit our son, DIL, and grandson, with some stops along the way to places we have never visited.

    Enjoy your once-again empty nest!

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    • Laurie, this will be our first venture beyond Florida since COVID and while the vaccine has given us a tremendous sense of security, we really don’t know what to expect in other parts of the country. Thanks for sharing your observations.

      We definitely didn’t hit our stride until around year 5 of retirement. Until then, our lives were busy, but not full. Good for you for knowing what you wanted and following through.

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  17. Interesting 10 year perspective. It won’t be long before I figure out which way I’ll go… I do know I’ll stay active, curious and won’t slow down until I physically have to…

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    • Trent, from my perspective, people who have interests beyond work adapt very well to retirement. You already know how to live and what makes you happy, so just take that part with you when you leave work behind and things will be great.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. It is interesting how our lives keep changing. When we moved from New England to Florida, downsizing was our prime objective and we didn’t know as soul when we moved to Vero Beach. At the time it felt traumatic to leave so much of what we had collected behind and start basically from scratch we as sold our home totally furnished. Looking back, it was one of the best things we’ve done and have more friends than ever. As to waiting to plan where you want to be next until a sale on your home is imminent…I wouldn’t wait. Homes are selling in 24 hour hours and for more than the asking price in our part of Florida. Best of luck on your future plans. I know that whatever happens, you will make the most of it.

    Like

    • Hi Karen, we have a short-term plan in place and will have somewhere to go if we sell quickly, but our long-term plan can’t happen until all the dust settles (we want to build 1 more house!). The kids move out tomorrow, then we will do a final spruce-up and hand it over to a realtor! Selling with some of the furniture would be great! Are you still in Vero? I had thought you were somewhere north of there.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. We enjoyed your thoughts on retirement, found the then and now very interesting. Well done for breaking the mould all those years ago! We are new to this retirement lark, retiring with the sole purpose of realising our dreams to travel the world but then our dreams being dashed 7 weeks in by Covid and our subsequent escape from Vietnam back to England. During the last year or so being under various lockdowns, isolated from friends and family, lack of social interaction has only confirmed our initial thoughts on retirement…… we love it!! We don’t miss work, we love the freedom it brings, albeit hugely restricted during the pandemic, and as soon as the world opens up we will grab every opportunity and live our lives to the full, thats what retirement is all about 😁

    Like

    • Everyone writes their own script and ours is a bit of a mash-up, but it suits us. It is very wise of you to sort what you want and go for it. Wishing you the very best. Hopefully, we will all be back on the road soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. What an uplifting post, Suzanne! I really enjoyed reading your article from ten years ago and can only say: I wish to approach retirement just like you did. If and when I ever retire. That’s a different topic all together, haha.

    So, based on the timeline of you having lived in your current house for twenty years, I assume you kept living in that “gated community,” but expanded your horizons when it came to mindset, choices, and activities?

    I couldn’t agree more with the expression “Don’t let anyone else define your world, they will make it too small.” I’m all about living life on your own terms, following your passions, and making choices that promise the best chance of happiness. Good luck selling your house. I’m curious to learn what’s next.

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    • Hi Liesbet, your calculations are correct. Gated Community Syndrome is pervasive in South Florida, especially in communities with mostly retired residents. We loved our home and its location, so the best thing to do was to adjust our mindsets and not follow the crowd, especially when it wasn’t satisfying. You are not the only one curious about ‘what’s next.’ So am I.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I love this! We’re still a little way from retirement (although if I had my way I’d retire tomorrow!). It’s something we were talking about in the car yesterday – Grant likes the idea of the villages with all their activities and I think I’d feel handcuffed and claustrophobic. The answer for us will be somewhere in the middle. Looking forward to hearing what your next adventure looks like – very exciting times!

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    • Jo, claustrophobic is the right word. Too many people all up in your business!!! The built-in activities were nice in the beginning, but after a while, I felt was living in a fishbowl. You guys will figure things out when the time comes.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I love your plan and your advice. We’re still at least 15 or so years away from retirement and I’m not sure what it will look like for us.

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    • Hi Kirstin, thanks for visiting Picture Retirement. Fifteen years is not that far off. My advice is to talk, talk, talk about how you see your life at that stage. We all have different ideas about what ‘satisfying’ looks like.

      Like

  23. I retired 2 years ago. I am not counting 2020 since it was not normal for anyone, but searching, changing our minds and then having to account for health limitations is a full time job!

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  24. It is always interesting to go back and revisit thoughts, opinions we held in the past, Suzanne. As you write well, your values continue to hold true over time. “Too small….chains..” resonates with me/us. We have always had a vision on how we want to lead our lives and if lucky with continued health, we will enjoy our vision. A sprinkling of flexibility and gratitude always included in this vision. I appreciate your words “…a willingness to adapt and evolve.”

    Selling your home is a huge decision. Thank you for sharing an interesting and comprehensive post, Suzanne. I love the photos. Cute about the Mom in the back seat. A beautiful photo of your daughter. I look forward to reading about what is in store for your future. (a little delayed in responding since off the grid the past while) xx

    Like

    • Hi Erica, thanks for stopping by. I’m sure you will be back in the ‘swing of things’ shortly. The kids moved out yesterday and I am busy tidying and reorganizing spaces today. The Realtor will visit tomorrow and things will get real after that. It is a big decision, but we are ready. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Hello Suzanne. Thank you for this post. I enjoyed reading about your take on retirement five years in and now 10 years later. I am getting ever closer to retirement and trying to picture what it will be like for me…what I want it to be. I definitely want to spend more time in nature, exploring places near and far. I’d love to downsize and declutter…lighten our load. That’s going to be tough for my husband, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m sure we’ll eventually settle into the right mix of adventure and relaxation. I’m eager, but also a little nervous, because I don’t know exactly what I want to do with this next phase of life. Thanks for sharing your experience and insight.

    Like

    • Christie, as long as you have some interests (which you obviously do) you will fill in the gaps as you go. Your curiosity and positive attitude will serve you well in retirement.

      Like

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