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We Retired Early — What We Happily Ditched For Life On The Road

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lesbian couple on beach together

My eyes lazily opened as morning sunlight streamed through the blinds of our trailer. I began exercising the synapses of my brain by playing my favorite morning game: what day of the week is it? Unsuccessful in figuring it out, I moved on to something I thought might be more accessible and tried to recall what town we were in.

They say the brain is like a muscle that needs to be exercised to stay elastic, and I was doing my part to keep my brain as stretchy as the elastic on my shorts. Some days though, it feels like a losing battle.

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The struggle to recall the day of the week and the city we are in is real when we’re on the road. When we drive cross country, we often stay in a different State each night. We both enjoy life on the road, especially traveling from coast to coast. I relish waking up in different places, and the long days of driving are sweet times for conversation with my partner.

   

   

I do miss a couple of things from our old life, though.

We were both happy to give up our careers for an untethered life on the road. Still, I do miss a few things like business meetings, for instance. I especially miss lunch meetings with staff members at Mercato, my favorite restaurant in Olympia, WA. It’s a rustic Italian place where the food is fresh and local and where the staff knew me by name because I ate there so often.

I also miss being a part of people’s success. I experience a rush when I’m a part of someone’s growth process. Witnessing a colleague becoming the best version of themselves is deeply meaningful, and my career afforded me many opportunities to participate in other people’s accomplishments.

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While there are some components of my former life I miss, the things we ditched for the nomadic life in order to retire early, I don’t miss at all.

We ditched stability

When we retired early, we ditched a conventional approach to stability. Selling our home and nearly all of our possessions was exciting. For many, owning a home is foundational to the feeling of stability. For us, stability isn’t a priority or even an emotional need. We are immersed in what I would call a change mindset, and we believe nothing is guaranteed or permanent.

We sold our home during the market frenzy when there was a shortage of homes for buyers and houses were selling for over-market value. We were in a perfect position because we didn’t want to turn around and purchase another home right away.

As we left our home for the last time, I felt a momentary panic about being homeless. Fortunately, that dissipated quickly. We ditched stability for untethered freedom, and it’s working for us so far.

We ditched productivity

If there is one thing I don’t miss about work, it’s the drive to be productive. In America, so much emphasis is placed on success; to succeed, we are told we need to be productive. The Boomer generation believes in productivity and a solid work ethic. Boomers would rather work themselves to death than take the time to enjoy life. Not all Boomers, obviously.

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Our productivity-driven society creates people who have a difficult time in retirement. Suddenly, that which fed their ego, and dictated their days, is gone, and they don’t know how to react. We are sold a bill of goods that we are what we do, which leaves us feeling empty when our jobs are gone.

I have no desire to wander around aimlessly in my retirement. I want to invest my time in the things that give me a sense of purpose and joy. For me, that includes family, writing, and travel. For my partner, that includes backpacking, optimizing her health, and cooking incredible meals. We have plenty of meaningful activities to keep ourselves occupied!

   

   

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We ditched being in a hurry

I don’t know about you, but I used to drive fast all the time. I was in a hurry to get wherever I was going, and my salty language at slow drivers was ever-present. I had no idea how much stress being in a hurry created for me until I was no longer consumed by rushing.

Having no reason to rush, we take our time and don’t sweat it if we get behind someone driving below the speed limit. There is so much road rage happening these days, and I’m grateful to have the luxury of moving at a slower pace.

It’s all about choices

Ditching stability, productivity, and hurrying felt like removing a weighted vest off my body. I didn’t realize how bogged down I had been until that weight was lifted. In baseball, a batter coming to the plate swings a weighted bat in the on-deck circle so the bat feels lighter at the plate, facilitating a faster swing. That’s how retirement felt for me; my life felt more emotionally agile once I retired.

Every choice we make brings a corresponding consequence. That consequence may be positive, negative, or even neutral, but there is a reaction to every action. When it comes to retirement, there will always be tradeoffs. It’s up to us to decide what we are willing to live without and how we want the next phase of life to go.

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Kim Kelly (she/her) calls the Pacific Northwest home when she isn’t traveling with her wife in their 21-foot teardrop trailer. She is a writer and speaker who writes about authenticity, retirement, relationships, and life on the road.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.