Crazy Things Made Possible By Early Retirement
For those who love their jobs or those that can’t manage to ever save any money, they may not understand why anyone would want to retire early. “Won’t you get bored?” they ask. Not yet! In fact, having huge blocks of free time opens up a lot of possibilities that aren’t very feasible while working full time.
I used to write a monthly summary of what I’m up to in early retirement like this, this, this, and this. I haven’t kept this diary of excitement up to date lately, but I wanted to share a small sample of the tiny and huge things that early retirement permit.
Serendipitous discoveries while walking around
I walk my two oldest children to and from their neighborhood elementary school every day. The round trip is about 20 minutes on the most direct route or 30 minutes if I divert over the river and through the woods along the nature trail in the park. Our two year old tags along with us like a little trooper every day.
One day this week he decided that watching the roofers tear off old shingles atop a neighbor’s house was The Most Exciting Thing In The World ™ at that moment. Why not stand on the sidewalk and watch this novel activity? From his two year old perspective, this was incredible. There were six guys ripping a house apart from the top down and throwing the shredded bits of shingles, tar paper, and plywood onto the tarpaulin moat surrounding the house.
If we were driving by in a hurry, it’s unlikely that any of us would have noticed this crazy bit of excitement that only happens about once every twenty years (for a particular house). A few friends drove by on our busy street and stopped to chat while I waited on Mr. RoG Jr. to get a feel for exactly how to re-roof a house, should he ever need that skill in the future.
After 30 minutes, we left the construction site and made our way home, but not before stopping at the stream in front of our house to observe what the little guy calls “big water”.
I’m happy to report that we eventually made it inside the house without further distractions.
Visiting the Art Museum in the middle of the work day
After completing my lunchtime volunteering gig, I found myself within a few thousand feet of the art museum. I had a couple of hours before my afternoon obligations and a strong desire to see what’s new (and what’s hundreds of years old) in the art world.
I enter the new wing of the art museum and strike up a conversation with the front desk receptionist. She immediately recognized what kind of a patron of the arts I was, and offered me a membership to the museum. For only $75! She must have figured I was loaded since I have the free time to meander around the art museum in the middle of the work day.
Why pay $75 when I had almost the entire museum reserved for myself for free? You see, everyone else was at work. I stumbled into a free escorted tour of the collection by an overly friendly docent and her docent-in-training where I was joined by some fellow retirees (three decades my senior) who live in Mexico full time. That couple plus another pair of young folks roughly my age completed our squad of wannabe art connoisseurs.
The museum has a great collection and I even noticed this gem:
It’s just a blue trapezoid. I laugh every time I see it. I guess it qualifies as art in some abstract sense incomprehensible to me. The other paintings and sculptures were way cooler.
Month(s) Long Road Trips
We set out on a month long road trip this past summer, but cut it short once travel fatigue set in (and there was that really dirty airbnb apartment, too). That’s what happens when you try something really ambitious with a two year old and then reality catches up with you!
With a full time job, it’s nearly impossible to get away from the office for more than a week or two. Now that I’m fully retired and Mrs. RoG is almost there (with tons of time off), we have the flexibility to undertake long trips that are primarily limited by our family’s energy (and secondarily by our travel budget).
What’s next? I don’t have any clue, but here are a few epic trips I’ve been batting around to see what sticks (and what Mrs. RoG and the rest of the family think).
A North Carolina to California cross country trip. I don’t know if we want to fit this into a single summer, but it would let us hit a number of destinations in the middle of the US like Nashville, the Mississippi river, Kansas City, Denver, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and many other national parks in between.
A summer in Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s supposed to have the best food in Mexico, and I love food. Especially Mexican food. We could rent a house for a few months and eat our way through all the local markets and restaurants. I could brush up on my slowly rusting Spanish skills, and our kids could probably gain basic proficiency in the language by the end of the summer.
Another benefit to escaping to southern Mexico for the summer is, strangely enough, the weather. North Carolina summers tend to be really hot and humid (87 to 89 degree average highs and average high dew points over 70 degrees). Even though Oaxaca is much closer to the equator, their “summer” runs from March through May and by June the climate cools off. The June through August period in Oaxaca is unfortunately the rainy season (no rainier than NC), but the high temperatures hover around 80-82 degrees and the dew point remains a fairly comfortable 60-62 degrees F. In other words, we could probably spend a lot more time outside in Oaxaca than we could in Raleigh, NC during the summer months. And we would have a brand new (to us) medium sized city to explore.
If we let the travel bug metamorphosize into a full grown beast, we have perpetual travel. For us, this might include leasing out our home in Raleigh long term and then hitting the road for many months or even years. Then we could travel as slowly as we want and make our way around the world at our own pace.
With young kids, I don’t think we will do this in the next few years. It would require us to rethink how our kids are educated and what kind of lifestyle we enjoy most. I really like having lots of unstructured free time at home, so I’m not sure I could commit to the perpetual travel lifestyles that the folks at Go Curry Cracker and Retire Early Lifestyle enjoy.
We love to travel, but having the comforts of a home base waiting for us upon our return is wonderful. We will have to get a serious long term trip completed before we consider the perpetual traveler lifestyle.
Now that I’m free all day, I could pull our kids from their neighborhood traditional school and teach them at home. I don’t really know a lot about homeschooling right now, so I have a lot to learn before I could consider this option. Those who homeschool swear by it.
We treat traditional schooling as just one part of a full education for our kids. Traditional school can’t teach them everything and can’t cater to their exact interests that change over time. Their school does a great job of providing options. We are very happy there, so it would be hard to leave it behind.
The biggest benefit to homeschooling would be complete freedom to travel whenever we want. We managed to “homeschool” the kids successfully while on a week-long cruise to Mexico and Central America this past September. They missed a full week of school but didn’t seem to get behind. They had homework from school which we supplemented with our usual extra assignments of reading and writing.
It’s all about freedom
Who knows what we’ll end up doing in the future? I know we have an unlimited range of choices before us. Without the constraints of full time work, we can choose whatever we want. At the least, we won’t be spending the next few decades locked in a cubicle responding to emails and attending boring meetings. Hopefully we’ll stumble into random (and planned) exciting and interesting experiences for a long time to come.
What crazy thing would you do if you suddenly had unlimited free time?