Some things come up repeatedly as common early retirement topics, including:
If I retire, how will I fill my time?
Will I be lonely because my friends will be at work during the day?
I have a plan to travel
I'm familiar with these topics, they featured on my early retirement planning whiteboard.
I'm in year 3 of my early retirement, and years 1 and 2 went very well. But after moving 6,500 kilometres (4,000 miles) to a new country, I'm having to start some things again, find new friends available during the day and, to an extent, figure out how to fill my time.
I'm also thinking about my travel plans. They seem to be falling by the wayside, so I'm taking a look at getting some travel back on the agenda.
How will I fill my time - finding things to do
Relocating hasn't changed everything. Things like working on my blog, investments and rental properties are exactly the same.
But other things have changed. I had groups with whom I spent many hours cycling and running, and friends available to meet for coffee and a chat. Those activities worked well for me, but disappeared overnight when we relocated. They need to be replaced.
Now living in France, I feel hindered by my lack of French language skills. It can be a barrier to accessing new things to do. Rather than be disheartened, I can turn that situation into an opportunity.
So my first new thing is to try to learn something new, French. I've signed up for twice weekly lessons at a language school.
A new language may not be for you, but I'm certain there's something for everyone that's interesting to learn or become more proficient at.
Another learning idea - I have a road bike, and plan to get a mountain bike too, so why not learn bicycle maintenance? Knowing how to fix my bike may get me out of a bind if I have a mechanical issue mid ride, and it will save me money if I can do some of the regular maintenance. My plan is to learn from the internet and YouTube, entirely free of charge.
After the snow melts, I'll look for a running and cycling club, or at least people to run and cycle with. Not new things per se, but old things in a new place and with new people. If I can find some French people willing to put up with me, that may even help my language learning. Facebook will be a good way to find new people to cycle and run with.
Before then, there's skiing. I estimate I've skied between 20 and 25 days so far this year. Sometimes alone, but often with new friends and visitors, sometimes for a couple of hours, other times the whole day. Back to the education topic, some ski lessons wouldn't go amiss.
And, little by little, I'm finding new people to have a coffee with, to chat about interesting things and complete nonsense too. So far, my new coffee friends are connections through my efforts to learn French, and I'm pretty sure I'll soon start to run and cycle with some of them too.
To finding new things to do, you have to take those first steps. It can feel uncomfortable thinking about it, but the reality is generally less daunting than you imagined. I'm doing it for the second time and, as the saying goes, if I can do it, then anyone can do it.
Meeting people and making new friends
When I was thinking about retiring early, I worried that I'd be lonely. My friends would be at work during the day, so who could I spend time with?
I was surprised how many people were about during the day. A pilot with days off between long haul trips; friends on shifts available during mornings, stay at home parents, working people still have a lunch hour, people between jobs, and even a professional athlete who I could run and cycle with (or more honestly, some way behind). Not only were these people available to meet up, they were pleased to do so.
A difficult part of relocating was leaving these people behind. I'm starting again from scratch, from absolutely zero friends in our new location.
After 10 weeks, I have four people I can pick the phone up and arrange to meet for a coffee and a chat, go for a walk or skiing and, when the snow goes, for a run or cycle. It's not a bad start. We've mostly met through our efforts to learn French - doing new things is good on its own, and also a good way to meet new friends.
I also have a few other people in mind to add to my coffee list. It pays to be proactive, so they're my new targets, bless them🤣. We can chance that we'll meet people, or we can stack the odds in our favour. Stacking the odds make sense to me.
In these early days, if someone invites us to something, we should go. Most likely we'll enjoy it anyway, and it's a chance to meet people and maybe make new friends.
Next Travel Plans
Travel crops up time and again on early retirement agendas. I see travels and vacations as different things, a vacation being short term, a week or two away from our normal life, travelling is longer term and, for that time, becomes your normal life.
Like many others, travelling was on my early retirement to do list, even though I've never been an avid traveller.
My idea was to start in July 2018, heading to Asia and Australia for four months followed by three months skiing in Europe in our new apartment. Then Africa in March 2019 for a few months before heading to South America for another few months. North America being saved for a later date, a slow RV journey from North to South in a few years time. Being European, that continent could be explored in small bites as and when.
We started OK, and did the Asia and Australia travels from July to November 2018. Then came the three months in the French Alps, also as planned.
Now it's March, and we don't have tickets to Africa, South America, or anywhere else. That wasn't how my plan was supposed to work.
What's changed? From my side, I've simply settled into normal life and the travel plans have quietly drifted into the long grass. For Sally, travel isn't a priority as she missed her home and it's comforts during the longer term travelling that we did in Asia and Australia.
But as I sat recently thinking of the things I wanted to do this year, my travel ideas resurfaced. I think setting goals can be a good thing in early retirement. They can help us stay on track and, personal to me, limit my natural ability to do nothing.
I now need to work out what the new travel plans should be. Taking Sally's wishes into account, it shouldn't be another four months away. So I'm thinking not less than a month and not more that two.
As to where, I narrowed it down to North America or South America initially. I've been to Miami, San Francisco, New York and Boston but there's still lots more to see in the USA. South America would be completely new territory, which makes me lean in that direction. Somewhere new is more out of my comfort zone, and I think stepping out of our comfort zones is healthy.
That leads to where in South America? It partly depends on whether it's a one month, six week or two month trip - hopefully one of the latter two options. Probably in that time it will be just one or two countries. At the moment, I'm at a bit of a loss as to where to choose. Anyone suggestions?