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Early retirement travelling again - but why?

My reusable water and coffee/tea cups

Will early retirement work? Trying to figure out the money side of the equation and what to do with the extra free time? These are questions that require some deep thinking, but I'd also argue that because early retirement is usually a big step into the unknown, it can't be completely planned for. For sure, think about it a lot, figure out what you can, but be aware that the early retirement decision requires quite a leap of faith.

I naturally like to plan but, looking back, my early retirement planning looks pretty lightweight. OK, that's putting it politely. My plan for this life changing decision amounted to a handful of words: learn to swim properly, travel and start a blog. Three years later, and despite this paltry plan, my early retirement is going well, so some planning and a leap of faith can work.

As to those items on my plan:

  • Swimming fell by the wayside. I spent some time on it but didn't enjoy it and realised that doing something I didn't enjoy was a bit silly.

  • Blogging, as you can see, is something that I'm still doing and enjoying.

  • Travelling - we spent four months in Asia and Australia last year and we're now starting a three month trip to California, Costa Rica and Colombia.

I see some commonalities between longer term travelling and retiring early. Both can completely mess with your routines and, when explaining what you're doing, half the people you tell are envious and the other half think you're crazy. See, just like early retirement.

Opinion seems divided about travel as an early retirement activity. Some are excited by the opportunity to explore new places while others find travelling for extended periods a hassle. I'm not a natural traveller and I get the hassle point of view, but here are some of my reasons for still doing it:

  • It was on my early retirement plan so I feel I should be giving it a go.

  • Travel tests me and takes me out of my comfort zone. I think it's healthy to be challenged sometimes - it used to come from work, but now I have to find different ways to challenge myself.

  • Seeing the world, it's different places and ways of living, is interesting and thought provoking.

Travelling simply because it was on my things to do list doesn't sound like the best reason, although it does remind me that I'm fortunate to have the time and the finances to do it and I feel I shouldn't waste the opportunity.

The better reasons are how travel takes me out of my comfort zone and how travel can be thought provoking. Regarding the latter, from our first few days in California I've been shocked by the number of homeless people in Los Angeles and San Diego. One moment I'm in wealthy Beverley Hills or walking past multi million dollar yachts in San Diego, the next moment I'm passing a significant number of homeless people. In such a wealthy state/country, how can this be and why can't we fix it? Should I be doing something? Earlier this year I spent time thinking about my giving and decided to focus on less developed nations because more wealthy countries should be capable of fixing their issues. Do I need to rethink this?

Another disappointment is the use of disposable plates, bowls and cups. Every day, breakfast is served on paper, plastic or styrofoam plates, bowls and cups. We hear that California is a particularly progressive state, so how is this still happening? To get an idea of the global scale, have a look at the below statistics from on how many disposable cups we use.

Are these travel provoked thoughts useful? Relative to the homeless, I don't have the knowledge to contribute to a solution - perhaps I need to think about this further. But in terms of environment, I feel the thinking is useful. I already try to be environmentally responsible: I live in a small apartment; take my own bags to the supermarket (including for fruit and vegetables); have reusable cups for coffee and water; and mostly don't drive much. But there's no doubt that I can do more. I now take my reusable cup to breakfast, I can contact the hotel chains to give my feedback and ask them to change, and I can write about these experiences in my blog and perhaps others will do these things too. Perhaps other bloggers will repeat the message to appeal to a wider audience. Individually we might not make much difference, but collectively we can.

Anyway, that's my post for today. I'm starting three months of travelling which is something I can do because I retired early. Whether this post has much to do with early retirement is open to debate - but that's a plus point about being early retired, I'm free to do my own thing, and a post that touches on the homeless and the environment is what I've decided is my thing for today. Oh, and if I'm travelling and talking about the environment, perhaps I need to question my flights, so some more thinking to do.


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