What 2020 will bring is up to me. Maybe it was the same when I worked but it didn't always feel that way. I spent more time in the office than anywhere else and too often probably let other things slide into second place. Only since retiring early have I realised it didn't need to be like that. But don't feel sorry for me, in most years I liked my job and still did lots of good stuff too, just nowhere near as much good stuff as I do now.
Retiring early has been transformational. Stress, what's that?; travel, lots; adventure, I cycled over the Alps last year!; a ski season, but of course; blogging, a few years back I hardly knew what it was. I could go on, but you get the picture. If I hadn't retired early, I'm sure I wouldn't have done these things.
Financial independence and early retirement has given me time, freedom and choices. Setting some targets at the start of the year helps me to not waste the opportunities I'm privileged to have.
Some may say that targets sound too much like what work used to be like. I don't agree. Work targets were what someone else wanted me to achieve, the targets I make now are what I want to achieve. It's a huge difference.
In no particular order, my targets for 2020:
I had a running target last year: "get back to running regularly and well". I made an effort but didn't really achieve, so it's a new approach this year.
I've entered (kind of by accident🤦♂️) London Marathon at the end of April so have no choice but to train for it. Winter makes that difficult, my priority in snow and ice is to stay upright, pace becomes secondary. My target for London is to be reasonably fit and get an OK'ish time. I'll take under 3h30m but will be happier if I can get towards 3h15m.
Part B of my running plan is to enter an autumn marathon and be properly trained for it. I may be dreaming, but let's see how close I can get to 3 hours. I suspect I'll wish I hadn't said that🙊
Although not one of last year's formal targets, we set an amount to give to charity and I'm pleased we kept that pledge.
Although money is vital for the charities, I feel I'm taking the easy option. We'll continue with the financial contributions but I want to add a time contribution too i.e. volunteering.
I've no idea what this might be and, thus far, little idea as to how to do it. I'm also a little embarrassed that this is the target that I'm most nervous about, it feels way outside my comfort zone.
Figure out where we'll live
This is a biggie! I'm not sure it should be on the targets list but it's so important that I'm putting it on. Each time I think we've made a decision it turns into a false start.
The first big question is whether Sally wants to work and, if she does, doing what and where? And what about me, where will best support the life I want? How will competence in a language affect our decision and will the way the UK exits the European Union take some of these decisions out of our hands?
This may seem to be an unusual dilemma, but as long term expats we've lost some of the sense of home that most people take for granted.
Visit 4 new places
After 4 months in Australia and Asia in 2018 followed by 3 months in Colombia, Cost Rica and California in 2019, my travel plans for 2020 are more modest. The main reason being that we've re-inherited the cats from our daughter which makes longer term travel difficult.
So for 2020, the focus is on shorter trips and I want to visit four countries or cities that I've not been to before. The only criteria is I need to be excited to visit them.
Another target carried forward from last year because it's not right that I have an apartment in France, spend a fair amount of time in the country but don't speak the language competently.
This may be my toughest target. I want to get to the point where I can "get by" in French in everyday life situations, but this will likely take until beyond the end of this year.
Try new restaurants
It's easy to fall into routines and do the same things time and again. This target aims to jazz things up a bit by trying some different places where we're living. I'll get full marks for going to three new restaurants every two months and only half marks if they're places we've been before. It will be a good way to have fun with friends too. Hopefully it won't be too expensive otherwise it may have to become "try new places to picnic"!
Blogging has become a hobby that I thoroughly enjoy but after three years it's harder to think of topics to write about. It can be tempting to miss the odd weekly posts but I worry that could be a slippery slope.
Last year's target of posting each week worked well so I'm going to stick with the same target for 2020.
Keep in contact with distant friends
Historically I've not been good at keeping in touch with people but I always enjoy it when we do meet up. In fairness, I did better last year, even catching up with a best friend from school days whom I hadn't seen for 24 years. My target is to keep that good momentum.
This was a mini target for last year, introduced for the three month's travel to Colombia, Costa Rica and California. I like the idea so I'm going to make it a full target for 2020. I'm aiming for a balanced diet with sensible portion sizes, not a perfect diet. For example, if I fancy pizza, french fries or chocolate, that's OK, just not all the time.
That's nine targets, three and a half were there in 2019 as well which means five and half brand new ones. The half is the healthy eating target. That doesn't mean the others from last year's list are off the radar - I do lots of other things other than what's on my targets list. For example, last year I did my first bike-packing overnight trip, cycled the Route des Grandes Alpes and spent a week driving through Germany in a campervan to visit my friend before cycling with him from Berlin to the Baltic Sea. None of those were on my targets list.
Interestingly, at least for an ex-accountant and someone interested in financial independence/freedom, there are no money targets. Maybe I'm nearly cured?🤣
There are other things I want to do too. For example, the GoPro video target from last year, which I completely failed on, is still on my radar, but I decided not to put it on the "official" list. Finding a new hobby is also on my mind, although I have no idea what this could be and it doesn't make the list. I have an inkling that I should try making something, which in all likelihood I'll be completely useless at.
Not all of my targets meet each of the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) criteria, but I don't care. That was important in the workplace but now I can make my own rules. Some of the progress scoring will be subjective but that's OK, I'm honest enough for that.
So that's it. 2020 targets set. Now I'd better start doing them!