Early retirement - adventure/big idea planning

Updated: Jul 23

You might know that I'm a fan of setting targets. At the start of each year I write them down, and then at the end of each month I track my progress.


One of my targets for 2022 was "imagine a new adventure for Sally and me" and, as of the end of June, progress on this was pretty much zero.

Setting targets helps give purpose to my early retirement
My 2022 early retirement targets - progress as of June 2022

My lack of progress is probably linked to there not being an easy answer. It has to be something that excites both Sally and myself, and finding that ain't easy! I sometimes wonder if life wasn't simpler when we were both busy with careers and raising a family - we didn't have time for much else, so we didn't have to think of much else. Now we have more time for other interests, it feels that we have fewer interests in common than I imagined.


Perhaps the first step in my finding a big idea/new adventure is to understand why we want one in the first place - why is it important? From my perspective:

  1. I'm fortunate to have been able to retire early - if I just do run of the mill daily life it doesn’t feel like I'm making enough of my fortunate position.

  2. I want to be able to look back at these years and say “wow, I did some cool things”. Well, "cool" for an ex-accountant anyway!

  3. Having a bigger project gives me something to plan for, which I enjoy doing, and it perhaps helps with that "purpose" thing.

  4. It’s easy to let life slide by, to suddenly find we're ten or twenty years down the line and haven't done much. I don’t want that to happen to me.

  5. I’m slightly envious of some of my friends, one couple are building their own house and another are cycling from the Northernmost tip of Norway to Istanbul. How cool are they!

  6. We only get one life, we should make the most of it.

  7. I believe being challenged and getting outside of our comfort zone is a good thing. Work often did that for me in the past. Big ideas or adventures can do the same in my early retired life.

And from Sally's perspective, I've just asked her why she needs/wants a big idea/new adventure project. Her answer is much shorter - she doesn't!


See what I mean when I said there's not going to be an easy answer! One of us wants to come up with an adventure/big idea and has at least seven reasons for doing so, while the other doesn't have any interest in it all.


Not to be discouraged, I did my best to get Sally to join me in an initial brainstorming session - here are the ideas we've come up with.

Trying to figure out some big ideas or adventures for our early retirement

Okay, so most of the ideas came from me. Just a couple from Sally because, firstly, she doesn't feel the need to have big plans or adventures and, secondly, if she thinks an idea won't be possible or she believes I won't be interested in it, she simply doesn't mention it. I think it's better to get all ideas out there, however daft or seemingly impractical, and then, if they're of interest, try to figure out how we can make them possible.


I'm not sure it's a great list, but it is a place for us to start a discussion. In general, we seem to have quite a number of travel ideas, a couple of building ideas and then a few others that don't quite fit into a specific category.


Looking at each one in a little more detail:


Sally goes back to work

This might seem harsh on Sally, but the reality is she didn't want to stop work in the first place. I retired while Sally kept working, and we eventually agreed a compromise where Sally would take a year off while we travelled and then she'd return to work. That one year off has so far turned into four.


I'm not clear whether or not Sally wants to go back to work. She loved teaching in the classroom, but to do that means compromising on the flexibility that we currently have. It would be a big change to our current lifestyle, so certainly qualifies as a big idea, and depending on where it might be, could qualify as an adventure too.


Volunteering

This is me taking the idea of Sally going back to work, and adjusting it. My idea is volunteering as a teacher, it could be in Africa for example. Perhaps for 3 months, but it could be for longer. My thinking is that Sally gets to do the teaching that she loved, and we would be doing something good at the same time. It would be a big idea and an adventure, and it would still leave us with a flexible lifestyle for much of the year.


Property renovation

This has been on Sally's to do list for ages - she's hooked on property renovation TV shows (the UK's Homes Under the Hammer is her favourite). It's not so much my thing, and if you saw my efforts at DIY, you'd know why!


The logistics of this aren't simple. What location, where do we live while we're doing the renovation, and because property means a sizeable amount of money, the sums have to work.


Build a tiny house

This is one of my YouTube inspired ideas! But the tiny aspect also links to my leanings towards having enough rather than too much, even if that isn't quite full blown minimalism. In theory, it ought to tick Sally's property renovation idea too (OK, full build rather than renovation, but on a smaller scale). But there are lots of hurdles. Where to build it, could we get the land, what about planning permission? Plus the same money considerations as the renovation idea, the sums have to add up. I prefer this idea to a property renovation, but my instinct is that it's more of a pipedream.


Seven Wonders of the World

An idea from Sally, she wants to see Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro - I didn't see that coming, it seems that you really can learn something new every day!


This feels more like a one off short trip than a big adventure - we could take a straightforward vacation to Brazil, see Christ the Redeemer, and be back home in a couple of weeks. I've therefore expanded the idea to include all seven Wonders of the World - we've been to the Taj Mahal and Colliseum already, so five more to do. To be honest, even the expanded version feels more like a collection of shorter vacations so, again, I'm not sure it feels like a big idea/adventure. Perhaps it should be two or three months in South America, and visit Christ the Redeemer while we're there?


North America Campervan Travel

I've mentioned a variation of this on my blog before. I'd like to ship our campervan to Canada in late spring, and spend a year exploring Canada and the USA, heading South as the weather turns colder in the North.


European Campervan Travel

Despite being from Europe, I've hardly explored the continent, so it makes sense to see more of what's on our doorstep. This sounds quite sensible, but how to turn it into the feeling of a big idea/adventure rather than a collection of weekends or a few weeks away at a time?


Travel New Zealand

When we travelled for four months in Asia and Australia, we had time to include either Japan or New Zealand, but not both. We chose Japan because we thought we'd go back to make a special trip to New Zealand, after all, it gets rave reviews for being one of the top places in the world to visit. We enjoyed Australia when we visited, and we have friends there, so it could be a New Zealand and Australia trip, I'm thinking around three months in total.


Big Hike or Cycle Ride

I'm inspired by my friends, Dave (yep, the same crazy guy who rowed solo across the Atlantic) and Georgie who are currently cycling from the northernmost tip of Norway to Istanbul as well as the hiking adventures of Fire & Wide and the plans of She's FIRE'd to hike the Camino de Santiago trail.



Next stage: Sally and I need to talk further about each idea, and maybe we'll come up with other adventures as we do so. There will be some that don't float Sally's boat (probably most of them, and particularly the ones that I'm most keen on!) and, vice versa, some won't feel that exciting to me. But hopefully we'll find some common ground, make a decision to choose one or, hopefully not, make a positive decision to choose none. They may not be easy conversations - remember that Sally said she feels no need to find a big idea or adventure while I...do! If it sounds like I'm complaining that early retirement can be complicated...well, sometimes it can be, but that's a nice problem to have!

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