We overestimate what we can accomplish in one day, but underestimate what we can accomplish in a year.
I took the plunge into retirement on May 1, 2016, at the age of 53. I didn’t have very much money saved, but I had been living on less than $20,000 per year for the past many years while working full time, living a minimalist lifestyle, and all the while never feeling like I was missing out on anything. And I was pretty sure I could do the same during retirement if I continued to be creative and frugal.
So began my quasi mission to travel full time on a small budget. I didn’t have much of a plan, except that I was going to live out of my van and do lots of hiking and reading. But as opportunities presented themselves, I was led down a more exciting path of adventure than I would have imagined.
It wasn’t all honey and roses, of course. In the last year, I was sick three times and injured myself twice in foreign countries where I didn’t know anyone or speak the language. Not only did I survive, but I thrived from the experience. It was a lesson in how truly helpful and kind people can be around the world. And it was a reminder that we all have a lot of internal strength we can tap into when we need it.
In any given day over the past year, it seemed that I had plenty of time for relaxation, reading, thinking, and exploring. There were times when I felt particularly lazy and bored, when I thought that retirement sucked, and when even reading a book felt like an unhappy chore. And then there were days, like on the Bruce Trail, when I was on fire with energy and enthusiasm and thought that there was nothing better than being retired, free, and hiking like the wind in the arms of Mother Nature.
Retirement is much like working life in many ways. There are good days, bad days, and days when you are wondering if you’re on the right path. You still have to budget your money, and you still worry about the little things. You still have to make decisions, keep your commitments, say please and thank you, and continue to work on being the kind of person you want become. There isn’t much difference between retirement and a working life for me, except that I don’t have to show up for work anymore.
I expected my retirement to be relaxed, calm, and filled with daily naps. And it has been, for the most part. On any given day, I didn’t aspire to much. Yet, when I look back on the year, I am shocked at what I accomplished with virtually no plan, but with still having to fill each 24-hour period with something.
I learned a lot about myself in the last year. For instance, I learned that full-time travel is not the be all end all for me. Long-term travel is nice, but it’s better when I have a home, or a home-base, to come back to. So when I was in the Okanagan, with my small savings, I bought the least expensive property in Penticton, a 381-square-foot condo, right across the street from the library, and with a view of Campbell Mountain to the east. Although I only spent a total of 28 days there in the last year, it was joyful to feel the warmth of the morning sun on my face, sitting on the balcony of a place I could call my home.
Below is a list of what I accomplished in my first year of retirement on a very small budget. Not including the cost of the condo, here is what I spent in total for the last 12 months of adventure: $18,678 CAD. Even a bit less than when I was working.
Here’s the list:
– Visited Beaver Creek, Yukon, Canada’s westernmost community
– Hiked many trails in the Yukon, as far north as Dawson City
– Added another 10 mountains to my growing list of Canadian Rockies peaks I have climbed
– Hiked over 100 trails in the Okanagan
– Climbed to the top of over 50 peaks in the Okanagan
– Thru-hiked the 900-kilometre Bruce Trail in Ontario in 25 days
– Had a 10-day road trip with my Mom and sister through Alberta and British Columbia
– Hiked and walked almost 6,000 kilometres in total
– Visited 6 Canadian provinces plus the Yukon
– Lived in a van for 7 months
– Slept in hostel dorms for 4 months
– Read 120 books, an average of 2.3 books per week
– Saw more than 30 bears on the trails and along the roads in Canada
– Succeeded in my quest to find a Western Rattlesnake in the wild
– Visited both major wine regions in Canada – Niagara and the Okanagan
– Hiked on Vancouver Island for 10 days in the rain
– Explored Canada’s only desert in Osoyoos, British Columbia
– Hiked Alberta’s Badlands
– Travelled in 8 countries: Canada, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica
– Bitten by mosquitoes in all 8 countries
– Did a 10-day road trip through Guatemala with high-school buddies I haven’t seen in over 30 years
– Climbed 5 volcanoes, two of which are active, in Central America
– Visited Mayan ruins in Mexico and Guatemala
– Swam in a Cenote (natural well), the Caribbean, and the Pacific Ocean
– Wrote and published 60 blog posts
– Learned how to speak a bit of Spanish
And I’m now about ten days into my walk across Canada. I have made no other plans for my second year of retirement other than this walk, except to stay on budget and be open to adventure opportunities. Who knows what year two of retirement will bring me? Whatever it does, I’m sure it will be fun.