Practising Retirement

2014-07-28 12.42.13-1When I first read the ‘4 hour work week’ many years ago, it’s recommendation to take mini-retirements throughout your life resonated strongly with me.  Retirement should not be like jumping off a cliff into the unknown.  For every other major life change we normally get to practice, we get to date before we get married, educational institutions prepare us for work, we get parenting classes before we have our first baby.  But when if comes to retirement we are expected to just transition from working 40 hours a week to zero over a weekend, maybe holidays could be considered a form of practice, but honestly 2 week practices are not long enough to prepare us for living well for the next 40 years.  In some ways I’m fortunate because my health conditions mean that I don’t work a 40 hour week, so in my run up to retirement I do have an opportunity to do a bit of practicing, I’ve already started and I plan to do a lot more.  This post explores my main areas of focus.

In my previous post I described my outline plan for what I want to do in retirement, which I summarised as:

I will be spending about 40% of my time in St Annes following my daily routine, about 30% of my time I will be on day trips hiking, cycling or learning and the remaining 20% of my time I will be away from home on a mix of short and longer breaks.  That seems about the right mix of home and away, stability vs. variety and low cost vs. medium cost, with no extravagant costs.

This yearly pattern isn’t too far off my current working pattern.  This last year I did take 12 weeks as holiday and 12 think weeks, spending the rest of my time at home in St Annes following a pattern of reading, meditation and exercise in the mornings, working in the afternoons and leisure in the evenings.   This has worked well, but there are a few areas that need more practice:

  1. I need to find ways to reduce the cost of my holidays and to increase their variety.  This means trying out low cost forms of transport like the mega bus and weekly rover bus passes.  It means travelling to new places and staying is different types of accommodation including B&Bs and Youth Hostels rather than more expensive caravans and self catering cottages.  It means taking advantage of last minute deals.
  2. I’m hoping to spend a lot of time travelling without a car, given my health challenges and fatigue I’m not sure how practical this is going to be, to test this out though I need to practice travelling light, otherwise it’s a non-starter
  3. I need to spend more of my think-weeks in interesting and inspiring places, like big cities, working in libraries, going to conferences and the like
  4. I anticipate spending a lot of my retirement learning new things and I should practice this idea by using think-weeks to learn new skills that are relevant to work, to see how I get on
  5. I’m planning to spend a lot of time walking and cycling, whilst I’m happy to do this in the local area 3-4 days a week, I’m expecting to spend perhaps 2 days a week on day hikes or rides and I need to discover a lot of new places to go for these.  I’m not very adventurous so this will take some determination
  6. I need to get better at coping with rainy days.  I need to get better at cycling and walking in the rain, but I also need to get better at doing rainy day activities like learning, art or lazy mornings at the health club
  7. I love cycling when the wind is kind to me, but I rapidly get exhausted when it’s not.  I need to see if I can build up my stamina or find other ways to reduce the fatigue

There are two critical areas that I’m worried about:

  1. How I will cope with the changing pattern of social contact, can I find ways to keep the level of social contact I have now, find new forms of social contact or learn to cope with less
  2. How will my body respond to higher levels of activity.  So far I’ve found that more activity generally improves my health but there’s a tipping point where it becomes too much for me and I flare. I’m hoping that with practice I can increase the activity levels that I can cope with.  My body also doesn’t recover/repair itself very well after exercise and basically wears out much quicker than most people’s,  I’m hoping to find ways to improve my resilience and increase my levels of Human Growth Hormone.

The photo is from todays day hike with Debbie in the fells to the south of Windermere town, east of the lake, it was wonderful, but true to form even though I exercise every day I’m more exhausted than Debbie is and my tendons are tender!

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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