Tag Archives: Third Age

More than a few unanswered questions

Shedders is our favourite blog. It doesn’t hurt that the author is a long-time friend. Here she writes about one of the many great conversations we had when she and her husband came north for their annual visit last summer – their “Down Under” winter.

SHEDDERS, by Heather Bolstler

IMG_2890We had an interesting conversation at breakfast yesterday. Old friends Paul and Cheryl had met up with Rick and me in Powell River BC for a few days‘ exploration, and we were all relishing the Breakfast part of B&B existence. You may be amused by the familiarity of the threads of our discussion – except for the tragedy and frustration of it.

The conversation began as you might expect with compliments on the fine food served up by Yvonne, our hostess, and then drifted to the very social lifestyle of B&B proprietors. We found similarities with Rick and my Shedders’ co-housing arrangement, and that in turn led into co-housing communities that some of us had recently inspected, here on BC’s west coast.

From there, we fell smack into more dangerous territory. All these retirement communities, we lamented; where have all the children gone? Yvonne wondered why our children tend not…

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Living inside a Bucket List

Paul was reviewing his bucket list recently – I wonder what he’ll be up for next? – and wanted to share some of his observations.

Film poster for The Bucket List – Copyright 2007, Warner Bros. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Film poster for The Bucket List – Copyright 2007, Warner Bros. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Bucket list: a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.”  From the phrase “kick the bucket”, slang for “die”.  The origin of this term is obscure, but I’m sure it was around before it was popularized by the 2007 film The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

Despite the end-of-life reference, you don’t have to be at death’s door to benefit from a bucket list.  For this reason, some refer to the concept as a “Life List”.

I started mine three years ago, after some inner wisdom and a wise coach pointed me in that direction.  I’ve been reviewing it lately as Cheryl and I prioritize some upcoming travel goals.  Should we climb to Machu Picchu, explore the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, go on a safari in the African savannah of Botswana, visit Lithuania and meet with someone bearing my old family name, or take tango lessons in Argentina?  Next, that is.

Creating a life list has had a big impact on my life, on too many levels to relate.  This blog is one result, both direct & indirect.  Others are more elemental.

Venice is the place to be if learning Italian's on your list

Venice is the place to be if learning Italian’s on your list

At the time I created the list, I wrote the following:

My list grew slowly at first.  I didn’t want to clutter my list with things I thought I should want to do, but didn’t yearn for.  No “nice ideas”;  no “everyone should want this.”  I was careful to make sure everything I added met the requirement:  was this honestly something I would regret not doing?  A final indicator was a certain feeling of “Yes!” when something passed the test:  it had been on my unspoken list all along.  After a couple of weeks, my list had six items on it.  Two weeks later, it had grown almost sevenfold.

Of course, using the list has led to some adventures.  I finally flew in a fixed-wing glider, after watching yearningly from below for over 50 years.  It was a great experience, and I’m keeping it on the list for at least one more ride over the mountains on thermals.  (Once Cheryl’s forgotten about that fatal glider accident last summer.)  Climbing the Mayan pyramid at Cobá led to an interesting episode, which I chronicled in another post.

Committed now and waiting for the tow plane

Committed now and waiting for the tow plane

My list also enabled me to take action on some health items I’d been putting off for years.  Losing over 40 pounds in 2010 gave me a great sense of achievement and inspired several friends to achieve their own weight-loss goals.  I’m sure it also contributed to my overall health as nothing else has.

Creating a bucket list also gave me much clearer insight about where I wanted my life to go in general.  Although it wasn’t foreordained, more than half of the item on my list ended up travel related.  The name of this blog is no accident!

But the outcome both memorable and unexpected is the quality of experience that a “bucket day” brings me.  On several days when I’ve ticked off an item, the ticking itself took only an hour or two, but the whole day was infused with a kind of magic.  Three years later, I remember vividly the sense I had walking to the bus stop to my appointment with Item Number One.  The whole sky was electric, the trees alive, my own steps a mix of excitement and trepidation.  In some ways, the event itself was anticlimactic.  While bungee-jumping is not on my bucket list – never say never – I can imagine that the split-second of commitment, the instant between starting to step forward and actually becoming airborne may be the moment one remembers best.

Item Number 5 - San Miniato al Monte, near Florence

Item Number 5 – San Miniato al Monte, near Florence

On a recent trip to Florence, Italy, I had a chance to tick off another item.  I had always wanted to visit the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte and ask for the keys to the church.  The reasons were somewhat obscure, and Cheryl would often rib me about my obsession.  Still, on a fine September day, we set out to make the ascent to the hilltop site overlooking Florence – Firenze in Italian.  As seemed befitting, I suggested we make the entire trip by foot, which had it take all day.  I remember that day like yesterday: walking along the banks of the River Arno on a Sunday morning while scores of fishermen relaxed on the grassy banks, encountering a colorful fund-raising run near the Piazzale Michelangelo, catching ever more breathtaking views of Firenze as we climbed the hill towards the Basilica.  The whole day was lit up, and remains my favourite day of our whole trip to Italy.  Even Cheryl thinks it was one of the best.

Once again, the moment of completion faded into relative obscurity.  Upon reaching the church, I located the first official I could find – the Olivetan friar who was manning the gift store – went up to him, showed him my ID, and asked in my best Italian, “Per favore, le chiavi?”  May I have the keys, please?  I earned nothing more than a bemused look from the friar, but what cared I?  My mission was complete!  Item Number Five:  Tick!

By that time, I had learned that ticking off the item on your bucket list isn’t the real juice.  It’s how life shifts the moment you add to the list, with the intention to make real, something you’ve only been dreaming about.

View over Florence from San Miniato al Monte

View over Florence from San Miniato al Monte

Ready to create your own bucket list?  Here are some resources to get you started:

  • One inspiring list-maker was John Goddard, who died this year at the age of 89.  Known as the “real Indiana Jones”, at age 15, he created a list of 127 far-reaching goals, and spent the rest of his life achieving a great many of them.
  • The end of another day of magic

    The end of another day of magic

    There are now several sites devote to publishing and sharing your life list – please let us know what you think if you try any of them:

And some contrary positions that may help you avoid some of the pitfalls.  I think it’s all in how you hold your list:

 

Meeting Up

As described in our last post, Cheryl and I are looking at our options for finding or building a community to live in.  While working on that, we’ve made some progress in more limited community aspirations.  Here’s one of them.

Last year Cheryl and I decided to form a local Meetup.

Meetup.com claims to be “the world’s largest network of local groups.”  As the company advertises, “Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face.”  (Meetup’s mission is to “revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize.”)

A beach bar at Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic became our Meetup emblem

A beach bar at Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic became our Meetup emblem

Paul had been attending Meetups related to his profession for several years.  Last year, we decided to investigate groups more in line with our hobbies, travel, and retirement plans  Since then we’ve joined about ten communities related to travel, travel writing, outdoor activities, photography, foreign languages, and small-business networking – in fact, so many that we have yet to actually meet with some of them.

There was one topic we had trouble finding, and that was the theme of creative retirement around which this blog is centered: “adventurous financial independence without waiting for a net worth of two million dollars.”  We didn’t have a lot of friends who wanted to investigate these kinds of ideas so we decided to form a local Meetup for just that purpose.

A year and a bit later, with very little direct publicity, our Meetup has over 100 on its mailing list, and – pretty much every month – some 15 to 20 of them get together in an informal venue for presentations and discussion.  We’ve covered topics such as Collaborative Housing, Financial Independence, Life Transitions, Making Travel Pay, Financing a Travel Lifestyle, Planning a Round-the-World Trip, and various other travel secrets.  In addition there have been social nights and photo nights with no set agenda.

Our AirBnB evening was at an official accommodation

Our AirBnB evening was at an official accommodation

Meetup.com has been a helpful platform for organizing, advertising, and managing these events.  By means of a suggested $5 donation at a member’s first meeting of the year, we have covered all expenses, including site fees, with a small contingency fund carried forward.

Along the way, we made several discoveries.  One thing we learned was that most of our peers were not familiar with Meetup.com.  Many of our new members had never joined a meetup prior to ours.  As such, they are sometimes hesitant in coming out to their first event.  We’ve found that pre-screening new member profiles and requiring pictures helps put people at ease.  (Before we started pre-screening, we did have one or two incidents involving inappropriate spam from new members.)

Another surprise was how far people were willing to drive to attend a meeting.  We’ve had participants from as far away as a 90-minute drive – and return the next time!  For Cheryl and me, a 90-minute drive usually leaves us scanning AirBnB for overnight accommodation.  There is clearly a real hunger for this kind of face-to-face connection.

Writer Darlene Foster introduced members to the joys of travel blogging

Writer Darlene Foster introduced members to the joys of travel blogging

The most pleasing discovery was how well people fit together.  Our Meetup members coming together around a common theme seem to feel relatively at home, and open up quickly.  Many of our meetings have the flavour of old friends coming together, even when half the participants are first-timers.  We’ve been able to schedule events with no agenda and expect that good conversation will develop.

Of course, it takes some effort on our part to make sure new people feel welcome, and are introduced to others when they arrive.  We also make sure that everyone has name tags – a helpful icebreaker.  A realistic program and agenda helps manage expectations.

Thankfully, we’ve had several members offer to host meetings.  Most of our events have taken place in private homes, or sometimes in apartment common rooms – although we have rented rooms for larger events.  As the number of members continues to increase, we expect to investigate other venues such as area restaurant meeting rooms.  We know of some that only have a $5 minimum per person for such uses.  For now, we can usually squeeze 18 or 20 into most of the living rooms in the area, even if some of us are on the floor.

Even more important, most of our presenters are “home grown”.  While we have brought in outside experts for some topics, many have been ably handled by members.  Often we’ll have two shorter presentations in one evening.  We’ve attracted an eclectic mix of people in various stages along the retirement path, and many of them have complementary skills or learning that they are willing and able to share.

One of our speakers described a tiring retirement project

One speaker described a tiring project

For our minimal troubles, we’ve met a collection of interesting people – and get together with some of them on a regular basis.  We’ve learned some very helpful information about traveling cheaply and making money on the Internet.  We’ve had a chance to reflect on some of the deeper issues of ageing and retirement.  We have a sense that we’ve helped others expand their retirement horizons.  All at very low cost, and with a good helping of fun.  In the future, we envision  joint travel opportunities, and maybe some long term friendships.

Starting a Meetup was definitely a good idea.  We’d definitely recommend joining one or two – or a dozen – and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, then why not start your own?

Meetup:  “using the Internet to get off the Internet.”

Let us know how it goes.

Why Live Alone

A few years back, we learned of a successful experiment in communal retirement living pursued by some old friends of ours in Australia.  They had joined with two other couples, and built a special home to their requirements.  While each couple has private sleeping quarters, they share most of the 3500 square-foot house.  They love it!

Collaborative retirement household featured in "A group solution to growing older", Sydney Morning Herald, June 3 2013

Collaborative retirement household featured in “A group solution to growing older”, Sydney Morning Herald, June 3

What first caught our attention was the possibility of saving money, retiring sooner, and traveling more.

However, the more we looked into it, the more we discovered that the real value of their arrangement was the new community that came with it:  something equivalent to a new family.

As we approach the next phase of our lives, we can feel our old communities slipping away.  Our kids are preparing to leave home – we think.  When we retire from our current jobs, we will quickly lose touch with former colleagues.  Our friends are beginning to retire and move away – some to the countryside, some overseas.  We ourselves plan to move out of the City, and expect to spend more of the year abroad.

We watched what had happened to our parents, aunts, and uncles.  Many of them ended up living alone for the final years of their lives.  Some of them were shepherded into assisted living complexes when living alone became too uncertain.  Even for those who managed to stay independent – often with the help of several nearby grown children – the solo years struck us as missing something.  Was there a better way?

The tranquil view from our former island cabin - too much solitude now?

The tranquil view from our former island cabin – too much solitude now?

Cheryl and I have valued our privacy over the years.  We started our family in a development of five and ten-acre wooded lots.  We later enjoyed spending time with our boys at our off-grid island cabin.  Our retirement dream at one time included a 40-acre spread of wild countryside.

Now our perceptions are changing.  Selling the island cabin may have heralded this change;  we thought it would be too isolated as we got older.  Our experience with our own parents was pivotal:  we would probably live longer than they did, and – like most boomers – we have fewer children to rely on, children who are unlikely to live in the neighbourhood.  The same demographic shift likely means that the cost of assisted living will escalate while the quality of life in those complexes will decline.

Our reading has also underscored the importance of community.  The declining birthrate worldwide will make it harder to replace the old networks of support we are losing as we transition into the next phase of our lives.  Initiatives such as Blue Zones have shown how critical maintaining community is to our health and happiness as we age.  This aligns with advice on nurturing your communities in books such as Flourish and Younger Next Year.  We have all read by now how we can keep our brains younger by engaging in mental activity such as language skills and problem solving.  Living with other people is one way to ensure that kind of mental workout.

We recently joined an outdoor association, and were surprised to find so many retired or almost so.

We recently joined an outdoor association, and were surprised to find so many retired or almost so.

We’re now in the process of realigning our personal tradeoffs between privacy and community.  Can we construct a future for ourselves that replaces the communities we are losing?  We’re taking steps to reach out and join or create new communities for various activities.

What about collaborative living?  Is there a solution that will work for us?  Our friends in Australia had known their housemates for many years before moving in together.  When we took inventory of our own circles, we found very few possible candidates – when we broached the subject with some of those, they soon announced they were moving out of town.  Coincidence, we’re sure!

Can we find new partners for such a venture?  Perhaps.  It’s not a trivial exercise.  The householders and our friends call themselves The Shedders – primarily because of the physical and emotional baggage they had to “shed” in order to make living together work.  Will our circumstances dictate a different form of collaboration?  How far are we willing to go in trading our privacy for community?  We are grappling with now with these questions.  We’ll share some of what we learn over the months ahead.

Solitude or community - in the Marais district of Paris.

Solitude or community – in the Marais district of Paris.

Here are some of the sources that have influenced our journey.

  • Shedders:  This is Heather Bolstler’s personal blog about the journey to their collaborative retirement home.  The earlier entries are now available in this eminently readable Kindle eBook.  The Shedders are by no means the only ones to have made this work.  “My House Our House” profiles a group of three women who turned a preexisting house into a collaborative housing venture.  With an ageing population and lingering economic malaise, we predict a lot more of these in the coming decade.
  • A quiet home on a private acreage no longer the ideal?

    A quiet home on a private acreage no longer the ideal?

    Our own recent experience – such as our recent cycle trip in Provence – has underscored our own need for community.

One of our reasons for starting this blog is to reach out to a wider circle in our search for community.  We’d love to hear from you on this subject.

Where are we traveling?

Financial Independence Day came and went.  Financial independence was nowhere to be seen.

Ten years ago, my Cheryl and I crafted an investment plan that had us reaching job-free living and travel last year.  A decade of dismal investment returns, and we were not even close.  Our financial advisor agreed far too readily.

Fleeing the Bulls?

Did we miss out in the running of the stock market bulls?

We are embarking on a journey to construct the lifestyle we had in mind without waiting for the assets we thought we’d need – or the pension we’d never have.

Hearing an echo from many busted boomer friends, we thought we’d share our journey to inspire and perhaps enlighten others.  Or maybe warn of our mistakes.

Our lines of action and investigation include the following.

  • Traveling more for less.
  • Lowering our expenses without sacrificing quality of life.
  • Creating “post retirement” careers to make up the shortfall – and to maintain our sense of purpose.
  • Starting new activities, projects, and friendships to carry us into our “third age”.
  • Most of all, finding or building a new community – a group of us with similar objectives and who can support each other in achieving them.

We’re paying special attention to the community aspect.  We want to expand our ability to embark on adventure and cultural travel with small groups.  We’re looking at various ways of collaborating on housing.  We value the input on all these themes from both our local and virtual communities.

If this is your journey, we’d love to have you travel with us.