Hi there everybody
, just completed my first six months of retirement after leaving my job as a software engineer Jan. 31 at the age of 43.
In my last year at my employer, a large tech firm, I joined an experimental work initiative that allowed employees to stay salaried but work on a freelance basis, choosing their projects, number of hours, and schedule as desired. I went to half-time with this new group working a three-month-on, three-month-off schedule. I was able to get away from the dysfunctional projects I was on previously and pursue open-source Web development, something I had always enjoyed but never had the chance to pursue at work.
I used the two three-month stints off in my last year to travel to Europe and Asia. My half-time position was a thousand times better than any job I had ever had, but I found it extremely difficult to return to work after each three-month stretch of freedom knowing I was FI and did not have to be there.
When I gave my notice after one year, only a few close friends and family knew of my retirement plans. The official story for everyone else was that I was taking a year off to travel and explore a career change. Most people were very supportive, but there was definitely also some awkwardness and envy. I got a few comments like "Six months a year off isn't enough for you?" A natural reaction I suppose given that they didn't know I was retiring.
I've always been a goal-driven person and I used my first six months after retirement to achieve some travel and Spanish learning goals. In March and April I went to Mexico, first studying Spanish intensively at a school in Guanajuato for four weeks and then exploring Mexico's beautiful central colonial cities for three weeks.
In June and July I visited Colombia and Ecuador, both amazing countries. After five weeks, though, I found the pace of constant travel tiring. Also, I felt surprisingly lonely, despite staying in mostly hostels and Airbnbs with families and taking frequent day tours to meet fellow travelers. As an introvert, I also found it exhausting to converse with so many new people every day.
Based on that experience, I've decided to combine longer trips with some kind of family homestay and language study element. It allows me to have a more meaningful connection to the culture and also helps meet my social needs as a solo traveler.
While at home, I keep busy pursuing Spanish studies with grammar books and online tutoring over Skype with iTalki. I watch lots of Spanish language content on Netflix and am active in a number of language-related, international, and atheist and skeptic Meetups.
It's been interesting to see how I've changed in the last six months. I feel happier and less stressed, which has helped me be more patient and kind in my relationships and daily interactions. I find myself going out of the way to do small thoughtful things for people I never had time or energy for when I was working.
Another change I've noted is that it's become much harder to make myself do things I don't really feel like doing. When I was working, the discipline of getting things done at work regardless of personal feeling carried over into my personal life, and my calendar was frequently filled with social and volunteer events I attended out of a sense of obligation. Now, I tend to turn down anything that doesn't sound appealing.
I also started a personal blog to document my travels, but it is rapidly falling into the ever-growing pile of Things I Don't Feel Like Doing (see above).
I have lots more travel planned for 2016 and 2017, including Alaska this month, Spain in October and November to do language study in Madrid and then travel around Andalucia, a return trip to Guanajuato and central Mexico in the spring for more language study, and shorter trips to visit family in Florida and Texas.
I've calculated that in 2016 I'll have been away from home 142 days, and in 2017 at least 120. It will take a few years to work my way through my lengthy travel bucket list, but once that happens I plan to explore other activities like longer-term volunteer commitments, taking an art class, joining a choir, etc.
Thanks for listening and for all your support.