This whole concept of so-called retirement has me fascinated.  I’m someone who likes to shake it up every few years and I’ve always embraced change.  My journey thus far usually found me focused for about 5 years and then when finding myself becoming complacent, I would ache to change direction.

I recently listened to my very first ever Ted Talk and was blown away by the topic because the speaker, Emilie Wapnick, pretty  much defines my life in a nut shell.

So, if I take the words of the Ted Talk to heart, I have to believe I was never meant to embrace the concept of retirement.  And by that I mean become complacent, not wanting to embrace what’s around the next corner in favor of a rocking chair and needlepoint.  That may not be such a bad thing but it would drive me into an early grave.

I don’t believe in regrets.  I made a few mistakes along the way but hopefully, I learned something from said mistakes which will help me (us) move forward from here. I feel as if I (we) now have the time to really get out there and embrace the unknown.

Thinking maybe I was alone with my wandering ideas, I went looking for the thoughts of the like-minded.  What I found, was pretty great.  In my search, I reached out to several couples, of a similar age, and I asked a few simple questions with reference to defining retirement. Here’s what they had to say. I think you’ll find inspiration in their words.  I know I did.

Meet Betsy & Pete ~

Betsy & Pete of

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“We will probably never be traditionally retired, and we don’t think of ourselves as retired, either. We love our work, and the fact that we can do it anywhere there is an internet connection has led to a very interesting and rewarding lifestyle.

After we were married in 2006, we realized that we were not going to be able to fund a traditional retirement. At the same time, it was clear that Pete’s career as Director of Marketing for a non-profit organization had plateaued. I owned an inventory-dependent, seasonal business which kept me location dependent. We decided that we’d better figure out something that we liked to work at and even though we were just in our early 50’s at that point, it needed to be versatile in case our health or mobility declined. We also wanted to travel more, taking advantage of Pete’s generous employee benefits (six weeks of vacation). Working online was the obvious answer. In 2008, Pete discovered “print on demand” companies, where you design a product and they produce and ship it when a customer orders it, sending you a royalty. It seemed like the perfect way to have a tangible business without inventory-related issues. One of his products – a political bumper sticker – took off and we knew we were on to something.

I sold my brick and mortar business fairly quickly and began freelancing. Pete worked on our print-on-demand stores on nights and weekends for three years, and finally said goodbye to his day job in 2011. We kept a home base and tested whether we could work away from home on a series of lengthy road trips in North America. Then we took a fateful vacation to Hawaii and said, “What are we doing in Minnesota winters, when we could be living on Kaua’i?” So we sold everything and moved to a tropical island! Yes, we’re those people! Then we took an extended trip to Europe and the Winter Olympics and decided after that to travel full time. So we sold what little we had in Hawaii and have been full time travelers since September, 2014., our blog, is the hub around which our other businesses cluster like spokes in a wheel. We have the previously mentioned POD online stores, business consulting, partnerships with travel niche entities and destinations, and freelance writing, In some ways, it’s actually less expensive to be nomadic because you’re not funding a cash-guzzling lifestyle. So expense reduction is part of the overall picture. We subsidize expenses by housesitting as well. We’ve had wonderful housesits in Fiji, Europe and the UK, and soon will be in China looking after pets whose owners will be out of town. We get free accommodation in exchange for the security of them knowing their pets and property are being appropriately cared for.

We’ve got five adult kids between us, the first of whom will be married in 2016. When we’re blessed with grandchildren, we may rethink nomadism, but it’s hard to imagine at this point. We enjoy this life and we’re fortunate that our health is good so that we can continue with it. Should circumstances change, we’d give consideration to a part-time expat lifestyle or whatever arrangement best suited the situation. But no, no specific plan at this point.”

Meet Larissa & Michael ~

Larissa & Michael

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“We definitely do NOT think of ourselves as retired. To us, being retired means no longer needing to work to support yourself and your lifestyle. We’re not there yet—we still have to earn a living. However, we do feel we have “reinvented” or “ rebooted” our lives. 

We spent roughly a year planning our initial travels, which was a one-year round the world trip. We sold our house and moved into a rental property while we downsized, tidied up loose ends and planned our trip.

Travel is something that’s in our DNA. It’s what drew the two of us together when we first met all those years ago and what has invigorated us over the years. We also never did the proverbial “semester abroad” when we were younger, so perhaps we’ve always had to scratch that particular itch. 😉

First off, we don’t make anywhere near the amount we did when we were in the proverbial 9 to 5. But we learned pretty early on that a major component of supporting ourselves was learning to cut back on our living expenses. We are “location independent”— by not having a home base we are eliminating a major expense. Wherever we are is our only residence, so we are never paying for bills “back home,” such as an empty house/apartment, or an extra electric bill. Michael doesn’t even have a cell phone, which may seem strange in today’s ultra-connected world, but we’ve learned to adapt and don’t miss the extra cost.

Initially, we funded our travels from the proceeds of the sale of our house, which we had owned for 20 years. We do a fair bit of freelance writing, including a weekly travel column in The Philadelphia Inquirer.  That doesn’t pay ALL the bills (travel writing is hardly a “big bucks” profession!), but we are also building a business advising destinations and small travel businesses on communication strategies. We’re not living lavishly, but the experiences we’ve had are far more enriching to us than all the “stuff” we used to collect.

For several years we’ve joked that we’d become Greeters at Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, we learned recently that the “Greeter” position requires some seniority. So we may have to re-think that one.

I think these two stories (there are more to come) are inspiring; the way in which they define their journey and how they make it work for them.  And, really, isn’t that what’s key in this whole process?

If you are among the like-minded, or maybe just curious, head over to our recently launched Redefining Retirement permanent page, by clicking here.  We’ve created a go-to source of information on retirement trends.  Once on our new page, we’re hoping you’ll share your defined path by leaving a comment.”

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