Retirement Mental Shift

person-1262046_1280Retirement is a tricky thing mentally. It’s been three months now but I still find that my first reaction to not finishing everything on my day’s to-do list is a sense of panic. Running out of time. Hurry, hurry! But then it kicks in that no, I don’t have to rush and I don’t even have to get everything done the same day. Oddly, I always have to tell myself this little piece of news several times before my mind moves from frantic to relaxed. One day, I’ll laugh it all off and instead take a snooze in the park.

Really the only thing I adjusted to immediately was not setting an alarm, and sleeping until the sky starts to lighten up is pure bliss. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I have two cats who make it very clear that it’s breakfast time but I feel a sense of satisfaction every single morning when I wake up without an alarm clock and it’s not dark outside. I hated getting up in the dark.

The thing I worried about the most has apparently been banished from my subconscious because I never think about it any more – being bored. I’m easily as busy as when I was working. The difference is that I don’t have to look like I’m busy every minute of the day and for 8 hours straight. I can sit back and relax whenever the mood strikes. When I’ve had enough of computer work, I go up to my local ¬† coffee and a bookStarbucks, grab a coffee and either read a book or magazine, or turn my mind to the development of a different project. It’s a great break and helps me come home refreshed and ready for round two. So far, I’m loving retirement and wishing I could’ve afforded to do it years ago.

 

One Month In

'Which pair of pajamas says 'smart casual'?'I spent the two months after giving my retirement notice worrying about whether or not I’d be able to stay occupied or would find myself twiddling my thumbs, bored for hours and hours with nothing to do and no one to talk to. Well, so far, that’s turned out to be a joke.

Of course, the one thing I looked forward to has panned out beautifully. More than anything else, I hated getting up to an alarm (any kind of alarm, whether white noise, soothing waterfall or music) in the dark. I vowed to only go to bed when I felt like it and never get out of bed until it was starting to get light outside. I’ve stuck to that one (mostly) and it’s glorious. Although I don’t always make it until it’s technically “light outside” due to two hungry kitties who are insistent on their breakfast hour, I manage it most days. Then I can make my coffee, scroll through my emails, play a few games of Candy Crush Soda or solve a Microsoft jigsaw puzzle, and leisurely plan my day.

Fearing destitution, I took on an editor position for the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) for their quarterly journal. I thought it would be an easy way to make a few bucks to supplement Social Security and still have time to work on my writing projects. That has not developed exactly as I imagined. I have three new online programs I’m struggling to learn and master and thus putting in way more time than I’m going to get paid for since the agreement was for a specific sum with the publication of each edition. But I certainly don’t have to worry about endless hours with nothing to do.

And there are two upsides to this new venture. I can work at my own pace and, best of all, I can work in my pajamas.

Panama – Part III

Boquete

Keep in mind that this little Panamanian adventure was taken when I was 63 years old, traveling alone and in search of a retirement location that would be more affordable when living off nothing but social security. The goal was to cash out my 401K, use it to purchase a small cottage with a backyard suited for establishing a lush garden to revel in on a daily basis and yet still be close to decent medical care.

So I drove from David, Panama to Boquete, where the instructions were to turn left just past the bank¬† and before the town square as I was descending into the valley. Now really, how could that go wrong? However, as you can see from the photo above, you can’t miss the fact that you’re traveling down into a valley. And here was the town square:

boquete-town-square-3-7-2016-2-50-58-pm

I quickly found my host’s house and settled into the one-room casita in the backyard – right next to a babbling brook that attracted all sorts of birds throughout my stay. It was an idyllic setting: perfect temperatures in the day – t-shirts, sweat pants and sneakers – but cold enough at night to sleep with the window open and a blanket pulled up under my chin. The morning bird calls would wake me and I’d make a cup of coffee and sit outside the front door and watch the resident creatures come to life and dip in and out of the backyard.

Cottage

The first thing I noticed was that the town seemed to be more expats than locals and that most of them made little or no effort to talk to the locals (at least that I could see). I didn’t like that. My stay overlapped a three-day celebration on the founding on Boquete and there were “parades” daily. I use that term loosely because the first one was a constant stream of men on horseback, interspersed by pickup trucks with women freely pouring booze into plastic cups for anyone who walked up to them as they passed by. I watched one horse, made to lift his knees and prance down the street, foaming at the mouth and no none seemed to mind a bit. These same horses paraded around in a giant square for the better part of 5 hours. I sort of wished we’d made the rider prance around like that for hours with no water and see how much he liked it. And then there was the public drunkenness. When I returned to my casita, the owner asked about my day and when I told her the public drunkenness concerned me, she responded, “Well, there is that.” Hmmm. How safe would a lone foreigner be in the city with drunken men routinely tottering around the streets?

I took a tour of a coffee plantation, enjoyed that and booked a tour that only had three of us and a guide, walking uphill in the forest in a light drizzle for the better part of two hours. They may have seen this tour as “an easy uphill walk” but as a senior, there were times when I thought that if we didn’t stop for breath, I wouldn’t have any left.

I used my time in Boquete to walk some of the back streets to see what the houses looked like and how the locals lived. The houses were dilapidated but the locals were friendly. I also asked my host lots of questions. I thought maybe I could make herbal and essential oil products from my company, Scentsibility, and sell them but her response was, “Who’s going to buy them?” When I said “hopefully the locals,” she responded, “They grow herbs in their backyards and wouldn’t have the money to buy products.” She suggested I check out the weekly open market to check out the competition and so I did.

boquete-tuesday-market

I was mostly struck by the fact that this was the height of entertainment for the locals. There were no department stores, no big grocery stores, no library that I could see, and television programs in Spanish. I started to realize that although this would be wonderful for about a month, then what? I found the local doctor’s office and decided I’d need to head to David or even back to Panama City for health care and that would certainly not be convenient.

I talked about buying a small house and my host discouraged it. She (as well as all the expats I talked to) said I should definitely rent for six months to a year before settling there. That would mean I’d be depleting my funds for a purchase. She added further fuel to my thoughts by asking me who would buy my little cottage if I decided after a year or so to leave? The locals couldn’t afford it and the expats tended to band together in gated communities on the outskirts of town so they wouldn’t buy it.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Boquete, I realized that I probably would not want to settle there. So I flew back to Panama City for my last night’s stay in the country and was picked up by my trusty driver, Sinar (see Part I).

So it appears I’m back to square one – where to go and how to live on social security.