This past weekend, while listening to the radio, we heard that it was the start of the Iditarod dogsled race in Alaska. Almost immediately, I exclaimed, “We should do that! We love dogs, we can handle the cold, and how many people ever get to do such a thing?” (I felt quite sure Maggie would support this idea.) We had a good laugh, but agreed that we actually could do the Iditarod after we retired, if it’s something we feel like pursuing one day. That’s a pretty amazing thought.
Related Post: Mapping Out Our First Year of Early Retirement
Early retirement will give us the incredible privilege of getting to dream big — and actually bring some of those dreams into the realm of the possible, the doable, the done. It’s not just about not working, although that’s a lovely thought all on its own – it’s about getting to do the things that most people only dream of, that can’t be done with three weeks of vacation a year, that can’t be done as just a side hustle.
Dreaming in maximum bigness
What if we decide we want to sail around the world, Kon Tiki-style? We can do it! Recreate Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic voyage, but with a more successful ending? We can do it! Finally track down that pesky fountain of youth? Well, you get the idea… (Not quite sure why my brain went in such a sea-faring direction there, especially since the only boats I like are little tiny things like canoes and kayaks.)
Our dreams may not be as big as completing the work begun by Ponce de Leon, but they’re still BIG DREAMS compared to what we realistically have time to accomplish in our vacation-limited lives now. For all of us pursuing — or already living in — early retirement, we really do have the chance to think at a level of maximum bigness. Heck, the Mad Fientist is applying to be an astronaut! His dream is so big the planet Earth can’t contain it!
Heading off to Mars may not be your dream, but we’d wager that there are some things you would have loved to do as a kid that you gave up on at some point. Maybe this is the time to put those dreams back on the table. It’s probably too late for me to win Olympic gold in figure skating, but you can bet that I’m going to ride rollercoasters on a school day! (Only because #science won’t actually let us make Jurassic Park a reality — obviously I would be a velociraptor trainer otherwise.) And Mr. ONL hopes to live his once-extinguished dream of being a bonafide ski bum, since his childhood dream of being a gumball machine is neither lucrative nor metaphysically possible. (And, turns out, we needed more ambitious dreams as kids.)
If you could do anything, what would you do?
We love this thought experiment, and love even more that it doesn’t have to be just an experiment once we’re retired in less than 22 months. Sure, it might not work if what we dream of is to buy and destroy Lamborghini after Lamborghini. But if we’re just talking about things we can do and experience, not things we need to buy, virtually any dream can be within the realm of the possible.
We’ve long dreamed of climbing lots and lots of mountains, but the longer we’ve been planning for early retirement, the more we know that we don’t just dream of climbing tall mountains, we dream of seeing every corner of the world, and imbuing those travels with meaning via art and literature. While that means we’ll probably never become world-class mountain climbers, it means we’ll see a whole lot more of the planet! That’s a trade-off we can happily accept.
Here are some of our big ideas we’re already dreaming of:
Make a documentary film series, produced over the course of our travels, shedding light on injustices in our society.
Learn Spanish well enough to read novels in it, read One Hundred Years of Solitude in the untranslated text, then drive to Colombia in a campervan to retrace the book’s journey before continuing on to Tierra del Fuego.
Audit courses at a nearby university in archaeology, and then volunteer on archaeology digs in Central America or the Middle East. Maybe bring along an Indiana Jones hat and recite witty repartee from The Last Crusade.
Hike a long trail like the Continental Divide Trail or Pacific Crest Trail while sending back updates to a classroom of students or a scouting troop.
Climb all the 14ers in Colorado, California and Washington while collecting climate data for NASA and NOAA.
Race the Iditarod – maybe. :-)
Making any of these dreams a reality would take lots of research and planning, as well as some all-star budgeting and travel hacking. Slightly more than it will take to get me on a rollercoaster mid-week, anyway. Slightly less than it would take to build a real life Jurassic Park. But anyone who’s serious about retiring early has already got a bad case of the planning bug, and won’t mind the logistical side one bit.
The fun of this post is all in the sharing, so spill it: What would you do if you could do anything? What long-dormant dream would you resurrect? What new dream would you pursue? For those who are already retired, what have you already done that you never would have thought could be in your life plans? Go!