Swallowtail roof in Kinmen Island, Taiwan // How NOT to Begin An Early Retirement… Or Maybe Exactly How to Do It // OurNextLife.com // We think we did this wrong in starting out our early retirement with too many things, including a mad scramble to get out the door to our trip to Taiwan. Or maybe we did it exactly right by accident?we retired early

How NOT to Begin An Early Retirement… Or Maybe Exactly How To

This is what our last six weeks has been like:

A week in DC to say our goodbyes to our colleagues and careers
A week in Virginia and New Orleans to celebrate our early retirement
A few days at home followed by most of a week with family for Christmas
A few final-final work days at home for me to finish up (and to get the 401(k) match)
A week at home scrambling to finish final retirement to do list items and one big to do list item I’ve been working on for a while, and to prepare for our first big trip
Two weeks traveling all over Taiwan
A delirious 12-hour flight, four-hour layover and hour-long flight to get home
A rushed grocery shopping trip, a drive home, a four-hour nap and a late night to write this post

In other words, a LOT.

And in other other words, not the right way to begin early retirement.

But then again, maybe it was exactly the right way to begin it.

I’ll tell you all about it, and then you can share your verdict in the comments.

Psst. I’m sharing loads of pics from our Taiwan trip in the newsletter going out Friday morning. Be sure to sign up if you’re not already on the list so you don’t miss it! I’ll be sharing more travel details in the newsletter from now on, so get in on it if you want to hear more about our adventures.

How NOT to Begin An Early Retirement… Or Maybe Exactly How to Do It // OurNextLife.com // We think we did this wrong in starting out our early retirement with too many things, including a mad scramble to get out the door to our trip to Taiwan. Or maybe we did it exactly right by accident?

The Celebration Thinking

We’ve always celebrated little milestones along the way to early retirement, and that’s helped us beat impatience and cope with work stress. And we wanted to carry that celebratory spirit into our final work hurrah.

Most of all, I did not want coming home from that final visit to our companies’ offices to feel like just coming home from another work trip, something I’ve done hundreds of times. I wanted to do something that would force us both to stop checking our phones and email, and to create a visceral separation from work so that when we came home, it would feel like we had come home from vacation. And we could then continue that vacation state of mind and sail smoothly in early retirement.

So we decided that we’d leave DC that last Friday night, drive down to Charlottesville to see Mark’s best friend from college, catch JMU playing in the FCS semi-final and then fly to New Orleans for a few days of low-key reveling. It was the mid-December off-season and was cheap to stay in New Orleans, so we booked it.

And those few days were wonderful. We didn’t plan too much and just wandered around one of our favorite places to visit, catching lots of live music that we just happened to bump into, and spending a little time at the Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar.


The Next Three Weeks of Early Retirement

We got home from that trip and only had a few days before leaving for a Christmas trip to see Mark’s family in Denver (and meet up with awesome FIers in Longmont!), most of which was consumed by phone calls to Covered California and Blue Shield, as well as AT&T. (I got to keep my work phone, but it’s locked until March, so I have to stay on AT&T until then, and switching things from work to me proved to be stupidly hard. Because, apparently, AT&T just got into the phone business. Oh wait.) And booking hotels, flights and trains for within Taiwan, which we hadn’t had time to do earlier.

We then jetted off to Colorado, had a lovely time, came home and promptly got sick, and then had only a few days to get ready to go to Taiwan, our first international trip as retirees. I had dreams of writing all the blog posts that would run during the trip in advance, but ran out of time to do that, and so had to find little moments to write while traveling, and accepted that I wouldn’t have time to respond to comments until the flight back.

The Hastily Planned Big Trip

The Taiwan trip came together only a few months ago, but many of the details we only booked a week or two before we left. Which would be no big deal for a longer trip, but with only two weeks there, we needed to be fairly efficient.

The whole thinking behind it was in line with the celebration thinking that inspired the New Orleans trip. We wanted to get out and DO SOMETHING right away in retirement that would make us feel retired. As a bonus, I had four free global upgrades on United that were expiring and had to be used by the end of January. (“Free” by only spending weeks of my life on planes in 2016.) When we booked it, we knew January was smack dab in the middle of ski season, and we didn’t want to miss all of it, so we decided we should go somewhere fairly contained, where we could see a lot of it in two weeks or less.

How NOT to Begin An Early Retirement… Or Maybe Exactly How to Do It // OurNextLife.com // We think we did this wrong in starting out our early retirement with too many things, including a mad scramble to get out the door to our trip to Taiwan. Or maybe we did it exactly right by accident?

On Taiwan Rail. Those trains are cheap, fast and on time!

At first, we booked eight days in Singapore, thinking we could easily see most of it in that time, and also thinking that the longest flight from the U.S. was the perfect way to get the most out of the upgrades. But then United put us on the upgrade waitlist, and we flinched. We weren’t cool rolling the dice on maybe being in economy for 18 hours each way. So within the 24-hour cancellation window, I called United and had this conversation:

Me: Soooo, instead of going to Singapore, we’d like to go somewhere else.
United: Okay, where?
Me: Where else in Asia could we got for two weeks in January for the same price or lower, and have our upgrades confirmed the whole way?
United: How about Taipei?
Me: [To Mark] Hey babe, wanna go to Taiwan?
Mark: Uh, sure.
Me: [To United] Cool. Let’s do it.

And maybe that was the first moment I actually felt like retirement was real, a few months before we quit. We didn’t care what the dates were because we weren’t planning around anything. We didn’t have some jam-packed, meticulously planned itinerary we had to squeeze into limited vacation time. We could just have the option to go to a place and say yes.

And we said yes.

Which felt great, until the weeks ticked by and we hadn’t planned much, and also ran out of time to learn the language. I bought a phrasebook that we never really used (because, omg, Mandarin is hard), and Google translate is worthless when the language is mostly poetic and metaphorical anyway.

Ancient Shitou Village on Kinmen Island, Taiwan // How NOT to Begin An Early Retirement… Or Maybe Exactly How to Do It // OurNextLife.com // We think we did this wrong in starting out our early retirement with too many things, including a mad scramble to get out the door to our trip to Taiwan. Or maybe we did it exactly right by accident?

Ancient village on Kinmen Island, just off the Chinese mainland, but part of Taiwan

When we went to Japan last year, I did a level 1 language course, and was so glad I did. I had some basic conversations with people we met, and just felt more respectful being able to ask for what we needed in their own language, or at least to start the conversation that way. I couldn’t read one bit of the signage in Japanese, but having some verbal grasp of the language no doubt improved the trip. Mark learned the basics, too, which helped. We also studied some Japanese history, which made some things more interesting, like when we went to the Kabuki Theatre and saw a samurai play. We’d hoped to be able to cram with at least some level 1 Mandarin before going to Taiwan, and were disappointed in ourselves for not making it happen.

How NOT to Begin An Early Retirement… Or Maybe Exactly How to Do It // OurNextLife.com // We think we did this wrong in starting out our early retirement with too many things, including a mad scramble to get out the door to our trip to Taiwan. Or maybe we did it exactly right by accident?

Nighttime street on Kinmen

So though we loved Taiwan (and will have plenty more to say about it in the newsletter), and think everyone should put it on their travel wishlist, we basically got around the whole country just saying “hello” and “thank you” in Mandarin, and forcing others to do the language work for us. Which felt lazy and disrespectful, but also like a missed the opportunity to interact more deeply with the people we met.

Fortunately, Jeremy from Go Curry Cracker showed us around Taipei on day one and used his much more legit Mandarin skills to introduce us to some things that made our trip way better.

How NOT to Begin An Early Retirement… Or Maybe Exactly How to Do It // OurNextLife.com // We think we did this wrong in starting out our early retirement with too many things, including a mad scramble to get out the door to our trip to Taiwan. Or maybe we did it exactly right by accident?

With Jeremy from Go Curry Cracker, possibly slightly late in the evening

Also speaking of language skills, big shoutout to Bob of Tawcan for translating my dietary restrictions into a handy sheet in Mandarin that I could show people. I didn’t get sick once!

The To Do List Throughout, and Doing It Wrong

I am under no illusion that I’m going to live some super relaxed, pastoral early retirement. I am a doer, a yes-sayer, and an insatiably curious and interested person, and I am always going to have more that I want to do than there is time to do. Mark has fewer of these inclinations, but he also says yes to stuff, so we both walk around with long to do lists all the time, career or no career.

And these first few weeks of early retirement have been no exception. There’s been more to do than we’ve had time to do, and for the most part we dropped the to do list while in Taiwan, and actually enjoyed ourselves. We had our first consecutive days of actually feeling retired (realizing it was a weekday and we weren’t thinking about work and didn’t feel the compulsion to check our phones), which was different from the weeks at home preceding the trip, when we felt guilty for not getting more done. (It actually felt like we were wasting long weekend or vacation days, and the guilt was real.)

But that only meant either working in the middle of the night there and not getting enough sleep, or coming back from vacation to long to do lists, which is not what this whole early retirement thing is supposed to be about. And more than once we’ve felt like we’re doing it wrong.

Though we wouldn’t have wanted to waste those free upgrades, we wish we’d had a little more time before heading out on our first trip, at the very least to bone up on the language more, but preferably to trim down the to do list a bit more in advance.

Taroko Gorge National Park, Taiwan // How NOT to Begin An Early Retirement… Or Maybe Exactly How to Do It // OurNextLife.com // We think we did this wrong in starting out our early retirement with too many things, including a mad scramble to get out the door to our trip to Taiwan. Or maybe we did it exactly right by accident?

High above Taroko Gorge, on the Jhuilu Old Trail

Or Maybe Doing It Right?

If tasks expand to fit the amount of time you have to complete them, maybe the amount of time we had before the trip was irrelevant anyway, and we would have felt like we were scrambling no matter what.

Maybe the big exhale we each had when we sat down in those big Polaris seats from SFO to Taipei was only possible because it had felt like a sprint to get through our tasks and get on the plane.

Maybe getting on the road to another country where we couldn’t speak the language was exactly what let us feel retired so quickly, less than a month in.

Maybe being on the other side of the world, in a timezone nowhere near anyone we might email or tweet at, was precisely what allowed us to keep our phones in our pockets instead of having our noses in them.

I do know that when we landed at SFO yesterday and cleared customs, my first thought wasn’t, “Okay, what emails did I miss?” It had nothing to do with my phone or work or any of my old habits. It was, “How can we get an update on the storm that’s coming, so we know when the powder’s coming?” And for Mark, he hadn’t even turned his phone on the whole trip, so his first thought was more along the lines of, “Huh, my phone still works.”

We rushed too much to get out the door on the trip and didn’t do the prep we wish we’d done, but in the end, it was still amazing and life list worthy, and we came home feeling like retirees.

So maybe we actually did do it right?

Weigh In!

How do you want your early retirement to begin? Or for those who’ve already achieved it, how did it begin, and was it what you expected or nothing like that? What do you think about how we did it – did we do it wrong and spoil a chance to have clearer heads (or to take a longer first trip)? Or did we accidentally do it right despite all the scrambling? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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93 replies »

  1. Wow, that sounds like an amazing adventure! I think I’d freak out a little not having more plans in advance, but as you say, maybe that’s what it’s all about! :)

  2. “Wanna go to Taiwan? Sure, let’s do it”

    That kind of spontaneity can make life extremely exciting and rewarding. I can’t live like that all the time, but some of the best experiences in my life have been times when I just didn’t over-think it and made a decision on the spot.

    And that Taroko Gorge looks incredible!

    • Taroko IS incredible, and you need to go. ;-) And YES to not overthinking! Hoping to welcome lots more spontaneous energy into our lives this year, just maybe not always as international trips. Hahaha.

  3. Um, partly right..is that an answer? Well you have to do what is right for you and I totally agree with celebrating getting to retirement. So on that hand yes doing the trips were a great idea. On the other hand I found the actual transition hardest just being at home and finding your new normal. You need time to adjust your life habits to your new situation and by not being at home you just pushed that off for a while.

    Of course like most things in life there really isn’t an answer for everyone but rather what works for you. Heck I’m now four months into my early retirement and I still feel like I’m adjusting to it. It’s getting easier and I’m getting there but some days I get the oddest thoughts like: what does a productive day look like to me? Should I even care about that?

    Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the trips. Welcome to the other side!

    • That’s such a great point, Tim! Now that we’re back home, it does feel like THIS is where the adjustment happens, and we have much to figure out! Traveling is something we’re good at and know how to do… but being home without working? Totally new!

  4. How exciting! I look forward to the days when I can just jump on a plane to anywhere. With 2 months to go until FIRE the clock is ticking. Coincidentally my first trip after retirement will be to Taiwan to visit our son who teaches there; should be a great time. I am jealous that you both retired at the same time. My wife does vitally important work with at risk children and is not ready to give it up, so I will be retired for a few years before she joins me. But we will make the most of her summers off.

    • Maybe one day we will actually build to that and just go to the airport with bags packed. ;-) How exciting that you’re so close, and how cool that you’re going to Taiwan, too! You will have an amazing time, I’m sure. Especially if your son can guide you around.

      Retiring at the same time was a non-negotiable for us, and we definitely are grateful we could pull it off. In your case, perhaps the extra free time before your wife retires is time to really focus deeply on new hobbies and personal development?

  5. Hey, sounds exciting! And it’s given you memories you’ll remember forever – if you had just sat back at home, you probably wouldn’t have much to say to others when they ask you about your early retirement start years from now!

    I’ve heard amazing things about Taiwan by the way, sad I didn’t get to fit it into my trip last year. One day!

  6. I retired a year ago, and at first it felt like I needed to know what I was supposed to be doing every day and every hour. Working for too many decades will cause this. Now being more experienced at the retirement life, I’ve come to view retirement more as a undefined adventure that presents option to you which you can choose or not. I knew that I wanted to travel but had no idea how much I would end up doing a year ago. Last year I went to London, France, Spain, UAE, Cabo, and heading to Bosnia and Croatia next. And this doesn’t count the more local US short trips. Now I can’t wait for the next adventure whatever it will be.

    Retirement is supposed to work this way. When you worked or raised a family etc there just wasn’t the time and the freedom to chase your dreams, whatever they are.

    My advice is just get out and do what you want, and follow what comes up that you are interested in. It’s not a race or a checklist, it’s your life now, so enjoy it, it’s what you worked so hard to get to.😎

    • Thanks for sharing that, Keith! Solid advice from someone who has been there. I do think the adjustment period at home will take some time to figure out — like you, we got used to more work demands and definitely see how figuring out a new equilibrium with unstructured time will take some doing. And yeah, like you were, we’re curious to see how much we’ll want to travel each year. Look forward to figuring that out!

  7. As a veteran of moving households overseas multiple times my not-so-unique insight is that the time you spend (over)planning will equal and fill up the amount of time you have before actually starting your trip, whether you give it a week or months–or for retirement–years. Don’t let it take over your life! Sometimes, best just to get on the darn plane (or boat, RV, car, what have you) and on with your next chapter.

  8. I like Keith’s comment above. I used to thrive in being spontaneous with my time. In the past decade, as I’ve worked for ‘the man’, I’ve become more and more dependent upon a schedule and I get anxiety now if I don’t have something planned in a space of time. I’m not happy about it because it makes me feel confined in a box, but then I get anxious being outside that box with the whole am-I-being-truly-efficient-with-my-time…which when I wasn’t so scheduled, I was wonderfully efficient at being happy with no concern for time. Blargh. So Keith’s comment really struck me that I feel this way. I knew, but I didn’t know..you know? :)

    I think if I ever reach this FI/RE goal, I may want to take sometime around home to just get myself calmed down and doing the around-home things I want to do. Oh, I want to visit the parents every week for half a day? Fine, no problem. I want to go hiking around this local place for a few days that I haven’t had time for in years? Sure! Clean and declutter the entire house and basement and garage? Yes! But then, after I accomplish all these little local things that I feel super guilty about not being able to do how I want, I think I’d like to go slow travel for awhile. Revisit South America and drive through Latin America. Live in the rainforests for a few months to unplug totally.. Take a year going through India. So many ideas! :D

    • Haha — I know what you mean about not knowing but knowing! ;-) I think that’s a great insight to get stuff around the house taken care of first — that is definitely the stuff we’re trying to focus on now. Just getting to a clean slate so all the immediate worries are dealt with. And that’s when we’ll feel like we’re retired in every sense, when we don’t wake up with a to do list each day. Will it ever come? I don’t know, but we aim to find out! ;-)

  9. Ha, I did the same thing when I left my job! I went on 3 separate trips in the first two months. Feels good, doesn’t it?

    I still haven’t found my groove yet. I’m still recovering from overcommitting. Now, I know better and by summer, I should be in a good place. No is a crucial work to have in your FIRE vocabulary.

    • What is this word, “No”? Hahahahaa. The do-everything-right-away start WAS fun, but it’s also good to be home now and checking things off the list. I want to have a shorter to do list generally, which I think ties into your point about not overcommitting. Working on it! Failing so far, but making progress. ;-)

  10. Wipe those early retirement grins off your faces! OK, maybe not, as they are well deserved. Surely it is right to celebrate the milestone achievement. It was likely a pretty frugal trip as well on airline miles, but even if it were all out of pocket, that would be fine, too.

  11. Kudos for trying to learn Mandarin! When I was a kid growing up in China, our teachers made us write the characters over and over again until I got callouses on my fingers but that was the only way to learn it. English has 26 letters but in Chinese we have over 3000 characters! So don’t feel bad about not picking it up right away. Good thing Tawcan was able to write the translation for you.

    Taiwan is definitely on the top of our travel bucket list…we’re thinking of going there at the end of the year actually.

    Oh and when you say you are probably going to be busy saying yes to everything, with or without working, this is so true of retirement. We are finding our days sometimes busier in retirement than when we were working. Bryce (Aka “Wanderer”) is like Mark and more laid back so I’m lucky I have him to drag me back from the edge of insanity. But most days I just end up spewing crazy all over him and it’s a lost cause. Poor guy. No idea why he married a psychopath like me :p

    Anyhoo. Glad you enjoyed your trip and got to meet up with Jeremy! I’m planning to do the same at the end of the year and looking forward to your pictures in the newsletter!

    • It makes me feel slightly better to know it’s also hard for kids in China to learn the language — it IS hard! And so glad you’re going to Taiwan! You’ll have an easier time language-wise, but even with our lack of understanding, we still found everyone so nice and helpful. I’m excited for you guys!

      And that’s good to know on the saying yes front. Failing so far at not saying it to much, but I’m working on it! ;-)

  12. For what it’s worth, we find we’re generally happier when we push ourselves and maybe burn a bit too much of the candle, at least in retrospect. Our travel plans are always jam packed, trying to squeeze as many countries as we can into three weeks. I have no regrets.

    I do, however, have some regret of our lazier periods: the times we spent a couple weeks all in one country and somehow found ourselves binging Orange is the New Black in Argentina. Like, why?

    • I mean, it’s a very addictive show! ;-) But yeah, I understand. I do think we’ve felt like we would have liked more time on virtually all of our trips. We eventually miss our home kitchen (or just miss vegetables, which have been surprisingly hard to find on several trips), but otherwise always wish we had more time to explore. So it’s less about the pace and more just the feeling that we missed some things we might have loved.

  13. I’m curious to know what you think is different pre-fire to post-fire in 6 months or a year. Seems to be spontaneity, flexibility and choice are three main ‘characteristic’ differences. Your pictures you’ve put up so far look awesome! Looking forward to the newsletter!

    I love New Orleans! Discovering the music there some years back led me to learn swing dance. Aside from all the music on street corners, do you go to Frenchmen street?

    • That post is coming! Just not ready to write it yet. ;-) And I do hope that spontaneity and flexibility are high on the list when it’s time.

      We absolutely go to Frenchmen Street in Nola, and other places, too. We’ve seen Galactic at Tipitina’s and some acts at Donna’s, back when it was still open, but add a few new spots each trip. ;-)

  14. Wow that’s really action packed life you have in early retirement!

    I had no idea that you guys took a level 1 Japanese course before you went to Japan. That’s so cool, do you still remember the language? This is something I would love to do before my family and I go on another extended trip to Japan. I’ve been Japan many times already but I only know the basic words. I guess it does help since I can read some of the characters.

    Glad my translation helped. And hopefully you got to try some authentic Taiwanese food. Mandarin is great in Taiwan but you’ll really bring out the “friendliness” in Taiwanese if you try to speak Taiwanese with ppl. :)

    • Hai! Nihongo ga wakarimasu. (Sukoshi.) ;-) I actually really want to pick Japanese back up this year in hopes that we’ll go back for longer in 2019. Of the languages I’ve learned in the past, I think Japanese might be my favorite. I bet you’d enjoy learning it.

      And your translation definitely helped! Without it, I don’t think I would have gotten much authentic food because I would have just had to avoid everything suspicious. But with it, I could make sure I got what I needed but could still try different things. Thanks again!

  15. I’m impressed that you both seem to have adjusted to putting down the phone emails so quickly. Those weeks out of regular service seem to have been the exact right thing to do. And yes – being that flexible booking a trip just screams early retirement. So cool you switched plans and ended up in a totally different country last minute.

    • Soooo… we may have picked the phones back up a bit since we got home. ;-) But not nearly as much as before, or with the same urgency. So definitely good progress! I think the international trip was indeed a good way to break some bad phone habits right off the bat!

  16. You went, you relaxed, you returned still retired. Even if some of the details could have been different, you’re still retired and you can do another big long relaxing trip whenever you’re ready. I know you can’t get back the “first trip after retirement” label but you’ve got a lot of good years ahead of you. I’m calling that a win!

    I had the same disappointment in myself when we went to Thailand years ago and I felt off balance and weird the whole time because I didn’t know any of the language, and felt totally unprepared. BUT it was actually a good way to experience traveling too because I was forced to be more spontaneous than usual and had to stretch outside my comfort zone (it’s cheaper NOT to prebook hotels in Thailand? I was biting my nails…).

    • Thanks, my friend! Appreciate the encouragement. And holy crap it would stress me out to have no hotels booked in Thailand! (Plus, do you then have to spend time arranging lodging that you could be spending seeing stuff?!)

      • Shockingly, my well traveled but flies by the seat of their pants friend was right – we just strolled up to a likely hotel, negotiated a rate, and moved right in. All told, no joke, it took about 15 minutes for 2 of us to settle while the rest of our little band were standing around staring at the beautiful beaches and marveling over the soft sand.

  17. It just sounds awesome… even with the crazy thrown in…. Although traveling just hits all my buttons anyway so that’s probably it. And traveling first class to Asia. Well, I would say you definitely made the right decision to take advantage of that, even without knowing the language! :)

  18. Right on. I love it! I think you did exactly the right thing to help get out of work mentality. Beware that phone twitch. Sometimes it comes back and I have to put my phone away from wherever I am to make sure I am not being super responsive to whatever. :) I hear you on the language stuff, that likely would have bothered me a bit too as I find it is so much easier to connect with folks if you have some language skills in your back pocket, but I think it’s great that you went for it anyway. Storms are on the horizon. I can’t wait to see some pow pics.

    • Thanks, friend! I’ve definitely reached for the phone more while back at home, but watching that habit so it doesn’t get back to as bad as before. ;-) And yeah, if the choice was learn Mandarin before going but put the trip off a long time or just go for it, I’m glad we just went for it. Better to have experienced the place than to have put it off!

  19. As I am not currently retired, reading your trip prep made me squirm a little bit, not gonna lie :) However, I applaud you both and am glad you took multiple trips. I think the hardest part for me would be adjusting to the mindset of retirement, e.g. what day of the week would be the best day to leave, EXACTLY how many days we will be gone, etc. You don’t have to get that particular anymore because you aren’t counting pto days, yay! MY perfect post-retirement plan would be to leave for Christmas vacation and not come back. By Jan 2, I would like to be on the beach in St. Croix.

  20. You know, I recall Mr. 1500’s first few months of retirement looking similar. :) I think there’s a temptation to celebrate all of your newfound time. I’m sure once it sinks in there’ll be a new flow and new normal. :)

  21. I think you did great, Tanja and Mark. I like your impromptu travel decision: instead of Singapore, what about Taiwan? Sure. Just go for it. Sometimes people put too much effort on the planning, and it could be exhausting. I love those fruit stands, and the red lanterns. I came from the mainland China. What I miss the most is the delicious food, fresh vegetable and fruits, and just wandering on the streets. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  22. There is no wrong way to live your life! I agree that learning some language basics helps make the trip feel more like life and less like a tour or a movie, but I’m glad you didn’t let it stop you from going spontaneously. We also make an effort to learn something about the history and culture of a location, especially since the order we see things never matches the order they happened in (for example, we saw the oldest structures last when we were in Egypt, plus learning hieroglyphic basics made the trip more interesting). Since I’ve retired, we’ve slowly changed how we travel. We take longer trips, and stay in one place longer, too. We have learned that we don’t like to stay beyond 3-4 weeks on the road. I can imagine a time when we do a big roundabout in North America, but for now, we prefer to have a home routine in between trips. I find that I need to process the experience. Travel changes you in profound ways, but you need time to understand those changes.

    • Well said, Sharon! Travel does change you, and you need to let yourself process that. As much as I might love traveling and experiencing the foods in a place, I get to a point when I miss my own kitchen and not having to ask questions at every meal to avoid getting sick. (Also I usually start to miss healthy food!) That’s so cool that you learned hieroglyphics before you visited Egypt!

  23. Awesome! Sounds perfect to me. We are leaving straight from our teaching jobs in Nigeria next summer to Lebanon for 2 weeks to visit a friend and then on to Indonesia for an epic 2 week scuba trip to Wakatobi with some extra time on either side to see a little more Indonesia before making our way back to the US. :)

  24. You guys are having the time of your life. Hopefully the trip to Singapore will happen in the near future. I was there with my wife last October for 5 days and we had such a wonderful time. The place was very clean and although we consider the food expensive, they are still all worth it. I’d love to go to Taipei next time. Enjoy your travels!

  25. What a beautiful way to start retirement! If your “spontaneous” plans next time include India, do let me know. It would be great to meet up. All the best for a great and fulfilling life ahead.

  26. Very happy for you guys. I am an entrepreneur with a family, but feel like I am in a way living a bit of the life you guys have. Of course, I cannot pack up and go anytime I want, but the freedom my being my own boss gives me has allowed me to enjoy what I do most – which is travel and experience new cultures and foods. Last year, I did 4 international trips and 6 domestic ones. I feel like I am enjoying life now, which is how I want it. I don’t want to defer it till the kids are finally out of the house or some made up age where you are “allowed” to finally call yourself retired.

    • That’s so great! If you can live the ideal life while also working and drawing an income, all the better. We didn’t have that kind of freedom while working (and saw how it was impacting our health), so felt making our exit was our best path, but it’s certainly not for everyone. ;-)

  27. I want to retire in nice weather in my area (hopefully lakeside somewhere around Greenville SC) relax kayaking on the nice days and see what comes up, any good opportunities for travel or fun I will take if interested

  28. Spontaneous trips are the best. Seems like you guys are having fun in your early retirement. I wouldn’t have it any other way myself!

  29. Fail. I thought one of your retirement goals was to sleep! I picture my first month of early retirement to include a lot of sleeping, stretching and reading – clearly the low key approach to easing into a new life phase. ha!

  30. Sounds like a wonderful start to early retirement. Those expiring global upgrades were the perfect excuse to do your first trip straight away and what a fun way to reward yourselves for beginning this hard-earned new phase of life. Don’t be concerned about language skills in Mandarin. I’ve been learning it for nearly 20 years and still have a long way to go with it. It’s a fascinating language and one which enables you to communicate with a fairly substantial proportion of the world’s population!

    I love the spontaneity in being able to just switch to choosing Taiwan at the drop of a hat. I haven’t been but I hear the hiking there is amazing. I did a trip at the beginning of last year where I had a few weeks off between jobs and my wife was overseas visiting her family so I decided to just pack up the car and take off on a solo road trip with no plans except a rough map of where I wanted to visit. I only booked the first night’s accommodation before leaving and for everything else just turned up in towns and worked it out when I arrived there. I ended up meeting many interesting people and saw some parts of my country that are truly magnificent including hiking up our tallest peak, Mount Kosciuszko. Okay, it’s the smallest of the seven summits but the landscape up there is beautiful. They say that planning a trip is half the fun but it’s also a huge amount of fun to just take it as it comes and think on your feet. I’m a proponent of both, depending on the situation. That’s how I would Iike to approach travel in retirement.

    Hope you may be able to now enjoy some chill time (and powder time) around home. Or maybe you could head off for some more travel. That’s the wonderful luxury you guys now have. :-)

    • The fact that you climbed a seven summit is still cool! ;-) Maybe we’ll learn Mandarin one day, but I think it’s now time to focus on upping our Spanish skills and revisiting Japanese. ;-) Your trip sounds pretty great — I definitely aspire to learn how to be okay traveling with no room booked for the night. That’s not an area of spontaneous travel that I’ve come close to mastering yet!

  31. I actually have to say I might want it to begin the way you did and then decompress for a bit. Some peaks and valleys would be nice. But I think it certainly sounded like a nice way to begin.

  32. Great to hear you have prioritised Flow. In my experience getting into the Flow in a stable and relatively enduring way is an art and also a form of conscious practice. Paradoxically needs to be planned for in the sense that “busyness” can take over by habit if the “Flow Checker” goes on holiday. In modern lives, there is always something to do ! When you are in a geniune flow it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do because the the Flow itself is fulfilling because its Life experiencing itself. Human being first (but not only), human doing second, Gorgeous!

  33. Hubby and I were also in Taiwan and Singapore 3 months ago, Singapore because I am originally from there. Taiwan was awesome and thanks for the photos to remind us of our trip. I hope you guys visit Singapore some day, a bit more “sterile” compared to Taiwan in my opinion, but you don’t have to worry about unsanitary conditions. And frankly I would have done the same thing as your guys did for the first few months of retirement. When I retired, I was like a caged animal who was finally let go from this thing called the workplace!

  34. I think you did it exactly right! Isn’t that what FIRE is all about -having the Freedom to say YES to big opportunities like a trip to Taiwan? I say yes!
    So just roll with it and enjoy your hard earned freedom to do what you please :)

  35. last fall we didn’t make it out of the hotel until it was time to walk to happy hour in nola. i could have done it and sure, we were paying to be there in a way, but it was already bought and what we wanted at the time. however, if mrs. smidlap had requested we get moving to do something i would have sucked it up. point is it was mutual and not considered a waste of a day to lay around eating leftover poboys and hotel room swill coffee.

    why not try it at home as an experiment?

  36. I think you did it in a perfect way for you.

    I recently heard on a podcast that a big theory floating around for soldiers returning from war being able to (largely) re-transition back into society is that it is harder now because flights are too quick. Sitting in a boat with a bunch of men and women who understand the hell you just went through for a few weeks before sitting down in your run of the mill dining room gave them decompression time. And a less jarring transition.

  37. oh my, you guys are living super busy lives in retirement. Slow down!

    Or perhaps my version is more of a quiet stroll in the park, with a good book ( with some diaper changes in between)

    You worked hard to get to where you are – enjoy it at your own pace ( 1.3 to 3X ) ;-)

    • Ha! To be honest, now with a few weeks longer to reflect on it, it feels just right. Some frenetic activity interspersed with weeks of no commitments. It’s wonderful! ;-) And though I enjoy my podcasts at 1.5X (and just a few at 2X), I have no desire to live all of life at that speed. Hahaha.

  38. As a JMU grad who lives in Charlottesville, this blog post just me feel a little more like early retirement could be possible for me. :)
    I’m a doer too so I love all that you’ve been doing! It’s such an exciting transition!