Retirement Relocation Realities

A few years back my wife and I began exploring the possibility of relocating in retirement. We have lived in the Bay Area for most of our adult years dutifully contributing to the frantic world of Silicon Valley while raising the family. For that time in our life living here was ideal. The kids went to good schools, there was plenty to do on the weekends, and should the job situation change there were all kinds of companies to work for.

Although the Bay Area has a lot to offer, there is a cost. Before you journey anywhere you must consider the traffic situation. In my mind there are few places so attractive as to entice me to get on the freeway – any freeway – around commute time. Over the years the “commute window” has expanded to encompass more and more of the morning and evening hours. Maybe I am just getting older, a bit less tolerant but it seems popular spots are typically overcrowded, parking is a perpetual nightmare, public transportation is insufficient, and there are just too many people! You get the idea why we have been looking into other possible areas to retire to.

After careful consideration over a number of years of possible locations across multiple states, we made our decision. We purchased a place about 80 miles from here near the ocean in a quiet, friendly and minimally trafficked neighborhood. We rented the retirement-house-to-be for a year while finishing off job commitments and getting our ducks in a row. And now our patience is to be rewarded as we are a few months away from making the move.

It is exciting to realize we are about to start a new chapter in our lives together. We are ready to get to it. We have begun decluttering in preparation for our pending move making good use of our “big pickups” offered by the garbage service. We often visit furniture stores on the weekends in search of that perfect dining table and family room couch. And we are doing all the myriad of little things you must as we get our current home ready for sale.

As we prepare our way we find ourselves reflecting on the whole transition, on what we hope lies ahead and what we will leave behind.

The kids will not be able to drop in for a quick catch up

Three of our four children live within 20 minutes of our current home. It is easy to pop on by for a dinner or movie or Sharks Game. Although 80 miles is not THAT far away, it will put an end to the impromptu get togethers that we have come to love. My parents live about 80 miles in the opposite direction – a manageable distance that allows us to share time regularly. This move doubles that distance. The folks are both in their early eighties and fear driving that increased distance will not always be an option. I have made it clear I will happily pick them up and drive them to our place as often as we want. But the bottom line is it will not be as convenient as it is today.

Decluttering is not that easy

As we work our way through years of accumulated possessions it is not always simple to decide what to keep. Can we really throw away those annual school pictures of the kids accumulated throughout their school careers (even though there are so many)? Although I haven’t used that particular do-hickey for the past 10 years, who is to say I won’t need it at our new home? Our daughter is helping us with sage advice gleaned from a recent book. When her mom explained her challenges she suggested she ask herself: Did it give you pleasure in the past? If the answer is yes, wonderful. Then ask, will it give you pleasure in the future? If the answer is no away with it. We are making progress – slowly. Once done we will have a much more manageable compilation to bring to our new abode.

Change can be challenging

Having lived here as long as we have we know the lay of the land – where to find the best baguette, the best Chinese food, the most reliable car repair service, that perfect cup of Cappuccino, the best movie theater, and the most perfect hiking trail. We will have toWaves at HMB relearn all of these at our new digs. Where will we start? What about doctors and repairmen and dentists and public transportation? We are fortunate in that we met two native couples who are well versed in the general goings on in the area. They have offered to help us get under way as soon as we arrive. And we are discovering there is a variety of social events and activities on a regular basis nearby. With so much to choose from we just have to decide which we want to explore.

What is most exciting to me is along with these challenges comes the opportunity to discover new things. I look forward to heading out the door and walking in whatever direction, not sure what is ahead. An intimate downtown is a mere one mile walk from our door patiently waiting for my exploration. The bigger downtown is a 10 mile drive but offers many new restaurants to sample and shops to browse and little known hole in the walls to uncover. And 15 miles from our doorstep is some of the most beautiful coast line in the world. I can’t wait to stroll and take it all in. Side by side we plan to do exactly that. Relocation has it’s challenges but I think we are ready.

Start Your Retirement Right

When I first retired I was not sure exactly what I should be doing. For 30 years my life was pretty much dictated by my career. I went to work Monday through Friday, and then tried to catch up with the rest of my life during fast-paced weekends. Raising a family, paying the bills and trying to put aside a little for the future was a full-time undertaking.

Then I retired. Over the past few years, I have learned some valuable lessons and survived a handful of surprises I had not foreseen prior to the transition. I am very happy with the experience and where I am today, but there are some things I might have done differently. If I were to start my retirement over again, I would focus on these key areas.

Control the pace of your day. Along with your new found freedom to do whatever you want comes the responsibility to fill your day with activities and meaning. Initially, I was happy doing nothing. After three decades of working a little downtime was well deserved. I became pretty good at going with the flow and sustaining a leisurely pace through the days. But after a while I began to tire of having nothing to show for those hours. I was used to achieving goals and getting things done and found the abrupt end to my productivity somewhat disturbing.

Eventually I learned the importance of creating balance and found a happy midpoint between relaxation and making things happen. With a routine that typically gets me out of bed by seven, I keep occupied until early evening. Part of that time is dedicated to my hobbies and personal goals. But I also set aside time to relax, contemplate and maybe take a nap. I do things when I want to, whether working out, reading, writing or snoozing. When I have had enough, I move on to the next option. I decide what and when to take my next steps. All of this is done at a pace that suits me for that particular day. It feels nice to be in control.

Break your retirement future into shorter time periods. Attempting to plan what you will do for the next 20 years in retirement can be an intimidating chore. That is a long time. I sometimes find it challenging to see ahead to next month. What can help is to focus on smaller chunks of time. Instead of deciding what you will do for the next two decades, try focusing on the next two years. A bite size plan is easier to wrap your mind around. Should you find yourself part way there and decide you would rather do something else, you have only expended a small portion of your overall retirement. You may even find your interests will change ten years from now. There is plenty of time to take a different direction. You don’t have to figure it all out right now.

Be proactive. I have a favorite aunt who is 73 and maintains a level of activity that puts most of us to shame. She hikes, travels and socializes with a wide group of friends and family. Joining her in a recent hike through a local vineyard, my wife and I were hard pressed to keep up with her energetic pace. And the winery hike was her idea. She does not sit back and wait for life to come to her. My aunt is forever in search of the next new thing, adventure or cool event she might undertake.

Inspired by her enthusiasm, I am learning to look beyond my familiar and well worn lifestyle. I am beginning to step outside of my comfort zone. It is certainly comfortable to hang out at home. There are no traffic jams or crowds and whatever you need is right there. But there is so much more if you are willing to look for it. And the Internet and social media makes it easier than ever to find something that fits your individual tastes. Whether you want to flaunt your cooking skills with an eggplant parmigiana recipe, find a group of local spelunkers or throw in with a square dancing troupe, access is only a few keystrokes away. Staying active and engaged has kept my aunt younger than her years. By following a similar game plan my wife and I hope for the same success.

Written for US News & World