Retiring Early — What is Retirement?

The first step on our journey to this third third of our lives was to consider the prospect of retirement. This took some reflection as we are both lifetime workers. There is a strong connection with work, both for me personally and for the culture in which I live. On the one hand, there is a question about retiring early. On the other hand there is a question about what it means to retire.

First, we began to think and calculate what we had in savings. We have been very fortunate, but everyone is not willing to do what we must to retire early. We must cash out of the good luck to be living and working in the wealthiest country on the planet and move to a place where our budget will size down. This is a transition. It is one thing to consider retiring early. It is another thing altogether to do so by changing one’s country and language. But if we were to make the finances work, we had to right-size our health insurance and our general cost of living.

Second, we began to think and talk about what it might mean to cut the ties to our current employment. For me, this would mean calling a close to thirty years of work. I felt comfortable with how I would use my time, but there is more to it than how one uses the time that we have left in this life. There is a question of identity. Particularly in the culture of the United States, we wrap a lot of our identity in our work. For me this involved titles, responsibilities, and salary to work in a field for which I developed deep expertise and interest. My passion for educational technology was not an externality that was chosen. My passion was a development from my sustained work in the field and the development of my expertise through years of learning and working with people.

It is a strange moment to experience letting all that go. I’ve worked with colleagues that chose not to retire, and I understand why one would soldier on. It is an uncomfortable feeling to look directly at an ending. In many cases, an end results in pain, such as the death of a close loved one. In this case, it is more considered and I approach the decision with care and planning. But it is an ending. It is a transition.

And it is exciting. To plunge more deeply into passions developed over years of reading and learning. Much as I have spent considerable time and energy on educational technology, I have spent years developing an interest in the history of Europe. There are many corners to explore, and much left undiscovered. I hope to dig deeper, visit the sites where these events occurred, and develop a stronger understanding of the interconnections and flows of human history across Europe.

To more readily explore Europe, and to right size our budget, we are working to live on the continent. We looked at various countries that we love and that offered an affordable cost of living. We considered France years ago, we investigated Italy, we pondered Portugal, but in the end we settled on Spain. We are city dwellers, and València offered an affordable metropolis with rich history and a lovely climate. The adventure in València is a topic for another article.

9 Replies to “Retiring Early — What is Retirement?”

  1. valschreiner

    Since our retirements are so closely aligned (in time) and yet our choices about what we do with “retirement” are very different, I’m really loving reading these. You are definitely shaming me a bit with taking the time to capture your decision and thoughts.

  2. Scott Johnson (Nuventive)

    Looking forward to your thoughts and impressions of Valencia. We have spent considerable time in Denia, 60 miles south of Valencia and plan to spend two or three months a year there in our third/third.

  3. Craig Agneberg

    I’m on the threshold of retirement, and it is good to read your words. They are helpful as we make the same transition!

  4. Bille Dorsey

    I am delighted by this journey and hope to join you and Patrick in early retirement very soon!


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