Monday, February 20, 2012

Thoughts about Semi-Retirement

Zihuatanejo by klsterndahl
Zihuatanejo, Michoacan, Mexico
When I was a teenager, my parents had a friend named Al who lived what I considered a perfect life.  Al was an engineer who lived on his sailboat docked at Marina Del Rey, near Los Angeles.  One year, he would work hard and save his money.  The next, he'd take off and sail around the world.  I don't know how old Al was, but my parents were only in their late 30's so I'd guess that Al was close to that.  He had no wife and kids to tie him down, but I'm not sure that would have mattered.  When Al had sailed almost all the way around the world, he stopped in Hawaii for a while and my parents flew over and spent some time with him.  It was a wonderful experience that they never forgot. And my brother ended up getting to fly to Hawaii and help sail the boat home.  I'm still very jealous of that!

My father retired temporarily in the 1970s when he was in his mid-40s.  My parents bought a small farm in central California and went back to their roots, Mother Earth News-style.  I joined them along with my son, who was then 4. The original plan included my brother and his family and my sister and hers.  My sister got there eventually but my brother made other plans (that have worked out very well).  I tended bar at night so I could be home with my son during the day.  My sister's husband was a carpenter. This little farm never made any money, and we all worked hard on that place, but my dad got to take a couple of years off from regular work to work with the animals. It really was fun, though.  We milked a couple of cows and six or seven goats, which produced plenty to drink and make butter and raise piglets on the left-overs.  We had a burro, a couple of horses, a few sheep and a bunch of laying hens.  It was so different from our city life.  We learned so much, and it was a wonderful experience for the kids!

When I first moved to Mexico I had a friend named Peter.  He and I both were teaching English as a second language while he was here for a year with his wife and 14 year old daughter.  Amanda had been in a bilingual program for a few years in her California school, and they decided to take a year off work and bring her down here to attend school for a year to become completely bilingual.  Peter's family knew that this would be just a one-year adventure when they came south, but it was a great temporary retirement experience.

I've read about other people who have tried year-long temporary retirements in France and Ecuador, and I think it's a great idea.  And I can't imagine a better educational opportunity for school-aged children and teens.

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