Tiring of my career, my plan was to take a year off and see what happens.
After a few months of travel and activity, I got bored and decided to go back to work. Sort of. An easy, low-stress job while I thought about what to do longer-term, if anything.
Then events conspired and I ended unemployed for almost three years.
That was a fair sample of retirement.
The following is what I drew from my experiences. If you have drawn contrary things from your own experiences, so be it.
Ever wondered what is the difference between being unemployed and being retired?
The chosen one is better.
I was fine pottering around doing nothing when it was my choice to do so.
Once it was forced, I desperately wanted to escape.
The same is probably true of work. You’ll accept a tough job if it’s the path you chose but you’ll resent it if it was forced upon you by circumstances.
If I ever retire again, it will be on my terms. My time, my place. Bumming around on a beach indefinitely is no fun if there are other things you want to do.
Same with work. From now on, I’ll choose jobs carefully and only take on that which I find tolerable. I’m at the point where I’ll leave any job at the first sign of nonsense, so it’s better to choose a job where the nonsense is likely to be kept to a minimum.
I’ve never been fussy about my accommodation.
I once lived in a tiny house between a mountain and a rice paddy. In my thirties I lived in for years with ten people in a share house with a communal kitchen and bathroom. Another time I lived in a stately Colonial mansion but without WiFi or even running water most of the time.
I sleep soundly in a tent with a three-quarter blow-up mattress and stuff sack for a pillow.
However, if you’re not working it’s very different.
It doesn’t matter much if your lodging is too hot, cold, noisy, small, uncomfortable or anything else if you spend most of your time at work. If it’s just a place where you sleep and keep your stuff, no worries.
Once you’re retired, even if pretty active you’ll spend a lot more time at home. Small issues will grate.
Might as well set it up nice.
If I ever tried that again, I’d get a bigger, quieter place and splash out on the best Wi-Fi from day one.
I wouldn’t choose a home with six dogs, three cats, ongoing construction and a lunatic.
After living in the same neighbourhood for some time, I began to realize how common shootings were.
Learn about your locale and figure out what to avoid.
In my village, I discovered it was best not to get involved in any business that competes directly with another, buy property where there is a disputed title, or get into an argument with anyone over anything. And don’t drink with locals.
Sometimes assassination is used as a way of regaining lost face.
It is also necessary to live in a secure place because burlaries are common.
A giant fence may not be necessary depending on where you are but it’s good to live around other people that you know and have a bunch of dogs.
Six is a bit much; two is probably the sweet spot.
In spicier places or if you are visibly rich, you might need more than that.
My strongest memory of my involuntary retirement is being hot all the time.
I don’t like to have aircon running for a long time. The water came out warm from the tap. I could never really cool down except by a drive up into the mountains and a soak under a waterfall, not something I could do every day.
You might have had a holiday to a tropical destination and enjoyed the warm weather, especially if you were coming from a freezing winter somewhere else.
However, after a year or two of permanently sweaty balls you may get sick of it. Going to bed with sweaty balls. Waking up with sweaty balls. Stepping out the shower and balls going back to being sweaty in seven seconds. And if you’re old, those dank little bastards will be getting tangled around your ankles.
Probably the smaller number of people retiring in cold locations have the same problem in reverse.
If I did it again, I’d go somewhere else.
Even within the tropics, the climate varies a lot. You can go to a higher altitude or find a more temperate location with a sea breeze. Living somewhere for a full year is the best way to figure it out.
Have a project
My situation would have been better if I’d known from the start how long it would be. I’d have bought a scooter, made plans, set out to achieve three years’ worth of projects.
As it happened, I didn’t commit to anything because I was always tricked into thinking I was only there for a few more months and Lucy kept pulling away the football.
Your project could be writing, golf, a small business, whatever.
I suppose some people are happy doing nothing at all but I am not one of them.
Personally, I’m not much of a drinker so this wasn’t an issue for me.
I mention it because I’ve seen plenty of other retirees spend a decade or so determinedly drinking themselves to death.
I think for some of them that’s the plan. They deliberately retire somewhere with cheap beer so as to destroy their liver at maximum efficiency.
Seems to be an Anglo-Celtic thing. We’ve got that devil in us.
It’s becoming gradually more difficult to simply rock up in a Third World country and live there on rolling tourist visas.
Countries that were once lax are getting stricter as they develop.
Even it it seems possible at the moment, it might be a big hassle ten years from now.
In many countries, you can’t get a local drivers’ license or bank account unless you have some sort of residency visa (not tourist). Yes you can sometimes get around it with connections and sweeteners, but not always.
A lot of countries are now offering some sort of retirement visa with widely varying costs and conditions. There are also business visas, citizenship through owning property, missionary visas (much abused by certain denominations for cash), and so on.
If I tried to settle down again, I’d definitely sort out a permanent visa.
A good move might be to cruise for a year or two on tourist visas if you can, then make a decision about whether you’re willing to invest in a proper visa for the long term.
I suppose getting married is another way to get a visa.
I came away from my time with no strong opinion on getting married abroad. Works for some, not for others. Make your own call.
After a while, I realized that local medical care was very poor. Fine if you have something everyday like a broken leg (so long as you have money), not so good if you have a mystery ailment that needs high level diagnosis.
Often people die from unknown causes, both locals and foreigners.
A lot of blokes who retire in the Third World don’t live very long. They either drink themselves to death or they eat poorly and don’t exercise. In the West they can patch up obese drunks and keep them on their feet into old age but the Third World is much tougher.
Live near good medical care, travel occasionally to get it, take care of yourself, and/or accept the risk.
I don’t really want to retire.
I’d rather keep working on two cylinders, take it easy and let the company sort out visas and so on.
If I did attempt to do less work than now on a retirement visa, I reckon I’d buy/build a modest house in a cool location, set up the best WiFi possible plus back-up generator and do some online work. Have enough money for frequent travel. For me, any place becomes monotonous after too long.
But that’s distant. I’d rather take a few months off here and there for travel, then get back to work. If possible.
For now I’m staying exactly where I am because I’ve had nothing but trouble since 2018. I want to enjoy the boring serenity for at least a year before I dare try something else, even a quick trip.
I’ll probably go against all of this pretty soon. Never been very consistent.