Lessons learned on the road #3:  time is valuable

Would we live our lives differently if we thought we only had a month, a year, or 30 years to live?

How long will we live?

We pondered these questions more seriously as we prepared to retire.   We turned to the internet for help.  A search came up with an answer to our longevity question.  Insurance companies, social security, and others have collected a great deal of data and fine-tuned actuarial tables that can give you a number they use to estimate your expected life span.  Joe was a bit shocked to see his.  The table revealed he had only about  16 years left to live.  That’s it?   Any temptation to continue working beyond his anticipated retirement age vanished with those words.

When you find out the insurance companies believe you have about 16 years left, what do you choose to do?  Our choice was to retire and do something totally different in the first phase of retirement.

We were ready to break away, discover what we’d been too busy during our working lives to explore, and make every moment count.

We visited far away Stewart Island, south of New Zealand’s South Island, where we saw an endangered bird, the New Zealand kaka (photo).  We spent an evening at the harbor quietly awaiting the blue penguin at dusk (also called the little or fairy penguin, the smallest penguin in the world).

As we started our 6.5 year-long trip, we faced the decision of how to spend our time on the road:  would it be going slowly and spending time at fewer destinations OR seeing as much as possible and as quickly as possible OR something in between?

We tested fast, slow, and in-between.  We spent way-too-little time in Beaufort, South Carolina; Marfa, Texas; and Hereford, Arizona in the first months of travelling.  (Photo taken on a walk in Marfa, Texas.)

The memorable moments in the first 6 months of travel came in taking time for special experiences in new places – like taking a walk in Cedar Key, Florida as the sun dropped over the Gulf of Mexico.

It was clear after those first months that slower travel was better for us.  Every time we planned the next segment of our long trip, we tried to be aware of how important it was to schedule enough time in each place.  A famous travel maxim is to pack your suitcase and then remove half of what was already packed to arrive at just the right amount to take.  We have our own guideline: after allotting time for each destination, add a few more days for good measure.

Our longest stay in one place was 54 days in Cuenca, Ecuador…

…followed by 48 days in Victoria, BC, Canada

We usually lived in a place for 2-4 weeks.  Did we get bored?  Never!  The longer we stayed the more opportunities we had to explore.  Time wisely spent!

Many have asked how many countries we’ve been to (haven’t recently counted but it’s not as many as you’d think) and how many famous places we’ve seen (again, not so many).  Spending a longer time in a destination was akin to becoming really good friends – rather than spending a whirlwind few days at a destination, which would have felt like merely making an acquaintance.

So what did we learn about valuing time to prepare us for this next phase of our lives after traveling for 6+years?  Time in a community, with friends, is important at any stage of life and maybe even more so as we age.  We spend time with friends and are pursuing interests that have been long put off.  We both are involved in what is happening where we live, Kendal at Longwood, a continuing care retirement community.

Every day we walk, always with our cameras.  Who knows when we’ll spot a treasure, like this very small mushroom?

As we traveled, we learned to treat time as a valuable commodity.  With each day that passes, there are fewer in front of us.  It’s a good lesson to learn and guides us to live fully in our new life at Kendal.


November 2019

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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5 Responses to Lessons learned on the road #3:  time is valuable

  1. Lady Caladium says:

    I enjoy slow travel, but sadly, my schedule doesn’t quite work that way. I do find myself wanting to return places I’ve visited. I also don’t do the guidebook thing (visit all the must see attractions in a place). I am taking more day/weekend trips now. It seems like you two always have a great time traveling.

  2. Slow travel is the way to go for us too. We always find enough to do to fill in our time.

  3. plaidcamper says:

    Victoria is always a good place to stay awhile!

  4. Jack Malinowski says:

    Dear Joe and Beth,

    Your postings are always interesting and distinctive.
    This one is especially thoughtful and wise.

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