In the spirit of helping potential new retirees to find their place in their new life, I want to continue the thoughts I started in last week’s post, thoughts about how to retire peacefully, gracefully, even energetically, with a new slant on life!
I hit on a lot of hobbies and fun activities, forgetting that many retirees want/need to continue to be productive. Not that a hobby can’t be productive, but you know what I’m saying. I didn’t write anything for those people probably because I’m not one of those people. Writing this blog is as productive as I get these days, aside from carrying out the garbage each week and doing occasional small chores for B. For the continually energetic and productive crew I can say only this – slow down, breathe, re-learn to enjoy, especially the small things in life. Do the things that satisfy you now, make you happy. For it has been a long road, and you deserve it.
God knows I’m no geriatric therapist, I can only suggest ideas for retirement and show, by example, how one might approach it. For B and me, travel has been an important part of our retirement. Experiencing new and different countries and cultures has been eye-opening and broadening in so many ways. Feeling like a part of the larger world results in a wider, and wiser perspective on life and our place in it. I can’t recommend travel highly enough. My Betty, when she finally retired from her position in real estate appraisal for King County, began traveling much of the world, something she’d been wanting to do. The death of her husband and her retirement now allowed her to see the world as she’d always wanted to.
I have to admit that when we first met, 12 years ago now, I told her (firmly, as I recall) that I had no desire to ever go anywhere again, that I was content to live out my life right there in Montana. Yet since then we’ve visited 8 countries together, 6 of which I had never been to. Right, Steve, you’re content to live and die in Montana. Famous last words… right up there with other of my famous last words – “I’ll never camp out in a trailer!” And, “I’ll never replace a real fireplace with a gas insert!” And, “I’ll never travel East of the Mississippi River again!” Yeah, right.
She has taken me places and shown me things I would never have done on my own, and I’m eternally grateful for her willingness to drag me along on her adventures. I’ve become a different person than I was 12 years ago. She is an amazingly easy traveler, and I’m beyond lucky to be the recipient of her wisdom and adventurous spirit. In these years we’ve been together, we’ve been to Hawaii 3 times, to the British Virgin Islands once and to Europe four times. B has visited over 20 countries, including Nepal, China, Thailand and Africa. I’ve now been to 16 different countries, and while that’s not a lot by some of my friends’ standards, it has been easily enough to force a major change in the way I perceive the world, and myself in it.
Funny thing is, if she didn’t, or couldn’t travel, she would still be a comfortable retiree. She sews, she knits, she re-upholsters furniture; she builds pre-fab storage furniture and shelves, she makes pillows and afghans for her family and friends. An excellent cook, she continually looks for new and interesting recipes that are always delightful to try.
But travel remains a major passion for her, which I understand completely. For me, travel has hit the same wall my music did years ago… I’ve done enough. My memory is packed with great travel memories, my desire for new vistas is gone. B and I are wired differently in many ways, virtually all of them compatible. “Vive la difference!” She often says. World travel is one of our differences. We both enjoy our life at home immensely, and are daily grateful for it. But there are still places that B wants to see, and I respect that. She also respects my desire to stay home with the pup while she continues to explore new places.
She has taken me to some reasonably far places from home… from the Eastern countries of Croatia, Slovenia & Austria on one end, with the British Virgin Islands in the middle, and with Maui and Kaua’i on the Western end. But more than the breadth of our travels, she has taken me to a few places that mean so much to me.
In particular, to Austria, Salzburg and Vienna, where Mozart grew up, and later lived. All that came about because, early in our relationship, I had told her of my two favorite composers, Wolfgang Amadeus and John Williams. She remembered that conversation and when we decided to travel to Europe, she says, “Why not go to the place where Mozart was born and raised. You’d enjoy seeing that, wouldn’t you?”
Well. Would I? Of course! So off we went to Salzburg and Vienna, and it was at least double what I could have hoped for! A new knowledge of Mozart’s life, its twists and turns and difficulties… all of it, and the emotions that came with it, for I know and understand Mozart’s music intimately, and was excited to be connected with it, closer to it, in any way possible. Travel, our European trip, was the answer. And it was a doozy!
I could never have known the depth of understanding I received from that trip. Yes, I’d seen Amadeus 3 times, but it wasn’t the same… not even remotely close. Standing next to the little clavicord he learned to play on… seeing his early manuscripts in person, even just being in the same rooms he was once in…yes, being in Salzburg was a trip in itself. I love that little city, and we had a good time there. Here is a pic and a video of our Salzburg day.
Then, to finish my Mozart education, we took a car up to Vienna, where he spent the bulk of his adult life. The room he rented in one of the apartment buildings there was empty… no reason to even visit it. And the more we toured Vienna, the more we learned that Mozart was considered more of a “brat genius” and that Vienna was, back then, (1756 – 1792, which is Mozart’s life span) virtually ruled by the Strauss family. No one seemed to care whether Wolfgang was killed by Salieri or not… he was considered a loose cannon in an otherwise tightly-knit social order. Sure, they turned out in droves for his concerts, especially in the Schonbrunn Palace, but he was never an accepted part of the “sophisticated” Vienna culture. Hell, Prague, where he visited and conducted several times, liked him, and treated him better than Vienna. Sorry, Wolfie, but that’s life… in most any lane.
Here are pics of B and me, attending a concert at the Schonbrunn Palace, enjoying a cocktail in the outer room. (Under the French occupation, in 1805 and 1809, Schonbrunn Palace was Napoleon’s headquarters). So you know, that evening was a total thrill for me… being in the same concert hall that Mozart conducted his own symphonies in, over two hundred years ago. The concert itself was predictably more Strauss than Mozart, but the vibe and the experience was more than enough for me. I carry the feeling I had that night with me to this day.
All that to express how important travel and experience can be for one. No, I don’t compare myself to Mozart in any way in the world, except one – we were both artists, both of the renegade persuasion, and were treated accordingly by the society in which we functioned. That, in itself, tells me volumes about art, and the overall perception of artists in the outside, class-conscious world. But once again, because of the traveling, I now see myself in this world more clearly.
And why, Steve, is it important to see oneself ‘more clearly?’ I decided to ask the primary AI developer, chatGPT this question – “Explain why it is important to see oneself in this world. “ You might try asking chatGPT this same question, as its answer is spot on, but way too long to share now. Here is one of five reasons it gave:
“Seeing oneself in this world is of significant importance for several reasons:
1. Identity and Belonging: When we see ourselves reflected in the world, whether it’s through representations in media, diverse role models, or within our communities, it helps reinforce our sense of identity and belonging. It assures us that we are not alone and that our experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds are valid and recognized. This affirmation contributes to a positive self-image, self-esteem, and overall mental well-being.”
Pretty good answer, chatGPT, if a little dry. I must remind myself to try to teach it more interesting responses, such as “Bullshit” and “What a stupid question!” You must understand that there is so much more to travel than I am able to lay out here. We have met and enjoyed the company of some of the finest people one can imagine, the kind of folk that makes one think that this old world might not be such a bad place after all, that there is still love, compassion and mutual respect no matter where one roams.
And if travel has done nothing more for me than to refine my sense of quality and mankind’s place in this world, then I would happily do it all over again, for it became the source of a finer and higher quality of my education than I could have ever gotten in any school. And I would probably continue to rant on this topic but for B insisting I need to ride over to oak Harbor with her for lunch. Ah, what the hell… I probably need to get out of the house.