I wandered around the house picking up random items remembering who gave them to me or how Trin and I obtained it. I asked myself, “Can I really leave all this behind? Can I sell or give it all away?” I sat on the couch, one of two things we owned that we can actually consider expensive. We purchased it as a celebration a few years ago when we paid off our house in Pennsylvania. Since then we’ve sold that house and moved to North Carolina. I reclined the couch and gazed out the huge window into the wooded backyard. A herd of deer wandered through that morning. It was peaceful.
Trin and I have talked for quite some time about doing something different than the rat race corporate world. Should we retire early to Ecuador? Maybe we should get a VW van and travel around America. This was finally the year we were really going to pull the trigger and do something different. We had come to a decision to sell our house and everything in it except our backpacks and just travel. First stop: Central & South America.
In January of 2016, we started posting items on Craigslist, OfferUp, and eBay, items that we should have gotten rid of years ago, items that we no longer wanted or used. We had not given notice at work yet. We still could have changed our minds.
Deciding to Retire
Trin was ready by then. I, on the other hand, still had a part of me that did not want to let go of my career. It took one horrible day at work to push me over the edge. I came home that night and the first thing I said to Trin was, “let’s do it.”
We needed to do this before we got too old to enjoy it. If we didn’t, it would be our biggest regret. Just arriving at that decision was a release. We had both been frustrated with the corporate world for a while now and the crazy overtime that allowed us to do little else.
Already the scenery was changing for me. It felt like I had gotten off a speeding train and I could enjoy watching the mere being of a tree with its sinuous branches and vibrant foliage, something that we take for granted even at a walking pace. It was a stark contrast to a blurred forest whizzing by.
I already had a work trip planned for India so we decided that when I got back from that trip we would both give our notices at work. Some of these conversations were more difficult than others. I called my sister in Phoenix who was not at all surprised and said we must write a book about it. I called my mom. She was a bit more apprehensive and asked if we would still have a phone. My dad brought up the issue with the Zika virus.
Next, we called our longtime friends Mike and Kristina, and said we needed to talk and wanted to meet them at a restaurant sometime soon.
Trin and I arrived first at the Mexican restaurant and I practiced the Spanish words on the menu. We both needed to learn Spanish for this trip. I have always wanted to learn another language. They arrived with expectations.
“We are going to do it, we are retiring this year. Selling everything and headed to South America to travel,” we told them.
Mike and Kristina were super excited for us, but not surprised. They offered to help in any way they could to make this possible for us (little did either of us know we would have to call in a few favors from them).
My trip to India was the hardest. I have worked with Vinny and Abhinav since 2009 they are like family to me and I would have to say goodbye. As is the hospitality in India they both picked me up from the airport in New Delhi when I arrived. Rahul and Ankita met us at a local kabob place where we had dinner and just enjoyed seeing each other again and catching up. I asked Vinny and Abhinav to meet me in the hotel lobby later that evening.
I thought long and hard during the time leading up to this trip. How do I tell them and what can I give them? I decided to give them something meaningful to me that fit with what they love.
Abhinav loves cars/motorcycles and loves to learn how to work on things. When he was in North Carolina for a visit the previous year he spent a lot of time with my husband working on the car or on the bicycles. Abhinav loves to learn and learns fast. He is brilliant. For Abhinav, I took a small wooden car that I had made out of black walnut in my father’s garage.
Vinny and I share a fascination and awe of God’s nature, he is like a brother to me. For him, I brought a framed photo of the Grand Canyon that my sister took. She is an awesome photographer and I’ll give her a shameless plug here 🙂
Tears and Joy
The three of us, Vinny, Abhinav, and I found a corner seating area in the lobby of Radisson Blu where I was staying. They knew something was up. Telling them was difficult and I choked up.
“I’m leaving the company this year. When I get back after this trip I will be giving my notice,” I told them.
They grew silent. Abhinav teared up. I teared up. We knew that our time was short. We have worked very hard together and learned a lot from each other. I am thankful for the modern age of Facebook and I must keep in touch with my friends in India. It will be more difficult without the daily work calls or yearly visits, but we will keep in touch.
My one-on-one with my boss was scheduled for the Tuesday after my return from India. Trin scheduled a meeting with his boss around the same time. We work for the same company and we knew word would get around. My boss was genuinely excited for me. I asked if it could be kept confidential until I was able to tell my team and friends at work.
You are Doing What?
The most common reaction was, “You are doing what?” Or some simply stared with mouth open for a bit, then asked me to repeat that. I scheduled a meeting in the afternoon with the team in Cary with a false subject line, something about a tool update. In the meeting, I told them all that I was leaving. One of the men on the team whom I have grown to respect immediately scheduled a meeting with me with a subject that said, “How?”
“How are you retiring at 43?” He wanted to know. We get this a lot.
Trin often answers, “I drive a beige car with a blue door.” Neither of us has ever been big spenders. This for us has been liberating.
I learned from a very young age that “The borrower is servant to the lender” – A Proverbs of Solomon. As our possessions disappear to a sale, the Goodwill, or simply given away, the feeling of freedom mounts.
Retired from Corporate America at the age of 43 along with her husband Trinity. In 2016 they sold their home to begin a nomadic life of slow travel. Bonnie writes of their experience on the road in each country. Subscribe to follow her stories here.
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