Satisfying Retirement – The Gap Year

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By Bob Lowry

It is not uncommon for someone graduating from high school to want to take a year or two off before starting college. There is the need for a break from twelve years of school, or a feeling that an adventure or life-refreshing experience would be beneficial before tackling college or other advanced education.

A few weeks ago the Wall Street Journal had an article on the concept of Boomers taking a “gap year” during their working career. This is seen as the chance to “wipe the slate clean” by exploring different options for the next part of their life. While most of the people who do this return to the working world, albeit in a different way, there are some who come back in a radically different form.  It may be tackling a long delayed dream, or a mix of part time work with a newly found passion for expanded leisure. It can mean a different living environment or location.

While the thrust of the article is not directed toward a satisfying retirement, the mindset that allows for a Boomer relaunch is an interesting idea for someone who is fully retired at the moment. Taking time to strip away old habits or ways of living and then restarting the journey would work at any age.

One of the people interviewed for the article summarized the most important step anyone must take: “Don’t be afraid. That’s what stops most people my age from making changes. Not only do they fear the unknown, but they fear letting go of the habits, comforts, safety and routine of their lives.”

That may be true but it is quite reasonable to worry about having to convince a present or future employee to take a chance on someone who decides to take a period of time off, especially past a certain age. To not feel fear someone would have to arrange for a sabbatical, have a strong enough skill set that finding a new job would not be terribly difficult, or believe a career change is past due anyway.

If already retired, that drawback with taking a “gap year” is eliminated. Of course, there will be other upheavals, expenses, and maybe some strange looks from friends and family. But, worrying about employment isn’t as high on the list. And, work may take on an entirely different form: starting one’s own business, using skills in a different field, or consulting a former employer.

Personally, I would love to take a gap year (or at least the better part of a year) to wipe my slate as clean as it can be at this stage of my life. What would I do? I would get in the RV and just drive – drive until I found a fascinating small town and stop for a month or so. I’d volunteer, eat at the cafes where the town gathers every morning, get to know the local characters, find a small church to feed my soul, and adapt to the timing of that location’s lifestyle.

Then, I’d pack up and drive down the road to a very different climate or part of the country and repeat the process. After several of these stops, I think I’d be ready to come back to my safe suburban base with new perspectives on my life and the journey I am on. I think I’d be a better, or at least more interesting, version of myself, with stories to tell and lifestyle examples to copy.

How about you? If you had the chance, what would you do with a “gap” period, to wipe the slate clean and get a new perspective on life?

Posted by Bob Lowry

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Bob Lowry  is the author of the definitive retirement guides: Living A Satisfying Retirement and Building A Satisfying Retirement. Bob has been profiled in Money Magazine & CNNMoney.com as well as Ad Age Insight White Papers. He is a featured author in nationally released book, “65 Things To Do When You Retire” and “65 Things To Do When You Retire – Travel” as well as regular contributor to PBS’s Next Avenue web site.

One response to “Satisfying Retirement – The Gap Year

  1. I also believe in this gap year. After being comfortable for 40 years in my career you need the new perspective by travel or just searching your local area for new insight.

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