Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What does retirement look like?

Hans and I have been discussing early retirement since the night we met in 2006. Over the past couple of years as we've honed in on the timeframe we want to make this happen (spring 2011...hopefully!) we've also been honing in on what retirement looks like to us.

First it was moving to the Pacific Northwest and buying a house. Would that house have any land? Would it be in an established community? Newer construction? Big city or small town? We really like to see music and attend cultural events...but how often, really? Proximity to hiking is important as is reasonable proximity to an airport that can get us back to family, quickly if necessary. Proximity to my daughter, Chantal, would be especially nice.

Then discussions turned to the ability to travel. We're retiring early after all...we're young enough to have years to do the hiking we love and to explore countryside and cities and towns of all sizes. We have a cat we love and don't want to have to find a sitter for her all the time. While we'd love to travel the world, one of the trade-offs of retiring early means we have to make our funds last longer, so any international trips would have to be super low-budget. Clearly, the best way to see and do as much as we want would be in an RV with our Rosie cat.

Next we mulled over the idea of buying a house and a smallish RV so we could have the best of both worlds. We considered the amount of money and time we'd be investing right at the beginning of retirement. We'd have to spend significant time in various towns to get a feel for the place, to understand if it would be the right fit for us long-term. Did we really want to be tied down to one location right after we'd just rid ourselves of a house and now were free to call our time our own? Once we bought a house, how much time would we really spend in it if we also had an RV and wanted to go camping a lot...after all, our time would now be our own to fill as we pleased, no bosses to answer to or paychecks to collect. Would it bother us to maintain a house just to leave it sitting there looking pretty while we go galivanting around the country (and possibly have to pay someone to keep it looking good while we were gone)?

The next logical step was to consider RVing fulltime. After all we'd seen my parents spend 11 months straight on the road in their 5th wheel and decide to continue on for another 6 months; and this was not the first time they've done it, either. We'd read numerous blogs of other fulltimers and they seemed to be having the time of their lives. But that brought a whole other set of things to consider: Motorhome or Trailer?; gas or diesel pusher?; travel trailer or 5th wheel?; how big of a truck is needed?...the choices are numerous and daunting!

So began many months of internet research and going to RV shows and RV dealers. First we favored motorhomes, diesel pusher flavored. But, boy, those cost a bundle! And we'd still have to buy a vehicle to tow behind us. Then we gravitated towards travel trailers. They are inexpensive, have everything we thought we'd really need and would be small enough that we wouldn't have too much trouble finding awesome campsites; maybe we'd even be able to keep our Toyota truck!

But the more you look at RV's and really think about the reality of life on the road and the beating an RV takes when you're living in it every day for an indefinite period of time, the more you realize it really needs to be comfortable and sturdy and well made, and you'll need to carry an awful lot of stuff to handle various climates and conditions. It would, after all, be our home. So that brought us to the point of looking at 5th wheel trailers and a truck big enough to handle a home on wheels.

On our recent trip to Oregon we visited some RV dealers who carried brands we couldn't find in Southern California. These RV's are known for their four-season capability and durability for fulltime use. For the first time we walked into a rig that we both felt we could actually live in! Talk about a milestone! Right now that rig is a Heartland Bighorn 3185RL.

Of course, that's not to say we won't change our minds again before we actually get retired and the house sold and we're in the Pacific Northwest and ready to buy...anything! But it sure is nice to have reached a point where we both felt comfortable with one of our options. As they say...the journey is half the fun!

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