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Sunday, July 24, 2011

So I am retiring: now what? Part II

As I said several days ago the purpose of my blog is to share with others what I am doing during retirement.  Recently I went on a photography tour of Chicago.   My passion for photography continues!  I have more information about that tour at my website http://www.jdroachphotography.com/
 
As always this discussion includes a few recent images (this time from the photo tour that I took) as well as information about planning, implementing, and experiencing retirment--my way.  In addition to sharing what I am now doing regarding travel and other interest along with my photographs and related stories, I want to share with you this journey.  Here is the second installment of a series of articles about my journey into retirement.  I hope you enjoy this journey with me!
 
That is me with camera in hand!

Note -- My first blog post focused on what got me started thinking about retirement.  Now I will share with you more of how the retirement process evolved.  I closed that installment with the following:
"As I started contemplating ideas, I thought about my current and past interests.  While priming the funnel, I signed up for events and activities that I thought might be good candidates.  This way I could sample some before committing to them.  Possibilities included the gym, golf, music, reading, travel, photography, writing, blogging, website development, volunteer work, and much more."

The Evolving Plan

Most of my life, I sporadically went to the gym.  When I did go, I found it boring because I just ran around the track and used the exercise machines.  In the past, I rarely played tennis or any other sport.  I took tennis lessons and actually played occasionally.  I also discovered at the local fitness center a “Yoga for Men” group.  I began having a different perspective, since I was doing activities with others.  The first yoga sessions were difficult.  I quickly learned, as the soreness wore off, that at my age exercise was good for stamina and flexibility.  After a few months, I went to other yoga sessions and I found few men attended the sessions.  Nonetheless, my practice continued three times a week.  Soon, I was feeling better both physically and mentally.


 Rowers at Fullerton Lagoon

I once was excited about golf and even bought clubs, but that wound up being a fleeting interest.  At most, I visited the driving range occasionally and took a swipe at the golf balls with my clubs.  The old dusty golf clubs in a corner in the garage were evidence that I rarely stepped onto the greens.  I put golf on the rim of the funnel, though, because I knew the driving range was a way to get out and enjoy the day while getting a little exercise.  Only time would tell if I would rekindle this interest during my retirement.

Writing interested me, because I loved to read and sometimes fancied being a great author.  While that seemed a bit unrealistic, I knew I had things to say provided I could find the right audience and media.  I kept telling myself I would write, but rarely did.  Even when I did write, I was never consistent for long, and frequently didn’t finish anything I started.  So, I asked myself, should I really try to write?  Could I even write?  Was I even motivated and disciplined enough to write?   To help me answer those questions I found a local writer’s group and joined.  I figured the best way to find out about writing was to write.  Writing really couldn’t find its way into the funnel, unless I started to write and found out from others what the experience was really like.  Where writing fits in to my retirement is still evolving.  My current focus is photography and a travel blog along with quite a lot of reading to learn how others write and say what they want to day.

I knew I liked photography.  Thirty years ago, I had often taken pictures.  I felt I had an eye for it, but also realized that I didn’t know much about it as art.  That might explain why, I had drifted away from this hobby and my old film SLR cameras just gathered dust in the closet.  Up to now, my experience was limited to taking snap shots with an inexpensive digital camera on vacations or at family events.  I believed photography was a definite for the funnel.  I was so sure of this that I took digital photography classes at the local community college.  Then I bought a new high-end Camera and lenses, and joined a local camera club.


Trump Tower

Many other past pleasures crossed my mind as I contemplated my funnel of ideas.  Some of these were things I had dabbled in such as model trains and stamps.  I ended up immediately dismissing the trains due to lack of space and limited desire.  However, I thought a lot about collecting stamps.  Off and on since I was a kid, I had kept and mounted interesting stamps.  As time went by, I had drifted away from taking it seriously but stamps still ended up in a box occasionally.  Then during the past ten years, I started to collect stamps from around the world on each trip.  I had even visited a postage stamp museum in Curacao back in 2000. 
Tribune Tower Gothic Detail


Now this hobby still has possibilities.  Indeed, each year my wife has given me the annual U. S. Postal Commemorative stamp book.  On reflection, I realize that this was the only hobby that I have done with any degree of consistency.  However, it seems like a rainy day hobby and too laid back to keep me meaningfully interested all the time during retirement.  Nonetheless, it is a funnel choice.

Wine collecting is a more recent addition to my interests.  I started collecting wine, took some classes, and learned quite a bit about wine tasting.  I bought some books, wine inventory software, and started monitoring my couple of hundred bottles of wine.  Although, I do not want to keep too big of a wine cellar or just travel to wineries, it is still definitely a funnel item of considerable delight.


Water Canon at Chicago River

            I love all types of music.  As a kid, I wanted to learn to play the piano.  However, that wasn’t practical given the cost and the many moves our family made following my father in his naval career.  Many years ago, my wife gave me a guitar, which I never really learned to play.  I think my initial mistake was taking classical guitar lessons that focused too much on learning cords and not enough on songs.  I found it to hard and not much fun.  I didn’t have the patience to keep at it.  In spite of this failure, there was always this nagging desire to be able to play music.  I decided to put it in the funnel and if at some point the opportunity arose, I’d pull out the old guitar, find the right music school, and learn to play a cool song or two.

River North


I loved listening to music: especially classical music.  During recent years, I went regularly to a local symphony orchestra, participated in many fund raising events, and found some new friends.  One of these friends invited me to become a board member of the local youth symphony orchestra.  I decided to join with the idea that it would give me the opportunity to find out if this was a good way to volunteer my services for a not-for-profit organization and to discover if I liked doing it.

Before I retired, I prioritized my ideas.  Photography, travel, writing, house projects, and charitable works were at the top.  Now I was ready to take the next step.


Chicago Skyline



Evolving Retirement

            In June 2010, I retired.  First, I took a couple of planned vacations in June and July traveling to Mexico to a Cancun resort as well as taking an excursion to many cultural sites in Central Mexico during a stay in Cuernavaca.  When I came back in late July, I commenced putting my full energy into the funnel items that made the cut.
 
I decided my primary focus during the first year would include photography, writing, continued not-for-profit work, and tasks around the house that needed attention.  For the writing and photography, my focus became two pronged; write and take pictures as well as get more training in each.

            Between August and November, I took four 6-week online basic photography classes.  Those classes offered me an opportunity to practice.  I had assignments for each lesson to complete and submit for review and critique.  I enjoyed the classes so much that I became motivated to get to the next level.  I took a series of ten additional 4-week and 8-week classes between November and May focused on composition, exposure, and digital post-processing.  All of these courses required weekly assignments that forced me to get out during the bitter cold of winter and take pictures.

            In January, I started a series of four 6-week writing courses and an extended 6-month writer’s workshop that included learning about writing travel, fiction, and non-fiction as well as publishing, query letters, and grammar supplemented with assignments to improve my writing skills.  I was busy!  Winter went fast and I learned a lot.

            During this time, I also researched and learned what I needed to do to start my own website and blog.  By Mid-May, not quite a year after retirement, I felt I could write a little more concisely and take some good pictures.  Confidently, I launched my website and started the plans for my blog.

I was beginning to get a clearer picture of which idea candidates would move from the rim either into my funnel or off into someone else’s funnel.  The first to go was my stint as a board member for the youth symphony.  Rather than feeling like a board member, I felt like a “bored” member.  I still loved music, but for me the fundraising and boardroom discussions were dull, especially, since often what we discussed never happened. 

High Rise Spires at Dusk


I still want to be active in the community.  Thus, I looked into doing something with local Boys and Girls Club.  It occurred to me that it might be a great place to volunteer showing kids how to use cameras and take pictures.  The Club was keenly interested in my volunteering to help them implement a photography program.

At this time, the process continues to evolve.  From time to time, I will provide updates regarding how retirement is going on this blog.  I will discuss my experience further with my photography, starting a website, seeking certifications, and learning from others in the local camera club.  Additionally, I will talk about my work with Boy’s and Girl’s Club and planning for a trip to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon.  There will be topics about where and when to travel, what resorts I think about staying at and the excursions I have taken.  Finally, I may from time to time just talk about most anything that relates to my experience of being retired.  It is all about the title of my blog “bumming around the world with camera in hand!”  One can only start guessing and figure out how many avenues of opportunity for writing about retirement can occur.


Sunset on a hot day

Note:  My next installment will include information about my photography study and trips I have taken.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

So I am retiring: now what?

One of the purposes of my blog is to share with others what I am doing during retirement.  Such a discussion includes its planning, implementing, and experiencing.  In addition to sharing what I am now doing regarding travel and other interest along with my photographs and related stories, I want to share with you this journey.  Here is the first installment of a series of articles about my journey into retirement.



So I am retiring: now what?

An awakening came when I was in the steam sauna at the Playacar Palace Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico.  I was in my early 60s, still working hard at my job, and taking a couple of vacations each year.  I usually traveled with my wife for a week either to a resort in Mexico or the Caribbean or an occasional trip somewhere in the U.S. or Europe.  In the Spa an unexpected conversation with a stranger started me thinking about retirement.
   
           
Throughout most of my working career, I was a successful project manager.  I was driven to succeed in accomplishing high profile and important projects.  Those projects energized me so much that I was always excited about getting up each morning and facing the challenges of the day.  Those management skills now have helped me focus on my most important project--my retirement.  This series of articles is meant to share some thoughts about retirement, and set forth a process of discovery that evolved for figuring out my own retirement strategy.

A Call to Action – well sort of

That particular trip, I spent some mornings with my wife at the resort’s sun-drenched tropical golf course and spa.  After an early round of golf, we’d sit by the pool.  I would swim several vigorous laps, followed by time in the lounge chair watching the golfers, reading an entertaining book, or taking pictures of the beautiful landscape.  By late morning, as the heat intensified, I would go up to the spa to and enjoy the rejuvenating, healing qualities of the sauna, whirlpools, and a massage.

Usually, at that hour, I was alone in the sauna.  That day, as I entered the sauna and all I could see initially was the dense hot steam hanging in the air.  When I gingerly located the bench, I saw a form in the mist, where I usually sat. 

            “Good morning,’ the voice said to me as I found a place on the cedar bench.
            “Good morning,” I said in return.  Slowly my eyes became accustomed to the misty light.
            “How are you doing?” I said.  I now could see about ten feet from me a slender gray haired man who looked at least ten years older than I did.
            “I am fine.  I’m Fred.  Have you been at the resort long?”
            “Hi, I’m John and I’ve been here for a couple of days now.  What about you?”
            “I’ve been here one day.  This is a short trip.  I leave Wednesday to get back to my business.  Are you staying a whole week?”
            “Yes, we will be leaving next Saturday,” I said.
            “This place is the real deal,” Fred offered.  “I wish I had taken vacations like this more often.  But, you know how it goes, when you work hard all the time, sometimes you just can’t get away.”

            “Can I relate to that,” I said.  “I remember foolishly canceling some trips due to work.  However, I’ll soon be retiring and hope to take these kinds of trips more often.”

            “I never retired,” Fred said.  “I figured I couldn’t.  You know, I’m seventy-three years old and still working fifty or more hours a week.  I have no real hobbies.  Everything is about working.  I am not sure I would know what to do with myself if I stopped working.”  He sighed.

            “Well, Fred, I going to think about it, because I don’t really want to work forever.  I guess I need to figure out how to keep myself occupied. ” I spoke the words, but had now idea what they meant.

            We didn’t talk about retirement further, but we continued to chat.  Then Fred got up, grabbed his towel, and left the sauna after wishing me well.  From that moment on, I became more aware than ever of the need to think about retirement.

            At first, caught up in work, I didn’t do much about it immediately, although I thought it about it at times.  Gradually the idea of retirement crept back into my day-to-day thoughts.  That conversation with Fred in the sauna became even more vivid to me as I thought about how short life was and that we needed to make the most of every moment we had.  That conversation was my wake up call to think more about retirement.



I knew I didn’t want to keep working at my profession and that I didn’t want to be like many retired folks who end up dong little or nothing constructive.  I wanted to do exciting and meaningful things.  Therefore, over the course of the next several months my plan evolved.  Now, I regularly think about what that seventy-three-year-old man said as I tell myself repeatedly, “I am not going to let that happen to me.”

           
I started asking myself some questions that prompted me to think more intensely about retirement.  Here are some of the questions.  How much longer do I want to work?  Is work all I have to keep me going each day?  What spurs me to wake up enthusiastic and truly be motivated each day?  Those questions led to others.  What are my hobbies?  Am I involved in my community, any causes, or any organizations?  Do I volunteer? 

The questions went on and on as I thought about retirement with increased intensity.  I started to delve into figuring out what I wanted in life.  It prompted me to search for answers to what is it that I most like to do and what excites me even if it was about something that I had only dreamed of doing.  I began to pay more attention to what my friends and associates did.  It led me to think about my fears, such as; was I afraid that I wouldn’t be occupied or that I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. 

Developing a plan was not easy.  I frequently had doubts and anxiety, but I kept at it.  Rather than developing a “bucket list,” which brought to mind an end, I created an “ideas funnel” to help me generate ideas for the future.  I began priortizing my interests, desires, and goals.  I wasn’t even sure I clearly knew what I wanted to do, but I was soon surprised at how many possibilities ended up in the funnel.  Before long, I was excited about retirement.  I could hardly wait.



As I started contemplating ideas, I thought about my current and past interests.  While priming the funnel, I signed up for events and activities that I thought might be good candidates.  This way I could sample some before committing to them.  Possibilities included the gym, golf, music, reading, travel, photography, writing, blogging, website development, volunteer work, and much more.


The upcoming article in the series will be the "Evolving Plan."

                                                                                                                              jdroach

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Back from Punta Cana -- a few pictures and an update

My wife and I returned from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic in late June.  Since returning I have been catching up on processing a few images from the trip, posting a few on Facebook, and some photography websites.  I also completed a writing assignment for a Writers workshop that I have been involved with for several months with Writers Digest University (WDU).  I also started June 30th, a 4 week Blogging 101 Workshop  through WDU.

While in the Dominican Republic, we stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel Resort, Casino, and Spa in Punta Cana.  Here are a few of the fun images from the trip:


Beautiful days at the beach and pools


These are some very early morning (about 6:00am) HDR images of sunrise.



The flowers that morning once the sun was fully risen and shining hot and brightly were magnificent:





I went zipling with friends....now that was pretty cool!  Sometimes you just don't think of doing things until you are retired!




A sunset cruise one evening after snorkeling and enjoying a beach party was truly pleasant.




This was a great trip for enjoying 10 days for pure relaxation.

My next post will arrive in a few days and will be a discussion about retirement with some pictures from the past year.  See you soon and enjoy the summer!