Today is the anniversary of a big day. Two years ago, I left work and my career at the age of 46.  It’s the day I embraced my freedom.

Goodbye to 2 or 3 weeks of vacation time a year.  Going to work when I was sick as a dog or a jet-lagged zombie.  The demands of a lifetime of being available to check email, submit reports or speak with a client at any hour.  I also left behind dear work friends and my income.

Back then, Tim and I wondered (often) if we were crazy to get off the path.  2014 and 2015 were our highest-earning years as a couple.  In November of 2015, Tim dropped down to part-time consulting with his employer.  His weekly Tuesday through Friday business trips stopped along with his benefits. These days, he works roughly 15 hours a week when we’re not traveling.

My new life includes meeting a lot of new people.  Often I’m asked what I do.  I’ll admit it…I love some of the reactions I get.

“You’re too young to be retired!”

“Wow, what did you do that allowed you to retire so early?”

There are a few I hear ALL the time that astound me.

“I can’t imagine retiring, I’d get too bored.”

“What on earth are you doing with so much free time?”

So, I thought my first post as we launch our blog would address what I’ve been doing for 2 years.

1. We’ve figured out how to do nearly EVERYTHING cheaper.  Our income dropped but that didn’t mean our quality of life needed to decrease.  We still want to eat great food, be entertained by interesting things and travel the world.

  • Food – We used to spend a LOT of money dining out.  Tim and I also weighed about 40 pounds more than we should.  Because I now have time to cook most of our meals, we’ve greatly reduced both our food and our dining spending.  Our most expensive meal out in 2016 was $84.  And that was for 4 people.  With a Groupon.  (I’m not including dining on trips.)  Not only did we save a ton of money, we are healthier.  And, I’ve made some killer stuff that’s also good-for-you.  We’ve each lost (and maintained) 30+ pounds.  Those last 10 are a doozy!
  • Entertainment – In the past, we didn’t think twice about season tickets for the theater and attending lots of concerts.  Those were pretty expensive activities.  Our new life has us volunteering at our favorite group of 5 theaters and with our film society.  And, I enjoy it even more than when we purchased a ticket.  We get to know others who also think these are worthwhile groups to support and we get to participate in fun ways.  Last year, we worked as ushers for 9 months, working every concert I wanted to see.
  • Travel – I was raised in a family that did stuff vs. bought stuff. We traveled enough that I have many fantastic vacation memories.  Experiencing other cuisines, people, weather and history still drives me to break out of my routine and see the world.  With limited vacation time in our former jobs, we took a trip or two each year and spent big since it was a treat.  We still have a 16-year-old at home with us 3 days a week so our travels can’t be too far away but they are frequent.  And, we are ready for far-flung destinations and slow travel soon.

2.  We have more time for friends.  I’ve cooked dinner for more people in the past 2 years than I have during my first 46.  No more meeting out for dinner…I’ll cook!  We also reach out to new friends in the “tribe” we’re seeking to grow.  The tribe that’s obsessed with frugal living, early retirement or house sitting as an alternative accommodation. We can go to Breckenridge or Longmont to meet new blogger friends face to face.  We found a church that emphasizes participation in the social causes that are most important to us.  We’re volunteering in local politics so we can meet our neighbors.

3.  Personal growth doesn’t have to wait.  Last year, I took an undergraduate class at the university on the history of jazz.  Because we want to travel to many Spanish-speaking countries, I’m taking Spanish lessons with a tutor in Argentina via Skype. We’ve helped others save money on their bills and travel.  I’ve just become a regular contributor to a house sitting magazine.  And, of course, we launched a blog!

4.  My doctor of more than a decade urged me (for years) to leave my high-stress career.  In the end, the decision I made to get out was driven by wanting to live a healthier life.  When I’m sick, I can stay in bed and recover.  When Tim needed back surgery, I joined him on every appointment and nursed him back to health for a month. Most days, I don’t need to wake up with an alarm and I take a nap when I’m tired.  If it’s a beautiful day, we walk to get our groceries or just because we can. No longer am I at work when my favorite gym classes are held.  We all know our health should be a (or THE) top priority.  With our life change, we made it so.

“Retired” is a tricky word.  Its definition is changing pretty drastically from the days of pension plans and sticking with one company.  Where I am now may change.  I plan to work if I want to, doing something I want to do.  So far, so good.  I hope that doesn’t change.

For the moment, I wake up each day loving the life I’ve created and celebrating the best two years of my life.

How about you?  Do you look at your retirement with excitement or terror?