Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 548 Relocating

This is Del Lowery with Retirement Talk.

One of the early decisions one can make when retiring is where to live. You are no longer bound by your job to live in one particular place. For the first time in your life you can really choose where to live. If you love mountains, cities, salt-water, warm weather, foreign countries, etc. They are all there for the choosing if you so desire. Maybe you have had enough of the cold winters, hot weather or the old home town. Perhaps you have always dreamed of shaking the dust from your feet. Now might be the perfect time.

We retired in Anchorage, Alaska. We had lived there 19 years and loved the rugged natural beauty and unique characters that made up the population. But – we relocated. Today we will talk about why and how.

When we retired, our children, who had been raised in Alaska, were going to college in what we Alaskans call “Outside”, meaning the lower 48 states. They urged us to, “Look around. You might find something you like even better.”  We loved Alaska, where we skied almost every day in the winter and hiked in the mountains during other seasons. But after one year of retirement we decided to rent our house for one year and give four or five “Outside” places a look.

We made a list of features that we might like in a new home: mountains, salt water, a university, close to a large city, and a climate that was not known for getting hot. Our wishes lead us to the west coast. "Nothing east of the Rocky Mountains" was my wife's only request. We did not consider foreign soil. I guess we just never even thought about it; lack of imagination. We headed for the lower 48. Since our children were in college we did not consider moving close to them. Where they might end up was unknowable.

We planned a year long trip to look around. My wife drove the car loaded with clothes, sound system, my guitar and the dog. I rode an old BMW Motorcycle as we headed south from Alaska.

On our list of places to visit were; Bellingham, Washington; Eugene, Oregon; Sonoma and San Diego, California; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. We included Santa Fe even though it wasn’t close to salt water but we had heard so many good things about it that we decided to check it out. We intended to rent an apartment for a couple of months in each place. We did not want to just drive through.

Our first stop south of the Canadian boarder was Bellingham. It was right on the coast – thus, saltwater. The beautiful Cascade Mountains rose up in the east. The San Juan Islands lay to the west. Western Washington University occupies a naturally beautiful hillside in the heart of the community. Seattle lies 90 miles to the south, and Vancouver, BC lies 60 miles to the north. We had found our paradise. And the weather was neither hot nor cold: rain but not snow. Winters were wet but not cold. Green was everywhere - year round.  We would be part of the mainland and travel around the country without having to first flying fifteen hundred miles to Seattle.

Within one month we were looking for a house to buy. All the other choices receded in the distance, never to be compared. By the end of October we had purchased a house with a view of the bay.   

It is now 29 years later and we still live in the same house. During the first year we volunteered at the Art Museum to teach a few classes to grade school students. I volunteered at a local environmental organization. Brenda joined a group of artists experimenting with watercolors. I found a classical guitar teacher at the college and plugged into the local guitar world. We both joined the local chapter of Amnesty International. We biked every day. We learned our way around the community on two wheels.

We did return to Alaska the following summer to sell our house and pack up all, or at least some, of our stuff. We drove away and never looked back.

We become very active in political and community affairs. We helped start a local farmers market. We worked on a greenway and trails levy. I served on Greenways and Parks Commissions for the city and then the county. We managed a political campaign. I even ran for mayor; I lost, but it was worth the effort. We met some great people and learned a lot about our community. And, “No”, I never ran again.

This political effort left me fairly well known in town and I was asked to launch a radio interview show. Though I had never worked in radio, I found it very enjoyable. Each week for four years I talked to various people from our community for one hour over the local college radio station. I met a lot of people and learned a great deal about our community. “No”, I didn’t get paid. It was a volunteer effort.

We also helped launch the Northwest Classical Guitar Society. Our group has now met every third Tuesday of the month for the past 20 odd years. Amazing! We have heard some great music and listened to hundreds of different players. We meet in the Fairhaven Library. The location and time have never varied. I think that is what has made for the longevity.

We helped launch a Farmer’s Market - organizing the first meeting, finding farmers who were willing to participate, electing officers, opening a checking account, establishing by-laws, finding a location, getting the city council to give us some seed money, and finding vendors for opening day. It was a lot of of volunteer work. It did get us very connected to the community.

We are very glad that we did venture down that long road many years ago. We still return to Anchorage at least once a year to visit our son and family who have returned to Alaska to live. We see a few friends when we are there and get to hike or ski in the mountains.

Relocating has worked well for us. It has opened many new doors; offered us a new perspective on life. It has challenged us to take a new look at the world and ourselves.

I'm not trying to say it is for everyone. These podcasts are just intended to stimulate thinking. Relocating may not be for everyone. But it certainly worked well for us.

This is Retirement Talk.

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