Tilly & I have lived a blessed life for the last 8 years. Living and working overseas, traveling to and spending long forays in exotic lands. Every year we took at least two what for most would be trips of a lifetime. We trekked the Himalayas…. bicycled the Rhine in Germany and the tulip fields of Holland in April… wandered Paris, Barcelona and the south of France … spent a Christmas in a Medieval castle int the Pyrenees… went scuba diving on the coast of Oman while living aboard a dhow for a week… and much more.
In each other we found the perfect partner in our respective romantic, spiritual, creative and wandering instincts. However, in the back of both our minds was the desire to really pursue our creative talents. We found that while working for a living, we were too exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed to really put the efforts we wanted into our talents and our preliminary efforts while promising petered out under the pressures of work. Out of that desire was born the decision to retire from our teaching careers.
It is one thing to have a desire and intent. It is quite another to actualize the intent. We had meticulously saved and invested for the “future” but, that future “ retirement” seemed so far away as to be fantasy. The events of the Arab Spring were to change that.
Having been advised by our respective embassies to leave Bahrain in March of 2011 and at the invitation from good friends S&B we flew to southern California for what turned out to be a three week stay. We liked the desert environment and as a lark we decide to “look” at houses that were for sale; not dreaming that we could afford to buy. Life has a way of throwing things in our path that changes our entire plan(s); within a week we had found a house and made a purchase offer. Not only could we afford it but could do so mortgage free. Within the month we owned our own home back home in North America. Within two months the realization hit that we could work just one more year and then retire.
We spent the summer of 2011 setting up our new home, in between visits to family and friends with the gracious help of our good friends C&C. We finished setting up during the Christmas holiday of 2011 again with C&C at our sides. The stage was set and we began the process figuring out all the details of ending our expat life and returning “home”. We planned and schemed but, knew there were some things that we could not take care of until we were “home”. We left Bahrain and the Middle East for good in June.
So it has been 2 months, 4 weeks and 1 day since we returned to North America to begin our “retirement”. BUT we have only been 7 days in our own home . We knew that just as every other summer we would need to spend at least 2 months visiting our far flung family and friends.
When you spend 10 months of every year 1/2 a world away once a year personal visits are really important. Keeping contact is difficult because the 10-11 hour time difference makes phone calls hard to coordinate. You don’t want to call your friends and family in the middle of their night! And sure as heck you don’t want them doing the same to you. No better method to dissolve a relationship than to interrupt a good nights sleep.
My daughter’s wedding (which we would not have missed for the world) required a three week time frame and the requisite visits to other family and friends took a full 2 months to complete. We do not regret the time spent but, we had no time for ourselves to deal with the remaining questions of retirement.
Some how we thought that we could merrily slip into the retirement mode…having the freedom and time to follow our dreams where ever they lead. Who knew that when we decided to stop the “working for a living” life style things were going to get a whole lot more complicated and stressful!
When we were working for a living, things were fairly simple. Got up early … made it to work on time… put in required time… took home that which we could not complete at the “school” …. finally falling into bed a few scant hours before we started the cycle over again… praying all the time for “FRIDAY” so we could break that cycle for two days. In return we got a steady income and a few benefits (medical insurance, vacation time and with luck a few other perks). We were able to live a fairly consistent and routine life … we knew what to expect… decisions were made by our school/work calendar. Other than what to do on vacation or holidays our daily life was fairly well mapped out.
We keep busy morning to night with our art, writing, physical activities, and other interests; often wondering how we ever had the time to work. Our stress is in the choosing of another framework for our life not in having nothing to do. We have discovered more choices to make, decisions to reach and from those, more choices and decisions. Our plans are changing with each new choice.
It was all figured out or so we believed… We would “retire” from teaching to live in Southern California, find another mode to make enough money to see us the 5 to 7 years until old age benefits began and live our life while still able to enjoy it. We would get catastrophic health coverage just in case, while we sought part-time employment that offered medical benefits (yes there are companies that do offer their part-timers benefits). In the mean time we would pursue and perfect our respective arts, photography and writing in the goal of selling them.
It sure seemed like a great plan… but, life always has a way of throwing things in our path that can change the entire plan… luckily for us it is not a serious or life threatening illness.
When a person works for a company in the US that offers health insurance benefits … all is good. But if you need to find health coverage as an individual things go to hell in a hurry.
Of course we could have opted for Jesus Life & Casualty – where you pray you do not get sick or injured and if you do it is not more serious than a flu bug or a splinter and if it is serious you pray to pass on quickly enough not to drain your families resources. That might be a decent temporary solution for healthy young folks that have not much to lose and time to make up the loss. But for us older folks; we have everything we worked hard to gain to lose and NO time to ever make up for it.
Thus begins our saga … finding health insurance… and we ask ourselves, “WHAT NOW?”
To be continued…