Shifting into Retirement: How Women Can Embrace a Traveller’s Mindset

Featured image: This could be you in a tulip field by twenty20photos

Tips for easing into the next chapter

By Sue Janzen, Contributing Writer, JourneyWoman

For many of us, life fits handily into chapters. Early years, often with a focus on education, marriage (and sometimes the moving on from its end), child rearing and many years of career development. 

Once we reach our mid-to-late 50s, thoughts begin to turn to retirement in its various forms. Retirement from raising a family, from creating a career, from a focus on building our lives. The shift from building to sustaining might be slow and prolonged but once it starts, a new chapter begins to take shape. 

Retirement is a word that evokes complex emotions such as anticipation, uncertainty, empowerment and fear. After many years of focusing on my career, this is the phase I’m entering now. With just a few years of working life left, and as I dream of travel taking the place of my familiar 9-5 workday, I’ve begun to experience each of these emotions and more.

As I prepare for the next chapter in my life, I’m aware of three main areas that need focus: Financial, physical, and psychological.

1. Financial:  Stretching your travel budget

There is a lot of information out there about financially preparing for your retirement that focuses on building savings and reducing debt, but what choices can we make that will allow us to spend more time exploring the world?

First, you could consider downsizing your home and life now in preparation for full-time travel post retirement. JourneyWoman has some tips and advice on that:

As savvy travellers near retirement, they seek to spend less on flights and more on experiences

As savvy travellers near retirement, they seek to spend less on flights and more on experiences

You can also be more frugal with certain components of the travel experience to stretch your budget and savings further. Here are some ideas for travelling on a budget:

    • Spend less on flights and more on experiences. With the flexibility of time that comes with retirement, you can fly off season or on less popular days of the week. For example, flights from Toronto to Paris in October or November can range from under $600 to over $1,100 depending on which day you fly. You will also save more by travelling with carry-on only. Get some pack-light tips from expert Anne McAlpin in this article.
    • Become a house sitter or engage in house swapping. A quick Google search will give you a list of organizations that facilitate these options. Bonus: You‘ll make new friends along the way! Check out this JourneyWoman article for some options.
    • Explore more off-the-beaten-path locations. Small towns have rich histories, too, and can be much less expensive to stay in. Consider day trips into a large city instead of out of one. 
    • Check out JourneyWoman’s articles on how to travel on a budget.

2. Physical: Embracing an actively lifestyle 

Let’s face it –living in a post-menopausal body can be a challenge. Your job may have had you on your feet all day for the last 30 years, leading to joint pain.

For me, years of sitting behind a desk has also taken a toll. While it would have been ideal if I had kept up the same level of fitness I had when I was younger, the reality is, I have work to do if I want to be an active traveller through my retirement years. 

There’s no time like the present, so start where you are and build from there. A quick Google search for terms like ‘senior women strength training’ or ‘senior women balance’ provides many how-to articles and videos. As always, check with your doctor first, then join a gym or go for a walk or start by strengthening your core. Imagine yourself hiking in the mountains or bike riding through villages or climbing all those steps up an ancient tower to get the best view ever!

A woman holding her hands in prayer position

Start prioritizing your fitness now in your final working years so that you can manage all the activity you have planned for your full-time travel years, Sue advises

If you want inspiration, here are just a few JourneyWoman articles about women who haven’t let age slow them down:

Three older women embracing and smiling, sharing their travel wisdom for the ages.

5 Things Women Travellers 65+ Know That Make Them Ageless

JourneyWomen 65+ share their wisdom and show us how they embrace life – and travel – to the fullest.

Read More

3. Psychological: Who will you be? 

My first full-time job out of high school was as a filing clerk for an insurance company. I sat in a room full of women and spent all day sorting and filing stacks of paper. Many of my co-workers had an ashtray on their desk, adding cigarette smoke to an already dusty room. It’s a scenario that’s hard to imagine today, in a year that saw many of us move to online work and some countries begin talking about a standard four-day work week. It feels strange to know that the working world will continue to evolve without me.

For 40 years, I’ve identified mainly with my career, so the mental shift towards retirement is a big one. Who will I be without a title and job description? Writer, photographer, adventurer, wanderer? A traveller! 

A countdown shpwing 1094 days until travel

Sue’s countdown to travel freedom app

I’m excited about the possibilities and need to keep reminding myself that the only limits are the ones I impose on myself. When I find myself saying ‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly do that!’, I challenge myself to think it through with a courageous heart. Rent my condo out and hit the road for a year or two? Of course, there will be challenges, but what’s stopping me? Will I be lonely? At times, yes. But I’ve been lonely at home, too. Will I have enough money? I’ll need to make some adjustments and may need to change my expectations, but I’ll figure it out. Will it be safe? It will if I pay attention, just as I do at home. 

As my colleagues talk of learning plans and career development, I now look for articles and videos about retirement. Instead of looking for mentorship at work, I now seek out women who will inspire my next chapter. Women I find every day in the JourneyWoman community.

I still have a few years to go before I retire. Three years to prepare my finances, to strengthen my body and to shift my mind from building my life to diving into the possibilities. The time will fly by and before I know it, I’ll be plunged into a brand-new chapter. It’s exciting, it’s scary and it’s coming. 

What are you doing to prepare?

A woman sitting in a chair reading a book. Learn about solo travel for women over 50

About Sue Janzen

Sue lives in downtown Toronto and works in government communications. Her first solo trip was a week in Paris in 2011. It was uncomfortable and disorienting but ignited a passion for travel. She is drawn to off-the-beaten-track experiences, loves planning almost as much as the trip itself, and looks forward to many years of wandering after she retires. 

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