A question of the ages along with “who am I?” and “what does life really mean?” is “Where will I live?” on every baby boomer’s lips regarding retirement destination. The decision translates to one of those milestone moments that we come to expect as the big one that can make or break the rest of our lives. As is true for much that gets touted as the “perfect day” or “happiness for the rest of your life” choosing the perfect retirement location can be filled with hype and hyperbole. And, like anything else, it pays to take advice with one’s own perspective in mind.
Like many other people, I entertained vague thoughts about what my perfect retirement would look like. But it wasn’t until I got closer to the big day that I started exploring the possibilities and was a bit overwhelmed by the many choices available. Wading through the array of options, I became aware that what is one person’s paradise is another person’s quagmire. So, in the interest of saving you, dear reader, from falling into a retirement cesspool, I’ve taken the liberty of conducting some research that I hope you keep you upright, sane and sober while making retirement decisions.
1. Life on the open seas. I know a couple who lives on a sailboat that they take up and down the Intracoastal Waterway from the northeast to the southernmost tip of Florida. How romantic and avant garde, I thought. Give up the boredom of land-lubber living for rolling seas and endless horizons? Might this be my retirement paradise? Only if retirement includes months of constant motion sickness, with my head hung over the bow, watching the fish jump while praying they swallow me whole to save me from this hell. Not to mention the constant threat of poop from the gulls and other birds who might just think of me as lunch, sort of like a sardine in a can. I can’t speak for you, but I’m scratching this off my list.
2. Journey across the country in an RV. I took a trip to Alaska and met a couple who camps in national parks where they volunteer as tour guides. I thought this might be my retirement dream till I considered that my husband and I would share what amounts to a rolling tin can for the rest of our lives together. Too much of a good thing, perhaps? I wonder about all the shoes I’ve been saving for a rainy day. Will I want to wear them or throw them at my husband after we’ve been cooped up for many hours together? I think I’ve already crossed this off my list, and maybe you should, as well.
3. Bungalow by the bay. I love the beach, yet hate the crowds. Living by the water invites trouble into my life when I consider that everyone wants to be where I am at the best time of year. Of course, retirement paradise doesn’t mean beach in the winter, unless skipping through the sand includes knee-high boots lined with fleece. Perhaps I need to rule it out.
4. Live the high life in the city. For years I thought about moving from the suburbs, which I’ve outgrown, to the city. Culture. Walkable. Museums. Night life. Accompanied by sirens, crowds and taxes. I’ve heard horror stories about residents who live in neighborhoods that are so walkable that Friday night drunks walk right past their houses and vomit on their steps. I don’t think this is a keeper. Feel free to make your own decision.
5. Retirement community with my peeps. A recent article about 50+ “active adult” living touts the lifestyle of all-night open air bars and Disneyland for adults. This is not my idea of aging well. It’s more like someone else’s idea of what life could have been if only we didn’t have to grow up. The thought of spending my days driving around the grounds in a golf cart makes me want to die early. Peter Pan anybody? Not me. I outgrew that long ago.
6. Become an ex pat. I guess I could move somewhere exotic. Lots of folks go to Belize or Mexico or Costa Rica. All are ideal retirement locations, I hear. Grab Rosetta Stone and learn the language. It’s possible. Just like the woodcarving and oil painting I’m going to take up “one of these days.” Next!
7. Migrate south like the birds. Florida beaches, weather and no income tax. Why not? Then again, do I really want to be around thousands of other old people just because I’m up there in age? Right now, I still feel young enough to scream at the slow elderly driver in front of me, just like the millennial is yelling at me from the car behind me. If I go to the retirement mecca otherwise known as Florida, I will have no one to scream at, because everyone will be just like me. And, that’s not how I thought I’d end up. Not my ideal retirement location, surely.
8. Go southwest, boomer. Dry air, no humidity, lots of sand and probably scorpions. 103 degrees is hot, no matter if there’s humidity. I refuse to believe the hype that no humidity makes 103 degrees feel comfortable. Another idea hits the dust.
9. Cruise the high seas. I hear that it’s cheaper to live on a cruise ship than in a house. There is even a cruise ship for people who want to take up residence on the sea. Residents spend time exploring the most exotic and well-traveled destinations, and return onboard to a lifestyle that exists nowhere else on earth. No lawn to mow? Grandkids to baby sit at the last minute? Who can resist? Ah, yes, refer to item number 1: motion sickness, incessant bird poop with the added sea predators who know I’ll be sitting on the poop deck from dusk to dawn with a glass of rose in my hand, watching sun rise to sunset.
10. Divest and downsize. Less is more is the philosophy behind the retirement dream of moving to a condo. Books are written about the topic of decluttering, out with the old and 1-800-GET-RID-OF-STUFF as the new way of life. Having just moved my elderly parents with their accompanying mountains of stuff, I just don’t have the stamina to apply this to myself. I don’t know about you, but perhaps I’ll leave this task for my kids to tackle when I’m long gone.
The choices are daunting. Maybe I won’t decide anything and stay right where I am. As they say, not to decide is to decide. I’ve lived here for 30 years. I know where the bathroom is, I can feel my way down the walls to the kitchen and my stuff is finally right where I want it. Perhaps the term aging in place is for those of us who can’t make a decision about where to go when we get old (older than we are right now, anyway).
And so, dear reader, maybe you are a better decision-maker than me. But at this point I will opt for the comfort of sameness that doesn’t require anti-nausea drugs, new languages, and strangers who vomit in my personal space.
Maybe that rocking chair on the front porch isn’t such a bad idea, after all.