Most Americans take Labor Day to decompress, relax, and enjoy a long weekend near the end of summer. If they are lucky, they won’t think about work (too much).
This Labor Day, I thought about my work, past and present.
I used to be an executive news and special projects producer at a TV station in San Diego, California. I gave everything to every task or assignment that came my way. My ego took a big blow when I was laid off, even though I had expected the cost-saving, strategic business move.
For some months after I lost my job, I debated bailing out of the ‘rat race’ while I applied for other jobs in my field, and as I talked with potential employers in other fields. There was also the possibility to retire really early.
The original plan was always for me and my husband Tedly to retire early. The plan went he was going to retire first and be my little housewife because I worked long hours in my journalism career. I loved journalism. In the plan, I would work some more years, then I would also retire and we would start to travel the world.
But after the layoff, I lost my desire to be a part of the news business. Instead, I felt more drawn to travel and to learn about life along the way. A woman dying of cancer encouraged me to live the dream, and that hit me hard. I stopped looking for work and officially went into early retirement before Tedly. It took a year for me to say that phrase without feeling odd: “early retirement.”
As far as my “labor” goes these days, this independent travel blog and another blog on early stage breast cancer are the only “jobs” I have now.
Today, it’s a labor of love when I read about where we travel, instead of reading countless work emails. It’s amazing to explore the countries we visit, instead of eating in the cafeteria every day. It’s a rich, memorable experience to listen to people who live in the places we stay, instead of hearing about numbers we can’t crack in another meeting where some people try to avoid eye contact.
This “work” I do today is the best work I’ve ever done. I haven’t won any awards, but it pays so much more: shared and valued time with people from other countries; new knowledge about other cultures; a better, deeper understanding of humanity – including of my own benevolence, which has grown in these last three years of our travels. (Wow! I can hardly believe it — it’s been more than three years since I took off for Tulum!)
I no longer have deadlines, meetings, endless unopened email. I no longer have to deal with lawsuit threats or product content stress. No more meaningless noise in the foreground of my mind about electronic time cards and strict evaluations. These things are necessary evils to a degree, but I’m not interested in business as usual.
It took intentional effort and hard work to have the option of an early retirement. I made frugal decisions throughout my life once my student loans were settled up. I never bought a house, I decided not to have children, I lived well below my means, and I saved money. Tedly lived below his means, decided not to have children, saved his money, invested his money, and helped me invest.
And now, here we are on Labor Day 2018, overlooking a bay on the Adriatic Sea with stunning cliffs all around us in Kotor, Montenegro, where we are living this month. Tomorrow will be the same. I won’t have a clock sounding the alarm about a return to the office.
I wonder why more people don’t decide to take our route. Plenty of people tell me all the time: you’ve got the life, don’t you? Well, yea, thanks, I do… but it took work to get here.
And yes, there are definite risks. Hell– I got breast cancer on our travels and had a double mastectomy abroad, without any health insurance. But I found great, quality health care at an affordable price outside the U.S.
Life is so different — and often better — outside the U.S. It’s so ironic the media have most Americans brainwashed about how this is a horrible world with horrible people outside America. I’ve discovered people around the world are better than those U.S. leaders and media outlets making all those scary, sensational, fake claims. When I worked in the media, scaring people into stupidity was the opposite of what I tried to do. But that’s another story.
After the long Labor Day weekend, some Americans will go back to their jobs with a plan for early retirement and/or budget travel lifestyle.
If you are one of them, the pictures below are for you: Adriatic views, Moroccan mountains and deserts, sunsets and clear seas in Belize, jungles and volcanoes in Guatemala, fine art in Europe, Maya ruins and siestas in Mexico…
In the crush of the daily grind, try to remember the relaxed and peaceful, long Labor Day weekend can be the reality of all your days.