“All You Need Is Love” The Beatles

“Love is all you need”.   Turns out, those four British boys were definitely on to something.

This blog post is about that THIRD essential ingredient for a happy retirement — strong personal relationships.  Nothing new or revolutionary about that.  Erich Fromm’s book, “The Art of Loving” published more than 50 years ago, informed us that the key to a happy life is love and work.  (We’ll address the “work” part in the next post)

Fast forward to 2016.  Robert Waldinger’s excellent Ted Talk describes findings from a 75 year Harvard study on adult development.  Guess what?  Researchers discovered the most important factor in determining whether someone is happy is not fame or wealth, but the quality of their relationships.  Not only were people with strong, positive relationships happier, but they were healthier–both physically and mentally.

During the 30+ years I was in the workforce, I was lucky enough to have jobs that paid me for establishing positive relationships with other people.  (Which, of course, is very different from being paid to have relations with other people.  Not that I’m judging…)  So, when I retired, I was not only saying goodbye to my co-workers, but also to customers that, in most cases, had become friends. Unfortunately, most of them are long distance friends.  And are still working.

Although I still think of my husband as my “boyfriend”, I don’t expect him to fill all of my companionship needs.   Perhaps part of the reason we are still going strong after 4 decades together is we both understand our mutual need for other interests and for time apart. Our relationship is very much like a Venn Diagram–my interests – his interests, with a nice big intersection of OUR interests.  Surprisingly, I have encountered people that find this a bit strange.  So, when I read this  Wall Street Journal article shortly after retiring, I was pleased to find that there are others out there like us.  Why I find it gratifying to discover that we aren’t so different is probably a subject for a therapist, or at least a future post.  But I digress.   Which happens a lot.  

Anyway, I have spent the last four years figuring out how to exchange “work mates” for “play mates”, and I’m happy to share what I learned with you, my newly retired, soon to be retired, or hoping to one day be retired readers.

Here’s what’s been working for me:

  1. Meet-Ups This on-line application allows you to select by  geographic area and areas of interest.  After you make your selections, you get notifications of gatherings of like minded individuals.  You can get even more specific, narrowing it down by age or marital status.  I’ve made friends via book club, biking, and boomer dining meet-ups–and there are lots of other options.  Plus, if you are so inclined, you can start your own meet up group.
  2. The Local Y   It is indeed fun to go to the YMCA!  But don’t just  hang out on the treadmill.  Join classes, and attend regularly.  And don’t worry about being out of shape.  There are no mean girls here!  The women (and most of the class attendees ARE women) are friendly, welcoming and caring.  In many ways, the Y “family” has been a wonderful substitute for my workplace “family”.
  3. Volunteer I’ve made some incredible friends during my Global Volunteer Projects. See the world, make new friends, learn about another culture!  Check out that wonderful organization!
    If you prefer something local, AARP offers an on-line application designed to link retirees with nearby organizations in need of their skills, and aligned with their interests.
  4. The Local Library  Mine offers an array of programs, including book clubs and educational seminars.
  5. Welcome Wagon  Yes, I know, this is supposed to be for newcomers.  BUT the local contact can be a great resource for area clubs and gatherings.  It took me 32 years before I stumbled across our Neighbors and Newcomers Club, but I’m so glad I did!
  6. Reconnections  Maybe you have been too busy to stay in contact with friends from high school or college.  Why not reach out?  I attended my first college reunion five years ago, and am looking forward to the next one this spring.  It was a wonderful trip down memory lane, an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and a chance to make new ones.  Ditto for high school.
  7. Travel  Okay, so this probably isn’t going to help you with day to day connections, but we met some fantastic, fascinating people on our trips with Road Scholar, OAT, and Grand Circle.  In 2016, our new Zealand friends will be visiting us and we will be taking a trip with friends we met in Peru and on a Global Volunteer experience.
  8. Virtual Buddies I put this one last, because a computer relationship is no substitute for face to face, hand to hand connections.  Still, email, facebook and blogging can be wonderful ways to complement your other relationships.  I loved having pen pals back in the dark ages when I was a child.  My Blog Buddies to me are the 21st century version of pen pals. The best part, however, was when I met a blog buddy when we both happened to be in San Francisco, visiting our kids.  With luck, she and I will be able to synchronize travel again.

What about YOU?  What has helped YOU make the social transition from workto retirement?

Just what exactly does a Lifestyle Manager DO?

On December 1, 2015 I started my fifth year as the CEO of Destination Now, a Lifestyle Management company.  In honor of this milestone, I thought I’d create what in the business world might be known as an annual report.  Except in THIS case, there are qualifiers: I didn’t do one for the past four years –so much for annual–I and don’t expect to do another one ever again. Plus it is REALLY, really short.  You ready?

Mission statement: To make the most of every day, occasionally to enjoy both walking down memory lane, and peering into the future, but to stay fully focused on and present in the PRESENT.
Number of Employees: ONE (that would be me)
Customers:  One MAIN customer (my loving husband), plus a very select group comprised of family and friends (who are willing to let a control freak take charge)
Revenue:   Cash: $0.00;
In Kind: Caboodles of wine, dinners, memories and friendship (all tax free!)


Okay, so that’s a long winded way to say that I’ve been retired for 4 years, and am having a fantastic time planning and executing fun, food, and travel for my husband, my family and friends.  It’s just that occasionally, when asked the inevitable question “what do you do”,  I feel compelled to get creative.  Be honest–which version did YOU prefer?

More free time has allowed me to become more self aware, and I have to acknowledge that I do better with goals and objectives.   Before I retired, I took to cyberspace to see what I could learn from those that had trod that path ahead of me, and I benefitted greatly from their words of wisdom.  So, over the coming weeks, as a way to ‘pay it forward’,  I have set a goal to post more regularly, sharing what I have experienced/learned over the past 4 years, in the hope that doing so will help others more easily transition to this new life stage. As a bonus— we will ALL learn whether I can emulate the discipline shown by some of my favorite bloggers who post regularly.



“A Joy That’s Shared is a Joy Made Double”

Nothing would have made me happier than to have all my favorite people with me on this trip. Although I was unsuccessful in recruiting all of you (not from lack of trying), I DID manage to convince our good friends, Owen and Shirley to “double our joy”.  For those of you that are making the journey with us via this blog (especially my sister, Sue, who refuses to fly), I’m so glad to have you riding along.image
Now, back to our first full day in Tuscany. After Radicofani, we made our way to Giuseppi’s (Pepe’s) sheep farm. Unfortunately, according to Pepe the sheep had a  “party” five months ago, which resulted in a lot of very pregnant sheep, so for a reason I have since forgotten (but was definitely connected to the party) the sheep were all in the barn. Too bad. It would no doubt have made for a lovely photo op.  Instead, the photo at the top of this post just shows you the picturesque fields.  Take a look at the lengths I go to so you don’t have cars or garbage cans cluttering up your view.


Back to the sheep that we didn’t see.  They are Sardinian sheep, because that breed produces the milk that makes the VERY best pecorino cheese.  In case you haven’t guessed, Pepe and his family are from Sardinia.  Like Silvana, Pepe was highly amusing and quite informative.


Of course we had to sample some of that wonderful cheese.  Eight different kinds.  Washed down with wine, accompanied by prosciutto and salami and bread.


According to the official itinerary, we were done for the day, but Anna had a little surprise for us.  We stopped at a cemetery for Americans killed during World War II, just in time for a brief lecture about the military campaign, the men buried there and  the MIA.  After taps, the flag was lowered.  A very sobering experience, especially given the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  It made me think about the differences: WWII was the pain and sacrifice was shared by all.  The recent wars are so very different.  A small percentage of our population is giving so much, while the rest of us go about our normal lives.

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Normally I like to end on an upbeat note, but for this post all I can say is “Thanks for your service”.


Happy Birth Month to You!

italy trip (1)Mike has a milestone birthday this year, and what better way to celebrate than with Italian food, wine and scenery?   I couldn’t quite get the trip scheduled so that we would be in Italy on the actual date, but then we have never been good at following calendars.

In the past, I just used to declare that according to the Mayan calendar, the date was really—-and fill in the blank with whatever date we were celebrating.

But then I thought why not start for a new tradition?  Instead of Birth Day, why not celebrate Birth Month?  Think about it–you would have a full month to schedule that special event.  The odds that you could find a day that would allow everyone to attend just increased 30 fold, except, of course, for those born in February.  Sorry.

It is especially helpful for those of us that left the Homeland (Massachusetts) for the Hinterlands (New Jersey).  My family has sorta gotten used to my inability to be calendar bound, although I DO usually get the month right.  Anybody ready to join the Birth/Anniversary Month movement?

To celebrate Mike’s birth-month, we will be wandering through Tuscany, ending up in Sorrento.  This will be our first trip with Grand Circle, a sister company of Overseas Adventure Travel.  Although the group is a bit larger than we normally choose, we liked the itinerary, which has us plopped in two towns, each for one week.  Another selling point was the number of optional trips, so we can stay with the group, or choose to strike out on our own, should we feel the need.

The best part?  Our good friends, Shirley and Owen, will be on the tour.

We arrive in Rome, then head for a town I never knew existed, and whose name I am probably mispronouncing: Chianciano.  It will be our base for a week, as we explore the other Tuscany towns shown on the map above.

Our second week will be in Sorrento, a great base for all of the incredible area attractions.

We already received a lovely welcome note from our guide, Anna (pronounced like Donna, without the D) Costes, full of helpful information.  She very kindly responded to my questions about our day trip to Florence.  We are off to a great start!


Top Ten Reasons for Biking with VBT

There is something about a list with a number alongside that is SO compelling–100 top colleges, 25 top attractions, 15 fool proof ways to excite a man.  They just shout “READ ME”, don’t they?  So, I figured why not?
Drum roll, please.
The Ten Top Reasons for biking with VBT, not necessarily in order of importance–just in the order that my somewhat addled brain extracts them.

1. Fantastic guides!
I’ve taken three VBT trips; each one has had delightful local guides, who do everything in their power to make sure we have an amazing experience.  They are entertaining, knowledgeable and SKILLED!

Flat tire?  No problem…one of them will fix it for you.    Andi DID demonstrate how to change a tire so that we would know what to do back home.  I was quite happy that should the need arise, all I had to do was wait until whichever one was “sweeping” (riding at the back of the group to make sure we were all okay) to catch up and rescue me.  But thanks anyway, Andi.  I hope I never have to put my new knowledge to the test

Here's Andi, ready for ANY emergency!
Here’s Andi, ready for ANY emergency!

I’m posting this photo of Hana, seriously studying for her law exam (no, not during our trip…she emailed it to us later) because it shows her dog, Candy, helping her concentrate.  Candy is a Maltese, just like Lilly, my sister Sue’s dog.


2. Wonderful New Friends
On every trip, we have managed to meet interesting, fun people.  Some, like Victoria from our Slovenia trip, continue the friendship even after the biking trip is a distant memory.

We hope that will be true for this trip also.  Mike would have really enjoyed talking with Peter because they have so much in common: an interest in meteorites, ancient coins, research, writing, photography.  Mike is not a biker–but maybe there will be other opportunities for them to meet in the future.

The Midwestern Ladies have already appeared in previous posts, but I have to mention them again. They were beyond fantastic biking companions! We made them “honorary biker chicks” a title that is definitely not easy to come by.

The Connecticut Contingent: Peter and Joan in the lead, followed by Julia and Tom
The Connecticut Contingent: Peter and Joan in the lead, followed by Julia and Tom

3. Van stops,  exactly when you need them
How great is it not to have to worry about getting your belongings from town to town?  It also helps to know that riding the van is always an option if you get too tired, or too wet.

Beth, enthusiastically making her way to the van. Those curls were really bobbing up and down!
Beth is enthusiastically making her way to the van. Those curls were really bobbing up and down!

4. Breath-taking scenery
It is true that the scenery in this area is amazing regardless of how you travel across it, but there is something special about being able to stop whenever you want, to savor the beauty and to take a photo or two.

I found this old tree fascinating.
I found this old tree fascinating.  Probably it was alive when Napoleon was running wild, conquering surrounding countries!
This shot was taken from the center of a dam that we rode across on our way to Austria. The dam isn't all that visually compelling, so I'll spare you.
This shot was taken from the center of the dam that we rode across on our way to Austria. The dam isn’t all that visually compelling, so I’ll spare you.

5. Alternate Modes of Transportation
Much as I enjoy biking, it is nice to give your hindquarters a little break.  On this trip, we traveled by train and by boat.  The ride down the Danube offered a different view of  the little town of Passau, where the waters of the Inn, the Ilz and the Danube converge, each one a different color.

A view of Passau from the river.
A view of Passau from the river.  You can NEVER have too many churches–or to many clock towers!

6. Exploration Options
We always had sufficient free time to explore the little towns and villages; to pursue whatever interests we might have, whether it be using the zip line at a playground, listening to a concert in the local church, shopping, trying out the local delicacies, or doing all of the above.

Sorry sisters and cousins...I didn't buy any of these. It was too early in the trip. They would have either melted, or been eaten before I got home. (Probably eaten)
Sorry sisters and cousins…I didn’t buy any of these. It was too early in the trip. They would have either melted, or been eaten before I got home. (Probably eaten)

7. Mind Expansion!
You always absorb interesting facts about the countries you visit, and you might even REMEMBER some of what you learned!

Unfortunately, my camera didn’t have a wide enough angle to capture the three different colors of the water coming from the three different rivers that converge at Passau. That image only resides in the space between my ears. Instead, I offer this description.

The waters really WERE different colors!
The waters really WERE different colors!

8.  Dining in Unusual Places
We probably wouldn’t have found this restaurant in a cellar in Cesky Krumlov. (Or was it a cave?).   Getting there was part of the experience.  The taller members of the group had to stay scrunched over as we descended the winding, steep steps.  There wasn’t a lot of headroom!  But the dinner was SO worth it!

Katie, the youngest biker, with Karla from the Midwest and Kim, Katies mother
Katie, the youngest biker, with Karla from the Midwest and Kim, Katie’s mother

9. Pre and Post Trip Extensions
The trips always start and end in great locations, so if you have the time (and many of us did), you can opt for the pre and/or post trips.  I’ve already posted about Prague, and if I get the energy, will also share Vienna highlights—but here is one photo from each place.

Prague, viewed from the top of the Charles Bridge Tower. (141 steps to the top, and through a little narrow door).
Prague, viewed from the top of the Charles Bridge Tower. (141 steps to the top, and through a little narrow door).  I just can’t resist a tower!

Sally (Biker Chick who had other travel plans this year) had perfect timing.  She emailed us the night before our last day in Vienna, suggesting that we visit the Hundertwasser Museum. It is always wise to take Sally’s (and Marilyn’s) recommendations.

Not only did we spend a morning in the museum, but we also found Hundertwasser’s village.

Vienna -- This will give you an idea of what Hundertwasser's art is like.
Vienna — This will give you an idea of what Hundertwasser’s art is like.

I particularly enjoyed Hundertwasser’s philosophical statements. Two of my favorites:
“If we do not honor our past, we lose our future. If we destroy our roots, we cannot grow”.

“A dead person is entitled to reincarnation in the form of, for example, a tree that grows on top of him and through him. The result would be a sacred forest of living dead. A garden of the happy dead.”
He asked to be buried without a coffin, to encourage decomposition.

10. Renewing Old Friendships
I know, I already talked about NEW friendships–but being with the other Biker Chicks deserves its very own reason number. Wouldn’t you agree?
For this trip, what was especially special was spending time with the “other” Karen, a college friend that I hadn’t seen in more than 4 decades!

Our Biking Group: The Connecticut Contingent, the Coloradians, the midwest Ladies, the Biker Chicks, and the
Our Biking Group: The Connecticut Contingent, the Coloradians, the midwest Ladies, the Biker Chicks, and the “Katie” family, plus our super duper guides

We are all home now, doing laundry, readjusting to time zones, and having to cook our own meals.

Maybe there will be a quiz over the coming days? You never know…