Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 181 Retiring and the Relocating Alternative

We relocated when we retired. We moved 1500 miles south to a town we had never even visited. Twenty two years have passed and we are very happy with our relocation. We aren’t moving again.

We retired in Anchorage, Alaska. We had lived and worked there 19 years and loved the rugged beauty and unique characters that made up the population. Alaska seemed to be filled with unique and interesting people. I believe this is still true. But – we relocated. Today we will talk about why and how.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

When we retired, our children, who had been raised in Alaska, were going to college in what we Alaskans call “Outside”, meaning the lower 48 states. They urged us to, “Look around. You might find something you like even better,” they said.  “Live dangerous,” they said echoing Nietzsche’s words back to me. “Do something different with your life.”

We loved Alaska, and the first year of retirement we skied almost every day and hiked in the mountains on other days, but, after one year of fun and games, we decided to rent our house for one year and give four or five “Outside” places a look.

We made a list of features that we might like in a new home: mountains, salt water, a university close to a large city, and a climate that was not known for getting hot. We also wanted a place where we could plug into and develop a real sense of community; not to big and not to small.

We planned a long year trip to look around. We would rent an apartment for two or three months in several places and then take an account of preferences. My wife drove the car loaded with clothes, sound system, my guitar and the dog. I rode an old BMW Motorcycle as we headed south from Alaska. On our list of places to visit were; Bellingham, Washington; Eugene, Oregon; Sonoma and San Diego, California; and Santa Fe, New Mexico – even though it wasn’t close to salt water.

Within thirty minutes of crossing the Canadian border we had found our place to retire. It was right on the coast – thus, saltwater. The beautiful Cascade Mountains rose up in the east. The San Juan Islands lay to the west. Western Washington University occupies a naturally beautiful hillside in the heart of the community. Seattle lies 90 miles to the south, and Vancouver, BC 60 miles to the north. We plugged right into some community activities and felt right at home. All of our prerequisites were met.

Within one month we were looking for a house to buy. All the other choices receded in the distance, never to be compared. By the end of October we had purchased a house with a view of the bay.   

It is now 22 years later and we still live in the same house. During the first year we volunteered at the Art Museum to teach a few classes to grade school students. I volunteered at a local environmental organization. Brenda joined a group of artists experimenting with watercolors. I found a guitar teacher at the college and plugged into the local guitar world. We both joined the local chapter of Amnesty International. We biked every day. We learned our way around the town on two wheels.

We did return to Alaska the following summer to sell our house and pack up our stuff. We drove away and never looked back.

We became very active in political and community efforts. We helped start a local farmers market. We worked on a greenway and trails levy. We managed a political campaign. I even ran for mayor; I lost, but it was worth the effort. I met some great people and learned a lot about our community. And, “No”, I never ran again.

This political effort left me fairly well known in town and I was asked to launch a radio interview show. Though I had never worked in radio, I found it great fun. Each week for four years I talked to various people from our community for one hour over the local college radio station. I met a lot of people and learned a great deal about our new home. “No”, I didn’t get paid. It was a volunteer effort.

We also helped launch the Northwest Classical Guitar Society. Our group has now met every third Tuesday of the month for the past 19 years. Amazing! We have heard some great music and listened to hundreds of different players. We met in the Fairhaven Library. The location and time have never varied over the 19 years. I think that is what has made for the longevity. I just left the group this past year. Time for something new.

We are very glad that we did venture down that long road many years ago. We still return to Anchorage at least once a year to visit our son and family who have returned to Alaska to live. We see them and a few friends when we are there. And we always hike or ski in the mountains. It is still a very special place to us.

Relocating has worked well for us. It has opened many new doors; offered us a new perspective on life. It has challenged us to take a new look at the world and ourselves. It might not work for everybody, but for us; it’s been better than we could have ever imagined.

This is Retirement Talk.




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