It was 10 years ago this month that my life changed forever. After a successful 23 year career in the British Royal Air Force I handed in my notice and took 'early retirement'. I was 41 years old.
It was a big, bold, move. It was scary, daunting and exciting. I was leaving on my terms. At the time that felt right to me. And I had plans....
My wife and I had long ago decided that we would 'celebrate' my retirement by taking a year out to travel. We would go to Florida, buy an RV and spend 12 months traveling around the USA. What a way to spend that retirement bonus eh?! So we did, and the rest they say is history!
That 12 months turned into 4 and a bit years. That US trip turned into a USA-Canada-Mexico-Belize-Guatemala trip. The RV turned into an RV-with-a-motorbike-and-2-push-bikes-strapped-to-the-back. And our lives and plans for the future changed forever.
You see when I first handed in my notice to leave the military it was an 18-month notice period. We had a loooong time to get ready and get used to the idea. We had wonderful pre-conceived ideas of what it would be like, what we would do, how we would do it and how we would pay for it all. It was a year long trip (in my mind it had to be at least a year to make it worth leaving!) at the end of which we would return to the UK, move back into our house and carry on a 'normal' suburban life in England. (Spoiler Alert: that didn't happen!)
During the course of 'the year' we realised that 12 months was never going to be long enough and we started adjusting our plans to sustain ourselves through a longer time frame. We briefly returned to the UK at the 13 month mark to 'sell up' a few items, re-signed an extended rental agreement on our house and returned to the US with some extra cash in our pockets, a revised budget and some serious belt-tightening! Life was grand! Whilst the US is a big place we took trips up into Canada and down into Mexico and beyond for the winters and to satisfy the visa restrictions we had.
It was around the 4 year point that we were starting, albeit gradually, to look forward to having a home and job and long term local friends again. We'd fallen in love with Canada, and quite specifically the Okanagan and had applied for permanent residency. When the travel bug was biting less frequently we returned to the area as tourists but started looking for work and a job offer that would help expedite that process so we could settle legally. Getting back into the job-world was tough! (And a lot different to the job search process back in the UK) and after a few months of unsuccessful job-hunting our visas were up and we needed to leave the country.
We spent 6 months that winter back in the UK. We made good use of our time and renovated our house, following it's extended period of tenants and got it ready for selling. It had served us well over the 4 years providing us much needed rental income to help fund our travels.
In our 5th year we returned to Canada and got legal status. I was offered a job using my previous skills as a heavy duty mechanic and service manager, work permits were issued and our application for permanent residency was fast-tracked and complete by the fall. We had done it! We were legal residents of Canada. We'd bought a beautiful home and settled in one of the most beautiful parts of the world!
So during our mid life crisis-cum-career break-cum-retirement we managed to visit 40 US states, 6 Canadian provinces, 15 Mexican states and 2 Central American countries. During our winters back in the UK we'd also travelled to 8 Eastern European countries.
10 years ago I took a huge leap of faith. I left that comfortable secure lifetime career with no clear plans of how or where I'd work again, but I've ended up with something so much better. After initially getting work in Canada using my previous skill set, I moved on and re-trained as a Health, Nutrition and Lifestyle coach and most recently I completed intensive training to be a part time volunteer fire fighter in my local community. Life is good :-)
What's on your bucket list? Where would your leap of faith take you?