Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's not just for old people anymore

A lot of people talk about how sweet it will be when they finally have enough money to retire. They toil away, hating (or just tolerating) their jobs, putting money into that 401K (or not), and dreaming of all that knitting their going to do someday. My philosophy on retirement is a bit different; instead of waiting your whole life for the ultimate summer vacation, why not take little retirements all along the way? After all, who knows if we'll even make it to 65.5 years old, and by that time the retirement age will likely be 115.

So, in my life, I've worked hard for a period of time, saved money, and found ways to retire periodically while I'm still young. It comes at a cost, of course, like maybe my resume is a little more scattered-looking than most. But I'm not trying to live my life so it looks good on paper. Nope, I'd rather love as many moments as possible. The last time I retired, I traveled Australia. This time, America.

As an experienced retiree, I can tell you that not working isn't all it's cracked up to be. Having a job gives a woman some purpose, a reason to get out of bed. It's also a social outlet, a chance to meet new people. Working gives your brain a challenge it probably wouldn't have otherwise, making you a more intelligent person. It also lets you meet really hot guys to make out with. Being fully retired robs you of these chances for growth and making out, so I'm a firm believer in volunteer work.

During my current retirement, I've found that one of the things I've spent the most money on is coffee. It's ridiculous for me to go out and buy $5 cups of coffee, since I have a pound of fair trade going stale in my van. I've realized, though, that it's not the coffee I want when I go out, it's the chance to get out of the van for awhile, meet people, and introduce myself to my new digs. In thinking about how to eliminate this expense, I've been brainstorming. How can I do these things without spending money on something I don't need? And then the idea smacked me like the do-gooder palm of Mother Teresa's hand: volunteer!

I've had two super-rad volunteer experiences so far on my trip. First, I worked three shifts as a barista at Burning Man's center camp cafe. Then, in Salt Lake City I snapped green beans for One World. I'm already signed up to answer phones for Michigan Public Radio's annual fall membership drive, and have been asked to volunteer at a school in Denver. I had a lead on a homeless shelter here in Boulder, but that fell through.

So, as of now, the Vantasy takes on a new look. I'm going to be the Princess Di of America (only without the car crash, hopefully), doing good and getting in with the people. I'm going to volunteer my way across the United States!

I think this will dramatically change how the Vantasy looks for me. If I volunteer each time I roll into a new town, I have a feeling that Purpose might kick Desperation out of the passenger seat, for one. I'll get to grow my brain, learn about towns from the inside, and feel like I'm producing instead of just consuming all the time. And you never know, maybe one day I'll volunteer at a homeless shelter and be able to snag a free shower!

If anyone out there has tips on unique volunteer opportunities anywhere in the US, please pass them on. I'll do anything.

Thanks for reading! And a million thanks to those who have donated.


Trina said...

YEAH! Eva, you are so brilliant. If I think of a volunteer idea I'll pass it on. I love it!

John Judy said...

You're so cool it makes me sick.

Rachel Tamed said...

I wish I could retire with you - or at least learn how to do it properly from your musings!!

rach said...

Try the Denver Darkroom. Standish is my bud and he always needs help cleaning the darkroom. If you're not afraid of toxic photo chemicals, it could be a match made in heaven. And he might snap your portrait too!